Week 2: Buggin’ Out (Days 2-5)

Ok, so I’ve been a bit of a slacker in regards to the blog this week. I spent A LOT of time in the car this week sharing in carpooling Luke and his friend to art camp, going to and from Noah’s swim lessons, doing some fun outings with Noah, and running an epic amount of errands. I’m sure any mom out there would agree that it is FAR easier, faster, and more enjoyable to take care of errands with ONE kid in tow. Since I knew Luke would be gone this week, I purposely saved up a bunch of tasks that Noah and I could take care of. Noah is actually a GREAT shopping buddy. Although he’s almost 4, he doesn’t mind riding in shopping carts if I want to just plow through a store, he doesn’t beg for this, that, and the other thing on the shelf, he is quiet in the car, and he actually enjoys being helpful by putting items in the cart or on the conveyer belt or whatever needs to be done. He even helps me carry the bags in the house when we get home!

As you can see from this post’s title, I’m going to cover what Noah and I did for the remainder of the week since Mommy Summer School was in very brief and sporadic snippets this week.

Day 2: We didn’t do any SS activities today because this was a big errand morning, Noah had a swim lesson at 11:00, and we had a play date scheduled with an old teaching friend from Loudoun County and her two kids at 12:15. When the play date was over, we went straight to the library to pick up my new library card and check out some books and videos to go with our bug theme. From there, we had to pick up Luke and his friend from art camp. Poor Noah put his bathing suit on at 9:30am and remained in it until about 4:00pm when we finally got home! It was just easier than trying to change him into clothes then back into swim stuff then back into clothes…all on the go. Hey, it was a hot week… The only “buggy” things we accomplished today were: checking out from the library and reading The Bugliest Bug by Carol Diggory Shields (adorable story!), checking out from the library and watching a little bit of “Bug Buddies”–a Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids DVD, and going to PetSmart to purchase crickets to feed the African fat-tailed gecko that we are petsitting this week for a guy on Andy’s team at church. This last errand was a fun one to have to run on bug week, plus it’s just always a cool outing to visit the pet store and say hello to all the animals there. Living proof that there is a lizard living in my house right now:



Day 3: I was so exhausted from being in the car so much and running so many errands in the disgusting heat and humidity on Day 2, that I just craved STILL time in the cool, dark basement play area today. Noah was happy to oblige, so we played many rounds of Don’t Let the Bugs Fall and built these two bug 24-piece jigsaw puzzles several times:



Noah would just be content to always build board puzzles unless I forced him to venture out and do jigsaw puzzles. He can put board puzzles together so quickly and doesn’t do any that have the picture underneath the pieces, but somehow when I give him a jigsaw, he momentarily panics and says that he can’t do it. So we really worked today on first turning all the pieces over, secondly separating the pieces into two piles–border pieces and middle pieces, building the border first, then finishing with the middle. After doing both puzzles with him twice, I made him do each one on his own including the sorting. Hopefully he’s got it down now because I’ve got a lot of Luke’s old 24 and 48-piece jigsaw puzzles packed away that I would love to get out for him.

Today we also read a lot of bug books from the Tub of Knowledge (will post a book list from this week later), and Noah got to practice his cutting with scissors (per the request of his preschool director in preparation for his pre-K2 class this fall) as we prepared some materials for the next day.

Day 4: Since Daddy leaves for Kenya again on Sunday, he was home from work today and was thoughtful to give me the morning “off” to get in some personal space before I fly solo for the upcoming week. However, the three of us spent the afternoon together at the O. Orkin Insect Zoo which is just one of the many fascinating exhibits at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Check out some information about the zoo here. The majority of the creatures housed in the zoo are live, and I have to say that it was pretty funny to watch Noah press his face up against the glass cages in an attempt to find their inhabitants then to jump back in surprise when he realized that some enormous bug was actually right in front of his face but had just been incognito at first. We saw all kinds of neat spiders (one was as big as my two fists put together…not lying!), interesting underwater bugs, a bee hive with hundreds of live bees inside making honey, and so much more. At certain times on certain days, entomologists will bring a selection of unique bugs out into the middle of the zoo on a cart. They are all in jars initially, but the entomologists will then take them out one at a time, allow people to hold them or touch them, and will talk a little about those bugs. By the time we got to that part of the zoo, a demonstration was already mostly underway, but we did get to see a large Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, which we were already familiar with since we have one named Manny who lives in Luke’s room, and some kind of enormous grasshopper. Didn’t catch the name of that one. The other bug exhibit that is really cool at the museum is the Butterfly Pavilion which is an enclosed space that you can walk through to see tons of free-flying butterflies just flitting around the garden of exotic and tropical plants. While the museum is free, this exhibit does require paid-for tickets, but I believe on Tuesdays you can get in for free for a 15 minute increment. For those who live in the DC area, it was an easy Metro ride and about a 3-5 minute walk from the Smithsonian Metro stop to the museum steps. Great little outing!



Later that evening after dinner, Noah and I did some activities that focused on the basic math concepts of sorting, counting, and matching. These activities came from the Bug Theme portion of the Pre-Kinders website that I referred to back in the Day 1 post from this week. The Pre-Kinders site shows the students using a set of cute plastic bugs that the teacher had purchased. She includes the website if you are interested in purchasing the bugs for yourself, but I’m trying to keep this whole summer school thing as low-cost as possible, so I opted for two packages of fuzzy pom-poms from the dollar bins at Target. Also in the dollar bins, I found a package of stick-on googly eyes. So for $3 my plan was to have Noah and I make our own little bugs, but when he burned himself on hot glue after putting together only his second fuzzy bug, he was out. At least he humored me when I said, “Pretend that these pom-poms are little, fuzzy, creepy crawlies.” His initial response was, “Well, that’s just a joke,” but at least he went with it for the activities. Anyway, here’s the rundown of what we did…

Sorting “bugs” by color:


Identifying numbers and counting out “bugs” for each number:



By the way, the jar printables are from the Pre-Kinders site. These are the materials that Noah helped me color and cut that I referred to in the post from Day 1. There are more color jars than what I used, but that’s because we didn’t have orange and purple pom-pom bugs! Also, the number jars go up to 12, but we had just been focusing on numbers 1-8.

Memory Matching:


Making a Pattern:


The memory matching cards are also on the Pre-Kinders site. I printed out two sets, colored them, cut them out, and mounted them on construction paper so that Noah couldn’t see the picture through the back of the white paper.

Day 5: We played hooky to spend time with Daddy and help him get ready for Kenya! Of course all week we have continued to review the special sight words for the week, read books from the Tub of Knowledge, and just generally try to pay attention to bugs whenever we see them. For example, when I was tidying up the flower beds and trimming the bushes in front of the house, I would call Noah over from riding his bike when I would come across any kind of bug, and the two of us would just watch it for a minute or two to see how it would act, count how many legs it had, etc. In the evenings, Luke has continued to share with us about his bug art camp, read at least one Early Reader, and do the day’s work in his Summer Bridge Workbook. He was so wiped at the end of each day, that I didn’t ask him to continue keeping up with his “Diary of a Bug Artist” mini-book that we made earlier in the week. I have hopes to get him back to it, but I have a feeling he won’t want to do that once we move onto a new theme.

Extra Activities that we didn’t get to this week:

  • Discuss and draw the butterfly life cycle then act it out using movements taken from the Eric Carle Exchange website
  • Make a fruit salad using the fruits listed in The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Practice counting when purchasing the fruits from the grocery store.
  • Make marble paint spider webs as shown on the Pre-Kinders website as an art project
  • Play the Bug Grid Game as shown on the Pre-Kinders website to practice math concepts
  • Catch fireflies in a jar before bedtime

Buggin’ Out Book List:

The Pre-Kinders website has a great book list, but here is a list of the books from our Tub of Knowledge this week that I didn’t already mention in.

  • Creepy, Crawly Baby Bugs (Sandra Markle)
  • Chirping Crickets (Melvin Berger)
  • Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids (David Kirk)
  • The Grouchy Ladybug (Eric Carle)
  • Big Bug Fun (Joanne Oppenheim)
  • I Can Read About Insects (Deborah Merrians)
  • Buzz! (Melvin Berger)
  • Armies of Ants (Walter Retan)
  • Backyard Insects (Millicent E. Selsam and Ronald Goor)
  • Insectlopedia (Douglas Florian)
  • The Wacky Wedding: A Book of Alphabet Antics (Pamela Duncan Edwards)
  • What is an Insect? (Lola M. Schaefer)
  • The Ladybug Blues (Linda Ripa…yes, this is Kelly Ripa’s sister!)
  • Creepy Beetles! (Fay Robinson)
  • Insects (John Grassy)
  • Bugs! (David T. Greenberg)
  • Bugs! (Christopher Nicholas)
  • The Icky Bug Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta)
  • How Do Flies Walk Upside Down? (Melvin and Gilda Berger)
  • Bugs (Nancy Winslow Parker and Joan Richards Wright)
  • Have You Seen Bugs? (Joanna Oppenheim)

I’ll try to keep up better with the blog in the coming week!



Week 2: Buggin’ Out (Day 1)

What little boy doesn’t love creepy crawlies and all things slimy, fuzzy, dirty, and strange? This week is all about insects at the Gingrich homestead. I chose this theme for this particular week because Luke was already signed up to attend a bug-themed art camp (through Fairfax County Rec-PAC), so I figured that Noah and I would just join in. Once again, I spent a little time on Sunday night after the boys went to bed setting up the “centerpiece reveal” to kick off the week. When the boys woke up this morning, I gave them three clues about our topic: it has eyes but it’s not a person, it has legs but sometimes more than two, and there are lots and lots of different kinds. Noah’s guess: “Lizards?” Pretty sure I will have nightmares tonight about lizards with lots of legs like a centipede or something. Anyway, the centerpiece for this theme was kind of tough because we don’t have a lot of “buggy” stuff around the house. I actually had to dig WAY back in our basement storage room to drag out my old American Girl Kirsten doll because I remembered that her summer set came with little life-like looking rubber crickets and a pot of honey. While I was rooting through her trunk, I came across the lunch from her school set and thought that would be cute to set up as a little picnic of sorts. I mean, bugs are typically found at picnics, right? The bumblebee craft was something that Noah had made at preschool this past year, and we had saved it in his art binder. The odd green/orange action figure is the character Twitch from Toy Story 3. My husband thought it was gross that I put our fly swatter on the dining room table. That’s probably pretty tame compared to many things that have ended up on my dining room table. Hello…there are two small boys living here.


In addition, I decided to serve up an adorable, tasty, and pretty healthy breakfast surprise for the boys: peanut butter banana caterpillar “sushi”. Here is the link for the recipe. When I came across this I just couldn’t resist. I mean, there are several of my boys’ absolute favorite ingredients, and it’s just so stinkin’ cute! The only changes I made to the recipe are that I spread Nutella on top of the caterpillar then a dusting of cinnamon instead of finely shaved chocolate, and I also had to use two small Tootsie Rolls for the antennae because I didn’t have any “organic fruit strip” sitting around my pantry. (Should I???) Here’s how ours turned out:


Morning Meeting: Since I just have Noah with me this week, I am keeping things REALLY light and REALLY simple as his attention-span just doesn’t hold out as long as Luke’s. I just want him to feel really special this week having personal time with Mommy, a rarity for the two of us. After we did a quick Calendar Talk, I introduced the special sight words for the week. Noah has absolutely NO basic phonics skills and only recognizes the letters of the alphabet up to about J plus N and O since they are in his first name. So I kept the list to six words only and really short words at that. I also added pictures onto the cards to help him. I really unpacked each word with him by taking his finger and putting it on each letter as we said it and just using a lot of repetition. We’ll do that each day this week.


Something else I did on Sunday night in preparation for the new week was to switch out all the books in the Tub of Knowledge. To end Morning Meeting each day, I’ll let Noah choose one or two books from the tub to read and briefly discuss. Today he chose: Show Me the Honey by Tish Rabe and Bugs for Lunch by Margery Facklam. This second title was really cute. The first page poses the question, “If a bug was your lunch, what would you be?” Then it goes through all of these different creatures that eat bugs. At the end it has pictures of people who actually eat bugs. I asked Noah what he would be, and he chose a frog, so we spent a silly moment pretending that we were frogs catching flies with our long tongues. (I love his happy giggles.) We had a lot of errands to run this morning, so I cut our time off there, but I would like to also teach him an easy song each day about bugs. There is a list and even links for several on the bug theme part of the Pre-Kinders website which is awesome if you have never checked it out. It’s all organized by themes and each theme includes an extensive array of math, literacy, cooking, art, songs, free printables, book titles, and more. This is pretty much my sole resource for this week with Noah.

AM Activity: Today we played Bug Bingo to help Noah identify his numbers 1-8. I printed out two copies of the Bug Bingo card from the Pre-Kinders site. Scroll down to the Printables section, and you’ll see it there. I cut up small pieces of paper, one for each number 1-8 and put them in a jar, then I randomly numbered the bugs on the bingo card. Armed with Do-a-Dot paints (a favorite art medium in our home!), I pulled a number out of the jar and called it out, then Noah’s job was to find the bug with that number on his bingo card and “squash” it by stamping it with his Do-a-Dot paint. I am so glad I chose this activity for today because I quickly discovered that Noah knew 1-5 without a second thought, but struggled to correctly identify 6-8. Now my wheels are turning about how we can solidify this later on this week–tracing sheets, the numbers on papers hiding around the house… Noah enjoyed this so much that we ended up doing it four times. Since I only had two sheets, he just made his stamps in a different spot the third and fourth times we played.


We built a 24 piece jigsaw puzzle of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and we also played three or four rounds of a cute game called Don’t Let the Bugs Fall that my mother-in-law gave Noah for Christmas this past year. It’s kind of like Jenga for preschoolers. Here’s a link for the game if you’re interested. Super cute. All of the pieces are lightweight plastic, not the heavy wooden pieces like the actual Jenga, so it’s good for little hands. Great practice for when he’s a surgeon one day, right??? Ha.

Lastly, we did a cooking project making Worms ‘n Dirt. You’re probably familiar with the basic recipe of chocolate pudding mix made with milk, Cool Whip, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy worms. To cut down on the sugar, I opted to leave out the Cool Whip. Our milk of choice in our house is Trader Joe’s vanilla coconut milk, so that was all I had to work with. I didn’t realize that coconut milk would make it difficult for pudding to set up…wished I had looked into that a little sooner. Found out later by looking at some various websites that I should have cut back on the amount of coconut milk or added some other weird ingredients that I’ve never heard of to thicken it up. I served it up in small canning jars after dinner, and my kids didn’t care that it was more like a thick melted ice cream consistency…they still had fun eating it! Noah and I hid a gummy worm inside the pudding before putting the dirt topping and more worms on top, and he was thrilled when Luke shrieked out, “Hey, there’s something in here!” I had enough jars to fill two more which I screwed the lids on and stacked in the fridge for round 2 tomorrow. They’ll be excited that the treat continues.

Evening Review: Luke’s responsibilities this week are concise since he’s gone each day. We gave him as much time as he wanted at our nightly dinner-time Family Sharing to give us a run-down of the day. (Typically each person just shares the favorite part of his/her day.) After dinner he has to do the current day’s pages in his Summer Bridge Workbook and pick at least one Early Reader book to read aloud to Noah and me. As tired as he was from his first day at art camp, he ended up choosing three to read because he discovered a few about insects in the stack and thought those would be fitting for our theme. (Titles he chose to read are: What Do Insects Do? By Susan Canizares & Pamela Chanko and Creepy Crawlies by Susan Leggitt.) His third and final review activity is to write one or two sentences in a little journal that he and I made called “Diary of a Bug Artist”. At the top of each page, he’ll get practice writing the day of the week and the date of the month, diary style, then choosing some highlights of his day at bug art camp to record. I’m sure later he’ll want to go back and add pictures. Will try to post pictures of it later this week as he adds more.




Week 1: S is for Superheroes (Day 5)

Is it odd that what is running through my head at the moment is that little ditty that Dora and Boots always sing at the end of every episode: “We did it! We did it! We did it, yeah! Yeah, we did it!” I was relieved when my kids were out of the Dora phase because that song always used to drive me crazy, but here I am, on the last day of the first week of Mommy Summer School just wanting to break out in song and that funny little twist that was Dora’s victory dance! I will say that it was a pretty successful week. I don’t think any one day went exactly how I had planned it from the get-go, but that’s the nature of teaching, parenting, and just life in general, right? We made adjustments as needed, and at the end of the week, I can honestly say that the boys learned new things, had fun, are proud of their accomplishments, and I didn’t want to leave them on the curb with a sign that says “Free for the taking” like I did last summer. I’m actually looking forward to getting to do a week just with Noah next week since Luke will be at art camp every day. So here’s how we finished up the week…

Morning Meeting: We started out with the Question of the Day: “What was your favorite part of S is for Superhero week?” Noah said making costumes and the fruit pizza. Luke said making costumes, making the fruit pizza, and going through the workbook. I believe that I have neglected to mention this week that we always start morning meeting with Calendar Talk–2 minutes, very simply identifying the day of the week and the date. We reviewed Day 4’s discussion about biblical heroes, worked up a sweat singing “I’m in the Lord’s Army” with all the motions a few more times, then had a short prayer time. Noah thanked God for all of the heroes that He has put in our world to keep us safe and help us when we need it. Luke prayed for him and Noah that they would continue to be Super Kids and always be willing to love and help others. And I sent up a BIG word of praise for God blessing us through this first week! Next, we completed two Social Studies Bonus pages in the Summer Bridge Workbook that focused on what it means to be a good citizen and matching community helpers with the tools that help them in their jobs. Finally, we read three more of the little community helper books that we’ve been working through: We Need Doctors, We Need Nurses, and We Need Veterinarians. To guide them in making text-to-text connections, I asked the boys to name some similarities between these three heroes.

AM Activity: I recently joined a gym and have chosen to do a BodyStep class on Friday mornings in the summer. Since Fridays are my husband’s day off and his long run day of the week, I will be taking the boys with me to the gym each week. They were ecstatic all week about getting to go to the gym for the first time with Mommy today. On the way to the gym, we talked about how imaginary heroes and realistic heroes train and have to take care of and strengthen their bodies. I asked them to list some ways that we can take care of our bodies: making good food choices, exercising, getting playtime outside every day, taking naps/rests, getting a good night’s sleep. To continue in this vein, I served up a healthy lunch of what I called Super Sandwiches: peanut butter, Nutella, and banana on wheat toast cut in the shape of the Batman symbol. A big hit for the end of our superhero week!


Quiet Time Activities: I had several activities leftover that we did not get to this week, so I basically gave Luke a choice of what he wanted to do. (At the end of this post, I’ll list all of the extra activities that we did not do in case you want to use some of them. I definitely over-planned, but that’s not a bad place to be when dealing with kids!)

  • Reading: Luke read aloud to me two Early Readers of his choice. I also did a final assessment of the special sight words for the week. I spread the cards out on the floor, called out a word, and then had Luke point to the word.
  • Writing: I helped Luke make a mini-book out of this template. I should have printed pages 1 and 2 on both sides of one sheet of paper, but I didn’t. So I ended up putting pages 1 and 2 on top of each other, folding them together like a book, then gluing the blank sides of the pages together to make the pages truly like a book. You should end up with four pages for writing and drawing. Lastly, fold a piece of construction paper or cardstock in half and put the book pages inside of it so that the colored paper is the book cover. Place three staples along the fold to connect the pages to the cover. Cut out one of the boxes on page 3 of the template and glue onto the front cover for writing the title and author. I had already decided ahead of time that the title of the book was going to be If I Was a Hero… Luke’s job was to take it from there. Here is Luke’s mini-book:
  • ImageImageImageImageImageCan you tell from page 3 of the book that we visited with an officer of the law earlier this week??? I can’t believe my 6-year-old actually included the word “Taser” in his writing. Yikes. After 10 years of teaching in the public school system, I’m pretty sure that if he had turned this in at school that he would have ended up in the principal’s office, and I would have been getting a phone call! At least he’s not ALL rough and tumble, as you can see from this sweet picture of him reading his book to little bro Noah:
  • Math: Luke’s neighborhood friend rang the doorbell and asked him to play board games just as I was getting ready to transition us into another subtraction worksheet from Elasmosaur. Living in community is a BIG priority in our family, so I was willing to let Luke postpone math until Evening Review time.

As promised previously in the post, here are the “outtakes” from the week that we didn’t get to:

  • Superhero Zoom Through the Alphabet worksheet from the Homeschool Share superhero kinder kit that I linked in a previous post this week (page 9).
  • Tally Marks worksheet from the Homeschool Share superhero kinder kit (page 13).
  • One-Sentence Story with illustration: I want to be like _____ (biblical hero) because _____.
  • Hero Math Mystery Pictures Worksheets from this link
  • Create one addition story and one subtraction story superhero-themed, of course

Hope you’ll stay tuned for Week 2: Buggin’ Out with Noah!

Week 1: S is for Superheroes (Day 4)

Morning Meeting: We reviewed Day 3’s discussion about loving and serving others, then we took a look at both boys’ Super Kid goals and evaluated how they have done in just 24 hours. I didn’t completely check the goals off because I want them to keep working on them, but I put a smiley face next to each goal that they have demonstrated some action toward. What a beautiful morning it was in the upstairs of my home when I heard Luke go into Noah’s room and say, “Good morning, Noah, may I help you make your bed today?” YES!!!!!!!! Next I read aloud another book about community heroes called We Need Police Officers by Lola M. Schaefer. This is probably a good moment to show you this great little collection of books that my sister-in-law pulled for the boys and I to use. We have just been reading them one or two at a time throughout the week as the boys have wanted to:


The Question of the Day today was: “Who are heroes of the Bible?” The boys called out names while I recorded them on a large piece of paper. As each idea was shared, I asked the boys to explain what made that person a hero. They came up with a pretty good list: Noah, Daniel, David, Luke, Joshua, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. I was glad that they mentioned David because I had already planned to show them a little video clip on YouTube of the old children’s worship song “Only a Boy Named David”. I grew up singing that in children’s church. Did anyone else learn the fun motions to go with the sling shot lyrics? I distinctly remember hitting my head pretty hard on one of those little wooden kid chairs while attempting to “tumble down” like Goliath. The boys thought the song was great, and they enjoyed doing the motions. It was a great opportunity to bring the conversation back to the truth that anyone can do great things and be a hero in their own ways despite their age or size. But the song that really got the kids going was “I’m in the Lord’s Army”. Oh man…is this the perfect BOY worship song or what? I did have to cut it off after about the 4th time through when Noah started digging through the toy box because he said he needed his toy sword and shield to sing the song. Yeah, I knew that probably wasn’t going to end well…

AM Activity: I had planned for us to watch the movie “The Incredibles” today and make some healthy “super snacks”, but I never ended up securing the movie, so I gave the boys some free play time instead. A lot in our house comes back to “Despicable Me”, so of course we ended up watching this little 12 minute DVD we had bought for Noah’s Easter basket called “Minion Madness”–three short videos involving those crazy minions, who Noah reminds all of us of quite often! We discovered in the bonus features four fun games that we took turns playing together and accumulating fun prizes like Gru’s car, Agnes’ stuffed unicorn, Vector’s piranha gun, the freeze ray gun, etc. While no educational leaps and bounds were made this morning, we did have good Mommy-Son bonding! During Noah’s swim lesson, though, Luke did opt for doing some more work in his Summer Bridge Book poolside instead of playing Minion Rush on my phone like he normally does. So how about that? I give the boy some freedom from the “work”, and he ends up choosing to do it anyway. I would call that success.


Quiet Time Activities: Subtraction came up on a few recent pages in the Summer Bridge Workbook, and Luke said that he hadn’t really done much on that in kindergarten. They focused more on addition and other math concepts, so he asked if we could just do more subtraction during Quiet Time today. I wasn’t going to say no to that. While he is quick as a whip doing addition in his head, I noticed that he seemed to be having difficulty visualizing subtraction and was relying more on using his fingers. It’s not that I don’t think he CAN use his fingers to do math at this stage, but I thought I’d try something a little different. I gave him a handful of coffee beans and turned to a large picture of a jar that was on a previous page in the workbook. I then showed him how to look at the first number in the subtraction problem and put that many beans “in” the jar. Then I told him to look at the second number in the problem and take away that many beans from the jar. I explained that what was left in the jar was the answer, what we call “the difference”. He liked that and flew through a subtraction worksheet that thankfully I already had on hand from the Elasmosaur math website that I posted earlier this week.

  • Reading: Luke read aloud to me Avengers: Assemble! by Tomas Palacios which is a World of Reading early reader book. It was marked as Level 2 which is really on about a 2nd grade reading level, but he surprised me by recognizing words like “fight” and “leader”. Of course, he didn’t struggle one bit with any of the Avengers’ names! As a side note, I forgot to mention earlier in the week when I was talking about the books that my sister-in-law let me borrow, that I set up what I’m calling the Tub of Knowledge in our main level living room with books that pertain just to the week’s theme as well as a stack of Early Readers. Obviously I will change the books out every week. I am always talking about the benefits of reading and how important it is to build prior knowledge of all kinds of topics AND a love for the craft of stories and great writing by reading lots and lots of books. (I know, I know…it’s what comes with the territory when Mommy is a literature teacher!) So throughout the week I have been encouraging the boys to head over the Tub of Knowledge when they’re getting a little antsy or need a quick 10-15 minute time filler and peruse through the books. IMG_0416
  • Writing: From the Homeschool Share superhero kinder kit, I gave Luke the three Superhero Profiles (pages 3-5 in the kit) and asked him to choose one, two, or all three. He opted just for one today. The sheet gives a picture of a little kid dressed like a superhero and then Luke was able to come up with the superhero’s name, his super powers, and his heroic actions.

Week 1: S is for Superheroes (Day 3)

Morning Meeting: We reviewed Day 2’s discussion about everyday, community heroes. I did a read aloud with the following books: 1) We Need Fire Fighters by Lola M. Schaefer, 2) A Visit to the Fire Station by B. A. Hoena, and 3) I’m Going to Be a Firefighter by Edith Kunhardt. Next we discussed that the most important qualities of a hero are that he/she loves people, devotes his/her life to caring for people, and is always watching for ways to serve people. I then asked the boys to think about some ways that they could be Super Kids by helping and caring for people the rest of this week. In my preparation for this week’s theme, I came across a website called Homeschool Share which features free downloadable Kinder Kits on a variety of topics, one being superheroes (I have plans to use other handouts from the superhero kit later on this week and some of the other kits later this summer). I printed off the handout called Be a Super Kid for each boy, and that is where we recorded the goals for the week. The boys hung them on the fridge so they can be mindful of them for the rest of this week.


AM Activity: This morning’s project was to design and make a thank you card for Agent Bellows for giving his lunch break to educate us about the world of the FBI yesterday. We are going to print the picture of Agent Bellows and Luke to paste inside the card. If you plan on implementing some of these ideas with your kids, but you don’t know a community hero to visit with, you could at least have your kids make thank you cards to drop off at your local fire station or I know there is information you can find online about sending cards to deployed soldiers. We can’t wait to deliver the card on Sunday!


Quiet Time Activities: Although my posts may make it seem like our household is just a little haven of sunshine and rainbows (HA!), I am still a normal mom with normal kids who do normal, stupid things. It was just…one of those days, for lack of a better phrase. By the time the afternoon rolled around, Luke was in a difficult mood where he just didn’t want to do anything that I had planned. I tried to give a sales pitch for the the writing and reading activities, but he wasn’t buying. So we went to a more “chillaxed” plan for the afternoon which involved Luke getting on Tumblebooks to enjoy an online book called Diary of a Fly, a cute little story about a fly who just doesn’t understand why she can’t be a superhero. At the end, we just did a brief plot review of the beginning, middle, and end. If you haven’t heard of Tumblebooks, definitely look into it. We got a username and password through Fairfax County Public Schools from Luke’s kindergarten teacher this past year. The kids could use Tumblebooks on the classroom computers as one of their literacy stations, and early on in the year she sent home a note encouraging parents to use it at home, too. My favorite part of the site is that I can do a search by reading level, so I can tailor what Luke is working on depending on whether I want him to read the book or the computer to read the book to him. There are also puzzles, games, and really cool informational videos about all kinds of topics like weather, careers, bugs, etc. Again we skipped the writing and math activities that I had planned so that Luke could continue making headway in his Summer Bridge Workbook. We also continued with our daily dose of Early Readers.

Needless to say, I was REALLY relieved when Daddy arrived home, and I could dash (to use a superhero term!) out the door to get an hour of peace and quiet at the gym!

Week 1: S is for Superheroes (Day 2)

One of the beautiful things about doing a summer school at home is that I have the flexibility of deviating from my plans to accommodate for other needs that arise without anyone paying the penalty. Man, do I wish regular classroom teaching was that way! I spend WAY too much time during the regular school year stressing out about fitting everything in when we have a snow day, or the students just need some reteaching on a concept, or an assembly interrupts instructional time. So as I looked at the schedule for today and saw three different appointments glaring at me, then opened a VERY empty refrigerator to scrounge up some breakfast, I did my typical “teacher panic” for a moment, then breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I could make this day whatever it needed to be for us! Since we had been away on and off over the past two weeks, we needed to seriously replenish our groceries, so we did Morning Meeting on-the-go-style en route to Wegman’s…

Morning Meeting: We reviewed Day 1’s discussion on “What makes a superhero?” then I posed the Question of the Day for Day 2: “Who are everyday heroes?” after we briefly discussed the difference between imaginary/fictional heroes and realistic heroes. This was definitely a little more of a challenging question for them to answer. As dramatic, imaginative little boys, they live SO much in the world of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and the list goes on and on; so for them to apply the word “hero”, which they think of as the stuff of comic books and cartoons, to our realistic world made them pause for a minute. As I figured I might need to with this one, I started them out with an example and talked about policemen and how they are worthy of the title “hero” based on the criteria we had listed the day before on what makes a superhero. That got the ball rolling. Then I followed up with another question: “What makes them heroes?” This part of our talk was a bit…meager…but then again, we were in the car approaching Wegman’s, and the boys were getting excited about seeing the train in the dairy section, possibly earning a cookie from the market cafe, and “driving” one of the shopping carts with the double steering wheels (genius, might I add, for moms like me with two VERY active and slightly competitive brothers!). So I told them we would table the conversation and revisit it later at home. When we did come back to it, I recorded our ideas on large paper:


At this point in the day, we should have been ready for AM Activity, but it was time for Noah’s swim lesson, and from there, we were off on our Outing of the Week, so the AM Activity became a PM Activity which ended up including the boys’ friend Sean from the house three doors down who had been over to play. It was great to include him in our family fun.



AM Activity: As you can see form the picture above, Day 2’s AM Activity was a cooking project–making a Captain America’s Shield Fruit Pizza. I had made one back in November for Luke’s kindergarten class for his birthday, so I already had a great recipe which you can find here. Unfortunately, I was really rushed with having to prepare dinner and deal with some other household things since we postponed this to the afternoon, so I wasn’t overly thrilled with how it ended up looking. I just didn’t take the time to roll out the dough for the crust to be big enough to get all the circles of CA’s shield on the fruit pizza. But the boys didn’t care. Like most males, all they cared about was me slicing them a piece to gobble down! Thumbs up and smiles when the slices were consumed let me know that the cooking project was a success even if it was missing one ring of red. By the way, here is what the fruit pizza should have looked like, although I wasn’t planning on using large marshmallows because we’re just not crazy marshmallow fans outside of s’mores, and it would cut down on the sugar intake.

Outing of the Week: Sandwiched in between Noah’s swim lesson and Luke’s swim lesson, I had arranged a surprise meeting with a fellow church member of ours who collects and processes evidence for the FBI (ERT department). One of the very first ideas I had related to this week’s theme was that I wanted the boys to interact with an everyday hero so that they could understand that there are real-life people who exercise courage and bravery on a daily basis, willingly face dangerous or uncomfortable situations, and live out true servanthood and care for others through the careers they have chosen. On any given day if you ask Luke what he wants to be when he grows up, he will tell you that he wants to be a superhero. It’s a cute answer, and I’m not going to lie, I have plans to frame for his superhero bedroom an adorable writing piece that he did at school about being a superhero. However, we know that being a superhero like the Man of Steel is not a paid position, so I know that eventually Luke’s bubble is going to have to burst. I thought maybe this would be a good way for him to start thinking of heroes in a different, more realistic way. So back to the outing..SO. A-MA-ZING. I told the boys that they were going to meet a real hero. They were ecstatic and kept trying to guess who it was. They were pretty convinced that we were going to meet a person dressed up like an imaginary hero. We convened in the church parking lot where the agent, to our delight and surprise, had set up a faux crime scene around his bureau vehicle complete with police tape. He gave the boys “special permission” to cross the police tape, and then spent the next 30 minutes showing them all of his tactical gear, evidence research gear, and some of the cool features of his vehicle. The boys got to hold and try on his bullet proof vest–funny to see their knees buckle a little with the weight of the vest! They also got to see his fingerprinting kit, the suit he wears when entering a crime scene so that none of his DNA falls off into the area, the different helmets he wears, his baton, his different holsters, his go-bag if he suddenly has to leave the country to work on a case, the vault in the back of his vehicle that contains more gear and extra clothes, and so much more. He engaged the different lights and sirens on his vehicle which the boys absolutely loved, and he answered all of Luke’s questions about how bad guys get caught and what it’s like to work day in and day out as an FBI agent. The BEST part of the outing was when Luke asked if the agent could handcuff him!!!!!! Much to Mommy’s delight, the agent agreed:




The agent and I both agreed that Luke was a little TOO into the handcuffs, and both of us remarked that this is the only time we better see him in cuffs!!!! This visit surely was another Million Dollar Mommy Summer School Moment.

Quiet Time Activities: Today’s schedule didn’t allow much time for this portion of our routine, but again it’s all about flexibility, right?

  • Reading: Reviewed the special sight words for the week and tried using them in sentences, just verbally, nothing written down. Luke also did some reading aloud to me. My sister-in-law who is a kindergarten teacher let me borrow a bag chock full of books–I’m not kidding, she probably gave me more than 50 books. I had told her the themes that we were going to be focusing on this summer, so she pulled a bunch of fiction and nonfiction books from her classroom that tie in with our themes. She also gave me a big ol’ stack of Early Readers ranging from level B to F. Even though Luke’s kindergarten teacher told me at the end of the year that he is reading kind of between level C and D, I still started him with the level B books just for fluency practice, plus Noah enjoys listening to him read these simple little stories. I have been asking him to read at least two Early Readers a day, and I have been keeping a running tally on a spreadsheet recording the title, author, reading level, and date read. I didn’t necessarily have some pedagogical reason why I’m keeping a list, but it’s something I do for myself every year, and I just think it will be cool to look back at the end of the summer and show Luke how many books he read on his own.
  • Writing: Didn’t get to any theme writing today but Luke was plowing through the Summer Bridge Workbook today, so I wasn’t worried.
  • Math: Ditto for math. Did lots of addition and subtraction in the Summer Bridge Workbook.

Week 1: S is for Superheroes (Day 1)

I swear as I was waking up on Monday morning, I had the Black-Eyed Peas singing “Let’s Get it Started” in my head. In other words, I was pumped up about launching Mommy Summer School. On Sunday night as I was putting Luke and Noah to bed, I started getting them jazzed up by giving them some clues about the theme of the week, letting them know that I had special surprises in store for them… They were hooked! Then I snuck downstairs to the dining room and set up this centerpiece to greet them when they came down for breakfast on Day 1:


Their response in the morning was SO fun to watch! Of course, Luke kept repeating, “I just KNEW it was going to be superheroes, Mommy! You need to give harder clues.” Geez. Anyway, I am definitely going to repeat the “centerpiece reveal” each Monday when we start new themes. We even used superhero cups for our daily apple juice just to make things a little more “festive”:


After breakfast was over, we hit the ground running. Here is how I’ve chosen to structure each day:

Morning Meeting–This will take place right after breakfast and everyone is dressed for the day. This time will be about 10 minutes and will mostly consist of some general discussion centered around a Question of the Day…some kind of idea to get their brains working and thinking about our topic. Each day we will briefly review what we discussed the previous day, then we will move on to the current day’s question. To make it feel “school-like”, I assigned the boys a special seat (a bean bag chair for Luke and a kid-sized rocker for Noah) on the area rug in our basement play area, and I sat in a bigger “teacher chair” in front of them. I have armed myself with lots of large white paper and a Sharpie for this time of our day so I can record the ideas that we generate, but if I had a small white board easel, I would totally use that just like I’ve seen Luke’s kindergarten teacher do in his class.

The Question of the Day for Day 1 was “What makes a superhero?” Here is the list of responses that the boys and I generated together:


AM Activity–We are at the pool for Noah’s swim lessons every day at 11am, so we have roughly an hour and a half to two hours for our daily AM Activity. Since Noah is joining us for this part of the day, I am sticking to art projects/crafts, cooking projects, or games/puzzles. In our MM discussion, I loved how the boys ended with ideas related to what superheroes wear–I couldn’t have set up a more perfect transition at the end of the list into our next segment which was to make no-sew felt superhero capes, masks, wrist cuffs, and belts. Now, let me just tell you now that this requires a lot of work on your part. I knew that Noah being 3 wasn’t going to be of much help at all, but I thought that Luke at least would be able to handle cutting out various shapes and designs drawn on felt. No deal. He did one shape, it took him forever, and he complained that it was too hard to cut out of such a thick “thing” and asked repeatedly why we weren’t just cutting it all out of paper. (I will not share the snarky reply I made to him about what happens when superheroes wear costumes made out of paper.) I had at least cut out the base of the capes the night before, but I only went that far because I really wanted the boys to design their items. Noah, being my more adventurous risk-taker-kid, opted for his own original design to represent, in his own words: “Super Noah who runs really fast.” Whereas Luke, who usually tends to stay in the familiar, wanted to go straight up Batman all the way. I did manage to talk him into putting an S and an L on his wrist cuffs to stand for “Super Luke”.



So here’s the quick and dirty tutorial on the costumes…


  • 1 yard black felt (bought middle-of-the-road quality felt @ $4.99/yard from JoAnn Fabric)
  • 1/4 yard yellow felt
  • 1/4 yard red felt
  • 1/4 yard white felt
  • Fabric Fusion 3/4 inch x 1 inch velcro (no-sew velcro that you adhere with your iron) for the capes, the wrist cuffs, and the belts
  • 1 package of 1/4 inch thick black elastic for the mask straps
  • 2 packages of Heat ‘N Bond Ultrahold (Each package was 1 yard; with all that I did, I never even opened the 2nd package and even had a little left over from the 1st package. If you are like me and had never heard of Heat ‘N Bond, it is brilliant for those of us who are sewing illiterate. Here is a quick tutorial on YouTube that I watched to make sure I knew what I was doing, although I found the instructions on the package to be very easy.)

Total Amount Spent: $18 (far cheaper than buying two sets of store-bought items, for sure!)

Instructions for the Mask: I traced this template that I found online onto the felt. I wanted to be able to put the elastic on the mask without sewing, so I actually cut out two masks for each boy, put the elastic in between the two felt pieces, then adhered them together using the Heat ‘N Bond. I measured each boy’s head for the elastic strap then deducted about an inch and a half to ensure that the elastic wouldn’t be too loose on their heads. Side note: I used a white crayon to trace/draw everything on the black felt. Worked really well. Just used a pencil for the other colors of felt. Since the masks seemed like a smaller step in the costume-making process, I did these first. Plus I knew that the boys would get excited about the rest of the project if they had something to wear fairly immediately. Total pay-off. They were already running around playing superheroes just with the masks, and I felt like a total rock star mom that I the first piece had actually turned out!!!

Instructions for the Cape: I used the measurements ONLY from this blog. Scroll down until you come to the line “Here is my final pattern” and then a picture. Allow me to insert right here that after the capes were completed and I put them on the boys, I immediately noticed that they were way too wide for my boys up by their shoulders. This could be due to the fact that I didn’t have enough of a curve going from the bottom to the top of the cape. Nevertheless, I ended up cutting about 2 inches off of each side of the cape running from the top to the bottom, so I didn’t end up following the 13.5 inch width shown on the pattern. Again, I used Heat ‘N Bond to adhere the appliques that the boys wanted on the backs of the capes and the no-sew velcro to keep the capes closed around their necks. Luke then wanted me to cut a zig-zag edge along the bottom of the cape so it would look like a Batman cape he once saw. Of course then Noah wanted his zig-zagged, too.

Instructions for the Belt and Wrist Cuffs: This was a good way to end the project because they were SO easy. I just wrapped felt around each boy’s wrist and waist for measurements, marked them with my pencil, then cut out basic rectangles for the wrist cuffs and long strips for the belts. Just like the capes, I used Heat ‘N Bond to apply some designs, then two pieces of velcro to hold the belt closed and one piece of velcro for each wrist cuff. Simple.

Saying that the boys were thrilled with their costumes would be an understatement. They wore them pretty much all day, had me hang hooks in the play area wall so they can hang their costumes up when they’re “off duty”, and asked me to give them a 10 minute warning before Daddy got home from work so they could put their costumes on to surprise him! So cute. When they both wanted to wear their new outfits for breakfast the next day, I knew it was worth the three hours it took me from start to finish! By the way, in case you’re wondering what the boys were doing while I was tracing, cutting, adhering, etc., they watched Despicable Me during part of my crafting (a family favorite!) because they said that Gru becomes a hero in the end, then I finished it up during Noah’s naptime while Luke was doing his Quiet Time Activities. Speaking of which, that is the next phase of our daily routine. While Noah naps, I don’t prefer Luke to be going outside to play with friends or have friends inside to play because it’s distracting to Noah hearing the door opening and closing so many times. So this is the time of the day when I can pull up a chair alongside Luke if need be and really zero in on reading, writing, and math with him. Here’s what we did on Day 1:

  • Reading: Introduced the special sight words for the week which I posted on a memo board in the kids’ basement art area. Luke made some good connections, such as “brave” and save” rhyming, “speed” looking like “seed” without the p, etc.IMG_0406
  • Writing: Luke wrote out what I entitled “Superhero ABCs”. Down the left side of a piece of paper, he wrote the alphabet both uppercase and lowercase letters. Then next to each letter of the alphabet, he had to write a word that started with that letter and had something to do with superheroes. He was allowed to use the special sight words if he wanted to. For many of the letters, he wrote a superhero’s name (Batman, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, etc.), but he threw in some other interesting ones as well, like x-ray vision and ZAP! Clever little bugger. Even though he begged, I tried not to help him with his spelling too much so that he was employing good sound spelling. This activity also gave me a good opportunity to review the difference in capitalizing proper nouns and common nouns since he chose to write a lot of names.
  • Math: Reviewed basic addition 0-10 by using some easy online printables that I found here. Obviously I printed the superhero ones. Luke enjoyed coloring the superheroes on the worksheets after he solved the math problems. Luke did the first two addition worksheets listed on the site.

Evening Review: This is the final part of our daily routine and again is just for Luke. This is when he completes a few pages in his Summer Bridge Workbook that I referenced in the previous post. The book is broken into three major sections, one for each of the three traditional months of summer. Each section includes daily activities for 20 days plus bonus activities. Since we missed the month of June, my plan was to have Luke do two days of activities every day for the next two weeks to catch up on the first section then do the same for completing Section II during the last two weeks of July. This kid absolutely LOVES this workbook. He is obsessed with continuing on and loves giving himself a sticker on each day that he completes (sticker sheet in the back of the workbook–yes!). He started the workbook only two days ago and has already completed the entire first section and caught up to where we should be in Section II…30 days worth of activities in two days. I have been really impressed so far with the workbook. I was just looking for a basic review of skills, but it even includes character development activities, science experiments, outdoor learning, and fitness flashes every few pages. Luke gets a kick out of finishing math problems or writing words and then getting to do arm circles for 30 seconds or three push-ups or 10 lunges. It ties in so nicely with our superhero theme as even Luke has observed, “Hey, I’m training to get strong just like a real hero!” I don’t now how I’m going to restrict him to just one day’s activities from here on out! As an aside, the outdoor activities and science activities look really fun and don’t require a lot of time or materials. I have already roped Daddy in and have asked him to continue the learning fun over the weekends by doing these activities with the boys. Great way to get him involved in this whole thing!

Ok, that was a GINORMOUS post. Yikes. I hope I didn’t just lose all hope of having any readers in the future! The next posts won’t be as long because our activities weren’t as involved as the superhero costumes. I was going to go ahead and post Days 2 and 3 in one sitting, but my fingers and brain are a little tuckered out now! Bedtime…