Monday, October 24, 2016

30+ Advent Calendar Ideas

8 more Mondays until Christmas!

It's the week before Halloween, but I have Christmas on my brain already (don't worry- I haven't started decorating yet).  Today, I am considering Advent Calendars, Christmas Count-downs, Advent Wreaths, and the like.  Usually, people start their Christmas-preparations on the first of December, which is only five weeks away.  A month seems like a long time, but it's not if you plan on crafting a fun countdown.  I've found lots of ideas for you to consider.  There are so many on here I like that I have no idea which one I'm going to make for my own family.

                                                         I hope you enjoy the lists and happy crafting!

Jesse Trees to Make

During the last few years, we've been using the Jesus Storybook Bible to walk us through the ornaments of the Jesse Tree.  The ornaments take us through the major stories of the Old Testament and shows us how the whole Bible points to Jesus!

- Print and Color Ornaments (Do Small Things With Love)

- Jesus Storybook Bible Prinable Ornaments (Kelleighratzlaff)

- Printable Scripture Cards (I Should Be Mopping the Floor)

- Jesus Storybook Bible Devotions (In Our Pond)

- Jesse Tree Project  (Wild Ginger Dolls)

- Felt Ornaments (Mandy Pelton)

- Nativity Calendar Pattern (Etsy)

- Jesus Storybook Bible Cards (Faith Gateway)

- Names of Jesus Signs (Today's Fabulous Finds)

- Adult Coloring Names of Jesus Ornaments
      (A Lively Hope)

Please pin at original sourse
Countdowns to DIY

If a Jesse Tree isn't your style, I also found a bunch of other types of countdown.  Most of these are non-religious.

- Shoe Holder (Simpy Kelly B)

- Wood Block (A Day in My Life)

- Winter Activities (All Things Simple)

- Christmas Movies a night (Pinterest)

- Snowman Circle Calendar (Inspiration Made Simple)

- Story a Night (Simply Sara)

- Jesus-Centered Book-a-Night (Jessie Weaver)

- Magnetic Gift Tins (Twig and Thistle)

- Candy Canes (Jean's Crafty Corner)

- Kind Deeds (Happier Homemaker)

- Christmas Angel (Wellness Mama)

- Truth in the Tinsel (website)

please pin at original source
Advent Wreaths

My early elementary years were spent at a Lutheran school.  It's where I did a lot of Bible memorization, learned the hymns, and was introduced to the advent wreath.  I've had a soft spot in my heart for Advent Wreaths since those days.  There is something very special about lighting a candle every day.  Here are a few ideas:

- DIY pipe cleaner wreath (When Running Amok)

- hand print wreath (Adventuresome Family)

- Pillar Candles (Jolly Good Gal)

Advent Calendars For Sale

If crafting isn't your thing, I found a bunch of different styles and type of Advent calendars and Christmas countdowns to buy!

- Jesus Storybook Bible book (Amazon)

- Drawer Treat Countdown (Etsy)

Please pin at original source
- Lego City (Amazon)

- Cubie the Snowman Treat Countdown (Etsy)

- Melissa and Doug Wood Tree (Amazon)

- Tabletop Village (Etsy)

- No Room in the Inn Nativity (Amazon)

- Jesse Tree Flat Ornaments (Etsy)

- Playmobil Christmas on the Farm Set (Amazon)

- Wood Cut Out Number Ornaments (Etsy)

Please pin at original source
- Peaceful Prince Chocolate Calendar (Amazon)

- Rustic Gift Countdown (Etsy)

- Stained Glass Nativity (Amazon)

- Countdown Sign (Etsy)

- Names of Jesus Word Ornaments (Family Life)

Christmas Countdown- Every Monday

Saturday, October 22, 2016

h is for horse (year 3, week 6)

Dragonfly requested this unit.  I was very surprised how little I found for ideas and printable specifically about horses.  Maybe eventually we'll do a popular subject- but not next week 'cause we're talking about alligators.

I was sick over the weekend and very weak on Monday, so we didn't start homeschool.  The kids watched the new Ice Age movie about six times.  Fortunately, we did find a few things in the movie to talk about in a homeschooling way.  There is a scene with an electrical storm, positive and negative charge, and static electricity.  We talked about those concepts a bit.

Then, we watched a bunch of Youtube videos about how and why germs make us sick and the importance of washing our hands.

The kids practiced their engineering skills by playing with duplos all day.  Dragonfly also did a few math worksheets for the first time in two weeks.  I saw how good the break was for her brain, because she was better able to grasp concepts that she had been struggling with.  And, she drew a very nice number two, which has been a challenge for her since we started school this year.

AWANA day!

We watched a few funny horse videos on Youtube.

It rained all day and the kids hibernated, sleeping in late and then taking extra long naps.  It was SO nice for Mommy, but we didn't do any schooling.

We finally had a big homeschool day!

The kids loved their horse sensory bin!  The "grass" is dyed rice mixed with a bit of regular rice.  I love the way it looks!  There are a few foam apples in the bin and a whole toob of Safari Ltd Horses!  The toob came with 12 animals, plenty for each child.

We also used the horses to make footprints in play dough.

The "Uncover a Horse" book is from Amazon.  We have a bunch of books from this collection and love them all.  It's so fun to look at all of them at once and compare the different systems between species.  Great for a "Science Girl" (Dragonfly).

For math, we counted m&ms and did some basic addition and subtraction.  Dragonfly also did a math worksheet and used the horses on a 10-frame.

Blog Posts About Horses
3-part cards for Safari Ltd horse toob
m is for milk theme unit (farm)

horse lapbook
parts of a horse cards

Montessori-inspired horse unit
horse sensory bin

Follow my FARM Pinterest board for more ideas!

I thought I'd slow off my fall decorations, just for fun.  I'm a heavy-duty Pinterest-er but not a very good decorator.  Still, it's the little touches that make a house a home.  Maybe it will inspire you to buy some mini pumpkins and call it decorating (wink).

Top- Chalkboard sign from Target Dollar Spot.

Middle- the window by the kitchen sink.  Three mini pumpkins from the grocery store, a wood sign, and our silverware.  Perhaps eventually, I'll get around to putting the printable for the jar labels on the blog.  If you're wondering why the middle one is plastic, it's because we've broken way too many glass jars.  The knives are just heavy enough to make the glass crack (sad day).  The sink caddy is one of my favorite things in the house.  It holds the soap, a bottle brush (back when I used bottles), the sink plug, and has a place to hang the dishcloth!

Bottom- our coffee area (to the left of the sink).  The jars (mismatched as they are) hold our coffee, tea, and extras (marshmallows, white chocolate chips, hot cocoa mix, mini chocolate chips, etc).  The mugs came from World Market.  I really like that they stack and are so colorful. The printables came from here and here (and a bonus one about October)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tough Toys for Tough Kids

Green Toys Tractor vs John Deere Tractor
There are only 9 more Mondays until Christmas!

My boys are tough on toys!  Very few toys last long in our house.  Sometimes, it's a good thing that the toys have a short lifetime.  Other times, you just need toys that will last.  The toys on this list of "tough toys for tough kids" are the gold standard of excellence.  Most of them are not extraordinarily expensive, but they have all survived months of rough play.  Any of these toys would make great gifts for tough kids!

Green Toys
Green Toys Dump Truck from
I honestly can't believe that I've never written about Green Toys (GT) before!  We have loved GT for years and have had nothing but good experiences with them.  My boys are rough with their toys and will disassemble a lesser toy in minutes.  Not so with Green Toys trucks!  They last!

Green Toys are made with recycled milk jugs, in the USA.  We love that- but what we really love is their customer service!  When my boys finally do break a wheel, I only need to email the company, and they will send us replacement toys for free!  I know of no other company with that sort of guarantee.  If you're looking to make your toy dollars stretch, there is no
better investment than Green Toys.

Green Toys Airplane from
We love our red and yellow dump truck, our pink and purple dump truck, the firetruck, the regular plane and the sea plane and the helicopter, the train, and the bus.  All of these toys get played with frequently and most of them get played with every day.

The "Alice" tractor in the picture is our latest Green Toys addition.  It's been in the house for two months.  The John Deere tractor has been in the house for 2 weeks.  The "Alice" on the GT's tractor was added by my mom to make it match great-grandpa's tractor.

Green Toys makes other toys besides vehicles.  We don't own their play food sets yet, but I like the dish set.  The farm and fire station are cute, too.  Green Toys is adding new products all the time.

Green Toys are newer on the toy scene, but Duplos are a classic.  We played with them when I was a kid, and my mom still has a huge bin of them at her house.  They're made by the Lego company, but are larger than Legos to make them safe for younger kids.  The smallest Duplo block is about one inch cubed or so.

We love the Cars and Planes sets, as well as the generic first cars set.  And, of course, you can never have enough boxes of bricks.

On my list is a larger toy box for our Duplo collection.

Safari and Schleich Animals
Schleich zebras from
I have written a lot about how much I love Safari animals.  For a long time, we only bought Safari toobs (mini animals) and bought Schleich figurines for our large animal collection.  In a lot of ways, Safari Ltd animals are a lot like Schleich.  They both make large, plastic figurines that are quite durable for tough kids.  Our animals get left outside, have been run over by the car, take baths, play in the mud, get brought to bed, and are well loved.  I'm including them together, because they are both quality toys, and we buy them both.

Schleich animals are atomically correct, so it's easy to tell the boys from the girls.  They can also be found in families which is very great for kids, like this herd of zebras or this pack of lions.  Schleich has mammals, dinosaurs, and reptiles.
Safari Ltd Bubblebee for

Safari makes miniature toobs, life cycle sets, and larger figurines both real and fantasy.  We love the detail of the Incredible Insects bumblebee and the texture of the dragons.  The kids have many of the Safari animals on their Christmas lists.

I could probably come up with a few more good toy brands for tough kids, but I'll leave you with this list for now.

Pin it!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fall Break 2016

I set up our schedule this year to allow for a one-week break every 3-6 weeks (depending on the calendar).  This week was our first break since school began, a chance to catch-up with things, a time to reflect and reassess, a space for appointments and housework, and a week for fun blog posts.  It was so great to take the time and not feel guilty about what the kids might be missing.

Gymnastics Day!

Blog post- Rules for Gift Giving

Homeschooled at the pediatric dentist.

AWANA day!

Blog post- 20+ Themed Salt Writing Trays

House cleaning day.  Got rid of stuff and organized the house for fall.

We had a nice break, but I need to work on getting more done for the household during our time off of homeschooling (wink).  I enjoyed blogging this week as I hadn't done since school started.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

20+ Salt Tray Ideas for Writing Practice

My blog post about the apple pie writing tray is one of my most popular.  I wrote that post over a year ago, so I thought that it was in need of an update.  Here's a collection of more than twenty salt tray (sensory writing) ideas from around the web.

Writing Tray Ideas

1- moon dust (Stir the Wonder)

2- ice cream sprinkles (Modern Preschool)

3- bird seed (School Time Snippets)

4- ocean (Imagination Tree)

5- camel/desert (In Our Pond)

6- frozen/icy (I Can Teach My Child)

7- gingerbread cookie (Creekside Learning)

8- peppermint (Parenting Chaos)

9- green (And Next Comes L)

10- rainbow (Nurture Store)

11- pumpkin (Play Dough to Plato)

12- love (Laly Mom)

13- autumn (Imagination Tree)

14- lavender (Next Comes L)

15- chocolate (Growing a Jeweled Rose)

16- vanilla spice (Fun a Day)

17- leaf (Imagination Tree)

18- ants (Teaching Preschool)

19- sugar cookies with free letter printable (Mom Inspired Life)

20- snow (Imagination Tree) and soccer and fairies and Star Wars

21- cornmeal/Thanksgiving (Still Playing School)

22- mermaids (Pink and Green Mama)

23- beach (B Inspired Mama)

24- sparkle snow (Paging Fun Moms)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Rules for Gift Giving

10 more Mondays until Christmas!

Thanks to Pinterest, parents everywhere are simplifying that Christmas gift giving event with "rules."  Some people chose the "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" 3-gift rule.  Others go with the four-gift rule: "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read."  But, why stop at four?  Here's twenty more "rules" that you could employ for your holiday shopping.

1- something to play (instrument, video game)

2- something to learn (instrument, game, kit)

3- something to make (craft, art, kit)

4- something to write (journal, book-in-a-year, notebook, stationary)

5- something big (car, trampoline, bike, couch)

6- something to cook/bake (cookbook, kit, coupons)

7- something to watch (movie, video game)

8- something for listening (device, earphones, music, audiobook)

9- something cozy (blanket, sweater, cocoa mix, pillow)

10- something to eat (gourmet food, favorite snacks, mix)

11- something useful (vacuum, blender, tie rack)

12- something for growing (Bible, devotional/help book, garden supplies, growth ruler)

13- something small (jewelry, sd card, chapstick)

14- something sweet (homemade treats, favorite candy, local honey)

15- something cheap (candy, $ store items, gum, altoids)

16- something plastic (gift card, toy, tupperware)

17- something geeky (device, fan-gear, computer stuff)

18- something old (heirloom, regift, antique)

19- something to smell (tea, coffee, candles, essential oils, perfume)

20- something homemade (baked, made, knitted, crafted, sewn, constructed)

Here's how the 4 gift rule worked in our house last year.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

c is for camel (year 3, week 5)

This blog is an Amazon Affiliate and a Safari Ltd Campaigner.

We had a death in the family, so we took this week as a vacation. I wrote two bereavement posts: one on books and one on funeral preparations.

Still, we did talk a bit about camels.  We talked about their key features, that they are mammals, how they survive in the desert, and where they live.

The one official "school" thing that we did this week was to play with our Safari Dromedary Camel.  We named the parts, and then tested the wide foot in sand vs a "pokey," skinny foot.  The wide foot is perfectly designed for walking in the sand.  Thanks to Safari Ltd for allowing us to participate in their #HowiSafari campaign.

Dragonfly also spent some time writing with a paintbrush in the sand and having quite a pretend with the camel and the "hot snow."  She couldn't imagine a place with hills of hot sand.

Blog Posts About Camels
- 10-frame printable

Printables About Camels
- parts of a camel
- camel notebooking pages
camel informational reading
desert/camel science notebook
- Egypt printable pack
- 3-part cards for Safari Ltd's Egypt toob

Ideas for a Camel Unit
- Exploring Egypt unit
- Egypt sensory bin
- wood block pyramid
- how to mummify
- grinding spices
- Egyptian sensory bin with camel
- digging for spelling words
- hieroglyphic writing tray