Blog Archive

Summer Learning (Learn & Play Link Up)

Welcome to this week's Learn & Play Link Up!

This week I'm featuring some fabulous ways to keep the learning going during the summer whether homeschooling or not.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every one my selected features, and hope you do the same.


Summer Learning with Lapbooks from Year Round Schooling

Yes, We Homeschool All Summer from Clark & Luci Learn


Fun Trampoline Games for Learning Letters from Hands On:  As We Grow

Learn & Play Link Up Every Thursday
Now it’s time for this week’s link party! This new link up is for all blog posts that include learn and play activities and hands-on education for kids. We are excited to read your blog posts and to see what you have to share! Please link up below and grab our button to display on your blog.
If you are a blogger, share your family friendly posts here. We are looking for things which include:
  • Montessori Education
  • Homeschool
  • Sensory Play
  • Tot and Preschool Trays
  • Fine and Gross Motor Activities
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Healthy Recipes for Kids
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Natural Living
  • Free Educational Printables
  • Family-Oriented Activities
  • Healthy Living
Your post will be shown on each host’s blog where we will individually pick features every other week. That means there is more of a chance that you will be featured!
Everyone, please meet our link party hosts:
learn and play party hostesses
Guidelines for Linking:
  • Please link up 1-3 posts
  • Follow each of the hosts on social media
  • When you link up, please add our button and place it at the bottom of your shared posts or link back with text link.
  • By entering a link, you’re giving us permission to feature an image on our blogs. Proper credit & links will ALWAYS be given.
  • Please visit a couple of shared posts and leave a comment for them
  • Remember that you must link back in order to be featured
Christian Montessori Network

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Toddler & Preschool Activity Themes for 2015-2016 School Year (Learn & Play Link Up)

This post may contain affiliate links.

It's confession time.  I REALLY struggled while homeschooling Sunshine this year.  Transitioning her into our learning time environment, schedule and practices was so hard, and at times downright awful.  I tried to make things work.  I rearranged the environment. Schedules were changed.  My expectations were lowered.  Still, our first year's experience was not at all what I had hoped it would be.

The sad thing is Sunshine LOVES learning time.  It's her favorite part of the day.  All she wants to do is copy what her older siblings are doing.  She LOVES the activities I create for her.  If she could spend the day in the learning time room she could.

The problems lie in the fact that she's 2 1/2 years younger than the sibling closest to her.  Her cognitive and adaptive skills are well below average making the gap even larger.  She requires a one-to-one at all times.  Sunshine's attention span and focus can be compared to a ping pong ball bouncing out of control.  Every 30 seconds she's up switching out activities, if no one's watching her.  She has a very low frustration tolerance and often tantrums over the simplest things.  Then there's the sensory issues, RAD behaviors, etc.

It wouldn't have been as horrible, if she didn't have three older siblings that require attention too.  But the truth of the matter is, Bulldozer requires a one-to-one at all times already.  Princess' RAD behaviors are real and seem to always be in high gear during learning time.  Dinomite, depending on the day, may have 1 to 5 meltdowns.  Though there are many more positive days than negative ones, learning time can be very difficult sometimes, even without Sunshine added to the mix.

Words can't express how thankful I am that my husband is back home full time again to help with learning time, behaviors, those that need one-to-one assistance with everything, etc. This change alone solves half of our problems.  I feel like I can finally breathe and enjoy the journey again. 

There's only been one other challenge.  I have no clue where to go with Sunshine.  We have worked so hard (going on 2 years now), to teach her shapes, colors, numbers and letters, yet have seen minimal results.  Sunshine can match and sort objects perfectly, but there seems to be no understanding of the content behind the activities.  She's extremely verbal, but doesn't make any sense half of the time.

This month Sunshine is undergoing adaptive and cognitive testing.  We're half way through and have already been told the numbers don't look good.  I'm definitely not surprised, but it's all so very depressing. One would think after having gone through this with three other special needs children, I would do better this time around, but no.  I think the process only gets worse.  Sunshine is more delayed than any of my other children.  All three other kiddos knew all of their shapes, colors, letters, and numbers by the time they turned three.  Bulldozer knew all of them by the time he was two!  Every kiddo is so very different.

We've discussed Sunshine's education plans with her developmental pediatrician.  Sunshine turns four in November, so this year she should be starting preschool curriculum.  The problem is, she's not at all ready for preschool material.  My husband and I have talked at great lengths about how we should approach this next year with her.  Though an understanding of shapes, colors, numbers, and letters, may come any day, we feel that it shouldn't be the main focus of her studies.  Sunshine is teaching me so much about Montessori's concept of following the child.  She wants to learn what her older siblings are learning.  She loves their unit study themes.  Though she can't count or identify all of her colors, she can tell you all about the human body.  Her animal identification and impersonations are amazing.  I don't know of any other 3 year old girl who knows as many dinosaur names as she does.  It only makes sense to focus on things she enjoys and is actually learning.  There will be a few color, shape, number, and letter concepts in each unit, but they won't be as obvious as one might think.  You will see a lot of practical life and sensorial components to her units.

Here are our plans for Sunshine!

July
Unit Theme:  Space
Week 1:  The Moon
Week 2:  Stars
Week 3:  Astronauts
Week 4:  Tinkerbell  (Peter Pan themed Birthday week)

August
Unit Theme:  The Earth
Week 1:  Rocks
Week 2:  Weather
Week 3:  Blue Themed Activities
Week 4:  Toy Story (Preparation for Hollywood Studios, Disney World)

September
Unit Theme:  The Animal Kingdom
Week 1:  Horses
Week 2:  Birds
Week 3:  Fish
Week 4:  Turtles
Week 5:  Frogs

October
Unit Theme:  Vacation & Holiday
Part 1:  Yellow Themed Activities
Part 2:  Mulan (Preparation for Epcot, Disney World)
Part 3:  Black Themed Activities

November
Unit Theme:  My Community
Part 1:  Emergency Vehicles
Part 2:  Road Safety & Signs
Part 3:  Garbage & Recycling
Part 4:  Thanksgiving

December
Unit Theme:  Christmas
Part 1:  Bears
Part 2:  The Gingerbread Man
Part 3:  Christmas

January
Unit Theme:  Learning is Fun!
Part 1:  White Themed Activities
Part 2:  Letters
Part 3:  Numbers
Part 4:  Shapes

February
Unit Theme:  Valentine's Day
Part 1:  Purple Themed Activities
Part 2:  Sweet Treats
Part 3:  Emotions
Part 4:  Valentine's Day

March
Unit Theme:  Vehicles
Part 1:  Construction Vehicles
Part 2:  Trains
Part 3:  Cars
Part 4:  Airplanes
Part 5:  Easter

April
Unit Theme:  Animals Around the World
Part 1:  Kangaroos
Part 2:  Elephants
Part 3:  Monkeys
Part 4:  Brown Themed Activities

May
Unit Theme:  Introduction to Botany
Part 1:  Plants
Part 2:  Flowers
Part 3:  Bees
Part 4:  Orange Themed Activities

June
Unit Theme:  At the Farm
Part 1:  Farm Animals
Part 2:  Crops
Part 3:  Farm Vehicles
Part 4:  Nutrition

I have hope that the upcoming year will go much better than last year!

Welcome to this week's Learn & Play Link Up!

Be sure to check out our amazing features this week!

Montessori Homeschooling-Overcoming Challenges from Montessori Nature

Best Tips to Avoid Burnout While Homeschooling Year Round from The Natural Homeschool

Preparing for Homeschooling Your Child with Special Needs from Golden Reflections Blog

Master List of Homeschool Unit Studies from Gypsy Road
Learn & Play Link Up Every Thursday
Now it’s time for this week’s link party! This new link up is for all blog posts that include learn and play activities and hands-on education for kids. We are excited to read your blog posts and to see what you have to share! Please link up below and grab our button to display on your blog.
If you are a blogger, share your family friendly posts here. We are looking for things which include:
  • Montessori Education
  • Homeschool
  • Sensory Play
  • Tot and Preschool Trays
  • Fine and Gross Motor Activities
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Healthy Recipes for Kids
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Natural Living
  • Free Educational Printables
  • Family-Oriented Activities
  • Healthy Living
Your post will be shown on each host’s blog where we will individually pick features every other week. That means there is more of a chance that you will be featured!
Everyone, please meet our link party hosts:
learn and play party hostesses
Guidelines for Linking:
  • Please link up 1-3 posts
  • Follow each of the hosts on social media
  • When you link up, please add our button and place it at the bottom of your shared posts or link back with text link.
  • By entering a link, you’re giving us permission to feature an image on our blogs. Proper credit & links will ALWAYS be given.
  • Please visit a couple of shared posts and leave a comment for them
  • Remember that you must link back in order to be featured
Christian Montessori Network

Read More »

Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers w/ Free Printables

Sunshine's older siblings are studying Africa right now.  She has decided that she needs to study the same thing as they are.  LOL.  It's really quite cute.  

Since she's already studied Africa as part of her Green Unit, I thought we'd focus on Animals of Africa this time around.  My plans correspond perfectly with the 12 Months of Montessori Zoology theme this month!  (I love it when that happens.)

This unit is perfect for tots and preschoolers. It has so many great free printables too!
Animals of Africa Activities for Tots and Preschoolers with Free Printables

Sunshine loves zoology more than any other subject of learning and play.  It's through the study of animals that I'm able to teach her concepts she would otherwise not understand.

When we study zoology, we don't just keep activities science related.  Instead we widen horizons and incorporate zoology into every subject area.  You'll notice this with many of our activities this week.  I hope you enjoy!

Z is for Zebra
Z is for Zebra Activity for Kids with Free Printable
Sunshine will glue squares of zebra stripes on to the letter Z.  For those kiddos ready for scissors, the zebra striped squares are created in strips (in the printable), for cutting practice.  Also included in the printable is a G is for Giraffe paper with spot print strips.

I know the "g" sound in giraffe is not the first sound taught to little ones, but in Sunshine's case, I'm more concerned about her ability to glue and place squares in between the lines, than I am her learning letter sounds.  Hopefully this make sense.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Counting Animals of Africa
Counting Animals of Africa Activity for Kids with Free Printable
We've been working on counting to 4 and 5 for quite some time now.  My apologies.  Sunshine still doesn't seem to understand the concept of numbers.  I promise once she does, we'll progress to bigger numbers.

This week we'll continue to work with the sandpaper numbers and add some adorable animal cards to match up with them.  If Sunshine can't successfully count the animals on her own, we'll at least have fun identifying them in each picture.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1. This is a subscriber's only freebie. See directions at the bottom of this post on how to access your free copy.

Animal Family Match Up
Animal Family Match Up with Free Printable
Sunshine does an amazing job identifying animal names and sounds. She's also very good at pretending she's an animal.  (You should see her pace like a "boy lion."  Yikes!)

I thought this week would be the perfect time to introduce her to animal families and very specific animals in each of those families.  To make sure the activity isn't too overwhelming, I'm introducing only two families.  I'm hoping we have a lot of fun with the activity.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1.  This is a subscriber's only freebie. See directions at the bottom of this post on how to access your free copy.

Adult & Baby Match Up
Adult and Baby Animal Match Up with Free Printable
Sunshine knows her African animal names quite well, however she does not know the proper names for baby animals.  This activity will teach that.

There are cards for each of the adult and baby animals.  Sunshine will match up animals to their cards, paying close attention to the age of the animal on each card.  We will then review the names of African animals and their babies.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1. This is a subscriber's only freebie. See directions at the bottom of this post on how to access your free copy.

Elephant Movements
Elephant Movement Activity
Sunshine LOVES to move around.  In fact, it is rare to ever see her sit still for more than 10 seconds.  When I came across these elephant movement cards, I just knew I had to include them with her activities.  I can't wait to see her trying out all the moves on the cards!  And, if she'd like to pretend to have an actual elephant do the moves, I've provided one.

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at Training Happy Hearts.

Fork Painted Lion Face
Lion Face Fork Painting Activity for Kids
I'm always looking for art activities for Sunshine.  Besides learning about animals, art is her second favorite thing.  This activity combines both passions, so I'm hoping it's a hit.  It also incorporates some fine motor skills.  Sunshine will use the brown marker to draw a face on the lion.  Once her face has been drawn, she will use orange paint and a fork to paint on the lion's mane.

Source:  More detailed instructions and pictures of the completed project can be found at Crafty Morning.

For those interested in the free printables, follow the directions below.

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies


1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.
2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.
3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)
4. Locate the link to our Subscriber Only Freebies page as well as password to access it in the "Thank You" message.
5. Click on link and type in password.
6. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and viola!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.


This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series.
Amazing Blogs involved in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning:
Every Star Is Different ~ Grace and Green Pastures ~ The Pinay Homeschooler

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy the posts below.
Africa Unit with Free Printables Animals of Africa Activities for Tots and Preschoolers Montessori-inspired Green Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Continent and Country Activities Montessori-inspired Africa Unit Printable Pack Bundle Busy Bags for Animal Kingdom Montessori-inspired Zoo Scavenger Hunts
Read More »

Lower Elementary Reading List for the 2015-2016 School Year

This post contains affiliate links.

Each day at lunch time the four kiddos and I gather around the table to enjoy our midday meal.  After a short blessing on the food, the kiddos begin to eat and I read aloud.  Originally, this tradition was initiated because I was utterly exhausted listening to the kiddos fight and argue during lunch everyday.  As time went on, I became very aware of some amazing things happening.

For the first time ever, Bulldozer was listening to a story.  These weren't just any stories.  I was reading chapter books!  Not only was he listening, but he was absorbing the story, and able to answer questions about characters, setting, content, etc. when I asked.  This was a HUGE deal!  I'd tried for years to sit down with him on the couch and read to him.  He couldn't stay seated or interested.  It was only through the experience of reading aloud at the table that we learned Bulldozer needs to be doing something else when read to.  Since then, not only has he enjoyed stories at lunch time, but also at bedtime with his brother and father.  He may be playing with LEGOS the whole time, but the next morning, he'll tell you almost word for word what happened in latest chapter of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Dinomite and Princess love our read aloud time so much, that they request chapters to be read at dinner too, depending on the book.  They get so involved with the stories and the characters.  Depending on what we were reading, they become extremely excited or very frustrated and sad.  I love watching them make these connections with the characters and stories.

Sunshine is three.  When we started, she was only two years old.  Meal time is one of her worst times during the day.  It can be quite devastating.  Strangely, as we started reading together, she calmed down.  Sunshine was quiet for once, and eating well.  I wasn't sure she was understanding anything we read, but the behavior change was so welcome, I knew it was benefiting her in some way.  Sunshine rarely struggles during lunch while we're reading now.

And when it comes to Sunshine understanding what we're reading...  I can't resist sharing these stories!

We were reading Matilda by Roald Dahl.  It was quite intense.  Everyone's eyes were big all through lunch time as we read chapter after chapter about how Miss Trunchbull treated the school children.  After lunch one afternoon, when Sunshine was particularly upset with me, after not getting her own way, she screams out,

"You're the Trunchbull!"

Resisting the urge to burst out laughing was hard, but I managed to keep my emotions under control.  At that moment I knew she was not only listening to the stories I was reading, but understanding them.

Later during the year we read Beezus & Ramona by Beverly Cleary.  It was very clear to everyone at the lunch table that Ramona was very good at making bad choices.  One day, just after reading, it was mentioned by a sibling that Sunshine's middle name is Ramona.  Sunshine immediately lashed out,

"I AM NOT RAMONA!"  To this day, if anyone ever wants to get Sunshine going, all they have to do is mention her full name, putting emphasis on Ramona.  LOL.

The day we finished reading Beezus & Ramona, we didn't have time for discussion afterwards.  I was sure the older kiddos understood the lesson in the story, but I had no clue what Sunshine had picked up from it, other than that Romana makes bad choices.  It was in the evening.  Sunshine approached me, wanting to cuddle.  As I embraced her, she looks up at me, with serious eyes and says,

"Mommy, I love you just sometimes."

It's amazing what a child takes away from a chapter book being read aloud in the perfect setting and environment.  To this day, Sunshine is always the first to remind me about our book at lunch time.

Last year I included our list of chapter books in our syllabus.  We read almost all of them.  Those we didn't get to, I'm keeping on hand for this year, in case I have extra time.  This year I couldn't resist sharing our reading plans in a separate post.  Choosing chapter books for the year is a very long and difficult task.  I thought if I shared our plans, it might help others when choosing their books.  Plus, I wanted to be sure to record the memories from this past year, so I wouldn't ever forget them.

Here is our Lower Elementary Reading List for the 2015-2016 School Year!


To Space and Back by Sallie Ride

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


African Critters by Robert B. Hass

Ola by Ingri d'Aulaire

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
*I have not read this personally.  If I find it is too scary for the kiddos, we will read the 2nd book in the Harry Potter Series instead.





The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary







Who Was Louis Braille? by Margaret Frith & Robert Squier


The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Patrick Skene Catling

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

Little House on the Prairie (Book 2) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

What are you reading with your kiddos right now?  I always love new ideas!
Read More »

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