One day last week we had an afternoon of games.  We hosted playgroup and that took up a good part of our day.  None of us were in the mood to get back into school work after that.  So games it was.  Jitterbug’s recent favourite is Monopoly Jr.  (Hmm, ours looks a little different from this one at Amazon.)

monopoly jr. 

This has to be one of my favourites too.  Learning to count, basic addition, simplified rules for younger kids.  I have many memories of playing this with Skeeterbug.

monopoly jr.monopoly jr. 

It’s especially great when you are the winner!  Jitterbug got down to just $1 and came back for the win.  (Mama may have landed on his properties a few extra times when he wasn’t paying attention.)

monopoly jr. 

Skeeterbug busied himself with our Zoob set.


Ladybug chose Zingo.  Since she didn’t have much on in the way of clothing so I’m including only a very cropped picture. :)  Zingo is another favourite here.  Ladybug has been calling it her “puzzle game” and taking it with us places.  Usually the game is required to wait in the car but it did enjoy some time at Nana’s house the other night.  Ladybug completely gets how to play Zingo but unfortunately tries to play both sides of her card at once.  Difficult to keep the pieces on when you are constantly flipping it over.  There is also a Number Zingo and a spelling version called What’s Gnu?.  I’d love to eventually have those as well since the original has been so popular here.


Next, a puzzle.  Love this Melissa & Doug Alphabet Train Floor Puzzle.  We haven’t had this out in a while.  I showed Jitterbug how to look at the box to see what came next and he happily completed it by himself.  Love the realistically-drawn illustrations.  Beautiful.  They’ve used short vowels for all the vowel pieces, and fox for the letter x so it’s great for phonics.  The kids love running up and down the length of the puzzle once it is done.

M&D puzzleM&D puzzleM&D puzzleM&D puzzleM&D puzzle  

I think we’ll be having a games/puzzle/project afternoon every week after playgroup.  Too often I have to write off the whole day because we are just too tired and unfocused.  Which means fitting everything into four days a week.  If I’ve got some projects and educational games planned I’ll feel a lot better about playgroup day!  Playgroup is really their only time to freely play with friends during the week (our group is made up of homeschooling familes with kids ages newborn to about age 9), and it’s also a source of support for me, so it will stay a part of our week. 

Later that night my husband got into the Zoob set too.


The kids have, of course, thoroughly enjoyed it.

zoob zoob

Pinhole Viewing Box

Continuing our studies on the sun, the lesson called for making a pinhole viewing box.  I fashioned a box out of some extra cardboard, leaving one side open for viewing.  I made a hole at one end which we covered with foil.  Then we poked a small hole in the foil using a pin.  This allowed the light to pass through and create an image on the other end of the box.

Small pinhole means small image.

 pinhole viewing box

We enlarged it a bit.

pinhole viewing box 

Then a bit more…

pinhole viewing box 

And that was about as much interest as we had.  The book said that if we got a large enough image we may even be able to see sunspots.

pinhole viewing box

Our little box didn’t work so well, I think we’d need a longer box to make a bigger image of the sun and even then the sunspots would be tiny. has a daily image of the sun so we will be looking at that to get an idea of what is happening on the sun right now.  We’ll have to keep our box for the next eclipse (apparently in November).  In the meantime I am planning to order some eclipse viewing glasses so we can get a better look at the sun. 

After we finished, Skeeterbug asked if we could burn some leaves.  It was a hot day, so it burned very easily.

burning leafburning leaf

It, meaning one leaf, because we’d had enough of the heat by then!

Our China Studies

We are using Expedition Earth and pieces of Galloping the Globe for our country studies.  We are spreading it out a little more and spending more than one week per country.  The first country we studied this year was China to coincide with Chinese New Year.  Our country studies are for fun, our goal is just to learn about some other countries and their people.  It’s more social studies than geography.  It’s also way for me to schedule some crafty things into our lives, otherwise they wouldn’t happen as often.  Some of the things we did:

We made Chinese lanterns.  The kids loved running up and down the driveway with them to let the streamers flow behind them. 


We built the Great Wall of China using a 3D puzzle I had stashed away.  As soon as we were done Skeeterbug ran off to find some soldiers.  These Automoblox figures were the first thing he found. 


We made Chinese paper fans.  They work surprisingly well.  We used paper from our easel, just trimmed the width.


We studied some animals from China.  Skeeterbug’s favourite was the Golden Monkey.  We’ve got a (huge) lapbook that this will go in, along with some other elements from Expedition Earth.


We ate some Chinese food using chopsticks.  Sort of.


We attended a local Chinese New Year celebration.  My children sat on the dirty ground for a good view.  :)


We read the story of the Chinese zodiac from Activity Village and looked up what sign each of us were. We looked at some written characters and talked about how many characters Chinese children are expected to learn.


We made handprint dragons.


We watched some of the Wild China DVD from the library.  Really good and really long, so we didn’t watch all of the episodes.  We also watched Mulan, a Disney movie we’d never seen.

Wild China DVD

For each country we study, Skeeterbug also completes several pages for his notebook.  The mapping activity and Children Just Like Me page from Homeschool Creations, the flag page and country notebooking page from Expedition Earth.  If I can find a related word search or other activity he completes that as well.  This time we also used Children Just Like Me: Celebrations since it includes Chinese New Year.  We also use Google translate to learn to say hello, thank you, and other common words.  Youtube is also a great source to find clips in foreign languages or national anthems.

I wish that every country we study would conveniently include a holiday for us to celebrate! 

Read Aloud: Anna Hibiscus

Anna Hibiscus 

Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa.  Amazing Africa.  Her father is African, her mother is Canadian.   She lives in a big compound with too many relatives to count.

I first discovered Anna Hibiscus over on The Artful Parent.  I was happy to see that our library had a copy of the first book in the series.  Since we are now studying some countries in Africa for our geography studies I thought it was a perfect time to read this.  The Artful Parent’s review is spot-on.  It’s a great book.  Not heavy reading, but not fluff either.  We did it as a (quick) read-aloud, but there are enough illustrations to hold the interest of a young reader using it as an early chapter book.  Skeeterbug’s favourite chapter was the first one, Anna Hibiscus on Holiday.  He loved hearing how the twin baby boys named Double and Trouble would get into mischief and laughed out loud several times.  My favourite was Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges where she discovers how her actions affect others.  There are some great lessons included in this book, and insight into another way of life.

Unfortunately our library only had the first book, I’d love to read the rest of the series.  This first book ends with a bit of a cliff hanger that makes you want to read the next one.  It looks like there are three more books in the series with another (the one on the right) coming out soon.

Have Fun Anna Hibiscus

Hooray for Anna HibiscusGood Luck Anna Hibiscus  Welcome Home Anna Hibiscus!

There is also a picture book now, with gorgeous full-colour illustrations.  See here for The Artful Parent’s review.


Anna Hibiscus is one I’ll keep on my list to use again in the future for my younger kids.

Aussie NBTS Blog Hop: Our Schoolroom

It’s back-to-school time here in Australia.  You know those seasonal aisles in the shops?  The ones that in America go from Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Easter (with maybe some Superbowl in there somewhere).  Here in Australia they go from Christmas to Back-to-School to Easter.  It’s that time of year, all of the school kids are back in school now.  Our Worldwide Classroom is hosting an Aussie Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop, this is my first link-up.  (To anything, really!)

Aussie NBTS Blog Hop

This week the focus of the blog hop is Learning Spaces.  We just moved less than two months ago into this house.  It has a great second living area that we are using as a schoolroom.  In our last house we did not have much space so we schooled in the kitchen at the dining table.  We utilised bookshelves in the dining area.  We made do but it was inefficient with all of the other learning supplies, including the computer, located in the back bedroom.  Every time I needed to print something, or quickly grab something from the other room, I’d come back and my student would have disappeared.  Or we would move back there to look something up on the computer and I could never get him back to the other room to do more work.  It’s wonderful to have everything in one place.  This room was an addition to the house.  One wall is brick that they never dry-walled over.  Fine, I love the brick, but they also left the old exterior windows.  Makes for a quirky room!  You’ll see them as you look through the pictures below.  We are renting so have no plans to change any of it.

First, our table where we do all our work.  I sit on the far side near the bookshelf so I can easily grab whatever we need.  See the crazy contraption taking up one end of the table?  Aussie Pumpkin Patch has one too and she posted about it here.  You can see the remains of our solar system model in these first couple of pictures.  Jupiter has popped and Saturn has shrunk.  To the left of the bookshelf hangs a bulletin board where we can hang up our most recent work to admire.  Beneath that is a poster of a map of the world.


Look, an action shot!  :)  These shelves hold all kinds of learning tools from toddler on up, with storage at the top.  I’ll post more about what’s on these shelves at some point.


Here’s our We Choose Virtues wall and a table with a book basket full of books related to our current topics.


Right now the futon is holding a dollhouse in an attempt to keep the bits and pieces out of the reach of our new puppy.  Above the futon is our calendar area.  I’ll post more about this and our calendar notebook soon.


After I took the above photo we moved the dolhouse to the little table with the book baskets and it works much better, but now we can’t reach the books!  Not sure how safe this will be from the puppy anyway.


At the end of the futon is an art easel.  The white shelves hold all sorts of kids books with art supplies on top (out of reach of little hands).  One shelf holds readers and read-alouds.  There are various colouring and activity books in magazine holders on the bottom shelf.  The tall dark bookshelf to the right of the doorway holds various kinds of curriculum (curricula?) and the history and astronomy books we will read this year.


Desk with computer, printer, etc.  So great to have this in the same room.  We can easily look something up, print something out, listen to some music.  See that window?  Behind it is a small room with a built-in desk.  We are using it to store homeschooling & scrapbooking supplies.  It’s a mess at the moment or I’d give you a peek.  (We won’t mention that the reason it’s a mess is because the schoolroom is so clean.  The clutter had to go somewhere, right?)


The colourful drawers are full of activities for Jitterbug.  Workboxes of sorts.  My file bin with various papers we need during the day is on top.  The other set of drawers is full of craft supplies. On top are more school supplies.  Above these hangs another calendar that I found at an op shop but it’s missing some pieces.  That door behind the drawers leads to the laundry room and toilet.  We are in one of those crazy Australian homes where the toilet is located miles away from the rest of the bathroom.


Behind the door is our animal classification wall from Expedition Earth.


On the back of the door is a couple of posters.


This door is our back door that leads outside and is the door we use the most to get in and out of the house.  Which means that as we enter the house we dump everything in this room.  Case in point…the boys were out of the house while I took these pictures and as soon as they returned, so did the clutter.


Thanks for reading!  Stop by the Aussie NBTS Blog Hop to visit some other Aussie learning spaces.

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