Sep 212018
 
 September 21, 2018  Book Reviews, World Religions No Responses »

Many of us have heard of Diwali or perhaps Holi, but there are actually many important festivals in India. And to add to the complexity, which festivals are celebrated (and how) depends on what part of India you are in. Today I’m thrilled to introduce a lovely picture book and crafts to help kids learn about Durga Puja, a fall festival related to Navrati. Kids will love learning about this holiday, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil!

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts | Alldonemonkey.com

Learn About Durga Puja

As a member of a minority religion, I can sympathize with author Shoumi Sen, who wanted to make sure that her young daughter would come to appreciate about their beliefs even without the support a large community of co-believers. Sometimes it can be hard to keep a child’s interest in your own religion when they almost totally surrounded by another. So Sen started to tell her daughter stories at night, making sure to tell them in a way that was fun and accessible.

These stories evolved into the “From the Toddler Diaries” series, designed to help Indian parents living outside India pass on their beliefs and traditions to their children. The series now includes Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! as well as Celebrate Holi With Me!. One thing I love about these books is that are very much aimed at young children, showing the joys of these Indian festivals in language that they can easily understand.

Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts | Alldonemonkey.com

In Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! children learn about the major aspects of Durga Puja through colorful illustrations and rhyming text. I really captures the excitement and joy of the holiday as seen through the eyes of a child. Younger readers will enjoy the book as is, whereas older children can use it as a jumping off point to explore the foods, dances, and other traditions mentioned in the book.

Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts | Alldonemonkey.com

Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! is great whether you’re teaching children about your own heritage or exposing them to a holiday from another culture. For background, you can learn more about Durga Puja and other Indian festivals from author Shoumi Sen.

Crafts for Durga Puja and Navrati

Kids can also celebrate Durga Puja and Navrati with these fun crafts and activities, plus there are some tips for parents!

Art with Children: Children’s Art for Durga Puja and Dussehra

Lil Creative Kids: How to Draw Durga Maa Step by Step

Hindu Mommy: Coloring Pages for Durga Puja

Artsy Craftsy Mom: 21 Navrati and Dussehra Crafts and Activities

Raising World Children: Guide to Meditation and Fasting During Navrati

Sep 102018
 
 September 10, 2018  Book Reviews, Halloween 2 Responses »

All you looking for some not so scary books to share with your kids this Halloween? Here are some wonderfully silly Halloween books that will make your kids giggle, not scream (though there may be some groans at a few of the jokes)! And this post is part of a Halloween blog hop, so don’t miss the links to other fun Halloween themed posts at the end.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Does Frankenstein Get Hungry? for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Silly Halloween Books Kids Will Love | Alldonemonkey.com

Silly Halloween Books Kids Will Love

Does Frankenstein Get Hungry? is the perfect read for any child who finds all the trappings off Halloween just a tad too scary. The young protagonist, when she gets too frightened of all things spooky, brilliantly turns the monsters and ghouls in her head from creepy to silly by asking pertinent questions, like whether Frankenstein gets hungry, or if Dracula flosses his fangs. (My son’s favorite, of course, was whether the boogeyman has boogers!) A great technique for teaching littles to conquer their fears!

AlphaOops: H Is for Halloween is such a great book for a range of ages – my toddler loves it she’s currently obsessed with the alphabet (and she gets to make her silly ghost noises), while my 5 year old laughs at all the jokes, like the running gag that the other letters keep stealing the letter B’s costume ideas. It’s a fun follow up to AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First.

The Scariest Book Ever made us all laugh out loud, as we soon discover that this is absolutely not the scariest book ever. It’s actually a cute story about a ghost who is scared to go outside of his haunted house but eventually gains the courage to go to a Halloween party – with hilarious results! (Don’t worry, they all enjoy their Halloween cupcakes together in the end!)

Monster Trouble! has been a bedtime favorite for a long time now, and my son still laughs every time. Of course, I love the spunky heroine who is plagued by monsters who just want to play with her every night, so that she falls asleep in class the everyday. She tries every trick she can think of to get them to leave her alone so she can get some sleep, until one night she accidentally stumbles on the perfect (and very sweet!) solution.

Skeleton Hiccups is one of our favorite silly Halloween books and will definitely have your kids giggling, as the poor Skeleton attempts all the tried and true methods to cure himself of the hiccups. (Spoiler: Drinking water doesn’t help if the water just pours right back out!) It’s left to his buddy Ghost to come up with the perfect solution and prove that even Skeletons can get scared silly!

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15+ Skeleton Crafts and Activities

This is part of a Halloween Theme Blog Hop – Check out these other fun Halloween Ideas! Click on photos!

Halloween Blog Hop

DIY Caramel Apple Lip Balm

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Silly Halloween Books Kids Will Love

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Making Spiders Using Physics

Sep 042018
 

I am so excited because today I have the honor of sharing new diverse books for kids by diverse authors, including superstars like Jacqueline Woodson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Viola Davis.

This is a bigger deal than you might think and certainly a bigger deal than it should be. For while there are more diverse books for children available than in the past, it is alarming that diverse authors still make up only 7% of published children’s authors.

Even so, although it is tempting to simply say that we should support the books below solely for this reason (and this alone would be reason enough to support them), it must also be stated that these books are remarkable in and of themselves regardless of who wrote them, simply because they are wonderful books all children will enjoy.

New Diverse Books for Kids by Diverse Authors | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions mine. This book contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

New Diverse Books for Kids by Diverse Authors

5 decades before the current push for diverse books for children, there was Corduroy, a beautiful little gem of a book about a girl and her stuffed bear. What made it so ground breaking was that the little girl was black, which made a world of difference to children like Viola Davis, who used reading as an escape into an imaginary, idealized world. It was for that reason that when Ms. Davis, the winner of multiple acting awards, turned her hand to children’s literature, she decided to write a sequel to this beloved work.

Corduroy Takes a Bow is a deserving follow up to the original. Davis and illustrator Jody Wheeler bring Corduroy and his friend Lisa back to life in this gentle adventure at the theater, as Lisa and her favorite teddy bear accompany Lisa’s mother to a performance of Mother Goose. A beautiful tale that has the feel of a classic, it is a fitting tribute to the original and a lovely way to continue Corduroy and Lisa’s story.

The Day You Begin is the first of two books in this list by award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson, best known for Brown Girl Dreaming. Her new picture book is a beautiful work that speaks to any child who has felt out of place from everyone else, too different to fit in. So many children can find themselves in the pages – as someone who looks different, speaks a different language, who can’t run as quickly as the rest, or whose mother packs a lunch that seems strange to the other kids.

What’s so lovely is that even as the children in the book find refuge in each other, they still celebrate what is unique about themselves: “This is the day you begin to find the places….where every new friend has something a little like you – and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”

A special mention also for award-winning illustrator Rafael López, whose graceful images match the emotional depth of the text.

 

Sonia Sotomayor is a vocal advocate of reading, telling an audience recently that, “The key to success in my life, it’s the secret that I want to share with kids and how I became successful. I’m here as a Supreme Court Justice only because of books.” And so it is fitting that she write her own life story in the form of a children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story. (And as a tribute to her native tongue – learned in New York from her Puerto Rican parents, the book is also available in Spanish, as Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida).

I was instantly drawn to the personal photos at the front of the book, as well as the wonderful illustrations by the legendary Lulu Delacre. Sotomayor’s story of overcoming adversity is truly inspiring, and I love how she makes the direct connection from books to social justice and the ability to help others. The main message to take away from this work, as emphasized by Sotomayor herself, is that if she can succeed at her dreams, so can any other child who loves to read.

Harbor Me is the book we need at this moment in history, a deeply emotional story about young people forced to grapple with big social issues like racism, sexism, prison, and guns. The pacing of the story is just right, as we gradually come to know this special circle of tween students, brought together by their teacher as a sort of social experiment, in the hopes that they could learn to support and help each other. In this one novel, Woodson manages to highlight a wide range of social issues, without making it seem trendy or gimmicky. Instead, each child’s story is treated respectfully, as are the ways that the other children respond and support them.

What really makes this middle grade chapter book come alive is the authenticity of the children’s voices and the emotional range and complexity they display. As in The Day You Begin, it is a book about finding your voice and learning to respect others’ as well.

While so many of the other books on this list tackle major social issues, The God Gene Chronicles: The Secret of the Gods (Volume 1) is just plain fun. It is a rollicking adventure story whose main protagonists are a trio of friends at a boys’ school in Mumbai. But make no mistake, this is life or death stuff, as two clandestine organizations fight for control over the fate of humanity.

Author Projesh Banerjea was fascinated by the idea of retelling the Hindu myths he grew up with in the style of the modern superhero tales he loved. The result is a page turning novel that older readers will enjoy from beginning to end – from the boys’ shenanigans at school to the underground world of good and evil that simmers all around them.

Through much of the book the boys move in parallel to this end-of-the-world battle, oblivious to what is happening just below the surface all around them, at times involving their teachers and even their own parents. But soon the two worlds collide, and each boy is caught up in a maelstrom that will invoke the ancient tales of the gods and ultimately mean for two of them either life as a bearer of the god gene – or death as a victim of the dark side.

I thoroughly enjoyed this action adventure, and how it brings ancient stories into modern times, reworking the Western idea of superheroes to suit an entirely different Eastern universe. Don’t worry – if you don’t have much background in Hinduism, the author has a primer at the beginning, and does a great job of weaving basic explanations into the story, so you won’t miss a step!

Turning Pages Blog Tour

This post is part of the blog tour for Turning Pages: My Life Story. Find all the other stops in the tour below!

WEEK ONE

August 28 – Here Wee Read – Review

August 29 – Lu and Bean Read – Review

August 30 – DJ Reads Books – Conversations

 

WEEK TWO

September 3 – All Done Monkey – Learning Activity + Creative Instagram Picture

September 4 – Mundo de Pepita – Review

September 5 – Babies to Bookworms – Review + Learning Activity

September 6 – Biracial Bookworms – Review + Recap of Meeting Sonia

 

WEEK THREE

September 11 – Read. Learn. Repeat. – Review

September 12 – A Buckeye Teacher – Review + Classroom Activity

September 13 – Inspiring English Language Learners – Books as an essential key to unlocking identity and vision to what’s possible.

Aug 292018
 

Pretend play is a wonderful way for children to work out their problems, try out new ideas, and explore imaginative worlds. It is an important part of a child’s intellectual and emotional development, as well as an integral part of cherished childhood memories.

And it’s not just for the very young! We often associate pretend play with toddlers and preschoolers, but I find that it is just as important for older children, who still have big imaginations and often use pretend play as a way to unwind.

Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips | Alldonemonkey.com

Here are three simple tips for encouraging pretend play for your children, no matter what their age. You can also find below great books and music to set their imaginations on fire. Share your tips and resources in the comments!

Disclosure: I was sent complimentary copies of the resources below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips

Allow for Plenty of Free Time

This seems so obvious, yet it’s amazing how busy our schedules can be, especially when seen from a child’s perspective. If we are exhausted after shepherding our kids through schoolwork, errands, doctor’s appointments, etc., how do we think our children feel? Depending on your circumstances, opening up some free time for imaginative play may be as simple as a change in perspective, or it may mean a more fundamental restructuring of your schedule and perhaps cutting back on organized activities.

With my children I’ve found that they do better if they have plenty of downtime, whether it’s running around outdoors or playing with playdough or Legos. So, for example, in the mornings I make sure they get an hour of free play after breakfast so that it is easier for them to focus on schoolwork. Many children find pretend play a great way to decompress after school.

Provide Open Ended Toys

While my kids love toys with all the bells and whistles, to really encourage pretend play there is nothing better than open ended toys, which are great tools for children to project their imaginations. What this really means is to provide your children with toys that don’t have a set purpose but rather can be used in many different ways, such as sensory bins, building sets, or crayons and paper. Again, don’t put age limits on these toys – I’m always pleasantly surprised at how much my eight year old still loves playing with play dough.

And nothing could be simpler than getting outdoors! Nature is the ultimate playground for young imaginations, whether it’s out in the wild or at one of the many creative local parks.

Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips | Alldonemonkey.com

Incorporate Pretend Play into Your Day

Pretend play can introduce an element of fun into your everyday routine. My 5 year old regularly fights off storm troopers while we are at the grocery store, and your child could be a mermaid or a pirate during bath time. Many of our learning activities also incorporate some element of pretend play. For example, when we studied about knights and castles, we did a “knighting” ceremony and made shields and swords out of cardboard, followed by plenty of pretend play as knights!

Pretend play can also be a life saver if you are waiting at a doctor’s office or have a long car drive, though in those kind of spaces you might have to be more creative about what you can do!

Offer Big Ideas for Them to Dream with

A wonderful gift you can give your children is to introduce them to big ideas to excite their imaginations. In a way it is like giving them the vocabulary to dream with, the tools to construct their own imaginative worlds. Whether through exploring other cultures and cuisines, telling them tales from your childhood, or reading from great books together, these experiences of adventure and wonder will spark hours of pretend play!

Below are new wonderful books and music that are sure to expand children’s imaginative worlds and inspire pretend play!

How to Be a T-Rex

My son loves How to be a T. Rex! In fact, just the other day he was telling me he was scared to go into our back bedroom by himself, when he suddenly stood up straighter and said, “Wait! I’m going to be a T Rex!” and scampered off alone. Thank you, Ryan North!

This fun book is all about a dinosaur-loving kid (a little girl! an African American little girl!) who just wants to be a T Rex, even though her older brother says it’s impossible. Of course, she eventually realizes that being a T Rex also has its downsides, so she comes up with an even more creative solution! And even makes up with her brother when he apologizes 🙂

If You Want to Be a Pirate

Pirates are another set of classic characters that kids loved to act out. And now there is the perfect soundtrack! If You Want to Be a Pirate: Songs for Young Buccaneers is a brand new album of original songs from Tam Mason and the Blue Buccaneers. This group performs in costume (see below), often even on ships! This album was inspired by their youngest fans.

Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers

We have had so much fun listening to these swash-buckling tunes about parrots, a kindly kraken, and an invisible first mate. I also love that there’s even a song raising the environmental consciousness of young pirates, telling them that thanks to messy humanity you can’t see the treasure anymore because of all the trash.

If you have a pirate lover in your house, you won’t want to miss this album!

Sarabella’s Thinking Cap is a beautifully illustrated picture book for all of the day dreamers out there. I love it because it celebrates those children whose heads are perpetually in the clouds, at the same time as it offers ideas for how to help them function in a classroom setting. Thanks to her wise teacher, Sarabella isn’t shamed for having trouble focusing. Instead, he encourages her to come up with an invention that allows plenty of room for her imagination – and multiplication tables.

Mossby’s Magic Carpet Handbook: A Flyer’s Guide to Mossby’s Model D3 Extra-Small Magic Carpet (Especially for Young or Vertically Challenged People) is perfect for older children. My eight year old adores poring over the gorgeous illustrations and reading all of the detailed diagrams and instructions for flying magic carpets. He says he likes how realistic the book is, “which almost makes me think that it’s real.” This colorful guide covers everything from weather, spotting wild animals, recognizing things from above, and how “not to barf.” Just be sure to take the solemn magic carpet riders’ oath and follow the code of conduct, including only using your magic carpet for good.

How to Be a T Rex Blog Tour

This post is part of the blog tour for How to be a T. Rex, so don’t miss the other stops to promote this fun new picture book!

WEEK ONE

August 20 – Four Violet Reviews – Cooking Dino Grub

August 21 – Bookfoolery – Review

August 22 – The Kindergarten Connection – Creative Instagram Picture

August 23 – MaiStoryBook – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

August 24 – TheReadathon – Review

WEEK TWO

August 27 – Crayon Freckles – Learning Activity

August 28 – How Useful It Is – Review

August 29 – All Done Monkey – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

Aug 022018
 
 August 2, 2018  Education Comments Off on Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary

This is the second part of our homeschool curriculum review. Earlier we focused on math, while today I’m sharing a language arts curriculum review of materials that I use with my rising third grader and kindergartner. These materials, which cover phonics, handwriting, and grammar, are perfect as part of a homeschool or as after school reinforcement.

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary

Our method is (mostly) based on the philosophy of classical education; however, we are also a bit eclectic and focused on finding what works best for each child! The materials below weren’t sent to me to review – they are the actual materials my soon-to-be third grader and kindergartener use for their lessons, after trial and error with other workbooks and methods.

My 5 year old has been working his way through the Evan-Moor Basic Phonics Skills for Grades K-1. They are fun, bite-sized worksheets that help them learn basic letter sounds. It has cute pictures and activities that kids will enjoy even as they are challenged to learn new skills.

My oldest really struggled with handwriting when he was younger and would fight me on any attempts to get him to write. Enter Handwriting Without Tears! When he was in kindergarten a teacher recommended this book for him, and it was a game changer. It breaks handwriting down into simple strokes and makes it more fun for kids to practice. I’m not sure if it was the visuals or way the strokes were explained, but he would no longer protest practicing his handwriting. We easily finished the entire workbook (versus others that we had given up on partway through!) If your child is struggling with handwriting, I highly recommend Handwriting Without Tears.

The Complete Writer, Writing With Ease  with the accompanying Workbook for Writing with Ease is great for older children who are ready to start copy work. In accordance with classical education, it uses living texts as the basis for its lessons. In other words, students copy lines from great (age appropriate) works of literature, such as Charlotte’s Web and Caddie Woodlawn. 

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

I love its gradual progression to longer, more complex sentences, and even within each lesson you can choose between a shorter and longer sentence for your child to copy. It also incorporates reading comprehension, as students listen to a passage and have to answer questions and give a summary in their own words.

Among classical homeschoolers, First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (and the accompanying Student Workbook) are very popular. This language arts curriculum is a great way to teach children grammar rules through repetition and memorization. I should say, however, that my oldest son found it rather boring, though I could tell it helped him get a better grasp of grammar. However, I plan to use it with my younger son, who is a very different kind of learner and I think will benefit from this approach.

If you have a child like mine who hates sitting down learning grammar rules – or just want to give them a little more practice – then you will love Easy Grammar: Daily Guided Teaching & Review. Each day your child does one short lesson (one page) – quick, painless, but effective! The daily repetition helps them really get the grammar rules without tiring them out with a long and potentially boring lesson.

Classical education typically calls for children to learn Latin. Since we are already studying Spanish and French, I didn’t want to add another language, but I still wanted my kids to get the benefits of learning those word roots. If a child knows how to identify the roots of a word, it will give them a real advantage in parsing out new words they may encounter, especially if they plan to enter a scientific field. Word Roots Beginning: Learning the Building Blocks of Better Spelling and Vocabulary is a great way for children to learn the meaning and spelling of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes commonly used in English. Even better, it can be done in sessions of just one or two pages, so it’s easy to add into your language arts curriculum.

What materials do you include in your language arts curriculum?

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Jul 302018
 
 July 30, 2018  Education Comments Off on Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary

A friend recently asked me for recommendations about math and language arts workbooks she could use with her son. I started to write out a response then realized I should just make it into a post to share with others! Instead it has grown into two separate posts. This is the first, our math curriculum review for elementary age students that you could use as part of your homeschool curriculum or as after school reinforcement.

Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary

The materials below weren’t sent to me to review – they are the actual materials my soon-to-be third grader and kindergartner use as part of our math curriculum, after having trial and error with other workbooks and methods.

My oldest is a conceptual learner, so Singapore Primary Mathematics (also known as Singapore Math) is a perfect fit for him. The method is “concrete to pictorial to abstract,” and it’s that intermediate “pictorial” phase that makes it unique and really helps kids master the concepts. I was impressed with how multiplication and division were presented, for instance – it really made sense to my son and helped him really understand what the terms mean, not just how to get the correct result. Each lesson serves as a foundation for the next, meaning that students don’t have time to forget what they’ve just learned, as sometimes happens with other approaches, when lessons aren’t reviewed until weeks or months later.

My son literally laughs out loud when reading books from the Life of Fred series. These are wonderfully fun books that read like novels, perfect for any child but especially one who otherwise shows no interest in math. TThis math curriculum follows the life of Fred Gauss and all the funny ways he encounters in his life. So no more protests such as, “Why do I need to learn math? I’ll never need this!!” The story is so engaging, your child will enjoying reading, plus she will learn how to apply math concepts to real world situations.


If your child loves graphic novels, then you should try Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving)! This math curriculum comes as a set of guidebooks (the graphic novels) and practice books (the workbooks). Each chapter from the practice book corresponds to a chapter from the guidebook. The guidebooks themselves are very entertaining – my 8 year old read them just for fun! And when we started working on the practice books, it was the first time in a long time that I had really seen him challenged in math!

I think of Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving) more as set of logic puzzles than a regular math workbook. Children shouldn’t expect to get all the answers correct on the first try, nor should they expect that, as with most math books, the way to solve the problems will be provided. More than anything, Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving) tries to get students to think in new ways and use the basic principles to come up with their own creative methods for solving.

Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

For my five year old, this past year we started using RightStart. I love that this math curriculum is so focused on hands on learning through heavy use of manipulatives like the abacus and cute teddy bears you see above. In fact, often if I need to make dinner or do one-on-one work with my oldest, I pull out some of the manipulatives from our RightStart set for my younger two to play with. They love getting their hands on the 3-D wooden shapes, for example!

RightStart emphasizes games and songs, making it fun especially for younger students like my kindergartner. And they have lots of innovative touches, such as the 5-block color changes you see in the abacus above. The colors switch with every 5 beads and again with every 5 strings, teaching children to count not just by 10’s but by 5’s and 50’s.

The manipulative sets are a bit of an investment at first, but well worth it because you can use it for multiple levels, so you will get lots of use out of them.

What is your favorite math curriculum?

Jul 252018
 

My homeschooling friends and I are all abuzz with plans for the upcoming school year: the best curricula, favorite planners, new approaches to challenging subjects, and tips to get organized (for real, this time!) Now that we’re entering our fourth full year of homeschooling (if you don’t count the co-op preschool we did when my oldest was small), I have a better sense of what we’ll need to get ready for the new year, so I’ve compiled some of my favorites in this back to school guide for homeschoolers. Share your favorite resources in the comments!

This is part of a back to school crafts and school supply guides blog hop be sure to check out all the great ideas at the bottom of this post!

Back to School Guide for Homeschoolers | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Back to School Guide for Homeschoolers

Organization

I love these Magazine File Holders! They are an easy way to organize books, papers, and files by subject and/or child. (We also use them to organize the kids’ magazines and comic books). They are colorful and sturdy and easy to label. They also help maximize space because they can be set on top of a dresser or bookcase if (like us) you never seem to have enough shelf space.

Expanding file folders are another great organizational tool, which is also easy to take with you if you need to go to a meeting or want to take your planning to a coffee shop or on the patio.

Where would I be without my planner? There are so many out there, including great printable planners. This year I’ll be using The A+ Homeschool Planner: Plan, Record, and Celebrate Each Child’s Progress, which I really like because it makes it easy to track progress of multiple children. (Just wish it were spiral bound!)

Arts & Crafts

By the end of the school year, most of our crayons have been lost or used up, and the caps to all the markers disappeared, so it’s always nice to start out fresh! This Crayola Inspiration Art Case comes with everything – loads of crayons and markers, and even drawing paper!

My younger two adore doing crafts, so this ALEX Toys Craft Giant Art Jar would be perfect! It would also be a great way to keep them engaged while I work one on one with their older brother.

My kids love drawing! Honestly, most of the time we use reams of loose leaf paper, but a Melissa & Doug Drawing Pad is perfect to have in the car or to take when we’re waiting for one to finish with karate, etc.

Sciences

We bought the Learning Resources Magnifier & Tweezers a couple years ago and have gotten so much use out of them! We take them on nature walks and use them with our discovery tray. Perfect for little hands!

If you are doing nature studies or just want to explore outdoors with your kids, try this Adventure Exploration Set by Ninja Kid. It comes with binoculars, flashlights, compass, telescope, magnifying glass, whistle, and bag!

Many of us are familiar with Little Passports for their amazing geography tools, but did you know they also have science subscription kits? I love everything by Little Passports, and a friend of mine has used really enjoyed using the Science Expeditions subscription with her daughter.

Another great science tool to have on hand is Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit. It is a great kit to get your child doing some hands-on science learning. Although the age says 8+, both of my boys were able to enjoy it by age 5 with supervision.

One of my son’s enrichment teachers – and a longtime homeschooler – once told me that one of her regrets was not buying a microscope for her kids sooner. There are so many out there, that which one you buy just really depends on your budget and your child’s level of interest. This AMSCOPE-KIDS M30-ABS-KT1 Beginner Microscope Kit is a good basic microscope for kids, and I love that it comes with accessories and a sturdy carrying case.

My kids are really into coding, so this year we’re purchasing a Kano Computer Kit. You actually build your own computer – what a great way hands on way to learn about how computers work! Plus afterwards you can practice coding on the computer.

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Kids Getting Ready To Go Back To School

Jul 192018
 

As a Spanish (non-native) speaker, I have mostly blogged about my experiences teaching Spanish to my children. Last year, however, we decided to try something new and add French to our repertoire. I have always wanted to learn myself, and it has been a very different experience learning a language alongside my children instead of teaching them from years of experience! Here are our favorite resources to learn French no matter what your age!

And don’t miss out on receiving a FREE code for a French learning app for kids! Details at the end of the post.

Learn French as a Family: Favorite Resources | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I receive complimentary copies of many of the products below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Learn French as a Family: Favorite Resources

I am so excited to learn French with my kids! It is a language I have always been fascinated with, but I have had only limited exposure over the years. I have no formal training in French (I studied Spanish and a little Portuguese in school), so there were many surprises for me. (Did you know that when you say eighty in French you are literally saying “four twenties”? And why do they pronounce so few of the letters in their words??)

If you want to learn French along with your kids, don’t be intimidated by your lack of knowledge. In fact, there are many benefits to learning a language alongside your children. If nothing else, they will love seeing that Mom and Dad can make mistakes, too!

Books

Beep Beep In Paris is a very sweet picture book about a little car who is off having adventures in Paris. It is a wonderful way not only to practice French but also to learn about famous landmarks of Paris. As we are just learning French, it is very helpful to read a bilingual book like this, so we can check our understanding without missing the flow of the story. Be sure to enjoy with a warm cup of chocolat! 

At Home with Betty and Cat sample

At Home with Betty & Cat is part of a series of unusual bilingual books. Most bilingual books have the complete text in one language alongside the complete text in a second language. Yet the concept of these clever books is based on how children often play with language, frequently switching back and forth between languages (“code switching”). In the Betty & Cat stories, the dog in the story speaks one language, while the cat speaks another. This language distinction is just one of the differences between the pair!

This series is available in a variety of combinations (we chose Spanish and French!) The ideal reader is one that already has a basic understanding of the target language, though this need not be perfect. Especially great for kids that have started at an immersion school, whose grandparents speak another language, or whose families are bilingual.

Apps & YouTube

Gus on the Go French

Gus on the Go is a super fun, play based app that will have your children learning and playing with French words right from the beginning! Your child does not need any prior knowledge of French to get started, as vocabulary is gradually taught with fun visuals and games. But as they work their way through the levels, they gain nearly 90 new words in French!

My kids took to this app right away. They thought the games were really fun, and they loved earning rewards – always a great motivation!

Now you can try out this app, too, just by being one of the first to comment on this post! (See details at the end).

Another great language learning app is Duolingo. In fact, it keeps popping up in chat groups as an app that works well for adults as well as older children. It is easy to use and very engaging. I love that it utilizes several different kinds of questions to learn the same vocabulary – matching, translating to/from French, writing what you hear, and so on. My only problem with it is that it doesn’t actually explain the rules of the language. For an analytical person like me, it’s easier to be told the grammar rule rather than just having to guess it from the examples.

Which is why I also love Learning French with Alexa on YouTube. Alexa has a very funny personality, with well organized lessons. So you can systematically go through them, or jump right into one that grabs your interest (or that you didn’t quite understand from other sources). Also, I love getting more exposure to proper pronunciation, as this is a real challenge for me coming from Spanish.

Learning Aids

Linguacious™ Around the Home French Flashcard Game is an innovative, award winning tool that your kids will love! If you have decided to learn French along with your child, you may worry that you aren’t able to teach them the proper pronunciation. Linguacious™ Around the Home French Flashcard Game is a clever solution to this common problem. These sturdy flashcards come not only with engaging photos and vocabulary but audio, too!

All you have to do is scan the QR code on each flashcard to hear a native speaker pronounce the word. (Btw this is a great way to engage tech-loving kids! Mine love scanning the code themselves). And in the time since I reviewed their Around the Spanish Flashcard Game (read my full review), Linguacious has come out with their own app to scan the QR codes. It works so much more quickly, making learning new vocabulary even easier than before!

Now, if you are like me and want to feel like you’re taking a class (without actually having to take a class), I recommend Living Language French, Essential Edition: Beginner course. It comes with a coursebook, 3 audio CDs, and free online tools. Last summer I spent time reading the book and doing the exercises, but what I really loved was listening to the CDs. It was so easy to put them on when we were running errands, and, though it is aimed at adults, it was great to expose the kids to more French!

Pinterest Boards

There are so many wonderful language learning ideas out there. Find even more on these Pinterest boards – I’m always finding something new!

Multicultural Kid Blogs: Teaching French

The Piri-Piri Lexicon: French Resources

Biracial Bookworms: Learning French

For even more resources and activities to learn French, check out this incredible collection from my friend at Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes!

Giveaway

Now for the giveaway! You can try out Gus on the Go French app simply by being one of the first ten people to comment on this post! Just let me know why you’d love to learn French with your kids.

Please note that the codes are for Android devices, but Gus on the Go has generously offered to make iOS codes available as well – just make a note if you need one of those instead!

All participants must have a valid email address. Giveaway open through Friday, July 27, 2018, at midnight PT. Winners will be the first ten verified people to comment on this post.

Jul 132018
 
 July 13, 2018  Education, music Comments Off on Music Appreciation: Classical Music Concert Activities for Kids

Are you planning to take your children to a classical music concert but are afraid they are going to get the wiggles partway through? Are you looking for music appreciation tools to keep them engaged with the music during the concert? Here are three fun activity sheets designed for elementary aged children to use during a classical music concert. No extensive knowledge is needed here – these are meant to help kids keep their eyes and ears open during the concert and start to engage with the music itself.

What are your experiences taking kids to classical concerts? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Music Appreciation: Classical Music Concert Activities for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Music Appreciation: Classical Music Concert Activities for Kids

Recently I had the opportunity to take my children to a weekly classical music concert at a local church. I knew I needed something to keep them engaged and learning during the concert, so I went online to find some activity sheets we could take along.

(Notice that I am studiously avoiding saying “worksheets” because that sounds so boring, even to me, and I love worksheets!)

I found quite a few wonderful music appreciation resources that focused on listening exercises in a class or at home, but I couldn’t find anything related to actually taking children to a classical music concert.

Being a blogger, I of course decided to make some of my own! Here are three fun music appreciation activity sheets you can print out and take with you. Just right-click on each image to print!

The first (Concert Scavenger Hunt) can be used for younger children, as it is mostly pictures.

Music Appreciation: Concert Scavenger Hunt | Alldonemonkey.com

The next two are more geared towards older elementary students. (My third grader really enjoyed them). The Program Scavenger Hunt can be done while you are sitting waiting for the concert to start, as they look over the concert program.

Music Appreciation: Program Scavenger Hunt | Alldonemonkey.com

You will want to print multiple copies of the Listening Sheet, as it is designed to be used for one piece at the concert. (Keep in mind that your child may tire of doing this for every piece. I told my eight year old to do a Listening Sheet for three pieces of his choice). A younger child could do a Listening Sheet with help, focusing mostly on the drawing portion.

Music Appreciation: Listening Sheet | Alldonemonkey.com

I would also recommend bringing plenty of blank paper (or a sketch pad) for them to draw. This really helped occupy all three of my children during the concert, even when their interest in the concert itself was starting to fade. I also used it to do tic-tac-toe with my 5 year old near the end, when he was getting particularly restless.

Related Posts:

3 Easy Ways to Use Music to Teach Preschool Spanish

Spanish Lullabies

New Music to Encourage a Love of Nature

Peaceful Music for Kids

Jul 102018
 
 July 10, 2018  Book Reviews, music, parenting Comments Off on How to Raise Confident Kids: 5 Pro Tips

Want to raise confident kids? We all want to raise well adjusted kids who are ready to take on the world, but sometimes it can be hard to know how to best encourage and support them. Here are 5 pro tips to help you set your child on the path to success.

How to Raise Confident Kids: 5 Pro Tips | Alldonemonkey.com

How to Raise Confident Kids: 5 Pro Tips

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the products below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

1. Support Their Dreams

Kids are full of amazing ideas and have a natural inclination to dream big. Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re bound to get some fantastic answers! Yet adults often squash these glorious ambitions with a dose of (supposed) reality – this is often done with good intentions or perhaps just carelessly, but either way it just serves to make a child more self-conscious about their dreams.

Instead, find ways to support your child’s passion without pressure or judgment and give them space to experiment. Let them express themselves creatively without feeling the need to step in with a reality check.

And don’t forget to be a role model for them – share with them your own dreams and how you are following your passion!

I love Mia and the Rocket Ship Tree because it takes children’s fantasies seriously and encourages them to let their imaginations run wild. Author/illustrator Boaz Gavish created this colorful work for his niece when he saw the need for more books with girl heroes. And Mia is the epitome of a girl hero – a great role model for confident kids everywhere! The hand paintings showcase wonderfully Mia’s incredible (and tickly!) space adventures with her robot. This is a book sure to excite your child’s imagination and spark their own imaginative adventures.

But what I really love about this book is that when Mia decides to go on an adventure, she sets off despite the fact that none of her friends will join her. She is confident enough in herself that she doesn’t give up on her quest for a good adventure, even when others tried to change her mind. Beautifully creative book to share with your little explorer.

2. Encourage a Positive Outlook

Confident kids are optimistic about the future and are able to put a positive spin on events that don’t go according to plan. Teach your children how to see mistakes as opportunities for growth, and model flexibility and resilience when the unexpected happens. Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and have optimism about the future instills a sense of confidence in your child that she can handle whatever the world sends her way.

I have been a fan of Nikki McClure and her incredible cut paper art since my sister-in-law gave my firstborn a copy of Mama, Is It Summer Yet? In All in a Day, McClure teams up with Newberry Medal winner Cynthia Rylant to create a gorgeous picture book about embracing opportunities and learning from mistakes. This lovely book inspires young readers to see the beauty in each day. I especially love the message that each day is a chance to start fresh and seize the moment. Also a wonderful book for encouraging a love of nature and taking time to enjoy lying in the grass with a friend.

How to Raise Confident Kids: 5 Pro Tips | Alldonemonkey.com

3. Embrace Their Uniqueness

One of the main reasons kids lack confidence is because they feel different from their peers. As adults we have grown to be more comfortable in our own skin, but children usually want to just fit in and not be seen as too “weird.” Help your child gain self-assurance by encouraging his uniqueness and helping him connect with others who share his interests. In the busyness of our every day, we can often slip into the habit of wishing our kids would just “act normal” – usually to make our lives easier, or perhaps because we think it will make their own more stress-free.

But in the long run, encouraging a child’s unique way of being in the world promotes self-confidence and sets him on the path to becoming a well-adjusted, interesting adult.

One of a Kind is a great book to nurture confident kids by encouraging them to march to their own beat. Here is a character who doesn’t mind standing out from the crowd and doing things his own way, from how he dresses to the music he loves. It also lets kids know that even if they sometimes feel so different from everyone else, they can often find others who share their interests.

I love the bold artwork in this book, which will remind your child of a graphic novel. Great book to encourage kids to not be afraid to make a splash.

4. Arm Them with Knowledge

A surefire way to raise confident kids is to arm them with knowledge. As children enter the tween years and are hit with all sorts of physical and emotional changes, it can be confusing and disorienting. Often children feel unsure of themselves and uncertain of how to relate to their peers, who are going through major changes themselves. Maintain open communication and let your kids know you are available for questions and conversations without judgment. Provide them with resources – books, websites, and trusted adults – who can help them understand the changes they are undergoing and begin to think through the grown up they wish to become.

Boying Up: How to Be Brave, Bold and Brilliant is the sequel to the equally brilliant Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular. In this series, actress and scientist Mayim Blalik dishes on all sorts of changes that happen as you go through puberty. The books are packed full of scientific information, all presented in an easy to read and often humorous way. There are also many personal anecdotes from Blalik about her own and her children’s experiences growing up.

The books cover an incredible range of topics – from nutrition and exercise to dealing with stress and discovering your passions. But what I most love is the respect with which the books treat their young readers and their concerns. I also love the emphasis that there is no “right” way to be or to experience puberty. Some kids, for example, may find themselves suddenly interesting in dating, while others may still run the other way at the mere mention of romance. No matter what you are feeling or going through, Blalik has got you covered and reassures you at every turn that you are completely normal and great just the way you are.

Be aware that these books address all topics, including sexuality, very openly and frankly, so be sure to preview them ahead of time. (And for yourself, don’t miss Blalik’s website, Grok Nation!)

5. Inspire Them

Surround your child’s world with role models and encouragement. Make sure they have other trusted adults in their lives that they can look up to, and fill their minds with real life examples of people who have followed their dreams and made a difference in the world. Because in the end, what really will make a difference to them is what touches their hearts and sparks their imaginations.

Every Voice is a danceable album of catchy tunes you and your kids will find yourselves singing long after you turn off the music. But more than just great music, it shares powerful messages that stay with you as well.

“You don’t have to be a cool girl…You can be a real girl.” The lyrics inspire confidence, compassion, and hope, all delivered via original songs from an award-winning artist.

The album is a departure for musician Kira Willey, who is best known for her yoga albums and mindfulness workshops. While there are slower, softer songs here, the majority are heart-pumping tunes your children will love to dance to. And of course, don’t miss guest singer Laurie Berkner, who also teams up with Willey on her “Music You Can Move To” radio series.

Great music for kids with a message you can feel good about!

What are your pro tips for raising confident kids?

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