3

My biggest distraction from writing  is, of course, my toddler(BUT I LOVE HIM SO DEARLY!!).  The obvious thing to do would be to write while he 'naps'.  Of course, he doesn't nap.  But he does play inside his Discovery Toys tent that I bought at a yard sale for $2! And he does this for about an hour or more a day.  However, this is the time my older son and I do history together and I usually have some other things to do during this uninterrupted time.

I'm not a fan of sitting down the child in front of the TV to keep them busy.  He does watch some TV but we try to keep it limited.  I want his time to be well spent.

He loves to build.  BUILD. BUILD. BUILD. If he doesn't go into construction or architecture, I'll be amazed.  I know a lot of boys are like this, but.... needless to say I'm thinking Christmas will be full of more building toys....oh, and pirate stuff. But as much as he likes to build, he also likes to show me what he built (every five minutes) and he does need variety in his day.

I've read where some homeschool moms put various toys in various bins labeled with the days of the week.  Only on the day labeled is the toy taken out and played with.  I like the concept but fear it would hinder my child's creativity.  So while my living room often looks like a cyclone went by, in the middle of the mess is a great tower of blocks, Legos, a dust pan, a broom, a paper towel tube, cardboard bricks, and various other items that when all put together make a fantastic pirate ship, cement truck or some other creative masterpiece.  Who wants to hinder such creativity?  So I've given into the cyclone.  But I do keep the busy bags in a storage container of drawers that are labeled with the days of the week.  And that keeps these creative bags of quiet focused time new and interesting.

Our Busy Bag Drawers - they are labeled Monday thru Saturday.  He finds the drawer.  I tell him "Today is MMMMonday...what letter does MMMMMonday start with?"
Our Busy Bag Drawers - they are labeled Monday thru Saturday. He finds the drawer. I tell him "Today is MMMMonday...what letter does MMMMMonday start with?"

I've heard about the concept of busy bags a long time ago.  I used something similar in my classroom years ago (file folder games and learning centers) but I had older children and it's been awhile so I've had to do and am still doing some research and shopping for items to make busy bags with.  So I've been doing lots of looking at Pinterest Boards and homeschooling sights to figure out what to do.  The concept I'm looking for is that each day of the week, he have different activities to do that will keep him 'busy' and should be beneficial, allowing him to practice skills he is currently developing or has already acquired.  Basically, a busy bag should be a rather small, transportable and fairly quiet toy or activity for the child to keep him or her busy.  The transportable part means they can be easily picked up to go in cars for unexpected or planned car trips!  Double Bonus there!!

So I thought I'd post some of the sites I've been looking at as resources for my followers who are also homeschoolers or parents (or caregivers) of young children.  And here they are:

Second Story Window - An amazing site that I just rediscovered!

Homeschool Support Network   Online Homeschool Support Group

Free Homeschool Deals Affording the homeschool life

Pinterest!!  - There are lots of boards for these on Pinterest.

There is something out there called Busy Bag Swaps...where one parent makes a ton of the same busy bag and then the moms all get together and swap.  Super cool idea!  But I don't really know enough parents of my son's age yet to do that.  It's something to keep in mind though.

My goal is to get started making new things very soon for my son's busy bag drawers.... I put 3-4 bags in each drawer.  Some of the activities only take about 5 minutes, others may be 10 or more.  So all together, I have afforded myself with about 20-30 or more minutes of quiet uninterrupted time in which my son is actively busy in a learning type activity.  I'd like to get it to about 4-5 activities that will take 45 min to an hour of time.

Naturally, I do have to sit down and show him how to do the activity the first time or two.  And I keep him close by when doing the activities so I can remind him what to do if needed or give an encouraging word.  Some of them may need assistance in setting up (most of the days include a book on tape...I need to put the tape or CD in the player...this isn't something I let my 3-year-old do yet!).

Here are the things I have in my toddlers busy bags so far:

Books on tape/Cd-  Inside the bag is the book, the tape and also a piece of construction paper with the name of the book...and some colored pencils, crayons, etc.  He is allowed to just look at the book or if he wants to draw a picture of the characters or something from the story, that's okay too. I have quite a few books on tape so there is enough for one each day.

Puzzles - I picked up an alphabet matching puzzle at a yard sale.  One day he has letters A-M, and another day he has letters N-Z.  He's doing really well with this so I may put them all into the same bag soon and make it a longer, slightly more challenging activity.

Clothespin Game - I remember this from years ago as a game we played at my daughter's birthday party.  You put a jar on the floor and hold a clothespin up to your nose.  Try dropping the clothespin from your nose into the jar.  It's not necessarily as easy as it sounds.  He's 3, so he can just drop the clothespin from wherever, but the idea of course is fine motor skills and eye hand coordination.  In time, I'll explain holding it all the way up to his nose while standing fairly upright.  He loves it.  He has about ten clothespins and does it over and over.  You can use various sized containers to drop them into.

Stickers - In various bags I have combinations of little dollar bargain notebooks and various sheets of stickers as well as pencils and crayons.  He just sits and draws in the notebook and adds stickers at random.  I was afraid there would be stickers all over the place but he listens really well and stays in the spot I put him in and does really well with it.  You never know how something will go until you try it!

Foam Stickers/Construction Paper - Another sticker type activity that is so good for those fine motor skills!  I take a big tub of those foam stickers you can buy at a craft store and divide them into little snack size baggies.  I put in about 20-30 per bag.  Along with this I just give him a piece of construction paper and he, after removing the backing from the sticker, arranges them onto the paper however he wants.  He made lots of nice fall pictures for our fridge this last month with foam leaves and brown paper!

Colored Counters/Color Word Cards -  I have a set of those cute little colored counters.  My son's are transportation vehicles (planes, cars, buses, etc.) that I bought at Rainbow Resources.  The most common are the bears, I think.  I also took a deck of those simple preschool flashcards - you know, the ones that have colors, shapes, simple words and numbers.  I found cards that had the color word along with the color on one side.  He spreads out the cards and piles the vehicles of the same color onto the card.  Once he learns a color word or two, I'll use the cards that have the word on one side and the color on the other side so he can pile onto the word and easily check to see if he's right.

Pipe Cleaners - He loves bending and winding these into all sorts of shapes!  He loves combining the colors.

Dominoes - Right now he just builds with these.  I've shown him how to try to line them up and knock them down.  He gets frustrated with that still so he sticks to his building.  But this is still nice as it gives him a new material to use for that and it's kept to the novelty of just one time a week.  I found three sets at a garage sale - the nice wooden ones really cheap!

Smart Links - This is another 'building' tool that we keep limited to one or two times weekly in the busy bag drawers.

Goodnight Moon Game - This is a puzzle game in which the child matches the numbers with objects from the story on puzzle pieces.

Window Washing Supplies- This is my son's favorites and can literally keep him occupied for up to an hour!!  We have window markers-- but those aren't the highlight of this activity.  The idea is that he's to write on the windows and clean up his mess with vinegar water (in his own small spray bottle) and a sponge.  He LOVES spraying the water and using the sponge to clean!!

These are items from our busy bags!
These are items from our busy bags!

BTW - They are called busy bags because they can be stored easily in a small or BIG ziplock bag and can be taken anywhere.  But some people store them in baskets too. And mine, while most are in ziplock bags, go in drawers labeled with 6 of the 7 days of the week.  (We don't do them on Sunday and usually not Saturday either but I have one for that day just in case!  )

I really really LOVE the idea of busy bags...  I'm hoping to collect a lot more ideas to share with you and other sources.  In time, maybe I can figure out how to make a new page for this blog to just have those ideas on.  Feel free to share your own busy bag ideas with me so we can make a really nice list for other homeschoolers!!  In the meantime, I need to get busy making bags!!

5

Too many times as an evaluator for homeschool students, I see children who HATE to write.   I can't imagine hating to write but I think I understand where it comes from.  Too many times educators and parents put sooo much emphasis on the spelling, grammar, and punctuation that the creativity and fun is lost. I've been guilty of this myself.  I guess I had too many years of public schooling in my system and add that to the worry of being the only one now responsible for my children's ability to learn to write well... well even the creative writer in me buckled under pressure to conform to how writing "should be taught."

I've tried at various times to incorporate creative writing just for fun into our homeschooling though.  It just hasn't always lasted as it does take time and along with anything else fun and relaxing, I'm guilty of worrying about future SAT scores and setting it to the side.  But in the back of my mind I'm thinking...I should write it... a writing curriculum that teaches all that important stuff, sure, but focuses on the creative fun aspects of writing. Maybe one day I will...

One way I've approached it with my kids is to do fun writing exercises they enjoy.

My son, just the other day, asked, "Hey how come we don't do those neat writing things anymore?"  I'm guilty.  My first thought... 'and just how am I going to fit that in the schedule??'  but realized later, 'where there's a will, there must be a way.'   So I'm hoping next week to restart those.  Even if we manage just once a week it will be good for him and good for me.

This is the exercise we will start with.  If I recall correctly, it's his favorite.  It's called Stop 'N Shop and I got it out of A Writer's Notebook by Caroline Sharp. With this exercise you imagine you are working as a check-out clerk in a convenience or grocery store.  A customer wanders up to the register with about 5 items.  Tell their story....   The book suggests coming up with ten character profiles first (29-year-old woman, sixty-four year old widower, etc).  My son and I skip that.  We just randomly list our items.  Then we decide what kind of person might buy those things and why.  Here is a sample from some time ago:

The List ( we take turns- one of us comes up with 2 items and the other 3)

  • pickles
  • peaches
  • granola bar
  • yogurt
  • milk

The Story (we usually time ourselves with 5 minutes)

This healthy young lady is on her way to yoga class.  She has grabbed some granola bars and yogurt for her breakfast before class.  She'll have peaches and milk after class.  The pickles are a snack she likes to have at night while she's reading.  She's weird tha way and knows it's a healthier choice than chips or cookies.  After class, she will go to the library where she works.  She likes working there amidst all the books and likes recommending her favorites to others.

It's not a prize-winning paragraph, but it's a fun way to be creative.  My son and I share one another's stories after we are done writing.  Sometimes these stories can be really funny.  And guess what else?  We DON'T check for spelling, grammar or punctuation.  We just have fun because writing SHOULD be fun.  I'm looking forward to starting this exercise again.