Little Log Cottage School

Inspiring Creativity, Character, Grit, and the Love of Learning


5 Essential Ingredients Missing In Schools

5 Essential Ingredients

Since leaving the public school setting I’ve become aware of what I’d been doing wrong as a teacher.   As a homeschooler, I’ve had more time to observe my students’ learning styles instead of conducting endless assessments.  I’ve had more time to create and plan individual lessons for each student instead of spending my energy grading papers and recording data.  I’ve had more time to realize public schools are expecting unrealistic academic achievements from our children.  What I’ve had time to realize is I had been cutting vital developmental opportunities out of my students’ school day.

1.  Let Them Be Social

Many kids can be a little anxious or tired when they begin school in the morning.  By allowing students 15-30 min. to read a story of their choice, to work on a puzzle, or to eat a snack and reconnect with their friends, you are allowing them to prepare their minds for the day.  School should be peaceful and welcoming.

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When I taught in public school, children were not allowed to talk for the first 10 min. of their lunch period.  They would often get reprimanded and moved to another table if they were talking.  So when do kids get to be social?  If they have to be quiet in class and they have to be quiet at lunch, when do they get to talk to each other?  The biggest argument against homeschooling is the lack of socialization.  To be frank, my kids are getting better socialization being homeschooled than being sent to public school.  Want to read more about the myth that school is good for socialization?  Check out Penelope Trunk’s post, “It’s a myth that school is good for socialization.”

After two hours of learning, it is time to recharge and reconnect with each other.  More snacks and more conversation keep our energy up for more learning throughout the day.

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2. Let The Students Lead

During a traditional school day it is hard to fit in everything.  Hurry up and learn!  Hurry up and learn!  We have to move on!  Teachers can get into a panic mode which causes a lot of anxiety and stress in the children.  I am learning to let the children take the lead during our instructional time.  If every student wants to use the cool hand pointer to read our sight word poster for the day, then I will take 10 min. out of the day to let every child feel successful.

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3.  Let Them Explore

In the public school system we were provided with science kits every 6 weeks.  Sadly, very few of us teachers ever used ours because we felt it took time away from our reading and math requirements.  Now I see when children are allowed to explore there is no limit to their learning.  Exploration and learning should go hand in hand.  Free exploration fosters creativity and problem solving.  So how much time should we allow for free exploration?  Free exploration should be never ending.   It shouldn’t be something we do just get the playing out of our children.   We should be life-long explorers.

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4.  Let Them Outside!

Kids are in school 7 hours a day.  Most kids are lucky to be outside 30 minutes of that time.  At my previous school, teachers didn’t let their students have recess if they didn’t get everything accomplished that day.  That happened quite a lot.  “In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.”

After snack we go outside.  It has been hard, but I let the kids stay out until they are ready to come inside.  That may be 10 min, or it may be 45 min.  But on beautiful fall days it is hard to justify keeping the kids cooped up inside to do more math or reading.

We don’t have a playground. Instead we use nature to play and explore.  This week I took the kids out to a soccer field.  They were beginning to get bored after 10 min. until one student found a big log and declared that they should all make a fort.  45 minutes of fort building was the perfect amount of time to get fresh air and connect with nature.  It also helped build communication and problem solving skills, enhanced imagination and creativity, and gave each child a sense of being part of a community.

We were then ready to come back to the porch for individualized lessons and activities.  Evidence has proven when kids are allowed to have undirected free play they have better attention spans.  I believe it!

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Want to read more about the benefits of outdoor play in Kindergarten?  Read MindShift’s post “Let ‘Em Out!  The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten.”

5. Get Rid Of the Workbooks!

I’ve never liked worksheets and workbooks.  Thankfully, I no longer have to follow a curriculum full of workbooks.  Although we do practice sitting in our seats and writing with pencil and paper, the majority of the time we are participating in play based learning.

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When you are filing out a worksheet there is usually one right answer.  When you are using play based learning children are applying skills in meaningful situations.  This week we used puzzles to practice number identification skills in preschool.  In Kindergarten they sat on the floor and worked together to find the right letter to build word families.

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It hasn’t been easy to shed my anxiety and fear that I’m not putting enough rigor into our school day. However, after the first couple of weeks of homeschooling I saw creativity in my students  I never saw in my public school children. I saw them using that creativity to solve problems throughout their day. The most important thing I noticed was my children were happy.  They loved school and they were loving to learn.

Students should be excited about going to school.  They should be always asking, “What are we going to learn about today?” as my Little Red asks me everyday.  Children should be valued as individuals and be rewarded for being who they are and not for how well they do on a test.



35+ Books To Get You Ready For Apples!

It’s hard to go the whole month of September without doing at least one activity on apples!  I’ve been visiting a lot of sites and have put together a list of books that will have you and your kids ready to talk APPLES!!!

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Some of these books we have read and some we have not.  I’m excited to revisit a few of these and to find some new favorites!  Click on the books that are highlighted to see some activities to go along with the book!

A Is For Apple And Why by Solveig Paulson Russell

About Apples From Orchard to Market by Mary Green

Amelia Bedelia’s First Apple Pie by Herman Perish

An Apple A Day by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

An Apple Tree Throughout the Year by Claudia Schnieper

Apple Pigs by Ruth Orbach

Apple Pie by Anne Wellington

Apple Tree by Peter Parnell

Apple Orchard by Irmengarde Eberle

Apple Trees by Sylvia A. Johnson

Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble

Apple Tree! Apple Tree! by Mary Blocksma

Applebet, An A,B,C Of Apples by Clyde Watson

Apples-How They Grow by Bruce McMillan

Apples And Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell


Apples, All About Them by Alvin and Virginia Silverstein

Apple Trouble by Ragnhild Scamell.                              th-168


Bad Apple by Edward Hemingway


Clifford’s Apple Picking Day by Samantha Brook

Fluffy Goes Apple Picking by Kate McMullan


Fresh Cider and Pie by Franz Brandenberg

From Appleseed to Applesauce by Jane Kurts                  th-174


How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman


Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh

Johnny Appleseed by Eva Moore

Johnny Appleseed by Gertrude Norman

Johnny Appleseed by Carol York

Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg

Kate And The Apple Tree by Nan Hayden Agle

Mike and Dick On A Washington Apple by Joan Liffring

Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer

Season On The Farm by Jane Miller

Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss                                          th-169

The Biggest Apple Ever by Steven Kroll                                    th-173


The Mouse and The Apple by Stephen Butler                           th-175

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

The Apple Tree by Lynley Dodd

Trail Of Apple Blossoms by Irene Hunt

Up, Up, Up, It’s Apple Picking Time by Jody Fickles


Where the Wild Apples Grow by John Hawkinson

Who Stole The Apples? by Sigrid Heuck

Looking for some great apple activities to go along with your apple books?  Try HERE!!! 


Where in the World is Mexico?

A Living History of Our World Charlotte Mason Style History Curriculum
I hope you and your children will have fun and learn along with the Adventure Story Book Club participants!  This month’s theme: Around the World, is sure to get your children excited about geography and culture!  There are many, many places to visit and explore.  Where does your child want to go?

Around the World

In our home we love traveling around the globe by completing projects, making delicious food, and participating in traditional ceremonies performed by the country we are visiting.  We chose to travel to Mexico this month, in honor of their Independence Day on September 16th.  We read several books but really like the book, “Borreguita and the Coyote: A Tale from Ayutla, Mexico” by Verna Aardema.  In this folktale, a ravenous coyote wants to eat the Borreguita. (little lamb)  But the Borreguita outwits him every time!  This book reminded my kiddos of “My Lucky Day”, which is another of our favorites.  I created a printable to go along with this book to help my second graders practice the 5 w’s.


After this activity we all made paper suitcases and drew pictures of what we would take to Mexico.  This activity made us look back to the setting of the story.   Since it mainly takes place on a farm at a foot of a mountain we packed cowboy boots, hats, and climbing rope.  We also made sure to pack underwear.  A lot of kids drew pictures of underwear.  We all know that is very important!


After packing our suitcases I lined up four rows of chairs and announced that it was time to board our flight for Mexico City.  Everyone was very excited and double checked to see if they had packed their Spanish-English dictionary!



Pics of passengers before take off.




Now, reading about hungry coyote made us hungry!  We whipped up some enchiladas one day and listened to Mariachi bands.



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We began the day by using pillowcases to make traditional Mexican clothing.

Here’s what you need:


Fabric paints



For boys:  Cut a U shape at the top of  the pillowcase where it is sewn together.  Then cut down the each seam side of the pillowcase to open it up.  Lay it flat and use fabric paints and sponges to decorate.

For Girls:  Do like for boys, except skip cutting a U shape in the pillowcase.






We also made tacos.  I love studying about Mexico when there is food involved!





Then we learned the Mexican Hat Dance.



Ok, so I’m not so sure how close these pillowcases look like traditional Mexican clothing, but we tried; and we had FUN!



For your FREE 5 W’s Printable DOWNLOAD HERE!!!   5 W’s for Borreguita and the Coyote

I hope some of these activities will inspire you to read some books from Around the World.  We had such a fun week pretending to visit Mexico!  In fact, my kids have been begging me to continue our Mexico study next week!

Thank you for taking the time to read about our adventure to Mexico!  Don’t forget to join us for next month’s theme: Fall Fun!



Please be sure to stop by and check out the other participating bloggers:

Andrea from Waldorf Salad & Cottage Fries Blog: Twitter

Christina from Classroom to Homeroom Blog: Facebook

Jennifer from Faith & Good Works Blog: Facebook

Take a look at our upcoming themes!

October:  Fall Fun

November: Pilgrams and Indians


Simple Apple Activities That Would Make Johnny Appleseed Proud

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There are so many ways to incorporate apples into your learning this month!  Here are fun lessons we have enjoyed over the last couple of years.

Apple Treats

Krispy Apple Treats

We made these fun little treats for Princess’s tutorial class two years ago.  They were so easy and the kids helped roll them into balls.

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Apple Turnovers

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We made these last year to conclude our apple unit.  So easy, so fun, and so delicious!


Apple Pie Filling

Canned Crescent Rolls

Cinnamon and Sugar

Lay each piece of crescent roll out on a baking sheet.  Spoon a small amount of pie filling on each crescent roll.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the pie filling.  Roll up each crescent roll and bake according to crescent roll can directions.

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Apple Lessons

Apple Senses

Last year we studied about our 5 senses.  I gave every student a construction paper apple.    Everyone had an apple to observe.  First we used our sight and wrote on our paper apple how our apple looked.  We then continued through our senses, writing down words that described the apple.

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Apple Trees Through The Year  (found in a September Mailbox)

For this project we used four pieces of paper to represent an apple tree during each season.  For winter the students drew a bare tree on their paper.  They then used Q-tips and white paint to paint snowflakes all over their tree.  For fall they drew the tree and then glued red pieces of red construction paper on their tree to resemble apples.  For summer they drew a picture of a tree and glued on a big green piece of construction paper in the shape of the tree’s crown.  For spring they again drew the trunk of the tree and then glued rolled up pieces of pink, red, and green construction paper to the tree branches.

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Johnny Appleseed

After reading  about Johnny Appleseed, I took pictures of the students with a cooking pot on their heads!

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Visit an apple orchard

We had a great time visiting a local apple orchard.  We learned how apples are grown and how apple products are made.

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Apple Printable

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Last year I made this apple printable to practice color words with my preschoolers.


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I’m pinning more apple fun!  Be sure to follow along!
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Resources and Activities From A One-Room School House- Week 6

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Some weeks my planned theme doesn’t work out.  This week happened to be one of those.

It started out with the fact the library didn’t have any of the books that I needed to go along with my lessons.  Also, the weather isn’t feeling like fall yet, and talking about birds migrating just didn’t seem relevant.   It is still pretty muggy here, and the mosquitos are still very prevalent!

So, I went ahead and did what I always do.  I planned engaging, skill building centers to keep the kids occupied and learning!  We were able to go outside and find evidence of fall being on it’s way, and we did a whole bunch of reading!

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Daily 5- Read to Self

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have 2nd graders and Kindergarteners join us.  These are the days that we implement the much talked about concept:  The Daily 5.  You can read more about how we use the Daily 5 here.

This is how much we are enjoying reading first thing in the mornings!

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September is a great time to add apples into your learning!  Here is an idea I found on Pinterest somewhere.  My preschoolers matched the lowercase apples to the letter written on the tree.

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I also used Carisa’s letter match cards from in a learning center.

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Some of my preschoolers are already reading.  We read a lot of printable books from and some First Grade readers from my teacher stash.

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We get REALLY comfortable in our reading groups.  I was working with this group while I had three other groups working in centers.  We rotated every 15 min.

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These preschoolers are beginning to recognize the vowel consonant e pattern.  Writing and illustrating -ake words.



Pixie made a “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” book in her tutorial on Monday.  I made sure to include some “Brown Bear” activities for her and her friends to work on during the week.

Reading the book to her friends.

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I used two math printables from Homeschool Share.  I used this for both Prek and Kindergarten.

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Wednesday’s Preschool class read the color words from the Brown Bear printable.

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Kindergarten also began learning how to count on using a number line.  I found this great idea from Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten.

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Second Grade

It’s always so hard to get pictures of my second graders.  They always work so well independently that I almost forget they are here! (Well, not quite)  I was able to get a couple of shots of them playing a game that focuses on subjects and predicates.  This was a game where we made two paper cubes.  One cube had subjects written on it and the other cube had the predicates written on it.  They would throw both in the air (or kick them in the air) to see what kind of sentence they made.  I could hear them laughing as they made sentences such as, “The superhero hung on the wall” and “My best friend chased his tail.”  Of coarse, they had to record these sentences on the recording sheet, but I don’t think they minded too much.

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Group Projects

We were able to go outside this week, and I had an enthusiastic preschooler who wanted to collect leaves.  This was a great way to observe and discuss the changes in the seasons.

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We talked a little about the birds and insects that migrate in the fall and then used sponges and paint to paint pictures of these animals.  (You include painting into your lessons and you are a Rock Star!)

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One class used the sponges to paint pictures of how the trees will hopefully look in a couple of weeks.

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It turned out to be a great week!  What have you been up to?






How to Kill Three Birds With One Pancake

Pancake Collage

We began the month of September with a fun author study on Tomie DePaola.  The last day of the study we tied the whole day around his book, “Pancakes for Breakfast.”  I wasn’t quite sure how the kids were going to take this wordless picture book, but I had nothing to worry about!  This book generated plenty of discussion as we marveled over how the illustrations told the story.  Here is how we tied this story into our lessons for the day.

Anyone up for making some pancakes?  After reading this book, I shared my favorite pancake recipe with the class.  If measuring, mixing, and consuming a plate full of delicious pancakes doesn’t foster the love of learning, then I don’t know what will!

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Now, here is the game I call Flap Jack.  I found this activity in a Mailbox resource.  I knew that all of my kiddos would love to play this pancake flipping game, but I knew that my PreK and Kindergarteners were not ready to add yet.  I came up with two other ways to play the game.  You will need to make pancake shapes out of brown construction paper for each skill.

1st-3rd Grade

Program each pancake with a math fact.  I chose both adding and subtraction with my second graders.  On the back of each problem pancake, write the answer to the problem.  Students will take turns solving the problem, then flipping the pancake over with a spatula to see if they are correct.  They get to keep the pancake if they solved the problem correctly.  If not, they will flip the pancake back over and lose a turn.  This is a self-monitoring activity.



We are really working on sight words with my Kindergarteners.  I wrote a sight word onto each pancake then flipped them all over with the sight word down.  Then I said a sight word.  The first student would flip the pancake over to see if the pancake had the sight word written on it.  If it did they got to keep the pancake. If it didn’t they would have to turn it back over.  They would pass the spatula to the next player to flip another pancake in search of the sight word.  When they found the sight word they would pass the spatula to the next player and I would say another sight word for them to find.  This was also a great memory game.  This was a teacher-led game.



My preschoolers are still working on matching lower and uppercase letters.  On their pancakes I wrote one uppercase letter on each pancake, then I wrote the lowercase letters on the remaining pancakes.  I placed each pancake letter side down.  The first player would flip one pancake and then try to find the upper or lower case letter that matched it.  If they found it, they got to keep both pancakes.  If they didn’t find it, they would flip both pancakes back over and hand the spatula to the next player.  Again, this was very much like Memory.  This was a student-directed activity.


I had each group play on one big table.  Everything flowed nicely and I was able to lead my Kindergarten group, but still be close by to oversee the other two groups.


My Pixie LOVED the Kindergarten version of the game.  Her group played it twice!

I’m always trying to take one idea and differentiate it for my three age levels.  It makes everything so much easier to teach multiple age groups!  I’ll be posting more ways on how to take one activity and turn it into three!  If you like this post, please be sure to follow along so you don’t miss out!



How to Travel Through The 50 States and Never Leave Your Home(school)

My kids love learning about different places and I love learning along with them!   This means that we are loving 50 States and Where to Find Them.

50 States Collage

From the moment that I saw Barefoot Meandering’s 50 States program I knew I had to have it!   I had already planned to do some more state studies this year, and having a curriculum already laid out for me sounded so appealing!


The content was sent to me as a pdf file, which meant I recieved it as soon as I requested it.  There is an introduction to the program which lays out the components and recommended reading resources for you to use.

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I chose to begin learning about the state of Arkansas because it is our neighbor.  I printed out the Southern Region page to show my students so they could identify the region in which they live.

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Locating the State

I also printed out the US map for every student and had them color in the state of Arkansas.  The goal of this program is to learn the location and capital of each state. The kids loved seeing how close Arkansas was to our home state of Tennessee.  Since we have already studied Tennessee, they requested to color Tennessee as well.  My second grader made sure the the younger students were coloring in the correct state!

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Mapping Exercises

The other activity we completed was tracing and adding rivers to our maps.  Some of my little ones tried to make one themselves, but this was better suited for my second graders.  I did draw one out for Pixie, and then she was able to draw the rivers on her own.

After Princess and I located the rivers in a student atlas of the United States,  she drew and labeled the rivers on her outline.

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The only difficult part was our library didn’t have the recommended book to read along with the study.  However, I did find a student atlas at the library that proved to be very resourceful.

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A Little More About the Program

50 States and Where To Find Them has no answers or questions to fill in, but rather relies on resources of rich literature to take you through your journey.  It consists of a main book that includes a geography lesson, information on each region, and information and suggested activities for each state.  Also included are coloring pages of the state flower, state bird, and state flag.  Each region concludes with a crossword puzzle, word search, and a bonus lesson.

What I Love

All of The Maps and Information  It is wonderful to have all of the maps and information already laid out for you.  I no longer have to piece together maps and information from other sites.  The work has been done for me!

States  Studied By Region It makes perfect sense to study one region of the United States at a time.  This makes it so easy for students to identify the landforms and weather patterns of a state.  My kids will understand what is going on in a state by the region in which it is grouped.

Integration of Literature Even though I was not able to use the reading resource for our Arkansas study, I love the fact that there is a literature resource list available!  I don’t know how many hours I have spent looking up literature to go with some of our other state studies before finding this program.  (I have ordered the book on Amazon so I’ll have it for the other state studies!)

Integration of History Every state has a fact page telling a story of our American history.  I love that you can combine both geography and history through one lesson!

Two Purchasing Options  You have two purchasing options available for the main book.  It comes as a PDF file, or you can purchase it through Amazon and receive a print version.  It is nice you can immediately download the file after purchasing.  It also came in handy to print out more than one copy when my child maked a mistake on their first map!

Easily Adaptable For Younger Siblings I am a huge fan of using the same curriculum with all of my kids.  Even though it was a bit more challenging for my Kindergartener and Preschooler to draw out the maps, they could still enjoy coloring in the state and the coloring pages.

Learn More About 50 States And Where to Find Them HERE!!!



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