Little Log Cottage School

An Educational Blog to Inspire Creativity, Character, Grit, and the Love of Learning

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Celebrating Christmas With Melk the Christmas Monkey- A Review

December is such an exciting time of year. I try really hard to be finished with most of our state standards by the second week of December so my family and I can spend more time on Advent.  We do what most families do.  We bake, craft, and learn the lessons and stories of Christ’s birth while Christmas hymns quietly play in the background. But one thing we’ve never participated in is “Elf on the Shelf.”   I’ve never been keen on the idea of placing an elf around the house and telling my children an elf was watching them throughout the holiday season.  This year I am so grateful our family has found Melk.  Melk, the Christmas Monkey is a new ebook of Advent lessons and activities by Katie Hornor.  She is a missionary, writer, educator, speaker, blogger, and a tremendous encourager in Christ.  My family has had the opportunity to review this program and meet our new friend, Melk.


How the Program Works

The Program is called Melk, the Christmas Monkey, but really Melk could be any animal or doll your family chooses.  You can even name it something different as long as it’s meaningful to your family.  Our Melk was a lonely monkey that doesn’t get played with anymore.  My kids had forgotten all about it until they woke up one morning and found Melk drawing a picture of an angel! (and also helping himself to the cookie jar!)


Melk the Christmas Monkey is a 90 page full color ebook.  It includes an introduction for the parents.  This section is also to be read to your children when you introduce your Christmas friend.  It explains it’s name, it’s purpose, and special instructions regarding Melk.

There are 30 lessons.  Each lesson contains:

  1. Melk- instructions on where and what Melk will be found doing when the children wake up.
  2. Activity- instructions on crafts, baking, or family activities
  3. Materials- items you will need for the lesson
  4. Lesson this is the key concept to be taught
  5. Scripture- the key verse for the lesson
  6. A message from Melk-

Parents will need to set the scene each night by following the lesson’s directions.  Melk’s materials for an activity will need to be on hand, so there will be a little planning and prep work on your part.  There are links provided for you to print out Melk’s messages to the children, or you can read it aloud from the book.  The ebook also includes a link to coloring pages, journal pages, and other Christmas resources.  The lessons are very easy to follow with everything clearly laid out for you.

How We Plan On Using Melk This Christmas

We have followed other Advent lessons in the past, but this ebook is by far the most organized and easy to use.  Because it is barely even November, we will go back and have Melk revisit us everyday beginning December 1st.  I plan to reread the lessons and the scripture  over breakfast, and then we will complete the activity right after breakfast clean up.


What Do We Think of Melk?

I honestly didn’t know how my 7 year old was going to react to Melk. My 4 year old was pretty confused about how the monkey got there because toy monkeys can’t move.  They were also confused with Christmas coloring pages laid out for them when it wasn’t even Halloween.  After explaining to them that we were going to use Melk in our Advent studies and we were starting early so we could review the program, they accepted Melk.


My kids love Melk because they were surprised everyday with a new lesson and a new activity.  I love Melk because he makes my kids happy, provides easy to follow  lessons, and he keeps our family focused on the reason we should be celebrating Christmas.  Our first lesson was teaching us that God sends His angels to take care of us. Just this first lesson inspired my 7 year old to write a prayer to God thanking him for His care.  If a program can create the desire in my children to give thanks to the Lord, then I’m sold!



After we had completed our lessons for the review, I put Melk up on the mantle to rest before Advent.  My kids saw him there the other day and exclaimed, “Hey, there’s Melk!  When are we going to do more activities with Melk?  Why isn’t he visiting us anymore?”  Yes, I believe this program is a winner!

With every purchase of Melk, the Christmas Monkey, you will be helping support ministries in Mexico.  You can begin purchasing this program beginning at 8 am EST on November 1st.  For an added bonus you can use the code MELKSCOTTAGE for 10% off if you purchase between now and November 8th.

The Highlights

  • When you purchase Melk, the Christmas Monkey ebook, between November 1st-November 8th you will receive a free gift!
  • When you purchase Melk, the Christmas Monkey in paperback or kindle book between November 1st-November 8th you can email your receipt to Paradise Praises and receive the ebook and a special gift for FREE!
  • When you purchase between November 1st-November 8th Melk will make it possible for one child in Mexico to receive the Gospel and a tangible gift for every book sold.  The goal is 200 children!

If you are looking for a fun, meaningful way to celebrate the holiday season with your family, you can’t go wrong with Melk!

Click the image below to purchase Melk for your family Advent lessons and activities!  Happy Advent!






















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Playful Learning- Ideas and Resources For The One-Room Schoolhouse

Here is a post containing highlights of our hands-on learning activities for the week.  If you have been following along for awhile you know we use a play-based style of learning.

Halloween Week collage


Reading Time

Biscuit books are great books for beginning readers.

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The most popular book of the week: “The Bones of Fred McFee” by Eve Bunting

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Pattern Block Scarecrows

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Visual Discrimination (copying a pattern)

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File Folder Morning Work

This week students practiced reading and sorting real words and nonsense words.

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Whole Group Learning

We sorted long a and short a initial vowel sounds.

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We played pumpkin games with our sight words.

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Second Grade

File Folder Morning Work


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Group Activity

Constructing a snap cube train by counting by 5’s to 60.

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Illustration of the minutes between the numbers on the clock.

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Our poor hula hoop has seen better days.


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Time Bump

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Free Play

A look at our playroom at the end of free play.

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Craft Projects

Since this week was Halloween, we read a few great books to celebrate the season.

Where the Wild Things Are Writing/Craftivity

Here’s a pic of one of my little PreK coloring his monster head.

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A look at a Second Grader‘s finished product.  I love the cover page he created for his writing project!

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We have been studying about the skeletal system to go along with Halloween.  We read “Dem Bones” and experimented bending and squatting to illustrate how our bones work.

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We then cut out and constructed our own skeletons.

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My Prek group worked really hard cutting out all of their pieces!

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After Reading “The Biggest Pumpkin Ever” we cut up strips of construction paper and made our own jack-o-latern.

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My second graders completed a compare and contrast page about the characters in the story.

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My Wednesday group made yummy bone treats by using pretzels, marshmallows, and white chocolate.

Add two marshmallows to the end of a pretzel stick.

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Dip it in white chocolate.


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Let it harden for an hour or so.

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For our Halloween party on Thursday we made monster hand cookies.

I cut around my Power Ranger’s hand to create the shape of the cookies.

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Then we painted them with an egg wash.


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After they baked for awhile we added our finger nails.

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We had a great Halloween Party!

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I have awesome parents!  For our Halloween party one of our parents came and lead The Mummy Wrap.

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And there it is, folks!  Three days of learning, playing, and eating!  What could be better than that?

Happy Halloween!

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Weekly Wrap-Up







‘Tis The Season To Put Off Today What Can Be Done Tomorrow

reasons to skip school

Benjamin Franklin may have had it right when he said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”    However, I’ve learned putting off what can be done today and leaving it for tomorrow is ok.  Not only is it ok, but it is probably better to put off non crucial elements of the day such as reading, writing, and math.

This concept was really hard for my public school teacher mind to accept.  Now that I am into my third year of homeschooling, I can truly see the benefits of stopping school during a beautiful fall day to go out and soak up the colors and warmth of the season.  There will be plenty of cold days during the winter to stay in and work on schoolwork.  We can even work inside during the hot summer days.

I have learned the best time to take school breaks are in the fall and in the spring.  I don’t plan these breaks, nature does.  It hasn’t been easy, but I have let go of not getting everything finished I had planned to do during the school day.

When public school children are off for teacher in-services we can do our work then.

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When public school children are off for snow days we can stay inside and really dig into our lessons.

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School children in Finland have 1 1/2 hours of recess a day.  I love this philosphy.  I think I’m going to adopt it.

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We all need a reset button.  Unstructured outside time provides the opportunity to push it.

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After 20 minutes of sitting, our brain goes to sleep.  Being active fires up the brain and prepares us for learning.

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Let’s be social.  Taking more time outside provides more opportunities for developing social skills.

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Got a little ADHD?  Try getting outside before you pop those pills.  Research has proven that students are more focused in their school work when they spend more time outside.  Moms, be sure you are getting out, too!

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Don’t spend money on vitamins.  Get your vitamin D the natural way.

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Friends, my point is this.  Don’t feel guilty for taking a day off to play.   Our kids are going to learn to read, write, and solve math problems.  This beautiful season is short.  Soon it will be gone just like their childhood.  We shouldn’t sacrifice it for the sake of test scores.


Want to read more on play time?  Check out these great reads:

Give Student Time to Play

Program Introduces More Recess Breaks- Proving Successful   

I Choose Joy!



Busy Mom’s Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning- Math Tubs

Recently, I’ve been asked on how to plan hands-on, no workbook type lessons for busy mothers. I thought it might be helpful to answer this question in a series of posts.

Last week we talked about the importance in having a rough schedule and how Morning Work file folder games can be invaluable to busy moms.  If you missed that post you can find it here.

Math Tub cover

So, here we go!   Math Tub 101!  I just began using Math Tubs this year, so I’m in no way an expert.  When I first began homeschooling we used a textbook.  The textbook had quite a few hands-on activities for my Kindergartener, but as she moved up in years the textbooks got boring.  It was time to think outside the box (and into the tub) when it came time to plan her math lessons.  I still use a textbook from time to time with my Kindergartener, but I mainly use math tubs and games for all of my students.

First off, here is why I have begun to use math tubs in my homeschool:

  1. Increase of student motivation.  Everyone likes to have a part in making decisions.  Students who have a choice in their learning feel empowered and tend to show more persistence with their work.
  2. Learning opportunities that provide meaning.  Math tubs provide activities that students really need to practice and in which students show an interest in exploring further.
  3. They foster independence.  There is less parent/teacher involvement when a student is working on a math tub.
  4. Improved classroom management.  I love using math tubs and allowing my students to take them wherever they want to work on them.  No one is wondering how much longer, no one loses focus, and it’s easy clean up when students are finished.  You may even be able to take care of a few household chores while your child is working!
  5. Better time management.  We get at least 45 minutes of math when we work on math tubs.  Everyone is focused and hard at work.
  6. They can challenge or reteach.  You can tailor your tubs to reteach a skill that needs more practice, or to move ahead to a more challenging concept.  The sky is the limit!
  7. They are fun!  My kids can’t wait to see what is in their tub for the day!

How I implement math tubs into our day:

I usually have 3-4 math tubs set up for my students.  I have each tub labeled with a number.  This makes it easy for my students to keep track of manipulatives and to know which box they have or haven’t completed.

I keep my tubs stacked up on top of my filing cabinet.  When it is time for our lessons, I group my students up by ability level.  My second graders have their own math games they work on together, while my Prek and Kindergarteners rotate through the 3 tubs.  I can float between my two groups to monitor and adjust their activities.  I can easily see if an activity is too hard or too easy.  I usually don’t make my students finish their activity.  As long as I can see their progress I will let them move on to another tub.

If they have mastered the skill, I know it is time to put a new skill in the tub.  If they are haven’t quite got the hang of it, I may leave the activity in the tub so they can have another shot at it later in the week.

This whole rotation process takes up to 45 minutes to an hour.  If it is a new activity, I take about 5 minutes to model how to do the activity.  Then I let them have at it!  Some tubs will take longer than others.  Some tubs will be more interesting to them than others.

To be clear, I always introduce the skill before I put it into a tub. I may introduce a skill on Tuesday, and then have an activity to go with that skill the rest of the week. The other tubs are review and number writing practice.   This way they are constantly reviewing a skill in a fun, hands-on way.

I always make sure to see my students’ progress before they clean up their activity. This way I know if they need more practice or if they are ready to move on.

A typical week may look like this:

Monday  Tutorial Day – No school at home

Tuesday  9:30-9:50  Whole Group Math Lesson on a New Skill/Introduce Math Tubs

9:50-10:30  Math Tubs  (Everyone may not get to do every math tub on this day)

Wednesday-Thursday 9:30-10:30         Math Tubs  (If I have a tub that is not popular or everyone masters easily, I may switch it out before the week is up)

Friday    Free Choice or Assessment  (My kids get to choose a math game or I give them a written assignment)

Here is a peek at what was in our math tub over the last couple of weeks:

addition roll and cover for my Kindergarteners…..

math tub activities2

number recognition roll and cover for my Preschoolers.

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Pattern Building…

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math tub activities1

Where to find math tub activities

  1. TeachersPayTeachers  I have a free account  and look up the skill I’m looking for.  I always use free products.  There are always a ton of math games that pop up.
  2. Goggle  Sometimes I just type in the skill I’m looking for and see what comes up.
  3. Pinterest Pinterest can be a time sucker.  I usually set the timer for 30 minutes whenever I’m planning anything.

Supplies you may need: 

  • laminator
  • connecting cubes
  • counting frogs/bears
  • counters
  • dice
  • play money
  • pattern blocks
  • page protectors
  • white board markers

workbox supplies

I have found all of my supplies from teacher stores and even a thrift store!


The math tubs we use throughout the week stay on the filing cabinet in easy reach of the students.

math organization

The manipulatives that are not being used are stored in a big storage tub, and the printables are stored in marked file folders.  There is probably a better way to do this but for now this works.



I set aside about an hour a week to plan out my tubs.  Sometimes I will plan the night before if I see a skill that needs addressed during the day.  It really doesn’t take long to put the tubs together if you have all of the manipulatives at your finger tips.  I probably spend 30 min. planning out the tubs and not more than 15 minutes to put them together.  The biggest thing is to know the skills to work on in advance.  Get familiar with the State Standards and you will fly through your math planning.

A few things to remember:

  • I don’t make my students finish the activity if they aren’t interested in it.  I just look for another activity to put in it’s place for the next day.
  • I let my students work on the tubs as long or as little as they want (time permitting)
  • I  monitor their activity for mastery.  I don’t stand over them the whole time they are working on the tub, but I do check in once and awhile and I DO check the activity before they put it away.

I hope this helped and inspired you to make up your own math tubs.  If you have any additional resources for math tub activities please leave a comment!  If you have any questions leave a comment and I will do my best to clarify!

Be sure to come back next week for more hands-on ideas!





Spooky Stories That Won’t Keep Your Kids Up At Night

We combined literature and science this week with our Spooky Story and Skeleton theme.  With Halloween only a week away, I knew I needed to add some Halloween fun into our lessons.  Using an old Mailbox magazine as my guide, I found quite a few stories and activities to round out our studies this week.

the ghost eye tree pic

On Tuesday we read……

The Ghost-Eye Tree

Bill Martin is one of my favorite children authors.  The story has a repeating theme: “Why does Mama always choose me, when the night is so dark and the mind runs free…”

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Because of my yearly case of laryngitis, Miss Francis, our Spanish teacher, read this book to the class.

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We used the illustrations in the book to create our own Ghost-Eye Tree.

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Then we used a very thin layer of watered down black tempera paint to paint over the whole paper.  We were hoping for an eerie effect.

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Princess was pleased with the end product.

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On Wednesday we read…

FunnyBones by Allan Ahlberg

This is  a series of humorous books about the adventures of a group of skeletons.  My crew thought this books was hilarious.

We also watched Disney’s 1929 Skeleton Dance on Youtube.


On Thursday we read…..

Bone by Bone Comparing Animal Skeletons

Since we were reading about skeletons, I thought I would tie in some science and start learning about our skeletal system.  This book was such a great way to introduce vertebrates and invertebrates.  We will be doing some more practice on this next week.

Of coarse, we had to end the day with our puppets doing a skit about hurting their tibias, their craniums, and their femurs.  The puppets even had the audience finding their tibias, craniums, and femurs.  I have some REALLY GOOD puppeteers!

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Along with our crafts and Halloween party next week, we will be reading…

Dem Bones by Bob Barner

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll

Come back next week to see how we use these stories to guide our lessons!


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Busy Mom’s Guide to Hands-On Lesson Planning- Morning Work

Recently, I’ve been asked on how to plan hands-on, no workbook type lessons for busy mothers.  I thought it might be helpful to answer this question in a series of posts.

File Folder Morning Work

Now, before I get into how I plan and set up my lessons for the day, I think it’s important to know a few things.  When I first began homeschooling I had a 5, 3, and 1 year old.  So first off, I had to have some kind of structure to my day to keep the flow going.  My plan was by no means perfect.  Most days you would have mistook my house for a three ring circus.  It’s a challenge to keep your student on track and your toddler from peeing everywhere during potty training.  Because of these little incidents we have never kept a strict schedule.  I may not be potty training my crew anymore, but I’m still a mom and I’m still busy.  Unless you have a full time maid, a nanny, a chef, and a chauffeur, all of us still have meals to make, laundry to do, floors to sweep, kids to take to ballet and soccer, and the many other items to attend to on our never ending to do list.  So how do we plan and prepare hands-on lessons for our kids when we have so much to do?  Today I’m sharing with you the power of Morning Work, and my strategy for preparing it for each one of my kiddos.

When I was in the classroom, Morning Work was something used by every teacher.  Teacher’s would make sure to have their Morning Work set up before they left for the day, or they were getting it ready before the school bell rang.  When you think of Morning Work, you may think of worksheets or questions written on the board for students to answer on notebook paper.  I recently read a post from Play to Learn Preschool  that explained how she had file folder games set up for each student for the early arrivers.  I’m always looking for new ways to change things up and to add more hands-on lessons for my students so I thought I would give this idea a try.

I’d like to point out the reasons these Morning Work File Folder Games work so well:

1.  The kids love them.

2. There is not much prep work.

3. They store easily.

4. They will keep your child busy while you clean up after breakfast, change a diaper, ect…

5. It’s a fun, quick assessment of a skill.

6. You can take them anywhere.

7. They work for any age or ability level.

8. Students can work on them until the skill is mastered.

9. You can use them for any subject.

Here’s a peek at my students working on their Morning Work last week.

My Prek students work on alphabet matching games.

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If you have two children working on the same skill and they work well together, this is a two for one!

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Kindergarteners worked on extending patterns….

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And simple addition.

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The second graders worked on a subtraction game.

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Here is what you may need in order to make your file folder games:

  • printer
  • laminator (not necessary, but highly recommended)
  • file folder or manilla folder
  • scissors
  • glue

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How I use these games during the day:

  1. To keep my kids busy learning while I attend to other matters
  2. A way to practice a skill after I have introduced it
  3. A way to assess a skill

Here are some FREE sites to find file folder games:

Preschool Printables

Preschool Mom


The Homeschool Hut

File Folder Fun

File Folder Farm

File Folder Storage

There are many ways to store your file folder games.  We always begin our day downstairs, so I use hanging folders in the big section of my husband’s desk for the games we will be using that week.  I pull out the games before the students arrive and place them at their seat.

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I have a filing cabinet upstairs where I store the games  we aren’t using that day.

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Wouldn’t this make a fantastic teacher desk?  My husband built it for himself, but I keep hinting that it would be perfect for my lesson planning and such.  Every teacher needs a teacher desk!

File Folder Planning

I always try to plan out about an hour every week to print out and assemble my file folder games.  I may spend 30 minutes one evening finding and printing them out, and then another 30 minutes the next morning assembling them.  Sometimes I have my kids cut them out.

A Few More Tips

  • I always have a basket of books for each child to read.  If they finish their game before I can check their work, they know they are to choose a book and find a cozy place to read.  I go to the library every week and find books I think they will like, that they can read, and a few that may challenge their reading ability.  They are always excited to see what books are in the basket.
  • DON’T let your child clean up their game until you have checked it.  This way you can record if they have mastered the skill and can move on.  If you think they need more practice, let them play the game again the next day.


See you next week for some more hands-on lessons!

I Choose Joy!







Yee Haw! Fall Fun With Adventure Story Book Club

Barn Dance

Adventure Story Book Club continues to be a fun part of our homeschool curriculum!  This month I chose to use the book “Barn Dance” by Bill Martin since it is getting so close to Halloween.

Do you have your fiddles and dancing shoes ready?  We’re getting ready to take you on a Midnight Hoedown!

This is such a fun farm book!  It reminded us of “Gobble Gobble Crash” by Julie Stiegemeyer.  It has simple rhymes and a rhythm that is hard to keep you sitting still.  The boy in the story can’t help but to sneak out toward the barn to see what’s making so much noise in the middle of the night!

To get our minds set in a fall theme we began each day with fall themed file folder games.

PreK students worked on upper and lowercase alphabet matching.  You can find the game here.

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Kindergarten worked on extending patterns and simple addition.  You can find FREE printables here.

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Pixie’s tutorial teacher gave her acorns to use as a math manipulative.  Such a great idea for fall!

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On Wednesday, after sharing the book with the class, everyone worked on fall themed centers.

Fall Color Book

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During reading groups, the kids read a Pumpkin Counting book.  Then they used pumpkin candy to stamp the number of pumpkins on the page.  This was a huge hit!

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I made a pocket chart activity for my PreK and Kindergarteners to practice their sight words.

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For a our project I gave the class various art materials to create their own scarecrow from the book.

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 Thursday I was at the grocery store right as the doors opened at 6:00 am.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a snack idea to end the theme.  We just had to have  haystacks to go along with our last day of Barn Dance!  After the grocery run I was ready to make these delicious treats with the class.

Here are the ingredients: butterscotch chips, peanut butter, Chinese noodles, and we added marshmallow cream

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1 Cup of butterscotch chips

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1/2 cup of peanut butter

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heat until melted

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This was one of our favorite activities.  I’m so glad I gave up a few extra minutes of beauty sleep to make this activity happen!

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While the haystacks set up in the fridge, my PreK and Kindergarteners worked on some fall themed cover and roll activities.

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My Second Graders used this FREE printable to write their own scarecrow stories.




You can download the Scarecrow Writing Scarecrow Writing

Finally we learned how to square dance.  Grab your partner and dos- i -do!

barn dance pics13  barn dance pics14

Be sure to check out the other hosts and their Fall Fun activities!  Link up your own posts, too!


Our Amazing Participating Bloggers:

Kersandra from Our Adventure Story

Andrea from Waldorf Salad & Cottage Fries Blog

Christina from Classroom to Homeroom Blog

Jennifer from Faith & Good Works Blog

Learn more about this monthly book club here:

Adventure Story Book Club at Our Adventure Story

Adventure Story Book Club on Facebook

Adventure Story Book Club on Pinterest

Link up your adventurous “Fall Fun” book activities below!










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