New November tradition

It is so easy to fall into negative thought pattern!  Who hasn’t traveled down the “woe is me” road? 

It’s even more pronounced is gifted individuals  and/or those who have ADHD. With the awersome superpower comes great burden. When you hear, see and process more input than average person, the output sometimes comes in unexpected form. 

All-or-nothing attitudes, expectation of the worst case scenario, negative self-talk, jumping to conclusions, disqualifying the positive experiences: all these thoughts and experiences are  persistent, automatic and damaging. 

Having a gratitude journal is one of the  ways to employ mindfulness mindset. 

Recently grumpy attitudes have been widesoread with kids and grown ups in our house and all of us needed a daily visual reminder of how blessed we are. Simple Gratitude Tree is now a focal point of our living room. 

I started by sketching a tree trunk and branches on a large sheet of paper. 

*Note to self: do not use Sharpie marker on a thin paper next time. 

**Pro tip: to remove sharpie from ceramic tile, trace the stain with dry erase marker and wipe it off with a paper towel. 

Next step, I added painters tape to the back of the tree and attached my creation to a wall. It was not easy! One of my kids asked me why I was wrestling with an octopus.

After the octopus has been defeated and the tree was taped to the wall, I printed out some cute pinteresty leaves. Skip this step! I spent entirely too much time cutting out maple and oak leaf patterns.  Just free hand it! Improvise a là Edward Scissorhands. 

Evert day, we write something we are grateful for on a leaf and tape it to the tree. One by one, fun memories and blessings fill up the Gratitude Tree and our hearts. 

GAMES as an educational tool

November is here!!!! Yay! Two little Batmen hyped up on sugar, with Halloween hangover are going to LOVE strict schedule, worksheets and memorization drills!

Brb, dying laughing at my own joke. They most definitely would NOT love that. 

I expect today to be a complete chaos full of sensory overload, sugar and dyes aftermath: two silly boys and the dog bouncing of the walls, exhibiting all of their Dabrovsky’s overexcitabilities simultaneously. Day like this is perfect to start My Little Poppies’ Gameschool Mini-challenge. 31 days, 31 prompts, pictures, 31 ways to add more sneaky learning to our days.

We are eclectic and heavily influenced by unschooling. I often describe our homeschooling style as falling down the rabbit holes (read more about it here.) Games have always been a part of our day.  These are some of the reasons we enjoy gameschooling.

  1. Learning becomes more engaging experience. We get to travel through time and space, meet great inventors and create silly worlds, become engineers, scientists, artists or magicians. 
  2. I’m quick to point out that my 5 year old does not handle losing well, but let’s face it: losing sucks, regardless of the player’s age. Friendly (-ish) game night is perfect to practice teamwork and good sportsmanship for kids of all ages. 
  3. Kids enjoy challenge and find internal motivation to reach the goal. I recently noticed that when I try to encourage the boys by saying “Come on, this is easy!” they bristle up and refuse the work. However, when they sit down to play a videogame, I hear excited and proud shouts “That was hard, but I DID IT!!!” To my surprise, this tactic worked even for least preferred tasks (handwriting practice.)
  4. We put emphasis on problem solving in our house.  I don’t want to be a referee, judge and jury 24/7, so we encourage kids to work out problems and solve conflicts on their own.  Games are one of the resources that teaches them problem solving strategies.   
  5. While playing games, kids can improve their fluency, especially math and reading games. 

While games are great, we encountered a few difficulties along the way:

  • It can be hard to accurately assess the progress. 
  • Sometimes goals of games do not align with learning goals. ABC Mouse was a giant flop in this house! All kids cared about was collecting the tickets. They just randomly clicked on the screen, guessing answers.  
  • Family game night with kids  can be…challenging. Different personalities, ages and abilities don’t always mix well.  

    These tips and strategies emerged when Peculiar Kid #2 was born. They continue to change and evolve as family dynamic change. 

    1. House rules rule! 
    2. Whenever a new game appears at our house, kids ask me if the can “free play” it for a while:  familiarize themselves with the pieces, make guesses on what the rules may be, create elaborate backstories (I jot them down in the journal, Brave Writer style. Win/win!) This approach reduces anxiety and uncertainty that often affects perfectionistic, emotionally intense 2e kids. 
    3. “These rules are so clear and make so much sense. After reading them, I’m 100% confident I can play this game on the first try,” said no one ever. Watch play throughs!  Dice Tower and Table Top were game changers (pun intended) for our family.  
    4. I like to pair games with books, tea parties or subjects we currently study. Ancient Egypt with Pyramix, Nikola Tesla’s life and work with Circuit Maze, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang read aloud with Snakes and Ladders. 
    5. Create your own games! 
    6. Playing board games (or attempting any schoolwork) with toddlers around is hard! Families with older children can play after the littles go to bed. Letting our 2 year old in on the fun works best for our family.  While we play, he makes dice towers,  “keeps the score,” sorts cards or eats all the snacks. 
    7. Let some games be just for fun, with no learning agenda! As a homeschooling mom, I tend to turn everything into a learning opportunity. Real life example that may or may not have happened last week. “Oh, the tire pressure sensor is on! You know why? Let’s have a mini unit right here on the spot! Temperature dropped 30°F overnight, leading to decrease in tire pressure by about 3 psi (1 psi for every 10° drop. Insert long winded math discussion here,) that change triggered the sensor. Honey, are you awake?” What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, don’t turn everything you do into school project. Have some fun!!! 

    What are your tips to add more sneaky fun learning into your days? How do you keep family game night FUN for all participants? What challenges do you have and how donyou overcome them? What are your favorite games? Why am I asking so many questions? 

    Water beads: fun experiments, unexpected results

    Days like today is the reason I don’t plan more than 1 week ahead in our homeschool. 

    I prepared a really fun inertia unit. Water beads (“They’re called hydrophilic polymers, Mom,” my 4 year old scientist corrected me) were meant to keep the kids busy while  I set up the experiments and gathered my thoughts.  Guess what we did all day? Hint: not inertia experiments. 

    1. We hydrated/dehydrated the polymers

    2. “What will happen if we freeze the beads?” We wondered.

    Hypothesis 1: as beads freeze, water will expand and shred the polymers.

    Hypothesis 2: nothing. Nothing will happen, polymer beads will keep their shape.

    The results surprised us! While both hypotheses were right, some beads reacted in unexpected way. They…jumped out of their ice suits and returned to their original size, leaving a bead of ice behind! 

    3. A handful of beads + 1 balloon = great stress ball! It helped us with the school work for the rest of the day. 

    4. Shaving cream and hydrophilic polymer mix created a fun sensory bin. The entire family enjoyed it!

    5. I tried to show my kids a magic trick. Apparently there is no such things as magic, only illusion and science, so I was forced to reveal my secrets: 


    No, I did not make the beads disappear, clear polymer beads have the same index of refraction (1.333) as water, so the light treats water and the clear polymer as the same substance. Not magic. Bummer.

    7. Well, when we froze water beads, they did something weird…any guesses what we did next? 

    I vividly remember my mom asking me if I knew how to tell whether the frying pan is hot enough too cook. “You touch it?” I guessed. Dude, no. Don’t.  You add a drop of water to a hot frying pan. The droplet will seemingly dance over the surface (the side that comes to a contract with hot pan vaporizes so quickly that they float around on a cushion of vapor.) Without knowing it, she introduced me to Leidenfrost effect.

    How does it relate to the superabsorbent polymers and the video below?

    This week we pan fried hydrophilic polymer beads. Turn up the sound!!!!

    Mommy, WHY ARE THEY SCREAMING?  

    Because the released vapor interacts with the squishy sphere to create the bouncing and the high pitch sound.

    The spheres act like engines, harvesting surface energy. All of the engine’s part are included in 1 squishy sphere! 

    Whoa!

     Soft engine concept can be used in robotics. 

    More information: Scott R. Waitukaitus, Antal Zuiderwijk, Anton Souslov, Corentin Coulais, Martin van Hecke, Coupling the Leidenfrost Effect and Elastic Deformations to Power Sustained Bouncing, Nature Physics <——I need dis book. Now!

    Inertia can wait  another day. Or two. Today we will play with superabsorbent polymers and make messes!

    School For Peculiar Parents: my favorite podcasts

    Век живи – век учись. Literal translation from Russian is “live for a century, learn for a century.”  The focus of this proverb is on the importance of learning as long as you alive.

    On one hand, having instant and unlimited access to the learning tools and materials is a dream come true. I love reading books, listening to audio books, take free online courses from world renowned universities, stream podcasts and learn from the blogs. Being stay at home mom gives me a unique opportunity to pursue wide variety of interests and subjects. My Little Poppies and The Homeschool Sisters creators cleverly call it poolside professional development.  Love it!

    On the other hand, unlimited amount of information can be confusing and hard to sift through. Where do I start? What should I read?  Is this podcast worth my time?

    These are my favorite podcasts. They are filled with helpful tips, ideas, thought provoking conversations and  help me learn and connect with other homeschooling families. I hope this list will be helpful and encouraging to you.

    1. Levar Burton Reads Lose yourself in a great story with LeVar Burton Reads. In each episode, host LeVar Burton hand-picks a different piece of short fiction, and reads it to you.

    2. Scholé Sisters is the podcast for the classical homeschooling mama who seeks to learn and grow while she’s helping her children learn and grow. Scholé Sisters is a casual conversation about topics that matter to those of us in the trenches of classical homeschooling who yearn for something more than just checking boxes and getting it all done. In each episode, we cover our Scholé RDA {places to go for inspiration and growth}, a topical discussion relying on principles we find in books by people like David Hicks, James Taylor, and Charlotte Mason, and a Principles Are Practical nitty gritty homeschooling question. Come and join the Sisterhood of the Podcast!

    3. Read Aloud Revival It’s hard to connect with our kids in today’s busy, noisy world, but reading aloud gives us a chance to be fully present. We equip and inspire you to make meaningful and lasting connections with your kids through stories.

    4. The Brave Writer Podcast is a big juicy conversation about how to bring learning to life for your kids! Julie Bogart and guests talk about how parents and children are partners in the learning adventure, especially when approaching the daunting task of writing. Brave Writer appeals to homeschoolers, educators, and parents who want more out of “school” than merely passing tests.

    5. Exploring Unschooling Pam Laricchia shares interviews, information, and inspiration about unschooling and living joyfully with your family.

    6. The Homeschool Sisters Podcast Cait and Kara are two moms doing this homeschooling thing right beside you. They might not have it all figured out, but one thing we know for sure is that homeschooling is a lot easier when you have a sister by your side.

    7. Joyful Courage It takes a village to parent and the Joyful Courage Parenting Podcast creates that village. Be inspired, entertained and educated by a variety of parent educators and voices being interviewed each month on the show. We are all in this together folks!!

    8. Studentcentricity A guide to teaching strategies that put students at the center or the process.

    9. Crazy real real crazy podcast with Hmmmmschooling mom.

    10. Podrunner Nonstop, one-hour, high-energy workout music mixes to help you groove while you move. Podrunner’s fixed-speed and interval exercise mixes are perfect for power walking, jogging, running, spinning, elliptical, aerobics, and many other tempo-based forms of exercise. An iTunes award-winner six years in a row!

    What are your favorite podcasts and resources? Please, share in the comments. I always look for new ways to learn!

    Check out this post with podcast  recommendations for kids.

    Teaching backwards: why we don’t focus on the basics.

    While researching different curriculum options for our homeschool, I was deliberating between two alternatives: stick with the basics or follow our interests .

    “Back to basics!” “Everything is built on the basics!” These cliche messages were repeated often enough throughout my life, they became thoroughly ingrained in my mind.  In traditional education reading, writing and arithmetic are considered the basics. They are the bare minimum needed to function in today’s society. This is where we decided to start.

    January, 5th 2017 @ 8:00 am. Sharp pencils, unmarked workbooks, shiny new maps; sensory box, pompoms and measuring spoons for the toddler. I got this!

    January, 5th 2017 @8:05 am. Kindergartner is working hard tracing letters; toddler is happily digging in the sensory box; mommy is drinking still warm coffee while simultaneously patting herself on the back. I got this.

    January, 5th 2017 @8:12 am. Bright morning light shining through the window bounces off the reflector’s surface  (why is it even on the table?) and captures 110% of my 4 year old’s attention.  It leads to the discussion of light properties, electromagnetism and time travel (Einstein’s theory of relativity, not wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey…stuff.) Toddler is happily emptying the contents if his sensory box onto the floor. I don’t got this.

    And just like that,  12 minutes into our homeschooling journey,  we had to change our entire approach to home education .

    It has been nine months since we shifted the main focus from basics to interest led learning. When asked about out homeschooling style, I often compare it to falling down the rabbit hole: we find a fascinating subject and explore it, we often go off in a tangent and take unexpected turns. Why not, who doesn’t like plot twists?


    Math

    What was  included in box curriculum

    Math-U-See 

    Math is universal! It is beautiful.  It is fun.  It grows from common sense. Everybody loves math! Right?

    Right?

    What do you mean “No?!?!?” Don’t break my heart! But why?

    In traditional education, the teacher introduces numbers to the students.  He then shows them how to add, subtract, multiply, divide. Each new concept is followed by dozens of repetitive problems and a test.  Drills. Memorization. Confusion. Boredom.

    What we do instead 

    Beast Academy 2A

    Life of Fred

    Khan academy

    Games

    Basic principles of math are simple. Some calculations may be tedious, but math makes sense.

    Preschoolers easily grasp ideas behind fractions,  number lines, geometry and algebra elements. I see 3, 4 and 5 year olds exploring difficult concepts and taking on the challenges. Silly kids, they weren’t told yet that they hate math!

    Kids love the challenge of games. Why not use this attribute and incorporate games into learning? Instead of using endless worksheets and tests, give them problems to solve.

    According to Piaget’s theory, “children acquire mathematical knowledge…by constructing them from the inside, in interaction with the environment,” in other words, given the chance to explore and experiment, they will use their knowledge to  invent new ways to find solutions, explore patterns and make connections.  Let’s make math fun!

    Writing

    What was included in the box curriculum 

    Spelling You See

    What we do instead 

    Dictations, copy work, reversed dictations, poetry, word games, narration, using writing in every day lives.

    Most children’s fingers aren’t developed enough to hold a pencil and write until the age of five, but most parents would agree that kids have PLENTY to say before. I tried to make a video of my son telling me a story; about twenty minutes into the most imaginative tale, my phone’s battery died. He kept talking for another 20 minutes. Shocker!

    Young minds are capable of creating amazing worlds, but lack of transcription skills can lead to frustration,  and that in turn can lead to a writer’s block.

    Brave Writer program incorporates copy work, dictations, reading aloud, storytelling, art appreciation, nature study, poetry tea time, word play, music exploration, movie review and discussions, recitation and narration. It is perfect for a reluctant writer. I’ve been told by my five year old that he doesn’t need to learn how to write: we could just use voice-to-text technology or hire a scribe to do the writing. Clever, kid! You want a scribe? You got it!

    I love writing down his stories, and he gets reassurance that what he has to say is valuable and worth being written down. Sometimes I have to resist the temptation to correct the grammar and truly LISTEN to the content. Talking is brave, being interrupted and corrected all the time is discouraging. Even as an adult, when somebody unkindly points out my mistakes, I shut down and stop talking. Most of us are tactful enough with the adult, to either ignore the mistakes or point them out kindly, in private. Why does that tact disappear with our children?

    Foreign language

    What was included in the box curriculum

    Elementary curriculum box did not have an option to add foreign language.

    In his book How Children Learn, John Holt describes what would happen if we tried to teach children to speak. “First, some committee of experts would analyze speech and break it into a number of separate “speech skills.” We would probably say that, since speech is made up of sounds, a child must be taught to make all the sounds of his language before he can be taught to speak the language itself…Perhaps, in order not to “confuse” the child…we would not let the child hear much ordinary speech, but would only expose him to the sounds we were trying to teach.”

    I spent 10 years learning French in a classroom setting from amazing teachers: grammar worksheets, memorizing vocabulary words and dialogues, drills. I was so excited when a foreign exchange student from France visited our college class. Two hours with that student in class was eye opening: while we could understand each other,  a lot was lost in translation.  The conversation didn’t flow.  In that moment I realized how far I was from speaking French fluently. What was missing?

    What we try to do instead
    In contrast, I learned English backwards simply by being in a language rich environment. Surrounded by books, radio, TV with subtitles, newspapers, magazines, and native speakers. I was forced to figure out how to communicate with the world around me.

    In our homeschool we use songs, stories and read aloud in foreign language. We discuss similarities and differences between our native language and the one we are studying.

    Free play

    It’s our favorite subject! It’s THE most important subject! Learning that happens during unstructured unscripted free play is invaluable. I love watching my kids’ spontaneous improvisations: odds and ends from my husband’s wood shop, random treasures they find in their toy boxes and kitchen cabinets becomes see-saws, ramps, balance beams, bridges, catapults, slides. In less than an hour they explore math, physics, engineering, team building, physical education, effective communication, decision making, risk taking, self-regulation and so much more.

    Preschoolers in our co-op also enjoy engineering challenges and loose parts play.  With a handful of open ended prompts, they learn vital skills. Cooperative games and messy sensory play let them explore the world through experiences using  their senses such as, taste, touch, smell, sight and sound whilst having fun. Their creativity is mind blowing and we learn so much from them!

    It is very easy to underestimate the intellectual capacity of children, but they have the ability to learn complicated concepts even if they’re still struggling with the basics. In the words of the famous Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Students (that includes grown ups too!) in the School For Peculiar Children will continue with interest led learning and continue to enjoy our crazy and fun adventure.

    *Yes, I’m watching Magic School Bus Rides Again as I work on this post. I mean the kids, the kids are watching it!*

    31 days of Halloween crafts and books

    This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here.

    OCTOBER IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!  Cool weather, sweaters, pumpkin patches, nature walks, apple cider, pumpkins, treats, hay rides, corn maze, trick-or-treating, beautiful colors…my favorite season!
    Pairing books with simple activities is our favorite way to start a day and explore new subjects. I am excited to share what we have planned for the next few weeks!

    1. “>Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Where is he heading? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows. With illustrations made from actual fall leaves and die-cut pages on every spread that reveal gorgeous landscape vistas, here is a playful, whimsical, and evocative book that celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children. 

    Activity ideas: gather leaves outside and use them to recreate leaf man from the story, or improvise and create your own leaf art, or try coloring on the leaves instead of the paper. 

    2. There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“>There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!by Morteza E. Sohi.  Look What I Did with a Leaf! will show young art and craft lovers how to use nature’s bounty to create fanciful animals and natural scenes. Readers will develop their artistic eye and soon learn to see the artistic possibilities that surround them. Morteza E. Sohi gives careful directions on how to choose leaves for shape and color, how to arrange them in an animal form, and how to preserve the finished work of art. A field guide helps young leaf artists learn more about the tools of their craft.

    Activity: gather beautiful leaves while hiking,  playing in the park or exploring the backyard and follow Mortexa E. Sohi’s directions on how to create leaf art. Our family enjoyed making suncatchers and window collage from the leaves. 

    3. We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt“> by Steve Metzger. Join three friends on a fun leaf-finding adventure! This bouncy new version of the popular song begs to be read out loud.  There are lots of beautiful fall leaves to find! Three friends have a big adventure hiking over a mountain and through a forest to collect leaves of all kinds and colors.

    Activity: What will they do with all their leaves at the end of the story? Let your imagination and creativity flow freely! We pretended that our leaves were snowflakes and had snowball fight in the park!

    Leaf Chromatography

    4. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!“> by Lucile Colandro. This spooky twist on the wildly popular “There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” is perfect for fun Halloween reading! What won’t this old lady swallow? This time around, a bat, an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, some bones, and a wizard are all on the menu! 

    Activity: bat mobile made with a stick, fishing line and bat cutouts. We made this craft 2 years ago and we look forward to displaying it every year! 

    5. Bats at the Library (A Bat Book)“> by Brian Lies. Join the free-for-all fun at the public library with these book-loving bats! Shape shadows on walls, frolic in the water fountain, and roam the book-filled halls until it’s time for everyone, young and old, to settle down into the enchantment of story time. Brian Lies’ joyful critters and their nocturnal celebration cast library visits in a new light. 

    Activity: turn boring constriction paper into cute bat bookmarks! Twist: make a few extra bookmarks as  presents for friends, family, neighbors or hide some in the library books to brighten somebody’s day. 

    6. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich“> by Adam Rex. Being a monster isn’t all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein’s cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it’s best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier? 

    Activity: Pair the nineteen hilarious poems with some hot cocoa, pumpkin cookies or sandwiches for a scary good poetry tea party.

    7. The Monsters’ Monster“> by Patrick McDonnellOnce upon a time, there were three little rascals who thought they were the BIGGEST, BADDEST monsters around. Then along came an even BIGGER monster who changed their minds. And all it took was two little words.

    Activity: make spooky fun Frankenstein from green balloon

    • draw Frankie’s face on it with permanent marker;
    • use a funnel to add 2 tablespoons of baking soda  inside the balloon;
    • pour half a cup of vinegar inside empty plastic bottle;
    • carefully place the balloon on top of plastic bottle;
    • lift up the balloon. Baking soda will drop into the bottle with vinegar triggering a chemical reaction that will inflate the balloon.

      8. Five Little Ghosts“> by Julia Woolf. Five little ghosts at the end of the day are on the lookout for somewhere to play. Follow the adventures of five little ghosts in this comical rhyming caper! 

      Activity: make five little teabag ghosts! Adult help required for this activity. 

      Step 1

      Step 2.

      Step 3. 

      Step 4. 

      9.  Ghosts in the House!“>  by Kazuno Kohana. At the edge of town lives a clever girl with a spooky problem: Her house is haunted! Luckily, she happens to be a witch and knows a little something about taking care of ghosts. She catches them, puts them in the washing machine, airs them out to dry, and gives them new lives as sofa covers, table cloths, and, of course, bed sheets to cozy up under. Fresh and charming illustrations in dynamic orange, black and white bring this resourceful heroine and these spooky ghosts to life. 

      Activity: ghost rockets with clear cup, corn starch and alka seltzer. 

      10.  There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“> by Emmanuelle Eeckhout.  When we moved to our new neighborhood, I had to promise my mother that I would not go near the strange old house on the corner. 

      People say it s haunted, she whispered. 

      Haunted? There is no such thing as ghosts! 

      But if there is…I am going to catch one! 

      Activity: cornstarch, water and goodly eyes! Oobleck for messy sensory fun!

      11. Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

      Activity: following books storyline, we carved a pumpkin and will observe the decomposition process. I can’t wait to see what happens! Keep the seeds!

      12. Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino With bouncy, rhyming text in verse from the classic nursery rhyme and bold, dynamic illustrations from acclaimed author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, Five Little Pumpkins is a must-have Halloween board book!

      Roll along with the pumpkins and their spooky friends as they get into some spirited Halloween fun.

      Activity: using cloth pins and Popsicle sticks, build a gate for five little pumpkins to sit!

      13. How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara “How many seeds are in a pumpkin?” Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she’s talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn’t have a guess.

      Activity: This adorable picture book for curious kids explores skip counting and estimation in a fun pumpkin-themed experiment. Remember the pumpkin from Pumpkin Jack ? Can you guess how many seeds were inside that pumpkin? Count, skip count, make patterns and designs with the seeds!


      14. Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman The witch has grown the biggest pumpkin ever, and now she wants to make herself a pumpkin pie for Halloween. But the pumpkin is so big she can’t get it off the vine.
      It’s so big the ghost can’t move it, either. Neither can the vampire, nor the mummy. It looks as if there’ll be no pumpkin pie for Halloween, until along comes the bat with an idea to save the day.
      How can the tiny bat succeed where bigger and strong spooky creatures have failed? You’ll be surprised!

      Activity: use tape, rulers, strings, pieces of fabric and hands to measure the pumpkin you used for Pumpkin Jack activity. Compare the measurements to a soccer ball or a watermelon.

      Or make this fun geo board pumpkin:

      15. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum Pumpkins! Who can resist the sight of big, round, orange pumpkins ripening in a field? Children piling off school buses to pick one out. Carving out funny faces, smiles, or scary frowns to illuminate Halloween doorsteps. Making room for that last piece of pumpkin pie after a delicious Thanksgiving feast. In this book, pumpkins aren’t just a fruit, they’re a symbol, a scent, a flavor of the entire season. Celebrate the flavor of fall on every page of this beautifully photographed picture book.

      Activity: let’s make pumpkin pie, roll, muffins or waffles!

      16. Aaaarrgghh! Spider by Lydia Monks Don’t let this lonely spider frighten you! She just wants to be a family pet—and she thinks she would make a better pet than the typical dog or cat. But every time this clever spider tries to impress her chosen family, she scares them instead, until the day she unwittingly enchants them. Aaaarrgghh! Spider! spins a lively tale about one creature’s efforts to find her place.

      Activity: make spider handprint art! If you prefer not to get messy, trace little hands on the black paper and use the cutouts to make a silly spider.

      17. Be Nice To Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham When Billy left his pet spider, Helen, at the Zoo, the animals suddenly became happy and contented. The lions snoozed all day long, the elephants enjoyed their baths, and the zebras ate their hay in peace — all because Helen was spinning webs and catching flies.

      But one day Helen’s webs were swept away. The Keeper had the cages cleaned for the Mayor’s inspection tour. Soon the flies were back again and the animals were miserable once more. But not for long…

      Activity: make your own spider web! We used painter’s tape to make a web design on the floor. Kids pretended to be flies and hopped around the web.

      18. Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler Skeletons are a little less scary when they have the hiccups. This particular skeleton can’t seem to shake them–not in the shower (nice fuzzy bat slippers!), not while brushing his teeth (woops! there goes the bottom jaw!), not while polishing his bones, carving a pumpkin, raking leaves, or even when playing baseball with his friend Ghost. Ghost, instead of Boo-ing! away his buddy’s hiccups right away as we might expect, advises Skeleton to hold his breath and eat some sugar and drink water upside down. When he finally does Boo! it still doesn’t work. But when Ghost finds a mirror and holds it up to Skeleton’s face, he sees his reflection and screams in fright! The hiccups jump away, hic, hic, hic. While it’s novel to see a skeleton eating sugar, drinking water, showering, etc., it may be tricky to find the right audience for this unusual picture book that’s more about hiccups than Halloween.

      Activity: We used our October friend, Mister Skeleton (kids named him) for anatomy unit. After discussion of a skeletal system, we built playdough towers with and without “bone” (noodle) and compared which tower was taller and sturdier.

      19. Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner With a lively rhyming text and vibrant paper collage illustrations, author-artist Bob Barner shakes the dust off the dinosaur bones found in museums and reminds us that they once belonged to living, breathing creatures. Filled with fun dinosaur facts and an informational “Dinometer,”

      Activities: make dinosaur “fossils!” Playdough and plastic dinosaurs will keep the kids roaring with delight.

      20. Shake Dem Halloween Bones by Mike Reed It’s Halloween night. The city is quiet. The city is still. But as the lights go down, the music comes up – and the guests start to arrive at the hip-hop Halloween ball! And oh, what a party it is. Told in hip-hop rhyming text, L’il Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Tom Thumb, and all of their fairy-tale friends come together for a rapping, stomping, shaking Halloween romp.

      Activity: dance party? Why not!!!

      21. Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex It’s time for bed, but one little goon still isn’t ready for sleep! With lively rhymes and cheeky art that’ll get readers howling, this hilarious take on the beloved classic will have a whole new audience saying, “Goodnight monsters everywhere!”

      22. Little Blue Truck’s Halloween by Alice Schertle Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too? With the delightful rhymes and signature illustration style that made Little Blue Truck a household name, Blue’s new adventure is full of festive costumes, fall colors, and plenty of Halloween fun!

      Activity: lets build a Little Blue Truck out of LEGO, playdough, magna tiles, Popsicle sticks or cardboard boxes. Beep beep!

      23. Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney With short and simple rhyming text, the Llama Llama board books introduce Llama Llama to babies and toddlers before they’re ready for longer full-length stories. And their small size and durable pages are perfect for little hands.

      In Llama Llama Trick or Treat, little llama finds the perfect costume, picks out a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern, and then goes trick-or-treating with Mama and his friends!

      Activity: tin can bowling!! Doesn’t it sound fun? if you prefer a quieter activity, toulet paper can be used too.

      24. The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine Welcome to the Little Shop of Monsters! Do you want a SNEEZER? A TICKLER? Or one of the CREEPIEST monsters of all? Come on in and choose your favorite, if you dare (before one of them chooses YOU!).

      Activity: create  your own silly monster! We used pine cones, leaves, acorns and pebbles. These sweet monsters love performing in puppet show or a concert.

      25. Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
      He eats them on the way to school.
      He eats them going to Little League.
      He eats them walking home.
      Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

      Activity: Slime time for a creepy squishy fun messy play.

      26. Bone Soup by Cambria Evans Known across the land for his infamous appetite, Finnigin is never seen without his eating stool, his eating spoon, and his gigantic eating mouth.
      When Finnigin finds himself in a new town on Halloween, he hopes to join a great feast with the creatures who live there. But not a body or soul will share any of their food with the ever-famished Finnigin. So what’s a hungry skeleton to do? Armed only with his wits and a special ingredient, will Finnigin be able to stir up a cauldron’s worth of Halloween magic?

      Activity: time to go outside and make a soup! Twigs and sticks, leaves and pine needles, sand and dirt, water and mud: whatever you can find outside!

      27. Scholastic Reader Level 2: Inside a House That is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli With illustrations that make the scariest creature look extremely funny and romping repetitive text, readers will never expect what happens when this haunted house has a trick-or-treater knock on its door. Ghosts, spiders, owls, skeletons and monsters take turns accidentally scaring each other in this silly, slapstick story.

      Activity: make a pumpkin catapult!

      28. Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he draws the shades, puts on his footy pajamas, and climbs into bed.

      But do you think the barnyard animals have any respect for a man in footy pajamas? No, they do not. For them, the Halloween party has just begun. And we all know these critters far prefer tricks over treats.

      There are big surprises in store for Farmer Brown!

      Activity: ghost rockets? Tea bag ghosts? What fun surprise will you pick?

      29. The Berenstain Bears’ Harvest Festival by Mike Berenstain Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and the folks of Bear Country are looking forward to everything the season brings. So when the Chapel in the Woods holds its first ever Harvest Festival, people gather at Farmer Ben’s for a wonderful time of family, friends, fun, and praising God for his gifts.

      Activity: learn about Harvest Festival in different cultures.

      30. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Kara McMahon Spooky tricks and hilarious treats abound in this retelling of the beloved Halloween special that comes with holographic foil and embossing on the cover!

      Activity: make spooky dry ice bubbles in the pumpkin.

      31. The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition by Tim Burton n this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington– a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of “the scaring, the terror, the fright….tired of being something that goes bump in the night”. And so, in an effort to bring to joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.

      Activity: Make an articulated mechanical hand for Jack…you know, just in case!

      ​STEAM from trash! DIY Hovercraft.

      Most of the experiments performed at the School For Peculiar Children are either free or very low cost. We try to use recyclable materials, odds and ends from my husband’s wood shop, clever tricks and substitutions. We are incorporating things most of us already have in our homes.   This air cushion vehicle (ACV) demonstration is no exception. Let’s  explore the science behind ACV, also known as a hovercraft. 

      Hovercraft glides over the flat surface on a cushion of air.  Because of the thin layer of air between the surface and the hovercraft, it doesn’t matter whether it is over (flat) solid ground or water: it is amphibious. 

       ^This will never be not funny (double negative, I know. It’s here for comedic effect.) Pat Venditte is ambidextrous, not amphibious.  Hovercraft is amphibious: suited for both land and water. 

      For this experiment you will need:

      – CD or a paper plate 

      – pop-up bottle top

      – baloon

      – glue

      We used a mystery CD (paper or plastic plate can be used instead), sports drink pop-up top,  hot glue (epoxy or super glue work just as good) and a baloon bought for a birthday 3 years ago. 

      Step 1. Glue the pop-up bottle top to the CD (if you’re using a paper plate, cut a 1″ diameter hole in the middle of the plate.)

      Step 2. Make sure that the pop-up top is in closed position. Blow up a balloon and place it over the closed pop-up top. 

      Step 3. Open the pop-up valve. The air from the balloon will rush down throught the hole in the CD and create a cushion of air. 

      Play around with the size of the balloon (will it go faster or slower if we increase the size of the baloon?), surfaces (wood floor? Carpet? Countertop? Does it make difference?)

      Our entire family enjoyed this demonstration and I’m contemplating building a bigger hovercraft. Should we do it?

      School day

      Our days rarely go as planned, but we try to follow a blueprint. Sort of. 

      Every day routine includes read alouds, board games, more books, 1 topic we’re obsessed with at the moment (that usually spirals into deep rabbit holes,) at least 1 writing activity and taking care of the house.

      Once a week we try to do one community service or hospitality project, one or two field trips and one outdoor excursion. 

      Popular morning baskets aren’t a good fit in our family: we only have a few hours before overexcitabilities kick in and attention span is gone. Instead, we read a few books or magazines during breakfast.

      1. Today  Breakfast and Books (modeled after My Little Poppies’ Coffee and Books) turned into Books in Bed. We snuggled up together in little guy’s room and read whatever kids wanted. 

      2. September is the most popular birth month in America, and it’s definitely true for our family. Big kid made birthday cards for everyone, he practiced handwriting, spelling, vocabulary ,  tracing and drawing. 

      3. When your kid is as literal as Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy,) math is fun. 

      Caffeine didn’t kick in yet, and this is the best my scrambled brain could come up with on the spot. “Yuri has 2 red books. His friend has 4 blue books. How many books do the boys have?”

      The answer:

      We are juggling Math-U-See, Life of Fred and Khan academy math and anxiously checking the mailbox for brand new Beast Academy 2A. Squeeee!

      4. After years of refusing to learn Russian, my kids are finally warming up to it. First lesson  went better than expected!

      We counted letters in Russian and English alphabets, found letters that look and sound the same, read Репка (The Turnip) and learned a new song, Мишка Косолапый (Clumsy Bear.)

      5. “I’m so tired, I need to relax a little with Rush Hour!”  And Jenga, and Shape by Shape, and…a screwdriver? 

      Schoolwork is done! And now it js our favorite time, laundry time! Cleaning time! Cooking time!
      I would love to hear what your typical homeschooling day looks like! 

      Freeze your water instantly in 10 easy steps

      1. Place 3728 water bottles in the freezer (seals broken, label removed for better visual effect) for 2-2.5 hours in horizontal position.

      2. Try an experiment in exactly 2 hours. Waste 50% of your water bottles.

      3. Wait few more minutes. Drop 50% of remaining bottles in the floor triggering crystallization process before anybody has a chance to see the experiment.

      4. Treat remaining bottles as if they are the most unstable element known to humanity and carefully pour super chilled water over some ice cubes in the bowl.

      5. Ooooh and aaaaaah

      6. Pix or it didn’t happen. Remember that you forgot to record a video.

      7. Use the remaining bottle of liquid gold to record the video. Make sure that your toddler is demanding a popsicle and your dog if barking at his own shadow.

      8. Attempt to be clever and use this ringtone as a background.

      9. Throw in 4827 more bottles in the freezer.

      10. Forget that water bottles are in the freezer. I’ve blocks inside the plastic bottles will be useful during your next hiking of camping trip.