Easy Fall Leaf Print Art Project

Easy Fall Leaf Print Art Project

What’s a better way to learn about different trees / leaf patterns than this esay leaf print project?

All you need are leaves of various shapes and sizes, acrylic or tempura paunts, brushes, and a printable surface (we chose a small canvas, but you could also use t-shirts or tote bags!).

We gathered our leaves from our backyard, but you could gather them really anywhere during the fall! Special places or on a nature walk… Try gathering both deciduous and coniferous leaves! Just make sure you choose leaves that arent too brittle or they will break and crumble when you try to press them down.

Once you have your leaves, evenly paint the underneath side of the leaf to get all the vein patterns. You want a thin wet coat, no glops or it won’t show the print very well.

Position your leaf painted side down and lightly press/rub from the stem outward towards the tips, being caregul not to scoot the leaf across the surface of the canvas (or t-shirt, paper, etc.)

Then, gently peel the leaf upward from its stem and voila! You should have a leaf print!

Try painting patterns or multiple colors on a single leaf for more artsy prints. Also, don’t be afraid to let the prints overlap!

Experiment and have fun. Try to identify the trees each leaf came from, talk about the differences you see in the leaf patterns, etc.

Once we were done with our leaves, we let the re-painted and let the leaves dry, then ran them through oyr laminator. We cut out around their shapes and, with the help of Facebook and Google, identified each leaf’s tree and wrote its name on the unpainted side in Sharpie for my daughter’s nature collection (and educational purposes)!

30 Minute Meals: Saag – A modern take on a classic Indian Favorite!

This past Christmas I made my family gift baskets with recipe cards I wrote out, printed, laminated and placed onto a binder ring (so that it can be added to), and the ingredients to one of the recipes. Turns out, they were a hit and every time one of them tries a new recipe of mine, they text me to tell me how much they loved it! Which makes my heart so so happy because I am an “intuitive” cook and I don’t really measure my ingredients. As you can imagine, this makes writing down / sharing my “recipes” difficult. (How much salt? I dunno. Throw in a pinch at a time til it tastes good!)

The recipe my family members have been going ga-ga over recently is my version of saag. I LOVE Indian cuisine and over the years I’ve (systematically) gotten my mom, dad, brother, and husband all addicted as well. (Mwahaha!) But the closest GOOD Indian restaurant is across the river in the city and I just honestly don’t want to always go over there to get it.

So I started experimenting with Indian spices and recipes at home and came up with this gem. It’s quick and super easy! It’d be a one pot meal, but because you have to make the rice separate, it takes two. (Honestly I throw the rice in my instant pot before I even start the rest of the meal).

This recipe calls for some specific Indian spices, which you can order online or if you happen to have a Jungle Jim’s nearby (Hello Cincinnati!) then I know you can find them there (because that’s where I got them).

Also, if you’re expecting traditional “puree” style saag, that’s NOT what this recipe makes. This is a “take” on saag – you might call it faux saag or keema saag or chunky fresh saag… I just call it saag and everyone in my family knows what that means. It has spinach in it so I’m not totally wrong ­čśë

Make it meat-free by simply omitting the ground beef! I’ve made it this way too and it’s just as tasty and filling!

Enjoy!
-M

Science Explorations: Butterflies & Ants

Our last day of co-op was in late April and I’m just NOW starting to feel like we are settling in to our new routine. Probably because as soon as I finished my last day of teaching, I came down with a rotten head cold, followed by K and my husband both falling ill with a flu-like virus.

On top of all that, we are desperately trying to finish up a million house projects so we can list our home on the market! Exciting stuff, but I feel like there is just this never ending list of things to be done… Also, our son (my stepson for technicality purposes) comes home for the summer next week, so we’ve been re-organizing his room.

Due to all the sickness and house-work we haven’t taken a lot of time to do any “on purpose” educating. I mean, as unschoolers, we don’t really do this on a day to day basis anyway, but we are usually more intentional about at least presenting learning opportunities.

We have done a couple cool things recently though, like raise butterflies from caterpillars and keep an ant farm!

K got both of these kits as gifts (one for Christmas and one for her birthday) this past year and we’ve been waiting for the weather to be warm enough to order the live bugs. Did you KNOW you can buy ants on Amazon?!?! There is something so weird about getting tubes of ants in the mail… and FYI, the ant farm K got is sold separately from the actual ants, which is nice if you’re gifting the set or the weather isn’t quite cool/warm enough yet to ship live ants and set up your farm right away.

The butterfly kit and caterpillars came from Insect Lore and I HIGHLY recommend this product/website for anyone who has kiddos interested in bugs/butterflies. The kit came with a info booklet, a “garden” (mesh enclosure), and a voucher for the live caterpillars. When we redeemed our voucher, we also purchased a couple plastic models of the butterfly life cycle to go with the whole experience. The models helped reinforce butterfly life cycle vocabulary and helped K visualize what would happen to the caterpillars next.

We successfully raised 4 beautiful butterflies – although one had crumpled wings when it emerged (sad face) – and it was really cool to watch the whole process of metamorphosis! I’m NOT an insect lover, but I would definitely recommend doing this with your kiddo – and we’ll likely do it again because K loved it so much (she’s a butterfly girl!). I’m thinking that next year we’ll couple the project with the planting of some butterfly friendly plants too (hopefully at our new house).

All in all, these were both cool science explorations that were easy to do at home and required very minimal effort/active time.

If you wanted to take these projects a step further, here are some ideas!

-check out books about ants/butterflies at your local library

-browse YouTube and create an educational playlist of videos about ants/butterflies (or check out our curated playlist!)

-do some butterfly crafts

-do some ant activities

-make butterfly food for your newly emerged butterflies (9 parts water to 1 part sugar. Boil until dissolved then let cool completely and add to a sponge. Place sponge in the mesh butterfly garden enclosure)

-Make an OUTDOOR butterfly feeder

-have a picnic. Use a magnifying glass to look for worker ants (just be careful not to scorch them!)

I hope you all have as much fun with this as we did!

TTFN,
-Marissa








A Kid Friendly Ostara / Spring Equinox Celebration

Kid Friendly Ostara

It’s officially SPRING!!! I have been feeling so over all the cold weather and grey skies! It’s SO nice to finally feel the air warming up and see the SUN!

This was our first year of celebrating Ostara and I had been SOO looking forward to it!┬áNever heard of Ostara? Then before we get to our family celebration, it’s time for a history lesson!

Ostara is one of the 8 seasonal holidays that make up the “wheel of the year” (but you may know it as the Spring or Vernal Equinox).

The word Ostara is an English evolution of the word Eostre; Eostre was a Germanic goddess of Spring. One myth claims that Eostre once found an injured bird on the ground in late winter. To save it’s life, she changed the bird into a hare but the transformation wasn’t perfect. It looked like a hare, but kept it’s ability to lay eggs! The creature would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre as thanks for saving it’s life.

Other myths associate rabbits and eggs with Ostara as symbols of fertility and re-birth, which is a common theme of Spring: baby animals are being born, trees and flowers begin to bloom, crops/gardens are being planted, etc.

Celebrations of Eostre were held during Eosturmononath,┬áthe fourth lunar month (mid-March to Mid-April). Often these celebrations involved the decorating of eggs, egg hunts, and gifts. As Christianity began to spread, many customs that were previously associated with Ostara were combined with and adopted into the Christian holiday “Easter” and it’s easy to see the resemblance and symbolism here (celebrating the rebirth of the Christ seems fitting during the time of year when re-birth is thematic).

The Spring Equinox or Vernal Equinox, when both the northern and southern hemisphere receive equal sunlight (as the earth tilts and the sun begins to bring more daylight to the northern hemisphere), occurs around March 21st each year (in 2019 it is March 20th, in 2020 it will be March 19th). Some earth / nature centric religions (wiccans, neopagans, etc.) observe the equinox as a holiday, others observe the Sabbat Ostara. JudeoChristians observe Passover and Easter around the same time (usually between Ostara and Beltane aka May Day). Regardless, this is a a time of spiritual significance!

Okay, enough history. Back to our celebration!

We started the day with a trip to our local dollar tree. (We go there a lot because it’s like a treasure hunt each time!) I don’t mind getting my seasonal flowers from there and we like to peruse the craft supplies and seasonal decor – which is exactly what we did! We always leave there with waaay too much stuff, because it’s really hard to say no to something that only costs a dollar…

Anyway, I got some things for our seasonal / holiday table (it’s really my personal altar, but I like keeping it decorated for the season or current / recent holiday). K got some sparkly eggs, bunny ears, and a balloon that said Happy Birthday (haha). It made her happy because it was rainbow colored – and it was actually semi-appropriate because my sister in law’s birthday is on the 21st and my mom’s birthday is on the 22nd – even though K wanted to keep it for herself!

We also made a stop at our local herb shop, because K wanted to make a potion to help the plants grow and bring out Spring. I picked up a few things to add to my apothecary closet and K picked out rosebuds and passion flower for her potion.

Once we got home and unloaded everything, we dove right in to potion making!

Potion making is super fun! I love seeing what K will pick out to blend together. She usually picks out really good blends! For her Spring Potion we used: Pink Rosebuds, Passion Flower, Lavender, Chamomile, and Calendula. She ground up each ingredient with our little mortar and pestle and combined it all in a glass bowl that we use specifically for herb blending / potions.┬áThen we added some Rosewater that I’d made from the red roses hubby brought me for Valentine’s Day.

Because I’m a modern gal, we used the microwave to heat up the concoction. 2-3 minutes was plenty! We poured the liquid through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl and then funneled it into a small 2oz. spray bottle and voila! Our Spring Growing Potion was ready!

K wanted to put it to the test immediately so we went outside and sprayed all of our landscape bushes and the beginning shoots of our daylilies with the potion. Of course we had to chant our intentions too – so we firmly, but lovingly, told each plant to “Grow, Plant, Grow”!

After our successful potion mixing time, we spent some time doing new flower arrangements for the fireplace mantle and foyer table. I keep ALL the flowers I ever buy in a giant bag so I let K go through and pick whichever ones she wanted to use to make the arrangement for the table, while I placed white and peach colored lilies in the vase for the mantle.

After that we re-decorated the table and had an indoor egg hunt! We also went to the library and got some Spring themed books, which we are still reading through and likely will renew at least once!

I was also able to take some me-time to be outside and just give thanks for all of the abundance of the season, the gift of life, new opportunities, fresh starts, and everything Spring represents to me personally.

There’s not a lot of information out there for families who want to celebrate and create Ostara traditions together, but I think we managed well enough on our own! If you celebrate Ostara with kids I’d love to hear what you planned!

xo and happy Spring!
–Marissa

Our Favorite Free Educational Apps for PreK/Kindergarten

How much screen time your kiddo gets is a hot topic in today’s society.  Personally, I feel that electronic devices are neither good nor bad – they are a tool, and tools are neutral. In my opinion, what makes screens bad is how you use them. If you’re using them as an all day long babysitter so you don’t have to interact with your kids – I consider that a bad use. If you’re using them interactively with your kids, and they help bring you closer together, I consider that a good use.

In our house, we use screens as a tool for pure entertainment at times, but the majority of the time we are using them for educational fun.

I have an old tablet that I’ve set up specifically for my daughter. She doesn’t have free access to it, but it’s essentially hers. I’ve loaded it up with several games that are learning based and age appropriate for her. We get the tablet out every few days or so. It’s kind of a special treat to her to get to play on it! And I’m happy because she’s having fun learning! Unschooling win!

If you’re like me, then you’re probably constantly on the hunt for good apps. These are our favorite FREE educational apps (for preK/Kindergarten) – in no particular order.

ABC Spelling by RV AppStudios

This app is completely AD FREE, which as a parent I LOVE! I don’t have to worry about my little one accidentally purchasing anything. This app has 3 different games which help teach simple spelling of common sight words. There is a LOT of positive feedback during the game, including a character that routinely says “I believe in you!” which I just think is so powerful for little kids. Stickers and toys are awarded as your child completes levels.

Math Kids by RV AppStudios

Also by RV AppStudios is this an AD FREE math gem! There are 8 different game modes in this app, which covers addition and subtraction using numbers up to 20. (There is a setting to restrict math problems to use only numbers up to 5 or up to 10.) The UI is colorful and fun! My daughter spent an entire HOUR playing with this app and was SO EXCITED to come tell me about the addition equations she was learning. “1 plus 9 equals 10 Mommy!” will never NOT be adorable.

Khan Academy Kids by Khan Academy

This app is also completely free and ad free! It covers several educational topics such as letters & spelling, numbers & counting, reading, and logic. It also has a collection of books, videos, and coloring pages. I love this app for the variety. It has an automatic “learning track” which you can just resume each time you use the app, or you can handpick activities from the library. Highly recommend this app as an “all around” for meeting preK/K learning goals.

The Cat in the Hat Builds That

I love all things PBS, but this stand alone app is one of my favorites! It’s a STEM based application that allows kids to explore things like friction, velocity, bridge building, and other science and engineering concepts. It’s a little on the more advanced side for a 4 year old, but with a little help my daughter really enjoys this app.

Highlights Monster Day

This is a cute app that has kids guiding adorable “monsters” through daily habits and activities. From waking up to an alarm clock, eating breakfast, getting dressed,  and brushing teeth to school day activities and bedtime routines, this app is tons of fun! There are 4 monsters to start with, and each has a different routine. Additional monsters are unlocked as you play! This is an AD FREE app, but occasionally there is a pop up to subscribe to emails. It only pops up like once in an hour, so it’s not interrupting play time too much.


There are a TON of good apps out there, and I’m sure we’ll discover more as K gets older, but these are the ones we are loving on right now. Go check them out!

Got a favorite to share? Comment below!

xo,

Marissa