Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TOS Review: Circle Time from Preschoolers and Peace

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…I was a kindergarten teacher. I also spent a good number of years teaching preschool. As a teacher, circle time was my favorite time of day. I loved the little songs, chants and stories my students and I shared together. Circle time helped get  the whole day off to a great start. I still have a bucket of doo-dahs (story props, calendar activities, etc.) somewhere that I used every day. But the story of my doo-dahs is a whole other thing.

I was excited to be able to review Circle Time: Plan theBest Part of Your Homeschool Day from  Preschoolers and Peace. The author, Kendra Fletcher,  is a mom of 8 and used to juggling busy mornings (and days and nights). 

I was curious to see how Kendra implemented Circle Time into her family’s day and how her ideas could translate into our homeschool (with one excellent and inquisitive 11-year-old boy as it's only member). 

Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day is a 33-page ebook packed with simple and easy ideas for implementing Circle Time into a homeschoolers day.

These are some of the Chapters.

~Planning a Circle Time That Works for You
~Strategies for a Peaceful Time Together
~How to Get Your Kids on Board
~Questions From Moms Like You
~Words of Wisdom From Other Moms Who Do Circle Time
~Resources, Activities, and Ideas 

 The back of the book contains a few printables. These are designed to help you create and customize your own Circle Time. The book is an affordable 4.99.

So maybe you are reading in this blog and have no earthly idea what I’m talking about. Circle Time. It generally takes place at the very start of the day. The students are gathered together in an informal way. Activities during circle time vary. I used to teach learning songs, tell stories, use weather charts, write stories as a group and more. Generally, the term Circle Time is used for Early Childhood Classrooms. Morning Meeting is also another term used and extends on into Primary and Intermediate Classrooms.

I always felt like Circle Time/Morning Meeting was an effective tool for the classroom. 

In Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day, Kendra gives wonderful tips on how to use Circle Time with every age. Sbe has a large family and a good portion of her book is dedicated to helping parents with bigs and littles manage their time Circle Time together. I really was inspired and thought about recruiting kids around the neighborhood to use as temporary Circle Time students. 

Circle Time is meant to be used with students of all ages. And it is meant to be tailored made to meet your family’s needs. Kendra talks about creating a plan. What? A plan! Maybe this is where I have been lacking all these years!

One of my favorite parts of the book was how to develop a Wish List for Circle Time. It really helped me see that this was doable for us!

So How Did We Use It? 

When I started homeschooling Josiah he was in 1st grade. One of my first act as a Homeschool Teacher was to implement Circle Time.  I have to say it was a bit strange. I was used to a whole roomful of youngin’s belting out A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam (a Moroccan folk song for those of you who need to be in the “know”) or my favorite Five Little Speckled Frogs (sitting on a speckled log). Now I just had one little boy. And he wasn’t singing. 

We plugged on. We read poetry and worked on math facts. 

Slowly our Circle time went the way of the Floppy Disk. Every once in a while I would try and implement it again. But it was all whilly nilly. I had so much I wanted to do! Where should I start? How did other homeschool peeps use it effectively? Did they use it effectively?

A misnomer is that Circle Time is just for little bitty kids. And that it is for families with lots of kids. Circle Time activities can change and adapt to your students (or student in my case). Kendra uses Circle Time for a variety of purposes. I was really inspired. Here is what we did. 

First of all, I looked at my wish list. It was a bit overwhelming. I wanted to do it all of it (down girl!). Shakespeare. Latin Roots.Poetry memorization. Art Studies.I decided that for the time being we would concentrate on a few things. I checked out Kendra’s circle time resource page. Some of the resources were of physical books and ones I couldn’t get my hands on right away. I had some lovely books already in possession (found at the Thrift Store and what not). 

Here is what I decided to start with:

Word of the Day (Josiah has quite the vocabulary…he loves to look up new words)
Read Aloud (we read aloud every day, but I wanted to use this time for works that just needed to be read...mostly classical literature.)
Geography (not emphasized enough lately)
Art (I am going to choose an artist and we are going to do a proper art study)
Poetry (This will be above and beyond any we might read. This will be for memorization))
Scripture (Most important!)
Math Facts (any facts he might need to review)

Another thing I decided to do what change the name of the whole thing. When there are only two of you, “Circle Time” seems a bit strange.  Even on our best day we can't get ourselves into a circle. So I went with Morning Meeting. It’s not original, but Josiah thinks it’s quite appropriate. 

I then made A Binder. You know it's pretty serious when I make A Binder. A Binder makes it all official. I take A Binder pretty seriously. And I like to make them cute.

I printed off several things to stick in the binder. Memory Work, lists of books to read, poetry, art pages Josiah can work on during Read Alouds. This way I am always prepared.  Kendra has some wonderful ideas for organization. I think this was the most helpful to me.

I then created The Board. Josiah needs to see the plan. I used a piece of foam core board and some odds and ends of scrapbooking doo-dahs I had around the house. I made it so that I can change out anything I need to. I also "numbered" all of our activities. This helps my dyslexic boy stay on track. The Math Facts section is actually pockets I can stick flash cards in.

I lamented  both the map and the art work. I can use both again. I also lamented the labels. You can see my tape. I fully plan on getting those Velcro circles. Eventually. My mom suggested that Josiah study Winslow Homer. Josiah is studying American History at the moment and one of his Morning Meeting activities is labeling a blank map of the United States through the week.

I think the key for me was making sure I planned. I printed off enough material (words of the day, etc.) to last for a while. I also have a list of things that I want Josiah to memorize eventually. We will add to the board as needed. This is where having The Binder comes in handy.

I took advantage of resources I found online. There isn't any reason to reinvent the wheel. I found several lovely scripture posters all ready to go.

 I also made sure to have materials available. You can see my Kindle on top. What a wonderful resource for my Morning Meeting!I have also been reading out of William Bennet's A Child's Book of Virtues. Eventually, we will read a little Shakespeare. Oh the possibilities!

So here is the whole set up. I found the little chalkboard at Hobby Lobby (just in case you needed to know)

I love this new/old element we've added to our homeschool day! I encourage you to give Circle Time a try. I think you will find that it will bring so much to your day.

Just another note. I think you will enjoy Kendra's blog Preschoolers and Peace. I love this post on Kids and Laundry.   Josiah has become quite the Laundry Guy. We live in an apartment building and share a common laundry room in the basement. Right now he can pretend he is in the belly of a spaceship saving the universe (with quarters, of course).

 You can read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about their adventures in Circle Time. Enjoy!

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Monday, July 29, 2013

8 Fun Things To Do With the Kiddos (When the Heat Keeps You Inside)

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live, but we’ve had some hot ones! And to top it off my car doesn’t have air conditioner! And neither does The Muffin’s! 

I really need to get a handle on my use of exclamation points! Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. 

Our city really has some wonderful parks, but during the hottest summer months a day at the park becomes quite unbearable (let alone dangerous). And we happen to live in an apartment building. So me shooing Josiah out the back door every evening to blow off some steam isn’t an option. 

Now my idea of beating the heat involves a fan blowing right in my face, a good book and my feet propped up. I can’t see my 11-year-old boy deciding that’s the way to go, do you? 

In honor of our hot days and my Busy Boy (with the help of a few cousins) here are 8 indoor activities to “Beat the Heat.” Minus Josiah's favorite Lord of the Rings Lego game.

The Good ‘Ole Christmastime!
Bring out your favorite Christmas movies, make this easy recipe for frozen hot chocolate and celebrate the season!  If you are really ambitious you could start a few handmade Christmas projects. I think you will be thanking yourself in November.

Josiah made his own tornado using water, sea shells and a jar.

Mad Science Day
I really didn’t think of this one. Josiah did. He came running into my bedroom this afternoon. There was a science experiment he had found in a book we had checked out at the library. He decided that today would be a perfect day to try out it and a few others that had caught his fancy. There are tons of great experiments that take just a few household ingredients…I found a few fun ones and pinned them to my Mad Science Pinterest Board.  Gather up some supplies and experiment! You might even decide to host an impromptu science fair.

So I’m sure you’ve thought of this one. Make a list of a series of movies or (maybe some of your favorites from childhood, make a few fun flavors of popcorn, pull down the shades and there you go!  One of our favorite things is having movie marathons (along with their prequels, sequels and distant cousins) of a certain theme. Here is a list I made up of some old movies to add to our Movie Night rotation. 

Making Christmas Fudge!

Master Chef
So you know that this next idea is one that is near and dear to my heart. Plan a Cooking School.  Worried about heating up the kitchen?  Instead of “Cupcake Wars” host a “Popsicle Wars.” This site has some yummy ideas for unique popsicles. Gather a few ingredients together and have the troops make their own distinctive concoctions.

Somebody Clap Me!
Eenie Meanie Sassaleeny,
Opps ah tumbalini,
Achi cachi Liberace,
I love you,
Take a peach,
Take a plum,
Take a stick of bubble gum…
Anybody else spend their recesses with their BFF playing this clapping game? Or h how about Mary Mack, Mack Mack (all Dressed in Black).
Spend some time learning some of these fun clapping or jive games. This site gives a list of games along with videos. While you’re at it play a little Bear Hunt and do a few rounds of “Once an Austrian Went Yodeling.”  
Josiah and Cousin Maddie made puppets. These guys were $1 at Joanna's Crafts.

Lights! Camera! Action!
Make your own movie! This is a current project for Josiah. We are using my little camera that takes stills as well as video. I have the free Windows movie maker on stand-by and read to go. I’m not sure what the final product will be, but I will share once Josiah completes his masterpiece.  Puppet Shows are also a fun way to go. Make your own puppets, write your own scripts…good times. You can find more “Dramatical” ideas on my pinterest board. 

If You Build It…
Short of cash and long on creativity? Try your hand at creating out of cardboard. A lot of fun can had with a simple cardboard box. I have made a Pinterest Board just for the occasion. I am so inspired and can't wait to try one of these projects all on our own. I'm thinking about replacing the living room furniture, no? :<)

Don’t Look In A Book (Make your own!)
I know it sounds as if I have just committed Homeschooling  Blaspheme. One of my personal hobbies is Book Making. I think you will find that it is not as difficult as one might think. Also, there are so many variations on a handmade book. They can really be a special project.

This site has all sorts of wonderful tutorials for booking making. It’s called Making Books. I’ve used several projects. 

Your books do not have to be complicated. I have made many with Josiah. I love, love this idea for making a book from a stick.
Some of my most favorite things to do have been to make altered books. Josiah and I made this beautiful ocean book several years ago from an old book we found at the Thrift Store for .25. It is still one of my favorite projects.

I used scrapbook paper, odds and ends of "stuff" (you can see the puzzle pieces), some free lapbooking components I had found, an old book about ocean life (I cut up) and some of Josiah's artwork.

I guarantee you will find book making a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon inside.

Good Ole Fashioned Conversation
Turn everything off (except for maybe that fan), pour out some lemonade, gather everyone around and just visit. What a novel idea! In our crazy/all entertainment-all the time world the art of "conversation" has been somewhat lost. Some of the nicest times I've had has been just sitting on the couch with my boys...talking. It's not a novel or a new idea, but I think it's a pretty great one.
 So I hope I've given you an idea or two. I am linking up to the TOS Crew Blog Hop "Beating the Summer Heat." I look forward to reading what everyone else has to talk about. 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sherry Lou. This is for you.

This is a bit strange. Bear with me.


This is for you. I tried to call you all afternoon to tell you that we wouldn't be driving up today. Instead we are coming in the morning. My face feels like it's going to fall off and I think I will do better with a little more rest in bed. This sick stuff is kicking my hiney (sorry...I didn't use the b-u-t-t word...you should be proud). Josiah is packed and ready to go. He is exciting to spend the week with you. Just don't let him tell you he's got clean underwear on. "Clean" is relative in his opinion. I will see you in the morning!

Love, Beke

Okay. So obviously this isn't a heartfelt letter of appreciation and love to My Mom. We were supposed to drive to their house this afternoon (they live an hour away). I talked to her this morning when I was driving out to rescue The Studly Muffin from the Pancake Ride (another story for another day) while my parents were working at the church. They get piddly cell reception at the farm and don't have a land line. Some days it's impossible to get a hold of them.

Like today. I have been sick for a week (the kind of "in bed/snot running from every/somebody just shoot me" sick). When I got home from our adventures of rescuing The Muffin I felt so bad. I decided that I just needed to go back to bed. I called. And called. And called. I didn't want to worry my Mom when we didn't show up or to hold supper.

She checks my blog frequently so this is my way of staying in touch. Hopefully...

Maybe I'll try a smoke signal next.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

40 Old Movies For Family Movie Nights

We love movies here at my house. One of our weekly traditions is the Family Movie Night. Generally, we take on a new rental, but frankly sometimes there isn’t a whole lot we care to see. 

I started thinking about some of the great movies I enjoyed when I was a kid. And surprisingly, I found that a lot of them were old movies. 

I’ve told this story before. Up until I was in High School we lived the Boston Mountain range of the Ozarks (located in North Arkansas). We lived way out in the hills down a long dirt road. Not to worry. We had electricity and plumbing (most of the time). We had plenty of land to explore and books lined the walls of our family room. We also received a grand total of two television stations. NBC and PBS. The PBS station was a wealth of entertainment. That is where I first found my love of Doctor Who (Tom Baker, anyone?), saw my first ever Shakespearean play and learned about the migration of the humpback whale. 

Our PBS station was also terrific about playing old movies during their Saturday Matinees. I don’t know if any PBS stations do that anymore. I loved those old movies. 

So I’ve done a pretty good job (thank you very much) of introducing my son to the wonderful world that is Doctor Who. Shakespeare has been a little bit different. We are working on that. 

The Studly Muffin also counts a few old movies among his favorite movies of all time.
So here’s my plan. I have compiled a list of old movies favorites and we are going to add them to our movie night rotation. 

The criteria? 

The movie has to be older than the year of any of our births.  Troy was born in 1962. I was born in 1972. Josiah was born in 2001. I have to say that The Muffin’s birth year put a kink in some of my plans a bit. The man is getting old! I am going to have make a separate list made up of our favorite movies between'62 and '72. Just 'Cause.

And as much as we love an animated move, none of the movies can animated. Sorry, Dumbo. You know I love ya.

You will see that there are a disproportionate number of musicals. That’s because I’m the mama. You will also find that I have not included any of the angst ridden classics of Tennessee Williams.
They make me nervous.

And I did not include Old Yeller or Gone with the Wind. I do enjoy Gone with the Wind. However, I still have impromptu crying bouts I can attribute to seeing Old Yeller in the old theater downtown when I was in elementary school.  Don’t judge me. The Muffin and Josiah can cry on their own time.

I also didn't include some of my favorites (like Hitchcock's thriller Rear Window) simply because I know my son. He would  immediately set up a lookout station for any suspicious activity in the neighborhood. Plus...it's intense!!

We won’t watch this all this year (or probably next), but this list gives me a good starting place. 

Those marked with a * (doo hickie) are ones we own currently. We will probably start with those or those we can find on Netflix or at the Library. I am a frugal gal, after all.  

Here they are...In no particular order.
  1. The Parent Trap – Not the remake! Many enjoy the remake (with Lindsay Lohen) better. I have to say I enjoy the Hayley Mills version better. 
  2.  Adventures of Robin Hood – Nothing like an old Errol Flynn movie. 
  3.  Meet Me In St. Louis – Classic. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. ‘Nuff said.”
  4. Bringing Up Baby – Sigh. 
  5.   *Singin' in the Rain – One of my favorites. Ever.  
  6. The African Queen – Classic Bogart and Hepburn.
  7. The Quiet Man  - Really a special movie.
  8. The Shop Around the Corner – The original “You’ve Got Mail.” 
  9.  *The Ladies Man- Troy is a big Jerry Lewis fan. This one has him rolling on the floor.
  10.  *It’s A Wonderful Life – Sniff. Sniff. Who can resist this one? 
  11. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House - A funny Cary Grant movie....especially if you are a remodeling your house :&lt;)
  12. Little Women – Is it awful that I actually prefer the remake with Winona Ryder?
  13. *Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Every young person needs to see this movie. Where is Mr. Smith when we need him?
  14.  National Velvet  - Such a treasure. 
  15.   *The Pride of the Yankees – Another of Troy’s favorites.
  16. * Pollyanna– Ever played the Glad Game? Every family needs to watch this one. 
  17. *The Ten Commandments – Is it strange that I've watched this one so much when I was little that I know every word by heart. Whenever I think of Moses I think of Charlton Heston. 
  18.   Imitation of Life – You Must Watch This (especially with your older kids)! Get the Lana Turner version.
  19. Easter Parade – Sweet Judy Garland movie
  20. Holiday Inn – Great musical with Bing and Fred.
  21. *White Christmas – Duh! Are you noticing a theme here? Musicals! This one of our family favorites.
  22.  An American in Paris – Gene Kelly. Brillant. That is all.
  23.  *Seven Brides For Seven Brothers  - Love. The. Musical.
  24. Funny Face – What? Another Musical. It’s not over yet, folk
  25.  High Noon – Stand Off. Must See.
  26.  Rio Bravo – I have to say that this John Wayne Classic is another one of my “strange childhood favorite movies. Partner. And Walter Brennan is an American Classic.
  27.  *Yankee Doodle Dandy – One of The Muffins favorites. And it’s a musical!  
  28.  The Princess Bride - What? Oops. Didn't mean to sneak that one in there. Inconceivable!
  29.  My Six Loves - I love this sweet Debbie Reynolds movie. Adoption and Preachers. That's all I'm saying. 
  30. The Little Princess – Nothing like a sweet Shirley Temple movie. I liked the remake, too.
  31.  The 7th voyage of Sinbad – Now here is some good old fashioned adventure! I can remember watching this and eating some homemade tapioca pudding. Which oddly enough has nothing to do with Sinbad or any of his voyages.
  32.  *The Wizard of Oz – If you haven’t seen this one you might just live on Mars
  33. *Cheaper by the Dozen – This is the old one my friends. The remake with Steve Martin is fun…but there is nothing like this oldie. Pass the Kleenex.
  34. The Court Jester  – Danny Kaye. Such a treasure. So funny. 
  35.  Daddy Long Legs – Love this! I love the book even more
  36. Andy Hardy Movies (any of them) – Also the favorite of The Muffin. We are currently looking for copies of any and all.
  37. *The Inn of the Sixth Happiness – This story of Missionary Gladys Aylward, has some big differences with the actual story, but I love it just the same.
  38. *Brigadoon – Another Gene Kelly. Another great musical.  
  39.   Arsenic and Old Lace - "Insanity doesn’t run in my family. It gallops!"
  40.  Auntie Mame – What? Another Musical? Couldn’t be! Cause we a need little Christmas. Right this very minute. 
  41. Swiss Family Robinson – Another childhood favorite! And guess what! Not a musical! Except for that dancing part. And maybe that singing part.
I realize my numbering is a little off. Due to that (cough, cough) technical error on number 28. As I said, this is just a list of some favorites. What are some you would add to the list? 
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