Thursday, September 3, 2015

Small Plates...Cutify Your Lunches!

With back to school in session, it's also time for back to school lunches! Break out of your lunchtime rut with small containers, tapas style! I like to use a variety of small containers and tuck them into 1 large container. This offers a plethora of lunch choices, while allowing only a sample of each. Yes, we are now homeschoolers, but we are always on the go!

Top 10 things to have in your lunch making drawer:
(in no particular order)

1. Mini Wood Skewers or Toothpicks
These are perfect for fruits, veggies, cheeses...anything! Putting them on a stick makes them not only look better, but also allows more room for other things in the container. Sometimes the longer skewers are cheaper, so I just soak them in water and cut them in half, still works perfectly!
2. A Variety of Cupcake Picks
Cupcake picks work just like the toothpicks or wood skewers, but allow you to theme your lunches by holidays or even just brighten them up. You can also print your own to send messages to your littles. I love adding a couple of these to each lunch, just to let them know that I put a little thought into it! You don't have to go online crazy buying these either (GUILTY!), you can just save them after parties, when you buy cupcakes at the store or when your kids bring them home and wash them up. The great part of using these, is that they are re-useable! Even those plastic ring cupcake toppers can work by holding carrot sticks or lunchmeat rolls, pepper name it!
3. Mini Cookie Cutters.
These are my favorite part of cute lunching! Use cookie cutters to shape cheeses, meats, fruits and anything else you can think of. This gives the lunches a fun look that shows your littles you are thinking of them and at the same time you can imagine their faces when they open them up. Perfect to theme your lunches and the letter or number cutters allow you to even spell out a message.
4. Silicone or Paper cupcake liners.
Not only do these allow your lunch to POP with color, but they serve a purpose too! They are perfect for packing multiple items in one container. Keeping everything separate, they allow the foods to keep their own flavor.
5. Corn on the Cob Holders.
I love popping these into the lunches for the kids to use as fun forks for their foods. If you have younger children, where these might be too pointy, they sell a variety of mini forks at the party stores or just send extra toothpicks.
6. A Mix of elastic headbands and rubberbands.
Sometimes I like to send ranch dressing or hummus or something that may have a type of liquid in it, I like to reassure myself by banding the lids shut. I use the larger elastics for the big container, not only to keep it shut, but then I can also slip in a note and a napkin and it all stays in one place!
7. Edible Markers
I love food markers, because they allow me to add a little smiley face to a boiled egg or an I LOVE YOU to a piece of cheese...anything you want can be made when you have these instruments at the ready!
8. Crinkle Cutter
These are awesome for when you don't have the time to use cookie cutters, they give a polished look to anything!
9. Fun and Colorful Notecards
I LOVE to use calendar pieces from teacher stores, because I can use the number of today's date and write a message on them with a dry erase crayon. Because they are laminated, I can use them over and over again and even buy holiday themed ones. Using the dry erase crayon, means the message will not rub off before lunch!
10. The right containers! I love doing it all up Bento style, with each item in its own container and these food storage containers from IKEA are less than 5.00 and have enough containers to send a lunch for 2 children, with plenty left over! The ones in the photo marked 'these' are the ones I use in the lunches, due to their size. The smaller ones all tuck neatly into the larger one as shown in the main photo above. Some have to be put in sideways, but it all works like a puzzle. The large ones that are not labeled are the ones I use for lunch items. When I first buy my groceries, I have always said that I wash and cut them right away, by doing this I am saving precious lunch making time. Storing them in the excess containers, means that nothing goes to waste or unused. The price of these containers means that if any are lost or broken or get too worn, it's no big deal to toss them and start again.

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Learning While Away....Part 5

Happy Tuesday my friends! Boy did this weekend go by too quickly but it was an absolute blast of amusement parks, friends, swimming, baseball games and books! Now it's time to discuss another installment of Learning While Away. This is the final installment other than one Sunday School version that will appear on the blog for my Catholic followers. Today, I will share our art projects that also still taught us about the country with reading and writing as well. One thing I love to do to prepare for our trip is to pick up old maps, atlases and travel guides with photos. We make a passport book out of all of the places we visited and using index cards, the kids caption the photos or write descriptions of what they enjoyed.
Due to space being an issue, the kids work together to put in their favorite parts and highlights of the trip and make it look like a small scrapbook with basic information in it. They also include 1 fun fact about what they are writing about.

Keeping the pages simple, allows their words to describe the moment captured on photos. These small passport books can be as small as a few pages where each child gets their own page or as big as 20 pages. It is all a matter of what we do, where we go and how long we are there. Receipts and tickets are also an awesome thing to tape and or staple in as well. We keep these booklets in a box on our sofa table and always have them to look back on.
We looked up famous artists from Mexico and studied a few of them and also looked to see if any of their art would be on display in any of the cities we would be visiting, and if so we would arrange a trip to see the piece but first we would either create our piece of art based on the style of the artist or just printing coloring pages goes far as well! A lesson in art can be as simple or as complex as you would like to make it, but it is always fun! 
Enjoy every minute my friends!

Other segments in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Learning While Away...Part 4

It is definitely not difficult to make a travel curriculum, it is just time consuming, but if you think about the time you put into your regular curriculum it works out to be about the same! I thought this series would be a 4 part, but it looks like it may stretch to 6. Today I will share how we learned about the Spanish language for our foreign language potion of our curricula. When we return for 1 month in February, I have enrolled the children in a full immersion school that meets 3 days a week for 4 hours a day. I am hoping to just give them the basics now to help them out when they walk into a room where no one is speaking English. One thing I truly regret, is not speaking to my children in Spanish from birth, they understand some of what is going on, but we Mexicans tend to speak a lot quicker than a beginner can hold on to. As we have long days in the car and many long hours coming up for our road trip, I picked up Cd's and Rosetta Stone. This is perfect for listening to pronunciation and being able to do it without having a formal lesson and books to go along with it. We usually have the local Christian music station, Classical music or a book on tape so this is no different than our usual.
As the kids listen to the audio version of lessons, they jot down notes on what they would like more help with or they have questions on. The Cd's tend to go a little faster than we would like! Once we get back somewhere, they bring their notes in and we work together on correcting their spelling or anything else they need help with, the repetition is key in learning anything.
The main reason I love a curriculum like this, is that it allows all the kids to work together and learn about group work. It also allows all different levels to come together and offer their own insight into things. It can be challenging at times, but it works together quite well at the end.
Our final step in language learning is to make flashcards, but I like to have them make 2 of each word so that they can turn it into a memory game if they desire or so that 2 of them can flip through them at once. Various workbooks offer different words and even music cd's offer plenty of words to listen to and try out on their own. We like to look for words that we know we will use in hotels, on public transportation, at stores, open air markets and the like. Every day high frequency words are the best to use with beginners. At the moment, they pretty much just need a travel vocabulary and then we can build from there!
Enjoy every minute my friends!!

Other parts in this series:

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Amusement parks in the rain are the very best...lines are short and the laughs last forever!
Custom made wood toys are not only fun for learning but durable and can be passed on from kid to kid, that is what I love about handmade manipulatives, you can't beat having fun and learning at the same time! All it takes is a fraction dominoes printable or create your own, some furniture tacks, mod podge and rectangular wood pieces and you are all set!
Enjoy every minute my friends!

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Learning Away From Home...Part 3

Hello friends, we are still learning while away and in Mexico and I wanted to share with you another lesson that can be taught while on vacation. Today's lesson focuses on reading, researching, spelling and vocabulary along with map work and history. During my lesson planning time, or as this was a last minute trip, during my flight, I came up with research questions that the kids needed to answer through looking up in different sources. They used maps, books, magazines, the computer and even spoke to local people.
The idea was to spend more time exploring and learning and not just saddled to a desk. The research was to be done for just a couple hours a day, IF that. What better way to learn than by touching, feeling, hearing, seeing and DOING!!
I like to do the research in books part before we leave or after we get back, this allows us more space for other books while we are on the road! In the questions that I ask (about 15-20 a day), I use big words that they may need to look up, to understand what I am asking. I also like them to learn about the history of the places we are learning about and have them make a timeline using index cards to make flashcards for each important year. Once all of it is done, they put them in order to make a timeline of history!
While on location, this is the perfect place to interview people, observe and report, photograph and most of all LEARN! One thing I absolutely love about Mexico, is how social the streets are, everyone is sitting in their gardens and talking to all that walk by. People stop and chat or shout and wave if they are in a hurry, if they are driving by, they honk! These moments are the perfect time to stop and chat with locals, oftentimes many locals open up their homes as restaurants, candy shops or the like. Learning from locals is the best way to learn.
When going on personal interviews, I always give the kids at least 2 questions each to ask people but then they have to come up with at least 2 of their own. They can ask 4 different people or just 1 person. I have them write all the questions down and keep them in their pocket whenever we go out, this keeps the questions always on hand.
Take a moment to enjoy every minute my friends!

Other posts in this series:
Part 1
Part 2

One more part left!

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Monday, August 24, 2015


Those that know us, know that we are always on the road, we love to explore and visit and learn about new people and place. I truly believe that I have ants in my pants...I cannot sit still and I must always be on the move, this must be why homeschooling works so well for me. We have been planning out east coast trip for so long, I feel as though we are expecting to do too much on this trip, but I would rather have too much planned, than not enough! We plan on hitting up 7 states along with a jaunt in Canada, this should definitely be quite the learning experience! I am still finishing up the Learning While Away series I started, but wanted to let you know about this trip as well. These are both segments of the blog that will be taking up quite a bit of time and most likely be intersecting. The first series will touch about how we learn while on vacation and the second will take place on the road with more live action shots out of the classroom, not so much of the preparing portion. The second series will be called On the Road to Learning: A homeschoolers guide to hands on learning.
Last week was a total wash as we were busy from sun up to sun down, it was FAIR WEEK! As 4-H kids, they were plenty busy! I am proud to say that  of 7 projects entered into the fair, we had 7 blue ribbons and even 1 class winner! Not bad for 3 kids in their first 6 months of being 4-H members! They have high hopes for this year and I am very excited for this new branch of our life that we have fallen in love with. I plan to share more about our 4H life, but if you are interested, PLEASE message me or contact your local branch, you do NOT have to be a farm kid to join 4H!!! I was always so wrong about this group and only wish that I hadn't missed out on the previous years of this. Some parents in our group are former 4H members themselves, it's awesome!! The fair has packed up and left town yesterday, so now I am ready to get back on focus!
These travel segments take a lot of time, planning and research and I really want to share so much of them with you, I only hope you can bear with me as I get everything organized and try not to mix up the 2 segments I will be sharing. There are countless trips to the library, so many that our lack of presence was actually noticed in the library while in Mexico! I try not to buy what I can find at the library, and that has helped me save plenty of pretty travel pennies! This upcoming trip promises to be quite the undertaking! Not only are we driving, but we plan on stopping and seeing things in each state, from Illinois to New York with plenty of stops in between! From Philadelphia to Niagara Falls in Canada and then going home through Canada and down Michigan and back home again...oh the excitement is unbearable, but I can even admit that we are NOT ready to leave yet, too many loose ends to tie up and too many things left to plan!!
Enjoy every minute of it my friends! My notebooks are bursting and my pencil tips keep breaking, I have too much to write and not enough time to plan...oh how will I ever be able to properly plan a month in Mexico? A month in Europe with 12 countries to hit up? Ahhh..the life of an adventurer...

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Learning While Away...Part 2

Yesterday, I shared our learning while away lesson on how we can always be learning, even when on the road. A lot goes into planning a vacation, why not get some learning squeezed in there too. This has helped so much in this time of emergency, when I didn't have time to come up with a real lesson plan. You can read part 1 HERE!
Today's lesson is a very important one when traveling, it involves a lot of math and all of it is mental math. It is important to know how to do your math in your head when travelling, because you will purchase most items at outdoor stalls and booths, in open air markets and from people that may not be as educated as you wish they would be when dealing with money. Everyone makes mistakes, it is important to not have them made to you.
Today's lesson was on changing money. It is important to only change the amount of money you will need for the day, unless you think it is a very good exchange rate. The rates fluctuate daily and even multiple times during the day. Also keep in mind that not all places pay out the same amount, so keep checking with more than your hotel front desk and houses of change, banks tend to pay out higher amounts but also have longer lines.
1. The first step was to find the days exchange rate, this can be found by a quick Google search.
2. I gave the children the amount of money that would be exchanged and they had to calculate what I would get back if the exchange rate we came across was the exact same as what we found online.
3. We headed out and went to buy PESOS, we went to 3 different places and they had to write down the exchange rate at each place and calculate how much we would get back. Out of the 3 places, they then told me where we would get the most for our USD and we headed back there to exchange money.
Because we were spending most of our time in hospitals, much of our trip was spent eating out at food stalls, stands and some restaurants and our souvenir shopping (if any) was done in open air markets, this was where it was time to prepare the mind mentally as you don't have the time to pull out a calculator, and you should always be prepared!
1. If the kids wanted to buy something, I sent them to several stalls to compare prices, once the best price was found, they had to exchange it to USD at the price we paid and find out if in fact it was a good deal or worth the price.

2. When paying, the children had to show me which bills and or coins to pay with and then they had to tell me how much change they would get in advance of paying, so that they were ready when the change came.

3. At the end of each day, they would look at the amount we started out with and the amount left and then they would calculate how much money was spent and if we were on budget if a budget was given ahead of time. As this was an emergency trip, we were not going on a budget.
I hope you enjoyed this part of our lesson, stay tuned for more on part 3 next week!
Enjoy every minute my friends!

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Learning While Away...Part 1

Recently I shared with you all about a trip I had to take out of the country. My grandmother had fallen ill and we were just not sure if she was going to make it. I flew out with barely any notice and definitely no time to leave behind a detailed lesson plan. This would be learning on a whim! A laminated map of the USA and Mexico, a ruler, some pencils and we were ready for lesson one. For this lesson we would map out the trip from Rockford, IL to Aguascalientes, Mexico, the final destination.
The first task was to map the trip as it was taken from start to finish, the departure in one color and the arrival in another color. Next, was to find the key on the map and find out how many miles each inch was, then they had to begin calculating distances. Needless to say that flying out of the country will less than 48 hours notice, often times is in the thousands of dollars, I had to keep that fee as low as possible. We ended up having to drive 5 hours to Des Moines, Iowa for a better fare.

1. The children had to calculate the driving distance from our home to the airport.
2. They had to find out how many miles per gallon our car got and how much we spent on gas.
3. They had to find out how much we spent on gas & how many miles we drove to get to the airport.

The math for this leg of the assignment was difficult for the youngest, but it gave an opportunity for the 2 oldest to teach him and show him how to do it in different forms.  Next, it was time to board the plane and travel from Des. Moines, IA on to Dallas, TX. For this part of the assignment, they had to do a little Math, Geography and Research.

1. Calculate the amount of miles I would earn on my credit card from this flight for Math.
2. Fill in a blank USA map on the states that were travelled through to get to Dallas. During this point, they also had to fill in the capitals of each state.
3. Do a little research on what is one thing that state is famous for and or what they export.
Finally it was time to head into Mexico from Dallas and Mexico too is divided into states, so this portion of the trip was an interesting learning experience.

1. Calculate the amount of miles from Dallas, TX to Aguascalientes, MX.
2. Fill in a blank MEXICO map on the states that were travelled through to get to Aguascalientes and also list their capitals. This would have to be done through teamwork and research as I knew they did not know much about the country as a whole.
3. Do some research as to one thing each state is famous for and or what they export.

After a very long 26 + hours of flying and travelling there was plenty of learning going on too. At the end of this lesson, they had to total up the miles travelled all together and all states both American and Mexican that were passed through. The states were put on flashcards for future reference and the miles were kept written on the map on each leg of the trip with the total at the bottom.
Next up in this series is a lesson in changing money and buying things. Having the ability to do the math on vacation for exchange rates is such a necessary thing, that they must test their mental math abilities.
Enjoy every minute my friends!

   Follow Me On Facebook!
   Follow Me On Pinterest!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover