Category Archives: Other Fun Stuff!

Painting Pottery

We joined our homeschool meet-up group a few weeks ago for a pottery painting party.  We met at a local pottery studio that provides all the supplies for painting a ceramic item of your choice or glass fusing.  After looking at their offerings, I decided to have the kids decorate small tiles.  I am thinking of going back every 6 months or so and having them create another one.  Over time, I will have an amazing ‘gallery’ of their work that I can use for the backsplash in our kitchen when we build our dream house.  🙂

The kids had a great time.  So many colors and stencils to choose from!  They had glaze in bottles with fine tips for writing too.  Lala loves to paint, so this was right up her alley.

And Mic had fun helping Tbear create his masterpiece.

The finished projects were awesome!  And only cost us about $20.

I’m looking forward to our next painting party!

Technology… the Downfall of the Summer Reading Program

We just finished our third year of participating in our local library’s summer reading program.  When I realized Lala could participate three summers ago, I was thrilled.  Totally, ridiculously tickled at being part of the fun.  Almost silly actually…  🙂  Sadly, this year was a total bust for me.  What changed you ask?  Well…  the summer reading program went “online” this year…

The first two years, we were given a sheet with pictures to color to mark off the books we had read.  As they hit various numbers of books read, the kids could come in for little prizes.  If they read the number of books required to complete the program, they were entered in the ‘grand prize’ drawing at the end of the summer.  If they read more, they qualified for more entries.  The kids were absolutely tickled to get a coupon for a free ice cream cone, a pencil, a sticker, a free book…  And I was delighted to tell them over and over that they earned that by reading books.  Last year, at the end of summer ice cream party, Lala won a backpack with paper and art supplies.  She was thrilled.

This year, the program was run online.  I created a “parent” account and then added accounts for the kids.  The system awarded points for each minute of reading, as well as for attending library events.  I had to enter the number of minutes, as well as the title and author of each book, for both kids.  Kids earned “badges” for attending events and hitting various levels of “points.”

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To complete the program, the little kids had to accumulate 720 points, or the equivalent of reading 20 minutes a day for 36 days.  The program lasted 57 days.  And you could earn additional points for attending events.  All the events we attended were worth 20 points each.

I sent a message to the library about half-way through the program, because I was confused as to whether the kids still earned the little prizes along the way.  The response indicated they had moved away from the ‘trinket’ type prizes to things they thought would more directly motivate reading: badges, online games, and drawings.  The first 200 people to sign up for the program got a prize, there was a drawing part-way through if you had enough points, a drawing for those who completed the program, and door prizes at the end of summer party.  The prizes they offered were pretty cool.

The program kicks off with a pancake breakfast, which is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we were out of town and couldn’t go, nor could we be among the first to sign up.  We also didn’t earn enough points before the first drawing to be eligible.  And in the end, I grew so discouraged, that we didn’t complete the program or even go to the end of summer party.  It was scheduled for earlier in the day and indicated food would be available, but wasn’t billed as an ice cream social.

It probably sounds like I was only in the program for the prizes…  And I have to admit they are a fun addition to the activities…  What got me though was the lack of interaction for my kids.  They couldn’t color their sheets and take them in to get a prize.  I had to enter the info.  And the badges were meaningless to them.  Earning points did unlock some online games, but my kids are mostly too young for those kinds of things…  I think it is probably likely that older kids enjoyed it a lot, but for little ones…  it seemed to me like there was little point.

I’m sure the library has a lot of good reasons for making the changes to the program.  And I’m sure it worked well for many others.  Personally, it was disappointing.  I found it too time consuming to do all the “data entry.”  I couldn’t just remember how many books we read at bedtime or even just the titles, but had to corral them up and record the authors as well.  I know…  probably just me being grumpy…  🙂  Anyways…  not sure if we will participate at all next year…  The kids are still always begging me to read books to them, so the experience this summer didn’t really have any effect on that, thankfully!  We did enjoy attending a couple of “story time” events that featured people from our local fire department, sheriff’s office, and National Guard.  I just miss the joy and enthusiasm I felt about it during the previous two summers.  I’m certainly not “anti-technology.”  I’m just not sure it is always an improvement on things…

Did you participate in a summer reading program?  I hope you enjoyed it if you did!  We are certainly still reading!

‘School’ Supply Safari!

I ventured out today in search of one of my favorite things… knowing they are usually available for shockingly less during ‘back to school’ time than during the rest of the year…  Spiral notebooks!

I love spiral notebooks!  They are useful for so many things.  I haven’t purchased any in a couple of years, so my ‘inventory’ had dwindled to a couple half-used, slightly ratty ones.  Lala has been trying to steal the last decent one I have.  A couple of posts reminded me about the joy of school supply sales and since school starts around here over the next couple of weeks (yikes!), I knew I better get out and find some!  I scored a dozen of them for about $2. Yay!

I also decided I wanted to look at what other types of supplies were on sale that might inspire the kids.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but figured that inspiration would find me.  We have a fairly well stocked ‘supply cabinet,’ so I didn’t want to get too much stuff…  I decided on some crayons and a couple of small pen sets, along with a pencil box for Lala. Tbear was totally enamored with the box and tiny highlighters, so I decided in the end to get him a set too. He’s young, but they both love drawing and ‘writing.’  🙂

Grand total with notebooks…  about $10.

I also picked up a couple of plastic bins on clearance in hopes of getting the art projects and coloring pages that are taking over my house corralled up and in some kind of order…  haha…  🙂  (It perhaps goes without saying that we also had to get a myriad of other things while we were out…  including food for all the pets…  The cart always fills up…  🙂  )

On our way to get groceries, we stopped at the Dollar Tree next door.  I’ve seen some awesome ideas using pool noodles (marble track anyone?) and they had some a few weeks ago.  Of course, August is way too late to get pool noodles… Who on earth would be playing in the water this time of year?!?!?  (We did see a few a couple of other places, but I don’t want to spend four times as much for them…)  But, as is always the case with the dollar store…  we found some other cool things…

I see some awesome projects coming on!  It was a long day, but the kids did well.  Shopping is getting easier as they get older.  Don’t get me wrong though, I still avoid it as much as possible!  But sometimes you just have to go on safari and find those spiral notebooks…  😉

Beginning of August Busy-ness…

It never ceases to amaze me how days can just fly by and a week (or two) can pass before I hardly realize it!  We have been having a lot of fun with all the end of summer kid activities that are going on right now.  Add in an afternoon of babysitting for a friend and a couple of appointments and…  wow…

We have had the awesome opportunity to enjoy some great theater over the last few days.  A couple of the kids in our neighborhood are involved in local youth theater and are performing in ‘Peter Pan.’  We try to do most things as a family, but Tbear is just not ready to sit through a two hour play…  So, Mic stayed home with him while Lala and I had a little mother/daughter outing to the play.

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I gave her a couple dollars at intermission and we shared a little snack she picked out. I like to have her pay for things on occasion to get her thinking about the value of money.  Lala was mesmerized by the action.  My kids are both crazy climbers and jumpers, so Peter Pan flying blew her mind!  She spent the second half of the play saying ‘I want to talk to Peter.’  When the cast came out, she agreed to take a picture with the actress (which she usually refuses to do) and then wanted to just follow ‘Peter’ around. I think she was a little star-struck. 🙂 She wouldn’t hardly even talk to her neighborhood friends…  I felt a little bad about that!  Overall, it was an awesome experience for both of us.

We all got to enjoy the Kids Shakespeare performance of Romeo and Juliet.  It was only an hour and in an outdoor venue, so it’s easier to accommodate wiggly kids.  We have gone every year since Lala was 1 and it is always awesome.  Another family with kids of similar ages joined us.  This year, Lala wanted to talk to Lady Capulet.  They always get the audience involved and had given a few kids masquerade masks and had them come up on stage for a little dance number.  Lala and her friend hadn’t been given masks, but somehow it came up and the actress offered to get them each one.  All four kids ended up getting one and were over the moon!

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Tbear even got in on the action and was ‘chatting’ with Romeo and Mercutio, doing high fives, playing peek a boo, and generally ingratiating himself with everyone. It was hilarious to watch!  We all had a fabulous time!

Our community also hosted a ‘National Night Out’ event with local law enforcement, social services agencies and groups, and other community organizations.  There was all kinds of equipment for the kids to look at, including a CareFlight helicopter.  The kids were most impressed with the helicopters landing and taking off.  Free hotdogs and a bounce house topped off this great event.

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We even got to practice crawling out of a smoky room in the local fire department ‘Safety Trailer.’  I need to get back to finalizing our fire exit plan!

Add in a trip to the state fair and another picnic and concert at my alma mater and you have a recipe for tired kids and exhausted parents. 🙂  But we’ve had fun!

The kids loved seeing the animals at the fair and Lala even got a pony ride.

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Tbear didn’t have any interest in getting on a pony.  🙂

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We ended up being given a couple of carnival ride tickets, so we bought a couple more and let each kid pick a ride. Unfortunately, they weren’t tall enough for most things. Lala loved the dragon roller coaster.

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Mic took Tbear on the bouncy cars despite a small protest. 🙂

On our way out we bumped into the clown and the kids scored a couple of balloon animals…

Dinosaur!  Check out the teeth!

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Horse!

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Ironically, the highlight of the day was that Lala finally got to ride a bus!

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She has been fascinated with buses, especially school buses, for a while and has been wanting to ride one.  There isn’t a lot of parking at the fair grounds, so a local business offered their parking lot for free parking and the local bus system ran a free shuttle between the parking and the fair.  When we got on, she climbed in a seat, buckled her seat belt (I think we were the only two people on the bus using the seat belts!), and starred out the window.  I heard her say, “I’m excited.”  It was so awesome!

What have you been up to the last couple of weeks?  I hope you have been having fun and enjoying summer.  We are looking forward to a little quiet time at home…  for a day or two!  LOL!  🙂

A Little Summertime Fun!

We have been having a lot of fun getting out over the last couple of weeks after a little stretch of just hanging out at home.

We joined our neighbors and friends at the local water park for a day.  In all the years I’ve lived in this area, I had never been to it.  Though there are obviously lots of big water slides, they have an awesome little tot pool with mini slides and a lazy river.  Lala had a great time bobbing in the river with a life jacket.  Tbear wanted to just be left to do his thing in the tot pool.  It was a long, fun day!  I put my phone away and left my fancy camera at home to keep them from being lost or damaged…  and didn’t end up getting a single pic!

My alma mater sponsors free outdoor concerts for 6 weeks every summer, featuring local bands, watermelon, popcorn, cookies, lemonade, bounce houses, and face painting.  It’s an awesome, relaxed, family ‘picnic.’  We are hoping to go every week this summer.  The first one was rained out by a dramatic thunderstorm, but the band has been rescheduled for an additional date in August.  We have been having a great time and look forward to more fun, beautiful evenings!

Lala loves to jump in the bounce houses.  Interestingly, although he loves going to the bounce house place, Tbear won’t go in them at the picnics…  Kids…!?!

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Tbear got his first ‘tat’ last week!  🙂

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We also had fun this weekend bowling at our neighbors’ birthday party!  Both kids had a great time, but Tbear was having more fun that anyone else in the place, running around hollering ‘my turn’ over and over, jumping up and down after he rolled his ball, and supervising all of us.

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I think the kids are ready for Mic’s next company bowling party!

A trip to the lake was a wonderful interlude from a busy weekend of house chores.  We only live about 30 minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and still don’t go very often!  Such a fun family time.  We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk, and strawberries for dinner!  We prefer to go up in the evenings to avoid the crowds and the burning sun…

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We stayed to watch the sunset and the stars come out.  The moon reflecting on the water was magical.

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We hope you have been getting out to have some fun and make some memories this summer!  I think we can mark at least 3 things off of our list of activities we wanted to do this summer.  Better get on the rest of them!  If you are looking for a few ideas, please check out our post: Searching for Summer… 12 Sizzlin’ Suggestions for a Sensational Season.  Here’s to enjoying a sizzlin’ summer!

 

Painting a Starry Night

We had a blast painting our own “Starry Night” masterpieces to go with our “Solar System and Pluto” theme last week.  I set the kids up with some poster board type ‘canvases’ to start and we moved on to construction paper.  We used plain brushes and washable kid paint.

The beginning of Lala’s masterpiece…

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Tbear creating a beautiful painting…

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Lala experimenting with mixing colors..

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Two beautiful works in progress…

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Running out of steam…

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A wonderful interpretation by Tbear…

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Tbear’s second masterpiece…

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Another colorful representation by Lala…

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Lala’s gorgeous creation…

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I even got in on the fun and painted one of my own.  I had such a great time!  I can’t remember the last time I painted my own picture!

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Check out van Gogh’s original painting at the Google Cultural Institute.  I found a couple other great resources for art lessons related to Starry Night also… (Links will open in new tabs.)

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh for #PlayfulPreschool! via The Preschool Toolbox Blog

Van Gogh’s Painting Style Lesson Plan: Painting for Kids via KinderArt

I hope you will consider trying a little painting with your crew.  You can get the supplies fairly inexpensively.  We used the following (Amazon affiliate links.  If you use these links to make any purchases, we will receive a small commission.  For more information, please see our Legal Stuff page.):

We used paper we already had around the house. When we use up what we have, I am considering getting some of this (Amazon affiliate link):

I purchased the little paint trays at Dollar Tree…

Unlocking a little creativity through painting was very refreshing to me and the kids greatly enjoyed it!  Lala often says painting is her favorite activity.  I see more painting in our future!

New Chansen Academy Resource Page – Books We Love!

We have created a new Chansen Academy Resource Page…  Books We Love!

We love books here at Chansen Academy and wanted to share our favorite ones!  They range from traditional choices to hilarious new adventures…  🙂  Here are a few of the selections.  (The images below are Amazon affiliate links.  If you use them 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.)

Good Night Galaxy by Adam Gamble – This is one of my favorite books in the Good Night World Series  – This amazing series highlights some of the interesting features of each book’s title topic.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss – This may honestly be my favorite book…

When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic  – Really cute book, especially if you are a fan of Weird Al!

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – I love the language and cadence of this scarily sweet story of naughtiness, naps, and never-ending love.

To see the rest of the books we enjoy, check out the Books We Love! page.

As we find new ‘books we love,’ they will be featured in one of our Friday “Book of the Week” Facebook posts and added to the Books We Love! page.  Check back often for new additions!  Please send us any suggestions you have and we will take a look at them!  We love books!

4th of July Weekend Adventures!

Mic got a four day weekend over the 4th of July, so we had some time to have a few adventures!  In addition to errands (we tried really hard to get a new dishwasher, but still haven’t succeeded…) and house cleaning, we had fun at a friend’s birthday party.  The party will be memorable for everyone because we were treated to a torrential downpour for over an hour while we huddled under a picnic pavilion and ate hot dogs.  🙂  The birthday girl was dancing though, so I think she had fun anyways!  We have been having a lot of afternoon thundershowers with some awesome lightning storms.  So exciting!  We are actually under flash flood watch right now.  The sky is grey, the wind is gusting, and I can hear distant thunder.  Such an amazing ‘show!’  There have been some fires and flooding in various areas recently though, so the trade-off is not worth it…  🙁

Our neighbors hosted an awesome 4th of July BBQ and we had a little ‘block party’ with several of our neighbors to watch the fireworks.  Lala spent the entire show exclaiming ‘I like that one,’ every time another colorful flash exploded!  It was adorable and I think I spent more time watching the kids enjoy the fireworks than I did watching them myself… 😉

The hamster is settling in to the house and the kids are having a great time with ‘Hammy.’  It is amazing how fast she can run in her little wheel.  Mic wants to ‘clock her’ because it looks like she is going 150 mph!  🙂  She has figured out how to make herself quite the ‘nest’ for sleeping in and loves oat cereal circles.

All in all, it was a fun family weekend!  We stuck mostly close to home, avoiding the crowds and craziness.  We hope you had a great weekend too!  Happy 239th Birthday America!

Please Welcome Our New Mascot!

Today was a big day for Chansen Academy!  We are pleased to announce the arrival of our new mascot…  Hamiltina the Hamster!

Little ‘Hammy’ is a long-haired Syrian Hamster.

Lala has been doing a great job helping take care of the critters around here.  Yesterday before we went out, she went outside unprompted and came back to let us know that the chickens had food and water. I have been thinking about getting another creature for her, to give her something she can take care of ‘by meself…’  🙂 I looked into getting a kitten. She saw one up for adoption at the pet store a few weeks ago and was heart-broken to leave it. We already have a couple cats, so I thought it would not be too hard to add another. But after we started talking about it, she announced she wanted a hamster…

She has ‘hamsters’ in her ABCMouse Profile and has spent a lot of time and ‘tickets’ building an elaborate ‘cage’ for the multiple ‘hamsters’ she has ‘purchased.’  She has stuck with the request for several weeks, so after some discussion we decided to look into it. On Craigslist, we found a hamster set up that had just been posted. $20 for a huge cage, wheel, and all the other accoutrements. We decided to go for it!

After Tbear got up from his nap, we picked up the cage and headed to the pet store.  It turned out the people who had the hamster habitat also had a smaller cage for a back-up to use during cleaning, etc.  Another $8 and we were good to go.  At the pet store, I made sure we wandered around to look at the kitties that were available for adoption…  Though the kids were excited about the cats, Lala was not dissuaded.  We considered a White Russian Hamster with red eyes, but ultimately settled on Hamiltina.

She made the trip home without incident.  Mic scrubbed up all the equipment and we set her up in her new home.  She has been surprisingly calm and willing to be held.  She sat still in the cage for a while…  I was a little afraid she was in shock, but she started cleaning herself after a bit and is currently eating.  We are having lots of conversations about being calm and careful.

Lala helped with all the scrubbing and filled the food and water herself.  She is thrilled with her new pet. 🙂  In the interest of full disclosure, Lala still hasn’t settled on a name yet…  I had announced we should name the hamster ‘Hamilton’ before we left to pick-up the habitat.  And then we ended up getting a female one… 😉 I’m going to call her Hamiltina…  Hehe

I did research hamsters before we bought one…  And yes, I read the advice that they are not good pets for kids…  Mic or I will supervise all the interactions with the hamster and we are optimistic that things will go well.  The kids are good with all the other creatures we have.  I guess we will see…  For tonight, Chansen Academy is a happy place with a cute, fuzzy new mascot.  We love you already Hamiltina!

The Story of Slimy

Sometimes my kids ‘fall in love with’ things I wouldn’t expect…  Many months ago, Lala came across a wooden pull-along snail in the open toy bin at a small store we visit on occasion.  She played with the toy she named ‘Slimy’ the entire time we were at the store and was sad to leave him behind when it was time to go.  On subsequent visits, she always goes and hunts up ‘Slimy,’ even if it’s been several months since we have been to the shop.  I was shocked that she remembered one time when it had been about 4 months since we had been there last!  After seeing this happen several times over many months, Mic and I decided to get one for her to keep.  🙂

Slimy has been a hit since he arrived.  Lala and Tbear both love dragging him all over the house.  It’s just a simple wooden toy, but those are often the most fun.

To celebrate the beginning of our ‘new school year,’ we are hosting a give-away over on our Facebook page.  If you would like to enter to win your very own Slimy, visit our give-away post on Facebook by Sunday, July 5, 2015…  You will need to like Chansen Academy’s Facebook page (if you haven’t already) and comment on the post linked above about why you would love a Slimy!