Category Archives: Frugal School

Build And Grow Airplanes

On Saturday, we attended the Build and Grow workshop at Lowes.   These are wooden craft workshops for children.  They are excellent introductions for children to learn about following blueprints, laying out materials, following steps in order, simple wood working, and skills such as using a hammer and nails.

In todays workshop, the children built wooden airplanes called Bi-planes.  We have really been looking forward to this workshop to tie into the Airplane Unit Study the children have been working on through out the school year.  You can read more about it here , here , and here.

Lowes provides the building kit for free, and lends each child a hammer. The building kit contains everything you need to make your project.  Lowes offers a workshop every other Saturday, two Saturdays a month.  Each workshop has a different project for the children to build.  You can register on-line for the workshops or you can register at the workshop.  It is a first come first serve basis and those who registered on-line have their spot reserved as long as they are not late for the class.

So far, this was our 4th workshop to attend.  We have also attended the workshop building a ping pong pin ball game, a basket ball game, and a window bird feeder.  Stories and pictures of those workshops coming soon.

It takes about 30 minutes or so to build the project.  After building your project, you return the hammer, and you are provided with a certificate and a merrit badge from the Build and Grow workshop.  If you want to continue the project at home, you can, and we plan to paint the things the children have made in these workshops soon.  We also like to tie the project to things we are learning at home too.

The older two children were able to work independantly, but the younger children definately needed assistance as you are working with hammer and nails, following directions in order, and reading.

After the children built their planes, they had two sheets of stickers to decorate the plane with.  This allowed for a lot of creativity, and no two planes in our family ended up the same.


We have also run into some other homeschool families we know.  Here are some pictures of homeschool friends who also regularly attend these wonderful free workshops for kids.

Putting on the finishing touch.

Our family has definately enjoyed the time we have spent at the Build and Grow workshops at Lowes.

The Lowes Build and Grow workshops are a good way for families to spend some quality time together.  I encourage all families to give this a try.  You just might find you enjoy it too.

Have you been to the Build and Grow workshop?  Did you enjoy the experience?  Does your community offer other free learning workshops for kids?  Leave us a comment below.  Thanks.

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Kids Get Crafty
No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123

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Spelling With Beads

                              Beads Are A Literacy Tool

Whats In The Workbox?  Beads

Beads are a really neat medium for arts and crafts.  You can do so many things with them.  They are also really useful for teaching math, colors, sorting, and patterning concepts.   They can also help strengthen a child’s eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, and more.  But did you know they could also be used for literacy?

My ten year old son, does not like to write.  He loves to talk.  He will dictate a story for you to write.  He loves to draw.  He loves word puzzles, word search and crossword puzzles.  He loves to read and gets in plenty of reading time.  He loves math, and is a whiz at it.  His favorite subject is science and engineering.  But he doesn’t want to write sentences or work on spelling words. 

His test scores are high in every category, except when it comes to spelling.  I know this is normal for a boy of his age, and I choose not to worry about it.

I was brainstorming how I could incorporate more fun ways for him to work with letters. He loves legos and working with his hands.   So rather than writing worksheets, spelling tests, or journaling which he just doesn’t seem ready for, I was trying to think of other ways to build his word skills, including typing on the computer, magnetic letters, letter puzzles, letter tiles, and such. 

When we were at the local craft store, I found some really nice alphabet beads.  I bought a package of colored alphabet beads for $4.   I figured I would get him involved making something with letter beads.  Even if he didn’t want to, at least I could use them with the younger kids.

I wasn’t sure how my son would take to this activity, but he surprised me and was very interested.  At first I told him I needed his help sorting them and spelling a word for the younger kids so they can get used to how it is spelled. 

( I know, I should be re-named the sneaky mother, as I am always finding ways to get him to participate even if it is a subject he hates.  You should see what I sneak into his meat loaf!  But it works with him and with his dad and siblings too.  His personality is geared so that if I say I could really use his help, he will help even if it is a task he doesn’t like.  His younger siblings?  Forget it.  You could beg and plead and if they don’t want to, they won’t!  It takes lots of different “sneaky” strategies to make this house of seven flow.)

We are doing activities this month with the color “green” and I asked him to find the letters to spell “green” for me.  As I mentioned, these letters were going to be used later in a letter activity with the younger kids.

He organized the whole container of beads by color, and found all the letters for the word “green”.  He attempted the words of the other colors, but there was not enough letters to spell the colors.  I was proud of him, as I didn’t ask him to go to that step.  So, now I knew this was a manipulative that was peaking his interest.

After sorting out the colors and the word “green”, we put the other beads away.  I gave him some cord and pony beads, and clear beads and he strung a necklace.  He counted how many pony beads he wanted on each side. Then how many clear beads to place next to each letter bead and he came up with a nice pattern.

As he worked, he changed his mind a few times and unstrung the beads.  Then he started over with counting and spacing them again.

He was really proud of the outcome.  He especially likes it if he thinks it was all his idea. Shhhhhh.  We won’t tell him he was set up…

He remade this again, taking it all apart and adding in black pony beads.  You can see that version in the middle of the table below.

His brothers also wanted to work with the beads and spelling words, so we brought out a package of black and white alphabet beads also purchased from the same store for around $4.

This turned out to be a very good activity for boys.  I knew girls enjoy making necklaces, but I never thought my boys would enjoy it and want to wear them.  This is really a great activity for boys and girls.  I think using colors that appeal more to boys, and using alphabet letters, made it seam like a guy thing.  I am sure if we were using pink, purple, and delicate colors and flowers, my boys would not have been very interested.

In the picture below, the six year old is making a necklace with a message for his dad.  We talked about making a pattern.  He doesn’t yet have the insight to make the pattern first in his mind.  He needs to lay out the parts and then follow the steps.  Where the ten year old is able to see the pattern in his head and work from there.


The eight year old could not quite get the concept that if he picked up the necklace, before tying an end closed, his beads were going to slide off.  I bet we picked up his beads at least a dozen times.

For some reason, he wanted to show me the necklace he made in a vertical position.  Yep, you guessed it.  Beads went everywhere over and over.  He just wanted to hold it this way, but would forget to hold on to the bottom, at all times.  Once he let go, we had beads all over the room.  (I think he might have enjoyed this.)

When the ten year old had a huge array of alphabet letters to work with, his language skills really started to show.   He made up all sorts of words, quickly and easily.  Then he used two pipe cleaners, and put on the words “Back Jack”.  Then he started chuckling and adding more beads and presented me with his funny necklace “Back Jack This Means You”.  He laughed and laughed.  I am not sure why it was so funny.

He continued making more words with the letters.  I it was really obvious this was working as a learning tool for him.

Later that night, he wore his creation to the 4 H meeting.  (To my horror. I hope
d no one would see it as disrespectful, because that wasn’t his intention, he just thought it was funny.)   But he was so proud of his creation, I just couldn’t say no when he asked if he could wear it to the meeting.

Making beaded necklaces was a great activity, because various skill levels can participate and still have fun.

All of the boys had a lot of fun.  We will definitely make this a regular activity in our workboxes.  I would like to create spelling worksheets or various printables to go along with this. 

I will keep you posted.

How do you incorporate words with your reluctant speller? 
Leave a comment.  Thank you!

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Free Audio Bible

Have you seen or heard about this?


You can click on the play button below, and listen to a chapter from the bible.  Select what book and chapter and language you would like to hear. 

You can download a free copy of the entire audio bible to your computer to listen anytime you want.  You can also choose to download the old testament or new testament too.

They have over 500 versions in different languages available.

They have both dramatized versions (like listening to events actually happening with all the background and voices etc.) or non dramatized versions (like listening to a person reading out loud).

Why is this available, you might ask?

This is a ministry outreach to share the gospel so that all may hear and know who God is.   They work at translating the bible into languages all over the world and offer it for free.  There is a place on their website where you can make donations to help with this ministry if you want to give and help them with their goals.

Learn more about this wonderful ministry at

Just a few fun learning ideas:

Listen during dinner.

Listen and gain practice in a foreign language.
    Are you studying Spanish or French or any other language?  Give this a try to enhance your learning.
    If English is not your first language, this would be a great help to learn to speak better English too.

Listen to your daily bible study.

Listen while you cook or clean.

Listen while you do art work, scrap book, or crafts.

Listen to a short passage, then have the kids write out, or talk about what they heard.  Great for dictation practice and speaking practice too.

Listen as a family and then talk about what you have heard.

They also have an English dramatized version just for kids!

My family is definitely appreciating this ministry outreach! 

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P Is For Pasta

                                    P Is For Pasta

We have been learning about the letter “P” for our Letter Of The Week.  You can read a summary of our Letter Of The Week “P” here and I will add more links as I get them published.  Be sure to check the side bar for more stories and helpful how to’s for the Letter Of The Week.

Making colored pasta is very easy and a frugal craft to do with your kids.  Pictured below is about $0.20 worth of pasta in the containers, and we will have left overs to use again.  It can be used later in lots of different ways besides this letter art project today.  It can also be used in a bin to hide learning objects in, to fill containers to make musical instruments, to use it as a medium to make collages or other art projects, to string and make jewelry or sew it onto a card or use a funny button on a felt outfit or puppet.  You can also make it a fun science project when you include the children and let them experiment with various colors and learn about staining objects.  See our colored rice project here for ideas on using pasta in place of rice for a science project and lots of other ideas.

To see the directions for making colored pasta, read here.   We made ours pink for the letter “P”.

Activity Tray:

On a tray, I placed a piece of white paper with the letter “P”.    I traced a lid for the circle and a book edge for the line of the letter P.  Then I free handed the inner circle.  I traced it in pencil first and then with a pink crayon over the pencil line (if you are setting out this activity for older children, you can let them make the letter ‘P” themselves too).   I also set out some glue, a Q tip, and pink pasta on the tray.

Playing with colored pasta is a really fun sensory experience.  My 3 year old loves to feel it flow and move between her fingers as she scoops up a handful and then lets it slowly fall back into the pile.  She can hear it go “tap tap” as it falls.  It makes a “whoosh” sound as she scoops it up again.  Visually she sees a single piece of pasta as well as a mass of pieces together.  She can mound them up or press them down.  She can remove one, or some, to see how they look individually too.    

After my daughter had her fill of playing in the pasta, it was time to make the letter “P”.

I squirted dots of glue inside the “P” .

She used a Q tip to spread the glue.  I asked her if she thought she could paint the glue inside the lines and she said “sure I can” and I was impressed that she kept it all in. 

Sometimes how you present the idea makes all the difference in a child understanding the concept.  On the other hand, if they are not ready, they may not understand, no matter how many ways you present the idea.

About this time, younger brother age 2 decided he wanted to make one too.  I had anticipated this and had a tray ready for him, minus the plate of pasta.  I wrongly assumed they could share the same container of pasta.  Oh boy, an argument ensued!  This is what I mean that even if you try to explain a concept, (such as today we are sharing one plate of pasta to make our letter p) they may not quite understand or agree.  In this case, neither child wanted the other child to have the container with the special valuable sensory exploding pasta, so I ended up dividing it into two plates of pasta, one for each.

I was quite pleased that they went right back to the activity as soon as a second container of treasured pasta came to the rescue.

The two year old would add some pasta and then go back and paint a little bit with his Q tip in the next spaces.  I think he had more fun with the Q tip as he was exploring how it smeared the glue and then how the glue made the pasta stick to the page.

They both had a lot of fun with this activity, and next time I will use the leftover pasta to practice learning to spell their names.  Maybe we will use a rainbow of colored pasta next time.

I thought it was interesting how both the 3 year old and the 2 year old followed directions, but ended up with a slightly different looking “P”.


How do you play and learn with pasta?  Leave us a comment.  Thanks!

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Colored Pasta

How To Make Colored Pasta

I made this colored pasta for less than $0.20 

Similar to making colored rice, making colored pasta is fun and frugal.  You can read how we made colored rice here.

You will need two cups of pasta.  1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol.  A few drops of food coloring of your choice.  A plastic bag (reuse an old one if available, ziploc or bread bags or any left over bag will do).

Add all of your ingredients to the plastic bag and zip or tie it shut.

Then shake it around for several minutes to evenly distribute the color.

Leave it in the bag for about 1 hour and shake it now and then to be sure the color stays evenly distributed.

Spread it out on a paper towel to dry for a couple of hours.  Now it is ready to use.

You can make just the color you need or make lots of colors for future projects. 

Have FUN!

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Colored Rice

Colored Rice Science with Kids In The Kitchen.

In The Kitchen

You can make an edible colored rice by using mashed cooked peas to color the rice green, carrots to color it orange, and red cabbage or red beets to color the rice pink.  

Just cook the rice in the pureed vegetable to create the color of your choice.   Add in the amount of pureed vegetable to the water, or chicken broth, and reduce the amount of liquid required to cook the rice by the amount of puree you add.  The rice will absorb the cooking water with the coloring of the pureed vegetable you added.  There will also be small pieces of the vegetable left and this really enhances the overall color you will see.  You can also use cooled cooked rice as a thickener in hot soups, or in cold smoothies such as with strawberries for pink, blueberries for purple, or with peaches for orange.


However, we are not eating today’s creation, so we made it with food coloring and rubbing alcohol.  Each of the five kids participated on their skill level.  The older children measured the alcohol, coloring, and rice.  The younger children helped prepare the table with needed items, helped shake, and spread.  

We made this colored rice for a science-art project, comparing colors, and to use in upcoming letter boxes, sensory bins, and arts and crafts.    We learned that if you add more or less drops of colors together, you get a new color.  For example, if you mix six drops of red with two drops of blue, you get a dusty rose color.

I encourage everyone to give this simple experiment a try.


This is so simple and frugal to do.  It costs approximately $0.50 a pound, but I am sure it could be done cheaper if you can get larger quantities of rice at a good price.  I bought a two pound bag of rice for $1 at the local dollar type store.  We used so little food coloring and rubbing alcohol that I didn’t even factor the cost in.  But a container of mixed colors cost us under $4 and a large bottle of rubbing alcohol was $1.  But we barely used both of these so the actual cost of using them was negligible.  If you want to, you could add on a few pennies and say you can make this project for under $0.55 a pound, but again I did not calculate actual values of the coloring and alcohol.

Two pounds of rice can be used to make a 2 lb batch of one color, or divided into either 2-1 lb batches or 4-1/2 pound batches, or 8-1/4 lb batches, or mix and match to equal the 2lbs (this is a great math lesson extension) depending on the colors and projects you want to use it for.  We made used the mix and match idea and made 1 lb of green, and 1/4 pound each of pink (dusty rose), blue, and yellow.

How To Make Colored Rice

Start with measuring the amount of rice you want to color into a plastic bag.  I did not have a lot of nice new bags on hand.  And in the spirit of keeping this project frugal, I just improvised.  So we re-used several plastic bags including one large and one small ziploc, a reused bread bag, and the original package the rice came in. 

Add a spoon of rubbing alcohol.

Add a few drops of food coloring.

Observe.  We noticed the color spread to several rice grains very quickly.

Now shake.  Make sure your bag is closed!

Shake some more.

Observe again.

Leave the bag closed for about an hour, and shake a few more times when you think about it.  Then after about an hour, pour the contents onto a paper towel lined cookie sheet, and allow to dry for a few hours.  Then place in an airtight container until you are ready to use it.

We repeated the above process three more times to make other colors.  Then let them sit in the bags for an hour.

Then came the fun unveiling of our colored rice. 

Remember we started with plain white rice.  This is what rice looks like after the outer bran has been removed.  Set out some plain rice for the children to observe again.  Then have them compare it to the colored rice they made. 



Children really enjoy the sensory experience of playing in the colored rice.  It is beautiful to look at, and feels cool, stimulating, and relaxing to the hands. 

Tots, Preschoolers, and lower Elementary age kids really like playing “I Spy” and “Hide and Seek” games with object hidden in the colored rice. 

There are so many fun possibilities with using this as a prop and learning tool in their play.

Get the broom ready!

We had so much fun making this today.  Just look at what we made for about $1.

Now we will add some funnels, scoops, spoons, hide some objects, put in some cars or construction equipment, some little animals, make some crafts, and have so much fun!!!

I will post some links here to related stories playing and learning we did with this colored rice as I get them published.  I have a lot of toddler and  preschool learning and sensory activities in mind, and art projects with all age groups too.


To continue the learning of rice, show the children pictures of rice plants growing in a rice paddie and show them what rice looks like when it is harvested. 

You could also cook some rice in water for 20 minutes and let them compare it in the learning process and eat it too. 

You can also look up where rice is grown in the USA and where it is grown in the world and mark the locations on a map.

Older children can write down their observations from coloring the rice, or make a graph of the amount of drops used for colors, or mixing different color combinations and the new colors it created. 

They could also write out a recipe for making colored rice.

Make an I spy activity using the rice.

Make a letter box or spelling box using the rice to hide words or items that start with a letter.

Make crafts using rice as the medium.

Use the rice as a background for other play similar to using a sandbox.


The children will not want you to put this away.  It is way too much fun!!!

How do you use colored rice?  Leave us a comment and let us know.  Thank you.

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Tot Tuesdays
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No Time For Flash Cards

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Public Speaking Skills

This week, my kids had an opportunity to use their public speaking skills
while learning about animal science at 4 H. 

Most of their public speaking has taken place in homeschool settings, in nursing homes, or in Sunday school at church.   But now that we have joined 4 H, and are participating in two different 4 H clubs, they are getting a whole new opportunity to use, and to develop more of these essential skills.  One club is large, and one is smaller and more intimate, and perfect for trying out public speaking skills.  I love the 4 H experience.  The kids in these clubs range from 5 to 18, though both groups have graciously allowed me to bring my preschooler and toddler to the meetings too.  Though they are not officially in the club, they are learning right along with their older siblings.  Just like homeschooling.  Yeah!!!

One of the best skills that public speaking develops, is being able to communicate your ideas to a varied audience of listeners.  It is one thing to tell your family your ideas.  But it is a whole different experience to talk to people who don’t know you, and love you unconditionally such as your family.  Public speaking helps you build confidence to talk to people.  It gives you a chance to talk about something you have researched, or talk about a project to bring social change, or a subject you are passionate about. 

I remember getting up in front of a classroom full of kids as a youngster, and it was scary at first.  Thankfully, 4 H gave me opportunities that were a lot more relaxed.  In a public school classroom, the teacher often picked the subject and then gave you a grade based on the number of mistakes they found as you gave your speech.   This really added to the fear of public speaking in my younger years.   But 4 H was a place to share from your heart.   I wasn’t critiqued as strictly and somehow it was less scary and I felt I accomplished something special.   Both the public school and the 4 H experiences of speaking in front of groups as a kid prepared me for many wonderful opportunities as an adult.  Today, I can speak to groups large or small and though I still get a little nervous about giving a presentation, I know I can do it.  I can communicate my ideas to lots of different people, because I had an opportunity to practice when I was younger in settings such as these.

Thank you 4 H and to the coordinator of the Wildcats club, Tracie, for such a fun experience today.  Tracie made this a very relaxed learning experience for the children to practice their public speaking skills.  My kids had a super great time.  This day reinforces a personal motto for my family:  “Learning Should Be FUN!!!!  and when it is FUN, the kids learn so much more and retain what they have learned.

The Presentation

The children were given an assignment to pick an animal they were interested in, and research information about it. 

Some of the details children researched were things such as:

Name of the Animal:
Predator or prey:
Size (height, weight, length):
Geographic Range:

Each child prepared their information according to their own skill level.  For example, the highschoolers were more advanced in what they shared compared to the elementary students, etc.

It wasn’t required, but everyone prepared a folder of information to talk about.  This helped them organize their information and keep it all together.  As each child gave their presentation, they passed around lots for all to see.  Some kids brought in maps, pictures, library books, drawings, and one child had a great idea to prepare three manila folders he glued information and pictures into to pass around.  All of these various hands on items were a lot of fun and made the speech more interesting, especially for the younger learners.

The lists of animals the children chose were quite varied.  Some talked about wild endangered animals, and some talked about domesticated animals.

            The list of animals the children chose included: 
                    Gray Wolf
                    Fennec Fox
                    Jersey Cow
                    African Lion
                    Pink Flamingo
                    Komodo Dragon

My Kids

Research & Presentation

Four of my five kids shared about an animal they were interested in.  We spent some time at home brainstorming three animals they liked and then we narrowed down and they picked one.   We researed online, copied photos, and made a folder for each animal.

Inside their folder, we put together six to twelve pictures of their animal they could pass around to their listening audience or put on an easel for display.  We also included information with pictures from an encyclopedia or wikipedia online. 

Each folder also had a map showing the geographic range of where the animal lived.

On the outside of the folder, we paper clipped an index card that contained a summary of the most important information and answered the subject areas the class was asked to address.

My 10 year old shared about the Komodo Dragon.  He had a tough time narrowing down his choice.  If it were up to him, he w
ould have given three speeches.    His first choice was the Spitting Cobra, then the Komodo Dragon, and finally the Poisonous Dart Frog.  We could not find any good photos online specific to the spitting cobra so eventually he was ok to go with his second choice the Komodo Dragon.  But he loves learning about lots of animals and he could talk all day about each of them. 


Komodo Dragons are reptiles.  They are carnivores and will eat anything with blood in it or on it.  They are highly sensitive to the smell of blood and will track an injured animal from many miles away.  They are from the Lesser Sundra Islands of Indonesia.  They can swim between the islands with ease.  They have over 50 different bacteria in their saliva and though their bite is about as strong as a common house cat, the bacteria will kill you in less than 24 hours.  The Komodo waits patiently for you to die, and then this predator has a feast.   They get to 330 pounds and over 10 feet long.  They can run in bursts up to 11 miles per hour.  They live over 30 years.  Komodo Dragons are an endangered species.

My eight year old shared about the Jersey cow.  He is a true farm boy!  He used to help get our Jersey cows into the barn at milking time, and he would pet them in the pasture.  Our favorite Jersey cow was Elvira, and she loved being scratched behind the ears and under her chin.  Jersey cows are as calm and friendly as a family dog.  But not the Jersey bull.  He will eat you for lunch, unless you eat him first!


Jersey Cows are mammals.  Their diet consists of mostly grass and hay. Domesticated cows on dairy farms are also given grains to increase milk production (but this shortens their life span, lowers important nutrients in the milk such as CLA, omega fatty acids, and more, and promotes stomach problems and disease).  They live about 16 years if allowed to live out their life span.  However, most are butchered before then.  They weight between 800lb and 1200lbs.  They are various shades of brown in color.  They are valued for their high butter fat content in their milk.  Often the fat content can reach 6%  however many Jersey cows do not achieve such a high ratio.  The Jersey cows we owned in the past had a butter fat content in the 4.6 to 4.8 range which is about average. 

This breed of cow was first recorded in 1700 in the British Channel Island of Jersey.  They are believed to have descended from the cows that were given as a gift by the King of France to a Nomandy Viking who was asked to leave France and not come back.  The Viking took his gift of 500 cows and his crew and then went just off the shores of France and founded the island of Jersey.

My six year old shared about the Cheetah.  He was really nervous.  But I thought he did a great job.  Not that I am partial, being his mom, nope, not one bit.  Well perhaps just a little.  See that “mom I am too scared to do this” look on his face?   Yep, he was feeling the nerves.  But once he saw several others give their speech, he was able to share his animal and did a great job.


The Cheetah is a mammal.  It is a carnivore.  They eat a variety of other animals if they can catch it.  They live 10 to 12 years.  They weigh 77 lbs to 143 lbs.  They can run up to 60 miles an hour and reach this speed in 3 seconds.  They are from eastern and south western Africa.  They are a vulnerable animal and there are only approximately 7,000 to 10,000 left in the wild.

Finally, I helped my preschooler share about a pink Flamingo.  This was her very first experience to share in a group.  She did not want to be left out as she watched her older brothers prepare for this fun event.  She begged that mommy help her find out about a pink bird. 

Being a preschooler, she doesn’t read yet, so I couldn’t help her write out a speech or even a summary.  So She passed out her pictures while  I did the talking on this one. 

I looked online and showed her several pictures and she chose the bird she wanted to learn more about, a pink Flamingo.  This was a new one for me.  Besides seeing them in everyone’s yard, (the plastic version) I really didn’t know a lot about them. 


There are actually six different flamingo species.  The different species are found in Africa, Southern Europe, Southern and South Western Asia, North Western India, South America, Caribbean and Galapagos Islands.  Even though the majority of flamingos are found in tropical and temperate climates, there is a species found in the High Andes Mountains in South America. 

Colors of feathers on the flamingo range from light pink to dark red based on the bacteria and carotene in their food supply.  They wade in the water and eat brine shrimp and blue green algae.  The more blue green algae in their diet the darker red their feathers become.   The stand on one leg and it is not sure exactly why.  Scientists have a lot of theories, but none have proven true yet.  They are social birds and live in colonies.  This helps them avoid predators and gives them more choices for mates.  In smaller colonies the birds will stay with their mate, but in larger colonies, males will compete for females and they will change mates.  Having a mate helps protect a nesting site, but other couples will try to steal the nest, so the birds will fight to protect their chosen spot.  They hatch out a cluster of eggs and then stay with the chicks until they are seven days old.  Then the chicks join a larger group of chicks and learn to feed.  The first six days the parents feed the chicks something they make themselves,  a kind of bird milk or crop milk, made up of fats, some protein, red and white blood cells that they regurgitate to the hungry chicks.  Flamingos are a vulnerable species and are dying by the thousands in places such as the lakes of Kenya and Tanzania.  Scientists do not know why.   

Learning Extension Possibilities

If you would like to do some additional learning extension ideas, check out these possibilities:

Make a lapbook or notebook all about your animal choice.

Read story books, fiction or non-fiction, that relate to your animal choice.

Take field trips to see live animals the children discussed in their speeches.  Check out  Zoos, Farms, and Wildlife Conservation Programs.

Take a virtual field trip online.

Visit museums to see fossils or see taxidermy animals that have been preserved and set in a reenactment of their environmental surroundings.  For example, not far from where we live, you can visit the Pisgah Cradle of Forestry Museum and there are bears and racoons and more animals that are no longer living, but were placed in a life like forrest inside the museum so you can learn more about them and their habitat.

Hang a world map on the wall, and have the children place a flag in the region where their animal lives.

If several children are in a group, class, or coop together, hang categories on the wall and have the children place a small picture of their animal in the correct classification or geographic location.

Have children build a shoe box diorama showing the animal in its habitat.

Make a map or diorama from salt dough or play dough.

If possible, bring a plastic toy or model of your animal to your speech as another way to enhance what you are sharing about the animal.  I have often seen these plastic animals at Walmart, KMart, the Dollar Store, kids museums, and online.  If you don’t have a free one on hand in the toy box, this would increase your expense of putting your presentation together and may not be a good idea to spend the extra money.  We did not have any specific plastic animals on hand of any of the animals our children wanted to talk about, and we chose not to go and buy them. But it would be another great way to enhance the learning.

Find out how many of the species live in the wild, and how many live in zoos and conservation programs.  Make a graph of your research.

Research a non-for-profit program the helps or monitors the animal of your choice.  For example, a special program that focuses on labrador retrievers, or whales, etc.

Learn about veterinarians and scientists that specifically help the animal species you chose.

Learn more about the country or region the animal comes from.  What is the culture like?  What are the demographics?

Make a craft with your animal focus.  For younger learners make it a puppet or coloring page, for older learners practice a painting or sculpting a piece of clay to look like the animal of your choice.

Learn about how the animal interacts with humans, and what products humans might use that were made from the animal.  For example, in learning about the Jersey cow, you could visit a dairy farm, milk a cow, learn to make yogurt, ice cream, butter, or cheese.  You could also visit a meat locker and learn how a cow is butchered, and how ground beef is made.  You could learn about the nutritional values compared to other foods.  You could visit a leather tanner and learn how the hide is preserved and made into gloves, belts, purses, and other leather objects that people use.  You could also visit a Native American living history village and watch how hides of buffalo and deer were preserved and made into useful clothing or other items.  If you are doing a project on a cow, or domestic farm animal, compare stats of that breed to other breeds and make a graph and learn which breeds produce more of different things humans use.

Play games that revolve around your animal or a related topic.
We have a Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See game that we play and learn about different wild animals.  But there are lots of games on the market you can use to teach concepts such as running a dairy farm, conservation of endangered species, economics, geography, and more.

Make a graph of the different important parts of a speech. 

Make a graph or a list of the different listeners who might be in your audience when you give a speech.

What ideas to you have to help your children learn public speaking skills and making it fun too?  Leave us a comment, and thanks in advance!  We love hearing from you!

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Button Free Play

What is in the workbox and on the shelves today?  A whole lot of buttons.

I set out various objects on the table and called the children over to see what was there.  I gave the TOTS (my three year old and two year old) some buttons, bobbins, a thimble, and different sized spools and I waited to see what they did with them.  We will be doing more with buttons as part of our Letter Of The Week B theme.

The three year old began sorting her buttons. I watched to try to understand by what category she was sorting.  She was singling out the prettiest and smallest buttons first.

Right away the two year old lined up the spools from biggest to smallest in a straight line and sang “Happy Birthday”. 

He also put a button in each hole of the muffin tin.

The three year old did a wonderful job of sorting the objects into different areas of her divided box.  She put bobbins in one spot.  Pretty colored buttons in one spot.  Darker buttons in another spot.  And she sorted out two buttons that had a different back on them, they were not flat, but instead had a knob at the back.  This was really great for her first time ever playing with little buttons.

Next, she began picking up the smallest buttons and putting them into a thimble turned upside down like a cup. 

She was proud of her accomplishment.  She continued to try to stack more on top, but they kept falling off once the thimble was full.

The two year old decided to put all of his objects into the muffin tin.  He counted the bigger spindle and told me it was a big one.

Sister had left the room for a minute to go potty, and brother confiscated her objects to add to his creation.  I could hardly keep from laughing in front of him, because he knew he did a no, no, but he liked the way it looked.

Once sister came back and we divided up the loot again, she came up with a new game. 

She decided to see what buttons could hold the bobbins.  “Look Mom!  See what I did?”

A little while latter, I came into the room to find them lining up their objects. 

The two year old was very serious about making sure everything was in a straight line.  If one of sister’s objects wasn’t exact, he fixed it.  He is a very particular line maker!

And again a few more renditions of his favorite song  “Happy Birthday”.

It must be somebody’s birthday somewhere.  So whoever you are, hope it’s a great one!

Today was totally free play with their objects.  Since buttons and these other objects were new to them, this kept them busy for almost an hour.   Usually after they become familiar with objects I set out, they may keep their interest for 15 minutes to half an hour.

Next time, I will use some guided activities along with the buttons and objects to help them practice following directions, counting, sorting, reasoning, begining reading letter “B“, and problem solving skills.  I will also plan an art activity using buttons as our medium to explore, perhaps we will make a letter “B”  or a butterfly collage with buttons, I am not sure yet.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

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Rock Unit Study and Classifying Gemstones

After our visit to mine gemstones at Elijah Mountain Gem Mine (see post HERE ),
we needed to find out what all those beautiful rocks were.

So we put together our own little mini Rock Unit Study with some fun activities to keep the learning going….

Rock Unit Study
A Mini Study of Rocks, Minerals, Gems
                   Be sure to check out the Unit Study Link Up to find more great unit studies!

Depending on your child’s skill level you can say theses words, spell, look up their meaning, write a story, make up a poem, find pictures, books, or articles about them, visit a museum or a gem mine to learn more, etc.

mineral deposits
volcanic ash
specific gravity
precious metals
gold rush

What is a rock?

What is a gem stone?

Basically a gem stone is a rock or mass of minerals that are precious and chosen to be of greater value.

Classifying gemstones

Spend some time classifying various rocks and gemstones.  You can pick some up at a fun mining company like we did, find some in your yard or park, buy some at a rock show (we have done this in the past too, its Nerdy and FUN.  I mean this in a nice way.  These folks live and breath rocks, and some even get into the philosophy of rocks such as was the bible literal or symbolical, etc….deep…man….), or online (see resources below).

We bought a simple chart at the mining company to bring home to match our stones too.  We also had a six sided study chart from Quick Study that we used for more detailed information.

This study chart was very nice.  It explains the weights and mineral/chemical make up of each rock.  It uses descriptive words to describe color and texture characteristics so that even rocks that look similar can be classifyed differently into the correct category.  It also explains shape of crystals, angles of cleavage, the rock cycle, hardness of rocks, luster, igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks, vocabulary and more.

Did you know that a diamond is the hardest rock and it can scratch all other rocks?

We used a magnifying glass to see the details in the photos and match them to the details in our rocks and gemstones.

What is a flume?

What is mining?

What is gold?

Make a panning for gold diorama

“If I had a pot of gold” writing activity

Lesson Plans

What is fools gold?

North Carolina History

Did you know that North Carolina is called the Gem State?  Why do you suppose that is?

What gem is the symbol of North Carolina?

Look at a map of North Carolina (or another state you are interested in).     Locate areas where gems, and valuable minerals such as gold have been found.  Make a copy of the map and have the children lable some parts of it such as rivers and mountains or other areas.  Then use a tooth pick stuck in playdough or clay to mark where significant finds have been made.  You could lable the toothpicks with a flag (a folded sticker) to label special items such as rubies, emeralds, diamonds, gold, etc.

Many prize gems and gold have been found in North Carolina.  For a comparison, make a graph to show approximate amounts taken from mining these resources in NC during certain time periods. 


North Carolina is also a large producer of quartz that is used in making electronics.  Research how quartz is used in electronics and how much money this industry brings to the state of North Carolina each year.

Use these for copy work, or to enhance understanding and spiritual growth.

Luke 12:34
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
1 Peter 2:4-5
As you come to him, the living Stone, rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him, you also,
like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:19-20
The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

Proverbs 2: 1-5
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding
indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 
                                                                                                                                        verses from

Other ideas:

Watch videos or documentaries about mining.  There is a current show running about the gold rush in Alaska.  My husband watches this show each week.

Locate all the jewelry you have, or your family has on hand, and classify what gem stone they contain.  Identify if they contain gold or silver too.

Make a gem stone, mining, or gold lapbook.


Make a timeline showing how the mining industry has changed over the past 1,000 years.  Is the equipment the same, or what equipment changed, etc.

Set out several different rocks and do a scratch and a mark test.  Have the children write out or draw their observations.

Make your own plain or decorative rock or garden stepping stone.  Use a cereal box (for a rectangle) or a pie tin (for a circle) as a form and mix up a bag of concrete to make the stone.  Leave it plain, write on it, or decorate it with gem stones or masaic pieces of tile for a beautiful addition to your your home.  Use inside or outside. Very eas, frugal, and fun.

Here are more craft ideas using gem stones:

Jeweled Votive Candel Holder

Treasure Frame

Sparkly Bracelet

Sparkly Bangle Bracelet

Gemstone Garden Plaque

Gemstone Magnets

Gemstone Jewelry Box

Gemstone CD Ornament

Burried Treasure Craft Project and I Spy Bottle

Mosaic Flower Pot

Glassy ID

Do you need more resources?
Want to try your hand at classifying gemstones, mining, playing related games, crafts, or reading stories about mining for gems, or gold?

Here are some great resources:

Please share.

Snow Sensory Discovery Bin

We have been observing our winter weather and landscape here in mountains of North Carolina.  Though most of our observations have been outside, our recent snow fall has provided us with some fun indoor winter sensory activities.

Just look at those faces.  Can’t you just feel their anticipation?

They are so excited that we are building this winter snow bin. 

It is a sensory discovery bin filled with props for a winter wonderland adventure on top, and hidden treasures to find down below. 

How COOL!   (pun intended)

I was laying in bed last night thinking about how I could build the kids a winter discovery bin with cotton balls and such, and decided why don’t I just bring the snow into the house.  There is so much we can study and learn from our snow “school work”. 

Yeah, its a little cold on the fingers, but again, we are talking about sensory folks.  Snow = cold, wet, messy, very messy.  And did I mention cold?  But not too cold, as my daughter enjoyed playing in this snow bin in her summer shorts!

So I searched the toys and crafts and dumped out a deep storage bin and here is what I came up with.

Into a plastic bin/box we put glass square and round beads/rocks in shades of blue, aqua, and clear.  This kind of represented frozen water iceberg under the snow.   Then we added some plastic snow men, penguins, bears, deer, plastic rocks, etc.   Disclaimer: The stuffed animals were not harmed during the filming of this and were not added to the bin.  Hee Hee Hee Haw!!!!

On top of this we added lots of snow.  Then made a winter scene with some plastic pine trees, deer, plastic rocks and real rocks, plastic bushes, snowmen, penguins, and a hunter.

Didn’t my 2nd grader do an awesome job helping set this up?  He is a great assistant!

On the kitchen floor, we laid out a blanket and set the snow bin on it.   Here the kids could play in their winter wonderland with all the props, and I didn’t have to worry about the mess.

Then we created a story to enjoy our winter scene.  They imagined “the deer were looking for something to eat, when a hunter came along and found them in the woods.  The deer climbed the rocks and up the mountain to safety behind a high pine tree way up on a cliff.  Then the hunter went looking for more animals and came upon a great big mammoth.  But he knew not to kill the mammoth, so he let him go.  The hunter was bored, and made a snowman, and then sat down and ate some snow soup with his animal friends.”

After their fun on the first level they were ready to go to work hunting for buried treasures in the iceberg.   (Yeah, I know, we should have buried the mammoth in the melting iceberg for a discussion on fossils, extinction, and global warming, but he has some electronic gizmo inside and we couldn’t let him get very wet.  Plus that is more of a discussion for the older kids.  So the mammoth stayed dry and alive on top of the snow).

I gave them some measuring scoops, recycled plastic fruit cups, and a large bowl,  and they went to work.

If you could call it work.  They laughed and giggled all the way through until the last object was found.

When they were done with their sensory bin, the older boys wanted to play in it too.  Some activities with them included more imaginative play, but also measuring and counting scoops of snow and talking about compaction, melting, temperature, and more.  

So we put in more snow and animals and recreated the hunting scene for them.  This time the deer wasn’t so lucky to escape the wise hunter who had learned from his earlier mistakes.  He ate dinner that night and went to bed with a full stomache.  Made jerky with the leftovers.  Hee Hee Hee Haw!  Snort!  Ha ha ha!  Ok sorry about that, but kids are just so funny! 

The kids all had a really good time.

Finally, our kindergartner took advantage of the used, melting, sloshy snow bin, and built a snowman.

He packed the melting snow into snow balls, and used broken crayons for the eyes and nose.  He put craft sticks in for the arms and stuck on some yellow buttons.   He used the hunters hat for the snowman’s hat.  He said the hunter had forgot his hat when he took off chasing the deer.    

When he was done playing with it, he stuck the snowman outside on the front porch.  It stayed frozen just like the day he made it for three days.  He enjoyed checking on it to see how long it took to melt.

He did a great job!

Clean up was much easier than I thought.  The blanket went into the dryer for a few minutes.  The toys in the bowl, and the bin, dried on a towel for a little bit before being put away for next time. 

Easy, fun, learning adventure, and free!

How are your kids exploring the winter?  Do your kids enjoy using sensory and discovery bins?  Please leave us a comment below and share what you are working on with your kids.

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