Learning with Play

No More Stuff!!!!

Sept. 24, 2014332

My husband and I started a new company this summer that allows the people in our local area to recycle their brush and other yard waste. With this new venture come some days that need someone to work and that worker is me! The property that we have is pretty wide open with lots of space for material to come in and a cute little shed for an office that is now doubling as a school room a couple days a week! Since it is a start up the business is a little slow……which can be a blessing and a curse!  It leaves us lots of time to do school work and lots of time for them to wander and explorer without reserve! While we are out there, we have very little stuff. Everything we need we have to bring with us, so we keep it simple. The have their bikes, their school work, some games, and a swing set……and they are happy! They are active, and creative, and having big adventures…….after school of course. What I am learning is that less is more. I am sure that a lot of you heard about the mom who took all of her kids stuff away and didn’t give it back. She was fed up with her kids attiudues and inablilty to be happy with what they had. So she lost it a bit and took their stuff away. And they helped her! The after math was that they were happy with just a few things. It turns out that this has been true here to! With less things, less tv, and less of everything, they are free to jump into longer deep play, which in my humble opinon is totally crucial to the metal health of kids……heck of anyone! They have time to be board…..which allows them to find new things that they may not have found interesting before. And they have time to get dirty…..really dirty! All of this freedom and simplicity has brought me to wonder, what do we accomplish when we are able to really focus because we have less? Less stuff, less stress, and less distractions. People seem to accomplish so much more, work is so much better, and life is so much happier. Less stuff takes the pressure off of us to multi task as much as we do. For example, as I write this I am watching tv, talking to my husband here and there, answering random texts, and of course writing……how much better would this be if I stop doing 20 things? Well probably a lot! 😉 If I don’t have the tv, or the internet, or the messy house to clean up, then I may be able to concentrate better on writing a properly spelled and grammatically correct post! You see I have spent a lot of time cultivating concentration in my kids, and sometimes I don’t really model that. I wonder what would happen if I was able to stop and think a little deep, work a little hard, and play a little more attentively. Would life get better? Would my mind be sharper? My body happier? Hmmmm……less and more. I wonder if I can do it. Can I be more focused on one task at a time? So I thought that this would be my challenge…..focus on the task at hand 100%. Next week I will write up a post to let you know how it goes! Wish me luck!

What do you think? Will it help? Want to join me for the week?

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Pup’s Winter Animal Learning

At the beginning of the month, I decided that I would make a theme for Pup to work with since she had not been doing too much work. Since it was so cold here, I thought that we could talk about what animals do during the winter! There are a ton of great printable packs out there and I printed a few things off for her and I had planned to have trays for her. But honestly I made two and she really didn’t do them. One was an animal sort by whether they hibernate, migrate, or adapt. We did that one time. Then we had a rolling dice game with charting! She did that a lot! I also made an art tray with natural materials for her to build some habitats. One day she used our glue gun (which she loved) to build a bunny forest and then we wrote a story all about it. She also has done some reading and writing with this. Another thing that we have done with this unit is make rod pictures with out Cuisenaire rods. She really likes doing this and I keep encouraging this! After all learning is play and she loves to be creative. We often dissect the picture and practice adding the rods together! This has led to a lot of adding work and she even starting to write stuff down! All in all it has been fun, but it has shown me that for Pup learning is going to happen with a few structured things, lots of books to look through, and creative elements to make her own things! Here are some pictures of our very “Pup like” unit study!

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Saint Inspired Science~ Engineering

Today we had our science get together and instead of doing our experiments at someone’s house, we decided to head to a science center nearby to do our engineering experiments there! Wow! The girls were over the moon about the trip. We started our learning off in the cafe reading a book about St. Patrick. He is the patron said of engineering because he helped teach the Irish people build churches and buildings. So after our story, we talked about what engineering is. One definition that I read that made the most sense was: Engineering is combining math, science, and experience to build something that is useful. After some quick learning, we headed into the engineering “department” to work on some of the experiments that were available. We started off working on building buildings that could withstand an earthquake. We tested them by using the shaker table. We also built bridges using sheets of paper, we build a 7 ft. arch with large blocks, played with wind and propellers, and built an arched bridge that we could walk over. There was a lot of thinking and the team work was amazing! They were able to talk through their ideas and there were no hurt feelings! They are all getting so big! The girls worked especially hard on the paper bridge and they almost gave up. But they managed to get it worked out. One thing that we discovered is that little changed make a big difference! Always try to make a small change first! After doing the experiments, hunger set it and it was time to eat. We packed lunch and we were those fun parents at the tables. It was build your own lunch! Cheese cubes, pretzels, grapes, strawberries, and crackers made for an engineer inspired lunch! For dessert we had gumdrops, Twizzlers, and toothpicks to create masterpieces to eat! There was, surprisingly, a lot more building then eating!  They loved it! When we finally got food in our bellies and the mess tidied up, it was off to explore all the other parts of the science center for fun! Lots of giggles, running, and exploring!

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Africa Study Learning!

Today we got together with our homeschool group and learned about Africa! It was my turn to plan and I really had a hard time narrowing down what to do! I love Africa as a continent, to be honest it just fascinates me! I really wanted to have some fun with the kids and let them play while they learn. What is a better way to learn then to immerse yourself in something and to live it for a bit? So after a review of some major African landmarks, animals, and waterways using the cards out of our continent box, we dressed all the kids in Kanga style African clothes. To be honest, I was really not sure how the kids would react, but they all loved it! Even the boys who are sometime a tough sell. Even I got in on the action and dressed up! 🙂 After we dressed up, I talked about the importance of beads in different African tribes and we made some beaded jewelry to complete the costumes! While they were beading, my mom set up lunch. We made some African inspired pork (it was a doctored a bit and SO yummy), some Ugali (corn mush which is served at most Kenyan meals), Fried Plantains, and of course bananas! Plus we had Animal croakers (for all the animals in Africa) and some Little Debbie Zebra Cakes (for all the zebras of course)! After trying new foods and eating lots of old favorites, the kids were off to play house…..African style! I found some baskets and filled them with corn cobs, beans, sea shells, and “diamonds”! Plus there was some more fabric. The kids had a great time playing. I think that they set up a village. People who had the same colored Kangas were part of the same family! I think it went well and the kids had fun while learning. Here is what the fun looked like! What is your favorite way to learn about a continent?

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Lego Geography (again)

Well we had another great Lego class this week. Last class we learned about the North eastern states. This class was all about the north Mideastern states! The format was the same as last time. Each kid got a state (this time they worked in groups since there was such a large group of kids), a building plate, and a list of fun facts about their state! They then needed to build the outline of the state with legos and then find the capital on the map, marking it with a brick. Finally they get to the fun part of building something that represents their state using the fact cards they were given. This time Bunny and my brother N. got the state of Wisconsin. They built the Green Bay Packers helmet, a giant fish for the fish hall of fame, a burger for the burger hall of fame, a typewriter because they were made there, and of course, some cheese! My other brother M. had the state of Kansas. He made a pizza on his state because it was where pizza was first served in the US. Finally V. had the state of Michigan. He built an epic lighthouse because there are the most lighthouses there then anywhere in the world. He and his partner also built a boat. Finally all the kids had a turn to stand in front of the class to show what they built and what they learned! I have been really happy to see that Bunny has been going up there and talk in front of people. She is often so shy it is interesting to see her growing up and being able to share her ideas! While I helped clean up, the kids all got together to build a fun race track and cars! They love to build don’t they!  Here are some pictures!

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Lego Simple Machines

Today was Lego class at our local building class! Today we were talking about simple machines and the kids were building catapults! After catapults are a lever with a fulcrum. Each team was give a sheet with three different lever configurations to build. Then they tested them to see which was the best. After that they used their best one to try and catapult a ball into a basket they built on another plate! Simple, and fun, and a great way talk about fulcrum points, force, and aiming! It was simple and yet complicated. Bunny had no problem building it, but getting the catapult to work and to get the same results each time was really hard for her! Here are some pictures:

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I was trying to encourage Bunny to make one at home too. We will see! She loves to build legos and she is really learning a lot as she plays. I love that we have the opportunity to go to these classes near by. Who knew there was so much science in toys! 🙂 Have you ever used Legos for learning? Share your ideas in the comments!  Happy Schooling!






What we have been doing!

Today was the start for a great week! The girls worked really hard at all their work and we got a lot done. However, there are not a ton of pictures. Why you may ask, well because their work is getting pretty boring to photograph. No offence to the girls, but work books, and reading just starts to look the same no matter what day I take the picture. So that leads me to wonder about what I can share here on the blog. Do I talk about the day to day work that is really rather boring unless there is new discoveries and adventures. So I think that is what this is going to be about. New discoveries and adventures, with just a smattering of boring same old same old! After all, Montessori work and homeschooling Is ever evolving so there is bound to be lots of all of those things! So what are some new discoveries that have been happening here? Well Pup have been beading her own jewelry, Bunny has been learning to drive the tractor, and I have been learning all sorts of things about how to take better pictures! Here are some pictures:










These are the little things that are making life our own special adventure. The girls are learning things as they find joy in their own projects. Pup is practicing her coordination with her beading along with sorting and patterns. Bunny is learning about how things run and how to drive (with Daddy’s guidance of course). These are real skills and real learning. This is Montessori learning at its best. Child based, interest led, and exciting! Sometimes I find it really hard to see what we are doing or if we are really doing ANYTHING. Its that feeling that says we haven’t done anything pintrest worthy here in a long time. After all  we haven’t don’t a craft project, or cooked an amazing meal together, or gone on a hike together. We are just here, doing normal everyday things, and it is enough. It is learning, it is special, and it is discovery moments here in our house! How does discovery happen in your home? Does it look Pintrest worthy or is it just plain everyday stuff?

Montessori Monday~ Grammar Boards


I have been thinking a lot about the grammar lessons and I came up with a plan that I think that Bunny is going to love! As you know I didn’t make the traditional grammar boxes because they are a lot of work and bunny wouldn’t use them anyway. However, she does love to play with the grammar farm. My only problem with the farm is that it takes so much time to set up, that she is done with it before she gets to making many sentences. So I thought that she really needed something that was simpler, but something that still is fun! After all, you don’t have to have a farm. It can be anything so long as you get a chance to practice grammar! So I decided that I could combine her grammar, writing, and geography all in one. I started by pulling all of the animals out of the continent boxes and put them all in a basket. The I made 6 different boards depicting different biomes made of felt. Finally I typed out different word cards for the different parts of speech using animals, biome words, and places. My goal is for Bunny to use these like the grammar farm to build sentence and understand how the different parts work together! Here is what our new work looks like!





So that is our plan for right now. I think she is going to love playing with her grammar! Plus this is going to help with our vocabulary and our copy work! What do you think? Do you think this is a good plan? What are your favorite grammar works?


A Farmers Market

A couple of weeks ago my sister and I thought it would be fun to make the girls a farmers market for them to play with in the yard! I thought it would be a fun way to play and learn outside. We used some simple pieces of wood and my hubbie helped put it all together! Add some baskets, and it is a perfect place to play!








The more I have thought about our new addition to our backyard, the more ideas I have had to play and learn together! Here are a few ideas I had:

~ Money: use play money to buy and sell fruits and veggies! It is a fun, easy way to practice using money! Besides what kids don’t want to carry around purses of fake money?

~ Sorting fruits and veggies: It is really interesting to see sometime how many kids are unsure of what is a fruit and what is a veggie! This is something that becomes a point of interest when you are setting up shop!

~ Sharing and Taking Turns: This has been a big lesson here! 🙂 Both want to be the cashier and that means someone needs to take turns. Its no fun at all if you don’t play together and two cashiers with no shoppers is well…..less interesting!

~ Picking out a Meal: Think of how fun it would be to put real fruits and veggies out and letting them “shop” for a real meal! Buy, prepare, and cook with their purchases! We are so doing that.

~ Set Up a Town: With some rearranging, and some creativity, the market can easily turn into any part of a town! Add with our other backyard work center, and swing set, they can have a whole town!

So do you want to make a market of your own? Well….I wouldn’t use my plans! I made them up. But there are a ton of great play ideas out there for simple market sets! You can find some ideas on my Playtime Pintrest Board! What are your favorite Market play ideas?

Meet Cindy

The other day while we were out at the store, I came across one of those buildable body models with squishy organs. I always thought that we should get one, and Pup was so interested. She was just looking at it and holding it and begged for it. So I bought it for her (Bunny thought it was gross). When we got home, she wanted to open it up so badly that she almost didn’t want to watch tv! The next morning she was ready to build it again at 6 in the morning! She informed me later that the body’s name was Cindy! And so Cindy has become a new member of our classroom! She is inspiring a whole new study in the human body! Pup is wanting to read books, make pictures, and all other sorts of work! She even knew exactly which Magic School Bus episode she wanted to see! With all of this enthusiasm, I see Pup starting a pretty deep study on the body. She seems to work really well when she is immersing herself in a certain topic (do you remember the cheetah project). So I now I need to make a few materials and to find a pile of books! Here are some pictures of Pup and Cindy, plus an art project that she really wanted to do with her body!












I love it when the girls find something that they are really passionate about! When this inspires more learning, I get really excited. I mean seriously, this is what learning is all about. It is about finding out about the things that interest us and really finding joy in the discovery! So this is what I was waiting for from this year. Finding something amazing to learn about. Pup is excited and I am happy to help her learn whatever she wants to! What do you do when your kiddo finds something that they just have to know about? How do you inspire learning?