Shabby Blog Wheels on the Bus

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mini Offices

When I was in first grade, I went from a private school with individual desks to a public school with four to five kids to a semi-circular table. Always an independent worker, I had a difficult time concentrating. I began getting creative to find a way to block out noise and distraction so that I could do my school work.

I soon developed a "folder office," meaning I took two pocketed folders (probably ones with photos of cute kittens on them) and opened them each to 90° angles, making a corral for me to work within. 

I remember my teacher, Mrs. Hunnicutt, protesting at first, but soon she began to realize there was no harm in my invention. A few of my classmates soon followed suit, and the classroom actually grew quieter as we shrunk into our own private workspaces during independent work.

Think of the same thing but on a little bit larger scale, and you have "mini offices" outfitted for the homeschool setting. You can use file folders (think an extension of lapbooks) -- or something a little larger, like science presentation boards. We used the latter, but cut ours in half width-wise so that they would fit on top of the dining room table. Both kids have two; one is for language arts, Bible and geography, and one is for math and "miscellaneous."

I found many of the printables via this helpful article about mini offices. A quick search on Pinterest yielded more. I framed many with cardstock and then laminated them. The great thing about science presentation boards is that you can tape the objects to the board and then move them around without ripping the cardboard; it's made for moving things around. We can change the boards as the academic needs change through the school year.

(This board has: The US presidents, a US map, days of the week, months of the year, books of the Bible, and parts of speech.)

(Miss Artsy's has the same, as well as a punctuation chart and an alphabet chart.)

(Mr. Tinker's math and miscellaneous board has a "today is" write on/wipe off sign, "What I'm Memorizing" sleeve that we can switch out depending on the poem he's working on currently, math equivalent charts, and fraction strips.)

(Miss Artsy's math board has a number line, 100 chart, 3D geometric solids chart, shapes chart, money chart, tally marks chart, and (not pictured, on both hers and her brother's), a "What I'm Creating" sleeve, which lets them rotate out their current pieces of favorite artwork for display.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our curriculum for 2012-2013

We're holding on to a couple of curriculums from last year that we really enjoyed, for but for the most part, we're trying some new titles/curriculum this year. Reasons? Somewhat based on requests by the kids for change (math), but also just because I was looking for something fresh and new to teach (language arts).

Here's this year's lineup:

Mr. Tinker:

Language Arts:
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 2 (grammar)
Writing With Ease, Level 1 (writing/composition)
Spellwell A (spelling)

BJU Math 2

Building a Foundation of Scientific Understanding

Bible, History & Geography:
My Father's World - Adventures in My Father's World

Lamb's Book of Art I

(Also: He will supplement with living books in the subjects of history and science to meet reading requirements. He will also take typing lessons this year (by request).)

Miss Artsy:

Language Arts:
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 1 (grammar)
Writing with Ease, Level 1 (writing/composition)
Spellwell A (spelling)

BJU Math 1

Building a Foundation of Scientific Understanding

Bible, History & Geography:
My Father's World - Adventures in My Father's World

Lamb's Book of Art I

(Also: Like her brother, she will supplement with living books in the subjects of history and science to meet reading requirements. She will be taking home economics this year, a very promising looking program, the first in the Pearables series for young girls.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

A blog just for them

If your child loves to draw or write -- consider giving them their own blog for showcasing their masterpieces!

It doesn't have to cost anything. (Many blogs out there are free -- Blogger, Tumblr, etc.)

You don't have to have much (or any) computer knowledge. (The blogging platforms nowadays make knowing HTML code an option only, not a requirement.)

You can let them customize the colors, layout, theme, and overall look of their blogs, as well as control whether or not they can log in themselves to post or whether you want to control the passwords and log in for them/with them for posting.

Little Miss Artsy loves to write stories and draw pictures, and she wanted a place to post them to share with friends and family.

So, this weekend, we finally set up a spot online for her to do just that:

My Artwork and Stories!

Simple layout, pink background (of course), it allows her to upload drawings she makes, photos she takes, and stories and captions she writes.

Tumblr is my personal recommendation for younger kids; it's very easy to use. Even at age six, she require little to no help from us with uploading and posting once we showed her how.

Not only does this give your children a sense of personal accomplishment (after all, they become published authors and/or illustrators!), it helps reduce paper clutter around your house if you choose to let this be a way you preserve their creative work!

Have fun!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Well, should I say workBOX.

I didn't think it was necessary for the kids to each have their own workbox yet. Instead, they'll share one this year! I utilized a large file box and have plenty of room for the kids to have 8 file folder dividers each:

I laminated two sheets and used velcro dots to affix numbered squares to correspond to the tabs on the folders. Each folder will house an assignment and/or subject. I'll change the folder's contents out each evening for the next day. As the kids complete each folder's contents, they can affix the number to their "Look What I Did Today" poster. (I taped one on the front and one on the back of the file box.)

Not the fanciest OR the prettiest workbox on the block, but I think it'll work for us!

Check out other workbox ideas and methods here (Sue Patrick, the matriarch of the workbox system), here, and here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Under the Sea {Preschool Thematic Unit}

  1. 1. Sand and Sea Jar - Fill a clear plastic bottle or jar with layers of rocks, shells, sand, and water. Encourage the children to shake the jar as you discuss how sand is formed over a long period of time from the grinding of rocks against other rocks and shells. 
  2. Life in the Sea Bulletin Board - Create the background of the sea life mural by spreading out two large sheets of butcher paper on the floor. Let the children finger paint one of the strips blue and the other brown. Add sand to the brown strip for a realistic sandy floor. When the paint is dry, make the water and sea floor background. During classtime, let the children join you in applying seaweed to the scene, by taking long strips of tissue paper or crepe paper. As the children create pictures and examples of the sea life add a few of these creations to the bulletin board scene..and watch the sea come alive. 
  3. Starfish - Draw a star fish on blue paper. Apply glue to the inside of the star fish shape and then sprinkle on dry oatmeal, crushed cornflakes, OR cornmeal. Let dry and remove the excess. 
  4. Cinnamon Sea Snails -  You will need cresent roll dough, soft butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Seperate the dough into triangles. Have the children spread the butter on one side, sprinkle the cinnamon and the sugar over the butter. Start with one end of the triangle and roll into a spiral. Bake as directed, let cool and enjoy! 
  5. I Spy Jar -Fill a large polastic bottle with sand. Drop familiar objects into the bottle. Tighten the lid. As the children turn the bottle, different objects will surface. Name the objects, give clues for the children to find a certain item. Attach a card with pictures of the items. 
  6. Sea life hunt & collage -   Tell the children they will be going to an imaginary seashore.  Have children color the printed shells and sea life, then cut out and hide them around the room.  Cut a piece of construction paper into strips approximately 2 1/2 inches wide with a wavy edge on one side. The children can glue this wavy piece (the ocean waves) to a brown or tan piece of construction paper (a brown paper bag can also be used).  The children can glue their found “shells” and sea animals to the sand. 
  7. Pearly Bites Snack - (link)
  8. Paper Plate Octopus - Have your child cut a paper plate in half. Have the child draw eyes on the plate, then glue on eight pieces of crepe paper to the bottom as arms. When dry hang by a window to see the octopus "swim." 
  9. Paper Plate Fish - Draw a triangle mouth shape on a paper plate. Have your child cut out the triangle, and have them glue it on the fish as a tail. Let your child color, or use glitter, or tissue paper to decorate their fish. 
  10. Goldfish Fun - Tape numbers in the inside of a muffin tin, 1 to 6. Tell your child to place the appropriate number of Goldfish crackers into each "fish bowl" (the holes in the muffin tin). 
  11. Crab Walk - Have your children to sit on the floor and lean back on their hands. Have them keep their feet flat on the floor. Then have them lift their bottoms off the floor and try moving sideways as crabs do. 
  12. Hot Dog Octopus - Cut slits into a hot dog 2/3's of the way up. Us a toothpick to poke two eyes near the top. Put the hot dog in a pan of boiling water. 
  13. Fish in a Lake snack - Place goldfish crackers on a blue napkin (the lake). Supply children with a pretzel rod and a bit of creamy peanut butter (or use cheese spread). Have the child dip the pretzel rod (fishing pole) in the peanut butter or cheese (bait) and try to catch a fish. 
  14. Paper Plate Oysters - Gather a paper plate and a cotton ball for each child. Also you will need gray and pink paints and glue. The kids should fold the plates in half and paint the insides of the "oyster" pink. When the pink is dried they should paint the outside of the plate gray. To complete they can glue the "pearl" into the center of the oyster. 
  15. Rainbow fish – Give children a large cut-out fish shape and several torn pieces of colored tissue paper, cellophane, holographic paper, sequins, and/or aluminum foil.  Have them glue the tissue paper all over the fish to cover it, alternating and mixing colors.  
  16. Aquarium - Take 2 paper plates & cut out the inner circle. Tape blue cellophane or clear plastic on to the inside of each plate. Glue fish, shells, sand & "seaweed" to the inside & then glue paper plate together to make an aquarium. 
  17. Ocean Snack
    Have blue jello - complete with gummy fish! - for snack. 
  18. Cheerio Octopus – Cheerios make great suction-cups for a paper octopus cutout!
  19. Seascape – Sprinkle sand over glue on the bottom of a large sheet of paper (or clean styrofoam meat tray).  Let children add paper sea creatures, small shells, and paper seaweed.  When dry, cover the whole picture with blue saran wrap.
  20. Sponge painting – Let children use real sea sponges (used for decorative painting) to print designs on paper.
  21. Shell decorating – Let children paint large, dry pasta shells. They may decorate them any way they like since no two shells in the ocean are alike.
  22. Difference in waters - Have two bowls of water. One saltwater and one fresh let your children taste and smell the different waters. Then let them float different items in the different waters. (Items that will not float in regular water will float in salt water) Finally, put two small amount in the freezer and check on them every couple of hours (the salt water will freeze slower).
  23. Diving Fish - Take a clear two-liter bottle and draw sea shapes (seaweed, waves, etc) on the outside of it with a permanent marker. Fill the bottle mostly full with water. Next add about a 1/4-cup of white vinegar and 1 Teaspoon of baking soda to the bottle. Drop a small handful of raisins into the bottle. And then watch. The raisins will collect bubbles all around them from the vinegar and baking soda chemical reaction this will cause them to float to the top. Once the reaction calms back down they will sink back down and then form more bubbles (causing them to rise again!) This will repeat for up to a half-hour. 
  24. W is for Whale – Cut out a large, blue W (or use white and let child paint it blue) and add a head and tail to make it resemble a whale.  (picture found on KinderPlans) 
  25. Crayon Resist Ocean Painting - Materials: Crayola crayons (NOT washable), blue watercolor paint, white construction paper.  Have students draw an ocean scene with crayons on white paper.  Paint over the picture with a wash of blue watercolor.
  26. Great handprint fish ideas -
  27. Shark Hunt - Sharks have excellent sense of hearing. Two or three timers were set and hidden in the room. Children use their sense of hearing, like a shark would, to find the timer before it goes off. 
  28. Sea Shell Prints - Children used seashells in the play dough area to press into the play dough to make prints.
  29. Beach Chums - Parents Magazine has a how-to video on how to create sea creatures from cardboard egg cartons.
  30. Clothespin Mermaids - (Instructions at FamilyFun)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

At the Farm! {Preschool Thematic Unit}

Sponge Print Farm
You can find already shaped sponges at most arts and craft stores, or you can make your own. Obtain sponges shaped as cows, pigs, farm houses, fences, barns, clouds, etc. Have your child dip the sponges into paint and press onto a piece of paper to create a farm scene.

Pig Painting
Cut a pig shape from pink construction paper. (Print a template here.) Let your child paint "mud" with black, brown, or gray tempera paint.

Cows Eat Grass
Cut out cow shapes. (Print an A4 template here.) Explain to your child that cows like to eat grass. Go outside and have your child pick some blades of grass. Have them glue the cows and the blades of grass onto a piece of blue paper.

Cow Spots
Supply each child with a piece of white paper and black non-toxic (washable) stamp pads. Show the child how to make fingerprints on the paper, using only one finger at a time.

Nesting Hen
Place some plastic eggs under a pillow. Have your child sit on the pillow and guess how many eggs are under it. Count the eggs.

Lacing Cards
Cut colored poster board or foam sheets into farm animal shapes and punch holes around the edges. Let your child lace yarn or a shoestring into the cards.

Cheese Tasting
Allow your child to taste and sample many kinds of cheeses. (Can also do kinds of milk.)

Making Butter
Put whipping cream into a jar with a tight lid (as well as a pinch of salt), then add a clean marble. Let your children take turns shaking the jar. Soon the cream will turn into butter. Have the butter on bread for a snack.

Visit a Farm
Check your local yellow pages. Call to ask about free tours.

Tractor Prints
Let your children paint with toy tractors. They can run the tractors through the paint and then all over paper. This makes really neat designs.

Make a Cardboard Farm
Make milk carton barns and oatmeal canister silos. (Directions here.)

Play Horseshoes

Milk a Cow (Sort of!)
Talk to your children about where milk comes from. Fill a latex glove full of milk and poke holes in one or two of the fingertips. They can squeeze the glove like an udder and try to fill a cup.

Cotton Ball Sheep
Let your child glue cotton balls onto a cutout of a paper sheep (like this one).

Sorting Animals
Have clipart cutouts of animals and let the child sort them according to whether they live in a zoo or on a farm.

3D Farm Scenes
Materials: Meat trays (styrofoam or cardboard), clean milk cartons, liquid dish soap, red tempera paint, green construction paper, brown construction paper, raffia, glue, and small plastic farm animals.
Directions: Mix the red paint with a bit of liquid dish soap and paint the barn (milk carton) red. Cut the green paper to fit the surface of the meat tray and glue it down for grass. When the barn is dry, glue it to the tray. Cut out a brown circle and glue it near the barn to resemble mud for pigs. Glue some raffia around the barn to resemble hay. Add some animals to complete the scene.

Folded Barn
Take a regular 9x12" sheet of red construction paper and fold the left and right sides to meet in the middle. Next, take your scissors and cut the right and left sides to shape the "roof" of the barn. Have the students use crayons to decorate the outside of the barn, then open the "doors" and let them drawn animals inside.

Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs for Snack

Pig Slop
Explain how farmers will feed their pigs a mixture of leftover foods. To make your own edible slop, give each child a bowl of chocolate pudding. Let them add in various things (M&Ms, sprinkles, nuts, chopped bananas and strawberries, etc.) -- then eat and enjoy!

Chicken Feed Snack
Set out bowls of sunflower seeds, popcorn, raisins, cereal, and M&Ms. The children take a little of whatever they like and mix it in a bowl for "chicken feed."

Footprint Chicks
Take off your child's shoes and socks. Put one foot in yellow paint and make a yellow print on art paper. The heel is the chick's head. Use orange paint to add a beak and feet, and a black thumbprint for an eye.

Pattern Paint with Corn Cobs

From the file cabinet drawer...

Per the request of some of my readers, I'm going to begin sharing the thematic unit studies that we used during the preschool years!

They've been taking up space in my file cabinet drawers for a year or more. It's time to unearth them and share them with you! Lots of time went into gathering all of the ideas, websites, and craft projects together in one place. Hopefully putting them all here will help those of you who are doing preschool at home with your little ones!

{Disclosure - I don't have the original websites or credit-due information for many of the idea I'll be sharing; for that I apologize! I will not purposefully share anything that has been copyrighted, however.}

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Crazy House!

One of the things the kids are learning how to do is create and edit videos!

It doesn't come as a surprise that they'd want to learn how -- it's what their daddy does for a living, anyway!

Here's their first video "production," made in iMovie. The tirade of giggles it sends out is quite amazing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Welcome to the Party!

Ultimate Blog Party 2012

Hello, friends!
Thanks for dropping by Electric City Academy!

I'm so excited to be a part of 5 Minutes for Mom's Ultimate Blog Party 2012!

Here at Electric City Academy, I chronicle our adventures in homeschooling.

We've been homeschooling our two children (ages 5 and 7) for 3 years. This is the first year I'm blogging publicly about our experiences!

I love to share about history tidbits, science experiments, writing practice ideas, and much more.

And for those of you who are interested, I'm also going to begin posting thematic theme units for Pre-K. I have everything we used, every idea I gathered, just tucked away -- why not share it!? That is one of my projects for the coming summer.

I'm also going to try my hand at writing my own literature-based mini-curriculum for my children to do this summer. I began to get discouraged after not finding exactly what I was looking for at a reasonable price -- so I'm hoping to compile our own. We'll see how it goes!

I feel called to and absolutely love what I do, and I hope you'll join us for the journey. A big part of homeschooling is community -- and this blog helps me stretch our boundaries a little bit further!

Thanks for stopping by!
Hope to see you again soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heart of the Matter Conference -- Starts Thursday!

HOTM Button

If you've never been a part of the Heart of the Matter Conference, you can join in this Thursday through Saturday, April 12th-14th!

Heart of the Matter's conference is totally online -- no need to travel anywhere further than your computer desk or laptop!

With speakers such as Amy Bayliss, Karen DeBeus, and Maggie Hogan, it's sure to be a fantastic time of encouragement and learning. We can all be better homeschooling families -- and the HOTM Conference can be a very vital part of that process!

Click here to register (for only $9.95).

Hope to "see" you there!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hope all of you had a very special, meaningful, and happy Easter!

We're relaxed and rejuvenated after our spring break last week -- ready to head towards the last few weeks of the school year!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Calvary Garden {in progress}

When I saw this idea on Pinterest, I knew we had to make a "Calvary Garden" for Easter this year!

We spent a little time this afternoon patting down the soil, spreading the rocks, scattering the grass seed, and assembling the three crosses.

What a tangible dining room centerpiece to remind the children of what this season is truly about!

Hope to see it sprouting soon!

(Here is our favorite tutorial of this inspiring craft!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Know much about sod house living?

We've been studying about settlers in the Old West in our Hideaways in History curriculum.

Though learning about gunslingers and cowboys is certainly exciting, life in the big West wasn't always so exciting for everyone. There were plain, ordinary families just like ours who sought to start a new life there.

Many lived in simple houses made of sod. We were intrigued as we measured how big one would actually be -- and imagined the earthy, musty smell one would have inside it.

Our curriculum pointed us to this website where several fun activities teach more about sod house living. There's a fun interactive game to see if you're smart enough to know where and how to build....and a detective activity to gain clues from old photos of sod house families.

I don't know who enjoyed this lesson more -- me or the kids!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another way to sneak in writing practice!

Ever since I saw this idea on Pinterest, I knew it would work for our family. I also began to realize we had done this very thing before years ago -- but back then, our little ones couldn't yet read or write -- they could only draw pictures. I knew that their new skills could really make this idea blossom, and I was right.

So we decorated paper envelope "mailboxes" once again and taped them to our doors. (Yes, my husband and me, too!)

Nearly every night the kids tuck plain paper under their arms and snag a pencil on the way to bed. Baring down on a book, they write letters and fictional stories to each other, then tiptoe out to tuck the notes into each other's mailboxes.

They send their mom and dad notes, too, sometimes...and we leave love notes for them, too.

Not only is it a family building idea, it's another neat (and fun) way to sneak in creative writing, penmanship, and spelling practice!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Remembering and understanding

Even though I love (and the kids love) our history curriculum this year (Winter Promise's Hideaways in History), for a 5- and 7-year-old, even the 2-page read-aloud lessons can seem to drag on at times.

Sometimes the meat of the main idea gets lost in their minds among the names and dates and other details.

To make sure they get the main idea out of some lessons, I came up with the idea of having them draw things they heard me talk about.

Mr. Tinker prefers to draw a grid at the start of the lessons and draws a picture in each box as I read along.

At the end, they can recite the main points of what I've talked about by following along their pictorial hints. These also make nice additions to our notebooking!

(This could easily be applied to any other read-aloud lessons in other subjects....or even fictional storytime.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finishing up the OT

Mr. Tinker's Bible/handwriting curriculum (My Father's World) asks him to read a story from the Old Testament each day and then write a sentence summary of it, followed by an illustration in his Bible Notebook.

We wrapped up the OT this week, and I had a great time looking back over the drawings he did for each of the stories.

He's not a huge fan of drawing -- he'd much rather write -- so his illustrations are fairly simple and unadorned...but they are super precious.

Keepsakes for sure!

(Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow down and worship the statue)

(Jonah and the big fish)

(Elijah calling down fire from Heaven)

(The plague of the gnats in Egypt)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Play-Doh Neurons!

To add a little hands-on pizazz to our two-chapter unit on the brain and the nervous system, our Apologia curriculum suggested we make models of neurons out of clay (we used Play-Doh).

Who knew making larger-than-life replicas of dendrites, axons and myelin sheaths could be so much fun!?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Testament Books of the Bible -- in song

One of our goals for the year was to memorize all 66 books of the Bible.

The Old Testament is more daunting, with more books to memorize -- so we tackled that first.

Thankfully, I found my old cassette tape that gave us a fun way to learn the books with song!

(Here's the song put to a presentation on YouTube.)

The kids have finally mastered it. I'm so proud!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Letter writing for handwriting and spelling practice

Sometimes routine handwriting and spelling worksheets can be bland.

One of the best ways we've found to practice handwriting and spelling? Writing letters!

Every week, the kids write a letter to someone -- their grandmama or Mimi, Daddy, a friend across town, an aunt, or our sponsored child.

We tried something new, too -- Miss Artsy wrote a letter to her favorite Disney cartoon characters, Chip and Dale. Three weeks later, a full-color, autographed photo arrived in our mailbox! It's now proudly displayed on her bedroom door.

If you'd like to write your favorite Disney character, here's the address!:

Walt Disney World Communications
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

Have fun!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bible Reader

One of my favorite parts of schooling is listening to G read from the My Father's World First Grade Bible Reader. :)