Fun at the Co-op

We found an absolutely wonderful co-op, this semester. It is everything a co-op should be: parents working together to inspire our children and provided that ever-important social interaction people think homeschoolers are missing. We don’t focus on core subjects, just the “fun” stuff — art, science, history. Things like that. I and three other women take turns every Friday teaching Jenna’s age group (5-7-year-olds). This works out perfectly, because we only have to teach 3 times each for the entire semester, so no one gets burnt out or just phones in a lesson. We really put our all into it.

This week, I got to teach there for the first time. Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I decided to do V-Day-themed crafts, and then I devoted some time to Presidents’ Day, with a fun craft for that.


First we talked about the history of Valentine’s Day, and I punctuated certain facts/topics with pictures I’d saved to my Kindle (I love that thing!). Then we went over to the tables and stitched around a plastic canvas heart to make magnets (they can later add a photo, if they so choose).


Jenna wants to fill in her heart with more yarn, so we left the magnet off the back until she does. A lot of kids opted to do this. They really enjoyed the stitching.

The thing above the plastic canvas there on the plate is a bird feeder. That didn’t go as well. We read If You’ll Be My Valentine, by Cynthia Rylant, and then made a “valentine for the birds.” I had some stale bread, but I guess it was too hard/stale, because when we went to cut out hearts with cookie cutters, some of them broke. Luckily, none of the kids really seemed to care. They were more interested in spreading on peanut butter (I checked with every parent prior to this lesson to make sure we had no peanut allergies) and coating them with bird seed. It was messy fun.


Then we did a Valentine’s Day word search — and Jenna made another word search and a maze she insisted I copy and give out, as well. While they did that, I laid out materials to make Valentines and also bags for collecting Valentines from their classmates, when they did their little exchange, later.

Next came Presidents’ Day. I again used my Kindle to show some pictures I’d saved, and we talked in depth about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Then we did this awesome craft, that I got from this awesome website.

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George Washington on one side, flipped over is Abraham Lincoln. They loved this, and it was so simple and fun.

And that’s how we filled two hours worth of fun activities at our co-op, this Friday!


Step boards


There’s something so wonderful about having a front row seat to your child’s education and growth. Case in point: my three-year-old son’s phonics practice, using step boards. I’ve been very careful about not lumping him in with his sister, who learned to read when she was 4, and is currently a kindergarten-aged child doing second and third grade work. Simon’s very much a child who does things in his own time (just ask me about his potty training, or lack thereof — OY!). But he enjoys being around us when his older sister’s “doing school,” and every once in a while, I’ll pull the step board out and he’ll work on his letters or numbers. Over the past week or so, I’ve added in the phonics strips on the bottom, for an added challenge, and Simon was more than up for the task.

I LOVE step boards. Love. We got ours from a huge bunch of discarded materials from our local public school district, but I would purchase them in a heartbeat, in spite of their price. I’ve heard they are a big hit in Montessori schools, because they are entirely self-correcting. Each tile will only fit in its designated space. The upper and lower case letters are interchangeable (in the picture, we are using lower case letter tiles on a board printed with upper case letters). The strips at the bottom are wonderful. We’re working on beginning letter sounds, but there are also ending letters, and short/long vowel sounds. I cannot say enough good things about how well these work for little hands, especially hands that aren’t 100% ready to write.

I will profile the number step board, next.

Lapbook Friday – Volcanoes

We simplified this week’s lapbook pretty extensively, because we are still working on our rental house that’s 4 hours away. On top of it, all of my daughter’s activities started up right at once, and I’m teaching three classes at our local homeschool co-op, this semester (never again!!). Anyway, without further ado, I give you…. The volcano lapbook.


Volcanoes: Fire from Below, by Robert Coupe (we mostly just looked at the pictures, as it was a little too advanced for my 5-year-old, and we had so many others to read through)
Volcanoes! by the Editors of TIME For Kids and Jeremy Caplan (this was one my – advanced reader – daughter was able to read to me. The pictures captured the attention of both my 5-year-old and 3-year-old.)
Volcano Explorers, by Pam Rosenberg (another great book with large print and some cool pictures.)
The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth, by Joanna Cole (this was about more than just volcanoes, but it explained exactly where the magma is inside the earth, and how volcanoes erupt. Plus, anything Magic School Bus is a hit, in our house)
Volcano! by Ellen Prager (geared toward younger children, this book has pretty illustrations but didn’t go much into detail)

That was all, this week. I know we missed out on viewing what are sure to be some great videos, online, but we just didn’t have the time. I’m happy we’re still keeping up with our lapbooks, though, simple as they may be.



Lapbook Friday – Butterflies

As usual, my 5-year-old daughter picked this week’s topic for Lapbook Friday, and we studied it throughout the week by reading. No videos, this time, as I didn’t have the opportunity to find any on YouTube or elsewhere (we’re *still* working on our rental, nearly 4 hours away, every weekend, and it’s been taking up a lot of our energy).

We used the pre-done set from (love those guys), picking what I thought was most appropriate for my daughter and leaving the rest. 

I also found a Monarch butterfly from this website to print for the front of the lapbook. My daughter enjoyed coloring it to look like “the real thing.”


Butterflies, by Debbie and Brendan Gallagher (simple text my daughter could read, herself – although for now, we save all of our lapbook-themed books for read-alouds throughout the week)
Butterflies, by Julie Murray (even simpler – my 3-year-old appreciated some of the information in this one. Nice, large pictures, too.)
Classifying Insects, by Andrew Solway (just the 2 pages on butterflies and moths)
An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly, by Laurence Pringle (this one was my favorite — my daughter sees Monarchs now and then and we were fascinated by this in-depth look at their life cycle and migration)
The Prince of Butterflies, by Bruce Coville (a little strange, but what has he written that isn’t?!) It’s a pretty picture book, if nothing else. My kids really liked it, I just thought it was weird.)

And a great jumping-off point to beginning discussions about the Holocaust (I have a fascination – almost to the point of obsession – with the Holocaust but my kids are still too young to comprehend it): The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco tells the story of a family in France who harbored a Jewish family in their cellar and kept them safe from the Nazis.

We’ve been talking about raising caterpillars next year. What a fun addition that would be to a butterfly unit study!DSC_0281 DSC_0284 DSC_0285

Lapbook Friday – Building a House

 This lapbook took two Fridays to complete, for a few reasons: 1) We used the blank templates from and filled it in with our own information (tough when you consider my oldest is only 5), 2) We are between tenants and need to fix up our rental property (which is more than 3 hours away from where we currently live) before we can get new renters in there (for the record, if a landlord says no dogs, if you’re going to ignore that, AT LEAST CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DANG DOGS. We have their security deposit, but still. We’re replacing like all the flooring in a 2100-square-foot house. Insane). And 3) We just got lazy. I won’t lie. We did. We’ve done a lot playing, lately, and just enjoying the time at home before the craziness of the school year begins. Sure, none of us will be going to “school,” but we’ve got a lot coming up. My 3-year-old is going to a local preschool a neighbor of mine runs out of her home for a few hours a week. The 5-year-old is starting ballet next week, and gymnastics soon, too. We’ll all be going to an ASL class in a couple of weeks, and we’re starting back up at the local homeschool co-op, too. It is SO true, what they say about homeschooling: you don’t have to worry about being “stuck at home.” If anything, you have to learn to turn down outside activities. My husband’s convinced we’ve yet to learn that. But it’s early yet in our homeschooling journey, and the kids are still young, so darn right, we’re going to have some fun.

This time Jenna asked to do her lapbook on building; building a house, more specifically. She insisted on titling it just “Building,” but we focused mainly on the steps to building a house, the machines and materials used, and the types of workers found on the construction site. We prefaced the lapbook by a trip to the library and viewing some videos on YouTube, as well as visiting a few websites. Here are some of our favorites.

How Stuff Works – House Construction (this goes into greater depth than we needed but the steps on page 2 were useful)
Building Apps for Kids (we ended up downloading Hoopa City with some of my Amazon points. My kids love the Dr. Panda games.)

Building our House, by Jonathan Bean (a wonderful picture book for young children on building a house. My kids really, really liked this one, and I did, too.)




Bubble Wrap Painting

While looking for books for this week’s topic of study, my son found an awesome book on kids’ painting projects called Look and Make Painting. I got it on a whim (I recommend you always pre-screen your children’s library book choices before checking them out and bringing them home, but my kids were on a roll, this Monday, and between breaking up a rousing game of tag and finding my 3-year-old’s stuffed doggie wedged behind some books after 15 minutes of frantic searching, I was d-o-n-e with the library), and was pleasantly surprised by the projects listed in its pages. The first one we decided to try was what they called the “spotty dotty turtle.” We had all the necessary supplies: paper, tempera paint, brushes, and bubble wrap.

The book says to dampen a sheet of paper and then put “big splodges” of paint on it, and then to press the bubble wrap into the paper to get the paint onto it, but that didn’t work very well for us. I highly recommend just painting directly onto the bubble wrap, preferably with a sponge brush. Then press the wrap firmly onto a clean sheet of paper. We used white because we’re boring.

The results were pretty cool. Both my 3- and 5-year-olds were amazed as they peeled the bubble wrap off the paper. My daughter was so impressed by her pink/blue/purple one that she insisted on hanging it in her room, and so no turtles were to be made from it.

bubblewrappaint1 bubblewrappaint2 bubblewrappaint3

We traced a cereal bowl for the large turtle shell, and a cup for the smaller ones, then I freehanded some turtle heads, limbs, and tails. We cut them out and pasted them onto the back of the shell. Jenna said they looked like a mommy and babies. I think we’ll eventually have to do a unit study on turtles, so she can learn about how lonely baby turtles really are.

It was a difficult Monday, to say the least, but a fun craft like this sure brightened up the afternoon. 

Lapbook Friday – Dinosaurs and Animal Classification

Last week I asked my five-year-old what lapbook she wanted to do for our next Lapbook Friday. She excitedly said, “Animals!” “What animal?” I asked. “Just animals,” she answered, “all of them.” So I did my best to cater to that. We used another wonderful set of pre-made lapbook materials from, picking what we liked and leaving the rest (like we’ve been doing with most aspects of homeschooling, thus far). We used some supplemental materials, listed below, to help round out the study. I think next week we’ll spread it out over all the days so it’s not quite so intensive. Jen was exhausted at the end, but very proud of her finished product.


Fascinating Science Projects: Animal Life, by Sally Hewitt (we’ll be coming back to this one in the coming weeks; the projects are short, easy to duplicate, and hold a young child’s attention very well)
The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of Animals, by Paul Dowswell (we didn’t bother with the internet links, just looked through the book and learned some characteristics of different animal groups)


For my 3-year-old, we did a dinosaur-themed book, which I knew he’d like. We used some of this set from, but not much, because we are not a creationist family, and much of it tied in the dinosaurs with creationism. We just used the memory game included in the PDF, coloring and pasting some of the pictures into the file folder, and then making matching cards and a pocket for them. The result is a fun little match game that’ll let him learn some of his favorite dinosaurs and their names and features. It was just enough for him, today. He was too jittery to sit still for much else, and he now has a fun book to show his dad, this evening.  

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