Back In The Saddle Again

All the wonderful summer plans I blogged about in the beginning of the summer - forget them! They were wonderful, well-laid, well-thought out plans that DID NOT happen.

As I said before, the time has flown this summer so far. June went by like the blink of an eye, and now here we are in the middle of July, the middle of the year, and nothing seems to be slowing down. Except, that is, us. Well, at least a little bit. I didn't realize until we were taking our loooong break that I really needed it. Needed the time to think less about school for a little while and just have fun for a little while. In fact, I haven't even (insert *gasp*) been reading my regular blogs as often. For the last few weeks, I have really been wanting to get back in to the swing of thing 100%, but every time I started to work on something, I could just tell I wasn't ready and the kids weren't either. But last weekend I was getting the itch back to prepare some fun things, and two or three of my children were asking to 'do school' again, so I just knew it was time. But it was already Saturday by the time this sweet revelation hit, so I knew my time to prepare was very short. 

Thus - a mini-ocean unit was in order!

I called it an ocean unit, but it was more of a sea/ocean/ marine life unit. It was a mini-unit because I didn't go in depth with it - AT ALL. I knew I didn't have much time to get things together, and I think it was better this way, because it gave us a gently start back into a school mode. I didn't push anything - they were allowed to do however as much as they wanted, but there was no specific time that we had alloted to do work - in fact, I didn't actually get everything set out until Monday afternoon and I don't think they did much the day of! 

How about some pictures? 

This is always a favorite with my children. It's the same sensory find-it bin that I have used many times, like in our President's Day unit  , I just put different things in it. I have used this several times now, and it never fails to be a hit. This time I put some small sea turtles, seahorse, and fish that are from Target (dollar finds - they are intentioned to be fun ice cubes).     

Sometimes they would just find the hidden objects, but more often than not they wanted to play a game with them, whether it was with myself or one of the other children. The hunter would hide his/her eyes while the hider would hide them, sometimes all of them, sometimes just one set (I kept two of each sea creature in the bin) and then the hunter would find them. If only one set was hidden, the hider would tell the hunter which one to look for. I liked that one, because it meant the hunter had to remember specifically which one they needed, and keep that in their mind, even when a different one was found. 

I put one of our Melissa and Doug See-and-Spell puzzles  on a tray, with the correct letters to complete it. It was so simple, but I thought it would create some interest in the younger two, and I was right. In fact, Bug started showing some mastering of the fact that you must go from left to right, instead of just putting the correct pieces together in a random order. The tray and bowl were both purchased at the Dollar Tree - I LOVE their clear trays/bowls, that you can find in the wedding aisle, because I think they bring more attention to the work and less to the tray. 

Miss Priss LOVED the count and clip cards that I set out for our last big theme (we used some in our weather unit) so I definitely wanted to bring them back this time, and true to form, she loved them still! When I asked her what her favorite works were, they were at the top of the list.

Buddy Boy crawled up next to her one day, watching her, and decided to figure out how the clothespins were stuck on the tray and started opening and closing each one, after holding them up for me to see. I had to move him and remind him not to interrupt her, but it was neat to see him figure them out so quickly, because he hasn't had much experience with them up until now, or interest in trying to use them.

I made a couple easy discovery works - one was a discover jar. Confession: I have a slight panic attack when dealing with sensory bins, etc. I see how easy it is for them to make a mess, even though it's usually not intentional, and so I quickly shy away from them. So a sand tray with shells wasn't high on my list, for this first week back, but we had some shells and rocks that were brought to us from some friends after their vacation in California, and I wanted to put them to use. So I took a cleaned out peanut butter container (yes, it's plastic and glass might be prettier, but this way we could take it with us if we wanted for Buddy Boy to look at if we are going to be somewhere waiting for an indefinite amount of time, like the Dr's office etc, and I don't have to worry about it getting broken), and I put the shells, rocks, and some white rice to make it free flowing and be a good substitute for the best kind of sand - WHITE sand - which I am partial to after spending the first five of my married years in FL and white beaches. Then I just hot-glued the lid on and put it on the shelf.     

I also made another really easy to put together, simple basket. This didn't get a great deal of attention, but it was more of a one-visit type of work, and I knew that when I put it out. Still, I thought it was just a little too good to not put out. It only consisted of a couple pictures of ocean life that were taken years ago, when we lived in FL and were very close to the beach. There were two different types of starfish, which I am going to try to get a little bit more in depth about as far as the differences, and the next was some type of jelly fish (I think) that wasn't dangerous. I have plans to look up what they are on the internet nad try to add a little to this basket. I also stuck in a couple letter/picture puzzle parts from our ABC puzzles - the whale and the fish. 

Another really big hit was the roll and graph work that I set out. They also had a work like this set out during out weather unit, and I knew already they would love it. It can easily be a work for only one person, but it became more of a two person (or, at one point, a three person) game for them. Most often, they would each choose one of the types of sea creatures, and whoever got to ten first won. It's fairly safe to say that a healthy amount of competitiveness is lurking around every corner in my house!  
I am pretty sure that this is where I found the printable roll and graph, at Homeschool Creations by Jolanthe.  It is also where I found a couple more things that are shown a little farther down in this post. I believe it is also where I found the count and clip cards! :) There are two different ocean packs, if I recall, so be sure to check them both out! 

Another 'discovery' work - various types of sea creatures/life represented here - some are pieces from a $1 find at Target, a crab from Montessori services, and some various puzzle piece (fish) and sea shells/starfish that I actually took off of what used to be a nice little welcome sign that hung on my front door a couple years ago. I find some of the most useful stuff in unexpected places sometimes!

This was Buddy Boy's favorite - a small, squishy sea turtle. He flipped it on it's 'back' once, and I said to him "Oh, don't do that - he'll die on his back when he's not in the water". Which prompted him to repeatedly flip it over, and then save it and turn it back over again.

The turtle pattern from our Melissa and Doug magnetic pattern blocks.

This was a slight stretch of the imagination for a fine motor skills work that Buddy Boy really likes. I wanted to use these during the 4th of July and ended up doing absolutely NOTHING as far as 4th of July works, so I decided we would 'water the starfish' instead, using blue poms for 'water' and a scoop (which wasn't on the tray when I took this picture, for some reason???) The blue poms were from Walmart, and the ice cube tray was purchased at the Dollar Tree. The tray it sat on, I believe, was probably from the Dollar Tree as well, but it was given to me, so I can't be sure. 

Three-part cards of the different types of sea turtles, which have beautiful pictures! I had no idea myself how many different types there were! 

A dot-marker print out, turned fine motor skills work. I used some *almost* clear gems from the Dollar Tree for this one - I think it's pretty obvious what the point of this work was. I might add some tongs to it this next week to bring a little extra, needed, appeal to it. 

Size sequencing with whales :)

I also made them each a couple worksheet style activities, although they weren't the type of worksheet one might assume at first. Using free printables, I made the four older children some fun ones, using dot-to-dots, some letter/number tracing (for Miss Priss and Bug only), and some word searches (for Little Mama and Hoss) - these are on the middle shelf . I also made some small, printable books from DLTK  for each child, showing different sea animals, which I placed on the bottom shelf.  This is where I got many of the printables for the worksheet packs that I put together. I used some of the printables for D is for Dolphin, J is for Jellyfish, O is for Octopus, and X is for X-ray Fish.

I put them on a shelf, with our new crayon sorters and pencil jar to top off the setting. I haven't actually finished the crayon sorters yet, but I knew if I kept waiting I would be wasting time. The tutorial I found show to paint them, but I think I am going to keep it a little more simple and just make a colored ring of cardstock around the corresponding color of crayon in the can, so that the silver of the fruit cans will be covered - and all the label paper that wouldn't come off - and that way if I ever feel inspired to go back and paint them, or switch things up, I just have to cut off the paper. 

Another thing I put in this area, on the first shelf, were printables on how to draw a fish, how to draw a shark, and how to draw a dolphin. They were on their own tray, with a tray beside it that help some blank scrap paper for them to draw on. This was geared more towards Little Mama and Hoss, and they both have enjoyed them very much. Below is one of Hoss' drawings, a shark, which he colored to resemble a great white shark :)  The links to the different How-To pages are below this picture! 

On our other shelf, I don't have much on it, except their library bags and binders for their book reports, which I will try to talk about in the next post. I made sure to grab a few ocean/sea life books when we picked out books last week at one of our many trips that we have made this summer!

The kid have been working their way through two reading programs this summer, and although I will talk more about that in the next post, I just had to share this picture that I snuck around to take one morning. Before they were supposed to get up, Hoss had taken a few library books to bed to read while everyone else was still asleep. The next thing I know, I go to check on a noise I hear and Buddy Boy climbed up to the top bunk (slight bit of panic steps in for a minute, as it always does when I catch him climb up there), but I didn't have the heart to get on to him because he crawled right next to his Bubba, and Hoss sat there reading to him until the others wake up. I love moments like this, and they do happen more often than some might think, and each one is so precious to me! 

Although this post may have seemed like we were doing a great deal of work, really it's not much. There is no authentic Montessori materials learning going on here right now. In fact, almost all the works that I created were geared toward the younger three for the most part. Because the older two are independent readers and therefore responsible for keeping up with their reading and logging all their books themselves, and doing their own book reports, they have quite a bit to keep them busy. Add to that the fact that it is summer time, and I didn't want to make my expectations so high that we either didn't meet the goals, or didn't have time for extra-curricular, fun things, and we still have plenty to do to keep us busy! The shelf work is there for their down time, which still gets used primarily in the mornings by their choice, but there have been a few nights where Bug has wanted to pull things out right at bedtime - which is probably more than just a drive for educational opportunity! :) 

I do hope everyone is enjoying their summer and not so busy that they don't get to take this time to really cherish what we have - children that won't be children forever!!! 


  1. I love your shelves and crayon set up. I'm a fan of the Kavanaugh report too.

    Regarding not going very in depth: - sometimes the simpler you make a unit, the more a child can get from it :)

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I really was almost afraid that maybe I should have put a little bit more into this unit, but you are right - the concept of less is more is so often very true! Thanks for stopping by! BTW - loved your Montessori preschool post!

  2. I am completely in love with your ideas to encourage learning. You totally put me to shame but I am determined to borrow some of your ideas. I followed the link you left on my FB page and am thrilled at this new awesome resource. Thank you!

    1. Oh my - are you sure you looked at the same blog post I wrote? hahaha I really don't think I could possibly put anyone to shame, but I am so glad you enjoyed reading and I, too, love following you! Thanks for stopping by!


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