February 27, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: The Art of African Masks

A Pende mask (or is it Yoda?)
Whether your children are home schooled, virtually schooled, or attend a traditional school parents tend to teach their children about art at home.  It is a great way to teach them about history and culture while sparking their creativity and imagination.  Each year in art class my daughter has had some sort of lesson about masks, usually when the class is learning about symmetry.  This year the lesson directed her to a website called ArtyFactory. She learned all about African Masks; the purpose of the masks and the materials used to make them, in addition to learning about the elements of art built into the design of the masks.  Being a Star Wars fanatic, she had fun deciding which Star Wars characters could have been inspired by the examples of African Masks displayed on the website.  ArtyFactory also has lessons about Egyptian art, drawing & painting lessons, lessons on graphic design, and information on art history & appreciation.  Visit ArtyFactory and turn a stuck-in-the-house, nothing-to-do day into an educational and creative art day.


February 23, 2013

A Hot and Chocolaty Breakfast

I have a new favorite hot breakfast; chocolate rice. I think I need a catchier name for it, though.  It doesn't sound that appealing. You should have seen the grossed out faces when I asked the kids to be my guinea pigs and then described my idea yesterday morning.  They were very hesitant at first, but their attitudes changed very quickly after the chocolaty aroma started drifting up the stairs.  The taste reminds me of CoCo Wheats, but without any unknown ingredients & I can control the amount of sugar.  Here's how I made it:

Prepare your favorite brand of white long grain rice following the directions on the package.  Add one square of Lindt 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark chocolate (or any other very dark chocolate) for every 1/2 cup of uncooked rice.  When the rice is done steaming, add one tablespoon each of butter and sugar for every 1/2 cup of uncooked rice. You may wish to add slightly more or less sugar depending on your taste, but remember the chocolate is very bitter.  Also, you can use a sugar alternative if you don't eat sugar.

It's a very simple recipe.  But then again, isn't it the simple things that make it the good life? Enjoy, and stay warm today!


February 20, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Free Spelling Program

I love my children's school.  The courses are full of resources to make learning more interactive and fun...except for the spelling program.  They use Scott Forseman's Reading Street for Language Arts.  The reading and grammar portions of the course are fine, but the spelling portion is very boring and doesn't really explain spelling rules well.  It is simply a list of words to memorize each week.  As a result, I did some searching for alternatives.  Like I said, I love my children's school.  Since their spelling pages are not graded by the teacher, I have the freedom to substitute my own spelling assignments if I wish.  While I found All About Spelling very thorough, I wasn't ready to spend $30 for their interactive kit and $30-$40 per level for the 7 level program.  On the other hand, Spell By Color is free!  It isn't nearly as in-depth, but it does cover the basics well.  If you are looking for something you can use for spelling with your home schooled student, or even to supplement your traditionally schooled student's spelling program, then I highly recommend Spell By Color.


February 16, 2013

Presidents' Day Fun and Activities

Monday is Presidents' Day (and my birthday) and most students have the day off.  All too often holidays are taken for granted as simply a day off.  We don't take the time to ponder why the day is special, let alone do anything to celebrate it.  I've done some research on our presidents recently, and the first thing I can tell you is that there is a ton of information out there.  I research a lot of topics.  I'm always looking something up.  Usually, I search through page after page of results before I find enough information to satisfy me.  This time, however, I found great resources right on the first page of my search results, and even more on the pages that followed.  So, this year, take advantage of the extra time with your little ones and spend some time exploring the lives of the our presidents.

Biographical Information
The Internet Public Library (IPL2) has links to biographies, historical documents, audio & video files, and other presidential sites are also included.

The Biography channel's website has full episodes, mini biography videos and more biographical information about all 44 presidents.

The PBS series American Experience has 33 hours of streaming documentaries on 8 20th century presidents, biographies of every U.S. President, original interviews, articles, photo galleries, timelines and extensive teacher guides.


YouTube has a couple fun versions of songs to help teach the names of the presidents in order, one set to the tune of Yankee Doodle, and the other by the Animaniacs.  Please note that these songs are a little old; the Yankee Doodle song ends with George W. Bush, and the Animaniacs' song ends with Bill Clinton.

Learning Games for Kids has a collection of presidential online games including word searches and a hangman style game.

Primary Games has a few president-themed puzzle games.

Enchanted learning has a 2 pages full of crafts and printables, and historical information.

Family Education created a whole page of crafts, activities, printables, and crossword puzzles about our presidents.

Lesson Ideas
Scholastic's teacher website includes everything you need from lesson plans to activities & games to help students learn about past presidents and develop leadership skills.

The Home School Mom is offering 2 free presidential notebooking units.

Family Education has put together a 10 question quiz about presidential blooper and blunders, and slideshows about presidential pets, and first kids.

The History Channel has nearly 50 short video clips about the presidents.

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has a mystery for kids to solve involving a portrait of George Washington.


February 13, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Remembering Frederick Douglass

The month of February holds the birthdays of three men who were integral in shaping our young country; George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass.  We will study Presidents Washington and Lincoln more this weekend for Presidents' Day, but for this week's Mid-week Morsel I want to acknowledge Frederick Douglass.  Though he didn't know his actual date of birth, he celebrated it on February 14th.  He was an inspirational American who escaped from slavery and dedicated his life to freedom and equality for all people.  Having taught himself to read and write, he published an anti-slavery newspaper, was an eloquent lecturer on the topics of women's rights and the abolishment of slavery, and wrote three auto-biographies.  This week, get inspired by listening to a reading of Douglass' story My Escape From Slavery and by reading his third auto-biography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: From 1817-1882.


February 9, 2013

Valentine's Day DIY's

Well, I would love to be writing a DIY how-to post about a really creative Valentine's Day craft that I made all by myself,  but unfortunately my craft supplies are in a storage unit right now. Perhaps next year I will have a Valentine craft to share made with my own two hands.  This year, however, this list of crafts I wish I could do will have to suffice.


Heart in Hand

Pop-up Garden

Origami Heart

Valentine Scroll

Two Peas in a Pod


Matchbox Treats

Handprint Hearts

Valentine's Pencil Toppers

Caped Cute-sader

Tissue Paper Rose

Jolly Lollies


Valentine's Pinata

Valentine's Placemat

3D String of Hearts

Heart Cone Trees

Paper Heart Garland

I hope these ideas have inspired you to get out your crafting supplies and make something special for the ones you love.  If you have any ideas you would like to share please leave a comment or post the idea on Simply the Good Life's Facebook page.


February 6, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Printable Pattern Puzzles

Repeating Pattern Puzzles
Patterns are an important part of developing math skills.  Furthermore, understanding patterns help children problem solve, make predictions, and use reasoning skills in all other areas of their life.  This week's Mid-week Morsel highlights a resource found right here at Simply The Good Life.  When I first started the blog, I posted the Pattern Puzzles I created several years ago on my Free Printables page, but did not write a post about them.  Since traffic has been very low to that page, I decided to write a post about it.  There are 10 different pre-made pattern pages (meant to be duplex printed), 2 blank pattern pages for creating your own patterns (again, meant to be 2-sided), and 1 page of numbers to cut apart (print as many of this page as you wish).  I recommend printing them all on card stock, and laminating them if possible (particularly if you want them to last through more than one child).  I've considered creating more pages with more complex patterns such as ones using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  I'd love to have your feedback.  Would you like more Pattern Puzzles?  Leave a comment and let me know.


February 2, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Warfare by Duct Tape!

As a continuation of last week's theme, this week's slice of the good life has more home made fun for children.  A few years ago I found the website, Warfare by Duct Tape.  I loved it!  What could make little (and big) boys happier than weapons and duct tape!  It is run by two creative and enterprising brothers who have created how-to ebooks on making your own duct tape weapons.  The ebooks are available for purchase from their website and also on CurrClick.  Normally I only recommend resources that are free, however I feel that if you have a child who is interested in historical arms and armament, then these ebooks are well worth the price.  Also, if you'd like a sneak peek, they offer a free Throwing Axe booklet as a sample of what you'll find in the ebooks for sale.  

Mid-week Morsel: Free Downloadable American Boys & Girls Handybooks

If your kids are anything like mine, they have a toybox full of perfectly good toys, but would rather play with the empty toilet paper roll, an empty cereal box, and some tape.  This week's mid-week morsel offers two great books full of ideas to keep boys and girls busy for the whole year.  I originally discovered these books two years ago when Homeschool Freebie of the Day posted them on their website.  I was reminded of them this past week when the books were re-posted.  They were written around the turn of the 20th century, but still offer ideas and games for children today.

In the preface of The American Girls Handybook the authors state, "One of our objects is to impress upon the minds of the girls the fact that they all possess talent and ability to achieve more than they suppose possible..."  The books cover topics ranging from pressing flowers to homemade Christmas gifts.  The Girls' book 1 contains spring and summer activities, while the girls' book 2 contains autumn and winter activities.

In the preface of The American Boys Handybook the author states, "The sports, amusements, and games embraced in this book are intended to reach the average American boy of any age, not too young to fly a kite or too old to enjoy a good day's fishing."  The books contain every interest from choosing and caring for dogs to snowball warfare.  The boys' book 1 contains spring and summer activities, and the boys' book 2 contains autumn and winter activities.


Happy Groundhog Day

It's Groundhog Day...again, and that means we're going to talk about groundhogs and the history of Groundhog Day.  

Groundhog Day has it's origins in the Celtic festival Imbolc, which is a celebration of the beginning of spring.  It is typically held around February 1st (halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.)  One of the traditions of Imbolc is to watch for serpents and badgers to come out of hibernation as an indicator of whether spring weather would come early or not.

More recent history finds similarities between Groundhog Day and the Christian celebration of Candlemas, also known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  An old Scottish saying tells us, "If Candlemas day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year".  And an English poem declares, "If Candlemas be fair and bright, winter has another flight.  If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, winter will not come again".

Fun Facts
Of the 115 predictions on record, Phil has only predicted an early spring 15 times.

Phil's accuracy rate is only about 39%.

Since the 1993 movie, "Groundhog Day", attendance at the Punxsutawney event has expanded significantly.

I've compiled a list of websites that have lesson plans, crafts, activities, and more information about Groundhog Day.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club - The official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog celebration, including a live Groundhog Day webcast.

DLTK's Crafts for Kids - Coloring pages, tongue twisters, crafts, and more.

Enchanted Learning - Crafts, worksheets, and printable books.

Primary Games - Online games including a jigsaw puzzle, and word search.