Saturday, February 24, 2018

March 3 - National Anthem Day

One of the things I love about our little two-room school (yes, my kids attend a public school) is the way they start each day. Both classes - all 34 students - meet together to say the Pledge of Allegiance, then different students each day get to pick which songs they will all sing. Many of the songs in their repertoire are patriotic, which means they all know songs that many adults don't know the words to! Of course, a favorite is our National Anthem, which has its own special day today.


Well, first we need to learn the song, right?

Can You Sing

This title is one in a series about American symbols. I highly recommend the whole set! In addition to giving a simple explanation of the history behind the song, the author puts each line into words kids can easily understand, in the form of a conversation between a teacher and her students. The words and music run along the bottom of the page.

A few other titles to learn about the history of our anthem:

The Star-Spangled Banner: The Story Behind Our National Anthem

A basic history of the War of 1812, and the battle that inspired the words.


Social Studies

* Ask most Americans which war inspired our National Anthem, and you will probably hear "The American Revolution." Confession time...a week ago, I would have said the same thing. In fact, all I really remember from history class about the War of 1812 is that...well, it started in 1812, right? Sorry, Mr. Lieber!

The Internet to the rescue! For a basic summary (wait - we attacked Canada??) followed by a short quiz, check out

* Our flag in 1814 did not look exactly like it does now. Can your kids spot the difference? Take a look at the changes our flag has gone through over the years. Where does your state lie in the order of statehood? Could there ever be a 51st state? Talk about our territories, or states that have threatened to divide over the years. Create a flag that would include new states - would you add stars, or come up with a completely new design?


* Patterns and symmetry. Look at the patterns on our flag - the alternating colors of the stripes, and the number of stars in each row. Design flags for fictitious places with varying numbers of stars, stripes, colors, and other symbols.

* Music is all about math! The Star Spangled Banner was written in 3/4 time, what does that mean? Learn what the quarter, half, and whole note look like. Draw them out in patterns, and clap the rhythms together. Then clap out a rhythm, and ask them to draw it! Google to find "free music symbol flash cards", or use these from Music Fun.


* What other patriotic American songs can you learn? The Boy and Girl Scouts have a pretty comprehensive list, with a link to click for each one.

* What do other nations' anthems sound like? Is there a common theme in the words?

* If your family had its own anthem, what would it sound like? Is there a song already written that you think sums up your family's ideals? Or can you come up with your own words? Would the music be solemn, cheerful, fast, slow?


Sir Frances Scott Key caught glimpses of the American flag every time a bomb "burst in air". How much can your eye take in during a brief flash of light? Set up a tray with small objects from around the house, and bring it into a dark room with your kids. Use a flashlight to give them a quick burst of light, then see how many objects they can list.


Anything red, white and blue makes a good snack today! Look around the kitchen for berries, gelatin, whipped cream, cream cheese, etc.

Other Web Sites to Explore

Friday, February 23, 2018

March 2 - Old Stuff Day

Ooh, a holiday that celebrates me!


A few titles that deal with old clothes:


Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman offers a bouncy, fun-to-read-aloud text and a refreshingly agreeable, resourceful protagonist who likes old clothes for their "history" and "mystery." Illustrator Patrice Barton brings new, contemporary life to the poem, with an adorable little girl and her younger brother playing dress-up, making crafts, and happily treasuring their hand-me-downs.

Extension: One of my favorite memories is of the summer my mother gave my brother and I a budget for old clothes from yard sales. We filled a trunk with the best dress-up collection ever, and we and our friends played with the items in it for years! See what your kids can put together from your local thrift shops, and then sit back and enjoy the stories that unfold.


Joseph had a little overcoat, but it was full of holes—just like this book! When Joseph's coat got too old and shabby, he made it into a jacket. But what did he make it into after that? And after that?

Note the Caldecott medal - can you find that symbol on any other books at home, or at the library? What does it mean?

Extension: print a list of Caldecott winners (found here) and see how many you can read this month.

I Had a Favorite Dress
(see also I Had a Favorite Hat)

As the year passes, the narrator’s favorite dress goes through a series of creative changes, from dress to shirt to tank top to scarf and so on, until all that’s left of it is a good memory. Assisted by her patient and crafty mama, the narrator finds that when disaster strikes her favorite things, she doesn’t need to make mountains out of molehills—she “makes molehills out of mountains” instead! Structured around the days of the week, the story is also illustrated to show the passing of the seasons, a perfect complement to the themes of growing older and keeping hold (and letting go) of special mementos.

Extension: Time to purge those closets! What can you give away? What can you repurpose? Time to learn some rudimentary sewing techniques! Everyone should have the ability to fix a button or alter a hem.

Other old things:

The Dumpster Diver

Anyone can dive for treasure in the ocean, but Steve dives for it in his neighborhood dumpster! As he delves into the trash each weekend, Steve encourages his young neighbors (aka the Diving Team) to see the potential in what other people throw away. With a little bit of imagination, trash can be transformed into treasure — and as the Diving Team soon discovers, it might even help a friend in need.

Extension: If this doesn't inspire you to create something cool out of found objects, I just don't know what to say. Visit a thrift shop and give each child a budget - say $3 to spend on items that cost 50 cents or less, and which they will NOT use as is. Bring them home and see what amazing creations you can come up with!

Let's think even bigger:

The Old House

An old house gets a new lease on life when the right family comes along.
The old house is lonely because it has been empty for so long. Its droopy shutters and sagging porch discourage buyers-until a certain family stops by. While the children see lots of potential for good times, the parents see lots of work ahead. Will the house pull itself together in time to impress the new family?

This is just the sweetest book! I do have a soft spot for old things, and fixing up an old house with character holds a strong appeal.

Extension: Explore some of the old houses in your area with a driving tour. What characteristics do your children especially like? What would they change or keep the same if that was their house? (Warning: This activity may induce bursts of home improvement yearnings in the teachers as well)


Head back to that thrift shop and note prices of items your family uses - furniture, clothing, toys, books - then go to the store and find out how much those things cost new. Draw up a chart comparing prices, and figure out the savings of buying used. Are there pitfalls with buying used? When is it best to buy new and when is it better to buy used?

Social Studies

Time for a trip to the museum! I have found it helpful with my younger kids to go check things out myself first, so that I can then give them a little background information on the items/time periods they are going to be looking at. See if your local museum has a docent who would be willing to walk around with you. Our county has a wonderful little gem in the Tularosa Basin Museum of History. So much more than you would guess from looking at the outside, and very nicely arranged. If you have a chance to get Mr. Lewandowski's attention, he seems to have a fascinating story about every single item there!


So many 'old' things just end up in landfills. How long does it take for them to decompose? Or do they ever?

Image result for meme trash decompose

You can find a simple experiment here, designed for an entire class but easy to scale down for your family. I like the simple explanation of vocabulary in this link.


This old man he played one
He played nick nack on my drum
With a nick nack paddy whack
Give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home

You know the rest, don't you? No? That's okay, there are a million versions out there. In fact, your kids might find it interesting that the original wordings of this rhyme were quite different. Wikipedia has a short history, including this early version:

My name is Jack Jintle, the eldest but one,
And I can play nick-nack upon my own thumb.
With my nick-nack and click-clack and sing a fine song,
And all the fine ladies come dancing along.

Learn both, and talk about other songs or nursery rhymes that have changed over the years.

Other Web Sites to Explore

Thursday, February 22, 2018

March 1 - Peanut Butter Lover's Day

Image result for peanut butter meme

Unless of course you are allergic, but hey, we're going to talk about that, too!

Let's start with

One of my newer favorites:

Peanut Butter & Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale

Reginald isn’t like the other zombies who shuffle through Quirkville, scaring the townspeople and moaning for BRAINSSSSS! The only thing Reginald’s stomach rumbles for is sticky peanut butter and sweet jelly. He tries to tell his zombie pals that there’s more to life than eating brains, but they’re just not interested. Will Reginald find a way to bring peace to Quirkville and convince the other zombies that there’s nothing better than PB&J?

Zombies don't get much cuter than this. Nothing scary, just silly fun! Extension: what would you try to convince zombies to eat, rather than brains? Make your case for pizza or chocolate chip ice cream by making a poster, writing/dictating an opinion piece, or giving an impassioned speech.

From Peanut to Peanut Butter

Wait...peanut butter comes from peanuts? Okay I knew that, and you knew that, but don't assume a preschooler knows that! Read up on how peanut butter is made, or check out this video from the Discovery Channel:

Extension: Then try making your own! You can find a million recipes online, or click here for a simple one from Pinch of Fun - just peanuts, sweetener, salt, and a blender. Your coolness points will go through the roof.

Hey, we don't have to be all about food, though:

I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother

Baby brother or sister, will you look like me? I blend from semisweet dark
Daddy chocolate bar and strawberry cream Mama’s milk.
My hair is soft crunchy billows of cotton candy.
I’m your peanut butter big-brother-to-be.

This book is another one of my favorites. Great rhythm and imagery, not to mention the positive way of looking at all our different skin tones. Extension: Head over to your local paint shop and check out the color sample cards. None of us is really black or white, are we? Can you find a paint color that matches your skin? Talk about melanin and how our skin color can change. Encourage your child to look positively at the rainbow around them!


This title is part of a series on different types of allergies, which attempts to explain the seriousness of those allergies without sounding scary. It comes off a little uneven at times, but the books make a good conversation starter. Are there any allergies in your own family? Talk about what allergic reactions can look like, and what people may need to do (such as give themselves a shot).


In book form:

Image result for westcott peanut butter and jelly
978-014-054-8525 (PB)

Or in text (there are different variations of course!)

First you take the peanuts
And you crunch ‘em, you crunch ‘em
You crunch ‘em, crunch ‘em, crunch 'em.

For your peanut, peanut butter,
And jelly
Peanut, peanut butter,
And jelly

Then you take the grapes
And you squish ‘em, you squish ‘em
You squish ‘em, squish ‘em, squish 'em.

Repeat chorus

Then you take the bread 
And you spread it, you spread it
You spread it, spread it, spread it.

Repeat chorus

Then you take your sandwich
And you eat it, you eat it
You eat it, eat it, eat it.

‘Cause it’s good peanut butter,
And jelly
Good peanut butter,
And jelly


Do you know who else likes peanut butter? Birds and other critters! Spread pine cones or stale bread with peanut butter and smash in some bird seed. While you are at it, string Cheerios on pipe cleaners (great for fine motor skills!) and twist them into shapes. Find a tree to hang them on, preferably one you can see from a window, and watch to see who comes to visit! 

(Word of warning - dogs like PB and Cheerios too, and if they are like my mother's dog, they will happily eat the pipe cleaners along with them - so you may need to hang them high!) (The treats, not the dogs.)

Social Studies

You may remember from your elementary school days that George Washington Carver was all about peanuts - but do you remember why? America's Library has a simple run-down of Carver's peanut legacy here. Carver was also a very wise man, who cared deeply about other human beings. Here are a few of his most famous quotations - younger children may need some rewording, but they all make for great discussion starters:

* Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.
* When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.
*It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being.
* Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
* Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.
* Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
* It is better to be alone than in bad company.
* It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.


Grab a bag of dry roasted peanuts-in-the-shell and use them as manipulatives to practice adding and

Or, tens and ones! There were 125 in approximately half a bag of peanuts, so we estimated that a full bag has 250.
And yes, she does her own hair, why do you ask?

Then crack them open, use the nuts to make peanut butter (see above), and smash the shells up for mulch!


Ants on a log!


Whip up a double batch of peanut butter cookies (or, if you're from my neck of the woods, buckeyes!) and take some to a neighbor, the police or fire station, the guys working on the highway, the folks at Animal Control, the nearest school, a friend with a birthday coming up (why thank-you Facebook)...or who else? Think outside the box and brighten someone's day!

Those are buckeyes. Food photography is not my strong point.

Other Web Sites to Explore

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

March at a Glance

Here are the holidays we will be celebrating in March. Plans and activities for each will be posted the week before, to give you a little time to prepare!

1 - Peanut Butter Lover's Day
2 - Old Stuff Day
3 - National Anthem Day
4 - Hug a GI Day
5 - Mem Fox's Birthday
6 - Frozen Food Day
7 - Telephone Patented
8 - International Women's Day
9 - Ellen Levine's Birthday
10 - Middle Name Pride Day
11 - Johnny Appleseed Day
12 - Plant a Flower Day
13 - Jewel Day
14 - Pi Day
15 - Shoe the World Day
16 - Lips Appreciation Day
17 - St. Patrick's Day
18 - Sloppy Joe Day
19 - Poultry Day
20 - Alien Abduction Day
21 - Fragrance Day
22 - Goof Off Day
23 - Puppy Day
24 - Harry Houdini's Birthday
25 - Waffle Day
26 - Make Up Your Own Holiday Day
27 - World Theatre Day
28 - Something on a Stick Day
29 - Coca-Cola's Birthday
30 - Take a Walk in the Park Day
31 - Tater Day

Get ready to have some fun!