Advent Activities for Slacker Moms

If you’re like me, you have great intentions when it comes to the holidays. You want a Pinterest-Perfect winter wonderland, but what you end up with is…less than perfect. I want to make the holidays magical for my kids- without making myself insane. So often, when I am looking at blogs for advent activities, I find lists of activities that are just not realistic for my family. I put together this list of super easy advent activities to keep myself sane. Hopefully some of you will enjoy them too!

  1. Christmas Coloring Pages from Crayola – It doesn’t get much easier than this! Just hit print! Great for a day when you don’t have time to prepare anything.
  2.  Christmas Music Dance Party – Check out this Youtube playlist or use your own favorites.
  3. Write letters to Santa.
  4. Draw a gingerbread house with Art for Kids Hub– these fun, short videos are easy to follow and kids have a blast.
  5. Get/ put up your Christmas tree. You’re going to do it anyway, it may as well count as an activity.
  6. Christmas movie night. Netflix has a ton of family holiday movies.
  7. Make cocoa. Quick, easy, and the kids will be happy.
  8. Go look at Christmas lights. Good for when you forgot to do something all day and suddenly, it’s almost bedtime. Put jammies on and go drive around looking at lights. Easy peasy.
  9. Go shopping for those less fortunate. Grab one of the tags hanging on an angel tree near you and take the kids shopping to help make the holidays brighter for kids in need.
  10. Bake cookies. Use the pre-made cookie dough if you need to.
  11. String popcorn.
  12. Play Holiday Charades
  13. Read your favorite Christmas storybook.
  14. Go to a local holiday parade/tree lighting/ town festival.
  15. Have another movie night. The kids won’t be sad if you have them watch Rudolf twice.
  16. Print out this Christmas word scramble. 
  17. Write your own Christmas stories. If your kids are too young to write, have them tell you a story. You can write it down for them and they can illustrate it.
  18. Go to a holiday party. You are probably doing this anyway.
  19. Take the kids Christmas shopping. I like to set mine loose in a thrift shop or dollar store with $5 and see what they find.
  20. Make lunchtime more fun with this printable holiday place-mat from Three Little Monkeys. 
  21. Make family game night festive by playing Christmas music and eating candy canes.
  22. Get some wrapping done while your kids enjoy holiday games online.
  23. Make peppermint bark. It’s super easy. Really. You basically just melt chocolate chips and sprinkle it with crushed candy canes.
  24. Open one present Christmas Eve. Pajamas are a great choice so the kiddos can put them on and look cute in the 200 photos you’ll take Christmas morning.

For Educators, Homeschool Groups, or Book Clubs

If you are interested in using the Nellie Nova series in your  classroom, homeschool group, or book club, please contact me at stephie.peterson@live.com. I am happy to provide a discount for orders of 20 or more books. I  also can provide a special educator’s guide to accompany Nellie Nova Takes Flight free of charge with a bulk order. The guide contains more information about the science and history concepts in the book as well as art, science, writing, and history activities for kids.

I love visiting schools and homeschool groups. If your school or group is within two hours of Raleigh, North Carolina, I would love to come do a reading for your students. I can also do Skype presentations for those outside of my driving range.

I love hearing from educators. I’d love to hear more about how your schools or groups are using Nellie Nova.

 

 

 

Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Book Deal

If you’ve been thinking about buying some Nellie Nova books for kids in your life, now is a great time! Use code GIFTBOOK17 on amazon.com to take $5 off any book order over $20. Can be used with any combination of books.

 

Happy shopping, book lovers!

 

Thanksgiving Writing Prompts for Kids

Get your kids writing this Thanksgiving with these writing prompts!

 

  • On Thanksgiving morning, you wake up and find that you are not in your bed. You are in a pen, on a farm, and you have a lot of feathers. You’re a turkey and the farmer is hungry! What do you do?
  • Your mom tells you that all pies have been banned by the government this Thanksgiving. What do you do?
  • You hate turkey. You hate pie. Most of all, you hate cranberries. How do you convince your parents to make something else for Thanksgiving dinner?
  • What are you thankful for this year that you either did not have or did not appreciate last year?
  • It’s Thanksgiving Day. Your parents decided to order a delivered meal this year. The doorbell rings. You open it and find three dozen live turkeys waiting for you. What happens next?
  • Your crazy Uncle Bob shows up at Thanksgiving with a time machine. He sends you back to the first Thanksgiving. What do you see?
  • Your Grandma serves a Thanksgiving dinner of cereal, dog treats, and candy canes. What do you do?
  • A strange guest shows up at your Thanksgiving dinner. Who is it and how does your family react?

Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run Now Available!

I have spent the past year and a half working hard to get this project finished. It’s been so fun writing my newest book. I recently had a release party here in Raleigh and it was a blast! Snacks, crafts, and a reading made for a really fun day. I hope all of Nellie’s fan’s check out book number two!

Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run is a great read for kids in 3rd-6th grades!

About the book:

A year has passed since Nellie Nova built her time machine, the Purple Flyer. She and her brother, Niles, have been busy traveling throughout history to meet amazing women. Everyone in the Nova family, including their “Auntie” Amelia Earhart is very happy that the pesky government agents who tried to steal their time machine last year have finally backed off. One day, after traveling in time to meet the Native American trail guide Sacagawea, Nellie and Niles return home to find out that Agent Riley and his team of operatives are back in town and they’ve come for the Novas! Ruthless as ever, the agents chase Nellie and Niles through town, park their car in front of the Novas’ home, and even show up to Nellie’s dance recital. The Novas have had enough, so they pack their bags and head to Washington state to hide out in the mountains for the summer.
Worst of all, Nellie’s parents forbid her and Niles from using their time machine until things settle down.
Will they ever get away from the agents? And will Nellie ever be able to use her time machine to meet her newest heroine and namesake, reporter Nellie Bly?

 

If you’ve been itching to buy the second installment of Nellie’s story, check it out on Amazon today!  The Nellie Nova series is a great way to gently encourage a love of science and history in young kids.

 

 

 

 

16 Ways I’m not a Stereotypical Homeschooler

A lot of people have preconceived notions about what a homeschooling family looks like. Some of the ideas people have about homeschoolers are based on stereotypes they’ve heard. Sometimes, someone remembers a homeschooling family they once met and assumes that’s just how it’s done. Sometimes people are just making assumptions based on their own lives. Whatever your assumptions about homeschooling are, put them aside. Like any other group of people, no two homeschoolers are exactly alike.

Here are sixteen ways I break homeschool stereotypes. I’ve heard all of these from people in the past. Some of these assumptions are great qualities – just not ones I possess. Some of them are awful stereotypes and just need to end.

  1. I wear pants. The last time I wore a denim jumper, I was five years old.
  2. I don’t bake my own bread from grains I harvested myself.  I buy it at Aldi.
  3. We don’t live in an RV. (But that would be really cool!)
  4. My kids don’t speak Latin and I don’t have plans to change that.
  5. I’m not super organized.
  6. We’re not unschoolers, though I know and admire many unschoolers.
  7. I don’t homeschool my kids to keep them away from the world. I homeschool them so they can spend more time in it.
  8. My kids do not behave perfectly. In fact, when people imply that they do, I laugh.
  9. I don’t think everyone should homeschool or that schools are evil. We’re just doing what works for our family.
  10. We don’t homeschool because of super conservative religious beliefs.
  11. My kids socialize with other kids. A lot. I promise. Please quit asking about this. Homeschoolers have a million ways to get out in the world and interact with people. My kids go to baseball, dance, classes with other homeschoolers, co-ops, the park, the library, museums, the store, church, friends’ houses, doctor appointments and about a thousand other places. Seriously. We’re almost never home, so let’s put an end to this one.
  12. I do not have saint-like patience and I get frustrated just like other parents.
  13. I don’t sew all of our clothes nor am I great at crafting in general.
  14. I’m not a perfect parent.
  15. I am not a dead-beat parent who is too lazy to get her kids to school on time.
  16. My kids are not illiterate.

In the end, I am really not that different from any other mom. I want the best for my kids and I am trying my hardest to help guide them in this world. I think that most moms I know can agree that’s what we’re all aiming for.

 

Homeschoolers, what assumptions have others made about you because you educate your kids at home? If you don’t homeschool, maybe you learned something about families like mine. Let me know what you think! 

 

How Do I Do It All?

 

I don’t know how often some well meaning friend or acquaintance will say to me, “I don’t know how you do it all!”

How do I write, homeschool three kids- two with special medical needs, one with autism, take care of my home, and cook from scratch for allergies, all while living with chronic illness?

The answer is simple.

I DON’T!! 

I don’t “do it all” every day.

Some days, my house is a mess.

Sometimes, I go a week without writing anything.

Sometimes, my kids don’t get the world’s healthiest dinner.

Sometimes I look at my 5 year old and wonder when he last had a bath.

I can’t do it all. 

I can’t do everything well all the time.

I pick what’s most important at the moment. Usually, my kids win. But sometimes, the house has to get cleaned and I know that they’ll learn plenty if I send them outside with a magnifying glass and a jar and tell them to look for bugs.

Sometimes, the pain from my autoimmune disorder is just too much and we lay in bed and watch Bill Nye the Science Guy together.

But, I think when I leave this world, my headstone will read, “Mama Tried.”

And that’s really all any of us can do.

I am not perfect.

I drink too much coffee.

Sometimes, I swear.

Sometimes, I yell at my sweet kids.

Sometimes, I forget to call a friend back for a month.

But I’m trying.

And I know that all my mama friends are trying just as hard.

I know that we live in a picture perfect Instagram/Facebook/Twitter world, but let’s be real. My life doesn’t look exactly like my Instagram feed. I don’t take pictures of the pile of dishes that needs to be washed and add a pretty filter and put it on the internet. I don’t blog about when my ten year old acts entitled or my five year old hits his siblings.

Maybe I should, though. Maybe we should all be more honest with one another.

So here I am, telling you honestly: I can’t do everything. I am not Wonder Woman or Super Mom. I have laundry that needs washing and boxes in my garage from when I moved. In March. I have so many projects I want to work on, but I can’t, because there isn’t enough time in a day. And that’s okay.

I’m trying.

Coming Soon! Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run

I am so excited to share a bit about my latest project with you!

Fans of “Nellie Nova Takes Flight” have been patiently waiting for more adventures with Nellie and Niles. I am happy to say that the wait is almost over! I am currently working with an illustrator and editor to make my book shine. It should be ready by the end of the summer!

I will share more about the book and the Nova kids’ wild summer tomorrow. For now. I’ll just say that they travel in time to meet Sacajawea and reporter Nellie Bly, and spend a lot of time trying escape pesky government agents who won’t give up their quest to steal the time machine.

Check out these illustrations by artist Jo Painter. Nellie and Niles have an amazing adventure ahead of them!

10 Ways to Keep Little Brains Active All Summer


Most kids want to spend their summer playing in the sunshine and having fun.  I can’t blame them! When the weather is beautiful, I want to play outside too! I know that many parents worry about too much TV and video game time over the summer and about trying keep kids’ brains active so that when school or homeschool starts up again, their kids haven’t forgotten what they spent all school year learning.

I’ve assembled this list of fun activities to engage kids over the summer. I hope you are able to use it and that you and your little ones have fun learning together this summer.

1.Science Experiments

Oh, how I love science experiments. And my kids love them, too!  There are so many fun experiments available online.  I especially love Steve Spanger Science.  There’s enough on that site alone to keep you and your kids busy all summer! If you want to take it a step further, you can download these free lab sheets and have your kiddos document their findings.

 2. Art Projects

I know, I know. Art  is messy, but so is life. And your kids will learn so much while creating. There are so many wonderful resources online and at your local library for art.  I love The Artful Parent. I also love The Usborne Art Treasury. It’s a great resource to learn about some amazing artists while making a mess. I mean art.

3. Music

Whether you sign your kiddos up for piano lessons for the summer,  try free lessons online, pick up a recorder and a tambourine,  introduce them to Mozart and Beethoven, or let them dance around the house to They Might Be Giants, music is an amazing way to help promote brain development and happy kids.

 4. Libraries

Check out  your local library! Our local library system has so many amazing summer programs.  From magic shows to story time to animal presentations, there’s something exciting going on every week. A lot of libraries have great summer reading programs with incentives to keep your kiddos reading all summer.

5. Documentaries

My kids love documentaries. If they are going to watch TV, at least they can learn something. Netflix has a lot of great options for kids.  Here’s a great list of nature documentaries by Raising Lifelong Learners.

6. Museum Trips

This is a great way to learn and get your kids out of the house at the same time. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are great at turning a clean house into a giant disaster area in mere seconds, so sometimes it’s nice to kick them out of the house for the day and learn somewhere new.  I am blessed to live in an area with several free museums and we take advantage of them frequently.

 7. Day Trips

Maybe the  idea of getting the kids out of the house was really appealing to you. I don’t blame you. It’s good for moms and kids alike to get a change in scenery  from time to time.  Where can you drive within an hour or so from your house? The beach? The mountains? A state park? Maybe a battlefield or other historic site? Take advantage of  your surroundings. If you head into the wild, take nature journals and let your kids draw and write about their experiences. If you find something historic, do some research on it before you go and discuss it with your kids before, during, and after the trip. This is another great time for the kids to journal. Depending on the significance of the historic site, you may be able to find books or movies to expand upon what you learned. I’ve lived with kids in three states in three very different parts of the USA and I’ve never had trouble finding places like these nearby.

8. Math Games

You can make math fun and help your kids stay sharp. There are lots of games online for free. Depending on their age and ability, there are also some really fun board games out there. My kids love any kind of learning games.

9. Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. Your local library probably has a ton.  Best of all, they can keep your kids happy on long road trips! Driving six hours to see Grandma? Get an audiobook! Heading to the beach for a week away? Get an audiobook! I love audiobooks because it’s a wonderful way to introduce kids to literature they can appreciate but maybe not quite read on their own yet.

10 . Creative Writing

Check out these writing prompts I wrote. Or write a story together. Take turns and create a silly story. Another great idea is to get a blank book and let your child illustrate it as he or she writes. Try buying your child a cool notebook and asking them to write a little every day. Just keep them writing because it will serve them well their whole lives.

I hope these ideas helped! Let me know what you do to keep your kiddos engaged in the summer in the comments.

12 Fun Summer Writing Prompts for Kids

It doesn’t matter if your kiddos are homeschooled, in public school, or in private school, it’s important to keep them writing year round. But when it’s summer and their days are filled with swimming pools, trips to the beach, and lots of time with their friends and their nights are filled with lightning bugs, barbeques and fireworks, it can be a bit difficult to get them to focus on writing.

Writing prompts can be a great way to motivate kids to get started. Just a few minutes of writing a day will help keep their skills sharp for when school or homeschool starts up again.

 

  1.  Your family is on a camping trip in the mountains. After everyone else falls asleep, you need to use the restroom. You unzip your tent to find that a strange light has filled your campsite. You head out to investigate and you find…
  2. You head to the swimming pool with your best friend one hot afternoon. When you get there, you find that it’s filled with Jell-O! What do you do? Do you dive in the sweet, sticky mess?
  3. You are swimming in the ocean when a giant shark swims up to you. Before you can scramble out of the water, the shark lifts his head out of the water and speaks to you! What does he say? What do you do?
  4. Describe the perfect ice cream sundae.
  5. It’s your first trip to sleep away camp. When you get to your cabin, the other kids tell you it’s haunted. That night, you hear a spooky sound. What happens next?
  6. You are roasting marshmallows with your family one evening when you see something scurry across your back yard. You get up to investigate and find a unicorn hiding behind your oak tree! Do you tell anyone? What do you do?
  7. Your mom signs you up for a science camp. On the first day, the instructor tells the group that he’s made an amazing discovery he wants to share with the class. You are shocked when you find out that he…
  8. One day, you are boating with your dad. A large storm comes out of no where and your boat is thrown off course. You find yourself on an island in the middle of the ocean. What do you do? What happens on the island?
  9. Your teacher sent home a long list of books for summer reading. The only problem is that they are all in Chinese! What do you do?
  10. Your best friend’s family invited you to join them at their lakeside cabin for the summer. Your parents agree and you’re off for a summer of fun! But you discover something strange when you get there…
  11. On a trip to an amusement park with your family, you find an empty section of the park. A sign on the unlocked gate reads “Closed to the Public.” The rides are all running! They look even better than the rides in the rest of the park. Do you enter the restricted area? What happens?
  12. On a hot July afternoon you are riding your bike to your friend’s house. You hit a pothole and your tire pops! As you are checking out your tire, a strange woman approaches. She’s wearing wizards robes. She tells you that she’s come from another land. What do you do? What happens next?