Tag Archives: Kindergarten

When Life Takes the Front Seat, Avoid Oncoming Cars

It has not been an easy week and a half. But as many homeschoolers can attest, there aren’t that many easy weeks during a school year. Schooling at home means dealing with life at home all day, every day, and sometimes life takes the front seat.  Last week, my oldest son John cut his hand, requiring a trip to the ER, seven stitches, a follow-up trip to the hand doctor, and finally today, outpatient surgery to repair two tendons. Now, I know such an event should have spurred me on to lead the kids in an investigation of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and  the anatomy of the hand, but instead I decided we should rent a movie and watch it this afternoon. And it wasn’t even educational. It was Cars 2.

We hadn’t seen the movie yet, and it had just come out as a video rental.  John thought it was a good choice, as his younger brother Luke would like it to. So, we gathered around the living room and watched it this afternoon, and I have to say…I was extremely disappointed.

I liked the original Cars movie. Aside from “feeling” like a rather long film (I remember watching it in the theater and wondering when it would end), it was a fun movie with likable characters and a good message. Luke loved it and we ended up buying it, along with all the little action figures.

But this movie was not the same at all. While (I think) the original was geared to 3-7 year old boys, this one must have been intended for older kids. The plot was complicated and way over the heads of the original Cars fans, involving an hour and a half of spies and secret agents.

What I found most appalling, however, was what else the film serves up to young viewers: weapons, torture, bombs, and even death. In one scene, a “good” secret agent is captured and tortured — the bad cars tell him he’s going to die. Then he bursts into flames off camera.

“I can’t believe it!” I said. “They just killed him!”

“No,” my kids assured me. “He’s all right. He’ll come back.” But he never did. Then, towards the end of the film, the bad cars are after Lightning McQueen, determined he’s going to die too. They even rig Mater up with a bomb to unknowingly blow up his friend.

So, while I’m glad we took the afternoon off (we all needed the break), watching Cars 2 was not the way to go. While children may enjoy the races and chase scenes, this film has little else to offer.  So, yay for John for thinking of his little brother, but boo for Pixar for not. 🙁

Balancing Craft

butterfly 1This was my last week doing crafts with the kindergarten/first grade class at our co-op. It was bittersweet — while it was a bit of work planning and preparing the crafts, it was fun to watch the children work on them, and it was so good to see my son Luke enjoy making them and showing them off to his siblings.

For this last formal class, we read the picture book Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. The story takes place in France in the late nineteenth century. Mirette’s mother, a widow, rents out the rooms in her home to traveling performers. One of the performers who comes to stay is the Great Bellini, a tightrope walker. Mirette wants to learn to walk on a rope, too, and Bellini finally agrees to teach her.

Our craft for this story was the Balancing Butterfly craft found on EnchantedLearning.com. Here’s how we did it:


  • Cardboard butterflies
  • Sculpey clay
  • Pencils
  • Pennies
  • Tape
  • Markers

To prepare, I made a butterfly pattern with a piece of cardstock. I found that a butterfly with a wingspan of about 3 inches worked well.

Next, I traced the pattern and pre-cut the butterflies for the students using thin cardboard I had on hand. EnchantedLearning recommends using old cereal boxes.

The students then…

1. Decorated their butterflies with markers. We talked about patterns again, and how they could make patterns on their butterflies.

2. I also provided each student with some sculpey clay. They worked the clay with their hands to soften it before rolling it into a ball. Then they flattened one side on the surface of the table to make it stand evenly.

3. I then let them choose a pencil, and they stuck the unsharpened end down into the clay so the pencil was standing upright.

4. Next, they tried to balanbutterfly2ce their butterflies on the eraser end of the pencils. They could balance them if they placed the center of the butterfly on the eraser.

5. Then we added pennies to the wings. We taped one penny near the top of each wing. This changed the center of gravity to a point closer to the head of the butterfly. The butterfly would tip, but it still balanced on the pencil.

This simple craft was a hit!  They played with them that morning, and then my son played with his some more when we got home. My daughter Lillie then made one for herself, and she plans on making more with her cousins this weekend. Give this project a try, and watch the butterflies soar!

Nuts and Bolts

This week, our Five in a Row story for the K-5/First Graders at co-op was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. It was a little harder coming up with a craft to go along with the story, but with the help of my oldest son, John, we came up with one that was a big hit.

The story is about Mike Mulligan and his out-dated steam shovel, Mary Ann. In the story, they take on one last job, digging the cellar of the new town hall in Popperville. As we read the book, we talked about the different machines depicted, and how Mike Mulligan used his machine Mary Ann to dig faster and better.

The project? The children had to think up and sketch their own time-saving machines.


  • 1/2 sheet of posterboard (one per student)
  • Pencils
  • Markers, crayons, and/or colored pencils
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue
  • Collection of misc. nails, screws, nuts, washers, bolts, etc.

Each student was given 1/2 sheet of posterboard and a pencil and instructed to spend a few minutes thinking about the kind of machine they would design. What would their machine do? How would it be helpful? What would it need to do the job?

Next, the children drew their machines on the posterboard. After they were satisfied with it, they colored them in with crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
While they were working, we plugged in a couple of low-temp mini-glue guns.  When the students had finished their drawings, they were given a handful of various nuts, nails, screws, bolts, etc. to choose from. They would then place them on their pictures where they thought they should go. We then used hot glue (a lot for the heavier items) to affix them to the “machine.”

The children really enjoyed it — and they enjoyed telling about their machines, too! Later that day, they stood up one by one with the drawings of their machines and explained just what their machines were supposed to do. They were all so proud of their ideas — and I was too!

The Little Red Lighthouse Craft

alighthouseThis week, our kindergarteners and first graders at co-op read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegard Swift and Lynd Ward. The craft we did with this book took a little while to prepare, but it was a lot of fun that provided some good practice for their fine motor skills.

For the activity, the children created their own lighthouses using popsicle sticks. If you’d like to make a lighthouse with your child, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 40 popsicle sticks cut in half, or 80 half-size sticks
  • Red acrylic craft paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Paper towels
  • Container with water (to clean the brushes)
  • Newspaper
  • White school glue
  • Cardstock
  • Something round (about 2 ” in diameter) to use as a pattern, such as jar lid
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Yellow paper or foam
  • Scissors

If you are working with a lot of students (we have 11 in our class), you may want to do the first few steps yourself to save time. However, if you’re working with only your own children, you can show them how to complete each step themselves.

1. First, cover your table top or work area with newspaper.

2. Lay out the sticks on the paper. Using the red craft acrylics, paint one side of each popsicle sticks red. Allow the paint to dry (acrylic paints dry quickly, so if the paint isn’t very thick, a few minutes should be enough. You can also speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer).

3. If you are using whole sticks, you’ll need to cut them in half. Do this yourself, as it’s a difficult task for children. You can cut them in half with a large pair of scissors. Some of the sticks might split a little, but they can still be used.

4. Now, show your child how to “build” the lighthouse by placing two sticks parallel to each other on the paper, adding a drop of glue to each one, and then placing two more parallel sticks on the glue going in the opposite direction. Continue gluing and alternating the pairs until all of the sticks have been used.

5. To make the top of the lighthouse, draw a circle on the cardstock. Use the jar lid as a guide and trace around it. Cut out the circle. Then, cut one slit in the circle, going from the edge of the circle to the center. Stop cutting at the center of the circle.

6. At the slit, pull one of the straight edges you just cut under the other, forming a cone shape. Glue the edges with hot glue so that the glue dries quickly and the shape holds. Using the hot glue again, glue the edges of the cone to the top of the lighthouse.

7. To complete the lighthouse, cut a small circle from yellow cardstock or foam and glue it onto one side of the lighthouse as a “light.”

Hanging Japanese Koi Craft

fishThis week, our Five in a Row class read the book A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno. The story follows a little girl in Japan who receives a new pair of wooden clogs covered in beautiful red lacquer. After only a few days of wearing her new shoes, she decides to play a game with them with her friends, and one of her clogs cracks. Since her shoes are no longer pretty, she has to figure out a way to get her mother to buy her a new pair.

To go along with the story, we slightly improvised a craft found on EnchantedLearning.com. Though it took some preparation on my part, it was fun for the kids and easy to put together.

Hanging Japanese Koi Craft

On May 5, the people of Japan celebrate Children’s Day with the koinobori, or fish kites. These are actually windsocks shaped like a koi or carp. When the wind catches them, they appear to be swimming. For this craft, the children made their own fish kites.

What you’ll need:

  • Construction paper or colored cardstock
  • Glue sticks
  • Stapler
  • Circles cut from magazines or decorative scrapbook paper
  • Markers or crayons
  • Foil
  • Crepe paper or streamers
  • String or yarn
  • Hole Punch

For our class of five and six year olds, I did the following before class:

Draw the shape of a fish on one piece of construction paper and cut it out. Use this shape as a template and draw and cut out two fish per child.  Older children could do this step by themselves.

Cut smaller circles from another type of paper — at least 10 per child. Enchanted Learning recommended using old magazines, but we had a lot of extra scrapbooking paper on hand, so I used that instead. I also cut a few from aluminum foil for a shiny addition. If you’re working with older children, they could do this by themselves as well.

Provide the students with two fish each. Have them glue the two pieces together. Staple the edges to hold it together.  Draw an eye on each side and color in the fins and tail with crayons or makers.

Next, choose some circles to use as scales. Glue the circles to both sides of the fish.

Punch a hole at the fish’s mouth and string the yarn though it. Tie it off at the fish’s mouth.

Finally, add the streamers to the tail by stapling them in place.

Enjoy your Japanese Koi Kite!

Easy Lesson in Perspective

perspectiveThis week, our kindergarten/first grade co-op class worked on lessons based on the book Three Names by Patricia Maclachlan. The watercolor illustrations offer a lot of art lesson possibilities. Our class chose to work on project about perspective, and it turned out to be a fun exercise that can be adapted for students of various ages.

For this lesson, you’ll need:

  • One sheet of watercolor paper
  • Masking Tape
  • Piece of cardboard (a little larger than the paper)
  • Watercolors: green, blue, brown, grey or black, and yellow ochre (golden yellow)
  • Watercolor brushes
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Paper Towel

To begin, tape the piece of watercolor paper onto the cardboard backing. When your student paints on the paper, it will tend to buckle; by taping it to the cardboard and allowing it to dry completely, it should flatten out again.

Next, have the student draw a straight HORIZON LINE using a pencil and a ruler. The horizon is the line where the land meets the sky.

Now, instruct your student to choose a point on the line to be the VANISHING POINT. The vanishing point will just be a dot on the horizon line; it’s the place on the horizon where the road will seem to disappear.

Next, have your student draw two diagonal lines from the bottom of the page to the vanishing point. The resulting figure will look like a triangle. This is the road going far away into the distance.

Your child might choose to add other objects to his picture, such as trees or animals. Remember, though, that the closer the objects are, the bigger they will appear to be; the further away they are, the smaller they will appear.

To finish the picture, paint in the sky above the horizon line, and the land on either side of the road green and/or brown. The road could be golden yellow if it’s a dirt path or grey if it’s a highway.

Once your student has finished, be sure to hang up the painting or put it in a portfolio. A job well-done needs to be displayed! 🙂

Mr. Grumpy’s Motor Car

Mr GumpyToday in the K-5/First Grade co-op class, I read the story Mr. Grumpy’s Motor Car by John Burningham. The funny thing was, his name is actually Mr. GUMPY.

I’m not quite sure how I misread it, but from the time I first read the story at home until I read it out loud to the class, I called the main character “Mr. Grumpy.” During the story, I mentioned to the children that I couldn’t figure out why he was called Mr. Grumpy. In most of the illustrations he was smiling — an unusual response to a difficult car ride with a cow, a goat, a chicken, a sheep, a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a boy, and a girl. I would certainly be grumpy after such a ride, but this character wasn’t at all.

I finished the first story and began a second that I had found at the library entitled Mr. Gumpy’s Outing. Of course, I called him Mr. Grumpy, even though he was still smiling as all the other characters piled into his boat. About halfway through that story, I turned the book around to show them something on the cover. It was then one of the children called out (a K-5/First Grader, mind you), “His name is Mr. GUMPY!”

He had read the name on the cover, and he had read it correctly!  Was I ever embarrassed!  All I could do was laugh, and the kids laughed too. At least it made more sense. He was still an incredibly patient man, but now he had a name that suited him better.

I talked with another teacher from the class who covers the last hour. She usually re-reads the story to the children. As she began reading about Mr. Gumpy, though, some of the children asked her to call him Mr. Grumpy instead. 🙂

The Glorious Flight Art Activity


My son Luke is in a K-5/First Grade class in our home school co-op. The curriculum the class is using is Five in a Row by Jane Lambert; this curriculum centers math, science, social studies, and art lessons around classic picture books. Recently, we read The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen, which describes the early attempts of Louis Bleriot to build and fly an airplane. Though our art activity wasn’t listed in Five in a Row, it worked well with the class. Here’s what we did:


  • Watercolor Paper (inexpensive watercolor paper is fine)
  • Cardboard (a little larger than the watercolor paper; one piece per student)
  • Masking tape
  • Pencils
  • Watercolor paints – blue and green (in tubes or pan sets)
  • Styrofoam plates (if using paints in tubes)
  • One brush per child
  • Napkins or paper towel (to clean the brushes)
  • Cotton balls or poly fiberfill
  • Crayons
  • Scissors
  • White school glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Coloring page of a small airplane

Before you begin, tape a piece of watercolor paper to each piece of cardboard. This way, if you’re student enjoys applying water or watery paint to the paper, the edges will stay down even though the paper might buckle.

Have each student draw a horizon line, marking where the sky will end and the ground begin. Put this line low on your paper — you’ll want a lot of sky showing for this picture.

Give each student a small amount of blue paint. If you’re using watercolors in tubes, give each child a Styrofoam plate for a palette. Place the blue paint on the plate. If you’re using a regular pan set of paints, instruct the children to co

Next, give each student a small amount of green paint. Instruct them to paint the land green.

While the paint is drying, provide the children with a picture of a plane from a coloring page. You can find images to use on the Internet. You might even print off several different planes and let the children choose their favorite. Have the children color their planes with crayons and then cut them out.

By the time the students are finished coloring, the paint on their papers should be dry.  Use the white school glue to attach cotton balls or poly fiberfill on the sky. These are the clouds.

Now everything is ready for the plane!  Have the children glue their planes to the sky they just created.

Place the finished artwork where everyone can see — and enjoy!

Gumdrops and the Renaissance

candyIn my son Luke’s K-5/First Grade co-op class, we’ve been using the Five In A Row curriculum. Because our co-op meets once a week, we choose a book for the week and center the class activities around it. This week, our book was The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola.

The story takes place in Renaissance Italy, so we talked about the Renaissance and the types of clothing people wore. We discussed Renaissance architecture, such as the buildings and bridges, as recommended in Five In a Row. Children this age really enjoy hands-on activities, though, so I wanted to find a craft they could all work at and have fun with. So we decided on building our own “Renaissance” structures — using just gumdrops and toothpicks!

Here’s how we did it:

Supplies (for 10 children):

  • Gumdrops (we used three small bags from the grocery store)
  • Toothpicks (we used two boxes with 250 toothpicks in each)
  • Sturdy paper plates

To start, we gave each child a paper plate on which to build his or her structure. We then placed the gumdrops on plates and set them in the middle of the table where everyone could reach them. We gave each child a handful of toothpicks to start with. I then showed them how to push a toothpick into a gumdrop and then connect it to another gumdrop by pushing in the other end.

The children caught on quickly, and were soon designing their own structures by forming squares and triangles. One even resembled a pyramid. Some of the children built their structures two- and three-“stories” high; when the buildings began to tip over (still held together with toothpicks), they turned into even more interesting shapes. It was fun to see how many different designs they came up with.

All in all, it was a good day for the Renaissance. I’m sure most (if not all) of the students will forget the word “Renaissance” before the end of the day (it’s a big one, after all), but they won’t soon forget building their gumdrop structures. Especially since they took them home to display. 🙂

Make Your Own “Ping”


Today in our co-op Kindergarten/First Grade class, we read The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack. In the story, the little yellow duck Ping is late returning to his home, a boat on the Yangtze River. Today, each student made their own “Ping.” Here’s how we did it:


  • White or yellow socks
  • Rit fabric dye (optional) – yellow and orange
  • Large googley eyes
  • White glue or a low-temp hot glue gun/glue sticks
  • Yellow felt
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Fiberfill (stuffing)
  • Rubber Bands

You can use a white sock for the duck, or, if you want a yellow duck like Ping, use a yellow sock. We didn’t have yellow socks available, so I dyed the socks yellow (before class) using Rit dye. Then, to create an orange beak, I dyed the top of the ribbed part of the sock (about 1 ½ inches) using the orange Rit dye.

1. Give each student a sock, and have them stuff the sock with fiberfill to the ribbing. They’ll need more stuffing for a fatter duck; less stuffing for a soft and floppy duck. When they have finished stuffing the duck’s body, tie it off by looping a rubber band around the sock.

2. Students will then stuff the “head” of the duck the same way. Use the stuffing to fill the sock up to the orange beak. More stuffing will create a rounder head. When the head is full, tie it off by looping another rubber band around it.

3. You now have the beak, head, and body of the duck. To finish the beak, cut a straight line on one side of it. Cut another straight line on the opposite side. Now there is a top part and lower part of the beak.

4. Glue the googley eyes on the head.

5. With your pen, draw out two wings on the yellow piece of felt. Cut out the wings.

6. Glue the wings to the duck’s body, and Ping is ready to go!

*Note: White glue takes longer to dry and may not be as secure as the hot glue.