Homeschool Theme Days: Teddy Bear Picnic

teddy bear picnic | homeschool theme day ideas | hands-on homeschooling for ADHD and active learners

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t always cooperate with our homeschool theme days. If your spring picnic gets rained out, indoor picnics can be just as much fun. There are lots of possibilities for theme ideas. Recently, I had a dear friend in church, a retired teacher, suggest a homeschool theme day “Teddy Bear picnic” with my kids. She and my kids put it together, and I got a lunch date with my hubby! (I am so blessed!!) My daughter was in charge of decorating. My youngest gathered teddy bear guests. My oldest prepared a report with facts about bears. I helped gather our bear-themed books, and my friend brought a teddy bear craft. My kids had so much fun, they were bummed when I came back home! Lol! So here are a few ideas for your own teddy bear picnic.

Homeschool Theme Days: Teddy Bear picnic

Decorate with a blanket, teddy bears, and some homemade bear prints. My daughter drew her own bear prints, cut them out, and created a trail of bear prints to our picnic. We kept it simple, but the kids had so much fun taking this on themselves, gathering teddy bears and donating blankets to the cause.

Gather bear books and activities. Winnie the Pooh, The Ice Cream Bear, Going on a Bear Hunt, Paddington—there are so many fun bear classics that could make the list. We didn’t get to all of them and will probably soon have a Winnie the Pooh picnic at our favorite nature spot as soon as the weather cooperates. My friend brought a very cute teddy bear craft and found a fun teddy bear picnic song on Youtube

Include older kids with bear facts. My oldest is a writer and took this project very seriously, searching our home library for a variety of bear resources. He chose to write and read his two page report, but there are plenty of other ideas as well. Have your older child make a display board, write their own teddy bear story, or present bear encounter “survival tips.” 

I love adding these fun spontaneous days to our learning, but the key is always to keep it simple and flexible. Pick your favorite book (or books), spread a blanket, and have some fun! 

Want more homeschool theme day ideas? Check out these posts:

Star Wars ideas for every subject

Spring and Nature activity ideas

St. Patrick’s Day ideas

Dr. Seuss theme ideas

Homeschool Theme Days: Star Wars themes for every subject

star wars learning ideas | homeschool theme days | hands-on learning

What could be more fun than a Star Wars homeschool theme day! We are nearing the end of our school year, but as press toward the finish line, we need a little added fun to our days. So let your kids dress up as their favorite Star Wars character and add a little force to your homeschool theme day with some of these fun Star Wars activities for each subject.

Educational Games and Resources by subject

educational games by subject | learning fun | gameschooling

My active kids love to learn (or show what they’ve learned) with games. Educational games have been an important part of our unit celebrations for years, and this year, I’ve included more in our daily routine to help us get through our Monday struggles. While we don’t use those educational games as our primary curriculum, I definitely want to incorporate more of them into our regular curriculum next year.

Which means I’ve been scouting, keeping an eye out for top-notch educational games to add to our collection. I’ve got a pretty good list going with lots of great educational game ideas for the different subject areas. Not all are necessarily on my wish list, but they make it onto yours. So I’m including all of my scouting work here for you. 

Educational Games for Math
  1. Sector 18 (formerly Number Rings)*
  2. Fraction Matchin’
  3. Smathor Mobi Max
  4. Even Steven’s Odd
  5. Incan Gold (division)
  6. Pizza Fraction Fun
  7. Race to the Treasure (grid coordinates)
  8. Number Ninjas

* We own these games, and I absolutely love them!

Educational Games for Science
  1. Into the Forest (natural food chain relationships)
  2. Hit the Habitat Trail (animals & habitats)—on my wish list!
  3. Sci or Fi Files
  4. Some Body Human Anatomy game—on my wish list, too!
Educational Games for Social Studies/History

My list here is pretty short, but there are a ton of free games you can find online. A couple of my favorite websites to search are Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool and Ellen McHenry. We’ve also gotten a number of favorites through our notebooking activity packs from Homeschool in the Woods. We also own a pack of Professor Noggin ancient history cards that we used for history Headbandz game at our last unit celebration.

  1. Passport to Culture
  2. Professor Noggin cards series
  3. Classical Historian history card games
Educational Games for Language Arts
  1. Pharaoh’s Phonics
  2. Rhyme Out
  3. Story Cubes
  4. Alphabet Island
  5. Word Pirates (spelling)*
  6. Bananagrams (own it, and love it!)
  7. Stepping Stones: the Expository Writing Game*
  8. The Storymatic Kids
  9. Tell Tale Pocket Game
  10. Cooking up Sentences: parts of speech game *
  11. Comprehension Blast Off game (reading comprehension skills) *
  12. Create-a-Story Board Game

*These games are on my wish list as well!

Another great resource to look for hands-on learning resources and educational games is TeacherspayTeachers.com. What other resources, websites, and educational games do you recommend? Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments as well. I’d love to know what your favorites are.

Allergy-Friendly Bread Machine Recipe

The kitchen is the absolute best place for hands-on homeschooling. So many lessons take place in the kitchen: math, chemistry, confidence and experimentation, following a process—not to mention those heart-to-heart talks that food and a warm oven inspire.

Because we live the “food allergy lifestyle,” the kitchen is an even more natural place for our homeschool. I’m always there.

Over the last few years, we have seen huge improvements both physically and mentally through diet changes and keeping a food journal, including significant improvement with ADHD and emotional/sensory issues. It’s been a long journey, and each family member (including my husband and myself) has slightly different needs, which creates quite a long list of eliminations for me. In addition to avoiding all artificial (petroleum-based) dyes and preservatives, we are also gluten, dairy, corn, and largely egg-free. That means I cook—ALL THE TIME. My allergy-friendly kitchen is constantly whirring. But I don’t do it all by myself. That’s nearly impossible. Instead, I’ve recruited some helpers to share the load. I’m teaching my oldest to make bake: bread, rolls, muffins, hamburger/hot dog buns, etc. That’s right. I’ve got a gluten/dairy/corn/egg-free allergy-friendly bread machine recipe that is simple enough my fifth grader can make it.hands-on learning in the kitchen | allergy friendly kitchen

I’m not a gourmet chef, by a long shot. I’m an allergy-mom who’s just trying to keep food on the table. Much of this has been trial and error for me. The kids have watched me try, and they have graciously eaten my failures. I’d like to think that’s given them the courage to try cooking and baking without the pressure of everything turning out perfectly. (And if you are just starting on this path, keep your chin up. You’ll find your groove again. You’ll get comfortable with baking and cooking flops. And eventually, you’ll find something that works, too. There will be a new normal.)

I’ve loved sharing this recipe with my son and teaching him what I’ve been learning, the chemistry of baking and the logic behind substitutions. “What does the egg do in this recipe? What substitute will do that for us?” “Follow the recipe, sort of, but always keep an eye on your texture; that’s most important.” It’s been a great help and a fun bonding time. I think this summer, I may promote him to part-time cook.

 

Allergy-Friendly Bread Machine Recipe

Ingredients
  • 3 cups gluten-free flour with xanthum gum included (I use Namaste, not totally corn-free, but it’s worked for us.)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 package of Red Star active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt (I use sea salt.)
  • 4 tsp. baking powder (I use Hains baking powder.)
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice (Apple cider vinegar works, too, if you have a safe-for-you vinegar.)
  • 3 tsp. arrowroot powder, mixed in about 1/4 cup of water (just enough to dissolve the powder)
  • 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups warm water
Directions

Mix flour, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.

Add the salt and baking powder, then pour the lemon juice over the baking powder. Next, pour the arrowroot mixture over the baking powder. There should be a fair amount of bubbling and fizzing. Add the melted oil.

Mix the ingredients well. Mixture will be dry and crumbly. Slowly add the warm water, mixing thoroughly before adding more. The amount of liquid needed will often vary. Mixture should be sticky and no longer dry, but be careful not to get the dough too wet or it will sink in the middle after it’s done baking.

Place mixture into the bread machine and follow bread machine settings for gluten free bread. Often this will mean a shorter rise time (My bread machine setting is 1 hr. 55 min. rapid rise setting).

*Some bread machines have a yeast dispenser, but I’ve personally never had success with that feature. I’ve also never had success with dumping ingredients in and letting my bread machine do the work; I’m assuming it’s all those substitute ingredients for an allergy friendly dough.*

**Disclaimer: As always, be sure to use safe-for-you ingredients to be sure that any recipe is truly safe for your allergies. **

 

When a pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail

Learning is about discovery, not perfection. | homeschool success | imperfect progress

I love Pinterest for homeschool inspiration. But for all that inspiration, my homeschool isn’t always “pinterest-worthy.” Sometimes our projects are very nearly pinterest-fails. And yet in those moments, I see my kids beam with admiration. They aren’t comparing their creativity to the perfect projects online; they are glorying in their learning success, reveling in the joy of creating something original. So why should I compare our imperfect homeschool progress to someone else’s? Learning is about discovery, not perfection. A pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail.

Case in point, we’ve tackled clay this year. And my kids have loved it! There is something soothing about wet, squishy clay that even my uber-sensory-sensitive child enjoys. We’ve tackled bas-relief, clay pottery, and sculpture. It’s been so much fun, and my kids will remember this year and our clay adventures for quite awhile, even though much of what they have created would not be necessarily pinterest-worthy. Our pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail; it’s imperfect homeschool progress.

 

not homeschool-fail | imperfect homeschool progress

My lesson plan was Greek pottery, but my kids had ideas of their own—including sculpting Alexander the Great (and a monkey face but somehow I didn’t end up with a picture of that one, another example of my imperfection for you). And just one week later, my daughter dropped her bowl while painting it, shattering it into pieces. Her presentation to her homeschool friends that week included how she had learned that Greek pottery is fragile.

Our display boards are another pride and joy. They worked hard on those projects and loved every minute of the journey, but few will find those images on Google and stand in awe. That’s okay! Because my purpose was not to impress others with our artistic ability. My purpose was to create lasting memories that fuel their love for learning.

Do you find yourself skipping a project because you know your kids can’t produce what you see on Pinterest or Instagram?

Are you tempted to micromanage the project to make it look better?

Are you embarrassed to share the final result?

Trust me, I’ve been there. But I’ve realized over the years it doesn’t matter; I’ve learned to share our homeschool imperfections proudly. As we cycled through history this year, I listened to my kids share about our first time through ancient history, squeal with delight when they saw favorite stories from five years ago, and recall for each other our first projects and adventures. I loved hearing their memories and realizing, this is why I make the effort at hands-on family learning. Not so that someone will re-pin our Nile River or our bas-relief, but because my kids will remember the year we played with clay and learned all about Greece and Rome. A pinterest-fail is NOT a homeschool-fail. No matter what others may see, we remember a huge homeschool success!

Learning History Through Art: braving clay & other art adventures

learning history through art | bas relief | ancient history art | Tapestry of Grace | ARTistic Pursuits

I remember in the past making a lot of excuses when it came to big art projects in our Tapestry of Grace curriculum. But on an impulse this year, I bought some air-dry clay. Maybe it was the creative rush of a brand new Hobby Lobby just opening in our area, maybe I was feeling excessively optimistic about our year—whatever the mind-set, I ended up with a big box of clay and no excuses. So I’m trying something new this year and braving the clay as we learn our history through art of different cultures.

First up on our tour, has been bas-relief. It seemed simple enough, as we read the instructions and looked at examples in our ARTistic Pursuits book. Carve out an image, smoosh the clay away from what you carved, add details, paint.

And honestly, it was that simple. All the kids enjoyed it. And I do love it when all my kids get to learn something together, from preschool to fifth grade. We learned Assyrian and Babylonian history through art and clay. We’ve been reading about the Assyrians bas-relief battle campaigns and, of course, the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon. Even my preschooler knows where the Ishtar Gate is on his talking globe. The boys chose to carve a dragon and a minion, while my daughter was inspired by the idea of Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens.

ancien history | bas relief | history through art

ancien history | bas relief | history through art | preschool

This was a two week project, and part of my campaign to overhaul Mondays. If you follow my weekly updates via my email list, you know the struggle we’ve had with Mondays and my attempts to salvage something from these days. We do only math on Mondays, meet together about the upcoming assignments for the week, and do read-alouds and projects for the rest of the day. For this project, they shaped the clay one Monday and painted it the next.

ancien history | bas relief | history through art

None of the many fiascos I envisioned actually occurred, and I’m thinking I may even be brave enough to tackle Greek clay vases in another week or two. Homeschooling stretches us, doesn’t it? But I’m (usually) always glad I’ve taken the risk and been brave enough to try something new. Learning history through art and hands-on activities and fun read-alouds is exactly why I homeschool, at least one of my million or so reasons.