how to make a bug hotel (and let your kids enjoy the bugs as pets!)


How to Make Bug Hotels (1) As we are discovering what rhythms work and don't work in our days of homeschooling, one rhythm always works: Monday morning explore time.

After the busy Saturday ballet day for the girls and the quieter, introspective Sabbath day, I always crave order of the house while the kids are dying to get outdoors to explore.  It's a morning to get our needs met before diving more fully into a new week.


Yesterday, I discovered my children had made the most incredible creations from their exploration: bug hotels.


Here's a simple outdoor project that inspires creativity, problem solving, nature exploration, and many more skills...


Before the cold weather chases the insects away, set aside a morning or weekend for your kids to make their own bug hotels.  Here are the basics, based on what worked so well for my kids:


  1. Adopt a bug!  We've gathered crickets, caterpillars, and millipedes.  It helps if there are an extra set of hands to help hold the captured bug while your child is preparing for Step 2.
  2. Use a cardboard box as the "hotel".  My kids solved many problems while making their hotels like determining that caterpillars could live in wide, more flat boxes while crickets needed taller boxes with flaps (that they taped together) to keep the insect from jumping out.  Let your child discover their own insect's needs with a little of your guidance, if requested.
  3. Find out what your insect likes to eat.  Older kids can do this on their own via the internet.  If they need help, guide them on the computer or in an insect guide.
  4. Fill the hotel with niceties: food, water, leaves, rocks, decorations, etc.  This is the fun part for kids!  My oldest learned that crickets like to burrow in dirt to keep cool, for shelter, safety from predators, and to find food.  So piles of dirt (with food hidden beneath) were added to her hotel.

IMG_5155 4. Have fun with your bug pet!  Let your kids add their miniature toys, legos, and dollhouse furniture to their bug hotel to create a real world for them.   It is so fun to see how nurturing children are to their "pet", even if it is a bug, in playing with it, stroking it (like Annabelle's dear FuzzBall caterpillar), setting up a home with activities + specific rooms, and thinking ahead of what needs/comforts they would guess a bug would want for the day.


5.  Depending on the bug, free it when your child feels ready to or keep it a bit longer!  Our crickets enjoyed their hotels and owners for most of the morning and then were released.  FuzzBall the Caterpillar has been around for over 24 hours!  He is happy and well and still carefully cared for on the back porch in his beautifully decorated, well-thought-out hotel.


What bug do you predict your child would want to adopt most of all?


Go out + live boldly!


the sleepy time gal

exploring: the renaissance faire


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{The PA Renaissance Faire in Manheim, Pa.}

It is amazing how much there is to learn in the big, wide world if you simply look around you. 

As you know, our love for all things medieval still is strong in this house--specifically for my historian, Johanna.  (Remember our Medieval Feast?)  In our quest to make August a fun, family month, we visited the PA Renaissance Faire recently.

The girls wore their most medieval/renaissance-like attire (all beautifully sewn dresses my mom has made them over the years) and they suddenly transformed and played the part of royalty.   And boy did they love it.


With a bucket of kettle corn in tow, our gang watched jousting, a potter at work, sang a song to the queen herself, and were knighted by the king.  It was a fantastic day of explaining to and observing with our kids.  I love exploring with curious kids--it makes the experience that much more thrilling.


Today we are off to explore something new... Super excited!  Follow me on Instagram to see our big adventures today.


Have you visited a Renaissance Faire?  

What exploring are you doing with the remainder of your summer? 


Go out and explore something new.


Exploring series:


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.)
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.

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

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

exploring: "the handsomest" capitol


IMG_1070 When President Roosevelt came to the dedication of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in 1906 he said, "This is the handsomest building I ever saw."  The Philadelphian architect wanted it to be a "palace of art".


Truly, it is...






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I love that so much of our nation's early history has taken place within this state.  Walking into the grand rotunda and watching my children's reaction was priceless.   They saw the grandeur and richness of our history through art and architecture and depictions of significant people taking significant action for our country.

Although I am a proud Virginian, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride walking past these incredible murals depicting Pennsylvanian men, all painted by an amazing Pennsylvanian woman.


It really was absolutely breathtaking and inspiring, especially sharing it with my young Pennsylvanians.


Go out and explore.  


the sleepy time gal

exploring: the national aquarium






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IMG_0335 Good morning!  You may recall that we had made plans to visit the National Aquarium a few weeks ago.  We actually discovered--the night before our trip--that we could visit the aquarium for half the cost if we went on a friday night.  So, we postponed our trip until this last Friday evening.


And it was an absolutely magical evening.

We parked downtown across from the Inner Harbor.  We ate a packed dinner in the car and headed out into the cold to catch the last light of the beautiful harbor before the sun set.

We saw Rowan's sharks, turtles, sighted a hidden sloth (in the rainforest room), rode the escalator over and over again like it was a paid ride, saw dolphins do tricks, saw "crock-a-gators" as Rowan calls them, and hundreds of incredible fish and sea creatures.



We walked out into the crisp air after our exploring that night feeling so happy.  Part of it was seeing everything in person, that we love.  And part of it was just being together.  Exploring something as a family.  Sharing our excitement of something new together.

I really love my family.


the sleepy time gal

fall time with kids: preserving leaves

Clen Fall time in Pennsylvania is one of the most rewarding reasons to live here.

We go on many leaf collecting walks to find the prettiest leaves to use for a myriad of projects back at home.   And as it always turns out, our most beautiful, colorful leaves are found to be crisp and brown within a few days.  Such is the nature of these beautiful specimens.


But what if you could preserve their supple and vibrant nature?  

Have you ever tried preserving leaves??  The process is so very simple and so rewarding to do.  It requires only two basic ingredients and once preserved, the sky is the limit as to how you use/decorate with your leaves throughout the fall season.  You could even use your leaves for your Thanksgiving table!!

And your kids, young and old, will love the process.  Come check it out...

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1. Go leaf collecting.

We left our neighborhood and headed straight for the most beautiful maples in town.  Have your kids find the boldest colored leaves.  Hint: yellow leaves and red leaves work best.  Their color will be preserved the closest to their orginial color.  Leaves with hints of brown will become a deeper brown.



A full basket of leaves is the perfect amount.

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2.  Preserve your leaves.

You'll need:

  • a flat bucket
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups glycerine (I use this or pick it up at a craft store)

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Simply mix the water and glycerine together in the bucket. Have your kids add their leaves to the water mixture.  Push down gently on the wet pile of leaves so all of the leaves are submerged.

Take the bucket of leaves to a dark, dry place (our basement storage room was our spot) and leave the leaves for 3-4 days. IMG_2924


After the "preserving days" are complete, dump your water out and gently pull out your leaves, patting them dry.

You will find them to be beautifully supple with a slight sheen to them.  And that is it!  You've preserved the most beautiful part of fall!


 Choose your most favorite leaves to: 

  • hang on bare branches to create a fall tree indoors
  • tie onto yarn for a beautiful natural fall garland
  • paint numbers or letters with white paint on them for spelling or counting (love this idea)
  • use for the Thanksgiving dinner table as personalized place cards




{Our simple but beautifully natural fall mantel garland.}


 How would you use your preserved leaves? 



Continue the fun of Fall Time with Kids:


the sleepy time gal

a train + the birthday boy


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A toddler boy.

America's oldest short line railroad that still delivers coal-burning steam engine trips.

Four proud sisters.

A mommy, daddy, and the incredible Amish/Lancaster County countryside to travel through.


The best birthday.


Strasburg Railroad:

Our crisp, fall day in the beautiful farmland of Amish country in Lancaster, PA was exhilarating.  I've never felt so intimidated by such an incredible machine as that of a larger-than-life steam engine.  When the massive engine pulls into the station with steam puffing furiously and the intense sounds of the engine and its breaks pass ever so close by, it is truly unbelievable.  You can feel it through your bones.


And little Rowan just took it all in.  The up close machine was amazing to him.  And riding it was even better.  It was such a memorable birthday outing for little Rowan's second birthday in so many ways.


More on his special day tomorrow...


the sleepy time gal







let's go...


IMG_0719 “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen


“The world is a book and he who doesn’t travel only reads one page.” – St. Augustine


“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed


“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson


A growing desire fills my mind throughout my day.  It's trickling down to my kids.  And so we get more books, find more maps, look up anything we can find about the places we dream of...

I have a somewhat secret list that I like to peek at from time to time.  It keeps me young, inquisitive, and always seeking.   I feel like my little list of destinations reminds me to keep dreaming and definitely--coming in close second--planning.  It may be unrealistic considering we are a family of seven but I do know what dreams do.  They don't leave you alone at night... Until they're fulfilled.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

the sleepy time gal

exploring: historic philadelphia



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{Betsy Ross House:  our favorite stop.  The girls had her story memorized after reading a pile of library books about her before the trip.  Those moments of preparation before these trips make them absolutely incredible.  [amazon_link id="0736862013" target="_blank" ]This book [/amazon_link]is our most favorite.}

Page 2{Franklin Square for lunch.  And Independence Hall only seen walking by.  

Our rule: huge line for tickets in the heat?  It'll have to wait for another trip.}


 {Rare hotel stays = the glorious fun of watching cartoons live on television.  Best relaxation after hours of walking.}


{Hot and hotter still but able to get a few smiles out of us.}

Happy Monday.  Our two day trip to Philly was really enjoyable.  We went with the flow and saw some of the things on our list, saved others for a cooler season, ate well, and saw many old things we've read about lately.

Other highlights:

What exploring have you done this summer?  Please share!


Other Exploring in the series:

the sleepy time gal