Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

Taking teaching and your child's future into your own hands.

Kindergarten Daily Binder

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I was on pinterest yesterday and saw an idea for a binder.  The one on pinterest was called a Rise and Shine binder.  I liked the idea so much, that I decided to create my own Daily Binder for my daughter.

Right now, our binder has 10 pages, but I will probably add more later on.  The binder has pages about the day of the week, the month, the year, the number of days in a week, the number of months, the season, etc.  It covers counting by 5’s and 10’s.  It has the names of the days of the week, the names of the months, numbers, and seasons.  I wanted to make a simple binder that we can work in every day, or at least on school days.  I think this binder will be a nice starting point to begin our day.  It will set a nice routine for us.

Here is the pdf file for our daily binder.

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I printed ours out on bright colored paper and laminated it.  Instead of laminating, you can put the pages inside sheet protectors, which is less time consuming and cheaper.  Either way, she can write on the pages with dry erase markers, then wipe it off when she’s done.  (Laminated pages can be a little harder to clean off than ones inside sheet protectors, especially for young kids.)  Laminating the pages or putting them inside sheet protectors is easier than having to print out new pages everyday, and it saves paper and ink.  I also made some laminated number cards to use with some of the pages in the binder.  I put it in a pink binder, since pink is my daughter’s favorite color.  I showed it to my daughter, and she’s ready to start using it on Monday.  Happy weekend!

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Do you have a daily binder or daily activities that you use to start your day?

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Reasons to have Homeschool IDs

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Homeschool teacher and student ids weren’t something I thought about until recently.  I would order stuff online from educational websites, and I’d think it was unfair that I couldn’t get a teacher’s discount.  I would think about how it’s unfair that my daughter won’t be able to receive student discounts at various places, like at movie theaters.  But it didn’t occur to me that we SHOULD have ids.

Then I started seeing IDs for sale on certain sites, like the Home School Legal Defense Site, and I saw free IDs that you can print out and laminate yourself on other sites.  I started thinking how beneficial it would be to have IDs.  Something kind of official stating that we homeschool.

I started to do some research and found out that at certain places you CAN get a teacher or student discount if you have a homeschool ID.  What?!  I wish I knew this sooner!  Discounts aren’t the only reason why homeschoolers should consider having IDs made, but it’s a darn good one.

Here are a few of my top reasons for having homeschool IDs:

1.  If you are ever questioned by a police officer, or other official, you can prove that you are a homeschooling family.

2.  You may be able to get special discounts for entrance at local museums, zoos, plays, and other field trip locations.

3.  You can enjoy discounts at educational stores, arts and craft stores, book stores, and office supply stores.

4.  It may be your child’s only form of ID until he/she gets a driver’s license.

5.  It makes your child happy to have an ID card they can show to people.  Somehow it validates homeschooling for some kids.

There are many options online for obtaining IDs.  I printed some off a free site and laminated them, and they came out great.  Those were really just temporary cards for us, until the ones from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) arrived.  We love our new ID cards.  The ones from HSLDA are really nice.  They are hard cards, not laminated cards.  They look very official.  They are a little pricey considering you can print your own at home, but I think it was worth it.  You can order the HSLDA cards at the site below, but they are only for HSLDA members.

https://store.hslda.org/teacher-and-student-photo-ids–hslda-members-only-c281.aspx

I’ve recently heard several stories about homeschooling parents being stopped by law officials and questioned about why their kids weren’t in school.  It sounds like having an ID card can come in quite handy in those types of situations.  The HSLDA card states that Homeschooling falls under private school laws, and it has the HSLDA information on it.  I am now carrying our cards with me in my purse, just in case.  HSLDA advises if you are ever questioned about homeschooling, to contact them immediately to make them aware of the situation.

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Do you have teacher and student IDs?  If yes, have they come in handy?  I’d love to hear how others use their cards.

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Disney World Homeschool Days

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Some homeschoolers may not know about this, but Disney World has Homeschool Days (Disney Student Seminars) twice a year.  I ran into some information about this last year, but my daughter wasn’t old enough to attend.  Since my daughter will be turning 5 this fall, I decided to look up Disney Homeschool Days for 2015.  They will be doing it again this Fall.  It appears they do one at the beginning of the year, and one at the end of the year.

When you attend Disney Homeschool Days (Disney Student Seminars), you can buy discount Disney Theme Park tickets at a HUGE savings.  If you’re a homeschooler, this seems like the perfect time to take a trip to Disney.  For instance, a regular 3 day park ticket is normally $275 for an adult (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days discount, you’ll only pay $173.74.  For a 3 day park hopper ticket. you’d normally pay $339 for an adult (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days discount, the 3 day park hopper ticket is only $200.50.  That’s a pretty good savings.  If you are taking a longer trip and need a 7 day park ticket, you’d normally pay $335 (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days Discount, you’ll only pay $232.63.  Wow, right?

The Homeschool Days only gives you discounts on park tickets.  It does not provide discounts for Disney Resorts or Dining Plans.  That’s my understanding of it, anyway.  When you attend the Homeschool Days, you are required to attend at least one seminar, which will be included in your park ticket price.  To attend more seminars, you have to pay extra.  I’ve seen prices ranging from $29-$35 for extra seminar classes.  Disney’s site lists the price for extra seminar classes as $35.

Beyond attending one seminar class, you are free to do whatever you want on your vacation.  You do not have to hang out with other homeschoolers.  You don’t have to attend any other events.  You can go about the rest of your trip as you wish.  Sounds pretty awesome to me.

If you want further information, here are some sites you can check out.

This is Disney’s site for registering for the Homeschool Days (Student Seminars):

https://www.studentguest.com/studentseminars/

Here are a few other sites listing information for 2015:

http://gatewaytomagic.blogspot.com/2014/10/disney-homeschool-days.html

http://www.amothersrandomthoughts.com/2014/11/disney-homeschool-days-now-known-as.html

http://magicalfamilyadventures.blogspot.com/2015/02/dollars-and-sense-walt-disney-world.html

http://www.carolinahomeschooler.com/disney-world/

The last link is for a homeschooling site that offers group homeschooling trips.  The site registers for the Homeschool Days for you as part of their group.  I’ve read good reviews about them, and it’s a reliable site.  I actually may book my trip through them.  The regular Homeschool Days (Student Seminars) are in September and October, but Carolina Homeschooling offers their group trip in November.  They still only require you to attend one seminar, then you are free to spend your vacation however you’d like.  They also coordinate homeschool trips to Universal Studios, but this blog post is all about Disney.  Check out their site for more information on their other trips.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to those of you that may be interested in attending Disney Homeschool Days. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to register and start planning my trip.  🙂

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Chicagoland Area Homeschool Meet Up Groups

One of my goals for this year is to get my daughter involved with homeschool groups where she can meet other homeschool kids her age.  Up until recently, she hadn’t really met other homeschoolers her age, and she was getting very curious.  Most of the kids in her dance and gymnastics classes attend traditional schools.  She’s been eager to meet homeschoolers.  So in 2015, I am making sure to make an effort to go on outings and field trips with other homeschoolers, go to homeschool gatherings, and plan activities with other homeschoolers.  Below, I will list my top 4 choices for Homeschool Meet Ups in the Chicagoland area of Illinois.

South Suburbs Homeschool Meet Up

This Meet Up is for homeschooling families looking to get together in the South Suburbs of Chicago for outings and activities.  Kids of all ages are welcome.  This Meet Up group is just getting started and is looking for new members.  It’s hard to find Meet Ups in the South Suburbs of Chicago, so this Meet Up is near and dear to me.

South Suburbs Homeschool Meetup

Richton Park, IL
2 Homeschoolers

This group is for anyone interested in getting together for affordable activities for our homeschool kids. I’m looking to plan outings to farms, zoos, parks, splash pads, natu…

Next Meetup

Children’s Museum Outing

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015, 1:00 PM
1 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Fox Valley Homeschool Meet Up

Another Meet Up group in the Chicagoland Area is in the Western Suburbs.  This meet up has been active for awhile and does a lot of activities each month.  I believe this group started in 2010, but I am not positive.  They have MANY outings and activities planned each month from play dates, park days, educational trips to restaurants, roller skating days, tours of Viking Ships, etc.  I have not fond another Homeschool Meet Up that is as active as this group.  This would probably be my top pick in the Chicagoland area for Homeschool Meet Ups simply because of the amount of activities planned each month.  There is always something going on.  On the downside, most of the outings and activities are planned in the West and Northwest Suburbs.  If you live South of Chicago, some of these outings may be a far drive for you.  I would still recommend attending at least a couple of their Meet Ups.  See the link below.

Fox Valley Homeschoolers

Naperville, IL
228 Homeschoolers

If you’re a homeschooling parent living in the Fox Valley area who is looking for fellow homeschoolers to connect with then this is the group for you!Our members have childre…

Check out this Meetup Group →

Downers Grove Homeschool Play Group

A third option is a Meet Up group located in the Downer’s Grove Area, outside of Chicago.  This Meet Up has been active for about 6 months.  They try to plan a couple activities/outings each month, but it’s been a little slow lately.  It should pick up again soon with summer being just around the corner.

Downers Grove Homeschool Playgroup

Downers Grove, IL
53 Parents

This is a play group for homeschool children and parents in Downers Grove, Woodridge, and the surrounding areas. We currently have children in the group between the ages of 5 …

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The World is Our Classroom

And last but not least is my 4th choice for Homeschool Meet Up groups.  They are located in the Western Suburbs of Chicago and tend to do most of their Meet Ups in the West and Southwest Suburbs.  What I like most about this group is they attend a lot of plays for kids.  Since my daughter is old enough now to go and enjoy plays, I am drawn to this group.  Going to see plays can be such an amazing experience for kids, and it’s something the adults can enjoy too.

The world is our classroom!

Joliet, IL
192 Members

Are you a home-school parent looking for other families to share educational trips with? Let’s get together and visit museums, cultural tours, along with parent led educationa…

Next Meetup

FLAT STANLEY

Tuesday, Apr 7, 2015, 10:00 AM
23 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Well, there you have it.  My top 4 choices for Homeschool Meet Ups in the Chicagoland Area of Illinois.  If you’re not from the Chicagoland Area, but are looking for Homeschool Meet Ups in your are, check out the website below to search for your local Meet Ups.

http://www.meetup.com

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The Planning has Begun

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I decided when my daughter was very young that I wanted to homeschool her.  There were many factors that led me to that decision.  My dislike of how the traditional school system works.  My desire to keep my daughter away from peer pressure, violence and bullying in schools, etc.  And my longing to be able to take my daughter’s learning into my own hands and be her educator.  I wanted to be able to give her a unique and individualized education.  I wanted to provide a hands on learning experience.  I wanted to be able to help guide my daughter on the right path in life, and help her accomplish goals.  I wanted to be the main influence in her life while she’s growing up, before she goes off to college and has to start making her own decisions.  I didn’t want my daughter spending 8 hours a day sitting in classroom being taught by other people while she’s young.  I have a passion for teaching my daughter, and I want her to have a love of learning.

I started homeschooling my daughter early on, and now she is 4-years-old.  She is starting to read on her own.  She can sound out three letter words and can read simple sentences.  She can spell 1 – 3 letter words on her own.  She can easily count to 25, and recognizes numbers 1-10 with no issues.  She knows the alphabet.  She can spell and write her name.  She can write all of her upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers.  She does school work several times a week with little complaining.  She does workbook pages, arts and craft projects, science experiments, and plays educational games.  She watches educational shows.  She uses educational learning sites and apps.  She helps me cook and garden.  I get a lot of free printables online for her to do, and she usually enjoys them.  And…we read LOTS of books.  We read books together every single day.  We have bookcases full of books.  We go to various libraries and participate in summer reading programs.  She tells me all the time that she loves the smell of books.  That makes my heart sing.  So far, I am raising a kid that enjoys learning.

Since Kayla won’t turn 5 until November, she technically wouldn’t be starting kindergarten in Illinois until the fall of 2016.  With that said, I have already started doing a mixture of pre-school and kindergarten school work with her.  She can go through most of the preschool work pretty fast, without many issues.  The kindergarten work seems to be more on target for her now.  With her already doing some kindergarten work, I came to the decision that this fall I should start her on a kindergarten curriculum.  Our first official curriculum.  This was a scary and daunting decision.  There is so much to choose from, so it requires a lot of research on the homeschooling parent’s part.

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This fall, I will still be using some of her preschool material to review basic skills, but the bulk of what we will be focusing on is kindergarten material.  I read a ton of reviews and articles on curriculum.  Christian vs. secular curriculum was a big part of my research.  I have decided to stick with secular curriculum, for the most part.  If I want to incorporate any religious studies into our day, I will create my own curriculum for that.

This is what I’ve chosen to start with:

All About Reading, Level 1

All About Spelling, Level 1

Singapore Math, Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics and Kindergarten Essential Math

DK Workbooks Geography Pre-K and Kindergarten (We haven’t done much geography yet.)

DK Workbooks Science Kindergarten

Level 1 Reader books for learning about historical figures (presidents, civil rights leaders, inventors, etc.)

I have the summer to start making lesson plans.  By mid-summer, I should know what days a week and times she will be going to her activities, so I can plan our schedule.  Kayla attends gymnastics and dance classes.  My husband does not get involved in lesson plans or signing Kayla up for activities.  He leaves that all to me, and trusts my judgement.  We’ve been pretty lucky so far.  We haven’t run into many problems.  I’ve learned that Kayla learns best when you change things up.  She likes a mixture of book work, visual displays, crafts, and games to help her learn.  She definitely needs reinforcement to help new material to fully sink in.  I’ve also learned to step back and take a break from something if she is struggling.  Trying to force learning doesn’t work.  If she starts getting too frustrated, we may take a break until later that day…or we may take a break for a few days or a week.  I try to adapt to her learning style, and do what works for her.

I am hoping that the new curriculum works out for us.  Most of the reviews for All About Reading and Singapore Math are positive.  Even most of the reviews on All About Spelling appear to be positive.  At this point, I am hopeful.

Kayla is a perfectionist, which can make learning challenging at times.  She doesn’t like to mess up, or have to think too much.  She prefers for stuff to come easily, and to be good at everything.  I am constantly telling her that she doesn’t have to be perfect.  She just has to do her personal best.  She has to try.  She also has to practice so she can get better.  Everything tends to get easier the more you practice.  She is starting to understand that more and more now.  She is starting to relax and just do the best she can without getting upset.  I know we have a long road ahead with lots of ups and downs.  Although, I know it will be difficult at times, I am looking forward to this homeschooling journey we’re taking together.

Did you homeschool your kids when they were young?  If so, what curriculum or learning materials did you use?

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Science Experiment – Tabletop Hovercraft

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My daughter and I attended a homeschool gathering this past week, and they made these cool little hovercrafts out of balloons and cds.  My daughter loved watching this move across the tabletop as the air leaked out.  This is a great experiment for young kids, as well as older kids.  It’s super easy to put together, and only takes a few minutes to make.

What you need:

  • An old CD or DVD
  • A 9” balloon
  • A pop-top cap from a liquid dish soap bottle
  • A hot glue gun

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Experiment:

  1. Use the hot glue gun to glue the cap to the center of the CD or DVD disc. Create a good seal to keep air from escaping.
  2. Make sure the valve on the pop-top bottle cap is open.  Attach the balloon to the pop-top bottle cap.
  3. Turn the CD/DVD over to the flat side and put the center of the CD/DVD to your mouth and blow up the balloon all the way.  Close the valve of the pop-top bottle cap so the air will not escape.
  4. When your ready to test it out, simply put the craft on a smooth surface and open the valve on the bottle cap.  Air will start to leak out, causing the hovercraft to move.

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Observations:

Have the kids discuss what happened once they set the hovercraft on the tabletop with the air leaking out.  Did the size of the balloon make a difference?  Have the kids play around with blowing up their balloons at various sizes to see how this may alter the outcome.

The air flow created by the balloon causes a cushion of moving air between the CD/DVD disc and the surface. This lifts the CD/DVD and reduces the friction which allows the disc to hover freely.  Kids tend to think this is pretty cool to see.

You can show them examples of large scale hovercrafts on the internet or in a book.  Large scale hovercrafts are capable of traveling over land, snow and water.  Let them compare their small scale hovercraft to a large scale hovercraft.

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Science Experiment – Elephant Toothpaste (Creating Foam)

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My daughter just did this science experiment at a homeschool gathering, and I thought it was pretty neat and easy for young kids.

What you need:

  • Empty plastic water or pop/soda bottle
  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide (20 volume or 6% solution)
  • Squirt of Dawn (or other brand) dish soap
  • 3-4 drops of food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 tablespoons very warm water in a small bowl or cup
  • Funnel
  • Big bowl or foil pan
  • Safety glasses (if you feel it is necessary)
  • Play clothes, apron, or art smock (to protect your clothes from the food coloring)

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Experiment:

  1. Have kids put on their play clothes, apron, or art smock.  Put on safety glasses, if you feel it’s necessary.  We didn’t use them.  Each child should have in front of them a big bowl or cake pan, plastic bottle, dish soap in small cup, food coloring, 1/2 cup peroxide, 1 teaspoon of yeast, and 2 tablespoons of warm water.
  2. Mix yeast and warm water together in a small bowl or cup.
  3. Stand the bottle up in the center of the bowl or cake pan. Put the funnel in the opening of the water bottle. Add 3-4 drops of food coloring to the peroxide and pour the peroxide through the funnel into the bottle.
  4. Add the dish soap to the peroxide in the bottle.
  5. Pour the yeast mixture into the bottle and quickly remove the funnel.
  6. The kids can touch the bottle to feel any changes that take place.
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Kayla smelling the foam.

Observations:

After the experiment, have kids discuss what happened when they poured everything into the bottle.  How did the foam look?  When they touched the outside of the bottle, how did it feel?  Was it warm or cool?

The reaction creates foam that shoots up out of the bottle and pools in the bowl/pan. After a minute, it begins to come out in a moving stream that looks similar to toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. The kids can play with the foam as it is just soap and water with oxygen bubbles. The bottle will feel warm to the touch as this is an exothermic reaction.

*Please note that in my family, we have a bit of an allergic reaction to hydrogen peroxide, so it is important for us to wash our hands immediately after doing this project.  If you think or know your child is sensitive to hydrogen peroxide, just be sure to have them wash their hands thoroughly after doing this experiment.

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Our First Homeschool Gathering

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This week marked a new chapter in our homeschooling journey.  First, I found out that one of my daughter’s friends from her Irish dancing class is also homeschooling.  This was such great news.  Kayla has been eager to meet other kids that are homeschooling.  Up until now, it seemed like most of the kids she has activities with are going to public or private school, and the ones that do homeschool are much older than her.  It was great to find out that someone she already knows is doing it as well.

Second, we attended our first homeschool gathering.  I’ve been looking up local groups and co-ops for the past few years, and I’ve been meaning to take her to one for the past 6 months to a year now.  There were always schedule conflicts, illnesses, doctor appointments, and so on, that would keep us from going.  I had finally decided I was going to take her no matter what.  It was time.  Luckily for us, her friend from Irish dancing was also going to be attending her first gathering too.  That made it easier to get the motivation we needed.

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Now that we finally went, I wish we had gone sooner.  It was a wonderful experience for Kayla, and for myself.  It was pleasing to be with a group of people that are committed to homeschooling the same way I am, and to see my daughter interact with other homeschooled children.  Everyone was friendly and welcoming.  We immediately felt like we belonged.

This week was their science fair, so we were able to see the science fair presentations.  After the presentations, all the kids were able to participate in two science experiments.  They made hover crafts and elephant toothpaste (foam).  All the kids seemed to enjoy both experiments.

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Kayla had a blast, and didn’t want to leave.  She loved meeting this new group of kids that have something in common with her.  I enjoyed talking to the other moms, and watching all the kids interact with each other.  I was impressed by how well everyone got along and worked together.  There were 15 kids total there on the day we went, including my daughter.  The youngest was a baby that was only crawling, and the oldest was a 14 year old.  I loved seeing the older kids playing with the younger kids, and trying to help them.  There were no cliques.  There was no bullying.  There was no negativity at all.  I’m sure there is the occasional conflict, but overall they all seem to get along well.  Attending this gathering definitely made me remember the many reasons why I decided I want to homeschool my daughter.

I went to the gathering intending to only visit and check it out.  I left as a member of the group.  There is something about belonging to a community, and having people that support you that is special.  I want my daughter to have a place where she can go and interact with other homeschooled kids, do projects together, play together, learn together, and even go on outings together.  It may only be once every other week, but she will benefit from it.  We will be a part of a community that believes in our homeschooling journey.  We will be able to be around people that can help encourage us, motivate us, empathize with us, and even guide us (if needed).  This will benefit both of us.

Now one of my goals is to not only make every effort to keep attending these gatherings every other week, but to also find other homeschool families and groups to get together with for play dates, field trips, and recreational activities.  If any of you are on the fence about joining a local homeschool group, I recommend at least looking into it and giving it a try.  Maybe it won’t be the right fit for you, but it’s worth a try.  I think we all need the support and nurturing that only other homeschoolers can give us.

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Fancy Nancy the Musical

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One of the joys of homeschooling, is going on homeschool field trips.  Technically, we were simply taking our daughter to see a play that she wanted to see, but since we’re homeschoolers, we get to call it a field trip.  Yay!

My daughter loves reading Fancy Nancy books.  She got her first Fancy Nancy book when she was 2 years old.  It was a gift from one of my best friends.  At the time, I had no idea who Fancy Nancy was, and was a little skeptical about such a girly book.  My daughter, on the other hand, immediately fell in love with the book.  Since then, we have acquired several other Fancy Nancy books, as well as, checked many out from the library.  Fancy Nancy has become one of my daughter’s favorite book characters.

So when my husband heard there was going to be a Fancy Nancy play, he suggested we take Kayla.  I didn’t pay much attention to him at first.  My friend wanted to go to the show with us, and do a girls day out.  I couldn’t really see my husband going to this play.  But, to my surprise, he bought the tickets and took us to the show.

It was a cute show for little girls.  It’s only an hour long with no intermission, but seemed appropriate for the age group of the audience.  If it had been any longer, I think they would have lost the attention of the younger kids.

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My daughter enjoyed getting dressed up and carrying a purse for the day.  The show was funny and upbeat.  The actors did a wonderful job playing the parts.  Fancy Nancy was her usual dramatic, but lovable self.  It was a wonderful family field trip.

For my daughter, one of the best parts was getting to meet Fancy Nancy after the play.  She got Nancy’s autograph, and took a picture with her.  Kayla was smiling from ear to ear.

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Christmas Craft Projects

We’ve done numerous craft and baking projects this holiday season.  They are fun to do, they keep my daughter busy, and they can be a good learning tool.

Here are some of the projects we’ve done for Christmas.

Marshmallow Snowman

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Paper Wreath

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Paper Christmas Tree

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Holiday Coloring Pages (We’ve done a lot, but these were from her dance studio.)

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Chocolate Pretzel Snacks with Holiday Sprinkles

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Baking Cookies

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Salt Dough Ornaments

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Christmas Countdown Chart

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Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Please feel free to share what types of Christmas crafts and baking projects you do with your kids.

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