homeschooling

why embracing boredom is crucial for kids

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"I cannot plant imagination into my children.  I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom.  It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty.  If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom.  With practice, we may may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer."

Nancy H. Blakely

Childhood boredom is a lost art.  Seeing our kids flopped down on the couch "bored" intimidates us parents. So we hurriedly try to fill their free hours with "things to do" and quickly, at the first sight of boredom, move them onto the next activity.   We may fill in so much of their down time when they are home because we think we are helping to make them well rounded, able to excel in many things we deem important.  Maybe we fill in their time and fear boredom because we second guess our parenting to some degree: if my child is bored I must have not done something wrong.

But seriously, it was the real boredom on those hot, humid summer days of my childhood that my best creations came about.  The real boredom that made my brain eventually work and work until new ideas and solutions and my most important work came about.  Heading back out in the heat for the ultimate mud pies.  The more risky bike rides away from home.  Making paper food with my sister for the millionth time.

When you see your child bored, STOP.  Don't immediately rush them off to some organized activity.  

Just wait.

 Give your child a few minutes to sit and own their boredom.  Let their boredom drive them to something new that only they can fulfill for themselves.  This takes so much patience at first as a parent but try it.  Wait.  Put out random supplies on the table maybe. Give a few creative suggestions perhaps but just wait.

With time, you will see your children embrace boredom that is and will always be a part of being human.  They will begin to use their own mind to move beyond it.  The still, quiet moments will force their mind into new directions.

And you as the parent will see inner strength and inner resolution grow and grow within that child time and time again.  They need to own their boredom so they will learn now (and always remember) that they are wise, curious, and creative enough to use it as a catalyst for something grand.

Don't fear boredom.  Embrace it.  It is your child's greatest driver of progress now and throughout their life.

the sleepy time gal

table time: planning a garden

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Our four raised beds have been weeded and now after yesterday morning's "table time" we have four gardener's plans for the garden this year.

A handful of pre-written garden term wordstrips made the garden planning easier for my beginner writers to copy onto their garden plan.  A little glitter glue and this year's illustrated plans came out beautifully!

 

Looks like everyone wants to try planting watermelon again.  Let's hope we get more than two baby melons.

 

Are you planting a garden this summer?  What are your garden plans??

 

the sleepy time gal

a child learns: using your library to its fullest

WIN A TRIP As unschoolers, our family doesn't follow a set curriculum.  Because of that, we are free to explore and dive into the subjects we are most interested in at any given moment.  That means the library is one of the most important assets of our homeschooling.

We visit one of our local libraries about every two weeks and come away with roughly 30-40 items from books, magazines, documentaries, and DVD series.  The library really expands any homeschooling experience by providing either supplementary material or primary material for learning and exploring and any given topic.

Our approach to our library visit is simple.  Each child chooses:

  • A handful of picture books (younger children) or chapter books of personal interest
  • A handful of interested topic-specific books
While my kids are enjoying the library (reading books, building with Legos, researching book titles) I help kids one-on-one find their interested topic-specific books.  Some weeks it may be Ancient Rome and baking, other weeks it's bugs and minerals.
Once I've helped each of my kids find their own special books, they return to their personal play/reading in the library and I continue my search for the remaining books/materials.

Each library visit I choose:

 
  1. One interested topic-specific documentary (if available)
  2. 2+ DVDs from a series we enjoy (Bill Nye the Science Guy, Liberty Kids, Signing Times, National Geographic, etc.)
  3. One classic children's literature book in audiobook form for the car
  4. The next book in the series of chapter books I'm reading aloud to the girls ([amazon_link id="0439129087" target="_blank" ]Royal Diaries[/amazon_link], Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Praire, [amazon_link id="0810993228" target="_blank" ]Sisters Grimm[/amazon_link], American Girl series, etc.)
  5. A new magazine to explore: American Girl, Ranger Rick, Thomas the Train, Astronomy, National Geographic Kids, etc.)
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Each child has their library tote full (including Rowan) and I carry the remaining books in a large canvas tote.  We checkout and head home with the girls enjoying a new book on the ride home.  Once home, I make lunch and everyone is sprawled out in the living room quietly enjoying their new books.  That afternoon we sit together on the couch to enjoy our first library-book reading session.  (We do our library book reading with the iPad in hand.  More on that in another post.)
The local public library makes the whole wide world open to our family.  History, science, the arts, mathematics, and beyond have been explored in the comforts of our home and on our couch from the hundreds of books we've checked out at the library.

More library + learning tips:

 
  1. Visit the library with your kids right before a long road trip.  Let your kids checkout a handful of new picture books to be their entertainment on the road.  Grab a new chapter book to read to them during the trip.  And don't forget a few audiobooks for when you're needing quiet time in the car (possibly during a young child's nap time on the road).
  2. Teach your reading kids to use the library's digital card catalog at an early age.  Those children will love the confidence they have to sit and explore the library system anytime about any subject and then seek out the book on their own.
  3. Change things up by rotating local libraries.  Visit a different library each visit or every other visit.  Some libraries have better non fiction sections than others for kids which makes choosing the interested topic-specific book selection much more exciting.
  4. Organize meet-ups with other homeschooling friends at your local library.  It makes the visit a bit more social and fun for kids and moms.  Watch friends introduce your kids to new book series and vice versa.
  5. Keep your library books in the same place in your home for your children (and you) to return to daily.  Ours are always in a basket by our fireplace.
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Go out and explore your library.   You'd be amazed by how much learning, growth, and excitement can come from always having loads of interesting books in your home.
Go out + live boldly!

The sleepy time gal

piles of sticks + stopping the race

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Sticks.  Are everywhere. 

 

I see now at my age that life isn't a race or about "winning" or reaching the top first but about giving everything you have to the things you care deeply for.  One person's "things" are different from another, just as one person's passions/priorities are different from another.  You give and give and become more and more.  Sometimes you see progress and growth where you concentrate your nurturing and time and sometimes you see no progress in your very sincere efforts.

Then old phases die out and new phases begin and you start all over again, choosing your priorities all over again.  Giving and observing, making sure your heart and precious time is moving something small into something bigger.

 

We give so our children grow from something small into something bigger. We give and wait for our dreams to come true.  Give life into our deepest hopes and longings.  And give great effort to breaking past our struggles to find peace again.  And the cycle of giving is always there, always deep and real but changing its' purpose with each phase of our lives.  

 

I love that Rowan keeps a pile a sticks in his arm at every chance he can, even if it slows the group down on walks.  He spots a new stick every few feet and is determined to add it to his arms.  I've learned to stop making it a "race" in a sense for us to get back to the house to do A, B, and C.  I've tried to let go of that subconscious rush because I see that this is how I can give.  In this precise moment this is my priority.  Sometimes that daily walk is painfully slow but sincerely Rowan's most prized, fulfilling part of his day.

 

There is no race.  No reward for "rushing" through our day, our life.  The opportunities that present themselves to us daily help us prove if we are giving deeply where we deem worthy for us individually.

With our own unique priorities we put our hearts on the line, our energy, and valued time, and we decide if we are making our mark on the world.  If we are growing something small into something big.

Life isn't a timed race--no--but an abundant garden of blossoms that grow individually and at their own pace.  Each blossom gives and grows and makes its' mark.  Each blossom's color may vary from another.

It's variety.

It's scent.

 

But the garden is only a garden with the strength, brightness, and gifts of every single blossom.

 

We need your strengths and gifts.  

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Go out + live boldly!

 

the sleepy time gal

 

it's spring: explore nature!

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 {Annabelle's spring shrine made of front-yard weeds, moss, grass, and unearthed ribbon scraps. } 

Good morning!

I'm so excited it's (technically) spring.  We've recently had cold, wet weather but I know the sun will return and so will my girls' frolicking in the meadow and post-dinner walks.

A few things:

Check out my updated sidebar for spring exploring inspiration!  I've put up some of my favorite projects, exploration activities, and tips for getting out of the door and discovering something new in nature.

If you don't have [amazon_link id="1590305353" target="_blank" ]I Love Dirt[/amazon_link], I recommend it.  It is a simple book of inspiring ideas of how to use each season to explore, ask questions, unearth, and find answers with your kids during each season.

[amazon_image id="1590305353" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]I love dirt  [/amazon_image]

 

If you want to begin a nature journal, here's an excellent resource for taking that first step: [amazon_link id="1580174930" target="_blank" ]Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You. [/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="1580174930" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book [/amazon_image]

 

So be inspired, grab an umbrella, and get outside!

 

the sleepy time gal

exploring: root's country market in lancaster, pa

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It's hard to believe that since living in central Pa for the past 10 years that the kids and I have never visited the well-known market--Root's Country Market-- in Lancaster, PA.

Everything authentically Pennsylvanian Dutch or Amish was there and in great quantity: canned + pickled everything, interesting meats (still can't get myself to try scrapple),  whoopie pies, hand-carved rocking chairs, and horses + buggies.

 

I love driving my kids into Amish country and seeing the most beautiful scenes of simple life: young boys in suspenders working in the fields with horse-drawn plows and young girls and their moms hanging clothes out on the line to dry (even in the winter months).  The country market is a perfect reflection of the rich history of Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch together in one place.  We bought some butter-toffee pecans + low sugar dried pineapple.  We saw goats and chicks there for auction and loved being out in the farm country air for the day.

 

Check out Roots and Lancaster County if you ever visit PA.

 

Go out and explore something new.

 

Exploring series:

 

the sleepy time gal

make the world accessible to them

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We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.

John Holt

Trust children.  This world needs more children that can think for themselves.  Think outside the box.  And confidently carve a unique place for themselves in the world.

I love watching how naturally drawn my children are to totally different aspects of the world around them.  Where one child is intrigued by the history of humanity, another can't remove her mind from the challenge of problem solving through constant creativity.  Each child has gifts, strengths, and weaknesses.  And by making the world accessible to each of them through touching, feeling, researching, and exploring it, they gain confidence in themselves and their ability to know more.  They gain knowledge and understanding of how the world works, how they fit within it, and how to leave their unique signature upon it.

Today do one thing to make the incredible world more accessible to your children.  Go somewhere new.  Explore the internet with that one research term your child has asked questions about constantly.  Watch a documentary.  Watch 15 YouTube videos together.  Hike.  Collect pieces of nature to bring home.  Read that text that your child is drawn to and flips through often.  Print out a wildflower identification card for that flower-gathering child.  Check out every book on a topic at the library.  Provide the tools for a new skill.  And let your child experience the process of trying, failing, and succeeding.

Encourage and support their individual yearning for more knowledge.

the sleepy time gal

rowan's no-sew felt quiet book

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Add a little bit of body text (1) I'm very picky about felt projects.  There are so many felt projects out there that look too crafty or not well thought out.  Not that I'm a felt snob but if I'm going to use felt for something I want the project to maintain high quality and craftsmanship.  This may be why this felt quiet book took so long to finish; I would start a page and a week later totally change it because it looked too cheesy.  (Do you creative people know where I'm coming from??)

I remember putting a lot of time and love into Annabelle and Ainsleigh's special personalized soft books when they were young.  They treasured them.  Rowan somehow missed out on getting one of those, still doesn't have a baby book filled out, nor has a first year photo album like his sister have.

It has been a really satisfying feeling putting the finishing touches on his felt quiet book, though, and having him on my lap this past Sunday playing with it for the first time.

I hope my felt page designs and tips give you the confidence to make your own no-sew felt quiet book.  Come and see...

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Why no-sew?

I wanted to put more emphasis into the details of each page of this felt book and not be constrained to the machine.  That is the advantage to working with felt: you can cut felt without needing to finish off edges.  I decided to do absolutely no sewing (except the binding) so the entire book would be consistent in terms of tension/stretch on each page of the book.  

Hot glue is the key for this whole project.

For the quiet book, all you need is different colors of felt (I used both craft + wool felt), sharp fabric scissors, metal snaps (for closure) , and hot glue gun + glue stick refills.

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 {The winter scene activity: 3 snowmen, rainy day gear, sneakers, small pieces for buttons + noses, hats, arms, and cold weather gear.  This activity page has the smallest pieces on it.}

 

Tip: To make your felt book project even easier, buy a precut package of craft felt sheets at any fabric or craft store.  These felt sheets (usually around 10" x 13" sheets) can be used as your book's pages--no need to cut felt pieces into pages.

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 {The summer scene activity: the beach scene!  All of the elements from our beach trips like seagulls, a crab, bucket with sand, shovel, sandcastles, puddle, little boy + his beach ball, and clouds.}

 

Tip: Glue down the basic backdrop of your felt play scenes onto your felt sheets.  This makes it easy for a child to build onto the scene with the moveable felt pieces and not have to remember what the scene is supposed to be.  In the beach scene, I hot glued the ocean, sand, sun, and birds.  Rowan simple adds to the scene with extra details in his play.

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{The create-a-face activity: there are multiple hair styles, eyes, glasses, noses, lips, a beard + mustache, crown, and bows.}

Tip: Play around with your felt pages in terms of vertical and horizontal layout.  I liked my face activity vertical so there was room enough for the beard, bow tie, and tall hair.

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{The favorite foods plate activity: fruits, vegetables, chicken leg, eggs + sausage, BACON, dark chocolate, gingerbread cookie, hot cocoa, ice water, and utensils.}

Tip: When making a narrow felt piece, hot glue a felt detail onto the piece to make it more sturdy and less flimsy, like my utensils.

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{The loadable dump truck activity:  add the truck's wheels and load the truck (which really is a pocket) with either rocks or shapes.}

Tip: Make your felt pages more realistic by adding depth.  You add depth by hot gluing another layer onto the base felt piece, like the outer piece with cut-out squares I added to the dump truck.

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{The birthday ice cream shop activity: load your bowl or cone with your favorite scoops of ice cream!  Don't forget the celebration balloons.}

Tip: Add glitter, ric rac, beads, and other decorations to create a 3D effect.  I added hot glue + glitter to some of the ice cream scoops to create the drizzled topping effect on the ice cream.

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 Where do I store all of the felt pieces?

After you've created each felt page and its pieces, cut out large felt pockets, one per activity page.  Hot glue the sides and bottom of each pocket onto the back of each activity page (excluding the last activity page--it won't need a pocket on its' back).

Fill each pocket with the coordinating pieces for the activity page that the pocket faces.  That means the first activity page's felt pieces will be stored in a pocket you secure to the inside of the book's cover.

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How do I bind + close the book?

You have two options for binding your book.  I chose the easiest which was using my sewing machine.  I know this is a no-sew book but if you can machine sew the binding it will be your quickest, easiest option.

Simple sew the pages together with a seam and then sandwich the pages into the cover and sew one more seam.

Handsewing option:

If you don't have a sewing machine, simply hand sew the binding to create a strong binding.  I do not recommend using hot glue for the binding.

Closure:

Add a few metal snaps to the cover flap for closing the book.  Follow the no-sew snap instructions which will require a hammer.  A few snaps will do the trick.

 

 

 

I hope you make a no-sew felt quiet book.  Make pages based on activities and themes that your child/grandchild loves.  Rowan's favorite pages are the dump truck and food pages, of course.

 

Which page was your favorite??

 

the sleepy time gal

the day the crayons quit: a book review

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IMG_1514 You know those children's books that make reading to your kids absolutely delightful?  I have my personal favorites that are too good to keep to myself.  Here is one of our most favorite picture books that I promise won't disappoint.

[amazon_link id="0399255370" target="_blank" ]The Day the Crayons Quit[/amazon_link] is so creatively written.  The book is a compilation of letters from each crayon from the child, Duncan's, crayon box.  It is such a creative approach to what each individual crayon may be thinking from being overused, underused, misused, and beyond.

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The illustrations are purely child-like and absolutely convincing that the crayons really are real and have feelings.  The black crayon wants to be used for happier, brighter subjects, like beach balls and suns.  The blue crayon is getting too short and stubby from all of the oceans and whales Duncan colors in.

The greatest part of this book is how authentic and realistic the crayons are: their feelings, needs, and desires from their beloved owner, Duncan.

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My kids' favorite part (that creates the most giggles) is the peach crayon's letter.  He is so embarrassed that his paper has been peeled off that he can't leave the crayon box because he's naked.  Seriously, so creative!

 

By the end of the story, Duncan listens to all of his crayons' requests and adjusts his artistic creations to please each one of them through the ultimate coloring masterpiece (which you have to see for yourself).  My kids love the last page because they get to point out how each crayon's requests were realized in the artwork.  I love this reader-involvement on the last page.

[amazon_link id="0399255370" target="_blank" ]The Day the Crayons Quit [/amazon_link]is an excellent picture book for ages 2-8.

 

We frequently checked out this book from the library and recently gave it to Ainsleigh for Christmas.  Now it's a part of our collection of our favorite children's books.   I can't recommend it enough!

 

Make the most of "reading time"  with your kids!

[amazon_image id="0399255370" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The day the crayons quit [/amazon_image]

the sleepy time gal

 

 

 

creating...

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creating...

{with new bulk velvet ribbon from the amazing PA Fabric Outlet that is devastatingly going out of business}

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{poetry and riddles and rhythms inspired by the older girls' homeschooling poetry class}

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 {miniature embroidered treasures like fairy houses, snails, and balloons--now to find a way to display them all}

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 {a special gift with Annabelle and Ainsleigh's tracing/cutting help for a little friend's birthday this weekend}

"It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life."

Julius Caesar

 

Happy weekend, friends!

 

the sleepy time gal