Little Log Cottage School

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

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3 Low Maintenance Ways I Can Celebrate Any Occasion

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Last night we all went out for Father’s Day.  When we celebrate, we celebrate with sushi.

Easter Sushi

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End of the Semester Sushi

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We also celebrate by making our favorite waffles.


The weekend is a cause to celebrate, right?  I try to continue my weekday routine on the weekend.  Here’s what I do.

  • Get up at 5:30 make coffee, yoga stretch, unload dishwasher
  • Quietly read, pray, drink coffee out on the porch (all alone!)
  • 6:30 blog until kids get up (usually between 7-8)
  • make these insanely delicious waffles (man I want some right now and it’s almost 10:00 pm)
  • clean up, start laundry, take care of kids, watch food network

Then after lunch I take a 2 hour nap.

I also celebrate by making fancy coffee.

fancy coffee

If I have friends over or feel I need a little boost (when I’m spending the afternoon creating a product) I pull out a pretty little cup and saucer and treat myself to a pretty and yummy cup of coffee.

We do have special coffee.  We have an espresso maker you  make on the stove like you would if you were in Italy.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  It’ll perk you up in a matter of sips.  My husband is VERY picky about his coffee so it has to be the best.

Since we are coffee snobs, we also have a milk frother.  It’s what puts the fancy into “fancy” coffee.  And then there’s also the sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top.  Now that’s a reason to celebrate right there!

Soon it will be the 4th of July and we’ll celebrate some more.  My in-laws will be in town which means more sushi, more waffles, and more fancy coffees.


maddie 4th of July

And maybe I can talk my mother-in-law to whip up some homemade ice-cream.

I would say because it’s summer low maintenance celebrating is the way to go.  But, who am I kidding?  I’m pretty low maintenance all the time so bring on the sushi!    Happy Summer, friends!

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How To Have Fun With Language Arts: Curriculum Highlights

Around last December I went to visit my classroom teacher friend who teaches second grade.  I wanted to see how math was being taught in her classroom.  We began a conversation about blogging and content and we both felt compelled to begin working together on content for our classrooms. (meaning my little cottage school)  So we’ve been creating. The first piece of content we wanted to get out was a Back to School pack.  We wanted something fun, yet meaningful for our students to begin working on those first few weeks of school.

Word Work

What is word work?  Word work means just that.  Working with words.  We’re not handing students a list of words and requiring them to write them 5x’s each and then giving them a spelling test on Friday.  Word work is a more hands-on way to see how words relate to each other and the spelling patterns.  Little learners love playing games with words and this is a necessary foundation to have for reading, writing, and spelling.

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Our Language Arts packets are going to be driven by vocabulary words.  These words will be chosen based on the theme we are studying. There will be many ways we practice vocabulary.  One way is the use of vocabulary maps.

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Included in our Language Arts will be short stories with questions to help practice and assess comprehension.  These can be used individually, in small groups, or one on one. If used as individual work, the stories could be used as an assessment.  If used in a small group or one-on-one setting,  these stories could be used as guided reading lessons.


Kids love to act!  We will be throwing in a little Reader’s Theater to help students become more fluent and expressive in their reading.

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When we finished up school last year my second graders were really getting into writing.  Focusing on a type of writing skill will be a part of our Language Arts curriculum.  Graphic organizers to plan out the writing will also be included.

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We thought a lot about what kids like to do in the classroom.  Kids love games!  Games grab their attention and they become easily engaged in the activity.

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It also gives them a positive experience with learning.  It makes learning fun!

language arts curriculum

It also builds team work and makes learning meaningful.



We’re working on this Back To School edition right now.  It will include all of these components and will have a fun theme to study.

Do you have any questions for us?

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The Planner

First off, If you haven’t started following Mr. Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasbord, then you must.  He’ll change the way you teach.  He’ll make you want to create a hat for every theme you study, and your kids will love you for it.

evie soccore

Next, I’ve been taking my little Princess to soccer camp every night this week in 90 + weather.  From there she’ll decide if she wants to continue with soccer in the fall.  And friends, she’s just my tender hearted princess.  She doesn’t understand why coaches yell instructions out to her.  I mean, that’s just not very nice.  I’m not sure.  I’m just not sure if she is cut out to be a jock.  But she’s giving it a go and so far she’s loving it.  She may not earn a living playing soccer, but she’s having fun and that’s ok by me.  Plus she looks really sweet in her soccer gear.

Third, I’ve been planning.  I’ve been a planning fool.  Summer is the time for planning, right?  When you’re a teacher you plan for the fall.  When your a homeschooling mama you plan for school, tutorials, extra curricular activities, birthdays, you name it.  We plan it.  I’ve been getting up before 5:30 to start my day out with a quite cup of coffee and the Lord before I sit at my computer to add a few pictures or a few sentences to a blog post.  Then the day really gets crazy with Mr. B. and the kids getting up and wanting breakfast.

All week I’ve been planning for the first month of school.  My teacher friend April and I are coming up with a wickedly fun unit to kick things off in August.  I can’t wait to share it with you!

I’ve got the costumes planned and thanks to Mr. Greg, I’ve got a fun project I need to get done for my PreK/Kinders.  I’ve got to get on it because August will be here before you know it.

You’re planning too, right?  You’re not sipping margaritas on the beach.

You’d rather plan out units than be at the beach relaxing, yes?

What are you planning out?  I’ve got to get Mr. Greg’s alphabet gems made.

(I’m going to have my kids make these.  I’m not much into Modge Podge.)

Okay, off to do more planning!

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Reading Strategies: 5 Steps To Encourage Successful Reading Habits

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During my journey as an educator, I’ve often tutored children for reading.  Many students are labeled as poor readers if they’re not meeting the standards of state tests.  This can be alarming to us as parents if we’re led to believe our child is not meeting expectations.  The fear in public school is children will just keep getting further and further behind as the year progresses.  Homeschooling parents feel inadequate in their teaching ability to meet the needs of their struggling reader.   But don’t worry.  Students progress in reading at their own pace, and there’s no need to rush it no matter what the state says.  Modeling how successful readers think and act will provide your child with opportunities to read each day.  So get ready to curl up with your little ones with a good book, because this sets the stage for successful readers.

STEP 1:  Find out what kind of books interest your children.  Paying attention to the type of books your child likes to read will help motivate reading.  Here’s a great post I found on this subject by the Nerdy Book Club.  This is also a time to check which books are on their level.  I often have my second grader read the first page of a book to see if it is too hard, too easy, or just right.

The first day of school I allow children to fill up their own tub with books they choose from our classroom library.  Some of the books I get at the library and some of them are my own.

individualized reading tubs

STEP 2:  Build background and vocabulary  Good readers are constantly making connections with their own lives.  When we help children recall  what they already know, we are teaching them a critical comprehension skill that good readers unconsciously use every time they read.

I always ask the student what they know about the book we are getting ready to read.  If it’s a book about a bat, I list everything the child knows about bats.  “What do you think this book is going to be about?”  “What genre is the book?”

When I’m doing a guided reading lesson with children, I pick out 2-4 words from the story I assume they don’t know.  Before we start reading we define the word and then complete a vocabulary map together.  We write a synonym for the word, write it in a sentence, and draw a picture.

vocabulary map

STEP 3: Guide the reading.  During guided reading we read and stop to discuss the connections we are making.  The student begins by reading aloud and I help out with words when necessary.   After reading a few pages we stop and I model what I’m thinking as we’re reading the book.  Sometimes we pause in the book and I’ll have the student draw a picture of the setting, characters, and problem in the story. lin writing

STEP 4: WORD WORK  Word work is something new to me.  Thanks to Becky, at This Reading Mama, I’ve come to see the need for this type of study to happen for successful readers.  This type of study is more spelling based which moves away from memorizing the way a word is spelled.  It helps students to recognize patterns in words which in turn helps them to decode words.

A way to begin implementing this study is to first assess your child.  I begin by giving a child an informal spelling test beginning with simple CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) and then moving into vowel patterns.  A great assessment tool can be found here.  For more information on word study see my post here.

STEP 5:  Read Aloud To Your Kids  The U.S. Department of Education Commission found the most powerful way for building background and improving reading success in children is to read aloud to them.  Children who are read to are usually the best readers in the class with the biggest vocabulary.

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Lucy Calkins, noted author and educator says, “read-aloud is the time to go under the “spell” of a beautiful book and laugh, cry, and get lost in the flow of the story and the language.”  Reading aloud to students models fluent reading and creates a desire to be a reader.  Children can understand language on a higher level when they are being read to which exposes less competent readers with rich literature.  This way they are getting the same benefits that more capable readers can experience on their own.

An example of this would be my 8 year old who wasn’t a fluent reader.  I knew practicing reading would be one of the best ways to practice fluency.  Since she knew she wasn’t a great reader she automatically didn’t like reading.  I wanted to hook her into reading by providing interesting stories, but knew she wouldn’t be able to read them herself.  After many attempts to find the “magic” book I finally pulled out my all time favorite children series: Trixie Belden.  I made a point to read 1-2 chapters a night to her.  Guess what; it worked!  The read alouds inspired her to find books she could read on her own but also interested her.  She discovered she loved to read mysteries!  Now I don’t have to tell her to read and she has become a more fluent reader, writer, and speller because she has developed an interest in reading on her own.

I hope this post has been helpful to you.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, or comments.  Happy Summer!


Our Week With The Worms: Literacy Unit in Review

Last week I shared our Diary of a Worm literature study.   We completed the unit at school this week and I’m ready to share it with you!  This unit was a great way to review students on Kindergarten skills and merge them with a few first grade skills.  It was also a great way for me to see where we will need to begin in the fall.

Diary of a Worm Review Collage

We distributed these lessons over 5 days.  And since we’re a little more lax in the summer, we spent the majority of the time on reading skills.

Day 1

Our week began  decorating our cover of “Our Week With The Worms”.  I just typed up a cover sheet so we could make a little booklet of all the activities we completed at the end of our week.

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After we all finished our book covers, we painted containers for our worm habitats.  Since worms like to be in the dark, we tried really hard to paint our containers as dark as possible.  (I used containers I had left over from lentils purchased at the farmer’s market)

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To begin our literacy lessons, I started the first graders on a “long a” poem.  We reviewed “silent e” on the end of a word makes the vowel say it’s name.  Then we read through the poem of the week and circled all of the “long a” words.

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I used the word family printable from my Diary of a Worm packet to assess what was learned from Kindergarten.

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My 4 year olds began to work on the word family -an.  I found a great resource from Lavinia Pop.

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When the worm habitats were dry, we went out to Miss Lynn’s yard to build our habitats.  After we filled it with soil we went on a worm hunt.

We found some!

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We added bits of carrot peels and egg shells to our habitats and left them alone.

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Day 2

We began our literacy studies by reading “Diary of a Worm“.  Then we filled in a story element printable.

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We read a lot of facts about worms and ended the day by having a worm race.  No hands.  No legs.  No eyes.  Lots of fun!

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Day 3

Day 3 began with a fun game of “Build the Worm”  Before the kids got here for school I cut two different colored pieces of yarn the same length.  Then I cut each piece into 6 shorter pieces.  I hid the pieces out in Miss Lynn’s yard.

When the kids all got here, I broke them into two teams.  One group was to hunt for the pink yarn and the other group was to hunt for the red.  They were to tie all of their pieces of yarn together to see who had the longest worm.

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We also worked on vocabulary.  I chose 5 words from “Diary of a Worm” and my first graders came up with definitions for each word.  Then they chose one and wrote it in a sentence.

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My third grader used a leveled reader from Reading A-Z.  We had fun reading and finding out answers to the questions we had about worms.

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Because we had a little time left, my first graders worked on their 100’s chart.

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Day 4

My kindhearted Princess used a nonfiction leveled reader from Reading A-Z to practice main idea and details.  This is such a difficult skill for kids.

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My 6 year olds practiced fact and opinion.  They used the fact and opinion cards from my Diary of a Worm packet to organize the sentences.  We used a pocket chart, but you could easily do this on the floor or on a table.

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I’m so thankful to my friend who used to be a Kindergarten teacher.  She gave me so many valuable resources to use with the kiddos.  This board is one of my favorites.  The 6 year olds practiced spelling CVC words with it last week.

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For a fun science project we made Frankenworms!  Thanks to Pinterest I found this fun idea at Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits.

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Day 5

For the last day of our worm unit. we began by adding another page into our worm books.  We wrote our opinions about worms.

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My 8 year old wrote out sentences about her opinions.

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The 6 year olds also read and solved the emergent reader word problems.

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Rowdy in Room 300 had a great glyph activity.

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We made preparations for our worm party.  We prepared worm ice cubes by placing gummy worms into ice cube trays and filling them up with green juice.

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We also made spaghetti hot dogs.  We stuck dry spaghetti through cut up hot dogs.

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Then we cooked them.

For dessert we made dirt pudding cups.  Complete with gummy worms!

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Probably the neatest treat of all was our jello worms.  By following this recipe from Pinterest we made really cool looking worms we could eat!

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See our FREE printables for this unit Diary of a Worm

See our Pinterest board here.

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Henry Hodges Needs a Friend by Andy Andrews

Henry Hodges

“Henry Hodges Needs a Friend” is a rhyming, comical children’s book about a lonely boy without any friends. In an effort to make their son feel better, Henry’s parents take him to the pet shelter to find the perfect companion. This book ends with a happy Henry and a message to children to be themselves and to trust in God for their needs. It’s suitable for children ages 4-8.

One of my husband’s favorite authors is Andy Andrews. When I saw his latest children’s book was available for review I knew it would be a great choice for our family. He’s a favorite author for promoting positive thinking and instructing how to overcome life’s obstacles. He’s one of those authors who you want to meet for coffee and soak in all of his theologies on life. His wisdom is an inspiration to all that read him.

My Thoughts

If you’re looking for a cute, entertaining story to read to your kids this would be a wonderful choice.  If you’re looking for a book with a strong message for your children, I feel this one missed the boat.  While the illustrations are colorful and engaging, I feel the overall message could have been delivered in a stronger manner.  I guess I was expecting more of a book where I could have a deep conversation with my kids about seeking or being a friend.

My children loved it.  They were delighted with all the funny pets and the rhythmic rhyme of the story.  There were many laughs and chuckles as I read the book aloud, so I must say it was an entertaining book.  This book will definitely be a book we’ll read in our house for quite awhile.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.  My opinions are entirely my own.

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How To Set Up Inviting Work Stations In Your Homeschool

Happy Summer Friends!  How many of you set household goals for the summer?  Right now I’m knee deep in a decluttering mission.  I’ve gone through the kids’ closet, their dresser, my closet, my dresser, and both attic closets.  I know we gave away at least 10 bags of clothes and it feels GOOD!

This “little” project was inspired by a new favorite home blog of mine The Inspired Room.  Have you heard of it?  If you like to decorate or attempt DIY projects, this blog is for you!  Anyway, thanks to spending many hours looking through here, I decided to do a little furniture rearranging.  In doing so I accidentally created work spaces through out the house that have really inspired my kids and me to get some work done!

Teacher Work Station

As many of you know, my husband built and designed an amazing desk for himself.  I’m smiling as I write this because this now magnificent desk has now become my teacher desk.  It’s the perfect size for my desk calendar, computer, laminator, and two printers,  There’s still space for my three-ring hole punch and various other teacher must haves.  I used to work on a little desk in the hall under the staircase.  If I ever had a kid on the computer and the other kids working on a project, I would have to walk back and forth to monitor their efforts.  If I ever wanted to show the kids a project or video on the computer, we would all have to squeeze around the little desk in the hall and then walk back to the dining room to begin the project.  It was not the most ideal set up. Since school has been out, I’ve had time to relocate my computer and other equipment to the dining room where the kids work.  My work station sits next to two windows where I get plenty of light and it’s right next to the kids while they work.  Now we won’t have to traipse through the house to go from the computer to our work area.  It’ll save us a lot of time and frustration.

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before teacher work station                         after teacher work station

Reading Nook

After we purchased our house 5 years ago, we hired a stager to come help up us with paint color and furniture placement.  (It’s really worth the money to hire a professional to just tell you what to do instead of wasting time and money trying to figure it out yourself)  She thought putting a reading chair in the hallway under the staircase would be a better choice then my little desk and computer.  At the time I didn’t really have another place to put the computer so I just left it. Since I was able to move my work station to the dining room I couldn’t wait to create a reading nook.

This chair was bought at consignment from an old hotel right after my husband and I were married.  It was a disgusting pink color so my ambitious husband reupholstered it in this funky material.  We had it stashed in our closet because we hadn’t really found a place for it.  Since I had decluttered all of our clothes in our closet, I was able to take this bad boy down to the hallway to create the reading nook.  We now have a lovely little space to veg out and read during the day.  My 8 year old adores it!  It’s been the best thing to encourage reading.  Sometimes I’ll find her curled up in this chair with her book.

reading nook

Writing Desks

Remember my little teacher desk I was using in the hallway under the staircase?  Since I moved it to create our reading nook, I needed a place to put it.  I rearranged my sitting room and moved the desk into there.  To my surprise and delight it looked perfect!  Within minutes my kids claimed a table and declared it their work desk.  When I told them it was time to do some writing, they excitedly ran to their little work station and began to write.  It’s amazing what a little furniture arranging will do for your work attitude!

teak writing stationMaddie writing deskEvie writing desk

Little Red likes to use the dining room table.  Pixie likes the little desk in front of the window in the sitting room and Princess likes my old desk which now sits in the sitting room as well.  Add a lamp to your writing station and that adds extra incentive to write!

So that’s it!  No purchases necessary!   With a little rearranging with what you already have can inspire not only yourself but also your children to get some work in during the day!


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