LEGO Chompy from Skylanders – Directions for Kids (written by a kid)

019If you have young boys in your home like I do, then chances are that at least a few LEGOs are strewn somewhere. And if your kids also like Skylanders, then you probably have an idea of what my house looks like. LEGOs, action figures, Skylanders… all creeping out from under the beds and waiting like ninja knives for me to step on them in the middle of the night.

This time around, instead of me sharing my own ideas about ways to engage kids with creative learning, my LEGO loving son is taking a turn and he is sharing his own directions for making a LEGO Chompy character from Skylanders.

After all, if we’re going to lose our toes in the middle of the night because of these razor-like toys, we might as well make sure the kids are at least learning from and enjoying them during the daylight hours!

So, from Ethan’s inspiration – share with your own LEGO and Skylander fans the legochompy (he even took pictures to help).

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An Invitation – Free Writing & Reading Printables

Years ago – in the blink of an eye and with a gentle whisper to myself – I started homeschooling. I collected curriculum resources like some women collect shoes. I also started my own personal collection of files and PDFs, creating my own miniature lessons (especially for reading and writing). In an effort to purge my files and track my paper trail of personal resources, I developed A Powerful Pen. Consider it my tiny corner of the homeschool world where I share the resources I developed for my own kids. Some of them you may have already seen here at Happy Medium Homeschooling – scattered in the blog posts. A Powerful Pen takes them and devotes some space just for printables.

So – you’re invited. I’ve just started uploading the files, adding in notes about how to use the printables when necessary. Print what you need. Take what you will. Grab what might help your child learn to love words and language and everything amazing about communication. And if you want me to share your resources, send me a note with the link.

Children who learn how to absorb words, communicate their thoughts, and use language to its fullest are steps ahead in life. I believe in the power of the pen. 

powerful pen

Explosions in the Kitchen – AKA Science for Homeschoolers

Homeschool Science

You know you’ve made a lasting impression when the furnace guy who makes the yearly maintenance checks wants to know what science experiment we have planned for the day. Turns out he vividly remembers the first time he showed up right in the middle of a volcanic eruption in the garage.

Explosions, messes, and gooey-gadgets are mainstays in homeschool science lessons (at least they are if we’re having fun). Below is a list of some of our favorite resources for science of all types.

Online Science Resources

There are some fabulous YouTube channels that provide great short videos for free about a wide variety of topics. Just search on YouTube for these names:

  • MakeMeGenius
  • Adventures in Learning
  • The Spangler Effect
  • Minute Physics

Free Printable Science Worksheets

I’ve also put together Steps to Good Science for kids – a free PDF you can print and use – as they conduct their science experiments, based on the scientific basics of:

  • Observations
  • Questions
  • Hypothesis
  • Testing and experiments
  • Drawing conclusions.

Books

There are tons at the library but these are three we’ve kept on our shelves over the years.

Hands-On Gadgets

We just can’t get enough of hands-on experiments, and these are some of the staples we like to have around for science.

  • Snap Circuits sets
  • Wild Goose science experiment sets
  • Magnets – the bigger the better

I’ve been there – watching the horror as green goo rose up and walked all over my kitchen counter with a life of its own. And while these kinds of moments call for extra paper towels, they also give amazing memories and lessons well-learned.

 

 

Halloween Party Printables

Halloween Party Printables
Halloween Party Printables

A Goblin Good Time – Fun and Free Halloween Printable Activities and Games

Goblins, ghouls, and sticky candy – what else could your little ones want? It’s hard to believe that we’ve been carving pumpkins and bobbing for apples with the kids around here for more than 15 years! We usually start our Halloween adventures with some games, printable activities, and anything else to have some fall fun. (And shhh, don’t tell the kids, but they are learning along the way, too!) If you’re planning a Halloween party, or you just want to have some extra fun with your kids this year, try some of these spooktacular Halloween party game ideas and printable pages that I’ve developed to use with my own monsters over the years.

Games and Printable Activities

Start by printing these Pumpkin Points – instead of handing out individual prizes for games played, your kids can earn Pumpkin Points to go towards “purchasing” their prize at the end. I like to have non-candy prizes, such as headlamps or glow-sticks for them to wear trick-or-treating, Halloween tattoos or stickers, mini-flashlights, or fun Halloween books. Why not make a full week of fun and have them earn points for a fun movie night or adventure?

Goblin Good Games

Halloween Word Bingo

This version of Bingo is great for early readers (but anyone can play). Take a look at the instruction sheet for how to use this at your Halloween party, then print cards for each player.

Pumpkin in the Dark

Print one template for every player. Take turns blindfolding one child at a time (it is fun for the others to watch each turn) and place the pumpkin template in front of the child and hand him or her a crayon or marker. Have the player design the jack-o-lantern face blindfolded – and then you can use these creative pictures for placemats. Run them through a laminator for extra durability.

Who Am I?

This game is great for all ages. You can print these easy Halloween themed words or come up with your own for older kids and adults. Each player should have one name card taped to his or her back (but they shouldn’t see which one they get). Then set the timer for 2-5 minutes and let everyone go around asking Yes/No questions. At the end, see if anyone could figure out who their Halloween character is.

Happy Halloween Word Creation

Print either one page for each player, or split the group into teams and have one page for each team. The goal is to come up with as many new words with the letters in Happy Halloween – you can give bonus points for Halloween related words. Set the timer for 3 minutes or so – depending on the age of your group.

 

Teaching Writing Skills to Kids

penmanship

There are some frightening statistics about the abilities of students when it comes to writing. Even though writing is one of my passions, I know that it is not for everyone. In fact, I’ve had to come to terms with the almost unbearable (insert note of chagrin) fact that some of my kids don’t love writing. However, it is also a needed skill in life – one that our kids can learn. As a mom, homeschool parent, and writer, I don’t make exceptions to whether or not my kids want to write. It is like cleaning the toilet, washing behind your ears, or sending the 23rd arm-aching Thank You note – it just needs to happen. So let’s not get bent out of shape. Let’s find ways to make sure that you can do it. And along the way you will hopefully find a way to embrace the importance of writing, even if you don’t embrace it as your passion.

  • 80% of high school seniors in the United States are not considered to be proficient writers.
  • 20% of high school seniors in the United States are not considered to be basic writers.
  • Girls tend to outscore boys on assessments of writing skills.
  • It is estimated that American firms spend more than $3 billion each year as a result of writing deficiencies among employees.

So – with all of the research pointing to the fact that too many children, especially boys, are not acquiring sufficient writing skills, what can we do about it?

How Can We Help Our Kids Write Well?

We have to start earlier. We can’t wait until they are seniors in high school and then realize that they are not prepared for college courses or the expectations of their employers. As the mother of 4 children, 3 of them boys, I have seen firsthand how it can be more challenging to teach writing skills to some children. Writing is not a naturally occurring milestone – it needs to be woven into the activities in which children participate and it needs to become less of a chore and more of an extension of communication. Our children need to learn that writing (and not just LOL, IDK, or BRB) allows them to express themselves, helps them reach their goals, and is a tool they will need in their future.

Part of the challenge of teaching writing to children is that writing, unlike reading, can seem infinite. There are as many ways to write a paragraph about a monkey as there are words in your child’s vocabulary. This can overwhelm children and shut them down to the writing process before they ever even get started. If you have kids with learning or other challenges like I do – writing is sometimes actually almost painful. Let’s take away the pain and get back to finding ways to make writing – communicating – fun and effective.

Printable Activities for Writing

Give tangible goals to your kids for writing. I use these tickets as a way to remind my children on what areas they need to focus. Each ticket has a short, limited amount of goals, appropriate to where they are with their writing skills.

Don’t ask for it all in one. If you’re a homeschool parent like me, you can do this more easily. If your student attends public or private school, consider talking with his or her teacher about the writing strategies used in class. Find out what methods are utilized, and gently suggest some of these ideas.

  • Limit writing to writing – especially for struggling writers. When you start to add grades for penmanship, spelling, and an accompanying picture to the mix it just gets to be too much.
  • Brainstorm with your child. Show him how to write down words that he associates with the topic. These words can then be “jumping off” points for sentences, and they help kids focus their ideas.
  • Meet your kids halfway. So for one of my kids the fine muscles needed for holding a pencil just don’t coordinate. But that doesn’t stop him from being able to knock out some pretty creative poetry and stories with the use of a word processor. Ask yourself what goal you are really trying to reach – and see if there is a way to meet your child part way to that goal.
  • Try to help your kids create visual maps of their writing. For boys especially the writing process is not concrete enough to let them feel secure. When my boys were younger I used imagery like these worksheets to help them Build Great Paragraphs.

How do you help your kids learn to write?

Easy Activities that Bring Gratitude to the Table

Thanksgiving Activities that Bring Gratitude to the Table
Thanksgiving Activities that Bring Gratitude to the Table

Printable Activities to Put the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving

Great food, amazing family, and fun & games – three keys to a Happy Thanksgiving for our family. Each year I anticipate Thanksgiving through the eyes of my children, and try to draw them in to the spirit of the holiday with an attitude of gratitude and an abundance of fun. For we know that once Thanksgiving is over, we are in a tumble, rumble, roll towards Christmas with our children. So put the brakes on for a bit and plan some fun and meaningful activities for you and your entire family this Thanksgiving season!

Printable Activities for Attitudes of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is the kick-off to a wonderful holiday season, but it can be so easy for our families to get wrapped up in the chaos and commercialism of the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Help keep your kids grounded and form a little perspective this Thanksgiving (and Christmas) season with a few fun and easy printable activities you can do right at your Thanksgiving table.

I Am Thankful! – Print this form for an acrostic poem (you can do one for the family, work in groups, or print one for each person). It just takes a few minutes to complete, and it helps bring everyone together to share in some gratitude.

Blessings in a Box – Make these table decorations that also serve as reminders to have attitudes of gratitude and thankfulness. The instructions are on the printable sheets, and you can print as many tags as you need.

Our Thanksgiving Feast – This is a holiday twist on traditional mad libs that gets your kids using their grammar skills (shh – don’t tell them while they’re on school break). Play it the traditional way, having one person as the “caller” who asks the others around your Thanksgiving table for the various parts of speech to fill in the blanks (without revealing the story). When the caller has written in all of the blanks, he or she reads the story aloud. Even though it brings a bit of silliness to the table, it can remind your kids to think about why they are thankful.

Extending the Gratitude

Before we know it the pies will be eaten and the day of thanks will come to a close. If you are heading out for Black Friday shopping and jumping right into the next phase of this season, keep a sense of gratitude with you. (I’m as eager as the next person for a great bargain, but it is also my time to hang out with my daughter and make great memories.)

  • Make the first item you buy for someone in need.
  • Take your kids to the craft stores to buy supplies to make homemade gifts.
  • Make the last stop of the day to do a good deed for someone else – grab the kids and take dinner to an elderly neighbor, encourage the kids to do a chore for a family member or friend (walk the dog, help clean the garage, etc.).

Keep the spirit of thankfulness in your hearts – and keep looking for ways to bring it more to life each day with your kids. I am thankful for the family and friends who surround me, the faith that guides me, and the opportunity to look forward to each day doing things I love to do.

The printable PDFs I created are yours to share and use this holiday season, but not to be sold or redistributed for commercial purposes. Thanks!

[I originally shared some of these ideas at BetterParenting.com :)]

Are You Lapbook Illiterate?

No More!lego

Lapbooks, project packs, and file folder books – they are all referring to the same basic idea of creating a miniature book to reinforce a learning adventure. Becoming popular in the homeschooling world over the past 10 years or so, these options are also being used in classrooms and even daycare centers. The above fun LEGO lapbook was shared at Joy in the Journey.

What is a Lapbook?

Lapbooks are easy tools you can use to build around central themes and turn basic topics into unit studies. In some ways lapbooks are scrapbooks meet learning journals. But don’t be frightened, you don’t need to be a scrapbooking queen in order to master the art of lapbooking. In fact, you can be scrapbooking challenged like I am and still have success with lapbooks!

Most lapbooks are created using the following supplies:

  • manila folders
  • printed worksheets (on regular paper or cardstock)
    • There are tons of free resources – check out homeschoolshare.com, eduhelper.com, and more.
    • You can make your own worksheets or even use parts of worksheets from inexpensive workbooks.
  • glue sticks
  • color crayons/markers
  • scissors
  • staples/stapler

filesWhat Does a Lapbook Look Like?

The best way to really understand what a lapbook is all about is to see one, so check out these great examples that moms and dads, teachers and caregivers have used with kids of all ages, about all kinds of topics.

How Do I Make a Lapbook?

Depending upon how much information you want to include in your child’s lapbook, you can use anywhere from 1 to 6 (any more than that and it gets to be too much) manila folders. If you are a visual learner like I am, there are some great tutorial videos that show you how you can create different styles of lapbooks.

If you’ve been looking for something that will hold your child’s attention or reinforce boring information, lapbooks can be the answer – and they are extremely inexpensive and versatile. I’ve used them to supplement books we’ve read such as the Magic Tree House series, to add extra information to a wildlife unit study, and we always incorporate them into our holiday studies.

I originally published much of this at BetterParenting.com 🙂