Adjustments and Logistics… Moving Into the Second Month of the Reading Circle!

As the calendar rolls over to June, I am pleased to say Chansen Academy’s Reading Circle is entering its second month!  It was a challenge to get Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling completed, but I put in a big push and got it done this week!  Hooray!  Did you tackle reading Teach Your Own this month?  How is your reading going?

I really enjoyed the book and plan to spend some time pondering and writing about my impressions and thoughts.  Though I don’t know that I would now describe myself as a ‘Holt disciple’ I was definitely inspired by much of what he wrote.  I plan to add more of his works to my reading list going forward.

As we move into the second month, I will be making some changes to the schedule and logistics of the Reading Circle.  First, I am going to pull the planned June 2015 book: Math from Three to Seven: The Story of a Mathematical Circle for Preschoolers (MSRI Mathematical Circles Library) by Alexander Zvonkin and replace it with Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate M.D.  I plan to use Math from Three to Seven as a resource for our math circle, so I would like to work my way through the material more slowly.

I have been wanting to read Hold On to Your Kids since I first heard about it at a homeschool conference almost two years ago.  I just ordered my copy!  It should be here on Wednesday.  I hope this change doesn’t inconvenience anyone.  Please feel free to contact me if it is an issue.  (All links in this post will open in new tabs.)  You can order a copy for yourself through the Amazon affiliate link below.  (If you use this link to make any purchases, we will receive a small commission.  For more information, please see our Legal Stuff page.)

Since I am moving the book that was scheduled for October 2015 to June, that opens up some space to insert another title and rearrange the order as well.  I received a couple of suggestions for Reading Circle books and am considering adding the following:

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners Paperback by Lori McWilliam Pickert  (Affiliate link below)

Science Notebooks, Second Edition: Writing About Inquiry by Lori Fulton and Brian Campbell  (Affiliate link below)

Thoughts?  Other suggestions?  I will be updating the 2015 Reading Circle schedule soon.

On another note, I will also be making changes to the Reading Circle discussion space.  I have received over 200 spam registrations for the forum and have been unable to identify a way to stop them from rolling in.  I am planning to shut down the forum and have created a closed Facebook Group as an alternative discussion area.  If you would like to be added to the group, please search for Chansen Academy Reading Circle on Facebook.  I’d love to have you join us!

This Circle is really motivating me to read and learn more about homeschooling!  I hope it is proving beneficial for you as well.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments or questions.  I look forward to more reading adventures with you!


Searching for Summer… 12 Sizzlin’ Suggestions for a Sensational Season

As our weather has suddenly changed from ‘unsettled’ to ‘rather warm,’ I have been pondering this change of season.  It is so easy for the warm and welcoming days (and nights!) of summer to slip away and, before we know it, the leaves are changing and there is a chill in the air.   I can honestly say I love all the seasons, but am well aware that different times lend themselves to different activities.  😉

In the interest of ‘seizing the season,’ Mic and I put together a list of activities we want to do with the kids this summer.  We choose 12…  theoretically one for each week…  Like life is ever that organized…  haha…  Without further ado and in no particular order, here are our sizzlin’ suggestions for a sensational summer….

  1. Go to the lake….  Often!
  2. Roast marshmallows over the fire pit in the back yard
  3. Hit the pool
  4. Explore a cave
  5. Go camping
  6. Stargaze
  7. Release some lady bugs
  8. Spend a whole day outside, observing how the sun moves and the day changes
  9. Go for a bike ride in the mountains
  10. Hike!
  11. Visit the ocean
  12. Take a bus or trolley ride – This one is a little random, but Lala has been obsessed with wanting to ride a bus.  😉


What would you put on your summer ‘must-do’ list?  I’d love to hear your ideas!  Now, what are we all waiting for…?  Let’s go celebrate the season!

Whirling With the Wind… Building an Anemometer!

We finally made our anemometer today!

I started with these awesome instructions on Instructables using paper cups, straws, a pencil, and a push pin…  Check it out: Paper Cup Anemometer.  Of course, as usual… our finished product turned out a little different…  hehehe

Here are the supplies…


I decided to use a hole punch to put the holes in the sides of the cups….  The kids had fun with that part!  Four holes in the base cup…


Base cup with straws inserted to form the cross pieces…


Had to use the scissors for the hole in the bottom of the base cup…


Base cup with pencil through the bottom hole and pushpin through the straws (where they cross) and into the eraser of the pencil…


Side cups with two holes each…


Anemometer assembled!


Our cups were bigger than the ones called for in the original instructions and the straws were too short to fit all the way through them… so we used a couple of staples to keep everything in place correctly….  😉


Side view of the anemometer…


Angled view…


Bottom view…


The kids had fun blowing on it, trying to make it spin…  Daddy had enough ‘wind’ to make it spin really fast!  It was cool to watch it whirl when the wind picked up.  At this point, I had thought about discussing measuring wind speed (Why let an opportunity for a math lesson slip by?!?  😉 ), but after hassling me over all the supplies and tools for the project, helping punch the holes, supervising the assembly, and testing the final product…  the kids wandered off to other pursuits on the other side of the yard.  Attention spans only last so long…  😉  This was a great project for our windy weather!

Bubbly, Squishy Sensory Play with Bobas!

The kids seem to be on the mend from their colds, but after a few days of mild symptoms, I took a turn for the worse yesterday. Ugh. I hate being sick!

Since I am not feeling terribly energetic today, I decided a ‘low-key’ activity was in order… So, today we are  playing with…  BOBAS!

I don’t remember how I came across these things. They are tapioca pearls used for Boba Bubble Tea.  Easy to make and edible, though not very tasty…  😉 They are great for sensory play!

After bringing some water to a boil, add the Bobas and boil them for five minutes.


Then drain them, fill the pan with cold water, and drain them again to cool them off.


I put them in plastic bowls for the kids to play with… They are delightfully sticky and squishy.





Today, we ended up getting out a couple of aluminum foil pans as well. Tbear really wanted to transfer the Bobas back and forth between the pan and the bowl.


They have an interesting, gummy consistency that will stick to you and then slowly fall off…


It’s a fun activity!  They do leave a little clear residue on your hands, but it washes off easily.  If you squeeze them as hard as you can, they will compress a little, but won’t fall apart…


I ordered these from Amazon, but think you could likely get them from an Asian grocery.  I ordered a bag several months ago and periodically make up part of it, so we have been able to use it for this activity several times.  (Amazon affiliate link – If you use this link to make any purchases, we will receive a small commission.  For more information, please see our Legal Stuff page.  Link will open in a new tab.)

After playing for a while, transferring the Bobas back and forth, squeezing them, scattering them all over the table… 😉 the kids wandered outside to enjoy the nice weather in the sandbox.  It’s a great day for squishy, scratchy sensory play!


Making Mini Books for Aspiring Authors!

I realized yesterday that I still hadn’t posted about the mini alphabet and number books we made in co-op several weeks ago…  We had so much fun making them and they were pretty easy to put together!



I started with a bag of random sized squares of scrapbooking paper that was lurking in the cabinet…  I pulled out and put together bundles of pieces of the same size – 14 for the alphabet books and 6 for the numbers.


Using a hole punch, Mic helped prep by putting a hole in the upper corner of the pages. I found a package of book rings at Dollar Tree. The rings went through the holes and… The books were ready for their authors!


I gave each kid a set of alphabet stickers and number stickers.


Mic and I also put together sticker dots for the kids to add to their number books.



They also had crayons available to decorate their books.

The kids got the chance to be both authors and illustrators!


Tbear enjoyed putting the sticker dots right on top of the numbers in his book!


Lala’s Number Book in progress…


We put each child’s name on the front cover, with the ‘title’ of the books.


This project is a great letter and number activity, as well as a fun opportunity to help kids understand the concept of creating their own books…  being an author!  One never knows what might light the spark of creativity!


Supplies List
I used items I had around the house or found at Dollar Tree for this project.  For convenience, a supply list with affiliate links to similar items on Amazon appears below.  (If you use these links to make any purchases, we will receive a small commission.  For more information, please see our Legal Stuff page.  Links will open in new tabs.)

Paper – “Sn@p! Color Vibe Collection Paper Pad 6″”X6″” 36 Sheets-“
Hole punch – Swingline 1-Hole Punch, 1/4″ Holes, 5 Sheets (A7074005)
Book rings – S.P. Richards Company Book Ring, 1 1/2-Inch Diameter, 100 per Box, Silver (SPR01438)
Letter and number stickers – Melissa & Doug Sticker Collection – Alphabet and Numbers
Sticker dots – Avery Round Color Coding Labels, 0.75 Inch, Assorted, Removable,Pack of 315 (6733)

Inspiration from the First Reading Circle!

I am a little behind in my reading of Teach Your Own for the First Reading Circle, but have made it through Chapter 8 and started Chapter 9.  I have found quite a few thoughts expressed in the book that have resonated with me.  On Friday morning, while I was reading Chapter 8, I was really inspired by the ideas and some direction for our homeschooling journey fell into place.

In the letters from parents that Holt shares, I found a few gems…

“It interests me, though, how quickly the kids latch onto my real enthusiasms and, without anybody intending anything, begin to learn.” – Judy McCahill in Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

An anonymous father wrote “… the best way to teach is by example, and the best way to learn is by doing.” – Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

After describing many years of finding more enjoyment in learning things on his own than in a formal school situation, a reader concluded, “… a market exists for free schools offering not ‘teachers’ but the resources necessary for self-teaching.” – Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

This last quote is the crux of the inspiration for me…  While I was reading the chapter, Tbear was ‘surfing’ around the dining room, pulling out little projects and activities.  We have been very busy running around lately to lots of activities; Lots of ‘sanctioned’ homeschooling activities…  co-op, meet-up groups, dance class, etc.  Though they love being ‘out and about,’ after a long day out of the house or even several days of ‘adventuring,’ the kids are tired and grumpy, difficult to engage, often for a day or two afterwards.  But, we had actually been home for a few days and he was calmer and more tuned into the games and activities available to him.  For us, I think that stretches of time at home with lots of resources for play and projects is extremely beneficial.

Going forward, I will be keeping this in mind and striving to find balance in enjoying activities that are beneficial and limiting the ‘running around,’ so inspiration can occur.  I am going to be working on creating a dedicated area where supplies, toys, and other resources are easily accessible (while practicing putting things away regularly – a challenge for both me and the kids!)  I am so grateful that we have some space in our home and the ability to create this ‘learning environment.’  🙂

One of the main reasons I wanted to homeschool is so I can learn with my kids.  The quotes above sum up what I have been experiencing.  I am looking forward to following my passions and helping them find and follow theirs.  I hope you will continue on this quest with us.  What are you inspired to teach yourself today?


Belated Prepping for the Week of May 25, 2015… Family History Project

We enjoyed some family bonding time over the Memorial Day weekend… sharing germs…  😉  It started with Lala running a fever on Wednesday evening and has continued with all of us getting some variation of the bug…  What’s the saying?  “Sharing’s caring…”  hahaha  We are somewhat on the mend, but still not back to full capacity.

I didn’t get around to putting together any plans for activities this week, so it’s time to get busy!

Letter of the Week: V
I plan to finish out the alphabet using the printables from Crayola’s Free Coloring Pages website. (All links in this post will open in new tabs.)

Number of the Week: 16
We’re still working with the number book I put together last week.  For more info, see the post: Binding a Book of Numbers.


Catching Up
We weren’t feeling well enough to put together an anemometer or wind speed meter.  Hopefully we will be up to working on it this week using these awesome instructions on Instructables using paper cups, straws, a pencil, and a push pin…  Check it out: Paper Cup Anemometer.

Family History Project
I have been giving some thought to a Family Tree Project since Arbor Day.  It’s taken a while for my thoughts to gel, but it’s starting to come together.  Mic and I are about to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, reminding us that time marches on.  🙂


I want to start with a small project that I have been meaning to do since Lala was a baby.  I have some small photo albums that I got from Dollar Tree.  I want to print out pictures of our immediate family members and make mini family albums for the kids.  It should be fun to go through some pictures!

This project will be on-going.  I am thinking about helping the kids ‘interview’ their grandparents and perhaps some other relatives about their lives and adventures.  I also want to create some sort of family tree art project.  Stay tuned!  More ideas to come!

The pony book I ordered arrived!  We are excited to start reading it and learning more about ponies.  (Affiliate link – If you use these links to make any purchases, we will receive a small commission.  For more information, please see our Legal Stuff page.):

Ongoing Activities

Check out our posts about these ongoing topics…  🙂

Spanish – Aprendamos español – Let’s Learn Spanish!

Gardening – Dirt, Digging, and Dreams…

Safety – Safety Series

I am looking forward to a quiet week of getting healthy.  We wish you health and happiness on your learning journey!

The Adventures of The Ninja and the Jungle Gym

As a toddler streaks across the room in hot pursuit of a fancy electronic device that has been inadvertently left unsupervised on the corner of the sofa, a ninja swoops out of the darkness and snatches the device from the hands of certain demise…er…  stickiness…  Mom for the win!

As a preschooler begs to show her friends the amazing gymnastics skills she has perfected, a jungle gym appears with outstretched arms to provide support for monkey flips and leaps from great heights…  Dad for the save!

Parents are not given enough credit for their amazing skills.  We may look like we are boring, slow, and exhausted, but we are capable of amazing feats…  We can hear the sound of a child noiselessly wrapping a cat in a blanket and locking it in the dog crate…  with the dog…  We feel prickles up our necks when a child in the other room begins to contemplate scaling the entertainment center to interact directly with the television… We wake instantly from a dead sleep when a small child moans in their sleep…

Did we receive special training to hone these instincts?  No!  All our training has been on the job… the most intense on-the-job training possible…  We have learned to take the heat and emerge from the fire stronger…  Sometimes we stumble…  Sometimes exhaustion overwhelms us…  But we continue to do our best and fight through the battles…  We will survive…  We will thrive!  And so will our mini-ninjas and jungle gym climbers.

One day when our children don their own ninja garb or stand like a jungle gym to propel their own small child to the sky, they will realize they learned from the masters.

From Mic and I to all the amazing moms and dads out there…  Embrace your inner ninja…  Stand as tall and strong as the jungle gym…  Never doubt the amazing skills you bring to this task, challenge, and adventure of raising children…. You rock!

Fevers, Flashes, and Spinning Flowers… AKA Sick Kid, Thundershowers, and Pinwheels…

We had planned to go out today, but Lala started running a fever last night and is still a little warm with a cough…  So we are chillin’ around the house.  I should have guessed something was up when she took a nap yesterday afternoon…  That NEVER happens anymore.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen again today…  😉

A pretty awesome thundershower blew through for a while this afternoon.  It poured and boomed for a while.  We definitely need the rain!  And the blustery weather is perfect for more ‘wind’ activities!

While Tbear napped, we worked on making a pinwheel…  One of our ‘wind’ projects for the week.  I started with these great directions from Shirley’s Preschool Activities for Pinwheel Paper Craft.  I am finding fairly often though that I end up improvising these projects with my own ideas…

I had a package of brightly-colored, square scrapbooking paper, so we picked out a few colors.


I set Lala up with some colored pencils.  She colored for a bit, but didn’t want to focus on it for long since she isn’t feeling well.


A few of the pencils were pretty dull, so she got a kick out of using the pencil sharpener…


I folded the colored square on the diagonals and cut on the folds to about 1.5 inches from the center of the square.  Then the improvisation began…  I first tried a map pin, but finally decided it wasn’t long enough…  It did help with putting a small hole in each point though…  It was actually fairly challenging to fold and overlap the cut edges and put a pin through them…  I’m sure it would have been quite amusing to watch me struggling with a little blue piece of paper….  🙂  I finally grabbed a paper clip and straightened out one side…


I also intended to use a small wooden dowel, but couldn’t get the pin to stick into it.  I thought about using the eraser end of a pencil, but decided on a straw instead…  After I switched to the paper clip, I added a spare mechanical pencil eraser to the straightened end of the clip to keep everything together…  hehehe


It was a strange creative process, but the pinwheel works!  Mic is so much better at projects like this than I am!  I’ll have to let him have a go at making one when he gets home.  😉

Here is the finished product:


I got a chuckle out of it… and Lala and I had fun, so that’s all that matters in my book!  😉

Learning Spanish with YouTube…

We haven’t been able to visit with our Abuela for a couple of weeks.  As the saying goes, life gets in the way… Hopefully we will see her this weekend.  🙂

We sat down a few days ago to see what resources there are for learning Spanish on YouTube…  and found a lot of fun videos!

I just typed in “Spanish preschool” and started purusing the suggestions that popped up.  We started with a video about the colors in Spanish: SPANISH Colors for KiDs – De Todos Colores by Carme Sevenster.

When it started playing, Lala got excited and said “It’s talking Spanish!  Like Abuela talks Spanish.”  She was tickled about it and sat happily watching.  Then the surfing began…  She ended up watching Caillou in both English and Spanish.

I am always amused and amazed by the learning path that emerges online…  I am hoping to have the kids watch a video in Spanish every day…  It’s still probably not enough ‘exposure’ to the language, but it will be a start…  😉  I don’t want to get overwhelmed and not move forward…  Baby steps….  🙂

Maybe we can try to learn a song in Spanish every week…  Hmmm…  I think we will start with something simple: Head Shoulders Knees & Toes, Spanish version | Kids’ Songs by Howcast.  This should be fun!  Join us!!