Holiday Card Circuits

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Need to celebrate a birthday with someone from afar during COVID-19? Or planning on sending cards for Passover or Easter (or whatever the closest holiday might be?). In this age of social distancing, here’s a card that will literally shine through, even over Zoom!

This card works on the exact same circuit principle as the graphite circuit Travis made recently. But first we needed to make a pretty card! Since ours was a birthday card, we chose heart-print scrapbook paper and glued a felt heart to the front. Make sure you cut a hole where your LED light will shine through.

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Of course you could go in so many directions with this card, whether one for Easter (a light-up chick or egg?) or just a fun theme to say hello like a UFO beam or fire truck siren. You can use stickers or cardstock cut-outs for the decorations.

Inside, make a rectangle from three strips of aluminum foil and tape down, leaving one corner that still flaps open. Also leave a gap at the top where the LED light will go. Tape down the legs of the LED, one to each side, making note of where the positive and negative sides are (Hint: the positive leg is longer).

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Now tape down a 3V battery in the corner where you’ve left the foil loose. When the flap of aluminum foil folds down, the circuit is complete and the card lights up!

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Here’s mom’s amazement, even if it was a little old-hat for Travis.

Kindergarten Home School Day 6

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I may start to do these home school posts as weekly roundups, especially as it seems likely we’ll extend further into the school year. But for today at least, here was our second attempt at a Monday! There were some real challenges today, less about the schooling and more about a five-year-old’s emotions at missing friends, missing “real” gym and recess, and more. How are you faring? Please share in the comments!

7-9: Breakfast, get dressed, free play.

9: Check-in/ELA. I’m making sure to ask Travis how he’s feeling each morning, in addition to going over the weather and day of the week. When we started today’s literacy lessons, I could tell he was bored with sounding out words. What he really needed was to see his teacher, so we were glad to find another recorded read-aloud online. I could only get him to sit for a little Lexia. (Baby sister was busy, meanwhile, with Velcro).

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10-10.30: Snack and recess. The kids got silly eating snack, which was a lighthearted moment. It’s cold and snowy so we weren’t outside long, but did fetch a few sticks because we needed them later for arts and crafts…

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10.30-11: Math. I had him count out peanut butter puff cereal in 3 ways. First just counting the total, then arranging them in a circle, then in 4 groups of 10.

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Little sister helped herself to a snack on occasion, so I kept extras at the ready. High fives all around!

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We also did 1 fun page from How High Can a Dinosaur Count.

11-11.30: Arts and crafts: Using our sticks from recess, Travis made tissue paper flowers. He twisted big pieces of colorful tissue into “flowers”; they ended up looking like calla lilies!

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11.30-12.30: Gym: He would have had P.E. as the special today. One suggestion was to throw snowballs, but despite the wintry weather, there wasn’t that much snow on the ground. So we made some! This indoor mommy-son snowball fight was the highlight of the day. Next I encouraged him to try an exercise tabata, but this, on the other hand, led to tears and complaints about how home wasn’t the real gym. So we called it quits for…

12.30-1.30: Lunch/free play.

1.30-2: Social Studies. It was hard to get him to focus after lunch. We tried a suggested social studies unit on being a good citizen from, but missing classmates made him angry.

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I felt like I was failing. Yes, I can provide my son with literacy and math skills here at home, but I’m also very aware of how far short I fall from replicating a classroom environment for social learning. We tried out a Spanish song and a Kidzbop dance to change his headspace, but those didn’t help much…

2.30:3: Science. Luckily, a little science did! I decided we needed something more hands on so we made an outer space parachute. We finished the afternoon with a board game. By this point he was really tired, but I pushed him to play a round of Silly Sentences, which is wonderful for teaching parts of speech. Soon he was roaring with laughter for “shiny squirrels singing” and “scary sandwiches breaking”. So much so he wanted to play a second round!

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Just before bed, we watched an online read of I Am Peace, a suggestion from his school counselor to help kids with mindfulness in this trying time. We needed this one tonight, gulp. We’ll jump in again tomorrow.

Kindergarten Home School Day 5

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Well, we made it through a full week! Here’s a recap of our Friday.

7-9: Breakfast, get dressed, free play.

9: Check-in, ELA. The read-aloud suggestion today was to read a book and then to act it out. I picked one that I knew would maximize Travis’s fun: The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds.

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Travis (and baby sister!) got to play with all the toys that the naughty bunnies play with as they try not to sleep, and there was lots of tiptoeing and marching. We then connected the book to moments in his own life. We rounded out the hour with a workbook letter page (B) and 20 minutes on his Lexia program.

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10-10.30: Snack/recess. With a rainy day again, some Nat Geo Kids clips kept Travis entertained.

10.30-11: Math. We played with dominoes! First we counted pips, then made shapes with the dominoes, and then lined them up in order of smallest to largest.

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We also read a fun book from our personal collection, Usborne’s Count to 100.

11-12: Science. Travis’s class recently did a unit on wood, so today was a wood scavenger hunt around the house. Travis couldn’t believe how many things are made of wood, whether furniture, toys, or more.

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In honor of the first day or spring, we also planted a bean sprout: Wet a handful of cotton balls, but squeeze out any excess water, then place in the bottom of a mason jar. Add two to three dried beans, placing them between the cotton and the side of the jar. We’ll water it daily and see!

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Thanks to Little Passports for this suggestion.

12-1: Quiet time/free play (while baby sister naps!).

1: Over lunch, the kids watched a performance from storyteller Bill Harley I’m so touched how many musicians, authors, and other performers are providing these resources to our children.

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2-3: Art: His special today would have been art, so Travis drew our family. He started out very studiously drawing himself, before it all got a bit sillier!

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For social/emotional learning, we also talked about a kind deed we could do today. He chose to scatter some leftover birdseed outside for springtime birds, then drew a picture.

3-3.30: Crafts/Movement. We finished the day with silly sock puppets.

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A final Go Noodle dance and a walk outside for fresh air, and our first week of home schooling was complete!



Kindergarten Home School Day 4

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The whole family has a little sniffle today (thank goodness nothing more) so we kept to “home school lite” and threw in an afternoon movie. How is your adventure in home school going? Please share in the comments!

7-9: Breakfast, get dressed, free play. And help mommy clean the bathroom! Anyone else’s house extra spic and span right now?

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9-10: ELA. While reading a story (A Stone Stood Still), Travis was on the lookout for five sight words from class. He got a kick out of the fact that he could use marker in the book, since it’s one from home. He also did one letter page from a school workbook and 20 minutes on his Lexia website.

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10-10.30: Math. We went around the house looking for things to count, including toy balls into a bag (42!), and socks. After we counted individual socks, we paired them up.

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10.30-11: Snack/free time.

11-12: We did a Scholastic science unit on spring, which included a nice read-aloud, a few quizzes, and a physical activity to get us moving. I also read Usborne’s See Inside: How Things Work about machines.

12-1: Lunch/quiet time.

1-2: Travis’s special today would have been Music. We sang his school song, and talked about some of his favorites from class, followed by a Spanish song on colors. Little sister loved joining in with instruments.

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2-2.30: Skype with a friend! I’m learning that social interaction is just as key as the education to Travis’s school days. We also played a card game for “social learning”, taking turns going first on Memory.

2.30-4: Movie time! Why not on a rainy day when you have a cold.

4-5: We capped off the day with a “cooking lesson”. Travis and I love to make recipes together, and making a lovely salad was the highlight of the day.

We’re hoping for no rain tomorrow…

Kindergarten Home School Day 3

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Friends: Day 3 of COVID-19 home schooling went well academically, but the toughest part about today is that Travis misses his friends. It breaks my heart that our playgrounds are empty, that our children cannot play together, despite the importance of it. Who says we are turning into a virtual culture? It’s clearer to me than ever that kids need other kids physically. To that end, we made sure to do a Skype with a buddy from school. Travis’s teacher also sent a video of herself reading a book. These “face-to-face” interactions were crucial, and I hope you are all finding ways to do them. At one point he just crumpled into tears, missing his buddies, and I held him for a long time. I am sending virtual strength to all, and here was our day!

7: We slept in! Home school is exhausting.

7.30-9: Breakfast, get dressed, free play.

9-10: ELA. Today we read a favorite book (Ralph Tells a Story), and when it was finished we talked about who the characters were, specifically the main character versus secondary characters. Travis loved doing his Lexia games while I played a quick game with baby sis!

10-10.30: Recess and snack.

10.30-11: Math. After playing a “Number Squeeze” game online, we made a hands-on version.

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Travis had so much fun drawing monster faces, which we then taped to straws to “squeeze” our way to each number, using the concepts of greater than and less then.

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11-12: While baby sister napped, Travis and I made a batch of homemade playdough. This alone was great fun, and then we used the playdough to write his name.

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He wanted to make all capital letters first to avoid curves, but then got a little more confident and tackled a few lower case letters.

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12-1: Lunch/free play.

1-2: His special today would have been “Library,” so we sat down for a story (I made sure Veronika had a few tactile books to go through, beside us), then listened to two episodes of the Kids Ask Authors podcast.

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Finally, we modified the StoryMarch concept here; we printed pictures of six of the word prompts and lined them up in various ways. Each time the pictures were in a different order, we made up a different story about them!

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2-3: Frankly, Travis was exhausted this afternoon and I barely got him to focus. So instead of energetic physical movement, we did a “Chillax” video from GoNoodle. For science, we read a book about bugs, and watched a quick video about the first day of spring.

We capped off the day with a walk outside to take advantage of the nice weather, and looked for signs of spring. Travis was so proud when he spotted buds, or flowers coming up.

Kindergarten Home School Day 2

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After hitting the ground running yesterday, today felt a little more like a walk. Maybe because I only got 4 hours sleep, maybe because Tuesdays are only a half day in our town, so we didn’t pack in as much. But without further ado, here’s what we joyfully tackled!

6.30-8.30: Breakfast, get dressed, free play.

9-10: Circle time, ELA. After a quick moment to check in by our calendar, we jumped into ELA for the day. Travis’s class has been working on writing a story with two parts, and his centered around Anakin Skywalker of course.

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We reviewed the sight words his class has learned (to the tune of “B-I-N-G-O”), then practiced writing them in shaving cream! Travis didn’t want to get his fingers messy, but a wooden skewer worked perfectly. Where was my toddler, meanwhile? Busy getting dressed.

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10-10.30: Snack/recess. It was a snowy raw day, so we only briefly ventured outside before “indoor recess” and a quick bite.

10.30-11: Travis listened to two stories from Storyline Online (a great resource!), then we took some time to compare the two and discuss their differences and similarities. He finished off the half hour with about 15 minutes on Lexia.

11-11.30: Math. We played Go Fish using number cards, which is great for reading pips and numerals. To make it physical we turned it into Go Fitness Fish. Each match was assigned an activity, like yoga tree pose for matching 2s, or jumping jacks for matching 3s.

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This had us laughing and super active! (It helped that my toddler was napping). We finished off with a page of How High Can a Dinosaur Count.

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11.30-12.30: He was hungry early! We watched yesterday’s episode of Lunch Doodles with Mo Williams since we were too early for today’s 1 p.m. showing. Travis was so proud of his many -legged creature!

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12.30-1: In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we listened to Irish music provided by the school’s Music teacher. This had both kiddos doing reels and jigs!

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1-1.30: We finished with a quick lesson on American Sign Language, and a quick “science” book about the human body, but then called it quits.

Normally, he has a Tuesday acting class. To ease his disappointment that the final performance is now cancelled, we staged it at home, obligatory costume for little sister included of course.

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This had him laughing and so happy, and was the highlight of the day. A round of Kids Charades kept up the acting play to round out his afternoon.

See you for another full day tomorrow!

Kindergarten Home School Day 1

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Friends! I have always considered myself a hands-on mom and a crafty mom, but to all you home school moms out there: RESPECT. I find myself now in this position due to COVID-19, so… here goes nothing!

What were the biggest challenges I discovered in Day 1? Simultaneously caring for a 16 month old, and keeping Travis focused. To that end, I sprinkled in a few projects to keep Veronika busy, and used her nap strategically for when Travis needed me by his side the most.

Biggest takeaway from Day 1? Tomorrow we’ll have a firm policy of home toys packed away when school is in “session”, to avoid distraction. Also, it was clear that my kids perform best early in the day. Front-loading activities meant that I could dole out afternoon lessons with a little more space in between, which definitely suited the rhythm of our household.

Without further ado, here’s how our day went!

6.30-8.30: Breakfast, get dressed, free play.

8.30-9: Circle Time and Spanish. Sticking with his normal routine, we sat down and went through the calendar, the weather, and the day of the week. Then we sang along to a Spanish song from his teacher on You Tube, and he worked on a Spanish coloring page. (Lil sis played with big swings!)

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9-10: ELA. We “tapped out” his four words of the day on our fingers, then read a story (The Name Jar), focusing on what happened at the beginning, middle, and end. Then he did 20 minutes on the Lexia website (I stole a moment to bake bread!).

10-10.15: Snack time.

10.15-10.45: Recess! Get outside and dig in the dirt.

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10.45-12: Math/quiet time. Travis worked on his school’s math website for a dot matching game that emphasized the concepts of “more than”, “less than”, and “equal to”. He loved the game! We also tackled the problems on one page of How High Can a Dinosaur Count, a fantastic book we already have at home. Baby sister now needed me, so it was a good time for quiet activities like drawing a picture of his favorite thing and working on tangram puzzles.

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12-1: Lunch/free play. It was nice to give him some downtime!

1-1.30 – PE! This would have been his “special” today, so we juggled with socks, then had a family dance party to Can’t Stop the Feeling. We finished up with a few dances from Go Noodle that really got us moving and had both kids laughing!

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1.30-2: Arts and Crafts. We made pompom puppets.

2-2.30: Pulling from books we already have at home, today we read Usborne’s Big Book of Stars and Planets.

2.30-3: Board game. We finished off the day with some group fun, and today Travis selected Animal Bingo. You can see the kids were silly by this point!

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Class dismissed! We headed out for a family walk and some fresh air, which turned into fantastic fun with Travis “racing” me and the stroller to each mailbox. We returned full of vigor and ready for an afternoon snack.

Yikes, I am exhausted but ready for tomorrow. How is your family faring under social distancing? Please share in the comments; let’s all unite virtually in this unprecedented time!

Do Nothing Day

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Like many of you, we now find ourselves in a period of “social distancing”; school is closed for 3 weeks and we’re limiting our exposure to the rest of the world. Places that are familiar to the kids like libraries, museums, and local classes are shut down. So I pondered how to approach this period without scaring the kids. One idea? Turn the ability to do nothing into a game, at least for one day. As in: have a do nothing day!

The idea of no chores and no appointments and no assignments is sure to appeal to kids, turning what might otherwise feel like a strange break into a fun adventure. We almost always have at least one outing or activity daily, so today when the kids woke up I declared it a “Do Nothing Day”. We even could stay in our pajamas as long as we wanted!

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Beds could go unmade.

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Chores could be skipped and playtime was a must. The kids could lounge together on the couch eating snacks and watching a Disney movie.

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Other perfect ways to pass the day? Building with Legos…

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….coloring pages…

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…and getting silly while cooking a recipe all fit the bill.

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Obviously we won’t keep this up every day (home school for Travis starts tomorrow!) but it set things off on a playful, joyful note instead of a scary one.

A few other helpful tips to “social distance” without alarming the kids.

  • Get outside every day. Even a small patio or lawn will give your kids fresh air and a daily dose of nature, even when you avoid playgrounds and group areas.
  • Use Facetime and Skype.┬áStay in touch with older relatives or others you might not be able to see in person now.
  • Order groceries online. Though this is something I’ve skipped in the past, you’ll have peace of mind if you check out an online service instead of bringing kids to a crowded store.
  • Build your mom community: Set up a group text list, and you’ll keep each other sane virtually, answer one another’s questions, and get through this time “together apart”.
  • Have a routine every day. Kids thrive on routine. Now that our Do Nothing Day is done, each day will have scheduled time for reading, math work, quiet coloring or puzzles, crafts, and more.
  • But finally, a little extra screen time can’t hurt. And will help you keep your sanity.

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Please stay tuned. I’ll have lots of activities and crafts in the days and weeks ahead. Wishing health to all.

Hearty Lasagna Soup

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There is a play on words here in this recipe title from Raddish Kids, meaning not just that the soup is hearty and will fill you up, but also that it’s meant to be shared with those you “heart” and love. So there was no better time than a family day of “social distancing” to whip up a big pot of it! Travis loved getting silly as we cooked, including tasting the concentrated flavor of tomato paste…

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…and making lasagna noodle “beards”!

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 8 basil leaves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded non-dairy mozzarella
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, zucchini, and salt; cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender.
  2. Add the mushrooms, tomato paste, and oregano; cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the diced tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile, place the lasagna noodles in a zip-top plastic bag. Use a mallet to crush the noodles. This is bound to be your kids’ favorite step!
  5. Add the noodles to the pot; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the noodles are tender.
  6. Stir in the basil and then ladle the soup into bowls. Top with mozzarella, if desired!

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The recipe card also included fun facts about pasta shape names (Travis giggled over “orecchiette”, or “little ears”), and stovetop safety tips.

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More importantly, though, there were some nice suggestions for how to express love to family members, whether with kind words, special surprises, thoughtful gifts, or physical snuggles. And of course, spending quality time together! We’re all going to have lots of that in the days of self-quarantine ahead, so here’s to loving moments. And if you go stir-crazy, just bash up some more lasagna noodles!

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