Keeping Kids Busy While Practicing Social Distancing

Parenting During the Coronavirus Outbreak

However you choose to educate your kids, the isolation caused by the looming Covid-19 crisis will be tough with small kids in the home. Though I homeschool my three kids, we’re intentionally stepping back from activities that aren’t high priority. Within a week or two, I suspect that all activities we participate in outside of the home will be cancelled or postponed. Most of the school districts in our area are closing as well. I won’t lie. The idea of my kids unable to attend classes with homeschool friends, band classes, dance, tumbling, and occupational therapy kind of scares me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. But they do best when they’re busy. We take classes with other homeschoolers two full days a week. They do so many activities it’s hard to keep them all straight. They thrive on activity. But as more and more schools close and events are cancelled, I know we will soon face a reality where we don’t have these options.

I want to be clear, public safety comes before boredom. I understand and appreciate the closings.  As new recommendations come out for my area, I will follow them. Even if my own family should be fine, I don’t want to contribute to spreading the virus to someone who won’t be okay if they get Coronavirus.

Art Activities

All three of my kids love art. Art activities can keep them busy for hours, which is a good thing right now.

ARTVENTURE

Artventure is a subscription-based service, but the prices are really reasonable. The business is based in Australia. A three month subscription comes out to about $20 USD. The lessons are aimed at elementary aged kids, but my middle schoolers enjoy the more complex lessons as well. They are meant to be child-driven and use common materials. They can also be done as basic drawings if you run out of basic art supplies like watercolor paints.

ART FOR KIDS HUB

I love Art for Kids Hub! The lessons are usually done in Sharpie and colored pencil or crayon. There are tons of familiar, pop-culture or holiday related options, such as this adorable Baby Yoda and this super cute Easter Bunny. Most lessons are free, but there is a subscription option.

Audiobooks

I’ve often written about my love of audiobooks. A lot of public libraries use apps like LIBBY to electronically lend audiobooks as well as e-books. This means you get all the benefits of the library without having to step inside a possibly germ-infested and possibly soon-to-be-closed building.

AUDIBLE is another great option. And one that will soon have Grace’s Ghosts as an option to download!

My kids are seven, ten, and twelve, but I can usually find a middle-grade audiobook all three will love. We often listen to them in the car, but also listen to them inside, gathered around the kitchen table while the kids doodle. They buy me hours and hours of peace while exposing my kids to some great literature. All three of my kiddos score high on vocabulary sections of standardized tests and I totally credit the audiobooks for this.

Actual Books

For real. It’s a great time to read. If your home library is lacking, take a run to your local indie bookstore or library before things get too crazy. Or Barnes and Noble. Did  you know B&N offers its educator discount to homeschoolers?

If you need some ideas for great books for kids, check out Goodreads.

Science Fun

I know so many parents fear science, but I love it. Science projects can be fun, messy, and engaging. Exactly what you’ll need to distract your kids while they can’t see their friends during the Covid-19 outbreak.

HANDS ON AS WE GROW has a great list of science experiments you can do with supplies you probably have in your home.

STEVE SPANGLER SCIENCE is another amazing science resource. We’ve used it often over the years.

There are tons of great science-related shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube. My kids are obsessed with MYTHBUSTERS and COYOTE PETERSON.

Nature

While we’re being cautioned not to gather in large groups, hiking and exploring your own backyard are still a great idea. Find a trail near you and escape to the great outdoors.

Online Learning

Fight world hunger while learning new vocabulary on FREE RICE. My oldest son loves this website. It’s free, and the better you do, the more rice gets donated to hungry people.

STARFALL is great for kids who are just learning to read. All of my kids learned to read on this platform. They have free and paid options.

SCRATCH and CODE.ORG are great for learning computer programming. All three of my kiddos love both websites.

Over 100 companies are offering FREE educational services during the Cornonavirus outbreak. Not all of the websites are available to individuals, but there are lots of amazing options.

Video Games

Don’t hate me for this. But a little Minecraft or Fortnite isn’t going to wreck your kid and it might save your sanity. While video games aren’t my first choice to keep kids busy,  they can save the day for cooped up kids. Both games have creative modes, so no fighting bad guys. And both have options for you to play without interacting with other players. Just turn off your headset for Fortnite and play on your own server for Minecraft.

My oldest has started to incorporate his homeschool lessons into his games. He’s build historical sites and scientific models, like a plant cell. Fun and educational!

While I know this time of social distancing won’t be easy, I am trying my best to relax and embrace the time together. I’m sure we will all be glad when it’s over, but for now, we’ll just make the best of it.

What are you and your kids doing to stay sane during this Coronavirus outbreak? Let me know in the comments!

52 Family Adventures Halfway-ish Point Update

 

So, um. I am bad at timely blogging.  But my family and I have had some amazing adventures this year! At my count, we’ve had 28 adventures together so far.  We’re 28 weeks into the year, so we’re right on track to have 52 amazing experiences before 2020. Life has been a bit insane. Some of has it good, like my publishing contract. Some of it has been stressful, like multiple hospital says for my kiddos. But through it all, we’ve stayed positive and we’ve had a lot of fun.

I love that homeschooling has allowed us the freedom to do this. Our hands-0n approach t0 life and learning not only makes education fun, it makes it impactful as well. And the time we spend together is precious! We’ve seen and done so much. I am so happy we decided to make adventure a priority in 2019.

Here’s a fast rundown of our adventures so far this year. These are in no particular order.

#1- A bear program in a National Park (Shenandoah in VA)

#2- The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC

#3- Fishing at the KOA in Harriosnburg, VA

 

#4 Lake Gaston, VA

 

#5- Meeting a hungry groundhog while exploring Gatlinburg, TN

#6 Playing with goats and alpacas in Durham, NC

 

#7 Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Gatlinburg, TN

 

#8 Learning about history in Shenandoah National Park, VA

 

#9 Hiking Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park, Va

 

#10 Exploring the wilderness near Harrisonburg, VA

 

#11 Embracing nature at The State Arboretum of Virginia

 

#12- Taking in the Great Smoky Mountains (and dancing, of course)

 

#13 Hiking to High Knob Tower in WV

 

#14 Climbing Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park

#15 – Dance nationals in Pigeon Forge, TN. And coming home a National Champion!

 

#16 Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Or as my six-year-old called it, the “Application Trail.”

#17 Finding our own private waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, VA.

 

#18 Hiking Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park

 

#19 Exploring Durant Nature Preserve in Raleigh, NC

 

#20 Mountain Coaster in Pigeon Forge, TN

#21 Exploring Yate’s Mill Park in Raleigh, NC

 

#22 Loving Science at The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

 

#23 Meeting author Adam Rubin at Page 158 books in Wake Forest, NC

#24 Hiking in Raleigh, NC

 

#25 Trying out a drama class in Raleigh, NC

#27 Nature journaling  in Wendell, NC

 

#28 Exploring Luray Caverns in Luray, VA

Thanks for reading! I plan on giving a more detailed account of our time in Shenandoah National Park soon.

How is your year going? Has it been full of adventure?

 

Preparing for 52 Weeks of Adventure

Planning Can be Overwhelming!

When I decided to to embark on 52 adventures with my kids this year, I wondered if it was too much. It’s hard to plan so many day trips, hikes, road trips etc. Even though I was overwhelmed, I knew that I really wanted this- for my kids and for myself. I started googling and found so many resources that have helped me  get started on my new journey. I’ve heard from some of you on social media. A few of you have expressed an interest in trying your own 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge! I am sharing some of my resources. Hopefully, they will inspire you!

 

 

When in Your State / Only in Your State

When in Your State has listings for each of the 50 US states. There are categories for everything from gardens, to waterfalls, to “haunted” places. Only in Your State has a very similar set up. Thse are great not only for finding fun places to visit nearby, but also for seeking out adventures when  you’re on a a road trip.

Find a Park

The National Parks Service website will help you find a park, trail, battlefield, trail, or memorial near you! Better yet, if you have a fourth grader, all National Parks are free with the Every Kid in a Park program!

Museums USA

Museums USA has a database of museums in every state! There are subheadings for Zoos, Nature Centers, Planetariums, and more!

Hiking

US News lists their pick for the best hike in every state! Thrillist has their own list of the best hikes in each US state. Backpacker has a list with multiple hikes in each state.

Macaroni Kid

Macaroni Kid has listings for several cities. Each area is covered by a different publisher, so content varies from city to city. Many areas have great coverage and are full of info on day trips, local parks, events, and more!

January Adventure Planner

I have created a fun, free printable for anyone who signs up for my email list before 1/5/2019. It will help you plan your first month of adventures!

Sign up for my mailing list here for your free printable! Be sure to check your spam folders. It may take up to 24 hours for your free printable to arrive.

Do you have any resources you like to use to plan your roadschooling/adventures? Let me know about them in the comments!

A Year of Family Adventures

 

The World is Our Classroom

As a homeschooling mom, I love to take my kids on adventures. We go on lots of day hikes. If we get the opportunity, we will hop in the car for a road trip or board an airplane for far-away destinations. We spend many days in museums, at festivals, or attending local performances. Our homeschool motto is “the world is our classroom.” We try very hard to make sure that we live by that idea.

We’d love to roadschool or worldschool full time, but it’s not possible at this point for our family. We have medically complicated kids and need to be near a home base regularly to meet their medical needs. We’ve made it a point to be sure that these medical complications don’t limit their experiences.

In 2018, we worked hard to expand our horizons and explore the world as much as possible.

 

 

We flew to Seattle twice. Our road trips took us to eight states. Our biggest trip of the year was my favorite to date; we flew to Saint Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Not all of our trips were big, of course. We visited the Botanical Gardens at Duke University, many local museums, and visited the Jamestown Settlement to learn about colonial history.

Adventure as a Way of Life

I truly believe that these experiences are vital to the growth and development of my kids. Children who spend time in nature will learn to value our planet. If kids see the world beyond their front door, they will understand diverse cultures and learn to respect then. Kids who are exposed to the arts will appreciate not only the beauty behind art, but the importance of art in our culture. Exposure to museums, zoos, and aquariums can bring science and history off of the page. My kids learn more from these experiences than they do from textbooks.

My Challenge for 2019

This year, my family will have fifty-two adventures. I will post an adventure every Sunday evening at 52familyadventures.com or you can just check out the home page of stepheniepeterson.com to find the newest posts. For the purpose of my challenge, an adventure can be as simple as a hike in the next town, or as grand as a trip to France. I mean, I don’t currently have plans to go to France this year, but who knows! If I did fly to France, I could use a trip to the Eiffel Tower as one adventure and exploring Norte-Dame another adventure. Because of this, though I will post one adventure a week, they might not be chronological. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more frequent updates. I’ll be posting with the hashtag #52familyadventures so be sure to follow the hashtag too!

Do you want more adventure in your life? I’ll be posting tips, printables, and ideas to help you experience adventure with your family! I hope you’ll follow along as we dedicate 2019 to adventure!

 

Halloween Science Roundup

 

My kids love Halloween. The only thing they love more than Halloween is science. Combining the two always makes for great fun. I’ve collected an assortment of fun, Halloween-themed science experiments from around  the web. Check them out!

 

Halloween Science Experiments and Activities from Little Bins for Little Hands

19 Spooky STEM Projects For Kiddos This Halloween from BuzzFeed

Ghost Rockets for Kids from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Dancing Frankenworms from Playdough  to Plato

Boo Bubbles from Steve Spangler Science

Halloween Science Experiments from Creekside Learning

31 Days of Halloween STEM Activities and Projects from STEAM Powered Family

20 Halloween STEM Activities from The Homeschool Resource Room

I had fun finding all of these fun Halloween science activities. I can’t wait to do some of them with my kids! I hope you and the kids in your life enjoy them!

 

 

Home Again

Okay. I know I said we were done homeschooling.

We bought 12 green folders, 76 glue sticks, 2 blue binders, one purple, and one white. We bought special headphones, name-brand pencils, rain ponchos, new backpacks, and one really expensive calculator. My daughter planned her first day of school outfit for a month.

The first day finally came. They looked pretty cute. They went to that first day and came home fairly happy. There were of course, a few issues, but none of us expected it to be perfect.

As time went on, however, the little issues became bigger.

My oldest has a lot of medical issues. Right after the school year began, he had what I could best describe as a medical crisis. He missed a lot of school.  As many days as he attended, he missed all or part of the day for illness or medical testing. It was a scary time. And it reminded me of why we homeschooled to start with. When you homeschool, you can change the time of your math lesson to work around a neurologist appointment. With homeschooling, you can have science lessons while you have an at-home EEG. At home, he wouldn’t have missed so much.

We figured out what was causing his health issues and he was doing so much better. But I just wanted to be with my son. I didn’t want to send him away again after having to worry about him. And I wanted to know that if he faced another medical crisis, we could ensure that his academics would not suffer.

I considered having the other two continue to attend school, but we had worries about younger son’s allergies were being handled at school. Protocols weren’t being followed. We could have fought the school on it, but we didn’t really want to.

My daughter is a free spirit. She marches to the beat of her own drum. While she made school work, I could see that spending all day conforming was squashing her spirit and I didn’t want that.

We pulled them out three weeks into the school year.

Thankfully, we were able to get them back into their homeschool classes and co-op and it’s been an easy transition.

My cuties on a field trip we took with our homeschooling group to the State Crime Lab

 

 

If nothing else, we can say we tried it. Maybe it was a failed experiment, but you don’t know until you try, right?

Currently, my kids are learning about Edgar Allan Poe, writing Halloween stories at home, and taking classes in mythology, archaeology, chemistry, and current events with their homeschool group. They’re also taking classes with co-op and obviously learning math, language arts, and history at home.

Life is good. My babies are home and we’re ready for new adventures.

14 LOVE-ly Writing Prompts for Valentine’s Day

  1. On Valentine’s Day, you wake up and find a large box of chocolates with a note signed by “Your Secret Admirer.” Who might have sent it? How do you solve the mystery?

  2. What does love mean to you?

  3. Write an acrostic poem for the word “Love,” “Valentine,” or “Candy.” In an acrostic poem, the first letter of every line spells out a word. IE: If you were writing about dogs, your first line would begin with the letter D, the second line O and so on.

  4. Think about a time when you felt very loved. Write about it. Explain why you felt loved.

  5. Do you know a couple in love? Who are they? Tell how you know that they love one another.

  6. You’re at a Valentine’s Day party when suddenly, Cupid arrives! He’s got his arrow of love pointed right at you! What do you do?

  7. Who are three people you love? Explain why you love them.

  8. Write about a book you love. Give at least three reasons you love it.

  9. If you were to create your own conversation hearts candies to give your friends, what would they say?

  10. Do you like Valentine’s Day? Give at least three reasons why or why not.

  11. The week before Valentine’s Day, you find an old stack of love letters at the park. There are fourteen in all. Do you read them? If so, what do they say? Do you try to track down the owner of the letters? Who wrote them?

  12. On Valentine’s Day, you go to the zoo with your family. When you get there, something unusual happens. Explain what happened and how you respond.

  13. When you wake up on Valentine’s Day, everything is pink and red. The walls of your bedroom. Your breakfast. Your dad. Everything! What do you do? Does the world ever go back to normal?

  14. One Valentine’s card changes everything. What does it say?

 

Nellie Nova Giveaway!

Just Add Coffee- The Homeschool Coupon Mom is hosting a giveaway of either Nellie Nova book on her blog! Check it out and you might win your own copy of Nellie Nova! While you’re at it, check out the site! It’s fun and informative!  There’s also a review of both Nellie Nova books, so you can learn more about the series and just how much kids love Nellie!

Who doesn’t love a giveaway? I know I do! Click the image below to see the details! Find out more about Alison and her great blog on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

7 Tips to Encourage Kids to Write in the New Year

The New Year is a great time to look at what we’re doing as parents, teachers, or homeschoolers. I am all about goal setting in my homeschool. One of my main areas of focus in 2018 is writing.

I frequently hear from parents who have a hard time getting their kids to write.  Actually, if I am being honest, I have one child who I have to beg to write.  Even though he loves books and has a mother who is an author, he still isn’t a huge fan of writing. A lot of this stems from motor skills delays. I will get into that later in the article, but motor skills delays cause frustration when writing for a lot of kids.

Parents worry so much about writing, but there are so many ways to encourage your kids to write. Here’s a few that I hope help you!

  1. Use Writing Prompts. I’ve linked to some that I created on this site, but you can find more all over the web. Sometimes, the hardest part about writing is just getting started.
  2. Use voice typing software. Google Docs has free, built-in voice typing software as long as you use it with Chrome. All three of my kids enjoy writing this way. Their vocabularies are bigger when speaking than when writing and their hands don’t tire when voice typing. This is especially true for my eldest, who has a variety of motor skills delays. His brain and his hands don’t work on the same level. If he’s asked to hand write something, it’s like pulling teeth to get a few sentences out of him. With voice typing, he can write a five paragraph essay.
  3. Expose them to lots of great books. Good readers make good writers!
  4. Buy them cute notebooks and fun pencils or pens. For some kids, a unicorn notebook or a rocket pencil can make all the difference.
  5. Cut pictures out of magazines and ask your kids to create a story about the picture. It would be easy to fill a notebook with several pages like this to make this an easy to repeat activity. I did this activity with my Creative Writing students at co-op and they loved it. Just make sure to choose pictures that lead to story telling. A head shot of a man in a business suit is harder to tell a story about than a photo of a dog wearing a tutu.
  6. Play storytelling games like Story Cubes or Create a Story. Telling stories aloud gets kids in the right mindset to write.
  7. Allow them to write about their interests.  If you have a child who is obsessed with dinosaurs or ballet, it’s okay if a lot of their writing includes this interest. It might be boring for you to read 23 dinosaur stories in week, but a lot of authors have made careers out of such things.

How do you encourage your kids or students to write? Let me know in the comments!

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!