Saturday, January 26, 2019

Homeschool Science with Free Videos

I haven't posted much this last year or so, a lot of life going on around here with pregnancy loss and then pregnancy and keeping up with homeschooling 3 kids and all their activities while pregnant.  This year we decided to try The Good and The Beautiful for LA and History and are enjoying it and continued with the next books in Sassafrass Science and stuck with CTC math.  That's the main stuff.  However, I have really struggled with my motivation to do science.  The chapters feel long, I didn't feel like we were getting a ton out of the SCIDAT log kids only like the story but they logbooks became a big chore, science felt very time consuming and even though I kept wanting to love it, my kids weren't retaining what they had learned very well.  Not to put that against the science curriculum it may just be that my kids learn better through different methods.  But I started to feel like it wasn't worth the time when after all the time and effort in science and they couldn't recall much from it later on, yet they could offload detailed facts about things they had learned from a wildkratts episode they had watched a year ago or from watching the Planet Earth and Life series as a family.

With a preschooler and a baby about to join us, I want to be intentional about how we manage our time and learning.  The more my kids would randomly talk about in depth facts from science related videos and documentaries they watched a long time ago, but couldn't remember what we had studied in our homeschool time, it didn't feel like a good investment of our time.  The more I thought about this the more I figured if my kids retain information so much better from videos rather than a living book with notebooking (as much as I love the idea of that) then I should just have them do science learning through videos and then let it be delight directed learning from there.  So if they watch a video on something and they get excited about it, we can look up more on it, watch more videos, look up experiments or demonstrations they can watch and or do.  So this is a compilation of some resources for approaching science in a more unschool-relaxed way of learning that I think we are going to try.  I haven't previewed many of these but saving the links here for myself and anyone else that wants to quickly find free videos for science topics and unit studies.  This will be an ongoing compilation, if you know of any great resources to add please comment and share!  from here you can do notebooking, project based learning, lapbooking or simply narration or as enrichment to go with your packaged science program...there are so many ways to enjoy learning and it's important we don't get stuck within the security blanket of a purchased curriculum product for everything we do,  Sometimes it's easier to just have that open and go curriculum and I totally appreciate that, but we don't have to be hostage to certain products or methods of learning and teaching every subject either.  I'm curious to see how it goes just watching videos, then having the encyclopedia handy for the kids to look and then seeing where things go from there.


Operation Ouch - The Amazing Human Body on YouTube
Tongue, How Babies Grow, Eardrum, Breathing, Toxins in Wee, Kidneys, Spinal Cord, Energy, Bone Marrow, Poo. Body Bacteria, Plaque, Skin, The Heart, Guts, Couching, Blood Vessels, Flouresence, Red Blood Cells, Digestions, Wrinkly Skin, Bacteria Breath, Epiglottis, Vocal Chords, Vomit, Enzymes, Strength, Hormones, Fueling the Body, The Eye Lense, The Diaphragm, The Stomach, Brain, Pain Receptors, Sneezing, Diarrhea, and Nastogastric Tube.

Operation Ouch - The Endocrine System
Muscles, Energy and Adrenaline, How Tall Are You, Sleep, Insulin

Operation Ouch - The Human Head
Ear Injuries, Tongue, Head and Heachaches, Snotty Noses, Throat, Mouth, Excellent Ears, Getting Hairy, Teeth and Braces, Lip Injuries, Incredible Eyes, Contagious Yawning.

Operation Ouch - The Immune System
Bacteria and Infections, Alarming Allergies, Frightful Verrucas

Operation Ouch - The Nervous System
NERVES, Spine, Brain

Operation Ouch - Cardiovascular System
Blood, Blood Pressure, Pumping Hearts

Operation Ouch - Human Skin
Top 5 gruesome cuts (skip if you don't want to see gruesome cuts), Belmishes, Skin, Smelly Sweat, Sore Scars, Stretch Marks, Deep cuts and wounds, Bruises and blisters, Birthmarks, Burns and Skin Grafts

Operation Ouch - The Skeletal System
fingers and toes, Sprains, Broken Bones, Skeletons, Ankle, Wrist, Breaking Bones, Joints and Skeletal System, Lively Legs, Fantastic Fingers, Fixing Feet, Dislocations, Broken Arms, Knobby Knees, Tending to the Toes.

ENERGY- Heat - Light - Sound

Energy | The Dr. Binocs Show

Here Comes the Sun: Crash Course Kids

Three Methods of Heat Transfer

Light - 3 characteristics of light - CC memory song Reflection, Refraction, Spectrum

free on amazon prime


The Living Sea


Free School Earth Science playlist
3 states of matter, landforms, bodies of water, volcanoes, astronomy and space, rock cycle, clouds, oceans, glaciers, water cycle, snow, how leaves change color, thunder and lightening, caves, eclipse, why is sky blue, erosion, giant causeway, leap year.


Free School Astronomy and space for Children - Playlist
solar system, astronomy and space, phases of the moon, the sun, dwarf planets, milky way, solar eclipse, nebula, apollo 11, about the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Neptune, Myth of Orion, Aurora Borealis, Cassiopeia, Lunar Eclipse, Scorpius, Leo, Pluto not a Planet anymore, Ceres, Light Years, Taurus

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wicker Chair Makeover

I snagged these wicker chairs for ├át a local thrift store going out of business so...they were not very expensive...maybe I paid $20 for both..I don't remember exactly as it was last year.  But I wanted to spray paint them and have had the paint in the cupboard and finally today got around to doing it after cancelling pool plans due to my youngest having a nasty cold after a short beach trip.  Today is the definition of a lazy summer day!  

I mean....look at this kiddo...chillin' in the rocks listening to music and slowly burying himself in rocks.  He is also the sick one so just glad he's just hanging out and relaxed.

Here is the before of my wicker chairs.

Pretty worn.  I had picked out this Stone Gray color...and as I was about to start I did what I always do, second guess myself and almost decide to leave the chairs alone.  But I pushed through my little moment of doubt and in no time, had this, too late to change my mind now.

After picture of thrift store wicker chairs.

My 8 year old came out and asked why I chose that color...good question son...I just happened to like it while standing in the spray paint aisle...but he did say he thought the chairs looked better before...what do you think?  

The great thing about spray painting wicker chairs is that it a super easy thing to do and can easily be changed.
The black chairs are what's left of my bistro chairs with the plastic wicker that disintegrated and I ripped most of it off and just use the metal frame with a cushion. works.  I have never really splurged on furniture yet other than our bed, but we didn't get the set, just the maybe one day I will post some night stands I figure out for our room.  I have had other projects going on this year keeping me busy, including a complete boat interior makeover that we spend about all of January working on a bit each weekend. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Charleston, SC Weekend Trip

Last weekend we spent the weekend in Charleston, SC for JJ's gymnastics meet.  Us gym moms don't always enjoy traveling to meets, but this is one I don't mind because I LOVE Charleston!  This was my 3rd or 4th time to this city and it doesn't get old for me, and it's not just me...the kids can walk and explore and look at all the art in all the galleries as much as I can (well....almost!)  But it is fun when we can have a fun weekend together as a family and root for our girl at the end of it as she does her thing.  It was short and sweet but the memories last a lifetime :)  Here is a little video I made from our trip, some of the footage was taken by my 7 year old whom we just gave our old FLIP video recorder to that we never used anymore and he is super excited about it...he doesn't have an ipad or iphone so this is his device to play with :)

Now I will admit we were all pretty wiped on Monday as my hubby had to get to the airport that day so we drove home late Sunday night.  It was actually peaceful and nice and felt relatively fast until we stopped for gas about 40 minutes from home and the four year old was NOT happy the rest of the way home after getting woken up.  But feeling refreshed from the beautiful city of Charleston and spending time in all the galleries and looking into the courtyards as we walked down the residential streets, I came home feeling inspired and got to work doing some outdoor projects and also looking forward to a day soon that the kids and I can all paint together.  As we explored each gallery, I told the kids to find their favorite painting in each one and then they showed the rest of us and what they liked about it.  Studied some of the technique and what we observed about the paintings and told the kids to take mental notes to get ideas of something they might want to paint and how they might want to incorporate some of the neat styles and ideas they picked out and do it in their own way.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Weekend Girls Gymnastics Trip

This was from one of my daughter's recent meets which was like a little weekend girls trip!  We had a great time and I introduced JJ to No Doubt after she played the Roly Roly song for me...She thought I was crazy rocking out to some good ol' Gwen but I think deep down she knew Spider Webs was a way cooler song than Roly Roly.  I mean...come on...don't you agree?  Spider Webs and Roly Roly aren't even in the same league!




After discussing it she did agree that the Roly Roly song is pretty dumb but she still thought I was crazy with my No Doubt playlist.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Chores and Allowance - Kids Bank Accounts

Kids Bank Accounts

There are a lot of opinions out there on chores and allowance, some are against tying allowance to chores as that is an expected part of family life. Others say yes, you should tie work to pay to teach the value of work, others say no allowance period, teach obedience.  As parents, we can never do anything right. With such varied opinions put out to us about every minute detail of child rearing and all of it contradictory, at some point you have to just do what you think makes sense and not put so much weight onto every decision as if it's life or death and not worry what other people think.  And If you realize you made a mistake, it's not a OK if you change your mind later...pray, live, learn, adjust.

In the attempt to give our kids some life skills, we wanted them to earn some money to learn how to save and manage it, to become aware of the cost of things.  So our first approach came from the book Life Skills for Kids.  I made a chart with different responsibilities for each child each day and they got $0.05 per item accomplished. At the end of the week it was added all up and my daughter, who was about 6 or 7, had the ability to earn up to $3.00 a week.

After a while, and a new baby, that system gradually went to the wayside and we didn't really do any allowance or tracking system for chores/responsibilities.

Then we picked it back up with a more casual plan, $5 a week allowance if you do your chores and school with a good attitude and have a clean room by end of week.  If room wasn't clean by end of week, no allowance.  But the chores were based on whatever I decided to ask them to do and while they did do what I asked, I wasn't consistently having them do things for me, I would forget.  When life is busy, it's easy for me to get in the habit of doing everything myself and not even think to delegate certain jobs to the kids.  I kept track of their allowance on my notes app on my iPhone and if they wanted to buy something with their allowance I would subtract from that but my husband grew frustrated with it as it felt haphazard to him and he felt like they maybe weren't learning enough with it, he felt like we were still just buying stuff for them even when I subtracted it out of their allowance.  He also was worried that without a structure of knowing specific responsibilities they would start to expect their allowance without feeling like they needed to earn it and he's big on being a hard worker and not just expecting to have things given to you.  So with his help we created a more structured approach that would give them consistent responsibilities and also teach them about banking and keeping track of their money.

My husband created 2 excel spread sheets.  One with the list of chores for each child with the weeks marked out as far as we could go.  The other excel page is a mock bank account, we decided we will be the bank.  This simplifies things for us too right now from having to open bank accounts and then spend time making actual deposits and such when we can just do it on the excel sheet and be their bank.  On their statement they can see deposits from the weeks they earned allowance as well as withdrawals, debits and their balance.  If they are out with us and decide they want to use their allowance, I can purchase it for them but when we get home I just open the excel file and enter the transaction and it will adjust their balance.  If they want some cash, they can ask me for that and I can give them cash and mark a withdrawal on their statement, adjusting their balance.  We can print out their statement for them at anytime or show them on the computer.

So far the structure is feeling good and working well.  And I'm really appreciating the more consistent help around the house!  Even the little jobs make a difference.  Our youngest who just turned 4 is so proud about doing chores, we were giving his older siblings their chores and he kept begging to know "what am I supposed to do? I want a chores!" When we gave him some chores, he was so thrilled!  Lol I wonder how long that will last for but he is very excited to help right now so I'll take it :). And my oldest whose gotten some bigger jobs she has never done before like vacuuming the upstairs, even if she isn't as enthusiastic as her little brother about it, she still gets a sense of pride from doing it as I have been patient in training her how to do her chores and not overly critical, but trying to be encouraging and appreciative.  I also didn't want to become the barking mom Sargent chore nazi!  

Here is the system we have implemented with my husband being the excel, finance, management guy pretty much being the one who made the all work.

My husband made this Excel doc with their names and chores with the weeks posted so we can keep track for quite a few weeks without having to print out new charts all the time.  If they earned their allowance that week, we check off the week and add their payment to their “bank account” in the other excel sheet.  Only once have our kids not gotten their full allowance and once, our oldest got ½ because she had consistently did most of her chores but she let her room become a huge mess and after multiple reminders never took care of it.

(click on image to make full screen)

Kids Bank Accounts

On the excel doc, even if you aren’t good at equations, you can just use a calculator to keep up the balance and enter it manually. But if you or your husband know how to use excel, then it's super easy.

What I love about our kids bank accounts is that first of all…no hassle of actual bank accounts but it does all the same stuff as a bank account…mom and dad are the bank, This is also nice because it was frustrating when we would be out and the kids would want to buy something with their allowance, yet did not have their allowance then I would have to buy it and keeping track of their allowance was harder.  I kept a running tab on my notes on my phone but when my phone broke I lost all that and it was just not a very good system, they weren’t learning anything with it, as my husband would say, at then end of the day it still felt like we were just buying stuff for them.  They now love seeing their bank statement.  We will print it out for them before we go somewhere so they have it on them to look at when deciding if they want to buy an souvenir on a trip or whatever it is, they look at their statement and see what they have, they see how many weeks/deposits it took to earn a certain amount and are now thinking in terms of…”wow if I buy that, it’s like 3 weeks of chores!” And then will proceed to decide if it’s really worth that.  And for big things they might wish for, it gives them a goal when they can think, well if I make this much every week and save for a whole year, then I’ll have this much and maybe get some birthday money, I can actually buy that.  For example my son wants to buy a kid sized quad…he’s thinking if he saves his money and gets any extra he should be able to buy a good quality used on in 1-2 years and is very focused on that.  My daughter is thinking she wants to get into photography and wants a nice camera, if she saves up for 1-2 years or more, she will be able to buy one and by then maybe actually be better able to learn photography.

Another thing, with allowance, the kids can get a raise each year on their birthdays by 1 dollar (at least so far it’s what we’ve done)  and maybe the chores will change or a more thorough job will be expected.  As the kids have gotten used to their new jobs, they have had their frustrations and complaints, especially if they sweep the floor or vaccum the stairs and say they are done but they missed a good amount obvious areas.  The thing I have found to be key and remind my husband is to not exasperate them but just remind them they are still in training and it will take practice to know how to do the job right without us pointing out what they missed.  I gently remind them it’s ok we don’t expect them to be perfect and we aren’t being mean or critiquing when we show them what needs to be redone but it’s part of the training phase. (mainly with my oldest who is more distractible and more easily frustrated) Sometimes when weeks are busy and they have a lot of their plate (especially our oldest with her gymnastics schedule) I will do her job with her, knowing she has a lot going on, I still want her to find the time and have the responsibility but I will casually work alongside her with another broom or visit with her while she’s putting her laundry away…it also helps her stay focused as she is more like me and can be starting a job and then get distracted.  Or my son with cleaning out the van, I will take a garbage bag out there and be out there with him and help a bit as well but I’m not doing it for him.

The kids still complain about having to do chores some days but I guess I still complain about what I have to do some days too.  I do remind them that I had to do chores as a kid and got no allowance for it, it was just part of being in the family and I think there is value to that as well and since we have started the kids being more responsible, they will help out with other things we ask them to do not on their list without feeling entitled to more allowance every time they have to lift a finger outside of the arranged work.  It’s been like Charlotte Mason promised…

"a mother who instills good habits in her children ensures herself smooth and easy days."

Having the kids help out with these chores has been a game changer.  They don’t make as big of messes now because they know they have to help clean it up, it gives all of us, including me, the structure to stay on top of housework and having them doing their chores makes me more conscious of my own work and if I’m keeping up on it or not.  It has also taught them money management and banking and they are good about saving and spending responsibly as we print out and show them their statements with their deposits, purchases and withdrawals.  And there has been a LOT less annoying conversations of the kids constantly asking me how much money they have or reminding me how much I owe them (Oh how that would get under my skin!) because they know they can just check their "bank statement".  I am so thankful that my husband stepped in to help create a better structure for our chores and allowance, my brain is more abstract and sometimes I just don't think to break it down in the same way he would think to.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

DIY Knee Patches


If you have boys like mine, it only takes about a month for a new pair of jeans to have holy knees.  Today I decided to take the time to start patching them up so they can still wear them.  No point in buying new ones...they look like this so soon anyways.

 If you are a non-professional sewer like me, this a fun way to patch up those jeans and add some personality to them.

Set up Thread...choose a matching or contrasting color for fun.

(wow didn't notice that big fuzzie thing on my thread til I uploaded this pic! lol)

Set on a zig zag stitch (this is as fancy as this machine gets) and not too tight of a stitch length.  You can always test out your stitch on a scrap piece of fabric to get the right size zig zag you would like.

Remove the extra storage compartment to give you a smaller sewing arm because you're going to need to be able to get those little pant legs scrunched up on there and there is not a lot of room to work with. Mine were 3T...The legs were almost too narrow to slide up onto this smaller sewing arm but I had JUST enough room to work with.

Start with one of the holes.

Cut a scrap of fabric that is larger than the hole.  My scraps came from a knit throw blanket I made last year.  I love me a good scrap buster! (Used to host a Scappy Link Party on here years ago for creative scrap buster projects).

Place the patch fabric inside the pant leg and line up with the hole, making sure there is overlap of both materials all the way around.

Pin the fabric in place so it doesn't move and leave you with another hole.

Trim the long threads of the ripped jeans so they don't get caught on your presser foot as you sew...(I forgot to do this on my first patch.)

Slide paint leg up onto sewing arm through the waist of paints.  Careful to make sure everything stays in place and then right above the beginning of the hole, make your first zig zag stitch which will run horizontally across the pant leg.  Make sure to back stitch every time you start and end.  

I did not take the pants off the sewing machine to trim the bottom thread after every stitch.  After completing a row and back-stitching, I would lift the presser foot and turn the need up if it ended in a down position, and pull the pants off slightly to lengthen the thread coming through the needle, trim the thread close to pants leaving a tail (a couple inches long), then slide pants back up to the next area to sew, always pulling the tail thread straight back away from you.  

Work your way down the patch, starting your stitch on the denim part, back stitching to secure the stitch, then sewing across the patch and back stitching when you get to the end. 

You can see my back stitching where the thread appears to be darker/more bold. (if you are newer to your sewing machine and didn't know, back stitch is where you use the reverse button or lever on your machine to sew backwards over the seam you just made...I go back and forth a couple times.  All sewing machines are different so consult your manual if you are unsure of what which button or lever you need to use for back stitching.) 

Keep working your way in rows to secure your patch as you work your way down the pant leg. 

See how scrunched up the jeans are on my machine?  I did have to wrestle it (a little) as I got closer to the bottom of the hole where the jeans narrow.  If your jeans are bigger thank 3T this will be much easier. 

Finish sewing the zig zag rows across the patch. End with a final seam across the bottom of the hole on the denim securing the bottom of the patch fabric to the jeans.

Turn Jeans inside out and trim the threads on the back of the patch and trim away any excess fabric.

Repeat on other pant hole.  Little boys pants have been given a life extension!  You can have fun with the fabric choice, adding some personality to the pants with your patch.  This really was super easy and doesn't require much sewing skill.  As long as you can do basic operations on your machine.  This doesn't have to be perfect (unless you want it to be), just have fun with it, I mean the pants were pretty toast anyways anything is an improvement.

And after patching these pants I realized they are almost too small on him anyways...oh well...but all his hand-me-down jeans from his brother have holes so I will be doing more of this.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Homeschool Preschool and the Early Years

I recently shared this topic at our local Holistic Moms Network monthly meeting and wanted to share it here as well.  The Topic was Homeschooling Preschoolers and the Early Years and was addressed to moms who may already homeschool as well as those who have not homeschooled but are curious and interested. If you are looking for a local chapter of holistic parents, you can look up here to join your local community as well as the national community.

One of the first obstacles to overcome in making the decision to homeschool is our own personal insecurities and ideas about what education should be.  The first question is, am I qualified? How can I teach my child if I have no training in early childhood education?

How have they figured out everything they have learned so far in their little life? You have been their primary teacher from day 1 from teaching them to smile, eat solids, stand, walk, talk. The preschool and early years are just a continuation in their developmental milestones and brain development to which you have already been an amazed witness of.  You didn't need special skills to teach your child to walk, she had the natural desire from observing others walk and when she was ready, with the support and safety of her parents around to encourage, it was accomplished.  And just like walking and talking, not every child meets their educational developmental milestones at the same time.  Some kids might be able to count to 20 when they are two and some may not be able to until they are 4 or 5.  What it really takes to teach your child is a willingness to continue being in tune and engaged with your child, becoming a student of them so you can recognize when they are ready for the next thing and being ready to provide the resources and environment to encourage it.

What about reading? Let's get that out of the way real quick as it's sometimes homeschoolers biggest obsession-getting them to read! We worry that we don't know if we can teach them to read. How soon they start reading can be the pass/fail determination on our ability to teach our children.  When I was agonizing over the decision to homeschool or not and asked my mom who raised 5 kids through public school.  She gave me this answer. "They introduce reading at school but the kids that learn to read well, it requires the parents teaching and reading with them at home after school.  I taught all you kids how to read.  So basically, just take your pick, have it introduced at school and then reteach it at home after, get them a tutor, or just teach it yourself during the day and be done."  There are many great programs and methods (and plenty are free and inexpensive) for teaching your children to read and it doesn't have to be intimidating.  And again, reading is a major developmental milestone and not all kids brains are ready at the same time. Homeschooling gives you the ability to either cater to their quickness without them becoming bored and just as importantly allows you to slow down and take the pressure off as they learn at their own pace as some kids just need more time and a more gentle approach.  

First of all- keep it simple.
Great advice given to me from a seasoned mom when I was still just starting out was "don't kill yourself, all the amazing things you do, they mostly won't remember".  So choose how you invest and spend your time in creating an educational, inspiring environment for you and your children and choose resources that are most conducive to you enjoying using them with your children because this is a special time with your children and it's meant to be enjoyed.  But also don't go overboard trying to DO IT ALL.  Because you may end up with Adrenal Fatigue and your kids wont remember the elaborate things you did.  Pace yourself.

The story of the tortoise and the hare applies to teaching our young children. It's OK to go slow, live slow and be amazed as you watch them grow and find yourself growing in new ways with them.  Trust them.  We don't need to program them into little know it all geniuses by age 5 to prove ourselves and validate our decision to homeschool.  But rather to:

  • Cultivate, protect and preserve their natural curiosity, and desire of discovery and learning. While enjoying the precious time we have with them while they are still growing, because they grow fast.  Giving them a quiet time to grow and develop before joining the busy train of our society which they will be on the rest of their lives.
  • To enhance the family bond, having more focused time to instill the character and values that matter to your family and overall quality and quantity time together. Also, for us, my husband has had to travel a LOT in his career and sometimes get home late. Homeschooling has given us the freedom to tag along with him on some of his trips where the kids and I just enjoy the hotel pool and location while he works, we’ve bonded on many road trips we wouldn’t have taken with him if we didn’t homeschool.  It’s also allowed us to have a slightly later bedtime since we can wake up when we want and my husband can have some quality time in the evening after dinner without having to rush them to bed.
  • To provide a healthy safe environment, where they can be themselves and not be put into any boxes. If your child is a kinesthetic learner who needs to move a lot, you can accommodate that and it isn’t a problem.  You can accommodate their personality and learning styles.  Also they are not constantly exposed to germs and if they have any food issues, it is nice to have them home where you can make sure they are not accidentally being exposed to things they can’t have when they are too little to know the difference. 
  • For overall freedom to choose when you travel, how your child learns, what they learn, what they eat, owning your calendar- you design your schedule and life without the demands and requirements of school.  We are able to visit our family on the west coast twice a year for a couple weeks each time we go, off season when travel fares are not as expensive.  We’ve been able to spend so much more quality time with our family out west over the years because of homeschooling, and with my dad having ALS and sweet nieces and nephews growing up fast, every visit we can make is cherished time that makes it all worth it on the days I feel like I don't get a break.
  • You can give your kids a customized private education without the expense or commitments of private school and you can do it very affordably. Some people spend almost no money on curriculum with all the free resources available. There are plenty affordable books and resources and on the other side, expensive curriculums and hybrids.  It goes back to the freedom to design and plan what you do and how you do it and what works for your family.

For the Preschool-Early Years we focus on the importance of play.
You don't need to buy a curriculum.  If you find one you love then Go for it but it is not necessary.  In the US we start formal education around ages 4/5 but In Sweden and Finland, kids do not start school until age 7. Many believe that formal education should be held off til later in favor for informal, play based learning. 

Now we have cleared up that we don't need to feel pressured to go crazy forcing our babies to be instant geniuses. Yay!  But what we can do is preserve that sweet special honeymoon time in your young family life before all the chaos and busy-ness of life inevitably ensues.  The early years go by fast, they grow up so quick, and being able to consciously slow down and relish it is an incredible freedom and choice that we have.

 So what do we do in the early years?

Play is meaningful work. Provide open ended, creative play things like blocks, magnet tiles, play silks/fabric, mudpie kitchens and other creative resources.  Also make sure you schedule unscheduled time in your days to allow creative play to happen. 

The art of strewing is allowing your child to discover something you have casually left out or strategically leaving “invitations” for learning and creativity out for your kids to discover on their own.  By strewing you can instill a love of learning by engaging your child's natural curiosity.  

" Strewing is not about adding to the clutter. It’s about creating subtle but irresistible invitations. Product placement if you will. Strewing works best, in fact, in an uncluttered space.
Strewing is more about helping your kids explore and play and create on their own. It’s about introducing or reintroducing materials, books, concepts, in a non-pushy way that lets them own the experience and gives them the thrill of discovery."  Artful Parent

Ex: construction - setting out a bin of building materials like magnet tiles, wooden blocks, etc
Reading -a wordless book or touchy feeling book or a book set open to a certain page of interest
Nature-set out a tray of sea shells or other nature finds, setting out some kid binoculars on the window ledge with a bird book nearby
A lacing toy or other educational toy or manipulative.

Charlotte Mason said "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life." Strewing helps create that atmosphere where learning can be like breathing, something that happens all the time.

Montessori would call this practical life activities, Charlotte Mason would call it habit training.  This is teaching your child to be a helpful member of the family and eventually a good citizen. Mason said “There are many simple age appropriate tasks and chores that children as young as 2 can do.” And “A mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days”.

Here is an example with printable made by Thirty Handmade Days. You can find more goodies and information about life skills by clicking the image below.
Image result for life skills list montessori
Here's a habit list as an example of Charlotte Mason style habit training.  This gives one habit to focus on each month. (below image can't find original post came up on google images by The Unplugged Family but I think they must have taken down the site.)
Image result for charlotte mason habits list

Sensory play is important for all children. It enhances learning through hands on exploration of the world they live in.
Here are 5 reasons why sensory play is beneficial:
  • 1.                        Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
  • 2.                        Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
  • 3.                        This type of play aids in developing and enhancing memory
  • 4.                        Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
  • 5.                        This helps children learn sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry)* Source

From sand tubs, water beads, play dough and sensory bins there are many ways to engage the senses. Just Pinterest sensory play and try limit yourself to how much time you have to spend on the Internet because there are ideas GALORE. Pick the easiest ones to prepare and implement.  

Have a nature table or shelf. Just somewhere to display the things your child finds and collects during time spent outdoors.  Fight back against nature deficit disorder.  studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. (According to this article)
Time outdoors builds more confidence, promotes creativity and imagination, teaches responsibility, provides different stimulation, gets kids moving, makes kids think and reduces stress and fatigue.  It's also beneficial for us too, so if we dedicate ourselves to spending time outside with our kids, we all benefit.  
-Go to the park
-Take a nature walk – collecting things along the way of interest to bring home and display on nature table, glue into a nature notebook as a collage, make a rubbing or paint on. 
-Take a listening walk – a listening walk is no talking, but listening and identifying all the sounds you hear, birds, lawn mower, cars, crickets, bees buzzing, airplane, crunch of gravel or leaves underfoot, scraping of shoes on concrete, sound of stroller wheels, wind rustling the leaves etc.
 -Create a mud pie kitchen in your back yard or make a portable one to take to the park or nearest beaches. It could be a simple crate with some bowls, buckets, kitchen utensils and a small cookie tray from the dollar store.
 -Hike as a family
-Sit on the front steps with an ice cream, cup of tea, hot cocoa/coffee, etc and just listen and observe.
-Eat Dinner outside whenever the weather allows.
-Pack a spontaneous picnic and go to your favorite local spot when the weather turns out too be just too wonderful to stay home.
-Just go outside and play with the kids, then let them start to do their own thing while you relax in a lawn chair.

Reading aloud promotes language development and early literacy skills. It is widely accepted that reading aloud is the single most important researched activity leading to language development and promotes early literacy skills ( 2, 3), such as: Word sound awareness. Book handling and naming. (source)
Not to mention the nurturing and engaging that happens as you snuggle up, learn and discover together.  I wasn't a big reader as I grew up, but have found reading and learning with my kids so fulfilling and enjoyable.
Read aloud every single day with your child and don’t worry about making every cute coordinating activity from pinterest (just look up The Hungry Caterpillar ideas and you'll quickly see how in depth you can go, which is fun an all, but it's also OK to just enjoy the book for what it is too). 

Check out and subscribe to the read aloud revival podcast.

For the earliest form of writing, get your children to see you value their thoughts and put them on paper. If your child has a story to tell you, write it down for them.  It's a great way to model writing in the early years without the pressure to perform that task yet.  One thing we did with my son was make a Happy Thoughts journal. It was just a small notebook and at bedtime I would ask him what were his happy thoughts from the day and as he told me I would write them down in his book for him.  He was so proud of his book and loved hearing me read in back to him.  My daughter would narrate stories to me and I would write either illustrate them (with stick people) as she made it up and then as she got older, I would write down her story as she said it.  As I discovered Julie Bogart of Brave Writer, she refers to this type of activity and phase as the Jot it Down Phase (which is geared to more like k-2 grade but you can do it for fun with your younger ones).
Also have them narrate to you. Charlotte Mason is big on narration- describing things they saw, things they did, things that happened in the story you just read together.  This will build the foundation for future writing and trains them to pay attention to the details and builds vocabulary and communication skills. It can be as simple as show and tell with family or relatives over Facetime.

Here are some very holistic educational styles/philosophies that can greatly inspire your educational and teaching approach with your children.  They don’t focus on rote memorization, early pressure on academics, but rather take a gentle approach and focus on the child as a whole, acknowledging their natural ability and desire to learn and protecting that so that their curiosity or love of learning lasts a lifetime.

Founded by Regio Emilia and easiest summed up as a projects based approach.
Strewing would fall in line with this approach as well.  You can look up REGGIO PROVOCATIONS on Pinterest for lots of ideas. Parent is a student and mentor to your child to understand their interests and help them go further. Projects aren't planned in advance, they emerge based off your child's interests, such as a child being curious about how a flower grows, rather then just tell them, encourage them to find out. That may lead to planting some seeds in a pot and watching them grow. You also document and display the projects to show what has been learned over the year.

A holistic approach to child education developed by Maria Montessori, Italy's first female physician, in the late 1800s. It is child-led learning by creating spaces scaled to their size with objects organized and accessible to them.
and focuses on the following principles: 
movement & cognition, movement can enhance thinking and learning, put on some Ziggy Marley and start your day with a dance party and allow your child lots of freedom to move throughout their day) 
choice, learning is improved when ppl have a sense of control over their lives. Give them simple choices.
interest, people learn better when they're interests are fed
extrinsic rewards avoided (rewards negatively impact motivation), 
learning from & With peers (host a weekly peer interest group to engage in creative play with like puppet shows, plays, art etc), 
learning in context (learn by doing), 
teacher ways and child ways (have them help pick out their library books, decide the menu and help shop, what order to get things done on lost and honor their judgements), 
order in the environment (having a tidy clear work space, 10 minute cleanup times.)

Charlotte Mason
Educator from the late 1800s-early 1900s
Charlotte Mason counseled mothers “In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time.”
Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to give their little ones a full six years of developing good habits, getting acquainted with nature, exploring with the five senses, growing in their spiritual lives, and playing outdoors. You can spend most of your time focusing on developing good habits, outdoor play, read alouds, and bible. If you want to do more you can add handicrafts, art, music and poetry. Then gently as your child shows readiness you can introduce reading, writing and math through informal activities.
“Children are born with all the curiosity they will ever need. It will last a lifetime if they are fed upon a daily diet of ideas.”

Another beautiful, peaceful play based holistic approach to early childhood education focusing on predictable structure and routine with certain days of the week for certain activities. Involves a lot of story telling and creative learning as well as time outdoors, playing outside everyday no matter the weather.  There are no media really and makes use of wooden toys and natural materials.  Kids explore with watercolors, sculpting with beeswax, using natural beeswax crayons, engaging in small world play, and activities revolving around celebrating the seasons.  Lots of focus on their imagination, which is why media is so discouraged and open ended, natural play things encouraged—like play silks.  A basket of playsilks that can be used by their imagination into any game is a staple in Waldorf. And look up Waldorf dolls, they are so sweet!

Can you mix and match? YES! You can become a purist to any educational approach but in reality you and your child can benefit from implementing any of the ideas and elements that various educational approaches and philosophies offer.  All of these methods take a holistic approach and emphasize the importance of play, protecting the natural love of learning with a gentle approach and encourage imaginative play and time outdoors with appreciation for nature.

The important thing is to find a rhythm rather than a rigid schedule and parenting consistently to build life skills and good habits.  Choose quality resources over quantity and enjoy your time together.  Provide access to art and craft supplies.  As they begin to show readiness for further academic instruction, provide short sweet lessons where they can be completely focused for a short amount of time and just be consistent and low stress.  If your child is melting down over school work that is put in front of them, be patient. They may not be ready to handle formal work yet and continue the gentle, holistic, hands on projects based approach until they are able to do more without being overwhelmed. Also, many of these elements can be brought into your home family life even if aren’t homeschooling full time or at all.  

For people who like to see tangible products to show what was learned, rather than making kids do workbooks at an early age, you can document with you phone.  If they drew the alphabet or some shapes on the driveway with sidewalk chalk then snap a picture or write it down.  In the early years I found it most helpful to have a small list of things I wanted to do with my kids and then start a new list that I wrote down the things they did as we went along our day and I was always amazed how the page would fill up and yet only 1 or 2 things from my original list would end up on there.  Looking at the after list was very assuring of all the amazing, meaningful things that were happening with them each day rather than just crossing off one or two things on my more arbitrary list.

Websites for further planning and research

Pinterest - look up preschool counting, Montessori preschool ideas, Reggio provocations, reggio preschool, play invitations, Montessori practical life ideas,  Charlotte Mason preschool, Waldorf preschool etc for inspirationg and planning

Suggested programs for when ready for more formal but still gentle lessons

ProgressivePhonics (free online program you can either print the books or save to ibooks and read on your ipad) 
CTCMath (online but still short concise lessons with manipulatives on screen works, great for dyslexic learners who struggle with writing down their answers they can just type them in.  We've found our place here)
1+1+1=1 - LOTS of free early educational resources and activities.  I liked the calendar and calendar book for K-1 age range with mine. Printables start from TOT SCHOOL, move onto PRESCHOOL and then KINDERGARTEN and a little past. This was my main resource when I started homeschooling.  I bought a $30 laminator and laminator pouches, paper and dry erase markers and was pretty much set!

If you are already a homeschool mama,  PLEASE COMMENT BELOW and share YOUR favorite resources and advice for homeschooling in the early years!  We all have learned things through this journey that can be valuable to others.

If you have questions, bring em on as well!