Our Favorite Story Time

Do you listen to podcasts? Do your kids listen? I have found such great learning experiences with many podcasts, I talk about some in this blog post and how we use them in our homeschool. That particular blog was written before I stumbled across the podcast I will be talking about today.

Circle Round Podcast. Great for adults who love to listen to stories and great for kids to build Theory of Mind as well as something everyone can agree on!

I am always on the search for podcasts. I have a few favorites, but I am always hoping to find something fun and interesting that I/we can learn something from. I have my just-for-mommy podcasts and I have some that I will gladly play for the girls any time they ask.

We listen while playing in a sensory bin, instead of me reading out loud at bedtime, in the car, while I make dinner, on no-tv days where they are getting too worked up, while they play outside, or even while they take a bubble bath!

With Circle Round, my girls have been asking for episodes by name! I surprise them every Tuesday (sometimes Wednesday if I haven’t been online much on Tuesday) with the newest installment. I always get a little bit giddy when it shows up in my RSS feed.

Personally, I love folktales and stories. I love being transported to a world where I need to think and ponder the events, to get out of my own head. I have yet to find the perfect just-for-mommy version of this, so I just love how Circle Round is not just a kids podcast. It really does rope in the grown ups as well!

I also love that at the beginning of each podcast, they say where the story is told. We have had to look at our world map to see where Thailand, Sweden, Nigeria, and Asia are located and I explain that people live there who have had the story told to them by their great grandparents (It is hard to explain generations to 4 and 6 year olds who have no concept of what day it is let alone the concept of time!).

Bug’s favorite story so far is called Onions and Garlic. She loves the actors’ intonation and silliness. This has been the go-to when we get in the car and I ask : Story or Music? and they respond with: STORY! 9 out of 10 times. I will then ask which story. Sometimes they want to listen to Stella And The Dragon, or The Princess In The Mirror. The Rice Cakes And The Oni sparked her curiosity to learn about mythical beasts and we went to find a book on mythical beasts at our local used book store. We learned about how it is mean to make fun of people in The Barber’s Secret, and we heard a folk tale about Why The Ocean Is Salty.

There are so many things to learn while listening to this great podcast. My girls ask a LOT of questions…why did she do that? Why is he talking like that? Why isn’t he happy? They are learning to think and question the world around them.

This is what Theory Of Mind is.

Theory Of Mind is how someone thinks and responds to other people’s thoughts. It is “the idea that each child develops an understanding of their own thoughts, desires, and beliefs—and can recognize that other people have their own thoughts, desires, and beliefs”.

Story telling is so important for building this skill. Asking questions is important for them to be able to understand other people having different ideas in a situation.

I know at leas, or especially, with Six, I can tire easily from all the “why” questions she throws at me all day every day. But I take a deep breath and remember that she truly does not know. She is still trying to understand the world around her and asking why to every.single.thing is her way of learning.

Bug is still learning that she can ask questions. When she starts asking, boy, she just won’t stop! Building Theory Of Mind in kids with autism can be a challenge. People with autism can sometimes not understand that other people around them have their own plans, thoughts, points of view, beliefs, and emotions. I am certainly no expert in how to help everyone with that difficulty, but every single article I have read of Theory of Mind, has said that reading stories can really build that skill.

I love that Circle Round was created for kids but is engaging for the grown ups as well. I love that it makes us all thinks and ask questions and maybe even learn a lesson in among the tale.

Not only do they produce a podcast every Tuesday, they also have coloring pages* for each of their stories available here. So for those of you homeschoolers out there, having your kiddo color one of these pages before/during/after listening to the podcast, can count for Social Studies and Art!

I hope that by sharing this podcast with you, I have helped build the desire to listen and learn. I wish for all of you to be as excited about this podcast as we are every week. Keep answering all the Whys, keep telling stories, and keep the spark to learn alive.


*If you do a coloring page and have an Instagram account, tag #CircleRound so they can see your artwork!


The Cure For Autism

I recently read a post by one of my favorite blogger/FB peeps, the wonderful and hilarious Mama Fry.

Mama Fry is wonderful. She finds the humor and tells it how it is. She was the first autism page on Facebook that I liked and followed after Bug got her diagnosis. Mama Fry has been in the autism world longer than I have, and I have learned so much from her and I enjoy and look forward to her blog posts.

This post was about a cure for autism. You can read about it here. And Mama Fry hits the nail on the head: “Your kid has autism and that doesn’t change a damn thing about them. It just explains their neurology. That’s it”.

I don’t believe there is a magical “cure” for autism. If there was, don’t you think everyone would have heard of it? Wouldn’t you think every doctor, speech therapist, feeding therapist, occupational therapist, resource teacher, behavioral therapist would be sharing the “magical cure”?

Essential oils do not cure autism (or ADHD or feeding issues).

Bleach enemas do NOT cure autism. Just no.

Rhythmic movements do not cure autism.

And while I’m here:

You cannot catch autism.

Vaccines do not cause autism (follow the link for SCIENCE) (Edited to add: this awesome info as well as more science, some Q&A, a Japanese study, this, even more science here, and more info on ASD specifically. Although I know that if there is any anti-vaccine person reading this blog, these articles will to them be poppycock, but I am aware we can all have different opinions so you do you ❤ ).

You did not eat some non-organic carrot that caused your kiddo to have autism.

I may have gone off on a slight tangent, but I am passionate, it is relevant, and it is important.

Bug has autism. So what?! It doesn’t change who she is! It is a label to get her help she needs to grow and learn to reach her potential.

The reason I say all of this, the reason I am so frustrated is because I have heard most every “cure” and every “reason” she has autism. And it hurts, as a parent, to hear “oh you must have not eaten organic foods that were pesticide free while you were pregnant” or ” oh it is because you vaccinated her, vaccines cause autism”. You know what I hear when someone callously TELLS me their OPINION? That it is something I did, that I failed as a parent, that I did this to her. That is not fair. That is not the truth.

I spent so many anxiety-filled nights till 2, 3, 4 am researching, doing my homework, trying to find out if it was truly something I did. I spent YEARS doing this research. I happen to trust peer-reviewed, scientific evidence when it comes to things I am not a PhD in. So I trust that if there was a cure, we would know about it.

That being said, even if there was a cure, I wouldn’t use it. Bug is the best kid I know. She is truly amazing, hilarious, loving, kind, smart, and so many other things. Autism does not define her.

So let me tell you a little story of why Mama Fry’s post really struck a chord for me.

When we started with occupational therapy back in September, I was expecting some fine motor games, some hand strengthening exercises, some techniques to use with pencils, writing surfaces, writing materials, games to play to promote writing skills, and things of that nature. What I have been told to do with Bug, however, is far, far from what I was expecting.

Rhythmic movements. I call them jiggling, because that is literally what it is.

Our OT at school has told me about her teacher/mentor who is apparently quite big in the OT community, or at least with a certain type of OT. And somehow I wound up on this lady’s email list….to this day I truly have no idea how. Now, I ranted and raved about cures for a good long while to get to this story that made smoke come out of my ears.

The subject line said: “I am usually skeptical of miracle cures but…”.

Before I even clicked on the link I was rolling my eyes so far back in my head I almost fell over. Remember, this is the lady that our OT seems to idolize. I clicked on the link despite my better judgement. It was screenshots of alleged emails this lady has received saying that the jiggles CURED someone’s ADHD, another one’s depression, someone else’s anxiety and someone’s kid’s autism.

I wanted to scream.

Firstly, how many other interventions and/or medications did these people have, how many YEARS were they involved with these other things? And you are solely crediting these movements for “curing” these diagnoses.

Secondly, what is the {scientific} proof that these movements do what you claim they do? And to be clear, they are claiming it can cure things ranging from anxiety to autism here. I have found little to none. Research on this particular topic is sparse. There are mainly claims to success with no real backing. And like I said above, I really like science and trust peer-reviewed, scientific journals.

Thirdly, is this particular form of therapies (not used by every OT, I should clarify) designed to be NOTHING BUT the movements? Because that is what our OT experience has been. We have been doing nothing but the movements in the 30 minute session once a week and I am expected to do them every day. We haven’t held a pencil since October, and that was for the initial evaluation.

I call hokum. Balderdash, nonsense, malarkey, poppycock, twaddle, drivel, bunk.

Wouldn’t every OT be using this form of therapy if it helped kids with Downs Syndrome, autism, ADHD etc?

Shouldn’t we be doing fine motor games, hand strengthening exercises, learning techniques to use with pencils, utilizing different writing surfaces, writing materials, games to promote writing skills, and things of that nature, not just waiting to see a result from the movements before we continue?

And I have no doubt that these movements could help build some reflexes and help overall. However…..THEY DO NOT CURE AUTISM.

Bug has shown some improvements in her writing skills. Want to know why? Because I went back to my anxiety-ridden self from four and a half years ago and have been staying up till 2, 3, 4 in the morning researching what OTs go to school for years to learn about.

Puddy play to promote hand strength and form, butcher paper scribbles to engage full body awareness that builds up to control of their body, weighted pencils, inclined writing surfaces, tiny pencils, pre-writing shapes, games involving hand-eye coordination and crossing the midline, and so many more.

pre-writing shapes

This was me.

A modified tripod grasp (I believe). Wrist down, elbow down.

Not jiggling her on the floor. Me.

I’m not even trying to brag here. I just don’t want credit for my hard work and dedication to Bug’s learning and development to be credited to this jiggling that I do occasionally, when I have 20 minutes with just Bug in the house and I remember.

I have to give credit to our wonderful aid for gifting Bug this game for Christmas this year, it has helped tremendously in building her tripod grasp as well as strengthening those fine motor muscles! ❤

This is something that could take years to “see progress from”. Meanwhile, we have an IEP goal date of May and I had expected to see more progress towards that (reachable) goal by now.

I fail to agree with the large expectations being placed on these movements and am very disappointed in the lack of evidence that they truly help with anything but reflex integration.

So to get back to my main point here today, there is no magical “cure” for autism. These comments and thoughts are still very prevalent, especially among those WITHOUT children on the spectrum.  But if you want to  improve your kiddo’s quality of life, their future; love them, support them, if possible, get them into any early interventions you possibly can, fight for them, believe in them, and be okay with them being their own person. Be their support, their rock, their shoulder, their cheerleader and their mama bear. Throw a drink in the face of anyone who thinks there is or wants to cure your child. They are amazing, you are amazing. Keep on keeping on.


Occu-what? Another Therapy

ABA, Feeding, Speech, and now Occupational therapy.

We have a FULL schedule. It’s a wonder I make 3 meals a day some days.

Bug has been having some discomfort and hatred towards doing worksheets and writing for quite some time. Long enough we saw a need for an evaluation.

The evaluation took a few 30-minute sessions, followed by a team member IEP meeting that determined that yes, she could in fact benefit from OT.

She cooperated for a few of the sessions, and came around during two of them when the therapist brought out the slime. Slime is magic. It is my secret weapon at home during worksheet days.

We are still in the beginning stages of this new and interesting approach to helping Bug to write. So very much in the beginning that I may need some time to comprehend what the actual heck is going on.

Now, I mean no disrespect to our therapist. None at all. I am just beyond confused and a bit frustrated at the research I have done.

Our therapist is having us do what is called rhythmic movements. It is apparently a reflex integration to help “wake up” reflexes that are still left over from the baby stage. You know when you put your finger in that brand new baby’s hand and it closed around your finger? Or if you put your baby’s arm up, its head would turn? Apparently, Bug’s reflexes didn’t integrate completely and could use some of these “rhythmic movements” to help build them up.

I have done some Googling, and I have not found much in the way of studies or research on this and it all just feels a bit strange to me. How is jiggling Bug on the floor supposed to help her write? I just don’t understand.

I have even made a few phone calls to a couple other OTs in the area (which is very few actually), and had them try to explain to me just what these movements were doing. One said there hasn’t been much clinical research to support this method. I like science and research and studies so this makes me even more concerned than I was when she showed us these movements for the first time. Another mentioned that our particular OT has seen great results with this method for many other issues. All well and good.

I just fail to agree that not doing these movements is the reason Bug was having a hard day. She has hard days on school and gym days. It isn’t because I didn’t do the movements, this has been happening for months longer than I even knew the OT.

I just fail to agree that the only thing we should be doing is these movements. We have had Bug hold a pencil maybe three times total over the course of 3+ months of sessions.

And I fail to agree that I should be the only one practicing writing with Bug. Our wonderful resource teacher would be a fantastic support for not only Bug, but for me as well.

It doesn’t help that I am terrible at communicating so I struggle with asking “what exactly is this doing?” or “will we be working with a pencil soon?”.

So, because I have been having these struggles, I have taken it upon myself to learn as much as I possibly can about fine motor skills, pre-writing, pencil grips, types of pencils and pencil tools.

I have created sheets upon sheets of pre-writing shapes and lines to practice, I have made weighted pencils, found really short pens, made extra big grip pencils, and found activities that include a vertical surface and crossing the midline. I have found fun Christmas themed fine motor activities, workbooks with pre-writing support games.

This is what I had I guess expected from occupational therapy.

Yes, the reflexes are a valid concern. However, one that I didn’t think would be the focus of our short sessions.

I will continue to do the movements, but if Bug starts showing progress in writing, I will know in my heart that it was because of my dedication to her. Not from jiggling her on the floor.

I will continue to Google “rhythmic movements” in hope there will one day be some empirical evidence on the subject. But for now, I feel like I have just been handed a candle and told to light it every day and it will cure my allergies.

Does anyone on this world-wide web of ours have any suggestions for me? I could use them right about now… ❤

Homeschooling On A Budget

Homeschooling can be expensive. Curriculums and games and toys and supplies can all cost a pretty penny. But I am here to help you if you don’t want to spend a fortune on homeschooling and still be successful.

Through our charter we have a budget for the year. This budget covers on-site classes, curriculums, games, toys, supplies, and even local classes. If the item is non-consumable (teachers guides, toys that aren’t made, books, etc) we have to return it to the charter eventually; if we ever leave the school or we no longer have a need for it. BUT I am a weirdo and don’t want to give things back. This is probably one of the main reasons we have so much stuff because I become attached to all our stuff and never want to get rid of it. But I digress.

So, because I want to keep the things we have our eye on, we buy them ourselves.

There are a few things we do get through our budget: printer paper and ink, gymnastics classes once a week, two on-site classes a semester and curriculums we don’t actually use but we get to keep our CT happy.

Most of the things we use on a daily basis, however, we bought or were gifted to us. So I would like to share some tips to not break the bank as well as some of our most-used, favorite homeschool must-haves.

First up: homeschooling on a budget.

  1. Shop around. Walmart, the Dollar Store, and even Target and Costco have workbooks, and of course school supplies. I was shocked when I went to our local Dollar Store for buckets and found half an aisle of beginning writing paper, workbooks, flash cards, calenders, and learning supplies.
  2. Yard Sales, curriculum shares/swaps, craigslist, and sales/clearance. I have found so many amazing toys and learning resources at yard sales, and have been fortunate (and unlucky) to live in a town that has lost a few awesome toy and school supply stores. So when they went out of business, I jumped on a ton of sale and clearance items that cost over half off of original prices!
  3. Share. Do you know any homeschoolers in your area? Maybe they have a kiddo a little older than yours? Ask if they have any unused or lightly used curriculums if you are going the curriculum route. Ask what their favorite homeschool resources are and ask to borrow them.
  4. Library! If you are not following a curriculum and are going more in the delight-directed homeschool route (aka unschooling), the library is an awesome place for resources. Our library had videos, CDs, books on tape and so much more besides books as well as some free classes and events.
  5. DIY. Getting an all-in-one curriculum sounds so nice, and there are some great ones out there! But if you are anything like us, a full-blown curriculum just doesn’t work for you. That isn’t the end of the world! There are still tons of stuff you can do to keep up learning! Podcasts, Youtube, the library, field trips, games, and so many more. One of my favorite bloggers Jill Krause has recently embarked on a homeschooling journey with two of her four kids and she has a fantastic idea for getting homeschooling done in a fun way! You can check that out here.
  6. Wish Lists. I am a HUGE fan of Amazon wish lists. I’m not going to lie, I abuse the wish list button a lot. I have so many wish lists for so many different things. But it has been really great for birthdays and Christmas. My family is awesome at asking what we would like or what we already have, so I create a wish list each birthday/Christmas and share it with them. My mom will usually take the items on my list as suggestions and get a ton of similar items, whereas my sister and aunt stick to the list. Either way is great, we are getting toys and games and books that will support us in our homeschool journey because our family wants us to be successful.

Next: homeschool must-haves

  1. A Laminator. You may think this is a frivolous purchase, but let me tell you something: this is my most used homeschool-related gadget. I use this thing so much sometimes I have to turn it off to let it cool down because I have been using it all day. You can make worksheets reusable to be used with a white-board marker, you can make your own books or photo albums, you can preserve artwork (I have many subject dividers in my homeschool binder that are the girls’ artwork), you can do so many things with a simple laminator. We got ours on sale for under $25!
    Hey! Laminating another favorite!
  2. Bananagrams. I genuinely love all the Bananagrams products. We started with the original banana and it was great, but then we were given the My First banana, and Word-A-Melon and they have changed our homeschool days. We use one or both of these games DAILY. I’m not kidding, they are amazing! The original and My First bananas are $15 on the Bananagrams website or at Target!
  3. Rory’s Story Cubes. I go into depth about how we use these in my blog post, but in a nutshell; use to build imagination, a speech building game or to practice writing! There are MANY different packs/themes you can find, all of which I want desperately! But the original 3 packs can be found at Target for $8 each! We loved them so much I gifted one pack each to our Speech therapist and resource teacher at our charter.

  4. Mobi. I plan to do a review of Mobi Kids if I ever get my hands on one! But for now I will tell you about the original Mobi. This is another zipper-pouch game (we have a thing for pouch games apparently!), that is full of number tiles and math symbols. Think Bananagrams for math equations. There are so many uses for this game and not just as it is intended to be used. This is an ongoing theme in our homeschool, I don’t think we use many things as they were intended. But, this is a wonderful math skills game!20170324_183533-1
  5. Chapter books for reading out loud and Level Readers. We are raising readers in this household. My girls LOVE reading/looking through books/being read to. We have found bunches of children’s books, chapter books and level readers at yard sales, used book stores and curriculum swaps. They can be up to $5 at our local (tiny) toy store, or Target, but if you find clearance books they can be $2-3, or at used book stores for $1-2. Shop around! Chapter books such as The BFG or The Phantom Tollbooth are great for reading out loud. We read a LOT, we usually get through one chapter book a week. I have noticed a significant difference in both girls’ language since we started reading together last year.

    Our last used book store haul!
  6. A basic all-in-one workbook (Brainquest or Scholastic brands can be found at Costco and Target). For us, we don’t follow one curriculum. I am currently in the middle of writing my own all-in-one lesson plan/curriculum I hope to publish someday soon. But for now, I jump around from book to book of the curriculums we bought through our charter. However, I have returned more often than not to the $15 Scholastic workbook Gwama got us at Costco (we don’t have a membership). It is really straightforward and laid out well. Because of Bug’s hatred of worksheets though, we don’t usually finish or use the worksheets, but I use them to play a game off of: let’s spell this word, let’s do this math problem etc.
  7. Internet + Printer; if you have access to the internet and a printer, you can do anything! I have Googled what 1st graders are taught or are expected to know at the end of the year and have based our learning off those guidelines. I have printed off worksheets and games and made our own Velcro game binder. I have found board games and their rules that I have printed and laminated then 3-hole punched and put in our binder.

These must-haves truly got us through our first year of homeschool. We made them a bigger part of this year’s homeschool after seeing how well they worked for Bug last year.

I was not paid for any of my reviews, I genuinely love using these products, and we love how versatile they can be. If you can think outside the box, you can think of some fun games to play, adding some fun to your daily homeschool!

I wish you luck on your homeschool journey. Please know, though, that just because someone is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to. That is the beauty of homeschooling, you do what works for you and your kiddo and family. Don’t let anyone tell you you are doing it wrong; if you are moving forward, if your kids are learning, then you are doing a great job.


Tell Me A Story. A Review.

Story cubes. A mystical game I learned about 3 weeks into our first year of homeschooling last year. As soon as I saw them I knew we needed them and I wished I had had them when I was in school. They would’ve made my short stories much more interesting I think.

There are a surprising number of companies that have a story cube product, but none have compared to Rory’s Story Cubes. This company is brilliant. When I bought our first two collections at Target ($8 each!) I had no idea we would become so addicted to adding to our collection.


We have bought or been gifted by family: The original 9 story cubes in regular and jumbo size (aka Max), Voyages (9 cubes), Actions (9 cubes), Prehistoria (3 cubes), Enchanted (3 cubes), Clues (3 cubes), and probably my favorite Looney Toons (9 cubes).

One day we will own the rest. Maybe even all of their Storyworlds! But for sure the Mixes.

They are so fun and come in great carrying cases (if you get the packs with more than 3 dice) so they are portable and small (unless you get the Story Cubes Max) so it can fit easily in a purse or a backpack. We have taken them on our mommy-Bug doughnut dates at our local coffee shop where we have just rolled and came up with fun stories without worrying about writing it down or anything.

For us, we don’t use every single dice every single time. We have actually never used all nine dice ever. It is just too much right now. But that is the beauty of games like this, you can adapt it to fit your needs. And Bug’s needs mean using no more than four, but usually three at a time.

You can mix and match too. I personally love the stories that come from using 1 Prehistoric dice, 1 Enchanted dice, and 1 Action dice. We have had dinosaurs tripping over a glass slipper and volcanoes jumping on little old witches.

We are silly and I love it.

Right now we use story cubes for many things in our homeschool:

  1. Speech practice. The cubes have no words on them so we have to come up with a word for it. We can talk about what it looks like, what letter sound does it start with, what it can do.
  2. Imagination. Believe it or not, imaginative play actually had to be taught to Bug. But once she understood that she could be silly and use her imagination, she has not stopped. Using the cubes has kept her on her toes.
  3. Drawing/writing practice. With the way we are doing things now, Bug isn’t writing anything (this will be its own blog post soon), so when she creates a story I write it down. She is seeing that her thoughts and ideas are valid and real when we read it back together. Then she can draw a picture or tell me what to draw. Before her writing-ban, I had her help me write down a word or simple sentence from her story.
  4. Sharing. This may seem like a crazy way to do things, but when we get Six involved she always wants her own turn. BUT, I was losing the other’s interest if I had them take turns doing their own story. So, instead, we roll however many dice we picked out and each of them takes a turn telling me part of the story with every other dice. They still get to do their own stories, just on the days where each parent has a Jellybean each!

We have done a few themed-days where we have used a certain set of story cubes. we have had princess day where we only used the Enchanted set of three dice. We have had a Looney Toons day where we watched Looney Toons and made up a ton of our own stories. My personal favorite has to be dinosaur day (which included dino-foot painting and a dino bubble bath as well as rice krispy dino eggs for dessert!).

We have also gifted a set to our amazing Resource teacher at our charter as well as our speech therapist team at the charter, too. They are amazing teachers and thought they would love them as much as I do. Hopefully they do!

We will continue to add to our collection slowly but surely. We love Rory’s story cubes and share our love with anyone who will listen to me talk about homeschooling! They are a fun and sneakily educational game that is one of our must-haves for homeschooling, along with a laminator or any of the Bananagrams games (find reviews for FOUR of their amazing products here, here, here or here!)

I sincerely hope you will check out Rory’s Story Cubes products and love them as much as we do!

Welcome To The (Banana) Party!! A Review

This review took much too long to do! But in my defense I don’t have parties, so I had to badger Uncle C to come over and play Bananagrams Party Edition so I could do a proper review. That’s a lie, I offered him veggie pot pies and cookies, Hubby suggested video games till 3 am and he came right over. An introvert nerd party.

Hubby looking up a word. Homeschool table a mess. Fun game.

The wonderful folks at Bananagrams were kind enough to send me the Party Edition a few months ago. I have actually been rotating the Party banana with the WildTiles, Original and My First bananas in our homeschool, but you can see how we use those here. For this review I wanted to use the game as it was intended! I know, it’s a crazy idea, stay with me!


We ate some yummy food, sent the girls to bed and took over the homeschool table. After reading the rules and instructions, we decided, since there was only three of us and because we were playing for the first time, that we wouldn’t use all the party tiles. We ended up using six of the fourteen party tiles and that was perfect for the first time with three players.

We spilled out all the letter tiles and Uncle C arranged them into a perfect square while we were reading the instructions. We picked our 21 starting tiles and called out SPLIT to start.

Party Cube
Party Cube

We quickly tried to make a grid with our letters. Amazingly I finished first and yelled PEEL a little to loudly. We grabbed another tile each and I had picked a party tile. Right off the bat! I happened to pick the pouch head tile and gifted it to Uncle C. For the rest of the game he got to wear the banana pouch on his head; he even forgot about it and we waited to see how long it would take him after our game was finished to realize it was still there. 23 minutes!

Pouch Head
Pouch Head


Even with taking pictures, I got PEEL again and grabbed another party tile! I gave it to Hubby…it was a Switcheroo. I should not have played it on him. He left me with an X, Z and W!

Hardest letters ever!
X, Z and W?!

I ended up DUMPing the X, Z and W tiles but in exchange I had to pick 3 tiles per tile I put back. Ended up working great, honestly. Even with nine extra tiles I still got PEEL before the guys did on that round!


After saying PEEL, Hubby got a party tile and gifted it to me. It was the Single-Handed. It doesn’t sound like much of a challenge till you are racing to make a word grid first! With one hand behind my back I rearranged my tiles but Uncle C beat me to PEEL.

I started over there!

We played for a good 2 hours. We did take a cookie break somewhere in there. But we ended up playing three games total. It is a really fun and silly game, especially when Hubby and I both played a party tile on Uncle C at the same time! He turned into a Thumb-less Flamingo and it was hilarious. No picture of that due to the amount of laughter that was going on.

We keep the Party Edition on top of our bookshelf now, where Uncle C charges his phone when he is over. We have played almost every time he has been over except a couple times where we have decided to try Word-A-Melon (following the actual rules…this won’t turn into a habit I promise) or the Original Bananagrams if one of the Jellybeans have used the other banana as a baby and cannot be found (happens more than you’d think!).

Next time we play I will take some better-lit pictures…especially if the Flamingo party tile is played because that was hysterical. Uncle C has the same balance Six has and it made me laugh a lot! Poor Uncle C, I’ll have to make him more cookies for laughing WITH him so much during this game.


My vote is to check out all of Bananagrams’ products and find one that fits you best! I personally LOVE all the Bananagrams products we own; we use them daily in our homeschool as well as when our power goes out or Uncle C visits, or when Auntie Fred is visiting and staying at our parents’ house. They are portable, easy to play with and laugh-inducing.

A laminator and a Bananagrams banana are a homeschool must! Use it as it is intended or not, they are a great addition to a homeschool or a word-loving family. Have a Party!!

Week One Of Year Two

Last week was our official start of the school year. Bug had her first day last Monday and actually had to go into campus to meet with her teacher.

We started the “official” homeschooling up again a few weeks ago to get back into the groove of things. I started up a different organizational system and Hubby and I spent a few weeks brainstorming a new way to deal with the worksheets that are required of us.

But of course the first week back was super crazy, I forgot a few things, we had a couple change of plans including Hubby working during a time I had scheduled him to work with Bug, I needed to take Six to the doctor, and Gwama and Gwampa invited us to dinner one night. But I have had to roll with the punches since I was thrust into military life when I moved in with Hubby. So we rolled with it, and got everything done.

With all the craziness of last week, on Sunday I stared at my shelf of empty pink boxes I was about to fill up for this week and thought to myself, then yelled at Hubby in the other room, how thankful I was to have thought of this idea. It had kept me on track and gave me an effortless bunch of activities for the days where my brain was not in the homeschool mode.

So here is my setup for this year.

Six pink buckets. I got seven but only six would fit on our bookshelf. Labeled with washi tape Monday-Sunday; Saturday and Sunday share a bucket. On Sunday Hubby and I go through our curriculums and make copies or rip out pages from the subjects we need which goes into the Sat/Sun bucket.


Then we/I choose activities, the amount per day is determined by our schedule for the week, and fill up the buckets for the week. If we put in the Roll A Sight Word game, for example, I will write the words that are on the language arts worksheet into the blanks on the page for the game so we are working on those words and becoming familiar with them before we do the worksheet.

Bug has a strong dislike for writing with pen/cil/crayon/marker etc and paper, but we are required by our charter to hand in proof of learning (worksheets), so I have had to think really hard about how we can make this all work for everyone.

Back to our week of activities.

Monday. We only had one hour with her teacher at school and Hubby had to go to work right afterwards, so we had all day to play! We blew up a balloon with yeast, played with our letter iSpy bottle and practiced writing the letters we found, used Pairs in Pears to spell out landmarks on our pack of flashcards, made an awesomely funny story with our Looney Toons Story cubes, played a rhyming puzzle, learned how to play the iSpy card game, and Bug read a level A book by herself! We also started Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, hoping to finish it within the week.


Tuesday. We had Six’s doctor appointment and then ended up having to take Hubby to work as well as doing some shopping, so there were less activities than Monday’s box. We played with shape blocks using the guides and free-form, played find a sound with Word-A-Melon, read a level B book with assistance, and cracked into our deck of sight word cards. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was what ended our day; we usually read in the morning after breakfast.


Wednesday. We practiced the words on our worksheet with our Say it/ Build it/ Write it mat and My First Bananagrams, made butterscotch from the Revolting Recipes cookbook based on something they had in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, read a level C book together, and worked on sequencing with Room On The Broom. We also watched the 2007 Hairspray that we counted as both PE and Music because of all the dancing the girls did and the singing they did so cutely. We snuggled up with our butterscotch and read some more of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.


Thursday. We had gymnastics in the morning then nothing else the rest of the day. Hubby ended up having to work but was able to take the car so I was able to play lots of games with the girls! I ended up adding to this menagerie, a 100’s chart that I put marshmallows on the 10’s column and we counted to 100. We started with reading a bit from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, played roll a sight word while Six practiced forming letters with the fluffy floam, did some math with the matchbox car mats, read a level D book, and did one side of our foam blocks math mat together.


Friday. Worksheet day. I am surprised and delighted to say Bug completed all five worksheets with minimal help, utilizing a fidget, asking for help, using a reward system which I will do an entire post about soon, and using a new technique for helping hold a pencil. We also had the support and assistance from our behavior consultant which was so comforting and helpful.


Saturday. We finished Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. I have a feeling we will be rereading this again soon. The girls loved both the 1971 and 2005 movie adaptations and loved making the Butterscotch recipe from the Revolting Recipes cookbook. Roald Dahl books have quickly become a favorite in our house, the silly words and funny ideas have made us giggle over and over!

And on top of all the activities shown above, we also do a daily calendar, weather, and the time every day–one of the only routines that we have done every single day of the week no matter what since last year! Mostly because we do it during breakfast.

Overall, it was a great week. I feel Bug and Six both learned a lot. Especially with Six’s love of questions, they both get a lot of information about the world every day.

I have quite a bit more curriculums coming in any day now so I hope to broaden our topics of interest weekly.

Homeschooling can be stressful, as I found out last year, but I have a lot of awesome women who I am thankful to call my friends, who are able to help me when I am stumped and talk to me about what we are doing. As well as an awesome Hubby who can take an idea and build on it with me until it becomes an idea that will work for us. Even though we are going into our second week of year two of homeschooling, I really feel this new system will work so much better for us as a family, for Bug, and for my sanity!

Just like I Love Lucy was never just a title, We Do What Works has never been just a name.


Homeschool: Year Two

We are headed into our second year of homeschooling. We have all learned a lot on this journey. One very important topic I have learned quite a bit about is curriculum.

There are SO many different choices. It can be very intimidating and stressful, and unfortunately we chose wrong last year. I made the mistake of not doing the research on a curriculum someone on our team suggested for us and ordered it blindly. We were expected to follow it the entire year. The year we were still learning about Bug and her learning methods, the year we realized her hatred of worksheets, the year we were trying to get in any kind of groove.

Don’t do this. If someone tells you this one particular curriculum is just so amazing…Google it, research it, ask to borrow it. Make sure it is something that will work for your kiddo first and foremost. I know, there are probably some seasoned homeschoolers out there reading this rolling their eyes at me…rookie mistake. Well I know now.

This year, we chose to go an alternate route to our teaching strategy which included a new curriculum game plan. We ordered many curriculums. One was an all-in-one which cost a good chunk of our budget through our charter, but it was on sale so I chanced it. It had every subject covered as well as additional brain benders and logic workbooks so it seemed like a good addition to our library. We also chose just single subjects from a variety of curriculum companies.

I will try to do an update on the companies we use and what has or has not worked in a later blog post later in the year.

We got a free curriculum from our charter, as well as many different workbooks that can be part of a complete curriculum.

So our plan is to, at the beginning of the week (Sunday for us), Hubby and I will pick out one worksheet from each subject that we have a curriculum for and play games throughout the week that go with the worksheets.

For an example, say our math worksheet for the week has 4 problems on it: 4+8=, 3+7=, 2+0=, and 9+2=. I can play our addition board game one day and have her add those problems up to determine how many moves she can make, Hubby can play with mathlink cubes with her one day, we can play dominoes another day. As long as we are teaching her those problems. Then at the end of the week, with all of our table time supports in place, we will have/help her do the worksheets.

I am still at a loss as to why worksheets are so evil to her, however, I know that worksheets are just not how she learns. So with this plan in place, we will be able to continue to have worksheets available for our teacher at the charter, as well as teaching her skills on how to get through something she dislikes, but it does not create a worksheets-all-day-long-every-day environment.

In addition to our new game plan, we had a bit of an organizational upheaval as well. I am a huge organization junkie, lists, boxes, and labels make me so happy. So do sales. I found seven pink containers on sale and cleared off a shelf of one of our bookshelves and labeled them the days of the week.

As well as choosing our worksheets at the beginning of the week, I will plan our weekly “game schedule”. As I mentioned above, we play a lot of games, they are little and that is how we learn here. So I will plan our daily buckets around our weekly schedule. This Tuesday is filled with appointments and meetings? Maybe just one game and a few books. Nothing happening on Wednesday? Lets put in 5 games and a lot of books! And in Friday’s box will be a highly preferred game and the worksheets.

This is also a very visual plan. She can see what we are going to do throughout the week, she can read the day of the week from the box, she can see we have worksheets in the Friday bucket, or a daddy-bug game in one. She is a very visual kiddo and I feel this plan of attack will work well for all of us.

I even put a reminder in my calendar to acquire the worksheets on Sundays so we won’t forget.

I am determined for this year to be the best year yet….you know, better than last year at least since this is only year two…..



End Of Summer

Next week is the official start of school for us. Our charter starts back Monday, and I am as prepared as I think I can be.

We now have classes, therapies, gymnastics, and appointments up the wazoo for the foreseeable future. As an ambivert, I know this busier-than-last-year schedule will be the end of my sanity. But I am hopefully prepared. Hopefully.

And by prepared I mean I made 4 types of cookie dough and froze it all in balls to either eat straight out of the freezer or bake to distract my kiddos from whining at me when I need a mommy-minute. I also scheduled Bug’s classes and speech/OT/resource on the two days Hubby is off work so he will be able to take her to campus for those while I have mommy + Six time or if he takes both, kid-free cleaning day or mommy time!

Scheduling is a nightmare when you literally have ten different things and people to work with…and I’m a mom saying this! I cannot imagine how difficult it is for the people I am working with who have a lot more than ten families to schedule things with!

I digress.

So for this past week, we decided to test out our new homeschool idea. Did I mention we did little to no school-y things like table time over the summer? Yup, I said we would, had every intention to continue…annnndddd then we didn’t. But that’s okay because we are always learning and having fun while doing it!

Our new approach to homeschooling Miss Bug came after weeks of thought and talking about how last year didn’t really work well. Yes, it was our first year homeschooling. Yes we were still learning about how she needed to learn. And yes, we had very little knowledge about what we were doing…much like bringing her home from the hospital, we were faced with an adorable sleepy baby who now required 1000% of our focus to keep her alive.

None of which stopped her from learning, in fact she has learned a LOT and has continued to make leaps and bounds in the language department. However, I bet that if we had started out last year a little better, she would be further along. But she is doing awesome so I can’t complain.

Our new approach came about because of Bugs hatred of paper/pencil (or gel pen, pen, crayon, HWT crayons, highlighters, etc…we have tried it all). Worksheets are just not the way she learns, and because we think she has some fine motor issues that could make writing more difficult for her, we have tried to avoid or guide this dislike as much as possible. But our charter required proof of learning so we need to have her fill out/do worksheets for her portfolio. So we HAVE to incorporate them in order to continue in our charter.

After weeks of back and forth with Hubby, we came to a mutually-liked idea. At the beginning of the week we will go through our curriculums (we plan to use multiple for each subject) and choose one worksheet per subject: math, social studies, science, and language arts (we have 8 total subjects we have to cover but these are the ones with worksheets) and then play games and use techniques that she learns best with to teach the content of the worksheets. Then at the end of the week, we will have a worksheet and treat day: first one worksheet then one episode of Miraculous Ladybug.

With this approach we hope that worksheets become a little less despised and stress-worthy, as well as making the prep for end of learning period meetings a bit less stressful for me trying to scramble to get her to complete a darn worksheet.

I hope this doesn’t sound like “teaching to the test” because that is not our intention.

She doesn’t see a math problem on a worksheet the same way you or I might. So if on a math worksheet for the week that has eight problems on it, I can play dice, dominoes, cubes, cards, build it, link blocks etc and play out those eight problems. Then when I bring out the worksheet with some manipulatives, the questions I will talk her through will not be brand new and she will hopefully remember playing any of the games and the problems and how to answer them.

That was the goal anyway.

And on our week-before school- trial run of this idea that took us a long time to come up with, I am so happy to say that it is working! Sunday Hubby and I went through and picked out the worksheets, Monday to Thursday we spent table time playing games that corresponded to the worksheet questions. Friday we did four worksheets, one for each subject. We took breaks, used a new reward system (which will be a blog post in and of itself), and utilized fidgets and other sensory solutions.

It took a little over an hour to complete these worksheets; and there was very little complaining.

One tip we started using at the suggestion of our behavior consultant was to have a (laminated) page of the alphabet and/or numbers available and in easy view of our work area. Part of why we think she dislikes worksheets is because she doesn’t seem to want to make mistakes and that causes her anxiety which in turn causes her to forget how to write that one letter. It has helped tremendously. She has not asked me for help writing while the page is out. I call that success!

This week has given me hope for the coming school year, I just hope I can find a groove for our homeschool time since we will be very busy and our schedules day-to-day will be vastly different.

Deep breath. We can do this.