Back to Nature, Nature Bingo

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BackToPlay #CollectiveBias Thank you Back to Nature Macaroni & Cheese for sponsoring this post. Try the new Back to Nature Made with Organic Macaroni & Cheese Dinners!

There is something so comforting about getting back to the basics and going back to nature. Nature is at the core of what kids and adults need. It is finding a place where you can explore, imagine, create and have fun. As a mom, I have watched my children thrive in these kinds of scenarios, and it brings me so much joy. Today I want to share a few of our favorite ways to make mealtime our playground and return back to the simple things.

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On one of my recent shopping trips to Target, I stumbled across Back to Nature Mac & Cheee. I was instantly excited that it had no artificial flavors, preservatives, synthetic colors and it is non-GMO. My girls were equally excited about the fun shapes and varieties of their favorite cheesy meal. I knew it was a winner for our family– a convenient product that both the moms and kids love! It doesn’t get much better than that!  So, I happily let the girls pick out a few boxes and we headed home.

Back-to-nature-boxThinking about getting back to nature left me feeling creatively inspired.

Inspired to unplug and get back to the simple things in life ourselves. So I used my noodle *pun intended* to create a simple back to nature bingo game to play with my girls. Something to encourage them to explore and enjoy nature. To observe and look for things big and small, alive and dead, pops of color and things that blend in.

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There are so many ways to play with these bingo cards.

*Bingo style, first to get a row wins.

*Bingo blackout, fill in the whole card.

*Take photos of what you find.

*I spy played from a picnic table or blanket.

*If the weather is too bad to play outside you can still squeeze in some nature by looking for photos of things in magazines.

You can download your copies here.

b2nWe chose to play our bingo in an “I spy” method from our picnic blanket. We even used the noodles from the Back to Nature USDA Organic Crazy Bugs Macaroni & Cheese Dinner as markers on our boards. The girls later insisted on gluing down the pieces because they were so cute. I couldn’t agree more. What a fun and creative way to turn bingo into an art project and a memory too.

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And what picnic blanket is complete without a meal?!

Back-to-nature-bowlDid you know that Mac and Cheese Day is coming up on July 14th?

Mark your calendars now, pick up some Back to Nature Mac and Cheese at Target and be ready to celebrate the day with a creamy, cheesy & delicious meal.

Have you tried Back to Nature Mac & Cheese yet?

What’s your favorite way to get back to nature?

 

Teaching Together, 2016 Curriculum Line-Up

Welcome back for another month of Teaching Together.

Being labeled a home school mom sets you up for A LOT of questions. From my thoughts on learning to read clear up to what we plan to do in the high school years. But my favorite question has to be the “WHY?!” Which usually comes with an “are you crazy” expression on their face. However the most common of all the questions I get asked or emailed about is what curriculum we use.

2016 Homeschool
Here is what we have planned for the 2016/2017 school year!

Curriculum

When it comes to choosing homeschooling curriculum you really have two choices. You can by something all-inclusive *bleck* (can you tell I’m not a fan of this method) or you can piece things together on your own. I have always gone with this second choice and here is why.

It saves money
You have more variety
Its less monotonous
It’s easier to customize your curriculum to the way your child learns.

At the end of it all I am sure that both methods are effective. But, everyone has their opinion so I thought why not share mine. It is my blog after all :P. 

Marissa 3rd Grade Emily Kindergarten
I also plan to add in a few electives that will alternate daily.
These will include things like “computer lab” time, art, yoga, and typing.

Schedule

7:30 school starts with prayer
7:35-8:00 Handwriting
8:00-8:45 Math
8:45-9:00 Break
9:00-09:20 Bible
09:20-10:00 Literature/Phonics
10:00-10:30 Spelling/Emily Break
10:30-11:00 Language/ Emily computer games
11:00-12:15 Lunch Break
12:10- 12:45 Creative Writing/ Emily History or Science
12:45-01:15 Marissa computer games/ Emily Book time
01:15-2:00 Apologia Science OR Marissa’s History
02:00-02:30 Art/ Creative Play/ Yoga
 
Lets be real. I say this is our schedule, but it doesn’t mean it will stick or adjustments wont be needed. But at least we have some kind of idea on what to do when and we can tweak things as we need to.
.Goals
 

My goals for our school year are to have way too much fun, finish our books in a timely manner, and hopefully not bomb achievement tests at the end of the year.

That is all.
Surprised?

I kind of am too but where I may thrive on goals, that kind of pressure on a kindergartener just isn’t needed. 

This will be my first year of officially schooling two kids.
I’m nervous and excited.
Pray for me friends.

Sharing our 2016/2017 #homeschool #curriculum plans on this months #TeachingTogether Click To Tweet

Have a question about homeschooling or why we do, what we do? Leave me a comment!

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Simple Ways to Encourage Kids to Write

If there is one thing that I have learned as a mom, it’s that each kid is unique. They each have methods and motivators that work best for them from. This is something I felt I always knew, then we started homeschooling and it was even more clear. In the past I have become frustrated when what I think should work just doesn’t. But as I have matured and calmed down (something I am still working on some days)  I’ve realized that I need to be open to exploring and finding options that work the best for my girls. One area Marissa has really struggled with is writing. Today I want to share with you some tips and trick to encourage kids to write as well as a product that we love. Thank you Timberdoodle for sponsoring today’s post and as always, all opinions are my own.

Simple ways to encourage kids to write.

1) Choose topics your child is interested in
If I was to ask Marissa to write me a paper about Henry Ford she likely would give me a squishy face that made her disapproval rather obvious. Getting her to write the paper would be a slow and painful process. But if I asked her to write about dolphins or any other thing she loves her initial attitude about the project will be much better. When kids are learning how to write, let them write about the things they love. 

2) Write letters
Letter writing is not only a skill that will benefit your child for the rest of their lives, it is also a great way teach them how to put sentences together properly. Thank you notes are an excellent place to start or you could sign your kid up for a pen pal. I have been wanting to do this for Marissa for quite some time now.

3) Help them
Sometimes I get so set on wanting her to do things by herself that I forget we all need a little help some times. I was once encouraged by a more experienced home school mom to be willing to help her get started. 9 times out of 10 the kid just needs a gentle nudge or two and once they get going your help will no longer be welcomed. 

4) Celebrate & encourage
When a kid does something that was challenging for them the best possible thing to do is to take notice and speak love in a way that means something to them. A reward system, lots of verbal praise or even taking the time for the whole family to sit down and listen to what they wrote. You can never encourage a child too much. 

5) Equip them to succeed
This last tip is one that really excites me, equipping your child to succeed. Doesn’t that just sound so good?! It is hard to teach a child without giving them a foundation to build on and the resources needed to learn. I believe we found a gem when we discovered Daily 6- Trait Writing.

IMG_9582Daily 6- Trait Writing focuses on the 6 characteristics that shape quality writing and refines them; content, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions. The lessons are simple to do so they fit right in with our existing language curriculum.

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And my favorite part is Marissa loves it. With just 15 minutes a day we have greatly improved her writing ability.

She is being challenged to grow and she is thriving.

Sharing 5 simple ways to encourage kids to write in today's blog post. #homeschool #momtips Click To Tweet

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What is your favorite writing tip for kids (or adults)?

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Fun Ways To Play & Learn In the Summer Time

We’ve been in summer mode for just over a month now. Summer, oh glorious, beautiful, summer. I am pretty sure I love summer 100 times more as a teacher than I ever did as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I love homeschooling, structure, and schedules but something about summer makes me want to toss all of that out and enjoy the freedom of not having an agenda.

The flip side is that as much as I would like to toss all things educational out the window during the summer months, I know I would have many regrets come August. Today I want to share with you ways that we continue learning through the summer months that keep things simple, practical, fun and the girls hardly even realize it’s actually school work. 

Fun ways to play & learn in the summer time. Simple ideas to encourage learning in kids of all ages.

 

* Summer reading programs //

Most libraries have a summer reading program for the months of June and July offering rewards for books read and activities completed. We’ve been doing this for years now and the girls love it.

* Nature Centers //

Nature centers are a great way to get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and learn. Just be sure to plan this as a morning activity to avoid the heat

* Computer Games //

I am not a huge fan of computer time or games but if the learning is educational, I don’t mind making and exception. This is one of my favorite ways to trick the girls into doing school work. We really like this website.

* Topical Studies //

The summer is one of the best times to study something that the girls are really interested in that we likely wouldn’t add into our normal school schedule. From books to YouTube videos we can learn all they want to know. 


* Science Centers //

Science centers are an amazing tool for hands on learning. Often my girls just want to run all over like crazy and see all the things but I always try to pick out a few exhibits along the way to look at a little deeper with them. 

* Book Report Rewards //

It started out as a great idea, or so I thought. Summer reading could mean summer book reports! But Marissa wasn’t really a fan… until I promised a reward. For every 5 book reports she turns in she gets some kind of reward. The rewards are TBD that girl is a book-worm so I am excited to see how this goes. 

* Zoo Trips

We don’t have a zoo around here and haven’t been to a zoo for about a year now, but I know that if we did weekly trips would be a must. I am hoping that we can squeeze in a zoo trip at some point over the summer since the girls are huge animal lovers. Maybe we could even squeeze in an educational scavenger hunt while we are there. 

* Science Experiments

Summer is the perfect time to work on all of the science projects I have pinned. There are so many that we have yet to get too. Adding in a science project a week is our goal. Plus the messier ones could easily be done outside. For science project ideas check out my science pin-board.

* Grow Something

It’s no fun studying trees and plants in the middle of winter. Summer time is the perfect time to study all things plant related from leaves and parts of plants to learning how to grow and take care of a garden. 

* Art Projects

Weekly art projects are a great way to encourage creativity. From learning to draw, paint, creating collages, and sculptures the opportunities are endless. Need some inspiration? Visit an art gallery, pick a painting, then go home and try to recreate it.

Talking about fun way to play and learn in the #summer on the blog. #TeachingTogether #SummerSchool. Click To Tweet

How do you encourage learning over the summer months in your home?

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Now it’s your turn to link-up what you have been learning about for this months Teaching Together!

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I want to give a big thanks to this months “Summer School” Guest host, Stephanie from Wife Mommy Me.

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Number Games With Tenzi

Earlier in the year I started collaborating with Timberdoodle. Timberdoodle offers everything from books & home school curriculum to toys & games that are fun to play with and educational too. AKA this home school mom’s dream. We want to say a huge thanks to Timberdoodle for sponsoring today’s post and as always, all opinions are my own.

Learning fun with Tenzi a number / strategy game for kids... and adults.
Recently we were given the chance to try out Tenzi. Tenzi is a unique and fun number / strategy game that quickly became a family favorite. This fast paced game is the perfect way to work on learning numbers with the littlest learners or start drilling quick addition math skills with older learners.

Talking about #TENZI our new favorite #DiceGame to learn with. #homeschool #blogger #game Click To Tweet

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We also received the 77 Ways To Play TENZI a card deck that takes this game to the next hilarious level, offering even more variety with your TENZI dice. I love that there is so much variety with this game from the way we play to the way we score. Every time we play it it’s like a whole new game. That makes Tenzi exciting for everyone.

Play-Tenzi
Marissa becomes so intently focused while playing this game.
I love how it is challenging her to make quick, logical decisions.

Emily_Tenzi
Emily has a whole new laid back approach. She loves rolling the dice and trying to get all the dice, yes ALL 40, on the same number. This always keeps her occupied for a while so I call it a win. 

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With 77 Ways To Play TENZI you can learn games like PYRAMIDZI, FARMZI, PAIRSZI and GUESSZI. Because who doesn’t want to play a fast paced dice game while making farm animal noises? Moo’ing makes everything more funny. I am pretty sure that might be a fact.

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And what might possible be my favorite part about this game is that the whole family loves it. FINALLY a game that Russ and I don’t internally grumble when the girls ask to play. In fact we may or may not be guilty of playing it without the kids. You know you have found a winner when that happens friends. 

But don’t just take my word for it, pick up TENZI and find out for yourself. 

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In case you missed our last Timberdoodle post featuring our “pet” robot, you can check it out HERE

Have you heard of TENZI before?
What games have you been learning with lately?

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School Is Out, Teaching Together

School is officially out!!!

I thought today would be the perfect chance to share our “official” last day of the school year photos and interviews with you. This year we ended our home school year on April 28th. I NEVER in my head imagined getting out of school in April, but we put in 36 weeks of work and now we are “done”. I still have some summer lessons planned for the month of May but we will definitely slow down once the pools open.

Last Day M1
Marissa wrapped up second grade and her third year of putting up with me for a teacher.
She is such a trooper.

Last Day E1
Emily finished her second year of pre-k at home and will move on to Kindergarten with mommy next year.

I am excited and intrigued about how things will go with two kids officially in school. I know it will mean my days will be busier and that will be a big adjustment for me.

Finishing our third year of home school feels like a landmark. I nowhere near feel like I have everything figured out, but I also don’t feel scared anymore. Sure it takes work and effort on all accounts, but we are doing it and I would even dare to say we are doing it well. 

last Day M2

Marissa

Age: 7 (so close to 8!)
Favorite color// Blue but I really like pink too
Favorite food// Tacos & Homemade Mac & Cheese (not served together)
Favorite movie// Cinderella (She wanted me to clarify she likes the one with the real people)
Favorite Book// The ‘Whatever After’ book series
Favorite song// ‘It’s A Hard-knock Life’ from Annie
Favorite game// Checkers
Favorite animal// Seals
Favorite thing to do// Go swimming 
Favorite part of school// Science
What was your favorite part of this school year// Experiments and crafts
What are you most excited about this summer// SWIMMING!!!

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Emily

Age: 5
Favorite color// I like pink just a little more than orange
Favorite food// Peanut butter crackers
Favorite movie// Anything with Minnie in it!
Favorite Book// 5 Minute Minnie Tales
Favorite song// This is a REALLY hard one, I’ll say ‘It’s A Hard-knock Life’ from Annie
Favorite game// Candy Land
Favorite animal// Let’s say….. I don’t really have a favorite. You can just write down pandas because I kind of do like pandas.
Favorite thing to do// Play with my friends
Favorite part of school// *Very seriously* I don’t have a favorite part of school. I don’t like anything about it.
What was your favorite part of this school year// Art projects
What are you most excited about this summer// Going to the pool!

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These girls love each other deeply.

It was so fun taking these photos and watching them pose themselves. At one point Emily turned her head and kissed her sister’s arm… of course I wasn’t ready to capture the photo and missed it.

Here are a few ways we make the last day of school (and days following) special at our house.
We have had so much fun celebrating over the past week!

  • Last day photos
  • Last day interviews
  • Donuts
  • Staying up late (just a little)
  • Play outside A LOT
  • Ice cream
  • Special lunch out
  • Taking a few days to just unwind before finding a new summer routine.
Sharing how we celebrate #School being out on this months #TeachingTogether #linkup #homeschool Click To Tweet

With this school year wrapped we are SO ready to say
Hello Summer!

Last Day of school ME1
What do you do to make the end of the year special?

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