Sometimes I’m Bombaloo

This book sure has come in handy in our household lately! What a great way to normalize emotions such as sadness and anger, talk about triggers, and help kids recover from meltdowns. It occurred to me, as I read the original story by Vail/Heo to my own kids and substituted their names (as well as “mommy” and “daddy”) and corresponding triggers/typical displays of emotion, that it might be really helpful for each of us to write our own version of “Sometimes I’m Bombaloo”. Thus, this product was born!

The personalized version is versatile enough to be used by kids of all ages, but is especially well-suited for preschool – 3rd grade students. Guidance counselors, homeschool families, teachers and parents will all find this a useful tool in their work with kids.

Check out what other kids are doing at home!

It has been so cool to hear from some of you about what’s working in your own families during this time of quarantine. Following are some cool examples. May the serve as inspiration.

I just love this comic book tutorial from Sarah in Stoneham, MA:

Anabelle, from Cambridge, MA, is working on her numbers Montessori style:

Cosette is having a blast making art and riding her scooter:

Noah shares his secret recipe for Acorn Soup:

I’d love to hear from more kids and feature them on this site. Please send your videos (~ 2 minutes in length) along with a simple statement of consent to publish) to me. Let’s let our kids take the lead!

Opting-Out and Opting-In

When I heard the rumblings from other parents across the U.S. about how challenging online learning has been for them and their kids, I decided to give myself a “pass”. I’m super grateful for what our teachers/schools are trying to do, but I just knew it wasn’t going to work for my kids. Here’s the email I sent to our principal and my son’s teacher:

I use the word “homeschool” loosely because, as many have pointed out, this is NOT “homeschooling” in the traditional sense; this is “crisis schooling”. There is a big difference.

I haven’t submitted a scope and sequence for the year.

I haven’t mapped out curriculum.

I, like many of you, am just winging it everyday.

Some days are great. We have had some really wonderful moments as a result of the stay-at-home order. (I’ve enjoyed reflecting on these moments with my kids during our morning art times using this awesome and FREE Coronavirus Time Capsule from Jessica Turner at The Mom Creative. Check it out!)

We made a treehouse.

We’ve planted seeds and expanded our garden.

My son’s reading is taking off!

We started the Love Pandemic Project and, as a result, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my kids practicing gratitude for what we have and developing empathy for others.

But I have to be honest. Some days are not-so-great.

Some days the laundry and dishes get piled up and I go a little crazy.

Some days I sit in the car in our driveway or a few blocks from our house and realize the gas tank is on “E” and so am I.

I yell and loose my sh&* a LOT more often than I’d like to admit publicly.

Some videos don’t ever get posted because it would be downright embarrassing!

Some days, our schedule looks far less like the one I initially posted and far more like this (from somewhere on social media, not sure where!):

I came across this well-written article today and wanted to share, because the author (Denisha Jones, Ph.D., J.D.) raises such excellent points. Some key questions she asks, are:

  • Is remote schooling causing additional stress on your child and your family?
  • Is your child expected to be on a computer for two or more hours a day?
  • Are you unable to stay on top of your work from home responsibilities and facilitate remote schooling?
  • Does remote schooling bring your child and your family joy?

Jones goes on to write, “COVID-19 has interrupted schooling, but education does not require a school building and should not be limited to an academic curriculum. Children should seize this opportunity to engage in activities that bring them joy and foster deep engagement.”

So, here’s my question (for myself and for all of us): Where do you need to “op- out” and where do you need to “opt-in”? I, for one, am taking this time of social distancing to re-evaluate a lot of things in my life. As an extrovert and Enneagram Type 2, this time has been super hard for me in some ways. I’ve realized so much of my identity is wrapped up in other people, my image, how I serve and derive meaning from the things I DO… (just to name a few!) Of course, not all of this is a bad thing. However, I am taking time to carefully consider the types of activities to which I will commit, both now and when all of this is over. There are definitely a number of things in which I will be opting out as well as some cool opportunities in which I am considering opting-in. (I’m giving Gather Round Homeschool a try and considering it for next year. Anyone want to join? Download free sample here.)

May we be released to opt-in to the things that bring life and opt-out of the things that drain us! And may we trust that all will be well.

Love Pandemic Update #2

It feels like Christmas whenever I go to the post office these days! I’d love to share a little piece of that joy with you in the video below. It’s so beautiful to see people of all ages and walks of life coming together to start a “love pandemic”. Please feel free to share this update with anyone who has been or might want to be involved in the future. Thanks!

Animals On Board

While you may think this title is a reference to the craziness in our household (and you would not be mistaken), I’m actually referring to one of our recent Math reads. I love books that introduce mathematical concepts in engaging ways for several reasons:

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com
  • Math stories level the playing field and make learning accessible to a variety of ages. So, for example, even though my 2 year old cannot thoroughly grasp the concept of addition, she loves reading as an end in and of itself (not to mention the love it demonstrates to her when I take the time to sit down and read); my six year old, on the other hand, is able to comprehend the story at a much deeper level and interacts with the text in a way that strengthens his understanding of various concepts. Different kids, different ages and stages + learning together simultaneously = one happy teacher/mama!
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

So, here’s a look at what we did last week (or was it the week before? My days are all mixed up!):

And here is an opportunity for continued learning at home:

Enjoy!

Top 10 Free Educational Resources

While it is wonderful to see such an outpouring of free online educational resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can also be overwhelming! A friend recently expressed:

I can’t handle one more homeschooling resource. Parents are getting inundated with ideas from schools and other parents. I’m on total overload.  

Perhaps you can relate? I can! With this in mind, I’d like to offer this list of Top 10 resources I have personally checked out and vetted. Here is my criteria for each resource:

Photo by EVG photos on Pexels.com
  • Screen time needs to be limited and high quality. While there are definitely times I need a break and need my young children to be entertained without me having to do damage control every few minutes, I am NOT a fan of lots of screen time. Please hear me, there’s NO judgement here. We all have different standards and bad weather days necessitate sanity one way or another; desperate times call for desperate measures! I think we are ALL probably relying in screen time more than usual these days. HOWEVER, as much as possible, I want my kids to be interacting with real-life, concrete objects that allow them to learn in meaningful ways. When I do use screen time for educational purposes, I want it to be engaging, age-appropriate and I want it to reinforce what they are learning. I also want to get “the biggest bang for my buck” so to speak. If I’m limiting screen time, when I DO use it I want resources that are worthwhile and provide something I can’t do myself.
Photo by Natalie on Pexels.com
  • Worksheets are okay every once in a while, but they need to be interactive and incorporate concrete materials whenever possible. You can get a worksheet ANYWHERE these days. My kids don’t need busy work; they need meaningful, tailored instruction (at the Kindergarten level) and lots of PLAY. So, without putting any sites down, I’ll just say that automated worksheets and generic math games don’t cut it for me; I’ve chosen NOT to incorporate any of those sites on this list.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
  • I’m pretty good with technology (mostly due to my husband’s influence), but if any site or app is hard to navigate or taking too long to load, I don’t have bandwidth for it. I need stuff that’s quick and easily accessible. Also, I don’t want to be interrupted a hundred times if my kid can’t figure out how to use it. So “USER-FRIENDLINESS” was part of my criteria. If a resource makes the cut to be on my list, it’s either easy-to-use or well worth a few minutes to set up an account.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com
  • Another value when putting together this Top 10 list was diverse and comprehensive subject matter. As much as possible, I have tried to incorporate a variety of topics/subjects which include Social/Emotional development, Math, English/Language Arts, basic skills for learning to read, Physical Education/Movement, Music/Art and more.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • Finally, I’m a fan of resources that are personal and relational. Anything that facilitates person-to-person connection. In this time of social distancing, our kids need relational connection now more than ever. Normally Zoom sessions would not be my go-to form of social interaction, but in this season of staying at home due to Coronavirus, it has to be. With this value in mind, resources you will find on this list are ones that include a relational component and incorporate real life connection.

Alright, folks! Here it is: my TOP 10 LIST OF FREE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES FOR AGES 3-6 list. Feel free to share with others. Enjoy!

  1. Storyline

It’s hard to believe we only just discovered this amazing resource for Reading/Language Arts. Here’s an overview from the website: “Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.” And if awesome stories read by amazing actors wasn’t enough, there are activity guides that accompany each story and provide a comprehensive look at ways to embed each story into instruction, guided by CCSS. I can’t rave enough about this site!https://mclass.amplify.com/homeconnect/ (teaching kids to read)

2. mCLASS Home Connect

This site is one of the best I’ve come across for reading support in the 3-6 age range. It is in line with the National Reading Panel Association’s findings regarding the 5 essential components of effective reading instruction and engages parents/teachers in meaningful, easy-to-implement prompts for building and reinforcing important literacy skills.

3. 123 Homeschool 4 Me

This comprehensive site provides oodles of resources in all subject areas (including cooking with kid-friendly recipes!). And if you really need a worksheet, there are tons of free printables. One post that’s definitely worth checking out is this one: 50 Books Kindergartners Can Read Themselves

4. ActivEd (Walkabouts)

I am super impressed with the way these guys combine movement and learning (something we need FAR more of in education, in my humble opinion). According to the site, “Walkabouts are online, on-demand activities that bring educational standards to life with fun, kid-friendly movement.” I also LOVE that each walkabout is linked to CCSS in math and reading. While the link to standards may not matter as much for 3-4 yr old children, it’s a great help for our pre-K and K aged kids.

5. Tinkergarten

I have been a Tinkergarten fan for years now. They do an amazing job of combining social/emotional learning with the outdoors and curiosity. The hidden gem on their site is the activities menu, which provides a myriad of AWESOME activities. You can search by age or skill.

6. Miss Megan’s Camp Kindergarten

This dear, sweet, gifted teacher has two girls – one in preschool and one in kindergarten. She started this morning meeting style “Camp Kindergarten” as a way to offer structure and routine for her kids and some friends during the Covid-19 stay-at-home time. It has grown to a daily FB Live offering with over 79,000 members! It’s so beautiful to see this woman using her gifts and definitely worth checking out.

7. Audible for Kids

This is a great resource for kids of all ages! We have found it especially helpful when we are in the car or going to sleep at night. I feel that it helps my kids to engage their imaginations in a way watching a show can never provide. This is also a great calming tool for my kids (once they’ve had other opportunities to get their energy out). Audible is offering access to all kids’ stories for FREE as long as school is out.

8. Akily

This app provides personalized journeys of activities for parents to do with their kids in order to play, bond and help them grow. It is a helpful resource for ideas to incorporate in your day-to-day life with your kids. Growth activities are geared around the following areas:

  • Sensory
  • Language
  • Gross Motor
  • Fine Motor
  • Executive Function
  • Emotional
  • Cognitive

9. Hoffman Academy piano lessons

Free piano lessons? Yes, please! Joseph Hoffman teaches kids to play a song starting with the first lesson. Upgraded plans cost money, but the basic lessons are all free.

10. Mystery Science

I’m not much of a Science person. In fact, it’s probably the subject I feel least qualified to teach. When I was taking all the tests you have to take in order to be qualified as a teacher, this was the hardest area for me to pass! I poured a lot of study time and cramming into Science! Luckily, by some small miracle, I passed. But I still feel inadequate when it comes to teaching my kids Science, which is why I was so thrilled when a friend passed this resource along to me. I was even more thrilled to find my son was really digging it. Mystery Science provides engaging, 5-minute STEAM videos children can watch on their own. They also provide easy-prep activities you can do with your child at home.

Have you found any other sites that meet my criteria? If so, I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment below. Thanks!

Love Pandemic

This morning I came across this article in the Washington Post about how Coronavirus is impacting the homeless community and shelters are trying to cope.

This hits close to home for me, as I have family and friends who work at the Boston Rescue Mission.

Later this afternoon, I was thinking about pandemics – the Coronavirus pandemic and the fear pandemic that has gripped us as well. It occurred to me that the only force strong enough to fight fear is love. And as I considered how we might be able to respond to the needs of the homeless community during this time, given the house-bound limitations we are experiencing, I thought about my kids and our morning art sessions. We’ve been creating cards and drawings for friends and family and sending them via old fashioned snail mail to share our love from afar. But what about those without homes who may feel forgotten in this challenging time? What if there was a tangible way to share our art love with them?

This evening I made two phone calls: one to my friend Nike and one to my dad, both of whom are serving the homeless at the Boston Rescue Mission in this time of great need. I ran my tiny seed of an idea past them:

What if my kids were to create art and write encouraging messages for those who come to the shelter every night?

What if other kids wanted to get involved?

Could I collect notes, letters and drawings from a bunch of kids, then hand them off to you guys and have your team pass them out to the homeless who come to the shelter every night?

They both thought this was a great idea and that it would be a huge encouragement to the people they serve. So I just bought a PO box and I’m inviting you to join me in what I’m calling “The Love Pandemic Project”. The invitation is simple:

  • Kids (of any age!) can create a drawing or a painting and write an encouraging message to someone without a home (i.e. We are praying for you; We are sending good thoughts your way; You are loved; You are not forgotten etc.)
  • Mail to: The Love Pandemic Project, P.O. Box 9, Wilmington, MA 01887
  • Share this invitation with anyone who might want to take part!

Thanks in advance for considering being involved in this tangible way!

Onward and Upward

Today we built on some of the concepts introduced yesterday. For Math, we played a rousing game of War with a regular deck of cards (omitted the face cards). This was a fun way to reinforce the concepts (greater than, less than and equality) introduced in the Math story Equal Shmequal

Additionally, I created these activities to go along with the book or use as a stand alone math activity. I recommend printing them and laminating or putting in pocket protectors and having kids use dry erase markers. This way they can use the sheets over and over with different numbers!

This morning my friend, Mary, who runs Injoy Yoga & Wellness shared this awesome article titled “I Don’t Play With My Kids. Here’s Why.” The author provides such great perspective on kids and play. Here’s an excerpt: 

There are some things I know I cannot do with joy. I will decline to participate without guilt. Pretending we are cats? Nope. Driving toy cars or trains around. Can’t do it. An elaborate mommy and baby scenario? Bored to tears.

Instead, I try to fill our time together with things I enjoy that are also kid-friendly.

Nina, Raising Wildflower Kids

So today I did some fun stuff with my kids that I, too, enjoyed: Sidewalk chalk, a walk, eating a snack in the teepee, examining the plants we are rooting, painting… And I didn’t feel guilty about the requests I declined. Running around with a kite? Nope. That’s all you, buddy. Pushing my girl long distances in her pretend car? Sorry Love, mama isn’t able to handle that. You can practice using your own muscles. 

And you know what? I am so impressed with some of the stuff my kids choose to do of their own accord when I step back. Today that involved playing in mud, kite flying and taking care of “baby“, among other things. None of this was part of my plan, but I’m learning (albeit slowly) that sometimes it really is as simple as loosening my grip and embracing childlike wonder.

May we find beauty in simplicity, truly one of the gifts of this time in containment.

May we know when to say “no” and when to say “yes”.

May we stay present and bring our whole selves to the table each day – the parts of which we are proud as well as the shadow side of our person.

May we extend grace to our partners, grace to our kids and grace to ourselves as we walk through this season of uncertainty, one day at a time.

A Place to Start

Schedule

Having a schedule helps! Everyone will implement this differently, but having some semblance of structure set up is incredibly helpful. Here’s the schedule we have in place. You can get a copy for free here and edit it to fit your own needs.

The first day we implemented this schedule, I quickly realized I needed to literally cut the “time” section to the left of the activities off because it was stressing me out too much! With the exception of a few activities that are dependent on a specific time, I feel free to loosen up and go with the flow. For the most part we do stick to the rough times set out in the schedule, but I don’t stress too much if we don’t. And if it’s a nice day, I give myself the freedom to scrap the plan and spend the day outside.

Art

We have LOVED starting our mornings off with art! We live in a small house, so putting together a simple Art Cart which holds all of our materials (crayons, pencils, markers, paper, paints, stamps, loose materials etc.) has been useful. I keep it in our office area and wheel it out every morning. Every day we try to use a different medium to create a piece of art. Sometimes this involves learning to draw something specific; other times it’s just free-form art that we create and send to someone we love. Following is the prompt we used today.

Outdoor Time

I realize outdoor time is dependent on weather, but as much as possible, this is a game changer! There’s just something about getting out that changes everyone’s attitudes and perspective (including mine!) Following is an example of how we incorporated some simple learning into our morning nature walk a few days ago:

Math Stories

I love using math stories to incorporate learning in a way that is accessible for both my kids (ages 2 and 6). Math stories also provide an opportunity to help my son retain the math foundation he already has while simultaneously building on concepts and extending his learning. Following is a math story we have really enjoyed. More to come!

I am in the process of creating opportunities for extended learning and will be adding more on a regular basis. You can access them at my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Word of the Day

For Kindergarten students who are learning to read, it’s important to review the sight words they have already learned and build on this as well! N and I have had tons of fun creating silly rhymes and songs to this end. Here is a recent example. (I may regret posting this at some point – please don’t hold it against me!)

I’ve also created a “Word of the Day” sheet to help with this process. Some days we will focus on sight words; other days we will focus on word families. When we read stories together, I have found it helpful to have him read the words he knows so that he is being exposed to these words in context.

What about you? What has been working for you and your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below. Also, please feel free to share this site with anyone who might benefit or want to be involved in creating content.

Finally, sign up if you would like to receive an email when new content is uploaded. Enjoy!