Kid Stuff

A Minecraft Bedroom, part 1

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Kid Stuff | 0 comments

This Minecraft bookshelf is made from Ikea Kallax in green, plus the Kallax door inserts   in multiple different colors. The checkout guy thought we were a little crazy to be buying so many different colors of door inserts, but the finished product looks really good. I have had many fabric bins, and have seen a Minecraft shelf done similarly with fabric bins and fabric, but I have never been happy with the way the fabric bins hold up to use over time. I wanted this to last and look good for a long time.  This was not cheap, but it holds a lot, and it looks really cool. I used various square stickers from Polka Dot Wall Stickers to create the Minecraft faces.  On the bottom row is a Minecraft pig, Minecraft TNT, Minecraft Creeper, and Minecraft Steve. Top row is a Minecraft Creeper, Minecraft Enderman, Minecraft chicken, and a Minecraft Mooshroom. The kids did the Creepers mostly on their own. I ordered various sizes of stickers but the 1 inch squares turned out to be the best for this project. A good start for a Minecraft...

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Psst…the two secrets to teaching your child how to read…

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Homeschooling, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

The number one educational concern that I keep hearing over and over from other moms of young kids is this, “How do I teach my child to read?” It seems like this hugely complex process that should take years of struggle. It’s not. Many kids learn really quickly. It might take years for some kids, but at least they can be enjoyable years. It’s not about having a magical language arts program. I taught two of my kids to read without using any curriculum at all, both at 4 years old (and my oldest didn’t talk until he was almost 3, so it’s not like he was precocious in the language area or anything). I have a ton of books in the house already because I used to teach elementary school. Yeah, I taught kids to read for a living and have an extra certification in teaching literacy….but for most kids, the below method works really well and is painless. My mom taught first grade in the city for 25+ years, and she taught her students the same way and was known as the teacher that parents always wanted to get. The key is that when a kid wants to read, they will put immense effort into it. When they think it’s boring, or pointless, you can work your tail off to make them read, but you’ll get pitiful results.  So, focus on making them want to read, and on teaching them that they are able to learn how to read. Those are the two secret ingredients for teaching your child how to read. Doing these things take time each day, but it’s enjoyable as long as you decide to enjoy the process and forget about the progress. Let the child make the effort. You just make time to be enthusiastic about the time you spend reading together.    Teach the letters and sounds that they make. You can do this any way you’d like. Sonlight would be fine (it’s for homeschoolers), but there are many curricula out there. My own kids watched the Preschool Prep DVD  “Meet the Letters” because they liked it, and that taught them all their letters in about a week. The Preschool Prep DVDs are gold. They enjoyed the LeapFrog DVDs, too, but honestly I’m not sure how much they really learned from them. Then we read their favorite books over and over and eventually they joined in. Then we just read whatever books they wanted to read, and I pointed out that the sounds of the letters blend together, and showed them how to practice blending.” I See Sam” books are free to print out on the internet and are good leveled, easy readers.    Then, be sure kids are getting a good phonics base. Using stuff like Explode the Code, etc, is good. Pick a phonics program and stick with it, unless you hate it, in which case, switch and then stick with the new one.    Early on, do not get frustrated about “progress” and “levels” because as long as you are reading daily, when their brain is mature enough, it will click. Just enjoy the books and laugh about them, cry about them, etc., whatever your child likes. If you make reading a chore, they will be turned off, and that’s the last thing you want. I never force it, I just say that I am enjoying this book, so let’s read it together.   Better to make a shelf of books that are “forbidden” during school time. They will go right for those books as soon as you are done...

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15 minutes to a no-sew Tula Slipcover – the Disney Frozen Princess Dress Edition

Posted by on Feb 21, 2015 in Kid Stuff, mei tai pattern | 0 comments

  In Part 1 I had an idea to use some cheap princess dresses as slipcovers for our new Toddler Tula. My girls are almost 3 and almost 5, and they are tall kids. I don’t need a carrier for my older girl any more, but sometimes she tires out on long trips, and since I have a carrier along for my 2 year old, it’s convenient to be able to put my 4 year old up when she needs a rest. I absolutely need a carrier for my 2 year old – we are often on-the-go during her naptime, so she takes her nap in a carrier. As the girls have gotten older, they have gotten pickier about what carrier they want. I’m sure they would have loved a fancy wrap conversion Tula, but they are very expensive, and we already have our awesome wrap conversion mei tai (free printable pattern and tutorial here). I like our denim mei tai as much as the wrap conversion, anyway, so a canvas Tula is just fine by me. My girls are really into princesses and dressing up, so I did some searching and found some really cool Tula slipcovers – this is one on Etsy at Custom Kid Carriers looks really cool, and if the Tula were my only carrier and I were going to use it all the time, I’d go for it (well, or make my own, but something like this is a lot of work)  It looks great! This is definitely NOT the easiest Tula slipcover in the world. Nope. The easiest Tula slipcover doesn’t even need any sewing at all. It’s not a work of art, but it’s cute and we get compliments on it. My girls are like every other little girl out there, and they’re crazy for Disney Frozen, and wanted Anna and Elsa Tula slipcovers. To make the easiest Tula slipcover in the world, I started with this Anna dress on Amazon, and this Elsa dress on Amazon. When I ordered them, they were about $8 to $11 each, including shipping through Amazon Prime. That’s pretty cheap! I also considered using the short dresses that come in the Disney “doll and dress” combos – I have a couple of these dresses but now that my daughters are older, they won’t wear the shorter dresses so it would be no loss to us to cut them up. They came in boxes like this. You need your dress, your Tula, and some scissors.   Getting the dress onto the Tula as a slipcover means that you’re going to have to destroy the dress as a wearable dress. It’s only going to be a slipcover after you get down with it.  You won’t need to cut as much if you are using a standard size Tula. I’m using a toddler Tula, which obviously is bigger than the standard size, so I had to cut the dresses a bit more to get them to fit onto the larger size. If you wanted to experiment with this and make a slipcover for an Ergo or another smaller carrier, I think this would also work really well as a super easy slipcover for any soft structured baby carrier. Part of the reason why the Tula is more difficult to slipcover is because the shoulder straps do not unbuckle. If you were using a Kinderpack, Ergo, Boba, Beco, etc., you could unbuckle the straps and cut some strategic holes, rather than having to cut larger slits. Pics!  The Anna dress laid out next to the Toddler Tula. I got a simple Cloudy...

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Zulily slow shipping fail

Posted by on Feb 21, 2015 in Kid Stuff | 0 comments

I got suckered in by the girls hounding me for pink glittery Toms shoes and ordered them some on Zulily. They’ll take a month to get to us, but I didn’t find that out until a couple of days after ordering. That’s not cool. I’d rather have just paid full price. First and last time I order anything from Zulily. I order woven wraps from Germany and other countries and it doesn’t take a month to get to me. I guess I’m spoiled by Amazon Prime and Sunday deliveries.

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The Easiest Tula Slipcover in the World

Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in Kid Stuff | 5 comments

Update: This is done, go here to see it!   I need a buckle carrier for my girls. I really prefer wrapping and find it the most comfortable of anything (although my DIY Mei Tai is a close second, especially with my 4 year old). When my 2 year old is fighting her nap, I need buckles. Buckles are quick to put on, so there is minimum fuss, and there is no “seat popping” issues like I get in my preferred Double Hammock (a type of carry done with a woven wrap). I have an SSC (Soft Structured Carrier) that I sewed out of a Didymos Linen Stendhal, which I have loved, but now that my 2 year old is almost 3, it’s getting to be a bit small for her to nap in. I had a kinderpack about a year ago, but unfortunately I had ordered a size that was too big for my littlest at the time, so I churned it (that means that I sold it to someone else). I’ve also had a Kanga and sold that when it was outgrown. This time, I’d like to try a Tula. I spent wayyyyy too much time debating about which print to get. I considered sewing slipcovers. I do not have time. There are some awesome slipcovers for Tulas over on Etsy, but they are quite expensive given that most of the time I still use woven wraps. With a 2 and 4 year old it’s really important that they like the carrier, so we looked at pictures together, but the Tula patterns we could agree on were out of stock. My 2 year old wants purple really bad, and I’m not big on purple. My 4 year old and I liked the orange and pink “Summer Love” Tula, but let’s face it…that’s going to be a hard resell in a couple of years. Finally, inspiration struck! My girls have a billion princess dresses….my girls would love a Disney princess Tula….I got it! I’ll hack the Tula slipcover together using a princess dress. I already tried it out on my current SSC and I think it will work really well. So in the end, after debating for so long about which Tula pattern to order, I finally ordered a plain old Cloudy. I love Heart Hugs, and I do not get any money from them for saying that I like them. The gal who runs it does a great job with customer service and she deserves a shout out, so I’ll give it here. My Cloudy Tula is on the way, and of course I had to order a few cheapy princess dresses from Amazon, so when they get here I’ll show you how to hack your own Disney Tula slipcover...

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Using Sonlight to homeschool multiple children

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Homeschooling, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

When I first started homeschooling, I had just quit my job and gone into private practice, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on homeschooling because #1, I wasn’t sure what to get, and #2, I *had* just quit my job and it takes a while to build up a business. Homeschooling and keeping my work hours to part time were my priorities, so money took the back seat to my kids (and always will). Sonlight was a bit confusing for me when I first looked at it. They sell packages by grade level, but I knew that I didn’t want that because I prefer different math programs. I also unschool quite well in science and social studies. I looked at many language arts curricula but I couldn’t find anything that fit the level that my son was at. I’m also not a fan of textbooks or traditional style teaching. Since I taught elementary school for 7 years and also specifically taught first grade, and my oldest was in first grade at the time, I decided to wing it last year. That worked out fine. We used a lot of Robinson Curriculum stuff, but I let him read a lot of books that I consider to be modern classics, and not only the books that are listed in the Robinson Curriculum. That also worked out fine. This year he’s in second grade, and unschooling has been much harder. I feel like it takes a lot, I mean a LOT of work to unschool and do it right. I also feel like unschooling went much better when at least twice per week I went to work and my younger children went to my mom’s house, and my oldest stayed at home with dad and worked quietly next to him. (Now, of course, I say we “unschooled,” but we used a math curriculum, he always had Chinese homework to study and was tested at Chinese school, and I provided work to be done. I mean unschooling to be that I really didn’t force anything and I didn’t do much of what people think of as “teaching”) I have been busy with work, and my mom can’t watch my younger children very often right now, and to top it off I signed up for way too many “extra curricular” activities like music, gym, and homeschool co-op. Our schedule has been off and I cannot stand the inconsistency. I took another look at Sonlight and realized that you do not have to buy an entire grade level package. You can order a “Core” and include Language Arts and Bible, but you don’t have to get their math, science, or social studies. Their language arts is flexible – meaning that you can order one “Core” with different levels of Language Arts. You can even order one Core and get TWO Language Arts packages with it. I had read about people using Sonlight with two or three children at different levesls, and they described hunting down alternative books. Look, I am not paying $$$$ to make my life more complicated. If I wanted to hunt everything down, I could do that for free. Because I could get different Language Arts sub-packages with Sonlight, I don’t have to hunt down anything. We can do our Core activities and then I can get the kids through their separate Language Arts, and all we have to do is follow the schedule. I chanced upon the sub-packages on the website, I didn’t think it was easy to find at all, and when I chatted with the...

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