Games Feed

Seasonal Homeschooling: Pumpkin Week Recap!

IMG_6144

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! 

I'm back again because I have SO many pictures of our pumpkin week, and I just have to share! If you're new to my blog you might be wondering what in the heck a "pumpkin week" is, so - just to explain briefly - every week of the year we explore an assigned seasonal theme as part of our homeschooling. These themes are a big influence on our younger boys' learning experience, but they also infuse our family's home life as well.

I won't go into the whole "why and how" of our seasonal homeschooling, but the important thing to remember about it is - it's more a guideline than a rule! :)

Sure, some weeks we do it up big (case in point, pumpkins!), but other weeks just fly by and we only casually observe our theme. We may be very busy that week, or it might be the theme is not quite as appealing as another might be. Well, pumpkins in October (as you can imagine) are a big hit with most children! And pumpkins lend themselves to all kinds of great learning experiences - whether they be in the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, cooking, storytelling, etc.! It's very easy to plan for pumpkins - just type "pumpkin activities" into the Pinterest search bar and you'll hardly know where to start!

Well, personally, I start with our own book baskets and family calendar - then start plugging things into our weekly rhythm! Here's a glimpse at last week's planner page as I was just getting started ...

IMG_6351 (1)

It's important to my planning "psyche" that I incorporate seasonal awareness wherever I can! So divider pages are vintage reflections of seasons and holidays past, ribbons and washi (when I use them) are also seasonally inspired ... as are the font colors I use in each monthly section. I just loved how the light hit this bit of planning paraphernalia on my kitchen table ... :)

Books are pretty much the backbone of our homeschool, so one of the first things I did, as I planned out our week, was to comb through our autumn book bins and pull out any that had to do with pumpkins ...

DSC01052 (1)

Not surprisingly there were a lot!

Then I got busy planning out activities that would potentially A. appeal to my kids and, B. fit well into our week. Post-it notes are helpful for me here - because due to the special nature of our very hands-on homeschooling (one preschooler and a special needs teen) - I need things to be, above all, flexible. It's impractical for me to plan out each day's to-dos a week in advance, though I do set a rhythm to our week. (Mondays are nature days, Tuesdays are crafting, Wednesdays are for storytelling ... etc.)

So on a drizzly Monday we kicked things off with a little pumpkin investigation!

DSC00773 (1)

I had a sugar pumpkin "specimen" all ready and I found a neat worksheet for them to use (on Pinterest). I don't use worksheets with my preschooler very often but Little Bear does get a kick out of them! First thing he said when he saw this one was, "Mama, I need TWO crayons! Orange and green, please!" Then he got right down to coloring those pumpkins!

Once the REAL pumpkin was open though, he was all about the seed scooping ...

DSC00793

My mum had come over that morning and with her help, and Earlybird's therapist's support, this science activity was a real hit with both my younger boys!

DSC00794 (1)

Soon the sugar pumpkin was all scooped out and carved to the boys' specifications!

DSC00821 (1)

While Little Bear scooped and colored, Earlybird answered the worksheet's questions:

Was the pumpkin big, small or medium?

Was it orange, yellow or white?

Was the outside smooth or rough?

How many lines were around it?

How many seeds did he think would be inside?

How many seeds WERE inside?

Did he think the pumpkin would sink of float in water?

(Spoiler alert: It floated!)

The next day was better for outside investigating so we headed into the backyard with magnifying glasses in hand. Recently - and curiously - we have one tiny pumpkin plant growing alongside the back of the house - and we didn't put it there! So I wanted the boys to look it all over and think a little - theorize - about how it might have sprouted up here if we didn't actually plant it.

DSC00869

What was SUPER cool about this observation though, was nestled in the center of the plant itself, alongside the one tiny yellow pumpkin bump we found forming, was a milkweed seed! Just one fluffy little seed, and there it was all snuggled up next that budding pumpkin! We do have milkweed growing across the street, but we mused it would take quite an adventure for a seed so small and delicate to find its way all the way here to our tiny plant. (And we were just discovering milkweed last week!)

This "mystery" seemed to me the beginnings of a really neat nature story ... the tale of two wayward seeds. (More on that in a moment.)

IMG_6244

For a craft I had in mind for later, I set the boys to gathering the driest, crispiest, most colorful leaves they could find ...

DSC00884

Well, you can imagine how Little Bear took this assignment to heart!

The next day we were back on the deck with a little "leaf glitter" craft in the works ...

DSC01210

Here's Earlybird with his therapist, working on those fine motor skills ... and sensory issues ... and patience!

DSC01212

I just drew simple pumpkin outlines on orange paper and then the boys traced those lines with glue. Final step - crumbling all those dried leaves to make "glitter" and sprinkling it all over their gluey pumpkins!

DSC01217

(A craft for the outdoors, for sure!)

Back inside the learning room, here are the boys' pumpkins on display! :)

IMG_6457 (1)

Another neat pumpkin activity this week ...

IMG_6380

Pumpkin tic-tac-toe! I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew it would be a lot of fun - especially for our Halloween party coming up this weekend. Fingers crossed the day will be a nice one and I think folks will have fun trying their hand at this tabletop game! 

Back inside, at my kitchen table later in the day: a fortifying cup of tea and a little read-aloud ...

IMG_6416

How I love Tasha Tudor books, and this one especially. I decided to "splurge" and buy a new board book version for Little Bear. He 

And speaking of my LB, I just had to include this pic of him hugging our giant blow up jack-o-lanterns on the front lawn. Pretty much every day this fall, on our way in or out of the house, he just needs to hug his pumpkin friends!

IMG_6357

Now, as I've mentioned before, our weekly rhythm includes a day for storytelling. These little stories are usually simple tales I make up myself, using our own yard, critters, weather, the season itself, etc. as a prompt. I like to place items in the learning room mailbox that will introduce the story theme and offer a few items Little Bear can use to play with as I narrate the plot. Well, here's what he found in the mailbox last week!

TKOO0971

This is a soft pumpkin doll rattle - something we've had for nearly 20 years! It's kind of amazing it's stayed in relatively good condition. The boys used this when they were babies and then it joined our finger puppet stash. (We also have a carrot!) So today this sweet little fella was an adventurous pumpkin seed fairy and as you can see he was surrounded by airborne milkweed seeds! (Remember, my story was reflecting our recent backyard garden adventures!)

I also created a watercolor verse card for us to read aloud. I used a pretty poem I found online ...

IMG_6311

I'm creating a collection of these seasonal cards for our homeschool!

IMG_6343

Now, when I plan out our seasonal themes, I'm mostly following the natural cycle of the year, though I often tap into the liturgical or secular calendar as well. I assigned this week in mid-October as "pumpkin week" for obvious reasons - they're everywhere and on everyone's minds right now! - but it also tied in nicely with the annual showing of this family favorite ...

IMG_6458

Last Thursday night all my boys, save Earlybird who does not like Charlie Brown specials, gathered on our couch to watch that timeless classic, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Yes, we could watch it on DVD (or streaming?) anytime we'd like, but there's something really fun and special about watching "specials" when they're actually being shown!

(The boys were kind of blown away by the fact that *ahem* ... back in our day ... if you missed a special on the night it was shown, well you were just plum out of luck until next year! And there was no pausing or rewinding, either!)

Friday morning - quite serendipitously and generously - my brother stopped by the house with a WHOLE BUNCH of pumpkin goodness for the boys!

Pumpkin goodies

My favorite item so far? The Apple Cider Jam! It's like Thanksgiving in a jar ... 

Now, we didn't get to all the activities I'd planned for the week, but that's perfectly ok. We did what worked and clicked this year - there's always next year for other experiences! On our "marketing" day we tried to find as many pumpkin products as possible at the grocer's and on "hearth and home" day we baked pumpkin donuts for tea. Over the weekend we were going to visit a local pumpkin patch - but unfortunately it was just WAY too busy for my younger guys. (Like, crawling with customers crazy!) I had in mind a far calmer, less commercial experience - so I'm hoping to arrange a quieter visit for my fellas sometime next week. Next year we hope to have a little patch of our own so this past weekend we decided where we'd like to plant it and got the soil prepared. There was also pumpkin French toast for breakfast Sunday morning!

So there's a little glimpse of our pumpkin week and all we got up to! Here's a peek at our learning line and seasonal bookshelves as I tidied them Sunday afternoon ...

Learning room

And here's a peek at THIS week's seasonal planner spread ...

IMG_6868

One thing I like to do - because it is of course what happens in nature - is have certain themes trickle into other weeks. So for instance, we did "autumn seeds" weeks ago, but as the fall unfolds there are plenty of opportunities to learn about and live out this theme more. Case in point - those milkweed (and pumpkin) seeds last week! 

This current week's theme is "goodnight, garden" and I like to tie that in with Halloween. To our ancestors, Halloween literally meant the very end of summer - the time to secure the harvest final crops and prepare the land for the cold, hard winter ahead. We clearly don't live quite that close to the land anymore, but I think activities that echo those ancient seasonal traditions often resonate with us instinctually. So this week we are (as you can see from my planner above!) walking the bounds of our property, harvesting the last of our herbs, clearing our garden beds, raking up leaves, tucking spring bulbs in the ground, gathering natural materials for a bonfire, and seeking God's blessings for our "little farm" as winter approaches ...

Come All Hallow's Eve next week we'll be a little more prepared for a season of deep cold and darkness - both practically and spiritually speaking!

✨ ❄️ 🍂 🎃 🍃 🔥 ✨

Well my friends, I guess I'd better wrap up now because once again I fear I've kept you here too long! But I hope you enjoyed this little peek at our pumpkin week. Remember this was an exceptional week - I had lots of plans, and happily the weather, our time, my energy and their interest levels all cooperated! Not every week is quite so "seasonal" but pumpkins were especially motivating - for my homeschooling kids AND their mama!

I will be back later this week with my weekly Autumn Tea - and as I announced here and on social media, we will be continuing on with our Mitten Strings for God book study at a slower pace than originally announced. This Friday we will be talking about chapter four, "Quiet," and I'll be serving up a spot of Halloween Tea ... AND I have a fun little announcement to make in regards to our MSfG re-read, so stay tuned - and please take care!

I'll see you here again very soon ...


Sunday Evening Chit-Chat

(A little bit of this and that.)

Just popping on quickly to remind you that I'll be hosting "Masterpiece Monday" here tomorrow, so if you'd like to join us, be sure to tune in to "The Old Curiosity Shop" tonight and then come on back in the morning to chat.

:)

Also, while I'm here (and before supper comes out of the oven), I wanted to talk briefly about next week. There's lots coming up!

KGdaffodilFirst off, we have Leap Year on Wednesday, which is always kind of neat. (For the record, this is a very cute movie - and the scenery is gorgeous!)

Then March comes in (perhaps like a lion?) on Thursday.

Thursday also brings the Feast of St. David of Wales. We always mark this day with special food and dragon stories. (A red dragon is the symbol of Wales.)

Friday is Dr. Seuss Day (also known as Read Across America Day), and if we could, we'd go see The Lorax, but instead (and in true spirit of the day) we'll read the book. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? I'd have to choose Green Eggs and Ham - it happens to be the first book I ever read!

And speaking of green eggs and ham, I'd like to make a spinach and ham quiche for Friday (aka green eggs and ham!) but as it's Friday (and Fridays are meatless for us during Lent) I'll probably serve that dish on Thursday instead. Then I'll switch the leek-and-potato soup (for St. David's Day) to Friday. That will taste nice with grilled cheese. :)

*

Other baking plans this week include making refrigerator bran muffins and homemade pretzels. Crafting plans include working on those Lenten banners I mentioned in this post, and we'll make the first panel of our "stained glass" doorway cross. (One panel for each Sunday through Easter.)

Learning plans include reading this book for Book Group on Friday (my turn to lead!) and kicking off a four-month, four-elements study ...

March = air

April = water

May = earth

June = fire

We'll explore the way the elements affect our everyday life, the world around us and even how they are part of our Faith. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

*

Oh, and one more quick thing! One of our Lenten goals this year is to spend more of our family time doing things together other than just watching TV. So last night we sat around the table and played a really wonderful game, Around the World: The Ultimate Global Board Game. It was so fun and quite educational! Some of the questions were ridiculously easy but they only illustrated the point that information we take for granted other people might not know as readily. Certainly we were stumped on many questions that focused on lands and cultures unfamiliar to us ... it was a great eye-opening exercise!

*

Well, now I will wrap up and bid you all a good night. I hope you've had a nice weekend and feel ready to start a new week! I'll see you all again soon ... and remember, if you watch Masterpiece Theater tonight, do stop by sometime tomorrow - I'll do my best to have the chat post up as early as possible.

Thanks for stopping by, my friends ... Good Night, and God Bless!



Book Group this Month ~ My Turn!

Bookgroup1

And naturally I chose a book about squirrels.

Yes, it was my turn to lead our Book Group this month! The younger set, that is - Crackerjack and 10 other homeschooled boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 10. In January I'll work with Bookworm and the older kids.

I so love attending Book Group, whether I'm leading a discussion or just hanging out with the mums. When it's my turn, it's a blast to sit and chat with these kids - they are SO enthusiastic and come prepared - no raring - to TALK. And when it's not my turn, I get to sit and chat with my friends for a good hour or so. Usually we're whipping out our calendars - planning things and sharing ideas. Sometimes, if I think of it, I grab a coffee on the way over. ;)

Now, as I've mentioned once or twice, I chose Gooseberry Park a while back because it is a cute, funny story, and a quick read at that. It also happens to revolve around the adventures of a little red squirrel mama. (And if you're a longtime reader of my blog, you know how I feel about squirrels - particularly red ones!)

To supplement our discussion, I brought a few things for the kids to look over and munch on (top photo) ~ our nature puppets and soft tree trunk puppet home, storybooks about squirrels (including Squirrel Nutkin, The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel, Nuts to You, Chessie the Long Island Squirrel and The Mistmantle Chronicles Book One), a Hanna Hazelnuts game (regrettably, impossible to find online) and some yummies for good measure (acorn-shaped sugar cookies and a basket full of Oreos - the latter which figure prominently in the story).

So we got talking ...

Bookgroup2

Here's Crackerjack showing me his favorite picture in the book - when Murray the bat carried three oreos out of the kitchen. (Murray had an insatiable appetite and provided much comic relief in the tale.)

After discussion and some coloring - I made little acorn booklets for them to use for notes and sketches as we talked - I suggested we break for a snack. I didn't have to ask twice. ;)

Bookgroup3

Some of the kids really took to the puppets ...

Bookgroup4

Some of the kids got right down to the game ...

Bookgroup5

And everybody participated in the cookies! I forgot to get a picture before they were gone, so when we got home, I frosted the one lone cookie we had left behind for Bookworm, and snapped a picture before he gobbled it up! (P.S. These would be cute for Thanksgiving - quick and easy, too!)

Bookgroup7

A lot of the kids in Book Group are also in our Nature Study Club, so after a lengthy discussion of squirrel dreys (and cozy nests in general), I suggested we look for them during our late autumn walk later this month. This met with general approval.

By the way, this month Bookworm's group read and discussed Around the World in 80 Days. Next month we will be reading Island of the Blue Dolphins (Bookworm) and Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allen Crow (Crackerjack). (And last month it was Harry Potter #7 and I, Houdini, respectively.) I plan to have the boys write book reports about this month's selection, but we'll embark upon that project next week. Tomorrow is a busy day - morning lessons at home and a matinee movie with friends. And then - hurrah! - it's the weekend!

Have a great night, everyone. :)


Autumn is for Family Games

The other day, when it was just cool enough that the fireplace sparked on, and the shadows grew long in the back yard, Bookworm cast a thoughtful glance outside and said, "You know I think it's time we got back to our family games night."

And right he was.

Once upon a time, Friday nights were known as Game Nights in our family. We'd stay up a bit later than usual, and play a game of one child's choice or another's. I'm remembering lots of Star Wars Monopoly and a fair few games of Battleship, too. It's been too long since we've made time for quiet game nights, and with a long cold winter not far off, it's a perfect time to revive that tradition.

A Family Games Night is a swell way to just sit and be with your family. You don't even need to spend time searching for lost playing pieces or missing dice, you can just make one up on the spot (it's amazing what kids will come up with!) or play any number of old-fashioned parlour games like charades and the like. And it goes without saying Family Games Nights are made all the more special when they are proposed alongside a trayful of hot cider and buttered popcorn. :)Haba_halloween_trick_or_treat_gan_2

A few games we love:

But while we get our Game Nights going again, I'm also going to order several of these so the boys can make up their own games this fall. In fact, I'm going to order one for myself and work on a Nature Study game! (I have just the perfect squirrel playing piece, too!)

Well, before I go, please let me link you to Marianne's blog, Learning2Love, where the Loveliness of Family Games will take place tomorrow. She's collecting posts through tonight, so if you have something to share, please do leave her a link. This will be the first of the Fall Fairs, and for the whole Autumn schedule, pop on over to Real Learning where Elizabeth has all the lovely details. :)


A Great 8!

Eight1

I'd like to share some pictures from Crackerjack's "friend" birthday party which we held this past weekend. The theme this year was Toontown, which I should probably explain is an online Disney game (www.toontown.com) in which the "toons" (mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.) try to protect their fun and friendly town from the big bad "cogs" who are always trying to take over with their big ugly corporate buildings. (Hmmm, sense a political agenda there, lol?)

Needless to say, the kids play as the toons, and they get to pick their species, color, size, name etc. They then all work together (with other online toons) to "fight" the cogs with gags and funny jokes. It's an extremely child-friendly game (you can't communicate with the other players except by using toon talk); CJ almost always uses his allotted "video" time to play Toontown. Of course his brother plays it too as well as several of his friends, so that makes it all the more fun.

OK, so there's the theme all explained, now here are the pictures!

Eight2

We had planned to have the tables set up on the deck, but a forecast threatening severe thunderstorms prompted us to move things inside (balloons and all).

Eight3

We even moved the galvanized tubs of drinks inside just in case. I laid vinyl placemats underneath that colorful plaid blanket to minimize any moisture problems. The tub on the left held water bottles and lemonade juice boxes. The one of the left had the "hard stuff" -i.e. sodas!

Eight4

Here are the cupcakes just after decorating. I baked up a yellow cake mix (Feingold-approved) and frosted the cakes with homemade buttercream frosting. On top I sprinkled all-natural organic jelly beans (again, EB-OK). The symbolism is this: in Toontown not only do you throw cupcakes at cogs, but you collect jelly beans as "currency" which you can use to decorate your toon home and buy your toon clothing as well as new phrases or gags.

As it turned out, the weather held, and a light cloud cover actually kept the temperature in check. So the backyard games were back on:

Eight5

The first game the kids played was a variation of tag or a bit like ghost-in-the-graveyard. Upon arriving, all the kids became toons by choosing toon names (i.e. Captain Sniggle Puff, that kind of thing) which were then applied to their shirts (in the form of mailing labels). Bill and Mike (another dad at the party) were roped into offered to pose as cogs trying to stop the toons from getting the huge dollar bills taped all over the yard. The object of the game for the kids, er, toons - grab the money and get it back to home base (that large tree pictured there). If a cog tagged you, you had to freeze and wait for another toon to unfreeze you (by tagging you again). Once the bills were all recovered, the game was over and the toons all received megaphones as a prize. ("Megaphone" is another toon gag used against cogs.)   

Eight6

Camera shy kids, obviously. ;)

Eight8

The next game involved water, always a hit on a hot day. This was reminiscent of a VBS game we had played last year. A wheelbarrow was filled with water and stationed at one side of the yard; across from it, equidistant, stood two buckets of the same size. The kids were split into two teams and given paper cups. On go, they had to use their cups to move water from the barrel to their buckets. The team that filled their bucket first won.

As you can see from CJ's face above, he takes his competition rather seriously. That's my little EB in front doing his part for the team. :)

Eight9

CJ received some cool gifts, including this Toontown t-shirt with a message for all cogs on the back!

Eight10

Crackerjack was insistent he needed this crazy red headgear for the day (the hands resembled toon hands, he said). He wore it for all of two minutes, lol! EB seemed just as "happy" to wear them, as you can see. Guess who ended up wearing them most of the day (mostly because I kept forgetting I had them on)? 

Eight11

Cake time! And yummy cold popsicles, too.

Eight12

Crackerjack had such a great time, he loves being the center of attention!

Eight13

These were the favor bags we made up. We started with black bags and decorated them with fireworks and golden star stickers. (On certain holidays, Toontown does fireworks every hour on the hour - my kids just love that part.) I used a gold metallic ink pen to write party guests' names. Inside the bags were all kinds of toon favors like marbles, jelly beans, duck beak whistles and paper money.

Well, thanks for stopping by and sharing in our fun! Once Crackerjack's birthday is over I know summer is really nearing its end. The next birthday will be Earlybird, just before Christmas - guess I have time to catch my breath before then. ;) 


Happy All Saints Day!

This is a very busy week for us, what with All Hallow's Eve (yesterday), All Saints Day (today) and All Souls Day (tomorrow)!

Today we enjoyed the beautiful weather and way more candy than was probably wise. ;) Here are a few highlights from our day ...

After some candy sorting (math), and chocolate experimenting (science), we moved on to a board game (religion)! This one came courtesy of Bookworm's Magnifikid, and it focused on today's Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12). We set  up "The Beatitudes Game" on a small piece of poster board:

All_saints3

It was a fun little game that not only taught the Beatitudes, but encouraged the boys to learn how the saints embody them.

A bit later on we made up an All Saints Album. I followed the basic model I used for my prayer journal. We plan to fill these pages with a collection of saints stickers I've had for a long while. This set has a sticker for each saint (or feast) day of the year. Bookworm was the one who thought of this means for using the stickers - inside the book we'll add the stickers as we celebrate feast days and jot down what we did for that day.

All_saints6

A bit later on we were sitting on the couch reading aloud the Litany of Saints - and that's a long prayer - but I pretty much had their attention - when Wham! A bird slammed into the sliders!

You're probably wondering why I'm mentioning this, in the middle of an All Saints day post, but I had to - this was just such a strange happenstance! Naturally we broke from our prayer to see what had happened and we spied this little (stunned) bird on our deck:

All_saints8

He is a Golden-Crowned Kinglet and fairly rare in these parts. In fact, we have only ever seen him one time before - a year ago, literally almost to the day - when he crashed into the sliders!!  How strange is that?

I am happy to report after an hour or so, (and a fervent prayer to Saint Francis) he regained his composure and flew off.

I spent a little time adding to our Family Faith Notebook:

All_saints1

Above you see pages from today ... including a picture of the little Golden-Crowned Kinglet! (I don't think we'll ever say the Litany without thinking of this little bird!) I love his name, don't you?

All_saints2

I also printed some pages off my blog to add (this post will go in there too).

Finally, this evening we attended Mass. It was lovely. Before Mass began, the boys got to light a candle and pray for their intentions:

All_saints9

It was such a full and and fulfilling day. I hope you had a lovely day too! Good night and God bless!