Caps for Sale

We used more materials than usual for this lesson, which required much more money, time and prep-work than I was expecting. However, it proved worth the effort as the Rascals seemed to learn a couple new concepts today and it was really cool to observe the seeds of learning planted. We focused on a lot of fine motor skills, math and science concepts with this lesson.

All because of a barrel of monkeys.


I love Caps for Sale for so many reasons.  You truly can cover so many subject areas using this story without even seeming to try. And the illustrations are so visually interesting that it easily holds the attention of even the squirmiest child.  I tried to plan a lesson that would provide a little bit of everything and provide lots of movement, as the weather has finally turned cold and I knew outdoor exploration wouldn’t be on the schedule.

We started with some prompting practice, wagging fingers and repeating key phrases like “You monkeys, you!”  I read through the story, making sure to note the order of the colored caps, and any physical cues within the text (“stood very straight” is a good one). We stood up and stomped, wagged our fists, and made the monkey noises with all our might. It was a great way to get up and move our bodies in conjunction with the story.

After we read through the story, we practiced following directions by folding our own paper hats. This simple introduction to origami was fun- the kids were mostly able to complete the folding themselves, only needing a little help to press the crease to secure the fold.  The kids were proud of themselves for making their own blue cap. Pro tip: make sure to have tape nearby to secure the folded hats!


Once we made our own hats, I brought out the sensory box. I had filled the box with the leftover leaves from our alphabet hunt on Leaf Day and the ten monkeys from our Barrel of Monkeys. Our monkeys happen to be orange, which blended well with the fake leaves and provided an extra bit of tricky task-work to find them in the box. We used tweezers to pull out those cheeky monkeys and put them into their barrel.  Tweezers are awesome for building hand strength! Once we gathered all the monkeys, we transitioned to a new task.


I had a small wooden jewelry tree set up on a new tray. I distributed the monkeys to each kid and they hung them at their discretion on the branches of the tree. Then, I gave each child their own Peddler Peg Man and checked cap that I had made in preparation for the lesson. They were delighted by the mustaches! I spread some red, blue and gray “caps” (painted wooden buttons) around the tray and the children practiced balancing the caps on their Peddler’s head. The Peddlers have spherical heads and it took a little fiddling to get their hats to be level enough on which to balance buttons.  One Rascal balanced seven buttons! This simple activity was lots of prep, but worked on so many important skills: color sorting, ordering, fine motor skills, story sequencing, social interaction, reading comprehension and more. Each Rascal got to take home their Peddler and his checked cap, as well as a handful of assorted caps to practice balancing.



The Rascal tummies were growling at this point, so we took a break for some bananas! Each child peeled and sliced their own banana with a butter knife. They worked hard to hold their knives properly and safely slice their snacks. They then we used fun tiny forks to eat the little pieces.

Once hands were washed and we were all ready to move on, each child got their own Rainbow Name snake to weave their names. I used a mustache ribbon to tie in to our story today, and the kids thought it was hilarious to hold it up to their face and give themselves mustaches. They weaved the ribbon through the letters of their name, in rainbow order as a little hint, working on fine motor skills as they went.

Our last two activities were a challenge, but incredibly rewarding. First, I gathered every hat I could find in our house and our friends brought hats too. We added them all into a bin and then tried to see how many hats we could balance on our own heads like the Peddler. The kids thought it was most fun to balance the hats on my head. I had to issue a couple of reminders about how we respect others’ bodies, but generally this was a fun physical manifestation of today’s story. The cowboy hat makes things tricky!  I utilized the Caps For Sale felt story alongside this activity to reinforce ordering and counting skills.  Once they were ready to move on, I brought out our balance scale.

“I have how many hats on my head?! WOW!!” -this is my shocked face.

The balance scale proved to be an excellent science experiment for these curious kids. I tasked them with gathering small objects from around the school room for us to weigh. I prepared for this lesson by creating a document: Monkey balancing [Click the link for the free PDF]. I clipped the chart to the easel and we got to work. Each child had the opportunity to choose something to balance. We balanced (weighed) one item at a time, each time using our orange monkeys as the measurement unit. We measured how many monkeys a crayon, three buttons, a green paintbrush, an orange paintbrush, and some other small items weighed by placing one item into a scale bucket, and then counting how many monkeys it took in the other bucket for the scale to balance. I used phrases like “weighs as much as” and “balanced with” and we paid close attention the indicator arrows and everyone gave a big holler when they matched up, showing the items in the buckets were equal. This scale is a top five favorite tool in our school room and I highly recommend it for any early education schoolers. The kids loved estimating how many monkeys each item would weigh and then recording the data. They found it fascinating that two paintbrushes of the same size weighed different amounts of monkeys (the paintbrushes were made by different manufacturers). We probably could’ve balanced things all day, however I ended the activity once I could tell the Rascals were impatient to pile lots of things into the bucket. I really want to give them opportunities to explore this concept on their own (indeed, to have the chance to pile things in!) but feel that would best be done individually so each child can work at their own pace. So, I plan to have the balance scale out on the Big Table as a free play item, accompanied by a random assortment of items and measuring standards, when the kids arrive for the next few playschool days.


We wrapped up this playschool lesson with another jam sesh to the ABC song using our instrument box, and then cleaned up and gathered the take home materials. A busy, fun day!


South America resource list

We just wrapped up our South America Unit and I remembered to better document the books, movies, CDs, shows, poems and resources we used so I could share them. Some of the movies are really just for fun.**  We had a heavy focus on the Amazon rainforest as we completed a project on the layers of the rainforest for a Literacy Fair on our last day of the unit. My kindergartener chose a Jaguar as her animal profile report so there are many resources on that as well. These resources are in addition to the books included in the Build Your Library- Kindergarten as assigned reads (though some of those are included here as well) and I’ve only listed those we utilized- there are many, many more out there.

I also utilized this blog’s resource list when we had some extra time, she has a pretty comprehensive list of streaming resources as well:


  • Up and Down the Andes: a Peruvian Festival Tale
  • We’re Roaming in the Rainforest: an Amazon adventure
  • The Wonder Garden: wander through 5 habitats to discover 80 amazing animals
  • My Mama’s Little Ranch on the Pampas
  • On the Pampas
  • Tales Our Abuelitas Told- A Hispanic Folktale Collection
  • Victoria Goes to Brazil
  • The Jaguar: help save this endangered species!
  • Jaguars (by Cooper)
  • Jaguars (by Otfinoski)
  • Jaguars (by Murray)
  • Numeralia
  • Poison Dart Frogs
  • Toucans
  • The Amazon (by Jackson; Eyewitness Book)
  • Amazon Alphabet
  • Biblioburro: a true story from Columbia
  • The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred (with CD)
  • Pablo Neruda: poet of the people
  • A Pen Pal for Max
  • Peru (MOR)
  • The Rainforest Grew All Around
  • Verdi
  • The Great Kapok Tree (literacy project book)


Audio CDs

  • Latin Playground
  • Brazilian Playground



  • Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda
  • Bird by Pablo Neruda


TV Shows

  • Magic School Bus, Season 3 episode 11: “In the Rain Forest”
  • Mouk, episode 8, “Whoops, We Missed the Bus”: Peru
  • Mouk, episode 11, “The Stick that Walked Away”: Venezuela
  • Mouk, episode 15, “Goal”: Brasil
  • Mouk, episode 20, “Pink Dolphin”: Venezuela
  • Mouk, episode 25, “Yee Ha Cowboy”: Argentina
  • Mouk, episode 28, “Above the Trees”: Venezuela
  • Mouk, episode 34, “Nazca”: Peru
  • Mouk, episode 35, “The Cloud Catcher”: Chile
  • Mouk, episode 46, “Bossanova”: Brasil
  • Mouk, episode 50, “Instruments Do Grow on Trees!”: Venezuela
  • Mouk, episode 52, “The Parrot Feather”: Venezuela
  • Kratts Creatures, season 1 episode 9: “Under the Canopy”


Short Films

  • New Dimensions Media:
    • Brazil
    • Peru
    • Argentina
    • River Ecosystems/Rainforest adaptations
    • Argentina: Frederico in Argentina
    • Brazil: Breno and the Dolphins
    • Brazil: Paulhino and the Alligators
    • Peru: Justina and her Llama
    • Argentina: Rosario in Argentina
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Continents of the World, episode 7: “South America”
  • Children of the World, episode 8: “Children of the Andes”
  • Families of the World, Season 1, episode 3: “Brazil”
  • Wild South America (a season of episodes)



  • Planet Earth: Jungles
  • Rio
  • Rio 2

Who’s Who: An Owls Mini-Lesson

Inspired by an article by The Audubon Society, we took a break from our current unit to do a fun seasonal mini-unit and learn about “spooky” owls after we finished our daily studies today (Halloween).



We started with a little tablet time and read through the awesome Audubon Society article giving some brief details about a small selection of owls. The photographs included of each were so detailed and beautiful- they were clear and focused, kind of like mugshots!- they held my kids’ attentions while I read the description. I brought out a tape measure and we measured out each owl and then compared their height to our bodies and other things in the room. I was slightly surprised that they were so interested in the height of each owl. My preschooler was fascinated to know that a Flammulated owl would fit in her hand and my kindergartener was shocked to learn the Eurasian Eagle-Owl hunted foxes! The picture atlas was opened to a world map and they pointed out where each owl lived as we read.


Next, we looked up owls in our Picturepedia (one of our favorite non-fiction references) and read a little more about owls in general.

The kids enjoyed making owl sounds, so we looked up common owl calls and found some awesome resources that had multiple owl hoots, including some from the article we had just read! We also watched a video on the Flammulated owl per request (because “they’re so cute!”) and an additional video on Great Horned Owl territorial hooting (because it was mentioned in the Audubon article). By chance, we were linked to a ScienceLive! video about Flammulated Owl conservation- short and super informative- which led to a discussion about conservation vs. hunting.

Since we already had the tablet out, we watched the Owl Babies animated read-aloud, which the kids LOVED. Afterward, we sequenced the story of Sarah, Percy and Bill and identified the beginning, middle and end of the story. Then we watched it again because it was really fun! I had been saving the “hay” from our Three Little Pigs Preschool Rascals to use as paintbrushes and threw some cotton balls on there too, for fluffy baby feathers. We cut out owl silhouettes and used some felt, foam sheets and googly eyes to create owl faces and painted some white feathers like the owl babies onto our cutouts. We identified each owl part as we went and confirmed that these owls would be daytime hunters because of their eyes using this fascinating article from The Owl Trust and then put everything together. Finally, they used the top of the paintbrush to outline feathers in the paint.


The kids then worked together to review the things owls eat and used this cut-and-paste activity from the Highland Heritage blog to create a collage of the items. They wanted to add a fox after learning about the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, so they drew one and added it to the belly.


I transcribed as the girls completed the Owls graphic organizer to review some vocabulary and facts, then my Kindergartener traced the words. They did really well with this, its the first time we’ve done one and I was impressed with how quickly they caught on to the task.


Tablet Time

Screen Time can be a divisive topic in the parenting world.  Since I mention YouTube videos and other resources that utilize a screen, I thought I’d address how our family chooses to incorporate screens and digital media.

Our family started out with very minimal screen time, eventually incorporating Sesame Street and select PBS Kids shows sparingly. At this point, TV is something we watch when we need some quiet time or as a family movie night or on a rainy day after lessons. We don’t watch TV every day, sometimes the kids will go a week or more with no TV.

We didn’t own a tablet until our oldest was four and my then-youngest was two years old and we knew we would be homeschooling for the upcoming year. So, I got a great Black Friday deal and that Christmas the family gift was a Samsung Tab A and a blue kid-friendly case. I loaded the tablet with some apps that would be helpful with schooling or on long trips and set firm boundaries the minute the gift was opened and my kids realized what it was. The youngest wasn’t allowed to use it very often at all, but my oldest would use it for about 20 minutes at a time while I got the toddler down for a nap.

This past spring, we realized that our summertime adventures included three major road trips, two of which were over 9 hours one-way. So we invested in a yellow-cased Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition as a joint third and fifth birthday gift. Looking back, I’d have just bought the regular Fire because I’m super unimpressed with the Freetime software and the parental controls it offers. However, its fine and works for our usage needs.

Our kids use the tablets on their own infrequently, we mostly save them for long trips and they are stored out of reach. We do use the Samsung tablet more frequently as it is bigger and clearer for when we need to watch videos for academic purposes (animal research, musical instrument demonstrations, etc). It is also more user friendly with more app options. Ultimately, they are rarely used at home for playing (maybe two or three times a month depending on circumstances) and if so its usually because I really need to get something done (ahem, shower.) or as a super special reward. The Samsung has specific folders for the kids (I have yet to find a parental control app that functions for our needs) and the Fire has profiles for each child with age and interest specific apps loaded to each.

Thus far, the most used app on either tablet has been Usborne’s Teach Your Monster to Read.  The Endless apps are a close second, and I really like how fun they are in addition to not being sneaky about their educational purposes. I’ve included these and others we’ve liked in a list below, broken up by device.

Samsung Tab A

  • Teach Your Monster To Read
  • Endless Alphabet
  • Endless Numbers
  • Endless Reader
  • Endless Spanish
  • Endless Wordplay
  • ABC Kids – Tracing & Phonics
  • PBS Kids video
  • Netflix (great for downloading free movies and episodes for trips)
  • YouTube Kids
  • All About Learning Press Letter Sounds
  • All About Learning Press Phonogram Sounds
  • Sight Word Games (This Reading Mama)
  • Children’s Countdown Timer – Visual Timer for Kids (Fehners Software)
  • DuoLingo: Spanish


Amazon Fire HD

  • Teach Your Monster to Read
  • Writing Wizard
  • Netflix (for downloading video and episodes for long trips)
  • PBS Kids video
  • Various storytelling read-along apps
  • Reading Rainbow

Three Little Rascal Piggies

I noticed that my Rascals really loved any kind of blocks, so I thought some kind of building lesson plan would be really fun. Well, I wasn’t wrong! The Three Little Pigs is such a great classic and the repetition of the storyline is helpful for kids to process cause and effect, among other literary devices. And who doesn’t love to say “chinny chin chin” in a funny pig voice?

We started our day a little differently than usual and skipped the ABC singalong with instruments in order to color piggy noses to get ready for our day of pigs- something I really thought about as I think consistency is of utmost importance with kids but decided the noses would be a great way to start the day. This was a super easy project to prep- I simply cut an egg carton into single cups, then attached elastic cord to make it easy to adjust and wear. I made every kind of pink art media available (except paint- I wanted them to be ready for immediate use and not have to dry) and the Rascals chose how they wanted to color their pig nose. I added “nostrils” with a black marker and away we went!

Pig Nose!

We then marched back to the school room, where I had our puppet theater set up and 3LP puppets cut/laminated/sticked and ready to go. I used this printable pack and chose the images I wanted to use to simplify the story to meet my Rascals’ attention spans. I attached them to popsicle sticks to use as puppets. I ran through the story once, discussing cardinal numbers and story sequencing as we went. The kids caught on really quickly to the key phrases and participated readily.

[To add: I did use some of the other pages from the printable pack in wipeable pockets with dry erase crayons in our morning basket this week.  My older kid really likes to do mazes, and I used the clip card pages as “cross out” activities instead of individual cards.]


When done, we made our own piggy puppets.  I traced circles onto pink foam sheets (I used a tomato paste can as a stencil- it was just the right size!) and then cut triangles from the scraps. I found some great adhesive silly eyes at the dollar store, and drew on the noses and mouths. Each popsicle stick had a number on it to reinforce First, Second, Third concepts, and we took turns choosing eyes for the piggies. I provided glue in a small container and some paintbrushes and the Rascals chose where to glue the pig ears. For the Big Bad Wolf, I glued a large black pompom to a small bit of foam for stability before gluing the foam to the popsicle stick the night before preschool so they’d be dry and ready for little hands. I used red puffy paint to add a little mouth and the kids picked silly eyes for their wolves.

First, Second, Third and the Wolf!

After we completed our puppets, we used REAL STRAW (raffia) and REAL STICKS- collected them from the backyard the day prior- and (not so real) BRICKS to build the piggies some houses. I introduced The Big Bad Wolf (a set of googly eyes and felt ears taped to my blowdryer)  and the Rascals set to work, building houses for the pigs that would be strong enough to withstand the wrath of the huffing and puffing Wolf. I’m not sure they knew exactly what was going to happen, but the giggles that ensued were worth the mess. They worked together to build a house for each pig (first, second and third!). They each had a turn to be the wolf, as well. This was perhaps the most fun activity we’ve done yet! We talked about which material was strongest and how to shore up “brick” walls to make them stronger to protect the pigs within.


The Rascals were super hungry at this point, so we made our snack: graham cracker houses, peanut butter, and Craisin “bricks.” They practiced spreading skills and then proceeded to simply lick their utensils, which is clearly the best way to eat peanut butter.

We moved on to our name activity of the day (I try to do include some kind of personal project with each Rascal lesson plan), incorporating rolling marbles, mud, and Pink for Pigs. Using adjustable letters, I prepared each Rascal’s name in the middle of the paper, provided a small dollop of brown paint and a few marbles in a tray, and they tilted the pans to roll the marbles through the paint and over their names. Once they declared they were done, I peeled off the letters to reveal their names in relief against the brown roller marks. They turned out pretty well!


Our final project of the day was to practice our hammering skills. Maybe one day we’d be able to build our own houses! I had been looking forward to this part of the lesson for a few days, as I’d never done this particular skill practice intentionally before and I was really excited to incorporate a seasonal item. So, each kid got a smallish pumpkin (pie pumpkins are just about the right size) and a hammer. We opened a bag of golf tees and set to work, hammering each tee into the pumpkin in whichever location the Rascal chose. This was a great activity to practice so many skills: hand-eye coordination, pincer grasp for fine motor and pencil grip skills, motor planning and execution, and concentration, to name a few. I provided some rubber bands that we use for geo-boards and the kids then built hand and finger strength by stretching them around the pegs they had just hammered. We talked about the shapes the rubber bands created on the pumpkins and the colors of the bands as well. A simple activity that reinforced so many important skills.


Leaves and Gravity

Preschool Rascals met this week and we made a big mess of leaves. The leaves are just beginning to turn and fall in our area, so there weren’t a whole lot to choose from on the ground and I had to *gasp* buy fake leaves for this weeks lessons.  However, this week also happened to be Leaf week in our nature study curriculum so my Kindy hooligan also go to do some fun projects with leaves.


Main title: Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert

Supporting titles:



For Preschool Rascals, we started our day with instruments and ABCs, as usual. We then read Leaf Man and looked for the shapes within the pictures. The kids really enjoyed finding animals made of leaves. We used that interest to transition to our sorting chart and review shapes and sort them into categories. We did some beginning patterning, too. After that, we needed to get some wiggles out so we read our Emily Bronte poem (the shortened version) and at the end we threw our piles of fake leaves into the air. This elicited some wide eyes and big giggles! I’m pretty sure they were surprised I encouraged a big leaf-y mess INSIDE THE HOUSE.

The abridged version of Emily Bronte’s Fall Leaves Fall.

I set out cardstock and glue sticks and we gathered the leaves up and prepared to make Leaf People of our own. I had the laminator on standby and once they were done arranging and gluing the fake leaves into leaf people on their paper, we put them in laminating pockets and sealed them. This may have been their favorite part. Once the leaf people mats were cooled, we marched to the big table to make our snack- Leafy Spinach smoothies! Each Rascal helped to load the blender with the ingredient of their choosing (strawberries, spinach, a banana and almond/coconut milk) and then chose a straw to slurp through.  Once their tummies were full, we trekked outside for a science experiment and leaf ABC hunt! The Rascals did a great job of seeking out and identifying the leaf letters I had hidden throughout the yard.

We started learning about gravity by climbing into the playhouse to read our book about gravity and then we briefly talked about gravity’s job of pulling all things DOWN. To illustrate the point, we dropped our leaf letters from the top of the playhouse and watched them fall to the ground like leaves fall from trees. I had gathered various sizes and weights of baseballs, foam hockey balls, giant inflated balls and balls of all kinds prior to class. Then each rascal got to throw a ball from the playhouse while we watched it fall down to the ground, even if it did go UP first. It was a chaotic and interesting experiment. Further discussion will be needed for sure!


We wrapped up the day with some name practice art on big felt maple leaves. I simply wrote each child’s name on a maple leaf and provided fabric paints with which they could trace their names… or, as most chose, simply decorate the leaf as they wished. This was super messy, but really fun to watch them get creative. This activity was also great to help with dexterity and building fine motor skills, as well as hand strength- Those little fabric paint and glitter glue bottles were tough to squeeze!

For my Kindergartener, we added some leaf science experiments about Cholorophyll and further exploration under a microscope. We read My Leaf Book (I highly recommend!) and completed the That’s My Leaf worksheet for several different kinds of leaves. All of this tied in nicely to the week’s lesson from our nature curriculum! We read the complete version of Emily Bronte’s poem and used the first lines (pictured above) as our copywork for the week. Then we illustrated it using these great leaf  stamps and mailed it to Grandma, who is an eager recipient of any projects and mail we send. I also found this blog post to be a great resource for ideas, and a good reminder that knowing and being able to label the parts of a leaf is pretty key knowledge.




Kindergarten Curriculum

The time has come for my oldest hooligan to officially begin reviewed schooling. In our state, we meet with a representative from our county twice a year so they can check in and make sure our kid is making progress. So, I combed through homeschool groups, websites, blogs, curriculum stores and reviews and finally decided on our courses.

Since we school secularly, a lot of the boxed curricula are not an option for us. My kids love stories, so I chose a Charlotte Mason-based program called Build Your Library. I purchased the Kindergarten Around the World, a world culture based program that incorporates studies of ecosystems, animals and native habitats, a LOT of geography, some awesome beginner writing projects and tons of reading out loud. Essentially, it is the “spine” of our studies as it covers everything but math and phonics.


For language arts, we use Explode the Code phonics books, BOB books combined with Usborne readers & phonics workbooks, as well as the Teach Your Monster to Read app an hour or two spread throughout a week. Each morning, she completes a section in her Lakeshore Learning Daily Sight Word Journal and a page or two of Zaner-Bloser handwriting. On Fridays, she completes a page in her Lakeshore Learning Writing Prompt Journal. There’s always writing throughout the day in other ways as well. Of course, reading out loud happens often through the day.

Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math (standards edition) is a well curated program we’ve thus far enjoyed. The lessons are challenging without being discouraging and I love the spiral style of the material. She’s building a lot of confidence as she completes the first half of the curriculum (“A”) and is on track to begin the second half (“B”) in January. Paired with a hanging Numbers and Counting chart and a selection of manipulatives, its been really successful and I’m happy with our choice.


I think it extremely important that our kids have the opportunity to study nature and be outside as much as possible, and so Exploring Nature With Children has become our guide in focusing our time outside. I love this program because it includes a poem (many by Emily Dickinson) and an artwork recommendation for each week that compliments the study. There are extension activities, journaling suggestions and a book list for each week as well as detailed instructions for discussion during the nature walks. This program is so flexible, which fits nicely to our busy days. I have seen elsewhere that this curriculum isn’t considered secular but I haven’t happened across anything questionable (yet).

As for art study, I’m finding that easiest of all. This is a study close to my heart and I am incredibly passionate about the place of art in learning and life. For now, we do a lot of looking through books of well-known paintings and artists, reading biographies, listening to classical composers, studying and creating sculpture. We participate in an art class at one of our local art museums (taught by a most talented educator who breathes such vibrant life into the subject) and it is the highlight of our month. I often try to link the region which we are currently studying with a artist (Mexico and Frida Kahlo, for instance) and make a strong effort to highlight female and indigenous art. We use a wide variety of art medium and always have supplies available. When it comes to art study, they are in charge of how their art is created. We provide materials and maybe a little guidance or an example, but ultimately don’t interfere with their process.

For Spanish, I utilize a teacher’s guide for Kindergarten. It has worksheets and black line masters of posters and other materials that I can copy and we color or use throughout the week. I also stock books in Spanish (Goodnight Moon, Where’s Spot?, and other classics) as well as a few “first” dictionaries for looking up vocabulary. We love Salsa Spanish episodes for some downtime. Endless Spanish app on the tablet is also great for long car trips and reinforcement.

Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube is great for physical activity and mindfulness when we need to be indoors, but otherwise we play outside as much as possible. Both my oldest kids ice skate, the kindergartner learning how to play hockey as well.

As I detail our unit studies upon their completion, I’ll try to include links to specific sites or resources I’ve found particularly helpful as well.