Best Gifts for Teen Boys--Music

 Teen boys can be tricky to shop for when buying holiday and birthday gifts. When our two boys, now 23 and 21 were little, it was no problem: Matchbox, Legos, tools, sports equipment--they loved them all. Then the boys hit adolescent and got complicated. We didn't want to buy gifts that would embarrass. Though they still liked toys, we had to be careful not to patronize.  Best Gifts for Teen Boys--Musical Instruments

Feast of the Immaculate Conception Activities for Children

Dec. 8 marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic liturgical calendar. As this fell on Sunday in 2013, the holy day was moved to Dec. 9 and is not a day of obligation. I remember this was the first mass I attended when I started dating my husband. I was raised protestant.

Catholics believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin so that she could birth the Messiah, Jesus and honor her on this day. Here are activities for parents and children to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Advent, a Christmas preparatory season during which the feast falls.  Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Advent Activities for Parents and Children

Free Printable Advent, Feast of the Immaculate Conception Lessons

December 8 normally marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. For 2013, it's observed Monday, Dec. 9 because the 8th fell on Sunday. Immaculate Conception is one of six recognized Holy Days in the liturgical calendar. Here are free printable activities and lessons to celebrate this feast day. I've gone through all the noted Catholic websites and linked this article to children's liturgy activities that explore the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother.  Free Printable 'Feast of the Immaculate Conception' Activities

Advent Math, Writing Service Project Craft

So many of us have found Christmas to be far more about receiving than giving with our children. It's not that kids are so selfish, it's that marketing campaign target kids and bombard them with images of thousands of 'must-have' toys, gadgets and goodies. Who can blame kids for wanting all that cool stuff. To say, 'you're selfish' to a child is to state an obvious, but not necessarily negative fact of childhood. Telling them not to want things is pointless. But we can give them lots of positive, proactive opportunities to practice giving, sharing and caring.  Advent Math, Writing Project Craft

Free Printable Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas Cards to Color

We're fortunate in the US, to have diverse ethnic and religious groups. Each gives us unique holiday traditions and cultural observances to enjoy. That's particularly true around the winter holidays. Here are free printable Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah greeting cards. Print in black and white so kids can color them (double fun for one craft.). I suggest having kids find friends or neighbors who celebrate different holidays. Make cards for them. This makes a good social studies lesson. It expands students' world view. Read on
Free Printable Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas Color Your Own Greeting Cards

Free Printable Children's Books for Preschool

 Here in Michigan everyone is kvetching about how early it gets dark and how cold it is. We had the first below-freezing day. Our dune beach grass was coated with snow. Winter is upon us. Parents and teachers, looking for stuck-in-the-house activities for kids? How about free printable books to make?  Free Printable Books for Children

Free Printable Apple Unit

Apples are the perfect theme for fall lessons. Here's an interactive, cross-curricular apple unit with crafts, recipes, science, art, creative writing, math, social studies, practical life, field trips and community-builders. I've added free printable apple-themed lesson plans and worksheets for activity extenders. Preschool Apple Unit, Cross-Curricular Hands-on Crafts, Activities, Recipes 

Non-Scary Halloween Crafts, Cards, Games to Print

Hey all you homeschoolers, with Halloween approaching you might find kids a tad restless. Even if you don't celebrate. There's just something in the air! How about this? Print some Halloween crafts free and let kids practice cutting and math skills in hands-on ways? These printables are not scary and very cute. I'd call them vintage. Use preschool, elementary, even middle school or high school. Use for special needs to boost perceptual and scissors skills. Use for interactive math measurement. Read on.  Free Printable Halloween Crafts, Cards, Games, Toys

Why I Am Dressing Up in Spooky Costume this Halloween

For the first time in a long time, I'll be dressing up in a scary costume for Halloween. I'm doing our local history "Haunted Museum" day for which I'll need a vintage-spooky costume. I wouldn't normally participate in a haunted event. I'm not convinced frightening children is healthy. And I'm not sure it fits with Christian Catholic teaching.

My costume will be historical--Boadicea, Warrior Queen of the Iceni. So it has historical merit. I'm also down-playing the gruesome. Just a simple belly wound or noose to indicate that she killed herself. I will arm myself with information about my character so I can explain that she's not just a ghoul but a martyr.

As Catholic homeschoolers, we always did All Saints Day parties and costumes instead of Halloween. My kids never wanted to be anything really creepy. But I was thinking, that if your kids did want to do a scary costume, you could compromise and let them do martyr, saint or Bible character who was killed. Church history is full of those. You could help them emphasize the story behind the macabre. I always had kids research the person they were dressing as. They'd write bios and present character sketches. This is educational and helps them connect and empathize. Maybe this sounds like a cop-out. But I think it's a good way to teach kids, help them explore their theatrical creativity and get inside the lives of these people we read about. Picture is public domain-- Boadicea.  Why I Am Dressing Up in Spooky Costume this Halloween

Engage Kids in Home Maintenance and Build Self-Reliance Skills

We're minimalist parents and homeschooled our four children in a small mobile then an old fixer-upper house. We also try to live like the American transcendentalists of the 1800s--DIY and self-reliant. Home maintenance and repair was integral to our homeschooling. Often schools teach impractical disciplines, like algebra, that students will never use. They don't teach applications and real-world connections. Kids promptly forget material that has no bearing in their lives. I taught practical skills interactively. Now our kids are self-reliant, productive and sensible. They budget, save and care for themselves. Here are ways to teach these skills to kids. Involve Kids in Home Maintenance, Repairs--Teach Self-Reliance

Healthy Apple Themed Treats Kids Can Make

 Preschool lessons tend to follow weekly themes. So I thought, why not write a week of recipes for school snacks that kids can help make? Make lessons hands on getting kids in the kitchen and cooking! Last month's theme was Back to School snacks. Now for late September, this week's theme is autumn apple harvest. Here are fall-inspired kids snacks, easy, cheap, fresh and lunchbox-friendly. Being from the apple capitol--Michigan--I'm kind of an apple connoisseur. My favorites for cooking, baking and eating are Macintosh, Jonathon, Granny Smith, Jonamac, Paula Red and Ida Red. Weekly Menu, Healthy Apple Themed Kids Treats for September. Oh and for more great apple math and science activities, here's my article on that! Appletastic fun.

How to Rescue Toddler Messes and Make Something Awesome!

In 2000, I was homeschooling our elder three, baby was 2 and I was pregnant with number 5. Life veered toward crazy on a daily basis. It was during one of these hectic homeschool mornings, somewhere between Latin, algebra and a tectonic plates experiment, that the toddler decided to bake a cake.

And being made by a toddler, it wasn't destined to be anything but an epic oopsie. No I don't mean THAT kind of oops. Gross. And just how did a toddler access the baking supplies cupboard? Clearly, whoever asks has never encountered a kid. Children have reflexes of a mongoose and speed of Ninjas. Here's a little vignette on how we repurposed that cake fail, keeping toddler's feelings intact, and won accolades at the church potluck. (Toddler is the charming young lady on the right, now a teen). How to Rescue a Toddler Oopsie Cake

Start the School Year With Volunteer Service Project

 Back to School sales are a great time to stock up on stocking stuffers for Christmas cheap gifts for holiday toy donations. If you're homeschooling, involve kids in holiday donations. Make it a family volunteer service project. Looking for a good children's charity to give to this holiday season? Try Operation Christmas Child from Samaritans Purse. The website gives you loads of educational support and printable activities. Great for social studies. Help kids explore the world and build empathy with other cultures. Best Childrens Charities for Holiday Toy Drives Operation Christmas Child

Labor Day Back-to-School Party for Kids

 Labor Day--the last great summer hurrah. It's a time of summer endings and fall beginnings. Why not end summer and start the school year off on a fun note with a back-to-school party on Labor Day or after? Here's an easy and cheap kids' party plan for students in preschool to middle elementary.

* Choose a positive theme. This gets kids excited about school. Make it a shoe theme with the slogan "We're putting our best foot forward." Or do a football theme--"Kicking off a great year." Or a book theme--"Reading to Infinity and Beyond!" Get some volunteer credit in hosting a school supplies drive for those in need. Read on... Throw a back-to-school bash for your kids

How a Mom of Four Saves 80 Percent on Back to School Shopping

Labor Day means children return to school. It also means back to school shopping. If you haven't finished shopping, don't worry. I've raised four children; here are do's and don'ts to save 80 percent on school supplies and clothing. Don't fall for all the back to school marketing ploys. Stores loves that BTS selling mojo. And truthfully, parents love back to school sales as much as merchandisers do. What's not love about $.15 crayons? So take advantage of sales like that. but wait to find out what your child's teacher actually requires before making bigger purchases. Take it from a teacher, many store school supply lists trick you into buying things you don't need.  How a Mom of Four Saves 80 Percent on Back to School Shopping

Homemade, Recycle Bin Shoe Box Dioramas, Miniatures, Props

 It's 8 pm and darling daughter is wailing. She forgot to make her school diorama project due TOMORROW! Been there done that. I was annoyed but as an eleventh hour girl myself, I couldn't complain too much. So I bailed her out. The whole family helped. We made an awesome woodland Native American diorama with stuff around the house. From that experience grew this guide to making homemade shoe box dioramas for any content area. All you need is a recycle bin, craft scraps, household junk and a little ingenuity. Alas I neglected to take a picture of that awesome Indian diorama. But it's easy to recreate along with other ones with different science or social studies themes. Homemade, Recycle Bin Shoe Box Dioramas, Miniatures, Props

Writing Prompts --Family Type 1, Type 2 Writing, Poems, Expository

Every day, I'm doing an A to Z challenge on writer inspiration. I've been freelancing online and blogging for eight years. I've been writing since I learned to use that big yellow school pencil in preschool. Why am I putting writing tips in the business category? Because writing has become my home business. I make sustainable income doing it. I've written for countless sites.

Today's writer inspiration is F for family. I've been married for 26 years (same guy). We have four kids and lost two babies. We're big on family. So I write about my own, but in a broader sense, parenting. Students can use family issues as writing prompts too. Family is a good springboard for lots of Type 1 and Type 2 writing, so long as private details are kept private.

In health, students might writing about family health history or illnesses they're genetically disposed to. They could journal about family struggles or concerns in psychology. They might even write about what mom and dad are doing right. Kids can compare and contrast family issues with current events. Maybe they've experienced a natural disaster, weather emergency or situation like the Lac-Megantic explosion?

Kids could write character bios based on family members. They could describe siblings in haiku, acrostic
or other poetry. Or they could retell a family incident in narrative. If someone has passed away, writing eulogies is healing. Family travels make excellent fodder for creative writing. Perhaps the family has a hobby that could be described in a demonstration speech or expository writing. Here's more on my writer tips at  A-Z Challenge Writer Inspiration F is for Family (click the link for all my ideas, A-Z!) (Picture is a little love note my husband wrote for me in newly-laid concrete.)

French Voyageur Ursuline Dame School

I'm a reenactor for our local museum. Every year we do the Feast of the Strawberry Moon. It's a 1760s French Voyageur encampment. It represents the early history of our city, Grand Haven Michigan, which was settled by French missionaries and fur traders. A friend and I teach a period dame school and old-fashioned games. We both homeschooled our kids and are very hands-on teachers. Our kids dress in costume and help. Some have been youth docents. Teacher Mama Reenacts French Voyageur Ursuline Dame School

Free Printable Vacation Bible School Activities

Summer brings all sorts of favorite family traditions and activities. One very popular summer activity is VBS, or Vacation Bible School. Almost every local church sponsors a week-long Vacation Bible School. And don't let the term 'school' intimidate you. Most VBS programs are fun-filled, interactive and kid-friendly. Students spend a week making crafts, playing games, learning about religious concepts and making friends. Teaching VBS is a great tween or teen service project. Churches typically charge little or nothing for their VBS programs. And if there is a charge, it doesn't even begin to cover the cost of supplies and materials. Using free printable VBS materials from internet websites is an excellent way to defray costs. I've found links with free printable Bible crafts, activities, games, lessons and even complete VBS themes. If you have volunteered or been elected to organize or teach at your church's Vacation Bible School you'll want these internet website links to help you in your preparation.  Free Printable Vacation Bible School Activities

Teaching Math with Pizza: Numbers, Operations, Fractions, Ratios, Proportions

 In special education, we make content approachable by teaching hands-on, multisensory (using smell, touch, taste) lessons. This is important for LD (learning disabled), ADHD (attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder) and CI (cognitively impaired) students. From 25 years teaching, I say it's essential for all students. Activities with food are ideal. Here are math lessons using pizza, for kids in preschool to middle school. Expand some concepts with paper and pencil, but use some real food. Kids sometimes misbehave because they're hungry. Teaching with food meets two objectives: making content easier to visualize and improves receptivity to learning.Teaching Math with Pizza: Numbers, Operations, Fractions, Ratios, Proportions

Homeschool Service Projects, Printable Memorial Day Greeting Cards for Seniors

Memorial Day and 4th of July conjure up images of flags, parades, flowers, soldiers, banners and all that is most beautiful in America. You may not think of Memorial Day as a holiday for sending greeting cards, especially with the high cost of cards and postage. But Remembrance Day (another name for Memorial Day) is a particularly special day for soldiers and the elderly. Senior citizens love patriotic holidays like the 4th of July and Decoration Day (yet another Memorial Day name). They remember with nostalgia the soldiers coming home from overseas, the parades, those loved and lost. Seniors also really enjoy receiving greeting cards. National holidays are bittersweet for relatives of fallen soldiers and for those who served in the armed forces.

Here's a homeschool service project. Send a greeting card to a soldier, sailor, veteran or senior citizen for Memorial Day. If you're teaching, leading a scout troop or homeschooling this a great community give-back. Here are websites with free printable greeting cards. All pay sites, sites which require permanent downloads have been cleared off this search list, providing you will safe easy free printing.  Free Printable 4th of July or Memorial Day Greeting Cards

My Most Epic Parenting Fails Mothering Young Girls

We mom-bloggers happily share our parenting successes; the failures, not so much. Positivity is good, but readers don't want to hear only triumphs. Acknowledging failure keeps it real and balanced. As much (maybe more) is learned from mistakes. As mom to two boys and two girls, I've fouled up generally, but here are my epic fails specifically parenting young daughters.My Most Epic Parenting Fails Mothering Young Girls

Free Cinco De Mayo Printable Lesson Plans and Coloring Pages

Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican may sound like the equivalent of our Fourth of July; But the Fifth of May is the day Mexicans remember the Battle or Puebla, not the Mexican Independence Day.
Cinco de Mayo is a great way to explore the culture, holidays, dress, customs, food, music and traditions of our American cousins to the south.
Here are lots of websites for you to explore with free printable lesson plans, games, activities, puzzles, sentence completion, games and projects. You'll find links for social studies, geography, science, culture, reading, art, literature and some math also. These sites do not add any unwanted spyware or adware to your computer. They do not ask for personal information or require the download of any software or toolbar.  Free Cinco De Mayo Printable Lesson Plans and Coloring Pages

Free Printable Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Lessons, Games

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" came out when I graduated in 1982. It's a wonderfully whimsical childrens' story from the husband and wife duo of Judi and Ron Barrett. In my education classes in college, I used this book in creating lesson plans. It's a a modern tall tale, set in mythical ChewandSwallow, where the weather brings food instead of precipitation. Pie, hotdogs, spaghetti and fried eggs rain down. It's a great thing, until the weather turns stormy. Sony Pictures made a feature-length movie from the book in 2009 and "Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs 2" comes out September, 2013. SNL favorites Bill Heder and Andy Samberg do voice-overs. Here are free printable lesson plans, worksheets, games, coloring pages and crafts from the movies and book. Read more. Visit for goodies from Cloudy/Meatballs 2!

Free Printable Reading Games, Literature Activities

Any time teachers can make a game out of learning activities, education becomes more enjoyable and interactive. Research shows that students retain information that they have actively participated with. Educational activities easily become too predictable and therefore can also become meaningless. Just the act of getting out of the desk and onto the floor breaks the monotony. Here are some free printable reading games for your homeschool and classroom. Use these free printables for preschool, day care, tutoring and lesson plans.Free Printable Reading Games and Activities

Yom HaShoah Printables, Jewish Holocaust Memorial Worksheets

The Hebrew 27th day of Nissan, in fact the entire week, is a sad time for the world. these dates correspond to April 6-13, 2013 on the Western calendar. They are "days of remembrance" that commemorate Yom HaShoah, Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day. During this time, we honor the millions who died in the World War II Nazi genocide. I'm not a Jew, but I am a human. And I feel deep pain and solidarity with Jews throughout the world.  If I could say anything to my friends, I would say "l'chaim"--to life. Because that's what we have to take away from this beyond-comprehension tragedy--that life is priceless. Jewish Holocaust Memorial Lesson Plans and Web Help

Easter Egg Religious Devotional Craft, Bible Object Lesson

For many of us, Lent is a journey on the 'Via Dolarosa', the way of sorrows which Our Lord took on His way to the cross. Easter, then is a celebration of the Passion, death, resurrection and triumph of Christ. For us, Easter is a New Birth. St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi and other saints used many symbols to help us understand mysteries of faith. The egg has long been a wonderful spiritual symbol of our Triune God. With the yolk hidden inside we think of the Holy Spirit; the white is between the yolk and the shell and that reminds us that Jesus went between God and Man; Lastly Our Heavenly Father Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent, like the shell which surrounds the egg.  Easter Egg Religious Devotional Craft -- A Spiritual Journey

Free Nobel Prize Worksheets, Printables--Physics, Health, Economics, Literature, Chemistry

Subbing in a high school economics classroom recently, I was left without lesson plans. Checking online, I discovered Nobel Foundation which has free printable lessons, games and activities in medicine, science, literature and humanitarian efforts. The Nobel Prize crosses every geographic, political, social and racial boundary in the world. Winners of the prize called 'Laureates', hail from all over the globe. Past winners include Pablo Neruda, Pearl Buck, Desmond Tutu, Marconi, Enrico Fermi, William Golding, John Steinbeck, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elie Weisel, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and many others. Free Physics, Health, Economics, Literature, Chemistry Lesson from Nobel Prize

Free Printable Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Activities

 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a wonderfully whimsical childrens' story from the husband and wife duo of Judi and Ron Barrett, 1982. I remember discovering it and sharing it with my students in 1986. They "ate it up!" (pardon the pun!). Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a modern tall tale; in the town of ChewandSwallow, the weather brings all the food that residents need. Instead of rain and snow, pie, hotdogs, spaghetti and fried eggs rain down. It's a great thing, until the weather turns stormy. The school is covered with a giant pancake, homes are ruined by oversized pickles and businesses closed due to snowdrifts of cream cheese and jelly sandwiches.

Happily, cartoonists and filmmakers have elected to create a feature length cartoon based on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The story has been added and developed to fill a movie. I'm pleased to note that Ron Barrett's original illustrations have been faithfully used in the cartoon. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs offers the perfect tall tale for reading and enjoyment in the classroom. Free Printable Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Activities

Free Printable Catholic Lenten Calendars for Homeschool Families

Our Lenten journey in the Catholic church begins on Ash Wednesday and follows Jesus Christ for forty days of suffering in the desert, up to Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. Here are free printable Lenten calendars to help your experience of Lent. As a homeschool family, we spent the lent season delving into our Catholic faith, the Bible and our relationship with Jesus and the Holy Trinity. Here's how. Free Printable Lenten Calendars for Catholic Families and Homeschoolers 

Free Presidents Day Lessons to Print

Presidents Day is celebrated the third Monday in February. It commemorates the lives to two great American Commanders-in-Chief (one of the President of the United State's many titles): George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The day coincides with Lincoln's birthday on Feb.12 and Washington's birthday on Feb. 22. Teaching a unit U.S. presidents or looking for Presidents Day activities? Here are free printable worksheets, lesson plans, crafts, games and coloring pages.  Free Printable Presidents Day Worksheets, Activities

Mazel Tov! Activities to Celebrate Queen Esther and Purim

Mazel Tov! February 23-24, 2012 (14 Adar in the Hebrew calendar) celebrates Purim in the Jewish faith. Hebrews celebrate Queen Esther and Mordechai's courage defending their people from decimation in Persia by King Ahasuerus and Haman. Here are resources for Jews and gentiles to explore Purim and embrace the holiday more deeply.  Free Jewish Purim Activities to Celebrate Queen Esther

Free Printable Dinosaurs Alive Lesson Plans, Coloring Pages

Dinosaurs Alive is an exciting interactive exhibit on paleontology at the Detroit Children's Museum (now the Michigan Science Center). Here are free printable lesson plans for teachers, homeschool families and kids from Dinosaurs Alive. Dinosaur science is a common preschool and elementary school theme. Young kids will love this free printable dinosaur coloring book.  Printable Dinosaur Lesson Plans

Activities for Bored, Winterbound Kids: Throw a Book Party

If your weather is anything like mine this winter, there's a lot of cold, but little snow. For kids, winter's no fun without the snow-just chill and wet. When it's too cold to play outside and too boring to play inside, most kids' attention turns to mischief. Why not head off your little troublemakers off at the pass with a cheap (mostly free) afternoon of fun, compliments of your bookshelf?  Easy, Cheap Kids' Book Party 

Fun Bedside Games, Activities for Sick Kids

Wouldn't you know it--a holiday or vacation is finally here and your child gets ill. Holidays and vacations can be miserable for sick kids (and parents who must care for them). No parties, curtailed activities, more work, extra worries. If you're trying to homeschool with a sick child (or three) that's a challenge, too. Here are at-home family holiday activities that sick kids can enjoy, too. Tweak these activities for non-holiday "ordinary time" too. How to Homeschool with a Sick Child

Designing, Teaching Lesson Plans that Motivate Students

As an education major in college, we were drilled in lesson design. As a classroom teacher, home-schooler, play director, coach, and group leader, I've designed and taught many lesson plans. As a substitute teacher, I've followed other educators plans. From these experiences, I developed my own format of lesson plan, based upon my education and experience. Read more

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