Monday, April 30, 2012

Zoo Days - New Learning Ideas

Make Zoo Days super special, and super educational! Hope you enjoy the last post in our A to Z challenge!

Study One Animal At A Time
We spent an entire week learning about Monkey's and then went to the zoo just to see the Monkey's! Although we walked around for awhile afterwards it was clear our intent was to see the one animal we'd been learning about. We took pictures, acted like monkey's did monkey homework etc. After we left the monkey stand we ate banana's on a bench and talked about all the monkey facts we had learned. You can even make flip books about each animal! Here is Fisher Price's ABC Game for Babies and Toddlers that outline animals starting with A to Z. You could spend half a year just learning about animals... oh yeah and the alphabet!

MIX IT UP: Have older kids? Have them write detailed reports on specific animals and make a trip to a large zoo that features those animals!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

YouTube For Teaching (A To Z Challenge)

One of the best free teaching tools I have found is YouTube! I can find videos on most anything to go along with what we are learning about! From Signing Time songs, to nursery rhymes, and even finding suggested songs that I didn't know the tune too!

I have found videos on the process food goes through to end up on your plate, videos on specific animals, letters, songs, astronomy for kids, sign language help, and more. So here's a great project, try making play lists to go along with your learning activities or themes and then watching them on the iPod, Computer, Phone, or TV to supplement other learning!

Have older kids? No problem there are the presidential debates on YouTube, news articles, and documentaries! Here's a great place to get information for reports, find inspiration, and learn new prescriptive! Everything from anti bullying and hot news topics, to information about past presidents, wars, and celebrities.

Happy YouTube surfing and don't forget to come back for the very last letter of the alphabet. Our Z article will be up on Monday!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Xiphias Gladius (A to Z Challenge)

Did you know the Xiphias gladius is just the species name for the swordfish? Children are amazing they can obsorb anything! So why not teach them a little science lingo now! Teaching children the scientific names for common things can put them leaps and bounds ahead in hard science classes later...also learning a few common words in Latin is amazing! Classes such as biology, chemistry, math, and geology all use scientific terms and Latin roots! 

Here's a fun list of scientific names you can use in teaching now! 

Common Words: 

Terra - Earth
Tempus - Time
Homo - Human
Derma - Skin 
Endo - Within 
Exo - Outside
Iso - Equal 
Micro - Small
Mono - Equal 
Multi - Many 
Trans - Across 


Semi - Half
Uni - One
Bi - Two
Tri - Three
Tetra - Four
Penta - Five
Hexa- Six
Hepta- Seven
Octo - Eight
Ennea - Nine
Deca - Ten

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please take a moment to like Pirate School on Facebook, 1+ this post, and/or leave a comment! Thank you for your support! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weather Activities (A to Z Challenge)

Weather is an extremely complicated and yet so simple! Teaching toddlers about weather is fun... and crafty! Here's 5 of our favorite weather projects!

1. Keep A Weather Log
Make a chart with different weather patterns on it in columns. Snow, Sun, Windy, Rain, Cloudy, etc. Then use stickers or a marker to mark each day on the chart. This is a great exercise to continue learning about weather.

2. Make Snowflakes
These are easy to do. Simply take a piece of paper and fold it in half so that it forms a triangle. Then fold it in half again and again. For toddlers to be able to cut the paper don't fold it too small. after it is folded take a pair of scissors and cut little shapes out of the sides of the paper. When you unfold the paper it looks just like a snowflake! This exercise is a great opening to talk about how each snowflake is unique.

3. Measuring Rain
All you need for this is a mason jar or a vile! We took a sharpie and marked tick lines on it. Then we guessed how many tick marks it would rain! After each rain we go collect our jar and count the tick marks. You can use this activity as a great opening exercise to the water cycle!

4. Wind Race
This is such an awesome indoor weather activity! You'll need 1 straw for each child and 1 feather for each child (the feathers will need to be the same size). Use tape to make a start line and a finish line on the floor, then have the kids race! What they'll do is lay their feather on the start line and use the straw to blow it across the floor to the finish line! Use this activity as an opener for a great conversation on how wind-power works.

5. Cloud Weather Window
This is an idea I found on Nature Watch's website. They have the template so go here to print it off and make your own cloud weather window! You'll need some stiff paper and a Popsicle stick but these little windows teach kids about various weather types! Do you remember the sailor's sayings about weather? "Pink at night, sailor's delight" the barometric pressure that causes pink in the sky is a great indication as to the next day's weather. "Pin in the morning sailor's take warning". You'll find this pink hue in the clouds or sunset. Have fun identifying clouds!

Hope you enjoyed this post, please take a moment to like Pirate School on Facebook, 1+ this post, and leave a comment! Thank you for all the support. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Validate Your Work (A To Z Challenge)

Don't let the days when it's just NOT happening get you down....

Not all days are going to go well... but then again not all days go well in public school, private school, or anything else. So be sure to give yourself some slack every once in a great while. On the other hand be sure to make sure you see progress. It's easy to miss progress when you're there everyday. So once a month make a progress chart, and let the kids do their homework completely on their own! Don't give instructions and don't help them out. Just let them do it, and grade their homework (yep even when they are tiny). Be sure to praise everything they did correctly! You'll be able to see what they need help on, and they'll be able to showcase what they've learned!

We hope our A to Z challenge blogs have helped you become and stay inspired! With just a few days left be sure to come back from some craft projects ideas tomorrow in our Wild Animal Post!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Under, Over, Around, and Through

We all learned the little rabbit or turtle rhymes about going under, over, around, and through as a child. But what if your child is too young or simply not interested in rhymes? How about some real world exercises! Directional awareness helps with math, and handwriting!

Instead of a nursery rhyme (or in addition to) try a trip to the park! Here is a list of directional exercises you can do at the park!

Use the slide on the left of you.
Jump to the right.
Go under the bridge.
Swing over my head.
Walk around the stairs.
Go through the tunnel or bars.
Climb above the ground.
Go up the stairs.
Go down the slide.

Now you have a hands on interactive reinforcement for directional awareness? Children as young as 12 months can start learning directional awareness this way (in some studies younger).

Go up the stairs, down the slide etc. 

Go though the tunnel.

Pop Up Through The Hole

Use the swing on the left, use the swing on the right. 

Swing above my hands. 

Go under the bars. 

Go around the slide. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Teaching Tots Resource List

Here is a list of my top 30 favorite sites, and resources for teaching toddlers! Hope you find it useful! I hope you take the time to check each of these out and enjoy the information!

1. Nick Jr.
This website offers crafts, printables, educational games and more. It's completely free to use and easy to navigate!

2. Donna Young's
With thousands of links this site can get complicated, book mark any areas you're wanting to find easily but it's so worth the time to get to know the site! Free to use and more resources than you can imagine!

3. Homeschool Views 
This blog has a a few printable, record keeping printables, crosswords and more, they also have a huge list of resources.

4. School Sparks
This site offers printables to help any child get ready to enter school. Rather you homeschool or are simply trying to get your children ready for Kindergarten then this site is a must have to bookmark on your computer.

5. Enchanted Learning
Offering a few dozen free printable pages and thousands of printable pages, and lesson plans with a paid subscription. I not only subscribe to this site but I encourage anyone wanting to help their children learn on the side or full time do so as well! It is $20.00 per a year and worth every cent!

6. ABC Mouse
Have I mentioned I love this site? I seriously love it! And, so do my children. They play it for hours and have even learned to use a mouse and the arrow keys so they can play it while I'm unavailable to help them. The site features a "learning path" with several hundred lessons. Each child has their own learning path and can continue at their own speed. The site costs $9.95 a month or $79.00 for a year.

7. BrillKids
You can sign up to use Little Reader, Little Math or their newest addition Little Musician, however with out paying for anything you can use the best recourse on their website... the forums! connect with local people, people from around the world and thousands of other parents who are doing their best to teach their children on all levels! The forums are free so go check them out!

8. Family Fun
You can sign up for their magazine for free (for the first 2 years) but their website is just as helpful! Find activities for all ages, you can even search by holiday, season and more! They have activities for everything... this site is promptly bookmarked on every computer in our house. Another totally free site.

9. Family Education 
Another site full of fun! Search by learning activities, holiday fun, age group and more! It's a wonderful resource that is completely free!

10. Scholastics 
If you look on a dozen of your children's books you'll probably find Scholastics name on at least 4 of them! This publisher is also a wonderful resource for free printables that have to do with their books! Have a favorite book? Look for matching printable, and crafts! They have free printables and then some that are only available with a paid subscription. I have not yet paid for this website but I do use the free ones.

11. PBS Kids
Just like Nick Jr. offers crafts, lesson plans, and more all themed after their shows. So does PBS! In fact most networks for children do so if you haven't found your little one's favorite show yet, try looking up the broadcasters webpage.

12. Activity Village
It's pretty much just what it sounds like. An online village of stuff to do with little ones! What could be better than that? This site is slightly more time consuming to learn and navigate but it's worth it.

13. Wonder Time
This site has a lot of family crafts! They have great ideas for party activities, and for daytime activities. Their ideas often have more preparation but are so much fun to do it's worth it! Totally free ideas, very few printables but the step by step instructions are wonderful!

14. Disney's Family Go
Disney is another great resource for party ideas, tv show related printables, a very few actual lesson plans but tons of fun things to keep little ones busy!

15. Cafe Mom 
I don't love this site, actually I find it grueling but I know tones of people who are absolutely head over heals for it! They do have a large selection of ideas to keep toddlers busy. They also have chat boards and rooms if you want to talk to other mom's about what they do!

16. Toddler To Toddler 
This site takes only a few minutes to figure out, however it looks very confusing when you first pull it up. Check out the green bar near the top that outlines specific areas of study, and then you can see all the activities, lesson plans and more that you can use for free!

17. A Day Care
This online day care has all the activities your children would get to do at day care, and allows you to download and use them in the comfort of home! What a great idea I really love this site and it's totally free.

18. Pre-School Express Toddler Station 
This site has thousands of ideas, downloads, pages to print, lessons to teach, and things to go see! It seems like one big page of things to do and can quickly get overwhelming. Their search isn't as good as it could be but the information is worth the sifting!

19. Activity Tree
You can create an account for free here and find local things to do! Type in your address and the age of your children and find classes, activities, free book readings and more! What a wonderful resource! Everyone is always asking me how I knew about these little classes and hidden gems around town well here's my secret!

20. Cool Math 4 Kids
This site will give you a headache the first time you use it, okay just kidding but it looks like a mess. HOWEVER, don't dismiss it! The lessons are so simplified that I learned a few things, they are easy to use, easy to understand and can be taught to any child!

21. Baby Center 
Baby Center offers everything from conception advice and references to countdowns for your expecting babies, and most of all learning activities for your children! They have an entire section for toddlers and sections for each grade! They also offer milestone charts to see how your children are doing.

22. The Kidz Pages
Another overly colorful page with so many links your head wants to spin. However, there are so many things to use here. I often go here to find outdoor activities, printable to go along with the pagan holidays, and alternative religions. They have wonderful printable pages, and amazing lessons you can flip through.

23. Enfamil
Yes even formula companies offer toddler activities! If you have a favorite diaper brand, or formula you used check out their website for continued learning activities they often have fine motor-skill activities and milestone charts!

24. My Daily Moment
I love the ideas on this site to allow your children a fun day while giving yourself a few moments peace and quite. They have wonderful sanity tips that never leave your children bored. It's a wonderful combination of learning and staying ahead!

25. Teach Preschool
Yah for other parents who share their ideas, days, and helpful tips! Not everyone who homeschools for preschool plans to continue to do so, and that's perfectly fine! We still all like to share our ideas for having small ones at home, and even after your children go to school you may find you need a few ideas in reserve for those rainy days!

This site has an outline of what parents should know about teaching their children. They also offer printables, lesson plans, and helpful information about teaching preschool to your children. What they will need to know, what's good to know, and how to help them every step of the way. If you continue homeschooling they even have resources for that!

27. Kids National Geographic
Their website resources are free, helpful, and amazing! Videos, printable, lessons, and more! Plus you can subscribe to their magazine for just $15.00 a year! This is a site I use about once a week to find something useful we can incorporate into our lesson plans. Learning about a specific animal before each trip to the zoo is just one fun thing you can do here.

28. YouTube
Nope I'm not kidding! I have a play list of songs for my kids, but that's hardly the most impressive learning tool on this site. Search things like "where does my food come from" and "explain space to kids" you'll find the most wonderful short videos that explain the most amazing concepts to children!

29. Pinterest 
Here's another wonderful way to find new ideas, printable pages, new blogs, new sites, and new friends! I have found dozens of homeschool blogs, dozens more mother's blogs that share their after school and toddler activities, and thousands of free printable activities!

30. IXL
This site is a subscription site that has the msot wonderful games, printables, and lesson plans on it. I haven't paid for it yet but do use the free samples all the time. This is my next "school" purchase! I am currently paying off a subscription with BrillKids and then will subscribe to IXL.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sources For Signing (A to Z Challenge)

Want to learn sign language or teach your baby/children? It's not hard actually I've been surprised how easy it is to learn and teach. We aren't currently learning it full time but we do a few signs a week and try to use them regularly. Here are some wonderful sources or learning and teaching sign language!

Free Sources:

American Sign Language ASL For Free
Save yourself on flash cards and books this is easier, and you can watch someone preform the signs!

This site is completely free although they do take donations to pay for the domain and time they spend to keep it updated. I love their baby dictionary with accepted simplified signs.

This site has so many resources on it, along with dictionaries, videos of people performing the signs, and even lesson plans!

Start American Sign Language
FREE ONLINE CLASSES! These are complete classes uploaded to their site you can take for free! Plus lessons about the deaf culture, history and more.

Paid Sources: 

Signing Online 
Complete classes, with over the internet interaction and help. These classes are $$45.95 each and last 4 months. There are 4 beginning classes. I haven't taken them but the reviews were amazing! I believe they still have their demo class up. So check it out.

This site actually has certification courses for those looking to become interpreters, or for nurses, school teachers and more.

Signing Time 
Most of us have heard of or seen clips of signing time. You can invest in their entire program, or buy specific DVD's from their site that would help you and your children. My kids actually really enjoy them! (you can watch segments of the DVDs on YouTube here)

I hope you enjoyed this post and use some of these resources for yourself or your family. Please take a moment to support Pirate School by Following us and Liking us on Facebook. Thanks! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reading Daily (A To Z Challenge)

Reading is perhaps one of the most important things you can do with your children, and your children can do for themselves. Rather you put up shelves, lay out books, mount brackets, use spice racks to hang books, or use any other method, keep a book in site.

Here's a picture our our girls room! These shelves were easy to make and hold about a dozen books. The book shelf on top of their dresser hold several more.

Our nursery has books shelves at their height one is filled entirely with books, the other is filled with small buckets of toys. This gives them the option of reading any time they want.

Our school room down stairs has an entire wall lined with cube bookshelves and books sorted by age, and category. It's fun to pretend to read full novels even when they can't quite understand them yet. The pretending is wonderful practice.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

101 Questions You Should Be Asking (A to Z Challenge)

Have you ever sat on a date and asked questions back and forth? How romantic right? Great way to bond and get to know someone too... well it's also a great way to get to know your children! Here are 100 Questions you should be asking and 100 answers you should be listening to! Even if you know the answer, asking the question and listening to the answer is far more important to your child, than the answer itself.

1. How are you?
2. What's your name?
3. What is your favorite color?
4. What is your favorite toy?
5. What is the name of your doll/stuffed animal?
6. What does your doll/stuffed animal's favorite food?
7. What is your favorite food?
8. What is your favorite song?
9. Do you like to dance?
10. What did you dream about last night?
11. Do you like to draw?
12. What do you like to draw?
13. Do you want to have a pretend tea party?
14. What is your favorite TV show?
15. Who is your favorite character?
16. What is your favorite shirt?
17. What is your favorite pair of socks?
18. Where do you like to eat lunch?
19. Do you like carrots?
20. Do you know how to make your bed?
21. Do you like bubbles in your bath?
22. Shower or bath; which is better?
23. Do you like juice or milk better?
24. Does your thumb hide?
25. Do you know where rainbows come from?
26. What do you like to pretend?
27. Can you sing the ABCs?
28. Who is your hero?
29. Who are you thinking about?
30. What is your favorite shape?
31. Do you like to run?
32. Do you like to skip?
33. Can you do a cartwheel?
34. Can you find your eye's?
35. Do you like to play in the mirror?
36. What is your favorite book?
37. What is another book you like?
38. Do you like to wish on stars?
39. What do you think of the moon?
40. Did you talk to your grandma/grandpa/uncle/aunt/sister/brother/etc today?
41. How are your friends?
42. What games do you like to play?
43. Do you like to play hide and seek?
44. Where do you like to hide?
45. Do you have a favorite blanket?
46. Do you have a favorite pillow?
47. Where is your favorite place to sleep?
48. What is your pet's name?
49. What does your pet like to do?
50. Do you like to wear jewelry?
51. Do you like to go driving?
52. Where is your favorite place to go?
53. Do you like to go shopping?
54. What do you like to buy?
55. Do you like to play outside?
56. Do you like to play inside?
57. Do you like to go to grandma/grandpa's house?
58. What is your favorite desert?
59. What is your favorite video game?
60. Do you like taking pictures?
61. Who do you not like? (who do you dislike?)
62. What are your favorite words?
63. Do you like to brush your hair?
64. Do you like to brush your teeth?
65. Do you like to play pretend in the mirror?
66. What is your pretend name?
67. Do your friends call you silly names?
68. Do your friends play pretend games?
69. Can you count to 10?
70. Where do your toys go when you go to sleep?
71. Do you love your sister/brother?
72. What do you like to do with your sister/brother?
73. What is your favorite thing to do at the park?
74. Do you like to swing?
75. Are you brave?
76. Are you strong?
77. Are you silly?
78. Are you funny?
79. Are you cute?
80. Are you a hero?
81. Are you a prince/princess?
82. Are you a pirate/robot/dragon/etc.?
83. Are you toes piggies?
84. What is your favorite song to dance to?
85. Do you like to dance in the kitchen or in your room?
86. Do you believe in Unicorns?
87. Do you believe in Fairies?
89. Do you pray?
90. Do you count sheep?
91. What do you pray for?
92. What are you thankful for?
93. Do you wish you had something? (what?)
94. Do you pray for mom/dad?
95. What are you afraid of?
96. What do you do when you're afraid/scared?
97. Who do you call if there is an emergency?
98. Do you know your phone number?
99. Do you know your name?
100. Do you know my (mom/dad)'s names?
101. Where do you live?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Produce Games (A to Z Challenge)

Do you remember shopping, especially shopping for produce was fun as a kid? I'm not sure if it's the colors or the idea of getting to weigh them out and punch all the buttons or what exactly makes it so exciting but it is! And, not only is it exciting it's also a great learning tool. Here are our top 3 produce games to play!

1. Playing Grocery Store
We lay out 5-10 bins each with plastic food in them. In one bin we put stickers on all the food that says they are .25 cents, in another they are .10 cents, in another they are .50 cents and so on. With each food item labeled give the children a certain dollar amount to spend and have them come up with 3 different ways to spend it! Monopoly money works great!

2. The Rainbow Of Food
Throw (or gently place) all your plastic food (or real food if you prefer) into one basket. Then lay out 7 other baskets, bags, bins or just use piles. Label your containers or piles red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, and other. Then have the children sort the food into the appropriate piles!

3. My Favorite Food
You can print pictures of foods, or cut up old magazines but find 20 to 50 pictures for each child, and have them sort through and make a collage of their favorite foods.

4. Knowing Food Groups
Using food pictures, plastic food, or real food put all your "food" into one pile. And have the children sort it into the different food groups. Meat, Diary, Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, etc. How many food groups does each child know?

5. Shopping In Real Time
Give each child a budget and a shopping list. Take them to the grocery store (I recommend doing this one at a time) and help them shop for the items on their list while staying in budget. If they helped make the list they may have to pair back some items. IF you made the list what can you do to stay in budget? Take a calculator with you, and help them factor for tax. (Simplify if needs be for your children, or make it even more complicated by adding the idea of coupons and add matching) what a great math game to see if you can get everything on your list and stay within a certain amount. You can do this all the way through high school.

Pictures coming soon, Blogger is having difficulty uploading pictures for me today. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Organizing Your Day (A To Z Challenge)

This one is purely for you. Keeping oranized is a great way to keep on task. Here are some sites that have printable organizers for you so you can save the money you would have spent on organizing stationary and spend it on school supplies :) or maybe a spa day to recover from school.

1. Our House Weekly At a Glance Organizer: Print Here

2. Your Daily Schedule Buttoned Up: Print Here (don't stop there check out this entire Buttoned Up site)

3. Free Planner Pages: Print Here (and don't forget to check out the entire page for tons more).  

4. Weekly Chore Chart: Print Here

5. The Eat Sheet Menu Planner: Print Here

6. The Project Girl Menu Planners! Print Here

7. Password Log: Print Here

9. Weekly Cleaning Calender: Print Here

10. Weekly Blog Planner: Print Here

Here are a couple other hints and tips to save money while staying organized.

Turn your printed onto "draft" mode before printing. Since this isn't a paper you're keeping forever the draft option will save you money on ink, and on these cute papers you most likely won't even see the difference.

I also shared this on my daily deal blog for those of you following both. Being organized helps save money, time, frustration, and peace of mind.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nap Time & Sometimes Not (A To Z Challenge)

We've reached that age where nap time sometimes isn't just a nap anymore. Evie no longer sees the need to take a nap if we haven't sufficiently "worn her out". So we've come up with some alternatives to the traditional nap. Here is a few of our favorites to keep your toddlers busy even when they should be sleeping :)

1. Quiet Time Buckets 
These are easy to make. Purchase 5 Tupperware buckets with lids all the same size. (or use shoe boxes if you can). Then label them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We put the following items in our buckets, but be sure to customize yours to your child.

Monday: 2 hardboard books, 2 Melissa & Doug Chunk puzzles, a Polly Pocket doll and a few extra outfits, a stuffed animal, and view finder. 
Tuesday: A box of 24 crayons, 2 coloring books, a set of headphones and an mp3 player (which has the volume pre-set, and is loaded with classical music), and a set of site word flash cards. 
Wednesday: A magnetic drawing board, a set of number site words, 2 Chunk Puzzles, a small tea set with 2 cups, 2 plates, hard crumpets, and a tea pot and a small stuffed animal to share her tea party with. 
Thursday: A package of stickers (you'll need to re-fill these), a small stack of blank paper, a package of colored pencils, a set of color cards with extended colors such as turquoise and chartreuse, 
Friday: A set of shape cards,  a set of lacing beads and several hard sticks to lace them on, 2 jigsaw puzzles, a set of Discovery Channel dinosaur figures, and a book all about dinosaurs. 

We don't use these everyday but they are great to have on hand when you need them! You don't even have to use them on the correct day if you can see your child would do best with a particular one over another. Some-days we do have a nap and other days we use other quiet time options. 

2. Digging In The Sun 
Since our younger daughter always takes a nap (for now) from time to time I will reward our older daughter with allowing her to come garden with me while her sister naps. She has to meet certain criteria to get to do this. Such as not having had any whining spells, fits, or slip ups with her manners. She get's a gardening trowel, and a small gardening bucket and has a corner of the yard she's allowed to dig in. During this time we talk just like we are friends out gardening together. She can tell me about anything she wants to and I'll listen. I ask her a lot of questions about her toys, her favorite things, and we just chat. It's really a special time for us. You can customize your special time with things like sewing, scrap booking, cooking, or even just cleaning house together. 

3. TV Special
On very special days such as her birthday, holidays, or Saturdays, she can sometimes pick a movie or TV show to watch during her rest time. She get's her stuffed animal, blanket, and a bowel of popcorn. the TV shows and movies are limited to educational and/or uplifting quiet shows only. No The Wiggles, or Wow Wow Wubbzy. We only watch shows such as LeapFrog Letters, or Reading Rainbow. 

4. Doing My Own Homework
Another option for quiet time is to print off an extra packet of 'homework' sheets such as find the missing letters, tracing, simple addition etc. And allow your child to do the entire packet by them self. they have to sit down at the table or on the floor and work on their homework with out any help, not asking questions and being very quiet. Then grade their homework afterwards (be sure to reward anything done correctly with smiley faces)! This exercise is wonderful to see where they are, and how they are doing. 

5. Special Reading Time
Okay I admit part of this one is an excuse for me to forget the housework for a few hours and lay down with my princess. But that doesn't make it any less of a wonderful quiet time. Special reading time is when we pop a bowel of popcorn, and go lay on mom's bed her with her book, me with mine. She can read it to herself very quietly (she usually reads a dozen or more books) while I read mine. this does several things, she sees me reading, and although she's most likely not reading her books word for word she knows how a lot of them go and she tells herself the story. This is again one on one time that's irreplaceable. 

PS I have pictures for the past few posts coming  for some reason blogger is having a hard time with pictures this week. Please be sure to check back, and if you have a moment like Pirate School on Facebook. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Math Drills (A To Z Challenge)

Math is one of our favorites, and to show you why we've put together an entire list of math ideas! Here are 5 of our all time favorite math and memory games! Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know which one looks funnest to you!

1. Skittles Math 
Open a bag of Skittles and poor them onto a plate. Sort them out based on color, then count them to see which color you got the most of! You can add the red ones and the yellow ones, or any two groups of colors. Subtract the same way, or have them sort and add the ones that landed face up (with the S) or face down.

2. Puzzle Races
Even though my children are a year and a half apart they love to compete. Put down 2 puzzles taken apart and let them race to see who get's finished first! You can also race against a timer. Doing puzzles is a great pre-math skill!

3. String Bar Graphs 
Make a short list of numbers lines. Such as 4 blue, 2 red, and 3 green. Then have the kids string 4 blue beads on a string. Then 2 red beads on a different string, and 3 green beads on a third string. Lay them out. You created a bar graph using beads!

4. Measuring 
Do a baking project such as chocolate chip cookies and talk about fractions. Show what 1 cup is. Now use what is half of a cup? What about one third? Measuring is a wonderful non-stressful way to introduce fractions even at an early age!

5. Counting Letters & Syllables 
Show the children flash cards of any site words they are working on at the moment.  Have them count how many letters are int he word. How many syllables are in the word. How many vowels? Great Englishand math practice all in one!

Hope you enjoyed this post, come back tomorrow for our N post and please take a moment to like Pirate School on Facebook.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Little Reader A Brill Kid Program (A to Z Challenge)

Here is a review THE product that got me started teaching my kids. I won't say it's the only product out there but if you're looking to help your children learn then eventually you find one that works for you.

BrillKid Little Reader & Little Math have some wonderful benefits and a few downsides too. First here are my top 3 benefits for this program.

1. There aren't any pieces to loose if you just start with the basic program. and, for this was a big turn off to other programs I had seen. You spend $200.00 on a program and once one piece goes missing you need to go buy an entirely new set. I couldn't stand the thought and I knew eventually a piece would go missing. With Brillkid Little Reader there were two options the basic and the deluxe I purchased the basic and made my own flash cards, and thus they were replaceable. i started at 1 year with my oldest daughter and 6 months with my second.

2. You can start early! As I said I started at 1 year with my oldest but you can start much younger. I waited because it took me that long to figure out where to even start looking I knew I wanted to teach them at home rather they ever went to school or  not I figured I had 5 years to teach them before it was even an issue. So I started looking and when I found this program I decided why not give it a try.

3. You can download additional lessons or make your own. Such as sign language lessons, colors, shapes, other languages, presidents etc. I love using it for these additional things since we've finished the main lessons several times now.

Now the top three things I don't love about it. I know it was a good program for us but that doesn't make it perfect. It gave us a launching point and some great ideas but my children were not reading at the age of 18 months (in fact at 3 years my oldest is just now starting to read).

1. You have to do it several times a day to be effective. I'm great at sitting down and doing homework with my children but going back to the computer 3 times a day for 10 minutes each was not my strong point I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind me.

2. As I said they didn't just learn to read just  like that. You can definitely use the program to reinforce concepts and reading, and it did help pick up on a lot of words. But more than reading it helped with vocabulary! They learned to speak very clearly and to use a lot of words most children their age do not.

3. It get's boring after awhile. The kids really loved it at first but after a few months they just didn't want to do it anymore. I rewarded them for paying attention, and said the words along with the program. We emulated any action words they said, and did other things to try to keep their interest. It worked for awhile but by the time they were 2.5 they were just done with it. I would have tried harder but my children both found other programs to move onto, so I eventually just stopped trying to get them to do it and moved onto other programs along with them.

Overall I think it was well worth the investment and we still use it for other 'flash card' type games we've created on the program ourselves. We rarely do the lessons anymore unless there's one that emphasizes the concepts we're working on. Which picking and choosing the lessons has been way more effective than going through the program multiple times.

If you want to learn more about the BrillKids Little Reader program check out their website here, or feel free to e-mail me with questions! Please keep in mind I am just a user I am not a representative for them and can only tell you what I experienced.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kangaroo Wiggles (A to Z Challenge)

Have days when your kids can't hold still to do homework? Especially with spring fever? Here's a few ideas on keeping up with their wiggles and school work too. Welcome to classroom Kangaroo.

Kangaroo Alphabet: 
Write or print on letter per piece of paper so you have 26 papers each with a letter on them. Set them on the floor or tape them down, and have the kids jump to the letter you say. It's like hopscotch and letter drills all in one.

Kangaroo Jumping-Jacks: 
Write simple math problems on a white board and hold it up for the kids to see. Have them solve the problem in jumping jacks! Example 2 + 1 = 3 jumping jacks. Counting and moving at the same time requires concentration so it may take a few times to get them even if they know the answer to the math problem.

Kangaroo Cookies:
Here's another paper hopscotch type game. Only instead of the Alpheratz write questions on papers and lay them down to jump to. Roll a dice and you can play it just like a board game where your kids are the pieces. Questions on these "cookies" can be things like "what's your name", "what's your phone number", "what's your mom's name", "where do you live", and "how old are you?" Tell the kids that the ground is peanut butter and if they get stuck in the peanut better pond they'll be out! They have to jump on the cookies (papers) and answer them correctly! Want to add a little fun  make some yummy cookies to go along with the game when they answer correctly!

Mix It Up: Use kangaroo cookies game for tests! Quiz on subjects you've been learning this way such as history chapters, astronomy questions, shapes, family history etc.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jars of Inspiration

Finding a way to stay inspired is a big part of staying on task, motivated, and dedicated. So make sure you make school fun for you too. Not just for the kids. One way I've found for myself to do this is to come up with projects I want to do with the kids. And, then make inspiration jars with projects in certain subjects.

For example your math project jar could be nothing more than a mason jar filled with 1" or larger buttons with scrap paper cut out in the shape of the buttons and ideas such as "go for a walk and count the cement squares" written on them. Whatever would give you a break and help you feel like you're still keeping up with your job as mom (dad/grandma/grandpa/aunt/etc) and teacher. Reward yourself when you need a break you're doing great do something fun this afternoon!

You can use pop-cycle sticks and write on them, put them in a mason jar and pull one out. Or strips of paper in a jar work as well. Keep a book of ideas on your desk if that works better for you just find a system of easy to use motivators.

Other great jars ideas are: 

English - activities like, find your favorite book, tell me why it's your favorite book. Let's make popcorn and read it.

History - activities such as: let me tell you a story you might not know about your grandfather. .

And don't forget the "mom needs a break jar" this really is important even teachers have their off days where nothing's getting done allow yourself to go in a less structured direction every once in while and you'll save your sanity.

Make sure to make your jars personal as in what you'd like to do not what you 'should' do. Come up with activities that actually get you excited about doing something, rather they are 'learning to wash dishes' or 'going on a walk', 'taking the kids to the zoo', 'we're going to take a nap time now', or 'building a robot out of legos' whatever you do, remember you started this because it excited you too... so make sure you don't loose that spark.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ice Experiment (A to Z Challenge)

Exploring the world around us is fun! 
This fun experiment will show how ice melts. 

Find out what makes ice melt. You'll need 4 identical glasses, 4 ice cubes, 1tbls salt, 1tbls sugar, 1tbls water, and a kitchen timer. Before you start explain the process and ask the kids which ice cube will melt first, and why they think that.

Label the glasses 1 through 4. Then place the salt in glass #1. Place the sugar in glass #2. Place the water in glass #3. And, leave the 4th glass empty for now. Then have the children place 1 ice cube in each glass and set the timer for 5 minutes. Which ice cube is melting the fastest? Re-set the timer if needed until all ice cubes are melted. How long did it take each one? Have the children guess as to why.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Homework Game (A To Z Challenge)

The word homework seems to strike fear into most of us. But our kids don't necessarily see it that way. It's a learned reaction. So make homework a game, and change the perception of the term. Need some help figuring out how?

Use The Map's 3 Step Program
Have you seen Dora? If you do you know the map in that show hates kids. No seriously think about it. There's rubber ducky pond and the alligator pond. Guess which ones they kids have to walk by? there's butterfly path and black bear path... which ones do you think the kids have to walk down? However, as vindictive as the map can be you have to recognize it's three step program is ingenious. First we're going to do this, then this, then this. The end step is always exciting! Which makes the other two easier to do. Use this idea for homework. Make the end project (or every 3-4th project) something you know you're children will want to do.

First we're going to eat breakfast, then do reading rug time, then finger paint. Ask the kids to repeat it back to you. Breakfast, Reading Rug, Finger Paint! Breakfast, Reading Rub, Finger Paint! Then you can start over. Now we're going to have lunch, take a nap time, and then do math practice with jelly beans. Have the kids repeat it back again so they can get excited. It empowers them they know what to expect and gives them a structured day in a way they can understand.

Lunch, Nap, Jellybean Math.... Lunch, Nap, Jellybean Math.... what are we doing? Lunch, Nap, Jellybean Math. This makes rest time easier, and turns math into the exciting treat! Way to turn a scary word into the reward for making it through nap time. :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gaming with Toddlers Online

Here's a list of over 1000 games that are useful and educational in entertaining toddlers, and babies online! These are all sites and games I'd highly recommend. Hope you find at least a few new games and enjoy.

On The Computer:
1. Fisher Price
2. Nick Jr.
3. Disney Interactive
4. PBS Kids
5. The Kidz Page
6. Play Kids Games
7. Fun School
8. Fun Brain
9. Kids National Geographic

On The Phone, Android (Top 10 Recommended Apps): 
1. Kids Reading (Pre-school)
2. Arithmetic For Kids
3. Math Training For Kids
4. ABC For Kids All Alphabet
5. Google Star Map
6. Hangman
7. Children TV - Videos for Kids
8. Smart Kids Games
9. Kindergarten Kids Math
10. Picasso - Kids Paint Magic

On The iTouch.or Apple Network (Top 10 Recommend Apps): 
1. Kidsfun with more than 70 games is my #1 must have.
2. Molecules (even if your children are too young to understand this even seeing them is awesome)
3. Math Bingo
4. Star Walk
5. Symphony Pro
6. Park Math
7. Word Wagon
8. Drum Circle Kids
9. Kids Song Machine
10. National Geographic's Ultimate Dinopedia (a personal favorite with my 3 year old). 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ferb I Know What We're Going To Do Today (A To Z Challenge)

My family and I are obsessed with Phineas and Ferb (or Ferb & Phineas) in fact we've come up with some very educational games to get our summer time fix!

If you aren't sure what you're going to do today check out these 5 fabulous ideas! And, don't worry Perry is around here somewhere. (PS Also check out Disney's on the Go site full of games, and printable all centered around this creative TV show).

Ferb I know What We're Going To Do Today #1: 
Fill a water balloon with 3-5 tiny treasures all in one theme. Repeat with enough balloons for each children. For instance I put 1" dinosaur toys in one water balloon and an eye patch gold coins and wooden peg in another. Fill the balloons with water and freeze them. Then cut the balloon off the frozen ice and give your kids each a spoon. Today we're digging for burred treasure!

Ferb I know What We're Going To Do Today #2:
Grab a packet of cheep locks from the hardware store (they come in a dozen or 14 locks) these pad locks each have their own set of keys and aren't interchangeable. Open up the pad locks and hook a tiny bag of treats to each lock and close it so the bags are stock in the locks. Then throw all the keys in a big bowl or bag, and have the kids sort them out to find which set goes to which lock. Great fine motor skills, and your children will have to figure out a way to keep the keys from getting mixed back in (it may take them a few minutes to realize that's part of the game)... even better tell them it's a detective game and they get to eat or share the treats when they get them off but NO CHEATING!

Ferb I know What We're Going To Do Today #3:
Give your kids free range of the blanket closet, tables and chairs. Tell them to go crazy building a fort in the front room... BUT make sure they know to build a school room! We're doing flash light homework today! Let the kids to all their activity sheets, and other homework ina  fort... Want to make it even more fun? Make their entire days worth of work sheets centered around camping, or 3rd world countries where they live in tents!

Ferb I know What We're Going To Do Today #4:
Retro cartoon day at school! Remember some of your favorite cartoons from your childhood? Well pull them out and have the kids watch them. But give them each a sheet of paper that says "10 Words I Don't Understand" at the top and have them write down 10 references, words or phrases they don't understand. Duck Tails, Tail Spin, Darkwing Duck just to name a few. What a fun flash back day for you and a real history lesson for the kids.

Ferb I know What We're Going To Do Today #5:
Hardware store Saturday! Have you ever taken your kids to the free classes at Home Depot or Lowes? They are a blast! Once a month or so each hardware store offers free classes for kids in building and construction. They have things like go-cart building, bird houses and more. Check your local listings here for times and dates: Home Depot and Lowes

Egg'tastic Math (A to Z Challenge)

Those plastic Easter Eggs that your kids will get this weekend? Don't throw them out!!! Instead here are 3 fabulous math games you can do with them instead!

1. Matching Numbers and Symbols
You'll want 10 to 20 eggs for this depending on how high you want to go. On one half of the egg write the numeral 1 on the other half of the egg put one dot. Continue to do this for each number you'd like to represent. Then take all the eggs apart and throw them in a bag or box and have the kids sort them back out putting the matching halves together! AWESOME matching exercise. MIX IT UP: don't use the same color top and bottom to the egg.

2. Adding & Subtracting The Contents
I used a dozen eggs for this. I put an addition sign on one, a subtraction sign on one, and a equals to sign on one. Then with nine eggs left I put the numbers 1 through 9 on the outside of them. You can use stickers or markers to do this. Then put the matching number of gummy snacks, m & ms, Jelly beans etc. inside. So if there is a 3 on the outside there should be 3 edible snacks on the inside. Then have the kids add or subtract the eggs. See if they can do it with out opening the eggs. If they are too young or are having problems allow them to open the eggs and count the snacks. In our house we allow them to eat the snacks if they can do it with out opening the eggs and they have to return them and re-use the counters if they do not get the correct answer with out opening the egg. I usually give them their regular sheet of math questions and add the eggs in as a visual but you could easily substitute the eggs for the math sheet.

3. A Dozen Math Facts Toddlers Can Understand
Save a left over egg carton for this one. You'll want 12 random plastic eggs and the stickers or a marker to mark each egg 1 through 12. Have the children pick a number and do the math exercise inside! MIX IT UP: Only use the numbers 1 through 4 but use them on different color eggs so when choosing an egg they need  both the number and color. For instance 3 blue.

Fun facts and activities to consider including in your eggs:
1. Count to 20  2. Count by 2s to 10  3. Jump 9 times.  4. Count the toes on your right foot. Count the toes on your left foot. Add them together.  5. Count how many people are in your family.  6. Find 3 triangles and 3 squares. How many total items did you find? How many shapes did you find?  7. Count backwards from 10 to 1.  8. Sing Head-Shoulders-Knees and Toes. Now sing it really slow. How many body parts do you point to in this song?  9.  Skip 6 times.  10. Find 3 blue items and 4 red items. How many colors did you find? How many items did you find?  11. If you're happy and you know it clap your hands 13 times. 12.  Count the yellow eggs, count the purple eggs, count the green eggs etc. How many of each are there? Write down your answers. MIX IT UP: Make custom slips to put in the eggs that can help your child work on problem areas in math for them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Drawing For Life (A to Z Challenge)

Coloring books are great but nothing replaces a white pad of paper and a crayon when you want your children to be able to express themselves. Allowing them to express how they are feeling, what they understand and who they are is an invaluable skill.

Not sure where to get started drawing or what to tell your kids to get them to get started? Here are 5 fun drawing practices that are inexpensive, easy to do, and are simply fun!

1. Feeling Better?
We do this when we're having bad mornings. When you wake up and 2 kids are crying, and the toast is burnt, and it's raining on the one night you forgot to close the garage... STOP sit down and grab some crayons. Have each child (you can too) sketch a quick picture (set a timer in you're in a hurry) of something that makes you happy! Then hang them up! Feel better? This almost always turns the day around at our house. Children from 18 months to 18 years (or older) can do this activity when it's just not going as planned.

2. What's Wrong?
Just like above but on the flip side, having a day when everything makes you burst into tears? Okay maybe not you but maybe your kids do. we've had days were nothing was making us happy before. Homework wasn't getting done, naps were a disaster, and having friends over was out of the question. Give your child a chance to express what's wrong through art. Painting, drawing, and play dough are all options. Maybe they will show you something that hurts, a gimps of a bad dream, or maybe they don't have a clue what's wrong but the quite time may help and they won't feel their being punished for having a rough day by getting to do something fun.

3. All About Me
Give each child a random subject about themselves and have them draw that. Such as "My family", "My Room" and "My Pet" don't have enough ideas? Try this list of 101 ideas to draw about me! Specially made just for this post :) Or you can write ideas on Popsicle sticks and put them in a mason jar making a drawing jar!

4. My Wish List
Here's a really fun idea. For birthdays, and holidays instead of allowing kids to just make a list of things they want. Have them draw pictures representing what they want. This gives them a chance to reflect on why  they want certain items.

5. What Did I Do? 
Time out happens. We all get a little upset from time to time or act with out thinking. Time out isn't the end of the world. But simply sitting for 3 minutes just gives the problem time to fester especially if the child still feels they were not in the wrong. During time out, or after, have them draw a picture of what happened in their minds. How were their actions wrong? Or was there some justification for the incident?

6. Look What I Learned
Here's another great idea. Have the kids draw a picture to show everything they learned that day. These pictures act as a summery. They can keep them in a binder for the entire month and show all the things they learned.

I hope you found these ideas helpful! Please take a moment to 'like' Pirate School on Facebook. Also come back tomorrow for all things Easter Eggs!  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

30 Activities For Kids To Do This Summer - Plus Clip Art

An Instant Minute, In A Bag

Purchase the Clip Art For This Project Here. 

Give your kids something to do! Here is a great project... actually here are 30 of them! Purchase the clip art for this on Etsy here for just $6.00. After you print it cut it apart and put the words on the back to each activity. Then you can laminate them and put them in a bag. 

Armed with an activity bag every time you "just need a minute" to finish a project this summer, grab your activity bag and randomly pull a card! You have an instant "minute" while your child has something to occupy their time, and mind! 

1. Read A Book 
2. Draw A Picture
3. Sing The ABC's Song
4. Find A Toy 
5. Make A Snack
6. Do A Puzzle
7. Look At Pictures
8. Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
9. Listen To My Music
10. Be An Airplane
11. Hug Someone
12. Pretend You Are A Bird
13. Sign The ABC's
14. Pretend You Are A Fish
15. Find 3 Triangles
16. Find 3 Squares
17. Find 3 Circles 
18. Find Something Red
19. Find Something Blue
20. Find Something White
21. Draw Something That is Green
22. Be A Pretend Monster
23. Find A Hiding Spot
24. Clean Up Your Toys
25. Take Pretend Pictures 
26. Go On A Walk 
27. Be A Pretend Dinosaur
28. Find Pretend Treasure
29. Do A House Chore
30. Think Of Something You Are Thankful For

Another fun teaching tool, that may give mom the 2 minutes she needs to finish dinner. Thank you to Lori for the beautiful art work! This art work was specially designed for Pirate School.