My Little Pony Unit

This post may contain affiliate links.

Some weeks, planning learning time activities is fun and even easy.  Other weeks it feels like a never ending task that takes hours.  Then there are weeks with unexpected adventures and bumps along the road.  This week I had all of these fabulous ideas for learning time, only to discover my daughter didn't have all the ponies to pull them off.  My husband and I went to every store in town looking for the three ponies I needed.  No luck.  So, I moved on to plan two.  Only problem was my printer ran out of ink.  There are three days left in the month.  Our bank account is depleted.  Until my husband starts the new job he was hired for, we only have enough in our budget for one package of ink each month.  So... plan three?  Yeah.  I didn't have one.  I had to be extremely creative.  Thankfully I had enough ink to print half of the activities I planned, so all was not lost, but this unit did not turn out the way I had planned.  Still I think Princess will be happy, as it's for her, since this week is her birthday.

English/Language Arts:
My Little Pony Nomenclature Cards
Princess will love learning the names for all of the ponies, as well as studying their colors etc.  My Little Pony is a very new interest for her, yet she chose it as her birthday theme.  She's learning all of her information from books, as I found the TV show to be a little bit above her.  The ponies seemed really mean to each other.

Source:  I found these free cards as part of a packet at 1+1+1=1.  Words can not express how grateful I am to the designer of these cards, as I didn't have to make my own.

Tracing Shapes with My Little Pony
Since My Little Pony characters each have different shapes and designs on them, I felt it wasn't too far of a stretch to work on shapes this week.

 Source:  This exercise is also part of the free packet at 1+1+1=1.

Bob Book Set 1 Book 2 Build the Words
Princess and Bulldozer have been working hard to read their Bob Books.  I'm hoping this activity will help Bulldozer with his words.  He struggles with reading much more than my other kiddos.

Source:  This exercise came as part of a free packet from Walking By the Way.

Twilight Sparkle's Homework: How to Be a Friend
Originally I was making a set of Yes/No cards about the do's and don'ts of being a friend. But without the ink, I couldn't use them.  Instead we'll be reading the book  How to Be A Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them, by Laurie Krasney Brown and  Marc Brown, role playing, and discussing all of it's contents.  I'm hoping the kiddos will understand it.  I LOVE the book.  Perhaps another time I'll be able to use the cards.

Math:
Fluttershy's Squirrel Grid Game
I've learned through reading, that Fluttershy lives near the forest and is very kind to the animals there.  In honor of her, I've pulled out this squirrel grid game. The kids are far more advanced than this, but it will work.  Originally I was going to make forest nomenclature cards to match up with Dinomite's forest animals. Again, the ink was my main problem there.  Oh well.

Source:  I found this free printable from Prekinders.

My Little Pony Roll & Chart
I've never tried one of these activities with the kiddos before.  To be completely honest, trying to put together the cube without any tape or adhesive exposed was quite the task.  (We've gotta keep Bulldozer safe!)  Hopefully they will enjoy it.

 Source: This printable is part of the packet at 1+1+1=1.

Spike's Gem Stone Eating Subtraction
 In one of the books we have, it explains that Spike enjoys eating stones.  My husband came up with the idea of subtracting stones that Spike has eaten.  I put this together, hoping it will work.  The kiddos will roll both dice, determine the larger number versus the smaller number and subtract them as such.  They'll record the problems and answers on the white board, using jewels to help them figure it out.  I'm guessing I'll have the kids do as many problems as they are years old. Dinomite is 6 so he'll do 6 problems.  I made sure to use the largest jewels we have so they'll be easy to pick up and count with.

Rainbow Polygons
Princess has expressed that her favorite My Little Pony is Rainbow Dash, so I've tried to include several rainbow activities.  This activity also incorporates the shape theme we're focusing on this week.  The kiddos will use the Popsicle sticks to make the shapes in the chart.  The triangle will be made out of red Popsicle sticks, the square from blue, etc.

Source:  I found this idea on Counting Coconuts. The chart I printed out from the Internet.

Science:
Applejack Teaches the Life Cycle of an Apple
I could have chosen several different apple activities, but I really liked this one to match up with Applejack.  This activity was part of my original plan. :)

 Source: I found this free printable at Montessori For Everyone.

Parts of a Horse
Originally I wanted to do a sorting activity using ponies, Pegasuses, and unicorns.  However, without ink and very specific ponies, I couldn't pull it off. Thankfully I had this printed out and made from a previous unit that I never ended up using.  Perhaps we'll study mystical creatures in another unit and I can use my original idea then.

Source:  I found this free printable at Montessori N' Such.

Rainbow Dash's Weather & What to Wear Cards
Originally I had wanted to design an activity around different types of weather, especially different types of storms for Bulldozer, as he's obsessed with that stuff right now. However, without ink, I couldn't.  Instead I dug up old calendar cards we used last year and the year before to teach the kids what to wear during certain weather conditions.  The kiddos will pair up outfits with weather cards.

Source: I made these cards a VERY long time ago for our calendar time.  If you'd like the free printable, click HERE.

 Geography:
Earth's Continents & Oceans
Originally I had wanted to make a map of Ponyville, and introduce maps to the kiddos this way.  Once again no ink cancelled that.  Instead I pulled out this activity I had to help the kiddos review their Continents and Oceans.

Source:  I found this free printable set at Our World Wide Classroom.

Music:  We'll be doing a review this week of all the different learning songs we've learned this year and last year.  I'm also introducing this new song to help the kiddos with their shapes. It's called "Nonagon" from They Might Be Giants.


Pinkie Pie's Corner Bakery Sugar Cookies
Picture is missing sugar cookies & pink frosting in the cup & bag.
 I'm pretty excited about this activity with the kids.  Not only will they practice frosting sugar cookies with a frosting knife, but they'll use the frosting bags and tips for the first time.  This activity will help develop hand strength etc.  I have three tips they can interchange to try different looks.  After frosting comes sprinkles. Who doesn't like that?

Let's Make a Rainbow with Rainbow Dash
 As you can see in this picture, my ink was gone and I had to draw my own rainbow.  Pathetic I know.  The kiddos will organize the colors in order of the rainbow and then from dark to light.  Hopefully this will be a great sequencing activity for Bulldozer. I put it on the work shelves, just because I know he won't touch it otherwise.
Fluttershy's Forest Leaf Prints
Once again, I had big plans for forest activities and Fluttershy, but they didn't work out. In this activity the kiddos will use leaves from the "forest" to make beautiful rubbings.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Straining Rainbows
I saw this idea on another blog last week, where someone had used dried beans and had their kiddos strain them and transfer them to another bowl.  I decided to use rainbow colored pony beads in honor of Rainbow Dash.  Bulldozer is already drooling as he sees this on the shelves in our learning time room. Anything to do with colors and water is right up his alley.

Source:  The idea came from an activity I saw at Wild Flower Ramblings.

My Little Pony Sensory Bin
It's been a long time since I've made a sensory bin. This isn't exactly what I had in mind, but it will do. I selected Princess' favorite colors: pink and purple to use, however I ended up having to throw in some clear beads too, as I didn't have enough pink and purple items.  The other colors are My Little Pony figures.

Decorate a Butterfly with Rarity
I had HUGE plans for Rarity. I wanted to make money cards will all different fashion items on them, to help review coins etc.  Again, with no ink, I couldn't pull it off.  So instead I reverted back to some pretty things I had in the classroom I knew Princess enjoyed.  Kiddos will use the purple colored water to decorate the butterfly with the dropper.

Pinkie Pie's Party Balloons
My kiddos are obsessed with trying to blow up balloons.  I'm not sure if they've ever been successful yet, but I figured we'd give it a try.  I purchased balloons of the best quality and ones that were fairly large, so they would be easier to stretch and blow.  Using permanent marker, I wrote their initials on individual balloons, so I wouldn't go through as many, and they knew which one was theirs each day.

Rarity's Carousel Boutique for Little Girls
I had thought about pulling out the dress up clothes, but the kiddos REALLY struggle with dressing and undressing themselves, especially with dress up clothes. Instead I pulled out one of Princess' snap and clip dolls along with two different outfits they can dress her with. This is a very popular activity in our house, so I'm sure they'll be delighted it's on the fun shelves.

Spanish:
This week the kiddos will learn a Spanish song about shapes.
All in all, despite so many changes in my original plans, I do think the kiddos will enjoy learning time this week.  Princess will be thrilled with the My Little Pony gifts we did find for her, and will hopefully have a great birthday. She's funny in that she doesn't like any ponies with hair. She prefers the mini figures or the large stuffed animal figures.  That's my girl!
Read More »

How Our Family Came to the Decision to Homeschool Our Children

If someone told me 15 years ago, how my life would be today, I'm not quite sure how I would have responded.  Perhaps run the other way, cry, be angry... Or just maybe, I would have said okay, and spent as much time as possible studying and learning all I could, in hopes that it would prepare me for what I do now every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

My husband and I were not planning on homeschooling our children.  We were actually quite against homeschooling.  But life happens.  This is our story of how our family came to the decision to homeschool our children.

How our family came to the decision to homeschool our children
This post may contain affiliate links.

Meet Renae and Jason

I am a happily married, full time stay-at-home mom, blogger, and homeschool teacher to four special needs children.  In college I received a degree in music with an emphasis in voice.  My plan was to stay home with my children while they were young, teach private music lessons on the side, and then when they went to school, return to school myself to study choral conducting and/or musicology.

My husband Jason has a Master's of education degree in counseling with an emphasis on marriage and family.  He is a licensed mental health counselor in NY.  He has spent ten years working as a therapist to adults and children in private and group counseling sessions, and in residential facilities.

After years of struggling to understand why aspects his job, marriage and life in general were so difficult, Jason was diagnosed with autism, ADHD and an anxiety disorder.  You can read more about his story HERE.


Meet Dinomite

Our first child, Dinomite, was born in 2007.  He was diagnosed with autism at age three.  Dinomite also has ADHD and an anxiety disorder.   Basically he's a mini me of his father.

Dinomite is my animal lover.  He has always been obsessed with some type of animal.  For the longest time it was dinosaurs, then he started studying prehistoric creatures and sea monsters.  Eventually he moved on to amphibians and reptiles, preferring snakes.  Now he's branched out to birds and so many other species.

When he was little, his other obsession was vehicles, preferably emergency vehicles.  This obsession led to the introduction of LEGO, from which their appears to be no end.  Star Wars, Marvel and D.C. superheroes, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and anything Harry Potter related also entertain Dinomite.

Dinomite has a few food allergies, but nothing that we worry about on a regular basis due to his sensory struggles with food.  I've never known a child so content with eating the same thing day in and day out.  We work very hard to help Dinomite overcome sensory challenges related to food.

It was actually Dinomite's meltdowns and screaming fits, that lasted over an hour, when returning home from a private special needs preschool, that pushed us to experiment with the notion of home schooling.  We wanted to see if his behaviors would improve. Sure enough, in three days, he was a new child, and a very happy one at that.

Meet Bulldozer

Bulldozer was born in 2008 with over 40 allergies to foods, some very severe and life threatening. As Bulldozer has grown older, he has grown out of some allergies while other allergies have become more severe, and more added to the list.

At 18 months it was discovered that he has a life threatening allergy to adhesives (band aids, stickers, tape, glue, etc.).  He has also developed severe environmental allergies that inhibit his ability to function during the Spring, Summer, and Fall.  We call him our "Bubble Boy."

After Bulldozer's birth, I remember the distinct impression that we were to prepare ourselves to homeschool our children.  Both my husband and I laughed at the notion, being very against homeschooling at the time.  Yet, I remember also saying that if I ever had special needs children, I would not send them to public schools.

Bulldozer was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at the age of two.  He struggles with a lack of safety awareness, auditory processing issues and significant delays in the areas of fine and gross motor skills.

We attempted schooling for Bulldozer through a private special needs preschool. His pediatrician had to fight with us to even have him admitted due to safety concerns related to his food allergies and life threatening adhesive allergy.  Sadly, once in school, Bulldozer stopped showing emotional expression and was not learning as we had hoped.  We pulled him out at the same time as Dinomite.

Bulldozer loves weather and astronomy.  He has visual obsessions, including water, waves, and whales.  His little kid obsession was vehicles, preferably construction vehicles.  Through his brother, Bulldozer was introduced to LEGO and Star Wars.  Extreme weather is another obsession, so unless there's a storm brewing, he talks of nothing else but Star Wars.

"Once you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism." That proves to be very true with Dinomite and Bulldozer.

Meet Princess

When Bulldozer was about six months, we felt the impression that another child was waiting to come to our family, a baby girl.  I had been advised not to have more children, due to my own health issues.  It was at that time that we looked into adoption.  (This was before the boys' autism was diagnosed.)

After researching all of our options, we decided to adopt through the foster care system.  This decision changed our lives, as we became foster parents for four years, 2 1/2 of which my husband was home full time with me, taking in over 20 children, more than half being infants.  Two of these infants are now our adopted daughters, Princess and Sunshine.

Princess was a very difficult baby.  Her needs were not medically based.  She was easier than Bulldozer, but we recognized that something wasn't quite right.  Princess came to us at 6 months in 2010 having been abused in every way.  And by every way, I mean EVERY way.

One month after learning of the boys' diagnoses of autism, we learned that Princess has Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Since then, she has also developed an anxiety disorder.

I will always remember the developmental pediatrician looking at me wide eyed, as she learned the adoption wasn't 100% complete.

"Are you SURE you want to do this? This will be the hardest thing you've ever had to do."

With tears in my eyes, I said I was sure.  After all, when you look at Princess and you look at me, there is no doubt in my mind she was meant to be my daughter.

Sure enough, the developmental pediatrician was right, raising a child with RAD,  PTSD, and an anxiety disorder has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, or probably ever will do.  I am her target.  Still there are those moments that make it all worth it.  When we have them, I'm sure to capture the Kodak moments.

Princess is brilliant.  She is beautiful.  Her imagination is endless.  Princess enjoys playing with LEGO and Playmobil toys.  She also loves learning about the human body, although her interests are never limited to just a few.  Princess LOVES to read anything she can get her hands on.

I felt impressed to have her join our learning time at about 2 1/2 years old.  It turns out to be our most positive interactions of the day.  That's not to say we don't have our bad days, because some are truly horrible, but I love being her teacher.

It was explained to us by therapists and doctors, if we homeschooled the boys and sent her to school, she would think we were abandoning her.  When her IQ score came back in the genius range at age three, we knew sending her to school would result in significant behavioral issues, as she would be bored out of her mind.

As we visited with her developmental pediatrician during another appointment, it was explained that she would need to be in the most restrictive class setting available because of her behaviors and issues, if she were to go to public school. This is with medication already to help her anxieties and self-endangering behaviors.

Each time I hear more information about what public school would mean for her, it confirms my choice to keep her home, despite how difficult it is sometimes.  We have found the Montessori Method to be very beneficial to her, as she's able to choose her own work, and the battles for control are less.  Most often she chooses the same work Dinomite is doing.

Meet Sunshine

Sunshine was the last infant to enter our home.  She came at 6 months of age in 2012, having been separated from her birth parents at birth, but enduring other hardships in a foster home previous to ours.  Her adoption process was very quick.

Sunshine was born with a very mild case of Cranial Facial Microsomia.  It affects her right eye as she is vision impaired, her jaw line and teeth.   As preparations for her adoption moved forward she appeared to be doing extremely well, with only small delays.  However, shortly after the adoption, it become very apparent that something was wrong.

At the age of 29 months, Sunshine was diagnosed with autism (not a mild case), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a sleeping disorder, and the beginnings of ADHD.  She was also given an official mood disorder diagnosis at the age of four.

At two and a half Sunshine was tested for food allergies.  Sleep medication was not helping her.  I kept feeling like we were missing something.  Sure enough she tested positive for allergies in fourteen foods/groups.  When we eliminated these foods from her diet, Sunshine slept all night for the first time ever. This has continued ever since, except for when she's experiencing PTSD or manic episodes etc.

Sunshine is the most delayed of all of our children.  Manic episodes cause a lack of consistency in her abilities. For all intents and purposes, Sunshine is three years delayed cognitive, developmentally, and emotionally.  Her behaviors make it impossible for her to be safe in a public school setting.

Sunshine loves plants, animals, and babies.  She enjoys spending time outside.  When she's doing well she is the sweetest little girl in the world, always able to make me laugh.

We've closed our doors to foster children, knowing our four will take all the energy and effort we have to raise and teach full time.  Sunshine's behaviors are the most difficult of the four.  My husband Jason is her target.

My life is dedicated to teaching my children, not only academics but life skills, so that they may one day be independent and successful on their own, if at all possible.  I have found, for me,  this much easier to do on my own, than to work with the public school system.

Both Jason and I work from home now blogging full time, providing unit studies, syllabuses, activities, printables and support for families with special needs.  Having two parents in the home at all times is necessary due to Sunshine's behaviors and safety issues.

The Answer

In summary, I guess homeschooling chose us, rather than we chose it.  Both my husband and I went to public schools.  We enjoyed our education.  However, that type of education is not one that will work for our children.  I only hope I can succeed in providing them with the best education they can acquire, providing them with a safe and uplifting environment, without distractions and set backs they are unable to cope with, due to their disabilities.

This is our story.  It's A LOT of work.  It's a HUGE time commitment.  However, I love it.  I love to watch the kids faces as they see new activities on our shelves.  I love to watch them succeed. When I'm struggling either because of their behaviors or my own shortcomings, I find the best medicine is spending more time with them without distractions.  This is when I see them at their best!

How did your family come to the decision to homeschool your children?  I'd love to hear about it.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

How our family came to the decision to homeschool our children

Read More »

Knights Unit

This post may contain affiliate links.

The four kiddos and I went on an unexpected and unplanned vacation last week.  An opportunity presented itself that I didn't want to miss.  Learning time consisted of an introduction to our Knight Unit along with visits to Virginia Safari Park, Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden, & Virginia Museum of Transportation.  This doesn't count the car trip from our home to VA, where the kids really applied their knowledge of the states, as we passed through a few of them.
Dinomite, just after he pet his first zebra.
Princess feeding a giraffe.  Another giraffe licked Dinomite's head with it's blue tongue.
It was a fantastic vacation with lots of hands on learning and fun.

Now that we're back home, unpacked and settled, we're continuing our Knight Unit and I finally have time to share our activities.  There are a few princess activities mixed in, but for the most part everything has something to do with knights.  Besides activities below, we'll also be doing a lot of reading.   A list of the books we're reading are at the very bottom of the post.

English/Language Arts:
Dragon ABC Matching
Inside the pocket are capital and lowercase letters D-R-A-G-O-N.  The kids will match them up and spell the word. The control is the pocket with the word "dragon" on it.

Source: I found this free printable at 1+1+1=1.  It was part of a packet.

Knight First Letter Sounds
The kiddos will put glass beads on the first letter of each word shown in the pictures.  The control is the nomenclature cards located behind the beads.

Source: I found this free printable at 3 Dinosaurs as part of a Medieval Packet.

Knight Syllables
The kiddos will place a glass bead on the number that specifies how many syllables are in each vocabulary word.

Source:  These cards were part of the free packet at 3 Dinosaurs.

 Knight 2 Letter Beginning Sounds
The kiddos will draw a line from the picture to the circle with the two letter beginning sounds. The control is the nomenclature cards paired with the activity.

Source: This printable was also part of the pack from 3 Dinosaurs.

Math:
Crown Jewel Counting
Everyone loves to decorate a crown. The kiddos will add jewels to each individual crown, matching the number on the crowns. I've used numbers 1-10.

Source: I found the free crown template at First Palette.  I found the idea at Sorting Sprinkles, who sited the source as Our Montessori Home.

Shield Counting
There are three sets of shield cards for the kiddos to choose from, or they can do all three.  The purple shields contain numbers 30-39, blue shields numbers 40-49, and orange shields 50-59.  Kiddos will put the shields in numerical order.  Controls include the counting charts and also the color of the shields.

Knight Patterns
There are five pattern strips that match the color of the decor on the nights provided.  Kiddos will line the knights up by color and complete pattern.

Source: I created the pattern cards. For your own free printable, click HERE.  Some cards will require two knight toobs.

Science:
Horse Breeds
Kiddos will match up pictures and words with cards provided. I researched the 10 most popular breeds of horses and made cards for only those.  For one who knows nothing about horses, it was quite overwhelming to realize just how many breeds there are, and how horses are classified.  I tried to select pictures that showed definite differences in the breeds.
I created these cards. For your free printable, click HERE.

Catapulting Pom Poms
I could have gone all out and built my own catapult, or had the kiddos build one, but I just wasn't up for it, so instead they'll use a spoon and their fingers to catapult the pom poms through the air. I've included pom poms of different sizes so they can compare which ones go farther and faster.

Culture/History:
Knight Armor
Kiddos will have a chance to play Memory by themselves or with a partner using the pictures of Knight Armor provided.  The cards could also be used as nomenclature cards.
Source: I created this activity. For the free printable click HERE.  (Armor and weapons are combined in the same printable.)

Knight Weapons
The kiddos will match up words and pictures to the cards provided.  I selected  weapons specific to those discussed in the books we'll be reading this week.
Source:  I created this activity. For the free printable, click HERE.  (Armor and weapons are combined in the same printable.)

Art:
Dragons Breathe Fire
What's not to like about making fire?  The kiddos will use their hands to combine yellow and red finger paint, making fire breathing dragons.
Bulldozer's dragon.
Source: I created the simple printable. If you'd like to download your own free copy, click HERE.

A Knight's Shield
We can't forget a shield! The kiddos will design their own shields.
Dinomite's shield.
Source:  This free template can be found at Activity Village.

Princess & the Pea
I saw this idea after we had already dove into our Princess Unit. Still I couldn't resist, so after reading the book as an introduction, I showed the kiddos how to make their own picture.  My picture is the control.
Source: This craft idea came from Life in First Grade.  Instead of having the kids draw their princess on top, I made little cut outs for them.  Click HERE if you'd like a free printable of the princess cut outs.

A Royal Crown
I had wanted to let the kiddos make their own crowns last week, but never got around to cutting them out etc.  They are ready now to decorate using crayons and jewels.  I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Source: The free template for the crown can be found at First Palette.

Music:
We will be doing some song review games this week and introducing one last song for the month called Knights & Dragons. Next month I'll really be diving into music with some very structured activities, but this month I wanted to relax a little bit.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Tracing Shapes
Sunshine received a shape puzzle not too long ago.  I decided the pieces are perfect for practicing our tracing skills!

Build A Castle
A knight unit just wouldn't be complete without some type of castle activity, so using our mini wooden block set, the kiddos will design and build their own castles.

The Princess' Peas
Going along with our Princess and the Pea activity, I added spooning our own peas to the shelves.

Dragon Slaying Target Practice
Kiddos will practice slaying dragons using sword shaped toothpicks.  First a paper dragon will be placed on the foam pad, then they will pierce the paper in the desired spot with the toothpick.

Source: This idea came from Sorting Sprinkles.  I made my own dragon cut outs. If you'd like the free printable that I created, click HERE.

Spanish:
We'll review our other Spanish songs, but also add this one to the mix. I love it because not only does it teach the colors, but teaches some new vocabulary and phrases.  So far the kiddos are absolutely loving Spanish. Hooray!

Books we're reading this week:
1.The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Paul Galdone.
2.  The Marshmallow Incident by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett.
3.  The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer.
4.  The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie de Paola.
5.  Knights in Shining Armor by Gail Gibbon.
6.  In the Castle by Anna Milbourne, illustrated by Benji Davies.

Next week we'll be having a special unit dedicated to My Little Pony, in honor of Princess' Birthday!
Read More »

Get Access to Exclusive Special Needs Parenting Printables by Subscribing Below




HERE'S WHAT'S POPULAR ON EVERY STAR IS DIFFERENT