Letters V and Z for Veterinarian and Zoologist!


Well we made it! Today was our 15th lesson and our FINAL day of summer school. I’m always a little bit excited for the last day and the prospect of nights and mornings free from planning and prep, BUT I’m always more sad than anything else that our fun is up! There has been an unbelievable amount of online chatter this year about “simple summers” and play that is parent free. I think it’s important for readers to know that I agree wholeheartedly that kids should be free to make up their fun, deal with their boredom, create adventures, and annoy one another. However, I also feel that time spent having fun WITH parents AND without is what is most healthy for children. Creating memories together full of educational fun and creativity is something my family cherishes doing and perhaps it is is not for everyone, but it works for us. When summer school ends, we spend the remainder of our summer traveling back East to visit with family and friends. The boys enjoy lazy, unscheduled days of exploration and just hanging out. I truly believe that just like anything else, BALANCE is the key to a healthy and happy life.

We started our final morning just like every other, with circle time and a final shape recognition quiz for them all with the flash cards. We read Zoo-Ach-oooooo!

We finished up our last few pages in our workbooks!

VZ Workbook Work

VT Workbook Pages

We did step 1 of our Zoo Animal Handprints before we headed downstairs for snack so it would be dry by the time we came back up. Before we placed our paint laden hands on the canvas, we laid out where each of my three boys would put their animal and the other details so we made sure to save enough space for each of them. They decided on a snow leopard, an elephant and a monkey. We completed the black sharpie details and vines, sky, and grass after snack. These came out SO cute and I’m thrilled they’re on one canvas (and not three!) and will be hung proudly in their game room!

VZ ZOO Handprint

Our create-your-own-animal snack just goes to show how much their skills and patience have developed since our first summer school three years ago. They spent a surprising amount of time designing and creating their creatures and were only given various bowls of random fruit. I love all three but the elephant and crocodile were amazing!

VZ MYO Snack

After finishing up snack and our hand print paintings, we headed to the kitchen to bake our very own doggie treats. We wanted to give a small token to all those who helped us with summer school and pretty much every person who did, has a dog or two-lol! The boys followed a very simple 3 ingredient recipe (turkey baby food, beef broth, and wheat flour) and I can honestly say, for the first time ever, that I didn’t crave what I was baking as I smelled it cook. This was a particularly stinky and meaty smelling experience. I will say though, that 2 of the 3 boys DID eat a treat just to see what it tasted like. And in case you’re wondering, they said it tasted pretty plain 🙂 All the dogs who received the baggies LOVED them so that’s what’s important!

VT Doggy Treats

After a lunch out at Chipotle (their choosing) to celebrate our last day, we headed to a friend of ours’ veterinarian office for a private behind the scenes tour! The kids had such a blast touring the office and were even able to assist in a mock check up, investigate some x-rays, see a surgical suite, visit with some recuperating patients, and weigh themselves as an entity on a HUGE animal scale. They just thought the whole place was so cool! Once again, three cheers for awesome neighbors and friends!

VT Vet Visit

Have you ever baked doggie treats?



Letters R and T for Rainbows and Tie Dye!


I loved today! It was simple but colorful and fun.

We started the morning off with circle time and shape recognition cards – which I have to say, they know SO well at this point it’s great! We read The Rainbow Goblins (Ul de Rico) first and the amazing illustrations and cute story were a hit. Elmer and the Rainbow (McKee) was a simple story and it told a sweet tale about selflessness. For the early finishers, I also placed Planting a Rainbow (Ehlert) and A Bad Case of the Stripes (Shannon) out on the carpet.

We headed up to the table to work on work books.

RT Workbook Work

RT Workbook Pages

We took a quick break for a colorful and nutritious snack before we started our craft as we knew it may take a while for them to do.

RT Fruit Snack

 I thought I had assembled all of the necessary items to have the kiddos make “tie dye” pillow case covers but it turned out I was missing a key ingredient from the start-lol. I hadn’t read the directions carefully and I just thought once you drew the pictures on the fabric with sharpies, that you sprayed water on the design to make it bleed. Nope. Turns out you spray rubbing alcohol on the sharpie drawings. Doh. SO we all jumped in the car and went to the Walgreens right around the corner. We even found rubbing alcohol that was already in stray bottles-score! We got back home and got started right away. The rubbing alcohol worked really well and I just love how the pillow cases came out! Well done boys.

RT Pillowcase Tie Dye

We stopped in the kitchen before a pre-lunch recess to engage in a short science experiment. We cut the bottoms of white roses and placed them in five color-dyed vases of water. Our hope will be that the dye in the water tints the roses. We shall see!  Note: after 24 hours the edges of the roses became colored. The blue worked best!

RT Dye Roses

For lunch, the kiddos chowed down on some cloud quesadillas and pepper rainbows. Yum!

RT Lunch

Have you tried dying roses or carnations before? Did it work for you?


Letters K and Q for Kings and Queens!


We lived like Royals today and what fun it was! We started off the morning with circle time including shape recognition cards and stories. Like yesterday, we started with what ended up being a quite lengthy book so we only got to one this morning. They really enjoyed Dr. Seuss’ The King’s Stilts. The King’s hard work and devotion to his kingdom is endearing. His desire to work hard and play hard is a great lesson for all! I had also intended to read The King and the Seed (Maddern) which touches upon how the inheritance of a throne works but alas, we didn’t get to it. I did leave it out on the carpet for the early finishers as well as A Medieval Feast (Aliki).

We worked on letters K and Q as well as themed worksheets.

KQ Workbook Work

KQ Workbook Pages

As soon as the first two kiddos were done with their workbooks, I had a Medieval card game from Deceptively Educational waiting for them. It was intended to be played similarly to Skip Bo but we played it as a game of War. They had a blast!


We took a break to construct our super fancy tea cups and enjoyed some pudding with them. All you need for this fun snack are ice cream cones, peach rings, cookies (we used golden oreos), and vanilla pudding (or whatever you fancy). The kiddos enjoyed building them and the cones tasted particularly good with the pudding if I do say so myself!

KQ Teacup snack

We headed back upstairs to discuss Feudalism and I created a large pyramid with paper figures to help engage them in the discussion. We did a bit of reading about the structure and how each layer benefited from one another.

KQ Feudalism Chart

After we finished that game, we constructed quite realistic looking crowns. I followed the instructions from freekidscrafts.com. We had some difficulty with the tissue paper but worked through it using some scrapbook tape and adhering it to the inside frame. They had so much fun gluing on all the embellishments. While they were building, we discussed the British Crown Jewels and the importance of each stone that adorns it. I LOVE how these came out!

KQ DIY Crowns


We finished up our day with a special crown sandwich and these were SO cute and of course yummy!

KW Crown Sandwich

We had such a great time discussing monarchies and being so fancy-lol!


Letters O and U for Understanding Organic!


Around our home we do our best to eat organic, low processed foods but I wasn’t really sure my boys knew what eating organic foods really meant. They understood that it was healthier to eat organic but I don’t know if they knew exactly how non organic food was treated or how eating local, organic food helps with the land and supports farmers. My goal for today was that they learned WHY eating organically grown food was better for them not just that they did it because Mom said so!

We started the with morning circle including shape recognition cards. Non-fiction books about organic farms were surprisingly hard to come by. I found all the books we used on Amazon and had them shipped rather than the city library where I was able to find pretty much all the other school books.  We started with The Organic Adventures of Tucker Tomato (Ortega), a really cute story about the adventures of an organic tomato who falls off a delivery trunk and encounters commercial tomatoes on his quest to find his friends. For our second book, Molly’s Organic Farm (Malnor),  the reader follows a lost kitty who wanders into an organic farm and learns all about what makes such a place so special. For the carpet and early finishers, I also laid out The Organic Farm (Frost) and No Eat Not Food (Sanger).

We headed to the table for workbooks and I found Earthbound Organic and WholeFoodsFoundation.org to have fun and educational work sheets geared towards kids.


OU Workbook Pages

It was time for snack and nothing’s better that a bowl full of fresh, organic berries and homemade organic whipped cream (thanks to my little helpers!).

OU Snack

We hopped over to the couch when we were done with snack and watched a short TEDx Next Generation talk from Birke Baehr “What’s Wrong with Our Food System?” Birke is such an enthusiastic young man who refuses to accept the norm from the food industry. The kids really enjoyed it and I think it was great for them to hear from someone their age who is so passionate about something.

The boys had some time to play outside before lunch as our day’s activities took place during the afternoon. We enjoyed some Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese for lunch accompanied by organic yogurt.

After lunch, we headed to Cedar’s farm to learn all about the chickens we get our eggs from every week, meet her goats, hang out with some horses, and enjoy the great outdoors! The boys LOVED the goats and had a blast catching chickens! They even enjoyed trying out the horses bare back. I don’t think any of them ever stopped smiling this afternoon!

OU Cedar Roosters


OU Cedar Horseback

Last but not least, we stopped by our local farmer’s market on the way home and grabbed some yummy local made bread, kettle-corn popcorn and homemade organic peanut butter ice cream sandwich!

I hope the boys have a better understanding of why eating organic food is not only healthier for them but also important for our agricultural system!


Letter L for Lemonade!


“Lemonade, get your Lemonade!”

The boys have wanted to do a lemonade stand for what feels like FOREVER (according to them), and although they had a blast today, I don’t think I’ll be hearing requests for another one anytime soon! They certainly learned that it takes hard work to run a business and that not all parts of it are as fun as others.

We started off our morning with a quick circle time that included shape recognition cards and two stories. Lemonade for Sale (Murphy) tells of a young group of kiddos looking to rebuild their club house and nicely introduces math concepts into the story without it feeling forced. The Red Lemon (Staake) is more of a moral story that encourages every reader to believe that one man’s lemon is another man’s lemonade. Although the red lemon that shows up in the orchard is different, Farmer McPhee would have realized it was sweeter and ultimately more loved by the masses had he made the best of the new situation. Although the lesson may be over some of the little ones’ heads, the colorful illustrations are wonderful. The kids even thought they saw the Donut Chef (D is for Donut story) hanging out on the new island! I also had The Lemonade Stand (Vaughn) and Lemonade in Winter (Jenkins) on the floor for the early finishers to read. 

Next, we headed to the table for workbooks.

L Workbook Work

The older kids used a great set from TPT that helped break down the financial aspect of running a lemonade stand. The younger kiddos also had a bunch of great worksheets from a TPT packet.

L Workbook Pages

After workbooks, the older kids (with the little ones watching) sorted lemon themed synonyms.

original-282123-1Lemonade Sort

When that was finished, we headed down stairs for some frozen lemon shells with raspberry lemonade sorbet in them-YUM!

L Sorbet Snack

After that it was time to make posters for our lemonade stand and free bookmarks for the first 25 customers!

L Lemonade Stand Pics

Homemade lemonade was fun to make and I think their favorite part was using the electric lemon juicer. We boiled some water and sugar on the stove top to make simple syrup and then combined the juice, syrup and water to make a quite tasty lemonade. You can find the recipe here!

Next up were the homemade pink lemonade cupcakes (recipe) and boy were they delicious! The recipe made 88 mini cupcakes so I definitely lost my helpers half way through. If you are not looking to make THAT many, cut the recipe in half-lol!

L Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

We took a break for the day from school right before lunch and just hung out until about 2:30 when we left to the park to set up our lemonade stand. We made a poster online too to share on Facebook and to text to a few friends. There are always great opportunities to teach them positive ways to have the internet help in life and business (also a good time to discuss the permanence of what you put out there and how that could work against you).


We sorted the kiddos into two groups and rotated (every 30 minutes) the “advertisers” who stood at the corner of the park and street and waved down potential customers, with  the other group who worked the table. They let customers know what we had and how much each item was. They also took the money and gave change. Surprisingly, no one wanted to do the advertising. They ALL thought it was much more fun to deal with the people and the money. They did see firsthand, though, just how effective adverting loudly and with a giant smile can be! It was great for them to see how many teenagers pulled over and came in to support them. The teenagers told them how excited they were when perfect strangers patronized their lemonade stands when they were young and how they wanted to do the same for them. How cool is that! One man even gave the kids a $20 bill for a two cups of lemonade totaling $1!!! He knew that the proceeds were going to an animal shelter so I bet he wanted to help those little guys too. They were exhausted after two hours of straight working. They realized they couldn’t eat all their profits and that there was no time to play when friends came to support them. BUT, they had SO much fun!


All in all, it was a fun day and the $50 net profit will go straight to our local animal shelter. The kids learned valuable lessons about how much work it took to get ready for the lemonade stand and to work it-a success!

Have any of your kiddos run their own lemonade stands?


Letter J for Jack and the Beanstalk!


We are officially Jack and the Beanstalk experts now! Today was packed with a bunch of fun activities. We started our morning with circle time including shape recognition. We stopped doing a weather word as our mornings have been packed as it is. We read one version of Jack and the Beanstalk (Howe), which was actually rather long, and ended up not having time to read Kate and the Beanstalk (Oso). My goal was to read two versions and compare and contrast them but alas, they were storied out after the first version and ready to get going. I left the two books on the carpet for them to read if they finished their workbooks early.

We headed to the table to jump into our workbooks!

J is for Jack Workbook Work

J is for Jack Workbook Pages

After they were done, it was time to read Trust Me, Jack’s Beanstalk Stinks! (Braun). Once we finished it and participated in a  brief compare and contrast to the original story, we were ready for the trial of the century-lol! Using mask props, G and K, along with Lisa (Jack’s mother) and I (the Giant’s wife), as character witnesses, all participated in a mock trial: Jack vs. the Giant.

J is for Jack Trial CollageThe Giant brought Jack to trial and accused him of trespassing and theft. It was G (as the Giant) and K’s (as Jack) job to convince the jury (L, B, and C) of their innocence. Using some questions from TPT, and a bit of help from myself, they were brought to the stand and questioned. They both did a great job but the Giant’s plea that Jack entered onto his property (even though Jack claimed it was once his father’s), stole his prized possessions, and attempted to murder him by chopping down the stalk won him an innocent verdict and Jack, guilty. What fun we had and everyone was a good sport about it too!

We took a break to construct our own beanstalks from snap peas. They were challenged to build the tallest one that could stand on its own. G came up with a solid plan to build them horizontally but B’s vertical build won as the tallest AND most stable.

J is for Beanstalk Snack

Next we headed to the garage to create construction paper castle garden stakes and plant our own beans! Hopefully, in two weeks we will have our own beanstalks that have reached the castle walls.

J is for Jack GYO Beanstalk

While I prepared lunch, Ms. Lisa hid two dozen golden goose eggs in the yard for them to seek out. Hiding inside were their own yummy beans, jelly beans that is! They had a blast finding them; it reminded them of Easter-lol!

J is for Jack Egg Hunt

After they were found, everyone enjoyed a black BEAN and rice burrito…. and then the jelly beans. Everyone had such a great day!

Note: Three weeks later and only one of our three grew but boy did it get up there!



Letters I and N for Instruments and Notes!

2014 I and N for Instruments and Notes

This was one of those lessons I was intimidated to create due to my lack of music theory knowledge. My main goal was to introduce the kids to a few notes and try a few instruments. I struggled, however, to teach even myself any notes well enough to teach them. I reached out to anyone who may know of a teacher I could bring in. Fortunately for us,  a dear neighbor invited us into her home for some afternoon music fun! Woo-hoo! Three cheers for awesome friends!

We started our morning with circle, shape cards, and two books. Zin, Zin, Zin A Violin (Moss) is a beautiful Caldecott winner that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and musical groups. M is for Music (Krull) is a funky fusion of Anthems to Zydeco for songsters of all ages!

We headed to the table for workbooks.

I and N workbook work

I and N workbook pages

We headed down stairs and enjoyed some music sheet snacks! All you need for this fun and easy snack is graham crackers, peanut butter, pretzel sticks, dried blueberries, and a white chocolate cleft. To make the cleft, I simply melted white chocolate chips and placed them in a ziploc bag. I clipped the corner of the bag and hand piped the cleft. I let them cool in the refrigerator for the night. These snacks were yummy and fun for the kids to put together!

I and N Snack Collage

We packed up the car and headed to our friend’s home to see what they had in store for us for the afternoon! I was so thrilled and impressed with all the activities they had lined up for us. They started us off with a musical performance: a medley of songs for us to guess including the interlude to Star Wars and Indiana Jones! Next they performed a sing along to a Green Day song, I Walk Alone.  Next up was what the boys were waiting all along for- instrument try out time. The boys ALL wanted to try the drums first but everyone had a chance to try all the instruments. G and L are determined to save up enough by Christmas to buy their own electronic drum set! At the end of the lesson, they taught the boys the basic notes. They even had a fun treat for them at the end of the EGBDF lesson-real homemade FUDGE. How cute! I only hope my boys will be as kind, patient, and excited about music and helping younger children when they grow up too. What a wonderful and fun afternoon we had today.


I and N instrument lessons

We even got a bit of swimming in after their lesson! Then we headed back to the house for a special lunch and craft.

First up was tambourine making! The bells were a bit hard to tie on but other than that, they kiddos had fun customizing their own tambourines!

I and N tambourine craft

Lunch was SUPER simple but they were thrilled about it nonetheless.

I and N lunch Note

We are far from being able to play an instrument or read music after only one day of school but the boys are excited about music and learning an instrument so I consider today a win!


Letters H, P, S and W for Puzz Story: World History

2014 HPSW Puzz Story

I was unsure of how well this lesson would go as I had never used a Puzz Story product before. The book that came along with this series, World History in Twelve Hops: Tim’s Journey Through Time (Puzz Story) was HUGE and would have been unreasonable to get through in one day. With some tweaking and fine tuning, we made it work and the boys had a great time with it!

We started off the morning with our usual circle time and shape recognition cards. There was no story to read as the main part of today’s lesson revolved around a book!

We began with workbooks with worksheets for Letters H, P, S and W as well as themed worksheets that tied in with eras that we would discuss, i.e Dinosaurs, Egypt, etc.


PSHW Workbook Pages

We grabbed cushions, blankets and settled down to begin our journey through time! We met Tim, the main character, and followed along with him while he discovered the Dinosaurs, Homo-Sapiens, and Egypt. Each child took a turn finding and placing a piece on the magnetic poster map; this was most definitely their favorite part.

PSHW Story Collage

We took a break after we finished Egypt and headed to the kitchen so the kids could make their own edible pyramids. With cut up pineapple, they went to work. After they had some fun with it, they enjoyed every last piece!

HPSW Pineapple Pyramids

We headed back upstairs to continue our journey and enjoyed hearing all about the first Greek Olympics, the Roman Legions, the Middle Ages, and ended our day with the Silk Road. Hopefully, one day we will get back to the final 5 visits and finish up the book! For today, we enjoyed the places we were able to visit!

We ended the day with a lunch of dumplings and edamame-YUM!

What a fun day it was and I don’t think too long for them. There was enough interaction with the puzzle that it made it interesting for all!

Has anyone out there used a Puzz Story before? How did it work of you?


Letter G for Geocaching!

2014 G for Geocaching

We had such a great time Letterboxing last year for Letter L that it was a no brainer Letter G should be Geocaching this year! The boys were super excited to try another kind of treasure hunt!

We began the day with morning circle, shape cards, and our weather word: Cloud Types. We read the Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat: There’s a Map on My Lap which exposes readers to a bunch of map vocabulary in a fun and silly way!

We reviewed Geocaching basics and best practices as shared by Geocaching.com. We reviewed what a cache is, variations of the game, do’s and dont’s, and what CITO (cache in, cache out) is too!

We raced to the table to get our workbooks done so we could grab a snack, play a latitude-longitude game, and get out there and explore!We even found a great geocaching word search and maze!


G Workbook pages

Our snack was fun, yummy and best of all, quite inexpensive-two boxes of jello and one granny smith apple! The kids tried to point out the continents but let’s be real here, I wasn’t even close on most of them-lol!

G for Jello Globe

We ran back upstairs to play a quick (well what we thought would be quick) game of Message in a Bottle from Scholastic. I have to say that although it’s a cute game in theory, it wasn’t made quite right. There just weren’t enough cards to make correct matches with. It seemed as though the kids were taking turn after turn and hit only one marker every 20 or 30 turns?!?!? It took toooooo long to play with no results to keep them interested.

G Message Game

It was finally time to get out there and geocache! It was a similar experience to letterboxing however instead of following clues, we followed a dot on a map on an app! The boys had a blast searching high and low around bushes and trees near said dot. Little B found two of the four we did today; it was awesome! It was tricky finding specifically where the cache was. The coordinates get you to the spot but searching out the container is where the fun really begins. This was the boys favorite part of letterboxing too. There appears to be, however, a bigger trend towards geocaching than letterboxing so it seems only savvy to move in this direction! We can’t wait to geocache again soon!

G Geocaching!

G Geocaching Group

We headed back home to escape the heat and grab some quesadillas that were out of this world ;).

G for Earth Quesadilla

We had such a great day and getting out and exploring our city is one of our most favorite things to do!


Letters F and M for Force and Motion!

2014 F and M for Force and Motion

We went from one day of science and experiments last week (E for Eggs) to another today to start week two off right! The kids got wind of today’s craft/activity this weekend and were SO excited to work on it-gotta love their enthusiasm for learning!

We started off the day with the morning board, our shapes, and today’s weather word: Drought. We then read Motion:Push, Pull, Fast, and Slow (Stille) and Forces Make Things Move (Bradley). I also picked up Slow Down Sara (Driscoll) which I left out for those who finished workbooks early.

We headed over to the table to work on Letters F and M and force and motion related worksheets in their workbooks.

FM Workbook Working

FM Workbook Pages

I wasn’t sure how long the catapult building would take so I decided to have them work on their snack first so no one would become grumpy :). The kiddos were given apples, grapes, fruit leather flags, and toothpicks to use to build race cars! They came out really cute.

FM Snack Collage

After they raced the cars right into their stomachs, lol, they were given four stale marshmallows (important to leave them out overnight or longer so they are not super squishy), seven bbq skewers, an elastic band, a plastic spoon, and some tape (we used thin duct tape) to create their very own catapults!  We followed the instructions laid out by Autumn on her blog It’s Always Autumn.  Although B needed a bit of help, all ages were able to do this pretty much by themselves. The only frustration came when the skewers started slipping out of the marshmallows within a few hours. We added hot glue to the holes where the skewers went through the marshmallows and they were totally secure as soon as that dried (which is fairly quickly). Because we played with these in the backyard and didn’t want to attract any unwanted creatures or bugs later that day with leftovers, we used small pebbles rather than food in the catapults. The boys faced our brick wall (placing themselves a solid 5ft away), drew a chalk target, and took aim!  The had SO much fun!

FM Catapult Collage

The only thing left to work on were the Motion Mania Missions! I purchased these off of TPT and they were very well organized and easy to use. I would say, however, that it was a bit young for the 3rd and 4th graders. Not surprisingly, the kiddos loved the pinwheel mission best (probably because we incorporated a fan too)! The six stations were a great way to reiterate some of the vocabulary we had learned that day.

FM Motion Mission

For lunch, we enjoyed ham and cheese sandwiches, cucumbers and a yogurt. We had a brief discussion about protein and carbohydrates and how WE need those for us to have energy!

We had a lot of fun with this lessons and it was a great way to kick off week 2!

Have you built a marshmallow catapult before?!?