Thursday, December 1, 2011

Car Boxes

I don't know about you, but my car is a place where kids rule. Meaning, it's their car, not mine. There are toys, crumbs, and random pieces of clothing scattered around the floorboards. It's not a pretty sight!

As my life with two kiddos becomes busier and busier, I need to be as organized as possible. We are out and about a lot and oftentimes the things I need for them (e.g. sunscreen, diapers, etc.) are no where to be found. So, I made some "car boxes". This idea isn't anything new or brilliant, but it's been a lifesaver for me.

This first box is James' box. It sits between his and Juliet's car seats. When Juliet gets older, she'll have one of her own.

Here's what inside:
:: Crumb free snacks - only took me 4 years to figure out that if I don't want crumbs in the car, don't let cute little kids eat crumbly food in there!
:: Waterbottle
:: Various books (I Spys, readers), magazines, and a workbook
:: A couple of activity bags
:: Homemade notepads
:: Crayons
:: Various toys with easy to pick up pieces - these reptangles are a favorite!
:: Calculator (James loves playing with this)
:: A favorite stuff animal
:: Brain Quest deck - we LOVE these!

This next box is also for the kids, and it holds some basic necessities. Such as...

:: Blanket
:: Umbrella
:: Mini first aid kit
:: Hand sanitizer
:: Sunscreen
:: Plastic bags. These are from the grocery store and are great for dirty diapers, outdoor items that suddenly become most cherished treasures, and of course, trash.
:: Wipes
:: Diaper changing kit (it's a roll out mat that has diapers, cream, and wipes inside of it).
:: Sun hats
:: Sunglasses
:: Kleenex

This was one of the easiest bits of organization I've done in a long time. Find a bin, gather the items you regularly need, put it in all in the car. Easy peasy!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Our School Library

After finding this haul of books at the local thrift shop, I decided it was high time I reorganize our little "library" of children's books and learning books.

My first job was to separate our books into piles by subject. James and Juliet helped. : )

Next, I used dot stickers to visual discriminate each subject. I couldn't find inexpensive dots in the variety of colors I needed, so I purchased some plain white dots and colored them with markers.

I created this legend to help James find what he needs. For example, for homework each night, James must read a book to his father. I tell him to go to the classroom and select any one of his readers, which are the green group. He knows where to get them and, most importantly, where to return them!

After a lot of thought, I decided to use one of the bookcases in our classroom. I know this seems like an obvious choice for school books, but I actually had a hard time giving up two of our Montessori shelves. That is, until I determined our new routine and realized we'll be using less of our shelves for tray work.

There are a couple of baskets to hold the smaller collections of books, such as our Nat Geo's for kids.

Our reference books (encyclopedias, dictionaries,etc.), my teaching books and manuals, and any other textbooks are on a bookcase just outside the classroom. James has lots of non-school type books and all of those are on the bookcase in his bedroom.

At the moment, I have no desire (read: energy) to catalog our all of books. I know there are a variety of awesome online resources that would help me do this, but our selection is still relatively small and quite manageable. :)

~Thank you for your comments!~

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our New Routine

I mentioned in a recent post that I have been re-evaluating our curriculum and how we do school. With the help of Jolanthe's Homeschool Planner worksheet, I created this schedule:

There were key subjects I knew I wanted to cover, some more frequently than others (e.g., math, writing, reading). I also wanted a variety of topics within each day because while James is a creature of habit and routine, I knew it was important that I keep our school time interesting and new at the same time. For example, we do an "art study" every Thursday, but the art that we study is different each time.

Every Sunday evening I plan out our schedule for the coming week by writing in specific notes on the template. I refer to this schedule during our school time and I make a check mark as we finish a subject. I do this so that upon review I can quickly see what's done and what isn't. There are days when we may have to skip a lesson here or there, and because it's not checked I'll see that I need to cover that material tomorrow.

After I've planned our schedule, I gather together all of the materials we'll need for each day and I create "daily trays". I place these trays on the shelves of one of our bookcases. This is not unlike workboxes in the sense that the child simply goes to one spot to collect their work for the day. Each morning James goes to shelves, gets the tray of the day, brings it to the table, and knows that everything on that tray is what we have to work on.

On each tray is a clear folder that holds that day's worksheets. I purchased three Kindergarten and 1st grade workbooks and I simply tear out several pages for each day. Occasionally I add in worksheets I've found online, too.

At the end of the day we paperclip the completed worksheets and put them into this folder. My husband really enjoys seeing what James has done, and James is so proud to show his daddy his school work!

I also have a "teacher tray" where I keep books I use repeatedly throughout the week (e.g., our chapter read-aloud, our reading comp. book, etc.). This is really handy as it keeps my materials separate from James'.

At the end of each week I save the completed schedules in my organizer. This is helpful because it serves as a record of what we've done and it also provides me with a clear idea of what we need to cover. By the way, I must mention that I *love* my organizer! I haven't quite decided how to use it to its full potential, but so far it's been a great help. Inside of it I keep a copy of our monthly calendar, notes, ideas, planning sheets, Weekly Reader teaching guides, as well as pouches filled with writing tools and stickers.

That's one other thing that's been a fun new addition to our school time - the stickers! I remembered that I used to love when my teachers put stickers on my worksheets to show they were pleased with my work. I found loads of these little stickers at the local teacher's supply store. James was just tickled when I pulled them out and I've noticed he puts in a bit more effort in the hopes he'll get a sticker!

Many thanks to my wonderful friend, Terri, for this idea. I made this schedule sheet for James and I keep it posted in our classroom next to our calendar so he can see what's coming. He really likes it and often looks over to it and announces what we're doing next. We start school at about 8:30/9am (or later... depends on how motivated we are in the morning!) and the entire routine takes us about 3 hours. This works out well since our afternoons are usually busy with playing, errands, or classes. (BTW, "morning exercises" is just a more grown up way of referring to "circle time". : ) You can read more about our circle time here.)

I'm really, really pleased with our new schedule and learning method. I like that we're still using our classroom despite the fact that much of our work comes from books and worksheets. We have school every day in our classroom and work at the little table in there. Three times a week James does "shelf work" where for 30 minutes he can work on anything on our shelves. Currently, the work on our shelves is from our mini-units. (Side note: I thought we'd move through those MUCH more quickly than we have - there are 3 units we have yet to cover!) When we get through those I will create only a handful of trays each month.

For the moment, our "curriculum" is really just a hodgepodge of methods using various books, workbooks and tactile materials. Beginning next fall we'll be using more specific methods for our core subjects.

In the next week or two I hope to share about our new school library!

PS: here's a recent pic of my sweet pea. I just can't get enough of that smile!!
~Thank you for your comments!~

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baby Knit In Action

It's such a treat to see my little girl *finally* wearing some of the baby knits I made for her during my pregnancy. She's just about outgrown these little booties! Here she is wearing the milo vest...

Since she arrived I've knitted another bonnet, a cardigan, and a sweet little pair of sheepy pants. I hope to photograph them and come back soon to share with you!

~Thank you for your comments!~


Just had to stop by to share this with those who'd appreciate it:

I found these school books - all 47 of them - at the thrift shop today! There are some real gems in this pile and the best part is the whole lot cost only $12!!

I'm now inspired to reorganize our entire library into a more coherent system. We have four 8-foot bookcases packed with books, and the above purchase will have us spilling over onto another bookcase. I'll be back (at some point) to share details and photos on how I organized our school books and James' reading books. It's going to change the look of our classroom a bit, but I'm feeling ready for a change so the timing is perfect.

Speaking of change, I've also been doing A LOT of thinking and researching about James' curriculum for the reminder of this year and the 2012-2013 school year. You may be surprised to learn that we'll be moving away from Montessori for the most part. I'll still use certain aspects of the method and many of the materials we already have because I really do believe Montessori is an excellent way to teach and learn. The fact is, there are just some subject areas where James suddenly seems to be doing better with worksheets. Not to mention the fact I have come to the sad realization that I just don't have the energy anymore to create loads of trays each month. And on that note, I should mention that I won't be doing big monthly themes anymore either, but instead we'll focus on smaller, less frequent units - sort of like our mini-units.

Of course all of the materials we already have and those that I've made won't go to waste - when Juliet is of toddler age and throughout her preschool years I'll guide her by way of the Montessori method, just as I did with James. It's peace of mind to know I already have all of that on hand, ready to go!

On a different note, I'm slowing working my way back into blogging. I'll stop in and post only when I get a chance. Truth be told, I don't think I'll ever come back to blogging as often as I used to. I've quite enjoyed this break and it made me realize just how much time I spent on the computer before Juliet came! My priorities have shifted, my "free" time has been cut in half, and my energy level hovers somewhere just above low. :) It's all good - I'm not complaining. Just sayin' you won't see me around these parts as much as you used to.

These two sweet coconuts keep me on my toes!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just Stopping By...

Hello, friends! Remember me?

So many of you have very sweetly sent me mails wondering and hoping that we're settling in. Thank you for your warm thoughts - you're all very kind! I'm not ready to come back to full time blogging just yet, but I thought I'd pop in to say hello and to give an update on how things are going with us.

~my two loves~

I'm happy to say all is well! Life with two kiddos has definitely been an adjustment, though. Thankfully, James has accepted Juliet whole-heartedly and that alone has made the transition easier. It's finding time in the day that's been the real challenge for me. Especially when Juliet first came home - the days just flew by. I think last week was the first week when I finally felt like I had a grasp on time. I actually managed to read, knit, and take a shower!! (The latter being the real luxury!)

~we call this look "the church lady" ;D~

My husband was off work for three weeks and then my wonderful sister in law flew over to help for two weeks. And oh my goodness was she ever a help! Not only did she cook, clean, and take care of the kids whenever I needed her to, she found the energy to do school and a variety of fun projects with James (I'll share more about those later). She was also an enormous source of wisdom and support with regard to breastfeeding and childcare. She just left on Saturday and I'm already missing her!

~(at the beach) *yawn* this is the life!~

So, with hubby back at work and my SIL gone, I'm officially on my own now. That was a scary concept to me at first, but after some thought I now feel really good about it. I realized there's not much we haven't already done so there really shouldn't be any major surprises. We've ventured out many times for errands, meals, appointments, fun excursions - in fact, Juliet has already been to the beach and had her little toes dipped in the ocean! I've nursed in public several times (a huge anxiety overcome!), and I've experienced the joys of both kids having a public meltdown at the same time. I'm ready for life with two - bring it on!

~itty bitty feet~

I can't believe our little girl is already 5 weeks old! She's a sweetheart, a cuddle-bug, and one very determined girl. She has one of the loudest cries I've ever heard from a baby! As of last week she weighed 8lbs., 13oz. - up over two pounds from when we left the hospital (she lost some weight during our stay there)! Needless to say she's eating well. :) I'm exclusively nursing her on demand around the clock. She only wakes up a couple of times in the night to eat and then, thankfully, always goes right back to sleep. We're co-sleeping and I think that's the reason I feel surprisingly well rested each morning.

~teeny tiny hands~

My body is still resetting to its pre-pregnancy state. It's strange and amazing at the same time to feel things shifting back into place. Recovery-wise I'm still a bit sore from the c-section, but otherwise I feel quite normal. One thing that's not normal for me is just how hungry I am. Like all.the.time. I feel like I eat non-stop! I've heard this hunger is common for breastfeeding mothers and thanks to the huge calorie burn that occurs while nursing, I've lost over 20 pounds since giving birth!

~beach bum~

James is doing well, too! He's been such a good boy, so helpful and sweet. He's still very much in love with his sister and dotes on her constantly. She's very taken with him, too, and whenever she hears his voice she'll move her head around until she finds him. James has also been enjoying our mini-units and so have I! I love how compact and portable they are.

Well, that's about all for now. I'll try to update again in another few weeks. I have SO many ideas and activities I want to share with you all and I often find myself writing blog posts in my head! Oh, but there is one last thing I do want to mention... in the last 6 weeks I've received dozens of emails with questions - I apologize for not being able to respond to any of them. I can't say exactly when I'll be able to as life is a bit busy for me at the moment. :) Thanks for your understanding and patience! In the meantime, please be sure to check my FAQ post to see if I've already addressed your question(s).

Hope you're all doing well and that your school year is off to a wonderful start!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our Littlest Coconut

She's here! She's here! Ohmygosh she's here!!!!

(clearing throat) Sorry, I'm still just a little excited. Our sweet and wonderful baby girl is finally here with us and let me tell you she is nothing short of amazing! Of course I'm not at all biased. ;)

Meet our little Juliet

Juliet came into the world on August 22nd at 12:52pm. She weighed 7lbs., 8oz. and was 18.5" long. She has soft brown hair and the most kissable cheeks ever!

James is absolutely head over heels in love with her. His first words to her were: "I love you, baby sister!!". He has showered her with so much love and affection that it has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. It's heaven seeing the two of them together.

My husband and I are just as proud as can be and feel so very blessed to have these two loves in our lives.

PS: I am beyond happy to report that, despite a very rough start, exclusive breastfeeding is going beautifully!! I owe so much to my friends and local La Leche League consultants for their support!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Friday, August 19, 2011

Baby Leave

Well friends, it's time I say good-bye for a while. Our sweet baby is due any day now and I have a feeling she'll come sooner than later. I can't say for sure when I'll come back to posting as I have no intention of rushing anything during this precious and fleeting time. I'll do my best to pop back in to share a photo of our new love and to announce her arrival since so many of you have very sweetly expressed an interest in her and my pregnancy.

I truly appreciate the warmth and well wishes so many of you have sent my way - thank you for that, your words mean more to me than you know. I'll certainly miss all of your positive and encouraging comments over the coming months, especially since that's when I'm likely to need them most! Wish me luck in this new journey as a mother of two!

I hope you all have a lovely fall season! Blessing, hugs, love and all that good stuff. :)


Thursday, August 18, 2011

August Sensory Tub - Back to School!

One last sensory tub for the road. I sure will miss creating these over the next few months!

Since James will still have school with my husband, I decided to go with a 'back to school' theme for this tub. I've been wanting to make this for a while, but opted for a fall/apple theme last year instead.

Here's what's inside:

:: Shredded notebook paper (James, under my supervision, used a shredder machine to make this)
:: Personalized pencil case (I won this in a giveaway. James can pack the supplies in the pouch and I know he'll love using the zipper!)
:: Crayons
:: Pencils
:: Erasers (which can be added to the pencil tops for a fine motor activity)
:: Pencil sharpener (to be used with the pencils, of course)
:: Scissors (James can further cut the shredded paper)
:: Paper clips (these can be used to make chains - see our recent activity involving this)
:: Wooden alphabet tiles with little holes at the top (to be used with the lacing string in the pencil pouch)
:: Number beads, 0-10 (can also be laced)
:: Foldable ruler - no clue where this came from; I've had it for years.
:: Tiny yarn apples knitted by me last year
:: Colorful shapes (they link together)
:: Mini homemade notebook (James can use the pencils he's sharpened or the crayons to draw inside of the notebook)
:: Small alphabet book
:: School bus calendar cards
:: Back to school novelty buttons (found at Joanne's years ago)

James had since grown tired of the transportation tub and the pond tub so this new one was welcomed with opened arms! His favorite thing so far is the foldable ruler. :)

Click the button below to see a full list of my sensory tubs or click here to view my slideshow on the Counting Coconuts Facebook page.

~Thank you for your comments!~

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homemade Notebooks

You guys have been making me laugh lately - whenever I put out a new post, I'll undoubtedly get an email or a comment telling me to "just relax and rest!" before the baby comes. I suspect you think I'm running around like a crazed pregnant women stuck in a crafting frenzy? Well, minus the running part, I suppose that's a pretty accurate statement. But what you must realize is that 1) I LOVE crafting and 2) creating things is a very relaxing pastime to me. Laying around and watching TV makes me anxious - I need to be doing something with my hands. Since we're officially done with school for a while, I've had more time to just sit and craft, hence my recent posts. It's been wonderful and very restful!

And thanks to the plethora of ideas out on Pinterest I've been at no risk for running out of crafty projects. I ran across this idea from Simple Home Stuff and went right to my happy place in making some homemade notebooks.

These are actually a much needed supply in our classroom since pre-made store-bought notepads (the kind with blank pages for drawing) are ridiculously expensive here. And my child is one of those who likes a fresh sheet of paper for, oh say, every new line he draws. Sure I gently encourage him not to do that and sure we use scrap paper and the back of old documents, etc., but when it comes to creating I understand the need for a clean slate. Also, there's something alluring about a book of paper. At least to me and James, anyway.

I won't bother sharing a full on tutorial since these are SO easy to make. Basically I just used cardboard boxes from various food items, I cut them into a variety of sizes and folded them in half to make a book. Then I folded sheets of printer paper (fyi, here's where the cost saving lies - when looking at the paper ratio, the price of a ream of paper is FAR cheaper than a pre-made notepad), and then cut the paper down to the size of the cardboard. After that I simply stacked and then stapled the paper in middle at the fold of the book. Easy peasy.

I know James will get a kick out of the images on the cardboard, but I'm a little.... particular... when it comes to how things look in my classroom. :) So, I covered some of the books with interesting scrapbook paper (see first photo). Those will go on our shelves for various works while the others will be for everyday use outside the classroom. The great thing about these is that they fit right into my purse, so bringing them to a restaurant or doctor's office or adding them to one of our activity kits will be a cinch.

I made some mini-notebooks, too. Just because I thought they were cute. :) I added a couple to the sibling gift I made earlier this week.

Another great thing about these notebooks is that they're reusable - all you have to do is pull out the staple and add more paper!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fruits & Numbers Giveaway Winner!

I can't tell you how much I loved reading everyone's baby predictions and well wishes! Thanks SO much for taking the time to share them with me - what a warm community of women we are, don't you think?! I feel blessed to be a part of it. :)

The winner of the fruit manipulatives and jumbo numbers is...

Jen Raubenolt!

Congratulations, Jen! Please email me at within the next 48 hours with your contact details.

Monday, August 15, 2011

To James, With Love

The bassinet is ready, the hospital bag is packed, countless lists have been made... everything's all set and ready for our little baby girl's arrival!

One final preparation was this gift to James from his new sister. I read that it's a good idea to get an older sibling a special gift from the new one - I suppose so they get off on the right foot. :) Ha!

I was inspired by this idea from Ms. Martha Stewart to put together a little package of goodies. In one of my handmade gift bags I included some of James' favorite things: a disposable camera (he loves taking pictures and I thought it'd be cute for him to take some of his new sister), a mini homemade notebook with a tiny pencil (he's really into writing "notes" lately), some fun bugs, a small container of gummy bears, a wrapped gift (dollar store binoculars), and a special homemade card.

I'm bringing the gift to the hospital with me and we'll give it to James when he meets his sister. I can't wait to see my two loves together for the first time!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Pattering With Paper Clips

I heard about these links and patterning cards and went around the island in search of them, but not surprisingly I came up empty handed. That's one fun benefit of living in a place where resources and selection is limited - you're forced to become inventive!

I realized the links are really nothing more than paperclips without the clip. :) The point is the link and you can certainly do that with paperclips! And the cards were easy enough to create (in Word). James will use the them as a guide to create various patterns (ABAB, AABB, etc.).

I'm making these cards available to you - just click this link to download. As with all of my printables, these are for your personal use only. Please do not sell or offer them in a giveaway. Thank you!

Oh and here's another paperclip activity James came up with. He began creating letter and number shapes with the clips, so I dug out these jumbo cardboard numbers for him to use as a template. BIG hit! (FYI, I *think* the cardboard numbers were found at Michael's Crafts.)

~Thank you for your comments!~

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Autumn Calendar Cards

A while back, on my CC Facebook Page, I took a poll about which style of calendar cards I should make next. Quite a few of you gave your input (thank you!) and it was a tight race, but I ultimately chose an Autumn/Harvest theme. I hope you find them useful in the coming months!

Click here to download

Keep in mind that I format these myself, so they're not perfect, but they'll certainly get the job done. : ) Also, as with all of my printables, these are for your personal use only - please do not sell or offer them in a giveaway. Thank you and enjoy!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tic Tac Toe, Jumbo Numbers & A Mini Giveaway!

~This giveaway is now closed~

There! How's that a for a creative blog post title? Ha! Can you tell I'm just really running out of brain power and energy? (Btw, only 10 more days 'til baby comes!!)

We've been taking things really easy lately. Really easy. I haven't felt like doing much and thankfully my sweet boy is quite content to do anything as long as it means we do it together. So there's been a lot of reading books, coloring, and playing simple games like this one...

I made this tic tac toe board on Word (you can find the download link on my Free Printables Page) and I found a variety of things to use as the game pieces. Game piece options are endless (think legos, mini erasers, coins, die cuts, toys, etc.) and changing up them up keeps the game interesting.

In addition to the flat marbles, we also used these fruit manipulatives. You've seen us use them in the past and they really are just the most versatile things - aside from game pieces you can use them for counting, sorting, mystery bags, poetry baskets, practical life work, etc. I bought them at a garage sale here on the island, but you can find them at Lakeshore Learning.

Another fun learning tool we've been working with are these jumbo cardboard numbers. I've had these for quite some time and I can't be sure where they came from - I *think* Michael's Crafts? Anyway, these too are quite versatile in that you can use them in art projects, counting activities, math games, or even as classroom decorations!

Ok, as for the giveaway, I realized I have an excess of both the jumbo numbers and the fruit manipulatives. With a class size of just ONE child, I really don't need all the extras that come in these packs, so I thought I'd share them with one of you!

Here's what I'm offering: one set of jumbo numbers (0-9) and 20 fruit manipulatives - 5 of 4 different styles (apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes). Basket NOT included.

I don't want to make a big deal out of this giveaway because, as I said, I'm just keeping things light right now. If you'd like to win this little combo pack, simply leave a comment on this post.

But wait - now that I think of it... if you're in the mood whilst leaving said comment, I'd sure get a kick out of any baby predictions you'd like to make (i.e. what day/time you think she'll arrive and maybe even her height/weight - just for fun!). And who knows, perhaps I'll send a little something to whomever guesses everything correctly! For those interested in taking a guess, it may help to know I'm already 3cm dilated, I've been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions a few times a day, I'm scheduled for a c-section on the 22nd (which is exactly 39 weeks for me), and my belly is measuring on schedule. And not that this really has much influence in this pregnancy, but James was 9 days early, born at 5:54am, weighed 6lbs. 11oz. and was 19.25" long. :)

The giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on Tuesday, August 16th at 9:00pm Atlantic Time. Good luck!

~Thank you for your comments!~


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