Category Archives: photography

Week 3: Bill Martin Jr. {Virtual Book Club}

I had originally planned for this week to be about music (had everything planned out!), but about the middle of last week I was reminded about the Virtual Book Club hosted by The Educators Spin On It. I knew I wanted to get back to introducing the kids (and myself) to some wonderful authors (yes, my librarian side is showing!), so I pushed music back a couple of weeks and put together a fun week of activities themed around books by Bill Martin Jr.

If you are unfamiliar with Bill Martin Jr., he has several very popular children’s books that are great for reading aloud. The repetitive nature of books like Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do you See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? make it fun for children to join in as you read. My kids like to “read” these books themselves because they have memorized the pattern and can use the picture clues to fill in the rest. The rhyming aspect of books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 make them flow off your tongue like a song and the kids really enjoyed repeating the rhymes over and over again. Seriously, if you haven’t read anything by Bill Martin, Jr. please head to your nearest library and check him out!

Now, there were a few books that I was not familiar with, which I was able to check out from our local school library (while my kids are in speech I hang out with the librarian). I was not as fond of these books (Barn Dance, White Dynamite and Curly Kidd, and Little Granny Quarterback) for my kids, but can see great potential for using them with older children. There are also many more books that we were not able to get a look at this time around, but I definitely want to.

Okay, so now for the activities we did! I’m very excited about the things I found and came up with on my own, so forgive my enthusiasm as I type. 😉


When Monday arrived I had not had a chance to get any books from the library. However, we already had Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See in our home library and I also have a Scholastic DVD set that included a video reading of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, so we used those until we could get to the library on Tuesday. I actually think watching the DVD helped to enhance the story because it was sung rather than read. They really liked it.

After reading Brown Bear we went on a photo walk. Before we left I had the kids “read” the story to me so I could write down all the colors of the animals in the book (in the color of the word) so they would have a checklist of the colors they needed to look for. They each have a LeapPad2, which has a camera app, so they were able to use those to take their pictures. They had so much fun spotting colors all over our neighborhood and snapping pictures along the way (and got exercise too!).

Photo Walk

Photo Walk

In the afternoon we used a Rhyming Fun Freebie from Jennifer Drake on Teachers Pay Teachers. I worked with both of them to identify rhyming words in 4 word families. I think Kyla has started to really catch on to listening for the end sound, where Lucas is still trying to match beginning sounds. This is definitely something we will continue to work on. When we finished rhyming they requested to pull out our magnetic letters and put the ABCs in order. I chose the lower case letters because I know they need to work on those more than the upper case which they seem to have down pat. Then they wanted to work separately and “race” to put the letters in order. They really seem to be loving our homeschool activities!

Rhyming and the Alphabet

Rhyming and the Alphabet


They have speech Tuesdays and Thursdays this year, so we were able to check out several books by Bill Martin Jr. (I mentioned them above). They were so excited to see the actual book for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and discovering there was a 1, 2, 3 version was a thrill for them as well.

I knew that between speech and Kyla’s dance class we weren’t going to have a lot of time for our activities, so I only had one thing planned. I’d printed out a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Letter Book from Jessica Sheffield at Teachers Pay Teachers. They went through the real book to find out what colors to color their letters in the printed book. I liked that the letters were in lower case. I feel like we haven’t done enough with lower case letters, so I’ve been focusing on that lately.

We really didn’t have time for anything else that day!

Coloring the Alphabet

Coloring the Alphabet


Wednesday is one of our less busy days, so I made sure to save this more time consuming project for that day. I printed out all (okay, not all, but several) of the pictures the kids had taken on our photo walk from Monday and also put together a book template using Google Doc Presentation (equivalent to PowerPoint) so they could make a personalized What Do You See? book. I had them cut out the pictures for each color (which was written on the page and they had to decide which object of that color to use) and glue them onto their book. This worked on their cutting, gluing, color recognition, and reinforced seeing the written color words. I’m really proud of this activity and I know they enjoyed it as much as I did.

What Do You See book

What Do You See book


Thursday is now our REALLY busy day. Speech in the morning and Zoo School in the afternoon, then I had a night out with a friend planned. So I really knew we wouldn’t have time for much. Plus, I’m getting ready for a garage sale this weekend, which really made us strapped for time. All we did was an apple dot-to-dot from Making Learning Fun.




We didn’t actually do our “Friday” activities ON Friday. We didn’t do them until Sunday because I spent all day Friday and Saturday trying to sell our crap excess stuff. Unfortunately, all I have to show for all that effort is $73.50 and a sunburn. :-/

Anyway, we finally got to our Friday activities on Sunday after dinner. Friday is generally “computer day” so I had Lucas set up to work on the computer while Kyla did these cute Brown Bear Counting Practice pages from Teachers Pay Teachers. And then they switched.

They had the opportunity to practice cutting and gluing as well as identifying numbers and counting. Lucas was much faster at this than Kyla. I’m pretty sure it’s because Kyla is a perfectionist and was very precise about cutting out her numbers while Lucas is a bit more relaxed about the final product. Kyla is also not quite as quick to identify the written number, though she can count just fine.

Counting and Computers

Counting and Computers

I didn’t look for a specific Bill Martin Jr. themed computer game for the kids to do, so I just put them on PBSKids again. This time I had them do Clifford games (I figured at least it was a character from a book, even if it’s not a book by our featured author! 😉 ). Come to find out, the game they both chose to play was great because it involved following directions. Each “turn” of the game they would be given 2 step instructions and then they used the mouse to click on an object, then click an arrow for left or right. Lucas did great with this game and I was impressed that he was able to determine left or right so easily. It might be because I always tell them that “Lucas and Left start with L, so Lucas is on the Left,” when we’re in the car. Kyla was able to follow the directions, but had a lot of trouble with the mouse. I switched from using the PC mouse we had to an old MAC mouse that only has the one button because Lucas had such a hard time lining up his fingers so that he would push the correct button. Well for some reason Kyla kept getting the mouse turned around so that it was upside down and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t going where she wanted it to go! This is definitely something she needs to continue working on, regardless of what game is in play.


Even though we sort of had a pause in our homeschool plans for the garage sale and we’ve gotten a lot busier as our schedule is getting more full I think we did some great stuff. I actually had more ideas that we just didn’t have time for. However, I’m particularly proud of the What Do You See? books that we made and plan to hang onto the lesson for when I’m back in a library. I can see it as a great way to integrate technology into an author study!

This post is linking to the Virtual Book Club Bloghop hosted by The Educators’ Spin On It.


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Budding Photographers {Letters to our Children}

Sorry I’m a couple of days late. We’ve been busy, busy around here!

Kyla and Lucas,

Boy am I glad we live in the age of digital photography! You two have taken a shine to taking photos, probably because I take so many of you, and you certainly capture a unique perspective. Right now all I have for you to use is my point-and-shoot and you have to share. I’m considering seeing if I can find another so you can each have one to use.

With the pretty weather the last couple of weeks we’ve made two trips to the zoo and one to Gramps and Jan’s house. You both took tons of pictures while we were in the great outdoors. Some were great! Others were a bit difficult to decipher. It’s interesting to me to see what you view as important. It reminds me that even the things I take for granted are new and exciting for you.

Here’s a small sampling of your photography skills:

Kyla, you’re a bit more “into” photography than Lucas at this point. I think he mostly does it because you do. You even came up with the game “Hide and Seek Pictures” where one person hides and the person with the camera takes a picture when they find them.











Lucas, you take photos like you do everything else in your life. With enthusiasm! You might not get it “just right” but you give it a go and have fun no matter what the outcome.









I love my little photographers in the making!


Some of my friends in my moms group and I have decided to create a blog circle where we will share monthly letters to our children. In a world where we all get so busy with life, for me it is an opportunity to slow down and hopefully record some of our moments together for them. Please check out my friend Carrie’s beautiful letter to her children here and then follow our circle around until you get back to me.

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Pirate Play

Yesterday afternoon the kids and I had so much fun playing that we were pirates! They have really entered a new realm of play and it’s so fun.

When they woke up from nap, Lucas decided to put a pair of pajama pants on his head and declared that he was a pirate “Arg!” I have no idea where this came from, but laughed and told him to put the pants back (they were clean). Instead of taking them off, he grabbed another pair of (clean) pajama pants and took them to his sister and insisted she put them on her head so she could be a pirate. Initially, I got a little annoyed. Then I stopped myself and thought “Why not? Imagination is good and I can join in!” I grabbed a pair of pajama pants and put them on MY head! All three of us became pirates!


We're pirates! Arg! (With stickers on our noses.)

We began talking about what a pirate needs and decided we needed a ship. I took the cushions off the couch and the kids grabbed pillows and we made our “ship.” We all jumped aboard and set sail!

Our ship

Our ship

We found an “island” (their room) to explore and dug for treasure (they rejected most of my ideas of “treasure” but decided the one gold coin we found would do). We went back to our ship and set sail again.


Planning our next adventure!

Then I decided to grab a pirate book to read. Pirate Pete! This is a book we’ve read many times before, so on every “where there’s gold, I’m a-goin’!” they would join in. LOVED it!!!

K taking picture

They saw the remote in my hand and wanted to have a turn taking a picture. 🙂

Lucas picture

Lucas could not be left out!

Overall, I guess we played like pirates for about 45 or so minutes. It was so fun to see them using their imaginations! This has been a fairly recent development (the current favorite is to pretend there’s a “scary monster” in their room and come running out, laughing). It’s fun to see this side of their play emerge. And they really play off of each other as they create their imaginary worlds! ❤

I'm linking to {Focus} on Mom and It’s Playtime!
It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow

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Focus on Mom Photo Challenge (January)

One of the blogs I follow is hosting a photo challenge in which the only requirement is that Mom (that’s me) be in the photos. When I read about the challenge it got me to thinking about how few pictures I am in because I’m always behind the camera. Granted, I also don’t particularly like what I look like in photos, so I try to avoid it a lot of the time. However, if these pictures I’m taking are supposed to be recording memories, I really should be in them. After all, I’m a part of their lives every single day. Seems kind of odd to never see me. So, despite my cringing at how I look, I am going to happily meet this monthly challenge from Working on a Project.

When I first tried to get myself in the photos I could not find the timer setting on my camera. So I did the cheesy “hold-the-camera-out-and-push-the-button” technique. They had fun.



Classic Kiss Shot

Classic Kiss Shot

Classic Kiss Reverse

Classic Kiss Reverse

Then today I finally found the timer function and also remembered that I have a remote. So I practiced with it a couple of times before the kids woke up from their nap and when they asked me to “read” the Umizoomi Math Activity books (they pulled it down from a shelf and this was the first time we ever looked at them), I set up the camera and grabbed the remote. I’m disappointed that the remote is so obvious in the pictures, but I do like that I captured the moment.

Umizoomi Activity Book

Working through the Umizoomi Activity Book.

Smart Kids!

Smart Kids!

I am so glad that Nicollete put together this challenge. I hope that anyone reading this will consider joining in, as it’s so important to remember to include ourselves in the memories we are recording.


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Merry Christmas 2011

I promise I’ll come back and post about Advent days 14-24 at some point (at least, that’s the plan), but for now, please know we are all wishing you a Merry Christmas today!

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Advent- Day 13

Today’s activity became (yes, I’ve been rearranging A LOT) “Take Christmas photos.” It was easy to fit it into our day, since the plan was to go to a Photo Mom play date where we would be taking Holiday Lights Bokeh (for those of you that don’t know what that means, it’s those pictures with the hazy/glowy lights in the background).

The host mom had set up a background stand with white lights on white string hanging behind a gauzy white fabric. The other 3 moms and I each had our turn trying to get pictures of our kids and learning how to set our cameras to get the desired effect. I know others were having a lot of trouble getting the “orbs” of light to be very big, but I think I managed to do pretty well. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that right before we left, I read a blog post that explained how to take Bokeh pictures. I switched to my 50mm lens and set the aperture to 1.8 (the biggest/lowest # that lens will go). While I did have some trouble getting good shots of my kids (they just love to make weird faces and won’t ever sit/stand close enough to get both in the picture), I think the effect I was going for worked pretty well in most of my shots. I did bribe them with candy canes and cookies, but it was still hit or miss on facial expressions. Here are some of the best ones I got.

Kyla & Lucas

This was the only halfway decent shot I got of the both of them together. I hate that Kyla's a little out of focus, but otherwise I like it.

Kyla Bokeh

I don't know why, but I love the expression on her face. I can totally hear her teenage self saying "You want me to do what?!" with a nice eye roll to accompany.

Lucas Bokeh

I bribed Lucas with the promise of cookies if he'd let me take "two more pictures." I took 3 and this was the best I got. Unfortunately, another kid got in the shot, so I had to crop it a little funny.

Lucas Tree Bokeh

This was my favoriate and it was totally by accident. I was just taking a picture of Lucas and didn't even realize there was a tree behind him with lights on it!

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Advent- Day 7

Today’s Advent Activity read “Have Christmas cookies with friends.” I’d planned to get together with our photo mom’s group for months now to bake and decorate Christmas cookies, so this one was assigned to today and didn’t move. 😉 Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home! 😦 I did get a couple of (crappy) pics on my phone, but it’s just not the same. So my friend (the one that hosted) and I are going to try again next week.

Anyway, my friend had dough and decorations ready and a couple of us rolled out small sections for each of the 7 kids that were there. She had cute Santa place mats for each kid to use when using the cookie cutters. I started out helping Kyla cut circles with a cookie cutter, then turned to help Lucas with the heart he had selected. I got absorbed in helping him roll the dough back out and cut out more (2 hearts, 1 bunny, 3 “D”s, 1 “C,” and a blob) and didn’t really watch what Kyla was doing. She announced “I make snowman!” And sure enough, when I looked over at her place mat, she had made a snowman cookie! Complete with holes for the eyes! I was floored. She loves playing with play dough, but has yet to make anything that actually looked like something. Later she even brought me a piece of dough and said “Triangle” and it was a triangle! I think I’ve got a budding artist on my hands. 😉

Here are the (crappy) pics I got:

Raw Snowman

This picture of the raw snowman was actually taken (by me) on my friend's camera. But I don't know her camera settings, so it didn't turn out too great.

Decorated snowman

Decorated snowman

Lucas decorating

Lucas decorating his cookies.

Kyla eating

Kyla eating her snowman

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