Kindergarten Home School Week 7: Thursday

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Travis nixed the lessons that came home from school as suggestions today. So I was glad to be armed with a lesson plan all my own!

9-9.30: Math. Today’s page in his summer workbook was counting animals “hiding” in the desert. He counted and wrote these out, making a few of the numbers backwards… a good reminder that we haven’t written numbers in a few weeks!

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We then extended the activity. For each animal, how many more were needed to a make 10? Counting this out in rainbow cereal made it silly and yummy.

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The bonus on the page was to spot the letter 4 made out of sticks. So we then brought in sticks from outside, and made a whole bunch of numbers!

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He was particularly proud of his 5. (Meanwhile, baby sister was busy with crayons).

9.30-10: Recess/snack. Riffing off the animal “hide and seek”, I challenged him to a real game of it for recess. It made him so happy to play together this way, a good reminder of the play he’s missing out on with friends at the playground.

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10-10.30: ELA. I went light on this subject today. We played a round of fishing with sight word fish.

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Then he sat down for Lexia but quickly grew frustrated with the day’s topic of story sequencing. He looked so relieved when I said he could stop, in favor of…

10.30-11: STEAM. Our encyclopedia page of the day was about the weather, specifically clouds and the rain cycle. It was good timing, since he completed his weather chart for all of April today (sun won!).

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Then we made a demonstration of rain falling from saturated clouds, and old experiment I last showed Travis three years ago!

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We also made cloud “paintings” (another repeat project) for the art in our STEAM, which got baby sister involved, too.

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11-1: Lunch/free play. Magna-tiles have been one of my favorite toys during home school, because I can give him an engineering design challenge!

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As mentioned, Travis nixed the suggestions from his teachers, including Music, Spanish, and a wellness presentation from the school counselor. It felt nice not to push him, and he rounded out the day with solo play, a game together (Charades), and reading a book from the summer list: Frog and Toad All Year. Meanwhile my toddler had some fine motor building with knobs and got to enjoy an online library storytime.


Strawberry-Oatmeal Squares

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These bake-ahead oatmeal bars will make mornings a cinch, whether you’re dashing to the bus or just making things a little easier on yourself during home school.


  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 2 cups plain soy milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
  1. In a bowl, combine the oats, pecans, baking powder, and cinnamon; set aside.
  2. Melt the Earth Balance butter in the microwave, then combine in a bowl with the Ener-G eggs, soy milk, and maple syrup. Pour the milk mixture over the oat mixture. Stir in the strawberries.
  3. Spoon the mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. Let cool, and then cut into 9 squares.
  4. Reheat individual square in the microwave just before serving in the morning.

Drawer Knobs & Screws

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In the on-going search for household items that keep little hands busy, today’s installation features… drawer knobs! I have a set that I’m saving for one of those “someday” projects, but I realized today they had a current use keeping Veronika occupied.

I twisted off the tiny pieces first (nuts, washers), leaving her with just the screws, the drawer knobs, and the decorative metal backplates. These three components seemed too large to be choking hazards, although I do recommend supervising play like this since even the blunt screws could be a hazard if stepped on or chewed on.

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The idea was for Veronika to line up the screw with the hole of each knob, and she was so proud – and delighted! – that she could do so.

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Sometimes she had the screw turned the wrong way, which meant it didn’t fit into the hole. I showed her how to turn it around for a big smile of success.

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At one point, she did throw a tiny tantrum over it. She threw the items on the floor, and discovered they made fantastic noises! Then she was back to screws and knobs.

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She liked the way the knobs spun around on the screws.

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When she experimented with the backplate on the screw, she discovered that it made a great jangling noise. Almost like little baby cymbals!

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This activity was great for her fine motor skills, but again you can’t quite call it toddler busy play since you’ll need to supervise.

Cylinder Pictures

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Veronika loves to scribble these days, and one of the easiest ways to occupy her when I need a few minutes is to let her loose with a box of jumbo crayons and a few blank sheets of paper.

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As is probably the case with your toddler, though, she has a tendency to fill up one portion of the paper and to leave the rest of it completely blank. So here’s a fun way to display your child’s early masterpieces while hiding that blank space.

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Trim the paper if needed (for example in sections that are completely white), then wrap the remaining paper around itself into a cylinder.

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Tape shut and set on a mantle or windowsill. Even a little one’s scribbles look so artistic this way!

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These drawings truly were all Veronika’s doing, except when she asked me to draw her stars on one sheet.

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If your child wants to take the cylinders down to play with then, that’s fine too. Just think of it as “process art”!

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Kindergarten Home School Week 7: Wednesday

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We had a day with…wait for it… no tantrums! Our journey through a K-to-1st Grade summer workbook continues to be a success.

9-10: ELA. The corresponding workbook page was similar to what his teacher terms “writers workshop”, a topic that normally prompts Travis’s anger. But seeing it in this novel format, he was an eager participant!

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The assignment was to write abut what a desert woodpecker might do when it arrived in its cactus home. Travis used his imagination to say the woodpecker would remove the prickers! He proudly sounded out this sentence, then drew a picture. To make it a bit more scientific, I prompted him to think about how the bird’s nest might be in the cactus, too. Travis proudly added 3 stickers to his chart after these pages. We even found an old set of toy sticks and balls that helped us engineer a “nest”!

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He finished with a proud stint on Lexia, working on sight words. (Baby sister was busy with colored cups).

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10-10.30: Snack/free play.

10.30-11: STEAM. Today’s encyclopedia page was about the seasons. We watched the QR code video explaining the Earth’s tilt, then returned to an old art project: four seasons trees. The last time we did this, Travis wasn’t even 3 years old! This time, he drew his own tree trunks.

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He didn’t want to get his fingers messy, so his job was to the find the right color tissue paper for each season’s tree leaves and crumple it, then I dipped it in glue and adhered to the tree. Snipped q-tip swabs made “snowflakes” on our winter branches. This craft nicely kept my toddler busy, too!

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11-1: Lunch/free play. I’ve learned that giving him this chunk of time during little sister’s nap really helps his mood.

1-2: Outside time. We squeezed some math into our walk by making patterns from nature finds.

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We also used the walk for a letter hunt!

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2-3: Snack/Health: A homemade ranch dip with veggies was a great chance to talk about the colors and review the way a rainbow of veggies impacts our health. This led to good play with an old veggie farm set. That was the end of the school day, with some quiet solo puzzle play rounding things out.

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Tonight’s storytime read was Don’t Throw It To Mo! with a nice, can-do message.


Letter Hunt

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This little outdoor challenge was the first of several in Travis’s school workbook: the goal was to find an item in nature corresponding to each letter of his name. What a perfect excuse to get outside for “recess” during home schooling!

Off we set on a gorgeous local trail and Travis very quickly spotted the first letter he needed: tree for T!

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I asked him what letter was next, and so it went. Root was for R (as was rock!):

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Acorns were for A, vines were for V, insects were for I, and sticks were for S.

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This game gave simple purpose to our walk. If your child enjoys it, do the name of a sibling or parent, next!

Michelangelo’s Bathroom

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Just as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is designed to make grown-ups look up, here’s a trick to tilt up your little one’s head! This little “art” project can help your child tip his or her head up during hair washing if they are otherwise fearful or reluctant to do so. It works like a charm!

You can cut up any pictures for the project, including old magazines or even old calendar pages. We had an old book of nursery rhymes that’s become tattered over the years, but I love the illustrations. So I snipped out a few, and began to tape them to the tub walls.

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I deliberately chose images of Veronika’s favorite things, including cats, chickens, and stars.

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And she has some unexpected favorites, like umbrellas!

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She loved watching as I hung the pictures, oohing and aahing as if she were in an art gallery. Come bath time, I was so pleased when my trick worked. “Where is the sheep?” I asked. Her little neck craned up, and water poured over her head without any getting in her eyes.

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Success! I intend to mix up the pictures on occasion so our “art show” stays fresh.

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Colored Stacking Cups

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Here’s a twist on a recent game I played with Veronika, in which I simply presented her with a stack of plastic cups to pile and nest any which way.

This time, I had a pack of pretty cups in see-through pastels: think spring greens and rosy pinks, and daffodil orange.

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I gave Veronika the cups in hopes of not just stacking and nesting but also so we could play around with light and shadow. Veronika is so into her shadow these days (“Hi shadow!” she says on our walks), so I knew she would love this.

Sure enough, first she was just interested in the cups as…cups.

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To my amazement, she quickly had them in one huge pile!

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Lest I think this was just an accident, she then moved the cups out of her big pile and created another, off to her other side.

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But the real magic happened once the sun was at an angle, streaming into our living room. I showed her how the rings of the cups showed up as a circle shadow on our rug.

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“Hi shadow!” she said. You can then play around with how the shadow changes depending where the cups are stacked, or even just at different angles to the sun.

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Needless to say, they were just gorgeous to play with in the window.

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Although the building of complicated structures is beyond Veronika at eighteen months old, I loved showing her the dazzling effect.

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She loved adding the finishing touch!

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And when the sun goes down, you can just go back to regular cup towers.

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Kindergarten Home School Week 7: Tuesday

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For the second time, I built Travis’s school lessons around a summer K-to-1st grade workbook instead of the school’s lesson plan. This method continues to engage him far more.

9-9.30: STEM. The corresponding workbook page was about following directions for a train maze (words like up, behind, left, right, etc.). Travis gamely followed with a pencil…and then it was time to engineer the real thing!

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He set up a track with masking tape and then gave me instructions toward “treasure”. Things got a bit off track (pun intended!) when he started adding Magna-tile structures as traps along the way, but I guess it was good to encourage extra building and imagination!

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As a bonus, the train play kept baby sister busy, too.

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9.30-10: Weather. The corresponding workbook page was about packing for a trip to the hot desert, crossing off items that didn’t belong in the suitcase. We made this hands-on with a real suitcase after!

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Travis selected shorts, baby swim diapers, summer sandals, and other hot weather gear. We even threw in a little subtraction: If I have five items and angry pirates take two, how many items are left? Get silly with your subtraction stories!

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10-10.30 – Snack/free play. Chances are that suitcase full of items will spark a game or two. Meanwhile I kept baby sister busy with magazines.

10.30-11: Science. Our encyclopedia page of the day was about sunrise and sunset, as well as a solar eclipse. Travis followed the QR code to a video about a total eclipse. We then tried to recreate one at home! How could the tiny moon block out the enormous sun? With a Styrofoam ball on a pencil as our moon and a big beach ball as the sun, we explored the idea.

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We took turns holding each item and walking down the hall away from each other to see how perspective (his big word for the day!) allowed the small ball to block the bigger one.

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11-1: Lunch/free play.

1-2: Outside. A nature walk was also a mini lesson on migration today.

“School” ended thereafter since Tuesday is his half day. We rounded things out with a board game and a little movement play, but he also had time to socialize with a friend online.

Our bedtime story for review was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, an old favorite, but it was interesting to read it in a new light. He answered questions after like who was the main character, and what problem needed to be solved.

Tantrums today? Only when I made the mistake of seeing if he wanted to do the actual lesson plan sent home from his teacher (rainbow writing, writers workshop).

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These suggestions received lots of attitude, confirming my decision to “go rogue”. I thought he might enjoy the day’s social/emotional learning on the Power of Yet, but this too received only tantrums. Onwards!


Migration Means Moving

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Spring is in the air, and with it all the migrating animals that might be returning to your area. So it’s the perfect time for a little lesson on migration! This lesson kicked off what will be a series of spring-themed recipes from Raddish Kids in the coming weeks.

The lesson plan from Raddish featured the movement of both animals and people. However, I felt that the topic of children migrating, particularly due to conflict, would be upsetting to Travis. So we focused on the animal aspect of migration, beginning with a few suggested videos. If your child is older, consider sharing an online read of Where Will I Live, by Rosemary McCarney. You can ask your child about times your family has moved, and reasons why people might move, or discuss what makes migration different from a vacation.

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After the intro videos, we set off a nature walk in search of a migrating animal! I thought the best we might luck into was a duck or a goose, so we were legitimately thrilled to spot two great blue herons. Wow!

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We also spotted what might have been a snake hole, which was a great opportunity to point out the difference between hibernation versus migration as a winter strategy.

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When we got home, it was time for a research project. This kind of project is new and advanced for Travis as a kindergartner, so I helped him pull up a picture of the great blue heron online, as well as a map of its range. He color-coded the map according to their winter, summer, and year-round habitats. We watched a few final videos about the bird to finish the lesson.

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Older kids can again get more detailed. Consider painting aspects of a particular animal’s migration, or posing bigger questions like how the animal finds its way, and how far it goes.