Make Your Own Olympic Gold Medals: Quick, Easy, Cheap, and Edible

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With the Olympics coming up, why not give your own Olympian a medal of honor?  We recently finished an Olympic event with our homeschool group that I will be sharing with you over the next few days.  I was struggling with what kind of medals to give the participants without spending a lot of my own money, and I said so at a family gathering.  My dad came up with the fabulous idea of using chocolate coins as medals!  So, whether you are participating in a sporting or academic event, and interested in creating simple, cheap medals, here’s an easy Olympic Gold Medal idea for you!

Olympic Medals

Gather up your materials.  You will need 3 things: half dollar chocolate coins (these come loose in multiple colors at Party City, or in bulk on Amazon), gift ribbon (leftover from Christmas?), and clear tape.

Cut about 27 inches of ribbon and tape it to the back of a half dollar chocolate coin, so you can see the shiny side of the ribbon from the front of the coin.  I crossed the ribbon on the back so it created more of a loop at the top to go around kids’ necks. Note: be sure to pay attention to the direction of the images on the coin, so your placement of the ribbon is at the top of the front side of the coin.

back of gold medal

Turn it around and there you have it! You’ve created an instant Olympic medal that looks nice during the award ceremony and tastes great once your Olympians get home! 

gold medal

Stay tuned to learn about the Olympic event we just completed.  I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with spuds!

Last Minute Crowns

As we were putting together our last minute details for our Medieval Feast today, I spotted my stack of wall borders in the garage leftover from my classroom days.  If you’ve ever been a classroom teacher, you may have used these borders to go around bulletin boards or student work displayed on the walls.  I also was known to use the borders to make birthday crowns for my students, so medieval inspiration hit. 

The girls and I chose a border that looked like it had lots of colors (like jewels), measured them to our head sizes, and stapled them together.  In no time, we had crowns.


The great thing about using wall border is that you can choose to have the pattern on the outside or the inside.  If you leave the outside blank, there’s a blank canvass for kids to add their own designs.

Who could forget a crown on feast day?  Medieval kings wore them to symbolize power and we have definitely decided we would have liked to live in the upper class during medieval times.   Wouldn’t you have liked to be the top of feudal society?



Looking for borders of your own?  Check out teaching or office supply stores.  If you can’t find any there, you can always order them on Amazon (affiliate link).

Handiwork: Teaching Kids to Sew

Kids learn so much by doing handiwork, from eye-hand coordination to patterning.  It’s something I’ve been trying to make time for teaching each week and it’s been a fun way to spend time getting crafty.  I found that it helped to actually schedule a “Handiwork” time so we could focus on learning, but left the materials available so my kids could pick it up to work at any time throughout the week.

We began with learning how to knot and braid using yarn.  Braiding follows an easy pattern of moving the outside strand to the middle, so once we got the hang of it, my daughter took off! 

Make it and Love It started a series on teaching kids to sew.  I love the idea of beginning to learn to sew with a Styrofoam plate and found that it held up very well for us while using a round-tipped tapestry needle and sewing/craft floss. 

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We focused on the Running Stitch for the hearts and a Whip Stitch for the outer edge of the plate.  There was so much improvement by the second plate and we went on to do name initials.  The plates really gave us a chance to focus on knotting, changing colors, and length of stitch because unlike cloth, the plates are firm.

Next, we followed a lesson from the book Sewing School.  This book is full of ideas to teach kids to sew and I even noticed a second book in the series is out focusing on machine sewing! 

The kids drew pictures in Sharpie on a piece of Muslin and then colored their pictures with crayons. 

Girlie CoOp (5)  Girlie CoOp (4)

After I ironed the Muslin crayon pictures to rid them of wax, it was time to stitch them to a piece of felt using their tapestry needles and floss. (I did much of my 4 year old’s stitching, but my 6 year old was able to do the sewing on her own.)  Before completely joining the fabric, the girls stuffed their pillows with stuffing to create a “Stuffy” pillow.

Girlie CoOp (9)  Girlie CoOp (10)

The pillows are now proudly displayed on their beds.  Even though there were mix-ups in stitches along the way, they were practicing and enjoyed creating a product they could use.

Hopefully you’ve gained a few ideas on teaching your kids how to sew with the resources provided.  We will be doing more handiwork throughout the year so I’ll continue to share some project ideas. 

What kinds of handiwork projects do you share with your children?

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Van Gogh Pop up Chair

While studying Van Gogh and I came across a pop-up art project using his Chair and Pipe painting.  This project provided us with a chance to create a three-dimensional design using two pieces of stacked white paper, framed by a piece of black construction paper. 

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Check out the tutorial on Art with Mrs. Smith and read more about how we incorporate artist studies into our homeschool.

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Not only is it a fun project, but now our toys have a new place to rest!

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Germy Germs K-1 Unit: Science and Language Arts


This week we turned our attention to some happy, good-for-you microbes! 

We  began with reviewing the concepts of germs from last week by cutting out and assembling this “You Might be a Germ If…” book.  It gave my preschooler some cutting practice and my kindergartener some reading practice.  It’s a short little mini-book that you can use to review some of the negative aspects of germs. Feel free to click the page to download a copy if you think you’d like to try it out with your kids.

Germ  Might be a Germ If

We then switched gears to start discussing the properties of yeast.  Yeast is an amazing little micro-organism that can live with or without oxygen.  Today we use it in baking, cosmetics, and other areas of every day life.  Even though we can’t really see yeast cells because they are so tiny, in science we can watch their growth through chemical reactions.

Using a science experiment from Bill Nye, take 4 water bottles and label each (yeast-warm water, yeast and sugar-warm water, yeast-cold water, yeast and sugar-cold water).  Fill the bottles accordingly, place a balloon around the outer lip of each bottle, and place in a conducive spot.  We kept our two warm bottles in the living room and the two cold ones in the refrigerator.

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Beware, your husband may ask you about what’s in the fridge.  I know my husband loves living in our house.  I’m sure it gives him a plethora of conversation starters for work.  Ha ha ha.

Check the experiments after 12 hours and again after 24 and you will be able to observe a chemical reaction taking place. 

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The balloon of the warm yeast and sugar water mixture will be filled with a mixture of carbon dioxide and ethanol.  This reactions is what happens when conditions are just right to multiply.

As an extension, we decided to see how yeast works in our kitchen.  We used a 30 Minute Pretzel recipe to smell yeast, taste it in the dough, and observe how our pretzel designs “puffed” as they rose right before baking. 

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While the pretzels cooked, it gave us some time to write a little.  My daughters each wrote a recipe for their grandma to use (with my youngest dictating to me).  Although neither seem to include the “real” recipe, it gave a chance for some non-fiction writing with a little organization.  Feel free to click the image below to download if you think it’s something you could use with your own kids.

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How to make a pretzel

We took a little time with a little “J” Sound Sort, in which we sorted words between those that started with a J and those that started with a G.  How confusing can the English language get having two different letters that make the same sound?  Geesh!  The activity was a hit because we have “J” sound names in our family.  Outside of that it gave us a chance to talk about the different words, just for the exposure.  If you think you could use this at home, feel free to download by clicking on the image.G and J Sort

One of our favorite activities of the week was blow-painting our own germs.  I found this idea on Pinterest from Raising Sparks and think it’s adorable.   This is really not scientific, but it was a lot of fun and allowed us to discuss how we shouldn’t share straws or blow in people’s faces.  Not only that, but we had some wildly creative stories that stemmed from the pictures!

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Finally, our germy apples from last week.  I was a little disappointed that our apples didn’t brown more (thanks a lot Granny Smith), but as soon as the kids touched them, they exclaimed over how squishy the cut apples were.  I love how doing this experiment can be connected to how our own human skin protects our bodies from germs and microbes breaking through.

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Please don’t forget to head on over to The Usual Mayhem and STEMmom to see what they’ve been working on this week.  And, if you’re interested in a variety of Montessori ideas for germs, please visit  Every Star is Different, who shared with her current germ unit with me.  You will find lots of fun ideas to add to your own studies!

*Oh yeah, want to know what the results were of our petri dishes?  I am so glad we checked them throughout the week because we had a few microbes growing in several dishes, but the home computer petri was really icky!  The computer got a nice cleaning.  Unfortunately, I had an epic fail at the final results because I preheated my oven where I was storing the petri dishes…and totally forgot to remove the tray.  I would like to say the brownies that I made were worth it, but I doubled the batch and doubled everything but the sugar.  So I didn’t even lose the petri dishes for a good treat in return.  {Sigh…}

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They look a little melted, huh?  So sad…We’ll have to give it another try.  Be sure to check out the Kitchen Pantry Scientist to see some “real” results.

Click the button below to be brought back to the introductory post for this unit.  We have one more Tuesday to go before we share our free planning resources.  Enjoy!


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Cheerios and Lattes

Geology Enrichment K-2: Rock Collecting (Lesson 3 of 4)

Rocks Change!  That was the mantra of our last rock collecting lesson.

Geology K2 pol

We began with one of my favorite stories, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig.  In this story, Sylvester finds a pebble that answers his every wish…even to turn into a rock, when danger approaches. 

Even though animals don’t turn into rocks, it was a great springboard into learning how rocks really do change by force of wind, water, and pressure.

To demonstrate pressure, we used sugar cubes and shook them up in a milk carton at different timed intervals.  The “rocks” changed from having flat surfaces to smooth, round surfaces.

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We then saturated chalk (made from limestone) in water and learned that rocks can break apart.  Our chalk “rock” we were able to use as a paint.



This led to a discussion of river rocks.  River rocks are nice and smooth because they’ve been carried down rivers, bumping into one another, and they’ve been shaped by the flow of water.  If you don’t have river rocks available near you, the Dollar Store has a variety to choose from in the craft area.

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We then changed our river rocks into Pet Rocks…or Rock People using googley eyes, foam shapes, and a glue gun.  If I had known how much imaginative play would come from this project, I would have brought more supplies! 


We followed that by showing how rocks can change over hundreds of thousands of years of pressure….as animals and plants decompose.  After our discussions, we created our own “fossil.”  The kids creatively pressed shells and plastic animals into their air-drying dough.


Next week we’ll be doing a review of the concepts we’ve learned and I’ll include a Google Doc of resources.  I hope you’ve been able to get some ideas for teaching your own Rock Collecting unit!

Ocean Animals: Jellyfish

I used to say I loved seeing the “Aha” moments of learning in my students, now that I am homeschooling, I take immense pleasure in seeing what draws the attention and fascination of my own children.  Their recent fascination has been jellyfish.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts Homeschooling Days throughout the year and it was the perfect free opportunity to learn first-hand about these incredible ocean animals.  

  Jellyfish Collage

Aside from visiting the regular jellyfish exhibit, we were lucky enough to visit during their new “The Jellies Experience Exhibit,” where we could play around with cameras, lights, and learn even more about the biology of jellyfish.  Did you know that jellyfish are more than 95% water?

Aside from the jellyfish, and all the other ocean animals, we were amazed to see penguins first-hand – a perfect link to our Polar Animals Unit.

At home  we focused on jellyfish vocabulary and color words using Jellyfish Color by Words and played a Jellyfish Site Word Memory Game  that you might want to try with your own children (both free at time of posting).  We also crafted-it-up by making jellyfish from halves of Styrofoam balls and colored pipe cleaners.  Crafts by Amanda has a step-by-step pattern and I love how the jellyfish of my daughters each turned out looking so unique!

Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s game page with tons of resources and interactive activities for any unit on ocean animals.  There are so many great resources for educators!

Head on over to The Usual Mayhem to see their studies with Ocean Animals this week!

Have you entered my current giveaway for the Reading in 1st Series? If you have a beginning reader who would benefit from site word practice, check it out!

Linking to:

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Science Wednesday: People of the Arctic Science Experiment

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After learning about polar animals of the Arctic (here and here) and of the Antarctic, we went spent some time focusing on the people of the Arctic.  Over the past week, we’ve really enjoyed the Five in a Row book, “The Very Last First Time.”  This fictional story is based on the Inuit people who live in Ungava Bay in Northern Canada.  During the story, a little girl named Eva ventures off under the frozen top waters of the bay to collect mussels, while her mother waits for her on top of the ice.

My girls wanted to find out how Eva climbed under the ice, so we did a little science experiment to figure it out.

First, we filled 2 yogurt containers half way with water and placed them in the freezer for one hour (don’t forget to set the timer!).  When we took the containers out, they looked like this – completely frozen over…but we could see water jiggling underneath the ice.


My daughters used chopsticks to carefully poke a hole in the ice, just as Eva and her mother used tools to cut a hole in the ice of the bay.025Then they poured the water from under the ice out of the hole.  This represented the tide going out in the story.


Carefully, as to not disturb the ice, the girls placed Squinkies and goldfish crackers under the ice, to represent Eva and the tide pools under the bay.



  We followed the activity with writing poetry using a picture prompt (old calendar picture).  My kindergartener dictated while I did the writing.


Have you checked out The Usual Mayhem, Journey 2 Excellence, Childhood Beckons, and Montessori Tidbits yet?  They are also posting on Polar Animals this week and it concludes our studies of this region. Next week we’ll have a document for you to download some free Polar Animal lesson ideas and resources for your own learning adventures.  See you back here on Wednesday!

Linking to:

parents as teachers Teach Beside MeScience SundayNo Time For Flash Cards

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Science Wednesday: Animals of Antarctica

polar buttonHappy Wednesday!  Last week I posted about the Arctic here and here…and here you will find my outline for the unit.  Now it’s time for teaching a little about the life on mysterious Antarctica!  Animals are the only inhabitants of the South Pole and there’s such a variety!

Much of what we did came from lapbooking sites.  HomeschoolShare offers polar lapbooking resources and there’s free penguin lapbook resources and killer whale lapbook resources at  They have some great lapbook templates to use. 



Much to my surprise, the Albatross captured the fascination of my girls.  Aside from our library books, we read facts from National Geographic where we could even listen to Albatross calls!  We compared the Albatross wingspan of 11 feet to areas in our house so we could see how ginormous they were.  Yes, their wingspan is even longer than Daddy is tall!!  RSPB Wildlife Explorers had some great information and and you can even make your own paper albatross, but we chose to make the Albatross Puppets from the National Wildlife Federation.  These were a HUGE hit and have been flying around the house for the past few days!


Penguins were such a fascinating topic.  My girls were impressed to find out that Emperor Penguins can grow as big as a 6-year-old!  My daughter is 6, so this was quite impressive!  National Geographic Kids had a great selection of penguin videos and pictures, among other facts.

There were several resources from that we used, including the Life Cycle of a Penguin and an easy reader using thumbprints to form penguins.  My daughter also read a free Penguin Party reader that we downloaded from Preschool Powol Packets.  The little readers we find help boost her reading confidence!


We tried walking like penguin males, holding the bean bag “egg” on our feet.  Boy, was it hard!!  Those penguins are really talented!001

I think our favorite penguin activity though, was getting our feet a little messy for our penguin footprints.



Krill were mentioned in a lot of our readings for this week.  To learn about krill, we used the small booklet from to record the facts we learned from both the video Antarctic Krill on and  National Geographic Kids, where you can see red swarms of krill on top of the water.  It’s amazing that these one to two-inch creatures are the basis of many food chains.  In fact, they are just a few steps below us!  For example, if you eat tuna or salmon, those animals eat krill.  They are an extremely important building block!

Blue-eyed Shag

Aren’t Blue-eyed Shag colorful?  At first look, these birds look a lot like penguins, but they are in fact birds that fly!  They are a form of cormorant that have an orange-colored growth that appears during mating season and strategically hunt for fish, floating on the water in what appears to be a raft-like cluster.  It’s interesting that these birds like to stay out of the ice and their babies are born without down to keep them warm.  Take a look at this video where you can see Rockhoppers, Blue-eyed Shag, and Black browed Albatross.  See if you can pick out the Blue-eyed Shag!  For the Blue-eyed Shag, we printed out a picture from online and wrote facts on a 3×5 card to glue into our lapbooks.


Just like the wolverine,  Enchanted Learning had an online coloring picture that both kids enjoyed coloring.  Aside from our library books, the National Geographic site had some additional facts and and it was so neat to listen to the audio (look on the site’s right menu) of what seals sound like!!  You can also check out Weddell Seals on, which are one of the largest species of seals.  My girls really enjoyed being able to see the animals in action.

While studying seals, we used straws to blow watercolors across a sheet of paper.  Doing this, created some interesting creations!  I fell in love with the kids art on Pinterest


A while ago, I fell in love with this post I saw on Pinterest and had to try out the seal art.  I simply cut around the girls watercolor creations and ended up with some adorable seals (which even led to a discussion on animal training).



We read numerous books about whales.  Aside from books, you can check out National Geographic Kids, offering information on the Blue Whale and the National Wildlife Federation explaining that the Blue whale are not only the  biggest, but loudest creatures on Earth.  If you are studying whiles after learning about krill, you might be interested in this short BBC video clip of whales hunting krill in Antarctica.

We recorded our facts on the back of construction paper whales.  After tracing a template from an image search, the girls “dressed” them up with bows.  It was good practice in tying bows for my kindergartener!


My girls are really into coloring right now, so we also printed off this Blue Whale coloring page to add into our lapbooks.



Sharks are almost everywhere, except….the waters of Antarctica!  The waters are much too cold for sharks to inhabit the area.  So on our study of the South Pole we crossed out sharks and added this symbol to our lapbook!

Next week I’ll be posting some general ideas for the polar regions, as well as some learning we’ve done about the people of the Arctic and scientists of the Antarctic.  Hope to see you back here next week!

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out The Usual Mayhem, Journey 2 Excellence, Childhood Beckons, and Montessori Tidbits who each have posted about Polar Animals this week. We’d love to have you follow along with each of us!

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Science: Arctic Animals {Part 2}

I hope you caught a glimpse of my first Arctic Animal post last Wednesday.  Here’s a follow up offering even more animal activities to do with your young ones at home!

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Arctic Hare

Who doesn’t love learning about bunnies?  With all of our focus on the large animals, it was nice to take a step back to the smaller ones.  The library book to the left was a great introduction to the animal.  The arctic hare has shorter ears than a regular rabbit and has an amazing ability to change fur color from brown in the summer months to white during the winter months.  By doing so, the hare is camouflaged so predators don’t attack.  Unfortunately, many of the animals we learned about were predators!  As an art project to our learning, we potato-stamped some rabbit art based on the rabbits from Nurture Store



Did you know that reindeer have a large reign?  The new vocabulary helped us understand that reindeer are amazing travellers!  Among many resources, the pictures in our library book (left) were amazing and helped us see reindeer as the true creatures they were – not just as a connection to Santa.  It was so much fun for the girls to see on a map that the Caribou live right above the United State in Canada! One of the activities we did was a picture-story.  I had an old calendar that had a picture of a Caribou and my kindergartener dictated a story to me.  The funny thing was that it included many characters from our house meeting up with the Caribou!


We also really enjoyed the free unit provided by The Teachers’ Cauldron.  We didn’t use all of the activities, but we organized our research, labeled reindeer parts (with little sister coloring the reindeer in), practiced our measuring, and wrote another story (although this one didn’t have ANYTHING to do with reindeer – I’ll take it – it’s writing!!)!  If you’re working on reindeer, I’d go check it out!


Snowy Owl

Snowy Owls don’t make nests in trees or cliffs – they make a hollow area in the ground to lay their eggs and nest.  We thought this was fascinating, given than the Arctic Foxes and other land animals were predators.  But, maybe it helps that the Arctic Owl is one of the biggest owls in the world!  Using the foldable provided by Homeschool Share, we recorded our research and my daughter made a thumbprint owl scene.  We’ve been very much enjoying Ed Emberley’s thumbprint art books lately, so it was a perfect tie in.


Not only that, but we also learned form our Arctic Memory game that many birds in the arctic have feathers down their legs to keep them warm in the chilly weather!

We played this game at the kindergarten level by laying out the cards picture-side-up.  I would show a picture and my girls would each look for that card.  As they were searching, I would read the facts about that animal or painting.  We then split the deck in half and were able to play 2 different games of memory.  It was great bringing a form of professional art into the lessons!

Arctic Fox

The Arctic Fox is similar to the Arctic Hare in that its fur changes color from summer to winter to blend in with the arctic conditions.  One of the most interesting fact we learned about the Arctic Fox was its relationship with the Polar Bear.  Arctic Foxes stay their distance from Polar Bears, but once a Polar Bear is done with its meal, the Arctic Fox is quick to finish up the leftovers. Another great lesson we learned was the difference between foxes and wolves.  My girls could pick up on the differences in pictures almost immediately, whereas I had a little more trouble!!

Again, we filed all of our pictures, notes, and interesting facts into our lapbook pockets. 


Other Arctic Activities

I wanted to take the time to also highlight a few other activities we’ve enjoyed with the Arctic portion of our Polar Unit. 

  • Check out Ana Capurro at Ingles 360, who has a some polar play dough mats and coloring sheets to identify Arctic items for free in her Facebook group.

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  • The girls have also been free-playing with the little creatures from our Actic Toob.  At first we used them in our sensory tub, but they have been roaming the house ever since.  It’s so much fun to listen to their imagination as they entwine what they’ve learned with what they are playing.  Amazing how the food chain even comes into play!

  • Royal Baloo has a free downloadable kindergarten Arctic pack.  We used the math and Sudoku game from the pack.  It was our first experience with Sudoku and it was a success!!016
  • Probably the biggest learning experience for us though was to visit the snow this past weekend.  The girls really learned what it felt like to live in the Arctic.  Well, maybe not the “real” Arctic, but they had a whole new view of snow, ice in their boots, and managing around the slippery stuff.  Ah-ha!  That’s why many of the Arctic animals have wide paws, or grips on the pads of their feet!!

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Stay tuned for Wednesday post, when we share ideas from the South Pole.  It’s onto Antarctica!

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