Showing posts with label Tips And How-To's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips And How-To's. Show all posts

Homeschooling With Toddlers Underfoot - What We Actually Do





Last fall, after years of mentally planning, we started homeschooling Wyatt for Kindergarten.  I've had a lot of interest, not only in blogland but from my real-life friends, on all the workings of our homeschool, and a frequently question is: "What you do with the baby and toddler happy while you're working with Wyatt on his school?"

My first thought on that question is that if you have a younger child that's not that much younger, you probably don't have to do anything.  The only thing I'd suggest buying extra workbooks for them if they decide to participate.  That is what we are doing with Gwen, who was three years old when we started the school year. She often wants to follow along and do her own schoolwork, so I help her with the activities she's interested in - and if she's not interested, she can go and play or do whatever else she wants.  I believe in letting kids be kids before the school years, free from unnecessary obligations, so I really don't put any pressure on her.

The youngest two are another story.  Clyde was two years old, and Clarice was one last fall, and they do require more attention.  Since I was asked so often about how I was going to handle schoolwork with the little two running around, I thought I should probably have some sort of plan.  After I attended the homeschool conference and got all my curriculum choices together, I went on a mission to find activities for the younger kids while I was working with the older two.



I came up with a few activities via Pinterest, and I was really excited about giving them a try (activities listed below).  I also pulled aside a few of their educational toys and put them in a special box.  I figured I could pull all these things out whenever we started on schoolwork, and keep them occupied with their special "school toys".

These are the activities I found:

1. Nuts And Bolts Matching Activity.  Buy nuts and bolts of different sizes from the hardware store, and paint the outside of the coordinating hardware the same color.  

2. Clothespins and Paint Swatches.  I picked up some paint cards from Home Depot - two of each color.  The idea is to cut up one of the paint cards and glue a piece onto the back of a clothespin.  Then the kids can pin the clothespin onto the matching color on the cards.  

3. Felt Activity Books.  A lot of people make their own, but I just buy the $3 ready-made version at Target.

4. Lacing Cards.   Lacing shoelaces through colorful character cardboard cutouts (how's that for alliteration?).  I'm sure you've seen these.

I have a few more ideas in this blog I made for this post a while back too:





All these activit├ęs are great for color matching and fine motor skills, and I patted myself on the back for being so prepared.

But here's my little secret.

We haven't used a single one of these activities.




Do you know what Clyde (and even Clarice) like best?  A notebook and a pencil.

When I am working on writing or number practice with the big kids, Clyde likes to feel like he is doing the same sort of thing.  He wants to do "school" too.  He doesn't want to be left out, or relegated to a separate activity - he wants to be part of the action.

So I sit him down with his "school" notebook and a fat pencil, and he scribbles in it until we are done.

I think in the midst of all those inquiries about how to keep the little kids happy while we did our schoolwork, I forgot three things.  

1. My kids like to do things together as much as possible.  Clyde and Clarice both want to feel like "big kids".  They are always so proud of themselves when they accomplish something that they've only seen their brother and sister do up to that point.  It was silly of me to think I needed to entertain them separately from what everyone else is doing.

2. All my kids have always been independent players.  Most of the time while we are working on reading or anything else, the little kids just go off and play by themselves.  I've never been one of those mothers who structures her preschoolers' schedule.  We don't do a lot of organized projects or educational projects.  I just let them play, because that is my preschool philosophy - and my kids are great at independent play.  This is a big advantage in homeschooling, and I should appreciate it.  Some moms might need to plan a lot of activities to keep their younger children entertained - but I don't!  My kids have always entertained themselves.  I should just enjoy that!

3. Each round of work in kindergarten takes 15-20 minutes, and we take breaks in between.  Fifteen minutes is not a big enough amount of time to have to fill it up with baby and toddler activities.  Homeschool kindergarten is not a whole-day endeavor, like public or private school counterparts, because a lot of kindergarten actives are regular life activities.  Kids have free play time.  They color and paint.  They eat snacks.  They take a nap or "quiet time".  None of which actually feels like school.  The part that does feel more school-like is the bookwork, and that's the part that literally takes 15 minutes.  It's really not intimidating at all, and I was making it way too complicated.

So this summer, when I'm planning for next year, I'm going to try to remember what happened this last year and restrain myself from buying a lot of fancy extras for our homeschool - because it is likely that they will go unused.  I'd much rather take the kids outside and let them get dirty (or wet and cold) in the winter than spend all my time and money planning activities for them.  I'd much rather do "school" all together as much as possible and continue to encourage those sibling relationships.  I'd much rather just keep the whole thing simple and easy on myself, instead of overcomplicating things and adding more work to my plate.  I'd rather be not-Pinterest-worthy and happy, than Pinterest-worthy and stressed.

But I will probably keep my box of extras handy...just in case the littles are being extra needy one day and I need a backup plan!  I went to all that work, after all.

If you are a homeschool mom, especially if you have young children in the house, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  How do you make homeschooling work with babies and toddlers underfoot?









Tips For Visiting Antelope Canyon With Babies And Toddlers


As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we went to Arizona for vacation this year, and one of the places we knew we wanted to visit was Antelope Canyon!  This is a slot canyon through the sandstone that was formed by flash floods.  It is absolutely gorgeous and was certainly a highlight of our trip!













Flash floods can still run through the canyon, so you are not allowed to go into Antelope Canyon without a guide.  Complicating matters, we also had four young kids (still in carseats) to take with us!  Overall though, it ended up being very doable and really interesting for the kids as well as us!

We decided to do a morning tour, around 8:00 AM, which we were told was a quieter time in the canyon.  Many people like to go around "prime time", which is the middle of the day when light beams start shining through the rocks to the canyon floor.  However, even though we went at a slower time of day, it was still very busy!  There were people all around us through the whole tour, but the tour companies know to space their groups a tiny bit so you are still able to get some photos without other people in them.

Some recommendations for visiting Antelope Canyon with young children:


Do the Upper Canyon.  

If you want to do Antelope Canyon with kids, be aware that Lower Antelope Canyon requires navigating some pretty steep stairs.  Our kids are a little young for that still, so we ended up doing a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, which you just walk straight into.  It was an easy, short walk, and was totally manageable even for our three year old.


Book a tour ahead of time.  

We arrived in Page thinking we could book a tour on the same day we wanted to go (I had read that online), but many of the tour companies were booked two or three days out! I would recommend picking a company ahead of time to visit the canyon.


Make sure your tour company accepts young kids.  

I had done some research before we left and picked a company, only to find out when we arrived that they would not accept children under six years old on the tour because of an insurance issue.  Thankfully not every company was restricted this way, and we were able to find another one!  Call ahead of time to ensure that they can accommodate car seats if that information is not clear online.

Realize that you will have to bring your own carseats.  

You are not allowed to drive your own vehicle out to the canyon, you must ride in your tour guide's vehicle.  Make sure your tour company knows that you have children in car seats ahead of time, and arrive early to make sure there is time to get them installed in the vehicle.


Don't be late!  

It's easy to run behind schedule when you have multiple young kids, but there are hundreds of people touring the canyon every day, and many tour companies coordinating their tour groups.  If you are late for the tour, you will be out of luck, because they don't leave a second later than they are supposed to!

If you have a baby carrier, make sure any buckles are tucked under a coat or blanket.  

They didn't let me bring my carrier in for Clarice because the buckles may scratch the wall and I didn't have anything to cover them with.  Thankfully the walk was only about a quarter mile for Upper Antelope Canyon, and it's an easy walk, so this wasn't a problem for us.

Bring cash.  

Just to give you an idea of the cost, we paid for three people, 2 adults and one child (the other three kids were free with our specific tour company), and it ended up costing us about $180, plus a tip.  You also must bring cash, because many of the tour companies do not take credit cards.


Realize it's a quick tour.  

I was expecting the walk to be a bit slower, with more space and time to take some pictures of my family in the canyon.  It was not like that.  There were people everywhere, the tour guide was pointing out all the shapes in the rocks, and the walk in and out of the canyon itself was pretty quick!  We still got some great pictures, but just realize it's busy and distracting in there.  If you want more time to set up photos and such, I'd say the photography tours might be a better bet.


I did some research online about taking kids into Upper Antelope Canyon before we left, and I have to say, it had me a little freaked out about attempting it with kids!  But it ended up not being a big deal at all.  We took four kids under seven years old, and it ended up being an easy and fun outing! Definitely check it out if you are in the Lake Powell area!

Any other questions for me about our experience?  
I'll answer to the best of my ability!



How I Listen To Audiobooks For Free (Or Cheap)





Sometime last year I became aware of the vast array of audiobooks that are available these days - and I also became aware of how much more "reading" I could sneak in through audiobooks!  Who says you can't read and drive at the same time?

I listen to audiobooks while I drive places, while I fold laundry, while I cook dinner, and while I clean out closets (the current project).  I've listened to them while doing yard work.  I've even listened to them before I go to sleep when all the lights are out.  On top of all that, there are a lot of books I know I would never even get around to reading that I've been able to cross off my list because of the wonder of audiobooks.  I'm a big fan!

So for those of you who might be interested in giving audiobooks a try, I wanted to share how I've obtained quite a few books to listen to for free (or very inexpensively).  Here are all my secrets.  You are welcome.


Overdrive

If you have not heard of Overdrive pull out your phone right now and sign up!  It's an app that works through your public library, so you do need a library card.  Once you are all signed up, you have access to an unbelievable array of ebooks and audiobooks!  I really got started through this app, and it's so nice because if you come across an audiobook that just isn't doing it for you, you've invested no money and there are many more waiting for you to try.  

Audiobooks.com

I signed up for Audiobooks.com because I saw a book I wanted to listen to on there, and realized that Audiobooks.com gives you a free audiobook credit for signing up!  Shortly after signing up, I also got an email with an offer for another free credit for leaving an iTunes review.  That's two free audiobooks!  It is a monthly subscription membership, but you can cancel anytime, so I just cancelled before I got charged for another book credit.

Audiobooks.com also has a fantastic selection of free audiobooks that you can download and listen to through the app.  These include a lot of classics!  Some are Librivox recordings that have been compiled into an audiobook format through the app, which is the most convenient way I have found to access Librivox audiobooks.  Some of the free books I am most excited about (for myself and for the kids) are Under The Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott, The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Chronicles Of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery (never read this one), Dr. Doolitte, Little Bear, The Bobbsey Twins books, and more!

Audible

Most people think of the monthly membership fee with Audible, but in case you weren't aware, you can download the Audible app and use it without creating a monthly membership.  And why would you do this?  Download the app now and go to the "Channels" tab.  Look at the top and choose "Featured".  Scroll down a bit and you should see a banner for free audiobooks to stream for Amazon Prime members!  I'm listening to Pride and Prejudice right now, under "Celebrity Voices, Classic Stories".  They have a selection of 20+ free, high-quality audiobooks that you can stream right now.

You can also sign-up for a membership trial for two free books, and if you don't decide to keep it, you can cancel anytime (even before you are charged the first time).  I haven't used the two-free-books deal yet, because I'm waiting until I finish more of the audiobooks I already have, but rest assured, I will be taking advantage of that in the future!

ChristianAudio

ChristianAudio is another audiobooks service much like the two listed above, and they also offer a free book for signing up for a membership (haven't taken advantage of this yet either, but I will eventually).  However, ChristianAudio is great because they actually offer a free audiobook each month, just for entering your email.  No other strings attached!  They also have a reviewer program that you can sign up for to receive free audiobooks - this is open to you even if you aren't a blogger!

Amazon Whispersync

This is the option where you have to pay, but at a deeply discounted price.  Amazon often offers Whispersync audiobooks as a package deal with their Kindle books - this is neat because you can switch between the ebook and audiobook anytime, and Whispersync will save your place.  If you are interested in a book, check the Kindle version on Amazon, and then look underneath the price.  If Whispersync is available, there will be a checkbox to "add Whispersync audio for $______."  These deals are often great for audiobooks, especially if the Kindle book also happens to be on sale.  The best deal I've gotten was probably the Anne Of Green Gables audiobook and Kindle book combo for $2.  Read the ebook in the Kindle app, and be sure to download the Audible app to listen to the audio - all of your Whispersync audiobooks will show up under your Amazon account in the app!

(Affiliate link below.)


And to finish this off, I wanted to answer a common question:  

"Isn't it hard to listen to audiobooks with kids running around?  I wouldn't be able to focus."

While I understand why you might think that, I don't have a problem with this for two reasons.  

First, I don't expect to be able to sit with my eyes closed and focus on every word of my audiobook (which is the only way I would hear every word of my audiobook).  You can enjoy an audiobook without being 100% focused on it, and you might just have to realize that even if you miss a sentence here and there, you are will still hear and understand and enjoy 95% of what's going on.  The question is, is it okay if you lose 5% of non-critical words through listening to the audio version as a mom of young kids, with all the distractions that entails?  I say it's okay.  It's okay with me.  It's the tradeoff for getting more books in through taking advantage of audiobooks.  And if the thought of missing a few sentences really bothers you, try picking a book you aren't as invested in from among some of the free options I listed here!  Sometimes I'll choose to listen to books I've already read, or books I feel a little more casual about, to ensure I don't feel like missing that 5% robbed me of something.

Second, earbuds.  A lot of audiobooks, even Christian ones, aren't necessarily appropriate for young kids, so most of the time I listen through my earbuds.  This also helps me to be able to still hear my book when I'm cooking dinner and the kids are running through the house driving fire trucks on the wood floors (very noisy).  I really want to get some sort of wireless earbuds (like these maybe? I can't afford Airpods, so these look like an acceptable alternative), because that will make my audiobook-listening even more accessible and convenient!  I'm thinking these would be great for situations like working out and listening without wires connecting me to my phone, or sneaking my earbuds in while waiting for a doctor's appointment.  This will open up even more audiobook listening opportunities!

So there you go, all my audiobooks tips and secrets!  

Do you listen to audiobooks?  What has been your favorite audiobook?

The only other word of caution is that a narrator can really make or break an audiobook, so I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a favorite!









Five Tips For Keeping A Clean Car With Kids


Don’t you sometimes wish as a mom that you could just keep your car clean?  What is it about carting around kids that gets the car so messy?  And if you are like me, it’s hard to find the time (or motivation) to do a full wash and wax, getting out the bucket and hose and big vacuum for a deep clean of the car. 

However, ever since we got our new car in December, I’ve been determined to keep it looking spiffy.





Isn’t it pretty?  This, my friends, is the newest vehicle I have ever owned.

Derek always teases me about my inability to keep a car clean with the kids, but I am happy to report that I have been doing a pretty good job with our new van!  I’ve come up with a few tips for keeping a car clean, on the inside and out, even as a busy mom with four (soon to be five) kids to drive around.

Don’t leave unnecessary items in the car.

This should be obvious, but if you are a mom of young kids you probably know that they tend to sneak toys, sippy cups, and books into the car without your noticing.  I like to do a quick sweep of the car every time we get home.  It’s much easier to bring in a few things each time than it is to let it go and have to haul out a trash bag to empty out the car later!

Minimize food eaten in the car (or be picky about the kinds of foods).

Some people don’t let their kids eat in the car, which is probably the only surefire way to avoid crumbs.  We are not those people.  We live in a rural area, so we spend a lot of time in our car, and my kids are hungry all the time (I don’t think my children are the only ones).  So instead of restricting all food consumption when in the vehicle, I just try to be aware of what kinds of foods I let them eat.  Small crackers (like goldfish) cause less mess than big crackers that you have to bite into to eat (graham).  Sandwiches and chicken nuggets are pretty clean-car-friendly.  Above all we avoid sticky substances and condiments in the car, because those will get ground into the carpet and take a lot more effort to clean.

Buy a handheld vacuum.

I used to drag our big floor vacuum out to the car each time I wanted to clean it - no wonder it happened so rarely!  My grandma gave us a handheld vacuum last year, and it has changed my car-cleaning life.  As I mentioned above, I don’t restrict all eating in the car, so there are often a fair amount of crumbs on the floor.  The handheld vacuum lets me do a quick cleaning job when the crumbs just get to be too much, and it works really well.

Keep a trash bag handy on the go.

Somehow we end up having a pile of trash in our car every time we go somewhere.  I’ve learned to keep a trash bag tucked into the back of the seats, so when we produce trash from food wrappers, etc, I can just gather them all up right there and through them away in the nearest trash can.  It’s less for me to do when I come home, and makes it nicer to ride around in the car all afternoon when there is no visible trash.

Find easy and convenient cleaning supplies for the outside of your car.

One thing I’ve realized is that the inside of a car can look great, but if the outside of the car looks like you’ve been four-wheeling it doesn’t really matter what the inside looks like.  I’m married to a man who really appreciates a well-washed car, and his appreciation has rubbed off on me.  However…we just don’t usually have that much time for a full bucket-and-sponge wash.  I was thrilled when I found out that the car can still look clean on the outside without all that effort.

I had used Armor All wipes previously for the interior of my car, and loved how convenient they were.  I was excited when I saw that Armor All had created wipes and tire sponges that bring that same convenience to cleaning the exterior of our cars.

The Armor All Ultra Shine Wash Wipes are pre-moistened and treated so all you need to remove grime is the wipes!  Then the Ultra Shine Wax Wipes can be used to add a protective layer once you get all the dirt off.  The Ultra Shine Tire And Trim Shine Sponges are especially convenient and are really the icing on the cake to make your car look freshly washed, without having to go through all the hassle of a bucket and hose!  











The bonus is that these wipes are perfect for handing to your kids as well - then they can be involved in keeping the car cleaned too!  And yes, I cleaned the car in my dress!  This was by car the easiest, least messy way that I've ever cleaned the outside of the car.

These wipes are so easy to use and the 3-step system covers every area of the exterior of your car.  I found all three products at Walmart in the automotive section, and I really recommend trying all three!  I even have a coupon for you - $2 off an one of the Armor All Ultra Shine Wipes line, while supplies last!  

I am so happy to have these on hand so I can quickly give the car some extra shine when it needs it.  Derek won’t be able to tease me anymore about how dirty the car gets, because these wipes will let me keep it cleaner with so much less effort!

How do you keep your car clean, especially with young kids?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Armor All, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #LessTimeMoreShine http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV




18 Ways To Wear Mustard Yellow Leggings




A month ago my friend let me borrow some mustard yellow leggings (they may have been of a certain brand that is "all the rage" right now).   She said something about not being sure how to wear them, and I told her I thought a lot of things could go with yellow leggings - and I put together a few outfits to prove it to her and myself.  I may have gotten a bit carried away!  But I thought I would share my outfit ideas with you all, in case you too wonder how to pull off colored leggings for everyday wear.

(In this whole process, I realized how many things I have that really would go with this color - so I may have bought myself a pair of mustard yellow leggings.  They may have been from Forever21.  Because I would like the $4 price tag.)

So I give you...eighteen ways to wear mustard yellow leggings!  Yes, eighteen.  I told you I got a little carried away.

Late Summer/ Early Fall Ideas














Autumn Ideas









Winter Ideas





I think there are a couple formulas to making colored leggings fit into an interesting outfit:

1. Use a neutral-colored top (like white, grey or black) that covers your behind as a base, and then layer interesting pieces over that (like coordinating scarves, patterned kimonos/cardigans, jackets/vests, pretty jewelry).

2.  Wear a multi-colored patterned top that coordinates with the leggings.  Notice I said coordinates.  The great thing about patterned tops is that it doesn't have to have mustard yellow in the pattern for you to pull it off.  As long as the colors don't clash with yellow it still works.

I hope this post is helpful if you have been wanting to hop on board the colored legging-train!

Do you own any colored leggings?  What tips do you have for how to wear them?





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