Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We Love DIY.org!

DIY.org Welcome Screen

My older two girls have been completely obsessed with DIY.org this summer. If you haven't heard of it, the gist of the site is that kids earn and collect different skill badges by completing challenges within each skill badge category. The purpose of the site is to foster a safe online community for children where they can be creative and learn new skills and techniques, while getting feedback from other kids in the online community. It's kind of like a modern, internet-based Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts mixed with safe social networking for children.

K making an omelet for her Chef badge

Here's how it works: there are different skill categories, which range from the crafty (Illustrator, Weaver, Interior Designer), to the scientific (Botanist, Oceanographer, Chemist), to the computer-related (Data Visionary, Frontend Dev, Gamer). After completing a challenge, the child uploads a picture or video directly to the site or via the DIY app, which makes it super convenient. When they have completed a specific number of challenges in each category, they earn a badge. The badges earned appear digitally in the child's profile header on the site. There has been talk of physical badges that will be available for purchase in the near future (which we can't wait for!) but for now the badges are digital. Each child's account must be linked to an adult account, no real names are to be used, and the parents can access everything the child has posted via the parental dashboard.

C making cookies for her Baker badge

 I discovered DIY.org last summer and created a profile for C, but we never really looked around the site, and we promptly forgot all about it. A few months ago, I saw the site mentioned on another homeschool mom's blog and I decided to go back to check it out. After delving into it in further detail, I realized it was right up C & K's alley! I created an account for K and reminded C that she already had one. They dove right in and started working on challenges. Now, every morning when they wake up they figure out which challenges they'll work on for the day. They're having so much fun with it! They're learning skills that they might not have had interest in until they saw that they could earn a badge for it, which is awesome. They're thinking outside the box and figuring out new ways to do things. The creators of the site add new challenges and badges all the time and we're excited to find out what will come next!

Solar Oven! They made yummy s'mores.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Simple Christmas Advent & Activities

We are really starting to get into the Christmas spirit around here! Although the temperatures outside aren't reflecting the season (86 degrees in December? No thanks.) we're creating our own Christmas magic indoors.

Each morning while the girls are having breakfast, I load up Christmas music on Pandora (the Indie Holidays Radio station is awesome!) and turn on the Scentsy warmers full of yummy seasonal scents. After we're done with our morning schoolwork, the girls take turns pulling different activities out of our "Advent Box", which is my take on the Advent calendar.

I've been modifying my "I'm Bored" jar for the different seasons. For Halloween I placed seasonally- appropriate activities in a jack-o-lantern bucket for the girls to choose from each day. I meant to do something for Thanksgiving, but time ran away from me :/

I was going to do a more traditional Advent calendar for Christmas, but I decided to stick with this method, which is fairly easy to put together and the girls love it. I just took a cute Christmas treat container and filled it with different activities written on strips of paper. The girls take turns choosing activities. Super easy!

Here's a list of our activities:
  • Read Christmas books in bed
  • Make a Christmas craft
  • Cut out paper snowflakes and decorate the windows
  • Make treats to take to friends
  • Have hot chocolate with candy canes
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • Make Christmas ornaments
  • Write a letter to Santa
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Have a family game night
  • Watch Christmas movies and have popcorn
  • Make homemade gifts
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Do something nice for someone 
  • Send a Christmas card to a relative
  • Color a Christmas picture
  • Make Christmas cookies
  • Make candy cane playdoh
  • Make gifts for grandparents
  • Make a Christmas decoration
  • Make reindeer food
  • Make a holiday thank you card for the mailman
  • Have a special Christmas breakfast
  • Make presents for your American Girls
  • Wrap some presents!
Most of the activity ideas are taken from Pinterest. Have I mentioned how obsessed with Pinterest I am? No? Well, I am. So many amazing ideas!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back at it...

We're all getting back into the swing of things after a long, relaxing holiday week at home. The beginning of last week was busy, full of cooking and cleaning in preparation for Thanksgiving. After the holiday we basically vegged out for the rest of the week and weekend. It was nice to take a break from our normal busy schedule! We didn't have school, soccer practice, or any other extracurricular activities all week long. Daddy had 5 whole days at home with us, which we enjoyed thoroughly! 

Soccer practice started again on Monday night and the girls were happy to be back. K, in particular. She LOVES soccer. She says that she wants to play "even when (she's) an adult!" This is the first year of playing for both girls and they have really enjoyed it. The season is wrapping up, and C's team is undefeated! They will get to play in a tournament in mid-December with the other top teams. K's (under 6) team has racked up a few losses, but they play really well and have learned a lot.
K...her shoes are always coming undone!
 I think I'll actually miss soccer when it's over for the season. Sure, it gets stressful running around from practice to practice and coordinating which parent goes to which kid's game, but we've had a lot of fun watching the girls enjoy a sport so much. They have both played t-ball in years past, but they seem to have more fun playing soccer.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Space Girl

K is in first grade and has been having a little bit of trouble with proper spacing when she's writing her daily sentences.

I created this "Space Girl" stick for her to place after each word to ensure that she is spacing properly. The craft stick I used is a fairly large one. I'm going to have her use this for a few weeks until she's getting the concept, then I'll make a thinner stick. This isn't a new concept, I've seen teachers use it in the past. I knew K would love the illustration and I was right, it is right up her alley!

I found a clip art astronaut girl online, shrunk it down, printed it, laminated it, and glued it to the craft stick. Super simple!

It's working well so far and she thinks it is awesome.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Saturdays

It's been a lazy summer Saturday for us. Daddy did a bunch of work around the house while the girls and I lazed around. Baby Bonnie is growth-spurting, she slept for THREE hours - longest nap ever! She had her first taste of rice cereal today and loved it.

We hit the thrift store yesterday and scored some awesome books! Daddy found a set of hundred-year-old encyclopedias (!), I got some awesome school readers from the 1960's for the girls and a baby food making book, and the girls scored a new Dr. Seuss book they didn't have. All for $10!

"Dick and Jane" books   

Cambria worked on creating a secret code for the rest of the family to crack! She spent the day writing messages in code in her journal.

How do you spend your lazy summer saturdays?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Summer Bucket List/"I'm Bored!" Jar

Summer is here and the internet is full of great ideas for summer fun! I think the idea of having a "bucket list" or an "I'm bored!" jar is a great idea for keeping kids busy and entertained during the summer. I like to call ours an "I'm bored!" jar, because a bucket list is supposed to be things you want to do before you "kick the bucket" and I think that's a bit morbid for kids!

Before adding the fun strips

I washed out a plastic tub and removed the label with Goo Gone and added the words "I'm Bored! Jar" with blue glittery chipboard scrapbook stickers. Very simple, and I think it's pretty cute. I wrote down tons of ideas for fun things, learning opportunities, activities, and even chores on strips of scrapbook paper. I color-coded the paper so I know which type of activity is on each one. That way I can "direct" them to choose something else if I'm not prepared to do a time-consuming activity on that particular day.

The girls each pull out a strip of paper per day, one in the morning during our "morning project/activity" time, and one in the afternoon. I've tried a few different formats through the years and this is the system that works best for us. There are SO many ideas for various ways to create a summer fun/bucket list around the internet. I have seen a TON of great ideas on Pinterest and on many of the blogs I follow.

I'm also trying a new idea: Friday Family Fun Nights. I placed orange strips of paper with different family night themes on them in the jar. We will draw a slip on Mondays to determine the theme of our Friday Family Fun Night for the week. I will update with how this turns out!

A sampling of some ideas in our jar:

  • Make root beer floats
  • Choose a recipe out of a cookbook for dinner and help cook
  • Make a sock puppet
  • Build a blanket fort
  • Find things that start with every letter of the alphabet
  • Make a homemade instrument
  • Bake cookies
  • Play a board game
  • Make a “just because” card for someone
  • Paint “story rocks”
  • Make a shadow puppet theater
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Play hide-and-seek
  • Empty the bathroom trash
  • Sort a basket of laundry for mom
  • Find a recipe from another country and make it
  • Choose an animal and research it. Report 5 facts to mom + dad at dinner
We have a ton more in the jar - hundreds of ideas I've collected from the internet, books, and things that I made up. So much fun!

Sorting Laundry

Go create a Bucket List/Jar of your own! Don't forget to link up here:

Little Wonders' Days

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Learning and Activity Ideas

It's so easy to fall into a slump during the summer months. We live in the desert, where temperatures in the summertime can soar to over 120 degrees, so we tend to hibernate indoors all season long. The swimming pool isn't even an option in the middle of summer, it's too darn hot! Naturally, the kids can drive each other (and their parents!) crazy during this time. Cabin fever is already setting in at our house, and we've only been "out of school" for a week. I have found a few ways to avoid falling into TOO much of a slump around here during the summer.

Get Outdoors

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it's something I have to work at. We try to schedule a bit of outdoor time each day. We try to get outside every day right after breakfast. It's still hot, but the sun isn't beating down on us too badly yet. We play in the backyard in the mornings, because it's shadier and cooler than the front of the house. 

The girls love to ride their bikes and scooters, play with chalk on the sidewalk or their easel, or splash around in the sprinklers. They love to include our dog, Charlie Brown, in their fun! I've seen a ton of fun ideas on Pinterest  for summer outdoor play that I plan on doing this summer.

We just moved into this house a month ago, so we were unable to plant a garden this year like we usually do. Gardening is usually one of our favorite outdoor activities! We do have a few containers planted (mostly peppers and herbs) that the girls can help take care of. Gardening with kids is a great outdoor activity! They love to take ownership of the plants, and it seems like it's easier to get them to eat veggies they grew themselves. 

Have a Plan
I find that our days flow more smoothly when we have a schedule/plan in place. I have a loose schedule for each day. We don't have to follow it exactly, and there's wiggle room in case an activity ends up being longer or shorter than I had originally planned. It's nice to know what comes next each day, and I find that it keeps me on task better than if I didn't have a schedule written out. 

Schedule Time for Learning

Lots of kids tend to lose skills that they acquired during the school year in the summer. We homeschool on the same calendar year as the regular public schools, but I like to schedule time each day to work on skills with special hands-on projects, unit studies, etc. My kids also LOVE workbooks. I know workbooks aren't everyone's favorite thing, and they definitely shouldn't be the only thing you use, but they can be a fun supplement. My girls love the Brain Quest and Summer Bridge workbooks.

Limit Screen Time

  It is definitely easy to plop kids in front of the television with a movie or video game, especially in the summer. We really try to limit the girls' screen time all year round. They are allowed 30 minutes or so of television per day. They also have hand-held gaming systems and a wii, but play them pretty rarely. I LOVE this Technology Tickets idea from the Ducks in a Row  blog. What a great idea for putting a limit on screen time!

We used to put a movie on for the girls before bed, but stopped doing it after we realized that the movies were too stimulating to fall asleep to. We've since discovered the magic that is Sparkle Stories! They offer subscriptions to weekly story series. The girls LOVE Martin and SylviaStory Nory is another good audiobook site, and it's free! I also downloaded an audiobook app on my iPhone that we use when we're all out of Sparkle Stories for the week.

When all else fails - GO ON VACATION! We can't wait to get out of town at least a few times each summer.

What ideas do you have to keep kids busy and entertained all summer long? I will keep updating with our summer activities!