“Shhhh. They Don’t Know They’re Learning” DVD List…for home or travel!

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I know a lot of parents try to tough out traveling without using technology, but sometimes you just need to switch on the DVD player for sanity’s sake. Having logged over 130 hours on road trips or plane rides with one or both of my kids since 2014, I know a little bit about traveling with kids. (plus we have another 30 hours+ worth of traveling planned for later this year), and sometimes turning on a DVD is just the best option for everyone. It tends to reset the atmosphere, gives some peace and quiet, and helps the time pass more quickly. Even though Tater gets carsick while reading or coloring in the car, she does fine watching shows, so I make sure to stock up on quality shows.

But, not all DVDs are created equal. I try to make sure that the DVDs we have in the car for traveling are educational, but also fun and enjoyable. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning! Here are my top picks for Educational DVDs to pick up for your next trip (or even just to have around the house!)

(My kids do have plenty of non-screen time during our travels as well…check out some of my DIY travel games for road trips, and my simple DIY Travel Lego Tray!)

Toddler and Preschoolers

  • Leapfrog Letter Factory
    • This is such a great show for kids who are learning their ABCs. Both of my kids were able to learn and practice their letter sounds. Junior still asks to watch it on occasion, because it’s entertaining, even though he already knows the letters.
  • Leapfrog Math Circus
    • This is another wonderful Leapfrog DVD, that teaching counting by 10s.
  • Leapfrog Math Adventure to the Moon
    • In this DVD (can you tell I love Leapfrog shows for little kids??), children are introduced to skip counting, which is a major foundation for multiplication.
  • Meet the _____ series
    • Meet the Letters, Colors, Numbers, and Shapes are four of my top DVDs for little kids. Much like the Leapfrog series, they introduce kids to learning in a fun, engaging, and sing-songy way.

Young Grade School (K-4th)

  • Wild Kratts
    • This popular PBS show teaches kids about all about animals. The fast-paced cartoon action is enough to keep all the kids entertained.
  • Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
    • I grew up playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on the computer, and enjoyed watching the cartoon version. Both kids love these DVDs, and will watch each episode over and over. Tater spouts off trivia about geography, history, natural wonders, and science. It’s adventure mixed with information that keeps my kids enthralled.
  • Liberty’s Kids
    • This is a cartoon take on Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. It’s fast paced, exciting, and includes all the episodes that teach about the American Revolution and incudes the lives of such historical figures as Benjamin Franklin (the main character voiced by the legendary Walter Cronkite), Paul Revere, and George Washington.
  • Popular Mechanics for Kids
    • This is a fun series for hands-on science learning. Tater didn’t like some of the “gross” episodes about reptiles and bugs, but she loved the rest of them.
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
    • Do you know how adorable it is to hear your 3 year old singing Conjunction Junction?! Too adorable. This DVD includes all 46 of the Schoolhouse Rock! songs on one disc. My kids love rocking out to this DVD. In fact, it’s in our car’s DVD player as we speak.
  • The Magic School Bus
    • With the exception of a few “millions and millions of years” dinosaur episodes, this entire series is really great. I used to watch it when I was young, and learned so much about science. My kids have the entire series on DVD and really enjoy it.

Do you have a favorite educational show? Let me know in the comments!

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Homeschooling a Child With Sensory Issues

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Tater is in 2nd grade now, and while some of her sensory issues are improving, she can still have a hard time focusing, which means I need to get creative in our homeschool so she can reach her full potential. Homeschooling is an ideal environment for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder because you can teach exactly how they learn best, and tailor the curriculum to their learning style. There’s no “falling through the cracks” in the homeschool setting because of the one-on-one attention they get.

Since Junior’s sensory issues are worse than Tater’s because of his hearing loss, I know I’ll need to adapt even more once he starts doing school, but here are some tips that have helped me keep my sanity and Tater keep from getting (too) frustrated.

1. Create a Peaceful Space
Kids with sensory issues either get overstimulated and out of control or completely shut down if there is too much stimulation. It could be in the form of visual, auditory, or tactile stimulation. Between the constant sounds of Junior being a loud 3 year old, the dishwasher and washing machine running, and the visual distractions of cars driving by, birds flying by, and neighbors out walking, Tater sometimes struggles to focus. Hearing protection Headphones (we have a pair like these) have been great when she just needs some quiet in the midst of everyday noises. Too much visual stimulation can be a problem too. I make sure all the cabinet doors in the school room are closed and that she’s facing away from the window, so a car or bird flying by doesn’t distract her.

2. Make Movement Part of the Lesson Plan
Movement is important for helping sensory kids become stable and grounded because they need that Vestibular or Proprioceptive input. I try to add in movement into our lesson plans as much as possible. Sometimes we do Math Obstacle Courses…I’ll create an obstacle course in the backyard, and she will have to answer a math problem at each obstacle. I also do scavenger hunts…I write out her math problems and place one inside of a plastic Easter egg, then hide them around the yard. She runs around finding the eggs and does the problems.

When we’re studying music (lately we’ve been studying Tchaikovsky), I allow her to dance to the music. For history, sometimes she will act out a scene from our history book, or she will just take a break every 20-30 minutes to go do some laps or jump on the exercise trampoline.

3. Let Them Focus on Something Else
I used to make Tater give me her full attention whenever I would read aloud. I didn’t think she was paying attention if her eyes were not focused on me. Well, after some challenges with recalling what I read, someone mentioned that if her hands were otherwise occupied, she might be able to focus better. Wow, what a difference that made! She needed the Tactile input so she could focus auditorily. She plays with LEGOs, draws, plays with Kinetic Sand or Play-Doh while I’m reading aloud to  her, and she is able to repeat what I said verbatim. (I always ask some comprehension questions while I’m reading.)

4. It’s Okay to Take a Break
Sensory kids can easily get burned out and shut down. When we’ve hit a wall and she starts to shut down, we just stop what we’re doing and take a quiet time break. Sometimes 15 minutes of going to a quiet place to read or do a puzzle is all it takes to calm her down and allow her to focus enough to get back on task.

5. Create Hands On Learning Opportunities
For all kids, but especially kids with sensory issues, utilizing all their senses is one of the keys to their academic success. Some of the things we regularly do in our lesson plans to encourage sensory input are:

-Creating Lego models of what we’ve learned
-Doing a science experiment instead of just reading about science
-Acting out a chapter from a book, including dressing up as the character(s)
-Aforementioned “Movement” activities
-Field Trips to local museums, hands-on Children’s Museums, state parks and National Parks
-Cooking or baking a recipe from whatever area we’re studying in Geography

Remember, homeschooling doesn’t have to look like regular school. As long as your child is learning the concepts they need to, you can present them in whatever way they will learn best. And sometimes that means doing math problems upside down while working on a LEGO masterpiece :)

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Top 10 Posts of 2015

It’s somehow 2016, and I know I say this every January, but how on earth is last year already over?

Our family had a pretty good year altogether–if you don’t count a rocky December, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Our year consisted of several road trips, lots of school, and some pretty exciting milestones from Junior.

Here are my Top 10 Posts of 2015…which post was your favorite?

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5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.
Niagara Falls and Upstate NY with Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3,

30 Minute Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.
10 Reasons Having a Child with Cochlear Implants is Awesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
1. Sharing Secrets…A Look Back at Diagnosis Day

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7 Christmas Traditions Your Kids Will Always Remember

Christmas Traditions

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Christmas is that time of year when life just seems to slow down and speed up all at once. It slows down because you’re taking in all the sights and sounds and smells, all the while speeding up because it seems to go from Thanksgiving to Christmas in like three days.

My parents always made Christmas special for us…not because they spent a lot of money on us, but because they spent a lot of time on us, making memories, and starting traditions that I have passed down to my own family. Here are the 7 things I look forward to most about the Christmas season with my family.

1. Christmas Light Nights
A simple internet search will likely yield a nice list of the best Christmas light displays in your area. We have 4 or 5 specific places we go every year, and it’s just fun to see how people go all out for the season. There is one home near us that has over 100,000 lights, and another home that boasts life sized gingerbread houses and a “real” Santa who gives out a little toy to each child that visits. We don’t usually tell our kids the evenings we’re going…I make a simple dinner to enjoy in the car and off we go once my husband gets home from work! The kids get excited to guess when and where we will be going.

2. Packing Operation Christmas Child Boxes
Tater (7) especially loves finding little treasures for other children as we pack our Operation Christmas Child boxes. We always choose the “Track Your Box” option so we can see where our box goes, and pray for the child that received it. Tater knows that Christmas is about giving, and packing the shoeboxes is a tangible reminder of that.
(See my post on shopping for an Operation Christmas Child Box on a Budget)

3. Decorating Our Tree
Every year, I buy one ornament for each of our children that has a meaning for the previous year. Sometimes it’s an ornament of a child’s favorite character, a new milestone, a new sport, or a token from a family vacation. Every year that we decorate the tree, we look back on each ornament as a special and treasured memory.

4. Decorating Sugar Cookies
This is probably the most anticipated of all our family traditions. We have a set of trusty Christmas Cookie Cutters that we have used for the last 10 years (they’re older than our kids), and buy every color sprinkle imaginable, along with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and shredded coconut. We cut out the dough, decorate the cookies, then bake them. We don’t use frosting, but if we did, we would bake the plain shaped cookies first, then decorate them. Lots and lots of laughter on Sugar Cookie Decorating night.

5. Christmas Movie Nights
We always have to watch Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and after the kids go to bed, A Christmas Story. We whip up some popcorn, maybe grab some leftover sugar cookies and hot cocoa, then sit in front of the warm fire and enjoy the show together.

6. One Christmas Eve Gift
This tradition goes back several generations in my family. After church on Christmas Eve, we come home and the kids open one gift. It’s always a pair of Christmas pajamas to wear that night (I prewash before I wrap them), and a new book about the birth of Jesus. We read our books after the kids are snuggled into their new jammies, then it’s lights out!

7. Christmas Communion
This is a special tradition from my husband’s family that my he carried on after we got married. On Christmas morning, after a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and tangerines from our tree, but before we open stockings and gifts, my husband leads us in Communion with some bread and grape juice to help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and to thank the Lord for our blessings. The best of which cannot be found under a tree.

This Christmas is going to be a little different because of family health issues, but it’s still such a wonderful time of year that I cherish. My husband gets some time off work so we can spend a lot of family time together, and we make wonderful memories each and every year. I love that our kids want our time more than anything, and these traditions help us make the most of that time.

What are your favorite family Christmas Traditions?

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Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt

Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt for Kids...Make Learning FunHi, I’m Sara, and I have a book problem. Phew. There, I said it.

Being a homeschooler, I have noticed a teensy-tiny tendency to buy hoards of books, and justify them as “for school”. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we now have a bunch of really neat and fun educational books. But, it didn’t really matter because Tater wasn’t really reading them. I mean, if you’re 7 years old, why are you going to pull out huge copies of A History of the World or 1000 Animals of the Ocean when you could read Berenstain Bears? So, I was pondering how to get Tater to really delve into these encyclopedias we have, without it feeling like a chore.

A scavenger hunt!

It hit me all of a sudden…Tater loooooovvvvesss games and puzzles, so one evening after dinner, I pulled out a copy of our Ocean encyclopedia and gave her a list of things to find. Some were easy, like a fish or a dolphin. Some were subjective like “something adorable” or “a funny looking creature”. It took her about 10 minutes to finish the hunt, but then she spent a while looking through the volume and pointing out interesting facts and trivia. She read the encyclopedia until it was time to get ready for bed (that’s an impressive feat since most of her free time has been going to Minecraft lately!) She even asked me to create another hunt for the following day.

The next day I pulled out an illustrated atlas of the US, and had her find things like “a city that begins with ‘M'”, “a state bird”, and “a lake in a southern state.” Again, she asked for more. I’m going to start doing one of these a week with her, since she truly enjoys it and is learning in the process.

Tips for creating an Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt

-Have a Variety of Difficulty
     -Kids will lose interest if it’s either too challenging or too easy. You want to vary it up a bit. You could do something really specific, followed by a super easy task.

-Make Some Subjective
-In our Natural History hunt below (which is basically a big book categorizing all living plants and animals), I made sure to have a couple of subjective tasks on there, including “an animal you would want for a pet”. Kids will read more in depth if they feel they should form an opinion about it.

-Don’t Overdo It
-As fun as these are for Tater, I need to create them for her just a little less than she wants to do them. That way, it’s a treat and a novelty instead of a commonplace activity.

-Explore New Genres
     -If you don’t have a  book problem like me, you can borrow some books at the library to do these hunts with. Use different subjects, such as Encyclopedias of History (either broad or specific time frames), Bible, World Cultures, US Geography, Zoology, Marine Biology, and Botany.

Now that I’ve found a use for all these books, I think it’s time to start looking into a bigger bookshelf!

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