Posted in Uncategorized

Books, a Christmas Tradition

The Christmas season is a time of year when I don’t add in oodles of extra book tie in activities. There’s already so many fun things to do this time of year. I like to just read, savor the memories & enjoy some of our favorite wintery & Christmas time books. When we read a longer chapter book (think Kringle), I’ll give my kids Christmas mazes, coloring pages or let them elf themselves while they are listening.

Years ago  I saw the brilliant idea to use wrapped up books as a countdown to Christmas.  I gathered all our wintery/Christmasy storybooks & even checked out a bunch from the library to ensure I had enough. Then each book was wrapped in festive paper and numbered. Each night we would open one of the book presents and read the story inside. Reading a Christmas story (or two or three) each night created, what a I hope to be, a long lasting and cherished tradition. A perfect way to foster family togetherness and make long lasting memories for many Christmas seasons to come.

Here are a some of the books we own and love. Some are long for when you have more time for reading. Some are short and sweet, perfect for reading after a long day when you’re anxious to get to bed. All bring with them a bit of the Christmas season.



Posted in Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims

Have you heard of the Rush Revere series? It was recommended to me by several people. But I never actually looked into it. Then one day I received a surprise package in the mail from my Mom containing this Rush Revere book (and a couple others). I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. My kids enjoyed the story and it was a fun way to learn about American history. The book even includes maps, paintings, diagrams & comprehension questions. Plus there’s a website with even more activities. You’ll find study guides, games & challenges geared towards both parents & teachers. Overall, I consider this historical read great for learning more about the pilgrims, their voyage on the Mayflower and their beginnings in the new world.

(Last year around this time we read Thanksgiving on Thursday and Pilgrims: A non-fiction companion to Magic Tree House #27: Thanksgiving on Thursday. I love having the story and facts to go along with it. These books are definitely worth checking out as well).

Learning Activities

Mayflower, Plymouth & the Wampanoag

This website,, is super cool! You can learn to talk like a pilgrim, go on a virtual field trip & learn all kinds of great stuff about the Pilgrims and Native Americans from the 1600’s. If you’re lucky enough to live near Plymouth, MA, you could go visit a Pilgrim or Wampanoag village and the Mayflower replica. It’s a step back in time without a time travelling horse named Liberty!

We stepped back in time earlier this year when we stepped aboard the Columbus replica ships. It was an awesome experience. So, should you have the chance to visit Plimoth Plantation, take it for sure! Nothing brings history to life like a good story added to a good experience, right?.

Visit and you’ll find some real interesting stuff. It has the passenger list from the Mayflower, information on the crew, provisions list and other historical information about the Mayflower, Plymouth Colony & Wampanoag Indians.

This Scholastic webpage has videos, virtual tours, teacher resources and a host of other information to aid in your learning adventure.


We have a tradition of making a Thanksgiving place mat each year. We usually use fall leaves, cute stickers & hand prints and always include what we are thankful for that year. Then I laminate them and keep them forever so we can look back and see how little hands were and what kind of things we were thankful. This year (because of Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims) I decided we’d do a map of the Mayflowers voyage, have the kids draw pictures, and then write down what they’re thankful for. My daughter opted to write what she was thankful for on the back of her placemat. That gave me the idea to use dry erase marker. You could write down one thing you’re thankful for everyday. Kind of like a countdown to Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Mayflower Voyage Placemats.

Mayflower STEM

Try a fun challenge like this or this. Can you design a boat to hold all the pilgrims and supplies without sinking?

Pilgrims Voyage Game

Be sure to check out my Pilgrims Voyage game. I made it based on information found in the book. (The game set up was inspired by this Storming the Bastille game we played earlier this year). It’s simple to play and requires only the game board, cards, one die and some place markers. Grab yourself a copy at the link below.

Here’s how to play the game. Each player puts their place marker on the start square. Then take turns rolling the die and moving the indicated spaces. If you land on a big wave square, then you draw a card, read what’s on it and move back or forward accordingly. The first person to the finish square (or Plymouth Plantation) is the winner.

Pilgrims Voyage Game Board

Pilgrims Voyage Game Cards


While this wasn’t a huge theme in the book, it was at least mentioned that the Pilgrims & Native Americans ate turkey. Plus, turkey is pretty much the first things most people think of when they hear the word Thanksgiving. So why not learn about these magnificent birds? We were involved in a local 4H poultry club last year. It was a great learning experience spending time with the birds. We had no idea how curious and friendly Turkeys could be. I would recommend checking with your local 4H office to see if they have a poultry club. If you don’t want to join, you could at least plan a visit to get up close and personal with some birds. Another idea is to check with your county’s department of conservation. We attended a great class on wild turkeys put on through the county DOC.

 You could check out episode 5, Happy Turkey Day

Turkey Fact Fiction or Go Figure Game

I love to play games and so do my kids. Games can be a fun way to review or learn new info. With that said, check out my Turkey Fact, Fiction or Go Figure game. I put it together using facts I found online, made up some fictions & threw in some math problems for good measure. You’ll need a copy of the game board, dice, some place markers and a set of Fact, Fiction or Go Figure cards. I recommend printing on cardstock. If you print on regular paper, the answers on the cards show through. This game is sure to get you up to date on interesting facts about turkeys with a splash of math. There are some blank cards included should you want to add some of your own facts, fictions or math equations to the mix.

Turkey Fact Fiction or Go Figure Board

Turkey Fact Fiction or Go Figure Rules

Turkey Fact Fiction or Go Figure Card Back

Turkey Fact Fiction or Go Figure Card

Turkey Art & Crafts

There are tons of adorable turkey art & craft projects floating around on the internet.



Turkey Treats

Don’t stop at arts and crafts, make sure you try some turkey treats! My daughter made & decorated these adorable turkey cupcakes all by herself. She used candy corns, mini-Oreos & mini-M&M’s to decorate them.

Turkey Cupcakes

The Gratitude Game

Yup. That’s right. Another game. The Gratitude Game is something we try to play weekly, but it’s the perfect game for Thanksgiving. The best part is it can be ultra personalized for your family or group. It’s a bit like gratitude journal prompts but easier because no one has to write anything down. I typed up a bunch of little prompts and questions, cut them into strips, folded them up and put them in a cute little jar. (Although after playing once I realized my cute little jar is too little). You could put them in a basket or bag or whatever you have handy. Then you pass the jar around the table and take turns pulling out a paper, reading it out loud and answer it. Below are some of the prompts/questions I use in my game.

2017-10-08 10.08.25

Name three things you are thankful for.

Say one nice thing about (insert family member name here).

Say one nice thing about Mom.

Say one nice thing about Dad.

What makes you happy when you look out the front window?

What makes you happy when we go to ____________________________?

Recall your favorite family outing (movies, beach, field trips, etc.)

What is your favorite thing about your bedroom?

What do you like best about being part of this family?

What food are you most thankful for?

What activity are you most thankful for?

What season of the year are you most thankful for?

Name three things that make your life happy.

Name five people that you think are great.

What modern day invention are you most thankful for?

What is something you could do to show gratitude to someone else?

Name two things (insert family member name here) is really good at.

What would be a way to show your Dad gratitude?

What would be a way to show your Mom gratitude?

What could you do to show your brother/sister gratitude?

What could you do to show your brother/sister gratitude?

What is something someone has done to show you gratitude that you really appreciated?

Name 2 things you are grateful for.

How can you be grateful for what you have every day?

What’s your favorite thing about living in ______________________________?

Recall when being grateful for something made you feel happier.

What’s your favorite thing about Grandma?

What’s your favorite thing about Grandpa?

Posted in Ghosthunters


Halloween is coming soon! I’ve been looking forward to it since the beginning of September. Every year I try to find some Halloween-ish books to read so as to capitalize on the fun of the season. Some of our past Halloween reads include: The Graveyard Book, The Witch Family, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and In a Dark Dark Room. This year I discovered this fun and not too spooky series by Cornelia Funke. The books are short and entertaining with a tinge of suspense. Both my kids enjoyed listening to them and requested the next book as soon as one was finished. We listened to the audio books and they were about 2 hours each. I was actually surprised to see how chock full of learning opportunities these books were. After a few minutes of brainstorming, I came up with a list of possibilities. Some of the activities are ones we’ve done in years past, but they would go along perfectly with this book series. So if you’re looking for something to get you into the Halloween spirit, I’d recommend checking this series out.

Flying Ghost Rockets

We have done this activity many times and it’s always a blast. The pictures are from when my babies were much younger. This goes to show that this is a very easy activity that even little guys can take part in (with proper supervision). But please note that this activity should only be done under adult supervision, given that it involves a medication & flying objects. You will need some little plastic film canisters, water and Alka-Seltzer tabs (broken into 3 or 4 pieces). Draw a cute or spooky face on your canister to make it look like a ghost. Then fill the canister with a small amount of water, less than half full. When you’re ready to see your ghost fly, drop in a piece of the Alka-Seltzer tab, snap on the lid and place your ghost, lid side down, on the sidewalk and stand back. (The little ones will definitely need help with the lid snapping/getting out of the way. You need to do this quickly). The carbon dioxide will build inside the canister and it will soon send your ghost flying high into the sky, just like Hugo!

I originally saw this idea years ago here…

Flying Ghost Rockets (1)Flying Ghost Rockets (2)Flying Ghost Rockets (3)Flying Ghost Rockets (4)

Irresistible Ghost Cookies

The key to defeating the Incredibly Revolting Ghost from book #1 of the series, involved cookies spiked with graveyard dirt. We decided to make some cherry topped cookies in honor of Mr Lovely, and of course we added the secret ingredient, graveyard dirt. This activity, as with all cooking activities, is great for practicing fractions, measuring, and kitchen skills.

We decided to use this recipe Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies and added a handful or two of graveyard dirt (aka crushed oreo cookies) to our mix. The dough was a bit on the crumbly side, that may have been due to the addition of our secret ingredient. They definitely need to sit on the pan and cool for a full 10 minutes. In the end they’re a bit on the messy side but totally delicious!

Gauzy Ghosts

I love cute but simple craft. Cheesecloth ghosts are just that. They don’t require a ton of supplies, they are incredibly easy and look adorable when their done. We followed this cheesecloth ghost craft tutorial when we made ours. They turned out so great and didn’t eat our electronics or leave one lick of ghost slime behind!


Learning about Lightning

Reading book #2 of this series (The Gruesome Invincible Lightning Ghost) brought up questions of “What is a lightning rod” and “How does it work.” So we did some browsing and found some interesting information that includes science and history.

How Lightning Works

Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod

All About Lightning!

There are lots of lightning strike videos available on YouTube. I heard some not so nice language in several of them. So you may want to preview them before watching them with your kids.


Eggs are a secret weapon against certain types of ghosts, who knew? Eggs are also really cool to experiment with. We’ve done several pretty nifty egg experiments over the years. This egg in a bottle experiment is super cool. In fact I remember doing this one with my own mom when I was kid and always thought it was fascinating! Then there’s the super neat dissolving eggshell experiment. And don’t forget the ever impressive walking on eggshells experiment.

Don’t spend all your time just experimenting with eggs though. To be a successful ghosthunter you must learn to use the egg. Enter the ASG egging range. The perfect place to practice your aim should you encounter an ASG. We set up our range by first sketching up some averagely spooky ghosts. Then measuring specific distances for our ghostly targets (5, 7, 15 and 25 feet). The real fun began when we picked up some eggs and tested our throwing skills.

When our target practice was finished, we practiced some partner egg tossing. Start close together and toss the egg. When you catch the egg, take one step back and then toss it again. My son thought this activity was “eggcellent.”


I think it’s safe to say that most kids are fascinated by fire. It’s magical and a little scary all at the same time. Sounds a bit like the hotel guests turned fire ghosts encountered in book #2 of the series, The Gruesome Invincible Lightning Ghost. I personally don’t like playing with fire. It makes me way too nervous. We did try one of those black snake experiments using sand, sugar and isopropyl alcohol, it was a complete fail. So thankfully there’s that ultra awesome website called YouTube where you can watch other people do experiments with fire. It might not be as exciting as doing it in real life but it’s a lot less hassle & stress. Plus you won’t end up burning yourself or your house down, double bonus!

When you get done watching cool experiments and learning about fire. You can spend a few minutes discussing fire safety. Does your family have a plan should your house catch on fire? Does everyone know how to get out? Do you have a designated meeting area outside away from danger? Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home? Do your kids understand how dangerous it can be to play with lighters or candles or other sources of fire? Have they been taught to Stop, Drop and Roll? Now is a perfect time to get talking about this stuff.

ASG Slime

We’ve done slime, gak, and other variations, lots of times. But we’ve never done edible slime until now. This stuff looks fantastic! It looks like the stuff I imagine Hugo leaving in his wake. This recipe is extremely simple and perfect practice for following written directions.

Edible Kool-aid Slime

Ghosthunter Potion

Hetty Hyssop was a master of concocting special recipes to counter act ghostly powers. She was the inspiration for this activity. I gave my kids free range of the kitchen to develop a potion to aid in their ghosthunting adventures.

The rules for the activity were as follows:

1. The concoction had to be edible.

2. They had to write down the ingredients/directions to make it.

3. They had to write a creative little bit describing the who, what, when, where and how their potion would be relevant/useful.

I underestimated how much they would enjoy this activity. They spent nearly 2 hours working on their recipes and instructions. I was surprised when neither one of them went with a drinkable recipe. Instead we got Esfgah (Essence switcher for ghosts and humans) Balls & Dragon Balls/Cookies. Both were interesting tasting and (not surprisingly), very sweet!

I loved that they got creative with the delivery of the instructions. My son rolled his into a cute little scroll using toothpicks. My daughter printed hers in a teeny, tiny font size and handed me a magnifying glass. (As you may have learned in book 1, writing it down is the only way to ensure a ghost doesn’t overhear your plans).


In book #4 The Muddy Monster of Doom, we learn that ghosts are attracted to blood. What great news for those of us looking to make real life learning connections with our read alouds! Perfect opportunity to talk about the composition & function of blood.

What’s Blood?

Components of Blood (using candy)

Blood Cell Bingo – from Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop. Her work is so amazing!

Fake Blood

If you have membership they have games & lessons available covering blood, blood pressure, blood types & blood glucose.

Check out Khan Academy. They have variety of blood related learning modules like this one, which includes components of blood & this one, which is a lot more advanced.

If you wanted to get to the microscopic level, you could check out a video on YouTube.

You could also get your own microscope & slides. We own both of these microscopes and this slide set. The little hand held microscopes are rather impressive but a bit trickier to use. The stationary microscope is much easier to focus so as to make sure everyone gets a good look. The slide set contains a smear of human blood among other interesting little things.

Ghost STEM

There are lots of STEM ideas floating around the internet. I’ve seen leprechaun traps & gingerbread man traps. So why not a ghost trap? It doesn’t have to be a trap of course. Here are a few of the activities I’ve got my eye on for the month of October.

Ghosts in the Graveyard STEM Challenge

Static Electricity Ghosts

Ghost Bubbles


Posted in General Posts

Book List for 2017

Do you make a list of books you want to read for the year? I do. I have been doing this for the past several years. I don’t always make it through all the books on the list. The ones that are left unread get rolled over to the next years list or taken off if it no longer seems interesting. I make a list for a number of reasons.

  1.  I’m a compulsive list writer.
  2. There are too many books I want to read with my kids. If I don’t write the titles down, I may forget all about them and miss out on reading a fantastic book!
  3. I have to keep track of the books we read for our homeschooling records. And it’s fun to look back and see all the super awesome books we’ve read.
  4. A list gives you a look at exactly what you are reading. Are you a well rounded reader? Do the books you read inspire you to dive in and learn more? Do you tend to read only science fiction or fantasy? Maybe you should throw some biographies, non-fiction, or mystery genres. Expand your book reading horizons.

Here’s some of the books I have added to my ever expanding read a loud list for 2017.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy – by Jonathan Stroud

The Librarian Series – by Eric Hobbs

The Trumpet of the Swan – by EB White

The Royal Institute of Magic – by Victor Kloss

The Five Kingdoms series – by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven – by Brandon Mull (We read The Beyonders and liked it so we’re trying out his other works)

Redwall – by Brian Jacques

Aretemis Fowl – by Eoin Colfer

The Girl Who Drank the Moon – by Kelly Barnhill

The Indian in the Cupboard – Lynne Reid Banks

The Tale of Despereaux – by Kate DiCamillo

In the Shadow of Man – by Jane Goodall

Island of the Blue Dolphins – by Scott O’Dell

The Sign of the Beaver – by Elizabeth George Speare

Posted in Books By Title, The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot

I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant to try this book. It was described as Wall-E meets Hatchet in some of the online reviews. Seemed like a weird mix to me. But I wanted to try something a little different so I decided to give it a try. My eight year old son liked it the most. He describes it as “a good story but a little sad.” That about sums it up. And the ending totally screams stay tuned for a sequel.

We actually built this cute little bots a couple years ago. It was so much fun and super easy. This was one of the first learning activities I thought of when we read this book. There are many variations of diy robots. The price of robot building at home can range from relatively inexpensive to costing big bucks. We have tried the EV3 Lego Mindstorm at our library and it was fun. But I can’t justify dropping $350 for something my kids aren’t that into.

If you have a kid that is hardcore into robots and you are available to help them, then the EV3 might be what you’re looking for. If you just want a fun learning project that isn’t too techinal then check out some of the tutorials below.  (This is the one we used)  (We’ve done something similar to this too)



Beavers are amazing little mammals. And their just so darn cute! It’s so awesome how they build dams and lodges using only their own little bodies. I also love how family oriented they are.

I don’t know about you, but my kids absolutely love animals and they love getting dirty. With that in mind, I had envisioned this wonderful activity where we would gather little twigs and things and construct our own mini beaver lodges and ponds. We would use real mud and cute little animal figures and play in our cute little make believe set up. Sadly we have only talked about doing this “wonderful activity” and have never actually done it. But seriously, doesn’t it sound fun? And check out these Safari Toob animal sets that would perfect for this imaginary play.

Learn more about beaver by checking out some websites and videos…

Season 1 of Wild Kratts, episode 7 is called Build it Beavers. If you have Amazon Prime it is included with your Prime subscription. (If you don’t have Amazon Prime, I highly recommend it).

(If you want another read aloud to continue your beaver education, try Poppy & Rye by Avi. It’s part of the Tales of Dimwood Forest series and is a wonderful little book).


Roz learns a lot of things observing the animals on the island. One of the things she learned was the fine art of camouflaging. It is an ability that many of the Earth’s creatures are born with to protect them from being eaten. For other creatures (like humans) it is something that has been learned and developed mainly for the benefit of surviving in combat. It’s pretty interesting to learn about both natural and man-made camouflage.

Absolutley Amazing Natural Camouflage…

Here’s a good one for little ones…

This is a fun and easy art project that both my kids enjoyed doing. It is a great way to illustrate cuttlefish camouflage.

Cuttlefish art project idea

Man-Made Camouflage…

More camouflage activities…

Try playing hide and seek with and without camouflage. My kids LOVED doing this.

Create your own camouflage design by printing out a boy or girl picture and a background of your choosing. (Just like the cuttlefish activity above except with humans). Design an outfit for the person to help them blend in with the background. I got my boy/girl pictures from this website…


Fire Starting and Fire Safety

My kids love birthday candles or roasting marshmallows over a campfire. They love pretending to be in the wilderness and trying to start fires using sticks or rocks or even a magnifying glass. They think fires are pretty neat. I don’t think they are pyromaniacs or anything, just very curious and interested in fire. Being able to start a fire and keep it going  is a good skill to have. Knowing how to keep everyone and everything near the fire safe is essential. In The Wild Robot, Roz taught the animals how to keep a fire going and a bit about fire safety. It saved their lives and also put them in great danger when it was mismanaged. Fire safety is a super important thing for everyone to know. Reading this book provides a great lead in to learn all about fire. – This website has some great information. There is even a printable to create a family escape plan in the event of a house fire. – This one is loaded with videos, games and other info that is extremely kid friendly.

I am far from an expert when it comes to starting or maintaining a campfire. But If I was going to go camping and build a fire, I think I’d do it like this.

Who knew there were so many different ways to start a fire?

Life & Migration of Geese

So this is a chicken not a goose. Geese eggs take longer to hatch than chicken eggs but I assume the embryo development is probably pretty similar. This is a neat video.

Creative Writing

My kids and I discussed, but haven’t yet fully explored, the opportunities this book provides for creative writing possibilities. (We’ve not done this mainly because neither of my kids enjoy the physical act of writing). But after finishing this book we brainstormed different things we could/would want to write about. Here’s what we came up with…

  • A different ending
  • A continuation of the story
  • Choose your own adventure
  • From the perspective of one of the animal characters
Posted in Books By Title, Boy

BOY Tales of Childhood

We’ve loved every Roald Dahl book we’ve read. My kids especially enjoyed Boy (and the sequel Going Solo). It’s enjoyable to hear about the adventures of the young Roald Dahl. You definitely get some insight as to where he came up with some of his book ideas and characters. His frightful years in boarding school had to have been the inspiration for Miss Trunchbull and Mr & Mrs Twitt. It’s interesting to get a glimpse of his family life. He paints his mother as a true hero and his love for her is quite obvious. Overall it is a great book with a good mix of happy, funny and sad.

Chocolate Judging

My kids love any activity that involves sugar. I have a feeling they are not alone, especially since Roald Dahl writes about his willingness to participate as a chocolate taste tester while in boarding school as a boy. Now if your kids are anything like mine, or the young Roald Dahl, they will be eager to practice their writing skills as they taste the chocolate and then write an “intelligent comment” on why they liked it or disliked it.

For this activity you will need to assemble an assortment of chocolate bars. I found some very interestingly flavored gourmet chocolate bars at Target and happened across some European candy bars at Publix. You could also use Halloween candy to save some cash. Those gourmet chocolate bars can be pricey when you’re buying a bunch. But it made the activity very fun to have some new and uniquely flavored chocolate to sample.

I saw this super cool variety box on Amazon that would make this activity amazing. (At least for those of us who don’t live in the UK and are not familiar with the candy varieties included in the box).

Here’s the printable I created to encourage more handwriting practice and conversation. You can print it off or create your own.


Now, go divide those tasty chocolate samples among the participants and get to tasting!

But wait, don’t let the learning stop there. This is a great time to investigate where chocolate comes from and how it’s made. What’s the difference between dark and milk chocolate? What’s does the % of cacao mean? Does chocolate really come from a bean? Does that make it a vegetable? The chocolaty questions seem endless.

Body Science

Reading this book stirred up many questions from my kids regarding the human body. What are adenoids? What is an appendix? How was Roald Dahl’s dad able to do so much with just one arm? What is a boil? What a great opportunity to delve into the workings of the human body. Find the answer to all those great questions. Perhaps it would be fun to compare how some illnesses are dealt with now vs 100+ years ago.

Here are some resources to check out and use to learn about the human body.


I thought this one was pretty cool. It’s a semi-interactive appendectomy. Proper medical terminology is used and discussed during the procedure. It is animated and doesn’t show blood or look gory but it does give a warning at the beginning “This surgery may contain graphic procedures inappropriate for children or squeamish adults.” With that said, you should probably watch it first before showing it to your kids to make sure they can handle it. Mine didn’t have a problem with it.

Laparoscopic Appendectomy

Here’s an informative (but not very exciting) video on appendicitis. It answers the basics of what an appendix is, signs and symptoms of appendicitis and treatment.

If you’re going to turn to YouTube for help with the abscess or boil question. Be sure to search them up and watch them by yourself first. Most of them are pretty graphic and could be disturbing for a child to watch.

For me, the loss of a limb is hard to imagine. Being right handed, trying to write with my left hand is not a pretty sight. I can’t imagine having to rely solely on my left hand to do everything. What must life be like with the loss of a limb? There are some fantastic online resources about amputees.

The Amputee Coalition has a wealth of information including inspirational stories. They even have a curriculum aimed at third through fifth graders to create awareness and educate others on the loss of limbs.

Resources to Help Children Understand Limb Loss

There are some great videos on YouTube about the lives of amputees. I thought the one below was a good one for gaining the perspective of a young girl who has lived her whole life with only one arm.

The link below is to some good disability awareness activities. Have your kids try doing a few things using only one arm…drawing, dressing, tie a shoe.

Writing with a Nib and Ink

I don’t know if this is the type of nib Roald Dahl used as a boy. We tried it and it was really challenging to write with. I can’t imagine having to have used such a device as a little kid. My kids both enjoyed messing around with it but neither one of them could have written much of anything without a great deal of effort. Maybe we had the wrong type of nib? I got ours at Michaels with a 40% off coupon. It was the Speedball brand but only came with one preattached nib (which eventually broke).

Once you’ve read the book and want to find out even more about Roald Dahl, you can head over to his official website. It’s loaded with info about him and his stories and characters. There are learning activities, lesson plans and a shop.

If your kids are into taking little online quizes, here’s one for the book Boy.

Boy – Tales of Childhood Quiz

Posted in Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle

My kids love watching the movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle. When I discovered it was based on a book, I decided to add the title to our To Read list. This is one of my favorite books. Thank you Diana Wynne Jones for penning it. If you haven’t read it yet you need to do so ASAP. I love the characters and the story and my only complaint is that it had to end.

Learning Activities

Create a Board Game

I came up with this fun little Howl’s Moving Castle themed board game. My kids really enjoyed playing it. As far as educational value is concerned, I would say it is more for fun than anything else. Although you could say it teaches sportsmanship. Especially if you have a kid that hates to lose a turn and isn’t afraid to express it in less than ideal ways (i.e. storming off, crying, throwing the dice and yelling “I hate this game”). And for a real stretch, you could also say that it has a math aspect, for those learning to count, since there is the counting of spaces after the roll of the dice. But mainly it’s just for fun.

Howl’s Moving Castle Game (for 1 – 4 players)

  • You will need to print out the game boards on card stock and tape them together. If you don’t have card stock you can print them on paper and then glue them onto something sturdier like a cereal box. I made mine slightly more durable by using a modified file folder.
  • Print out the moving castle on card stock and attach it to your board with a brass brad and put a piece of tape on the backside to secure it. (The black dot in the center of the castle indicates where to place the brad).
  • You will need two 6 sided dice.
  • Four place markers (I printed out some images of the characters from the movie and used those. You could use anything, pennies, pieces from other games, colored paper clips, etc)

Howls Moving Castle Game Board Printable – Make sure to select Borderless on the page set up in the print dialogue options.

Moving Castle Piece

Game play:

Each player selects a star square as a starting point (Porthaven, Kingsbury, Market Chipping or Rivendell). Each player needs their own starting square. You cannot share a starting point.

The player chosen to go first (do this however you like, youngest, oldest, etc it doesn’t really matter) rolls one die. This first die roll determines where to move (rotate) the castle.

The castle will start with its door facing the first players colored squares. Start positionWhen it is time to move the castle, rotate it so that it’s door is “open” to the appropriate area…

Roll a 1 to open the Porthaven door.

Roll a 2 to open the Kingsbury door.

Roll a 3 to open the Market Chipping door.

Roll a 4 to open the Rivendell door.


Roll a 5 to move the castle 3 spaces clockwise.

Roll a 6 to move the castle 1 space clockwise.

Take turns moving around the board until you end up back at your starting point (your star). Then instead of traveling clockwise around the board you will start moving into the four colored squares leading to the castle. (If you are 2 spaces away from your star and you roll a 4, move two spaces onto the star and then proceed 2 more spaces towards the end of your colored squares.

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When you reach the last colored square leading up to the castle you then only need to roll one die. That die will move the castle. The goal is to move the castle so that the door is facing the colored square you are on. You may only enter the castle when the door is facing your colored square. The first player to enter the castle wins. Game play can continue to see who comes second, third and fourth.

This is super easy to learn and play. It’s fun for everyone because it’s all luck not skill. Let me know if my directions are unclear and I will try to clarify.

Let your kids use their imaginations and create their own board games. This is an activity that both my kids love to do. Gather up some game making supplies like poster board, card stock, dice, markers, brads for making spinning wheels, and various little items to mark your place on the board. Then take turns playing each others games and enjoy the pride on the little faces who made them when the games are deemed a success.

Design a Fancy Hat

Channel your inner Sophie and create  a magnificent hat.


My daughter fashioned this lovely and flowery “butterfly attracting hat.” It was actually more of a headband type of thing but close enough.

Learn to Sew

We haven’t tackled any projects like Sophie making Howl a magical patchwork suit. But we have had fun learning to hand stitch a few projects and also try a couple super basic ones using a sewing machine. Both my kids love when they get to use the sewing machine, even if it’s just to sew random lines down a piece of scrap fabric.

My daughter has been interested in fashion design and learning to sew for several years now. We made this duct tape dress form for her to use for her fashion design projects. It actually didn’t get used much at all for it’s intended purposes. But it was fun to make and she got to learn about taking proper measurements and why you might want to use a dress form.

We used a tutorial similar to this one.


We also purchased this super cute Sewing School book. I have since see it at the library. However it has patterns included in the book and often times reusable items like that in library books get used and abused. You could always check it out first to see how much your kids would really want to use it before you commit to purchasing it.

We have used sewing school to make a cute A line skirt, a skirt for a doll, hand stitched stuffies and as a guide for stuffed animal repairs.

Boys and girls alike enjoy stitching up projects. My son has become come quite skilled with the sewing machine. He enjoys it every bit as much as my daughter.

If sewing is not your thing but you want your kids to learn or they are interested in learning, check with your local fabric store. They often times offer lessons or can point you in the direction of someone who does.

Make Green Slime

Easy Slime Recipe

Watch for Falling Stars

Do stars really fall? What are meteors? How old are stars really? There are many more questions to find the answers to with the assistance of your kids. Show them how to search the internet, assuming they don’t know how. (Nowadays the chances of that are pretty slim, even with the very young). But do take the time to help them find the answers and don’t just tell them. It will be more fun and educational for everyone.

If you have a telescope, then first let me say that I am jealous. Secondly, I would suggest that you take it outside with your kids on a dark, clear night. See how many constellations you can find or if you can spot a falling star. You don’t need a telescope to do this but I think a telescope  or a pair of these Celestron SkyMaster binoculars would make it extra cool.

Check out the link below to see dates for upcoming meteor showers. It’ll give you a better chance of seeing those falling stars.

Watch the Movie

Discuss the movie vs the book with your kids. Which parts were different? Which did you like better and why? This is good practice for them to formulate and express opinions. You could also talk about the difference between facts and opinions.

Posted in Rump

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

This is such a fun story! My kids and I absolutely adore this book by Liesl Shurtliff. (Her other two books, Jack and Red, are wonderful too). My daughter began listening to the audio book the day after we reached the end of this one. I am a sucker for a different take on a fairy tale. If you feel the same way, make sure to add this book to your read aloud list.

Learning Activities

Pan for Gold

Panning for gold seems like an especially exciting thing to do while reading Rump. Gold is a big part of his story. I would love to take my kids gold panning! But since we currently live in Central Florida, I think we’d have better luck running into an alligator than a nugget of gold. So we’ll be passing on this one until we vacation somewhere with better gold prospects and less risk of being eaten.

There are kits out there that look to be more for fun rather than learning the actual skill of gold panning.

This website has some good info on panning for gold.

Learn to Weave

Sadly our family does not have access to a spinning wheel, so learning to turn wool into thread or straw into gold was totally out of the question. Last fall we did have the opportunity to attend a festival where someone there was turning wool into yarn. It was pretty cool to pet the sheep, see the wool and see how it becomes yarn.20151017_133820

We took the easy way out and  learned to finger knit. Which is sometimes called finger weaving. It’s easy once you get the hang of it. Both my kids enjoyed doing it.

There are many different ways to weave if finger knitting doesn’t seem like your thing. We have used the rainbow loom and the pot holder maker, both of which my daughter loves.


Learn to tell the difference between gold and fools gold.

HOW TO Tell the Difference Between Real Gold and Fool’s Gold

You can learn about 14k gold vs 24k gold, white gold vs yellow gold and the many different uses for gold.

Family History

What’s in a name? According to Rump, your name is your destiny. Do you know what your name means?

This website is super cool. You can type in your last name and find out the origins, meaning, immigration information, and even civil war service records. I love the internet.

This of course can lead to historical and geographical learning activities. Can you find your family’s country of origin on map? When did your family immigrate? Are you related to any notable characters in history?

Here’s another link to discover the meaning of you first or last name. There’s also a function to see what year(s) your name was most popular.

Create a family history with your kids. Make a basic family tree that includes your kids, you and their grandparents. Or add more of a challenge and see how far back you can go. You could interview parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts to learn about their lives and their memories of growing up.

I am fortunate to have family members who actively participate in family history. They have provided me with remembrance books that contain pictures and stories about many of my ancestors. My kids always enjoy looking at the pictures and hearing about the lives of our descendants. Another thing they are interested in is determining relationship terms i.e. first cousin, second cousin twice removed, etc… Check out the link below for more information on relationship terms.

Play a Who Am I type game

Since Rump spent a lot of time trying to figure out who he was, I thought it would be fun to play a who am I type game.

Get a stack of 3×5 cards and write names of cartoon characters or different animals or whatever you choose. Tape one card to the back of each person playing. Then players try to guess who or what they are by asking the other players questions.

You could play Hedbanz if you already own it or if you aren’t into DIY games.

Or you could download this app for free.

Posted in The Toothpaste Millionaire

The Toothpaste Millionaire

This book, by Jean Merrill, is a good choice when you are look for a quick read as opposed to starting another series or a longer book. It’s a cute story that inspires kids to want to start their own business.

Learning Activities

Make Toothpaste

We couldn’t wait to get making our own toothpaste after finishing this book. There are tons of diy toothpaste recipes floating around the internet. Some of them call of ingredients that we did not have at home so we passed on them. We ended up using a recipe with a coconut oil base. It certainly was different from the stuff you buy at the store. My kids thought it was disgusting and wouldn’t use it. I didn’t like it because it left an oily residue on my toothbrush and I questioned the cleanliness of that practice after a week or two of use.

You could spend some time researching ingredients used in toothpaste. Is homemade better than store-bought? Are all store bought toothpastes created equal as far as the ingredients are concerned?

This was an interesting read

Make Elephant Toothpaste

This is an easy and awesome science experiment you can do with your kids. You can find the hydrogen peroxide needed for the experiment at a beauty supply store.


Dental Hygiene and Anatomy of the Mouth

Now’s a good time to talk about dental hygiene. I think it’s fair to say that the a lot of kids already know that they are supposed to brush their pearly whites. But do they know that they should be brushing their tongues too?

If you happen to have a subscription to you could check out this little video on Teeth.

Start a Business

My kids are always trying to come up with ways to make money. There was the time they wanted to start a neighborhood smoothie shop, a healthy popsicle shop, a bakery,  a pancake breakfast restaurant and even a bug pet store. My daughter actually got really motivated a couple of years ago decided to try her own spa business. It didn’t last more than a couple of days but it was a great learning activity. Initially all she could talk about was how fun it would be and how much money she was going to make. We were able to talk about how much money she would need to invest in products and supplies for her spa. We discussed advertising, the target audience and how much to charge for products and services. She even hired her brother to run the front desk. In the end she learned that it takes a lot of money to start-up a business, it’s hard to build a client base and the initial return wasn’t as good as she’d dreamed it would be. But we all had a great time in the process.20140630_114303


Here are a few links on the topic…

Posted in Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses

This book makes me smile just thinking about it. We have read many of Kate DiCamillo’s books and this is one of my favorites. It’s funny with a tinge of drama and some good messages to take away.

Learning Activities

Make Donuts with Sprinkles (or just eat them)

I would rather buy donuts than make them. I dislike the greasy smell that permeates the house for hours and even days after deep-frying something.  My kids and I attempted to make traditional deep-fried donuts. They didn’t turn out very good. They possessed all the qualities you don’t want in a donut (heavy, greasy, not very delicious looking). But do not fear because the answer is to make baked donuts instead. Our favorite recipe is actually a donut muffin and Holy Bagumba they are tasty. Let your kids help. Use it as an opportunity to practice reading, math and science. Have them read the directions to you, make the measurements, and set the oven to the proper temperature. Have a chat about nutrition while you’re waiting for your donut muffins to bake.

An alternative to making donuts would be to have a donut tasting activity. Buy a selection of donuts (glazed, cake, custard filled, cream filled, etc) at your favorite bakery and slice them into bite size pieces. Let your kids sample the donuts and discuss which they like best and why. You could practice being persuasive by attempting to convince each other why the donut you like best is the best.

Learn to Type

Type up a note for someone you love. If your kids already know home row and are proficient typists, work on improving typing speed or grammar. If they are newbies, let them hunt and peck (as Ulysses undoubtedly did) and become familiar with the keyboard.

This is one of the websites my kids use to practice their typing skills,

You could get real fancy and pick up a special keyboard for learning to type. There are several different software programs to buy as well. But the free websites work just fine for us.

Role Play Being Blind

This activity is an opportunity for kids to  learn empathy for those who do not have the sense of sight. You could use a blind fold or simple close your eyes (so long as you don’t peak). Have your kids attempt to perform some day-to-day tasks without the use of their eyes. Ask them to pay attention to what they notice with their other senses. Discuss how different life might be if they were unable to see.

This is a neat video I found on YouTube about a little girl who was born blind and what her life is like at school and at home.

Squirrel Science

Find somewhere to observe the behavior of squirrels. There definitely doesn’t seem to be a shortage of the little guys. If you don’t have any in your backyard, try a local park that has lots of trees.

We recently hung a couple of bird feeders in our backyard and so far have only attracted squirrels. We have had fun experimenting with various squirrel baffles. These little acrobats are a hard act to stop. They climb, they jump, they flip, they are determined. It would be a great STEM challenge to design a squirrel proof feeder.

Spend some time watching these weird tree climbing mammals. You will see that they do a lot of tail twitching and chirping to signal each other. They even make a barking sound to sound the alarm. After observing them for awhile, head online to uncover what the behavior you observed really means.

If you can’t find any squirrels to watch in the wild, try YouTube or a webcam.

If you have an Amazon prime membership you will find a few short videos, like this one, available to watch. They also have a Wild Kratts episode called The Blue and the Gray ( that includes some facts about the gray squirrel.

If you and your kids enjoyed watching the crazy antics of the squirrels, rather than deterring them from your feeders, consider building them their own. Birds and Blooms have a neat DIY feeder. If you aren’t into to DIY, you could always grab a commercially made feeder. Then sit back and watch the crazy antics of those little nut lovers!