Tag Archives: preschool

J is for J’s Jewel Box

J - jewel box

No, it is not a box for real jewels or gems. It is a box full of fun, educational activities that J can do by herself. It is full of things that encourage her to use her imagination and play. It is full of toys and books and dolls and games and letters and numbers and whatever else I decide to throw in there for the week (or the month or for however long I leave them in this time).

As we began our homeschool adventure last summer/fall, I was looking for a way to encourage J to entertain herself that would be a challenging, educational “something” for her to do. Some people call these sorts of things “All By Myself” boxes. Or maybe “busy bags.” This is somewhat along the same line but I didn’t want these things to be completely dictated to her about how to use them. So, maybe they are more along the lines of what some folks call “invitations” for play or exploration.

Here, J is playing with dry pinto beans and a tractor. She created a whole story about what she was doing and why and what it was for. No direction for me for her play. Exploration, creativity, imagination.

J - J playing

What all is there –

We bought a large box, probably about 15 gallons, that has easy lock handles on the sides. This was so that she could open it up by herself AND, more importantly, put it away by herself. This holds the big stuff, the baggies of smaller things, the books, or whatever else is going to be in the Jewel Box for now.

In the big box:J - big box

  • Board books with opposites, numbers, letters, shapes, and colors
  • Bible picture pairs game
  • large numbers 1 – 10
  • matching game for numbers 1 – 20
  • Dear Zoo book and giraffe
  • Stamp Marker activity pad
  • jacks
  • little dolls
  • tractor
  • counting bears and cards to work
  • pattern matching cards
  • building set from a kid’s meal somewhere
  • shapes that her older sister made for her to practice with
  • fishing game for ABCs
  • some easy reader books from Reading the Alphabet
  • the letter B matching activity and phonics work

These are the things that are in there right now. These get changed out from week to week or month to month for anything and everything I can find that might encourage J to work on her own or work on a concept that she is about to learn or one that she might need practice with. I find things at the dollar stores, garage sales, the toy box, the bookshelf – everywhere! Just keep your eyes open and you’ll find lots of things in your home that could work for something like this.


We also bought 3 small boxes with the same easy lock handles that hold things like dry beans, rice, cotton balls, pompoms, foam stickers, polished rocks, marbles, and more. I only have 3 of these so that there isn’t too much separation that has to happen at clean up time.

In the small boxes:J - small boxes

  • blue – thick foam stickers in a winter theme (this one hasn’t been changed for a LONG time!)
  • purple – dry beans
  • pink – cotton balls (had some small glittery hearts in there for February)
  • (Middle row left to right) small bits of paper the girls colored and cut to be ice cream toppings
  • pompoms
  • acorns, leaves, and pumpkins – small acrylic things I found at Target’s dollar spot
  • polished rocks
  • (Bottom row left to right) marbles
  • popcorn
  • colored rice

**Please use caution when choosing the items to go in these if they are left where small children are or you have a child who might want to put these things in their mouths. Every child is different and these work for my kids but I do pick them up when we have others over so that the temptation is not there for someone else’s child.**

J - containers

We also collected a mish-mash of containers – old parmesan cheese canister, the little bubble gum egg cartons from Easter, a large dish packer (looks like an egg crate for ostrich eggs!), mini M&M canisters. We put in whatever we could find. I also put in a set of plastic tweezers that had a little red light on the end that lit up when it was closed.

How we used it –

When I needed time to work with the older two giggly girls, J was asked to go play at her Jewel Box. This was time for her to guide her own choices. She could use the items in the box however she wanted as long as she did it quietly. Sometimes, she would ask for help to know how to play a game or do an activity for real and I would tell her and show her. Most of the time, she used her imagination and came up with ways to learn and play all on her own. She seldom had to play there for more than an hour by herself because her sisters really wanted to play there, too. So, they would work harder to get their part done and then ask if they could go play with J in her Jewel Box.

This summer, it is still being used every single day, though it is all her choice to use it for the summer. It is not at all uncommon for all three giggly girls to be sitting around the Jewel Box, creating some play scenario and having a good time. At Home.


This post is linked up with ABC Blogging on Ben and Me.

Ben and Me


Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness

Kindness title

We started this day’s study with a felt activity we borrowed from the church workroom. This was a fun, no-right-no-wrong-way-to-do-it activity. I just handed them the package and let them go at it. They played. They worked together (showing kindness – yea) and put it together several different ways. They have even pulled it out a few times since then. It is by Little Folk Visuals and is called Felt Wonders – Fruit of the Spirit. It is bright, colorful, durable, and lots of fun.

After they had free time with it for a while, I did step in and direct a little bit. We used the small words (love and joy) as reading practice and some phonics work with J, who is beginning to read a bit. We also did some sequencing with the older girls. Of course, we sang the song and they took turns pointing to the words and putting them in order. The set also comes with different words for some of the fruit since different translations of the Bible use alternate words. So, there was a short built in vocabulary lesson. Additionally, we talked about the part of speech for each of the words.


After they had played for a while, we did put it away and moved on with the written part of the lesson. The rest follows the same format as the previous parts of the Fruit of the Spirit study, except there is not a printable coloring sheet or activity sheet this time.

Kindness – what does the Bible say

Kindness – handwriting practice cursive

Kindness – handwriting practice print

Kindness – handwriting practice copy prinit

Here’s hoping you are able to find some use for these ideas and that they will bless your students. At Home.

Previous posts in this series:

Coloring time – a tutorial

It is that time. It is time to color eggs. Oops – nope. Rice. That’s it. We are coloring rice today. P1070788

I wanted some colored rice to put in a sensory bin for J so we colored it ourselves. It was a quick and easy project that the big sisters had fun helping with. Who doesn’t like playing with liquid color and something that can be dyed? I highly recommend it if you do any kind of sensory play (or maybe even just play) with your younger ones. (Truly, this is going to be for the bigger ones too. The 9 year old was talking about playing with it! Of course, she’ll let her little sister be the first but then it may be a free-for-all.)

After combing the internet and Pinterest for all of about, oh, 5 minutes, I found that most folks used rubbing alcohol and food coloring. There were, however, as many different measurements for these things as blogs you could find doing it. (So we’ll just add one more to the mix…) Here is what we ended up doing.

Items needed:
liquid food coloring in dropper bottles

uncooked long grain white rice

rubbing alcohol

glass bowls – one small and one large for each color of rice you are making

1 tablespoon measuring spoon

4 spoons to stir

Decide how much rice you are going to make of each color. I did 3/4 cup of rice for each of 4 colors. I decided on this amount based on the container it will be going into after it is dry. Place the rice in the larger bowl. In the smaller bowl for each color, place 2 T of the rubbing alcohol and about 8 drops of food coloring. Stir this up. Add the liquid to the rice in the larger bowl and stir it well. After it is stirred up, evaluate your color. If it is not dark enough, add some more of the food coloring directly to the rice in the bowl and stir again. Do this until you are happy. My oldest decided, after we were into the process, that she didn’t want to make yellow rice after all. (“Mom, the colors go green and then blue, so we should do red and then orange, not yellow.”) So, she added red to the yellow to make it orange. If doing that, make sure you go one drop at a time and stir well in between so you don’t overdo it and end up with another batch of red.
Then, we spread it out in a pan and set it in the sun to dry. Once dry, place it in the contain you are going to store it in or use it in. Watch and enjoy as your little ones (and not-so-little ones) have fun playing with the colored rice. At Home.

curriculum 2013

Well, we are off on a new year and a new adventure. Everyone is excited. I wish I could bottle the enthusiasm of the girls because I know we are going to need some of it in the days ahead. For now, it is bubbling!

I am linking up with the 4th Annual “Not” Back-to-School blog hop. After you have viewed our curriculum choices, use the link to go check out some other folks’ choices for their curriculum. Our curriculum to start the year is going to be fairly basic. We want to ease into all of the hopes and desires without overwhelming ourselves. So, here is what we have chosen.

J – 4 years old
J is excited about learning and exploring. She is wanting to read some so we will be working towards that, as well. We are going to be using ideas that I have gleaned from all over the internet for what we are going to call J’s Jewels. She is a girly-girl all the way so this works great for her. I’ll load it up each night with experiences for the next day that will focus on play, ABCs, numbers, sounds, and more.

I’ll be using a lot of resources from the following two blogs, in particular.

Other than play, we will be using this alphabet curriculum from This Reading Mama.

1+1+1=1 website is a place I visit often. She has tons of neat ideas that are right up our alley. There are lots of printable and good information on here.
L – 7 years old
E – 9 years old

I am not separating these two giggly girls in their curriculum. Not because they are on the same level but because we will be using the same resources for both of them, just different levels of the resources and differentiating to meet their needs.

P1070764Bible – We are starting the year off with ABC Bible verse memorization. We will probably work on two letters a week. Learning these will consist of singing a song of the verse and reference, writing the verse and reference (dry erase, paper, chalk, paint, etc), and drawing the verse. Any other way they want to do it will be acceptable as well. We will also read the verse directly from the Bible. Later in the year, after we are in the swing of things, we will begin working on the lessons from the Kids of Integrity website.

Math – We will be using Spectrum Math books and the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). We chose these books because they are based on working the math problems (worksheet style) rather than reading words and trying to decipher necessary and unnecessary information. The TEKS we are using as a scope and sequence to keep ourselves on track over the course of the year. We will be supplementing with Wrap-Ups. I love these because the girls really need to work on their basic fact recall and these are self-checking. We also have flash cards, Bingo-style games, and other games. We will be using a variety of internet sites for fun time practice and printing resources. Our focus at the beginning of the year will be to get the girls up to speed on their facts because that is something the current public school curriculum was truly missing.

P1070763Science – We have chosen to use Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures. There are several reasons for this choice. We really like the look of this program and it appears to be sound Bible-wise. Also, the girls are fascinated with the ocean and its inhabitants. The girls will be working through the text together and they each have a notebooking journal that they will be using. Their little sister will be joining us for a lot of this study but on a much lower.

P1070760History – The girls will be going through a variety of resources for this. We will be doing quite a few unit studies based on literature. I am looking forward to Laura Ingalls Wilder and the likes. We will be doing a US state study using workbooks, flashcards, and notebooking pages from Harrington Harmonies. We will also be using Kids’ Guide to American History, which has some Bible history in it and has a more Bible-based world view.

P1070759Language Arts/Writing/Spelling – These will all be combined in our home. We plan to have the girls doing a lot of writing. Partly because they like to write; partly because it is such a tremendous necessity in this world to need to be able to communicate through writing effectively. Their writing will be checked for spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. and they will be working through the writing process, as well. (Lots of Pinterest ideas for this one.) Additionally, we were blessed to win some writing materials in a giveaway from Renee at Great Peace Academy and Write Shop. Another item that Renee included in our gift that she sent was Silly Starters Write-Abouts. I think the girls will really enjoy them. We will glean spelling lists from words they have problems with and we are looking at a Spelling Bee later in the year.

P1070761Additional Studies – Throughout the year, we will undertake other studies as the girls show interest. We are going to do fun units based on what delights their hearts, while making sure their basic foundations get stronger. Spanish will be one of those studies. We know they are interested so we bought a couple of books that we can work through as a family. We picked up Hide and Seek Spanish and Spanish – Elementary from Instructional Fair. I would like to find an art study for E, as she really likes to draw and has a talent for it that I would like to foster. (Any suggestions are appreciated!) Also, we have lots of unit studies, lapbooks, and unit studies that we have been gathering for when the desire to know more comes up.

Thank you for taking a look at what we have chosen as we begin our education. At Home.

Vacation books

Since we are homeschooling this year, we have begun looking at life very differently. We see everything from a different perspective. Everything is officially a learning opportunity. We aren’t actually doing much differently. Yet. But I am suddenly seeing that everything we do is an opportunity for the kids to learn something, whether it be math facts, science knowledge, or a Godly world view.

As I was thinking about our vacation, I realized that if I did just little extra work and put together books for the girls, it would become an official school field trip. We were planning on going to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, White Sands National Monument, and Lincoln State Monument. There are tons of options there for learning.

vacation 2013

So I began doing research. It ended up being more difficult than I thought it would be to come up with fun worksheets and information sheets but maybe that is because I was being too picky. (I have been known to have that characteristic once in a while.) I persevered, created some things, and came up with something that worked. In addition to the vacation books I made for the girls, they also picked up Junior Ranger program booklets at Carlsbad and White Sands and earned the patches for those places.

So here are some of the links to things that I used.

I created some pages for the girls as well.  First was a page with a map of the US with the state borders and state abbreviations. They had to color the state of the place we were visiting and then mark approximately where it is found within that state. Below the map were several lines for the girls to write what their favorite thing was after visiting the park.

The next kind of page that I made had 4 boxes on it numbered 1-4. The instructions at the top said draw and label 4 things you would find in a desert. This type of activity gave them the ability to think outside the box, pun intended.

The next pages that I included were various blank notebooking pages so that the girls could use them for whatever they wanted. Some were used; some were not. Either way was okay with me. Each page had a box they could draw in and some blank lines. I used different formats for where the box was on the page and how big it was so that their imaginations could be sparked in different ways.

The final pages that I made were a kit fox activity on animal adaptations. I used the information from White Sands for the kit fox itself. Then I asked them to make a list of the different adaptations that are specific to this animal for its environment. They had to mark these on the picture of the animal as well. The final part of this activity was creative writing. They were given a blank page with a picture of the kit fox and asked to write a poem about the kit fox, an essay to describe the kit fox or a story about what a kit fox is, telling what the kit fox does during a 24 hour period of one day and one night.

Along the way, the girls picked up some additional information and those have been added to the books, which are 2-pocket, 3-prong paper folders that the girls each decorated to reflect their personalities. We found some at the visitor centers, some at the check-in desk at the hotel we stayed in one night, and some from the brochures we located about the places we visited.

You might notice that I do not have any links or comments about pages for Billy the Kid and Lincoln State Monument. There is a very simple reason for that. There are very few reliable websites for information on Billy the Kid and Lincoln. The story of the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid are steeped in legend. Also, those that I did find were not kid centered and had an awful lot of information that I did not think the girls needed at this time. I also did not take the time to create anything for them. They are going to create a page from the blank notebooking pages in their books but we decided that seeing the play and going through some of the museums was enough on this particular subject for this trip. It isn’t far from my parents so we will have additional opportunities in the future to revisit this subject.

I was inspired by a post that I cannot locate about someone who created vacation books from her children. I thought it was a great idea so I ran with it and it was a hit with the girls. I wish I could find the post that inspired me so that I could give proper credit. If I find it, this will be edited to give credit where credit is due.

Next time you are off on vacation, consider adding a vacation book. It will not only add an educational, fun aspect to your trip (not to mention quiet time in the car) but it will be something they can come back to over and over At Home.

J’s classes

I have found something truly exciting! A “curriculum” for J. She is just barely 4 but loves books. I don’t want to push her through a full blown curriculum and I want her to keep loving learning. The way to do that is by making it fun and exploratory, right? Well, we have done a lot of that and she has really enjoyed it.

We felt like she needed something along the same lines but with a bit more structure to work with when we are doing learning with her big sisters. I saw this link today on Homeschool Giveaways Facebook post. It is right up her alley and best of all…FREE.

This Reading Mama has a fantastic PK pre-reading/beginning reading curriculum. She describes her reasoning behind her choices and gives you a huge selection of choices for each letter/family so you can choose one to fit your child and your needs or you can use all of them for an entire week’s work on each one. I am so excited to get this started.

J was wanting to play while I was downloading the lessons and activities.  I asked her wait just a moment so that I didn’t lose my place in the downloads (there are 31 of them after all!). When I told her I was downloading homeschool classes for her, she jumped up and down, hollered “hooray”, and hugged me tight. I think she is excited to keep learning and she wants to learn to read by herself.

I am excited to. I am so thankful that God has provided for us in such a way that Joe loves his job and it pays enough that, while we don’t have all the extras that many around us do and we don’t take more than one vacation a year (and it generally involves visiting family – which I love, by the way), we have more than enough. Best of all, it allows me to do the job that I love and do best – taking care of my husband and my girls. At Home.

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