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Tag: Homeschool (page 1 of 2)

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Between Candie (the Farmer) and myself (the Chef), we have four pretty amazing and completely diverse kids. Between our two families, we have girls and boys and cover toddlers to late elementary age. But the diversity goes even deeper: sensory processing disorder, perfectionism, anxiety, profoundly gifted, special needs, autism, and more.

So when we stumbled upon a resource that was an INSTANT HIT with all four of our diverse kiddos, we knew we had to share with all our friends.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Introducing STEM Bins

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineer, and Math (if you see the acronym STEAM, they throw Art in there). We are loving the big push to make STEM more interesting and exciting for kids.

STEM Bins are a GREAT way to get your kids thinking (and playing) creatively. We purchased downloadable cards that came with instructions, labels, and picture cards with ideas on what to create — wall, bridge, tower, trap, machine, robot, house, boat, etc.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Sometimes my kids can struggle with inspiration. That’s why I love these STEM idea cards: they get creative juices flowing, but are not so specific that the child is simply imitating an already-made design. 

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

STEM bins are also fantastic because you are challenging your children to think outside the box. Can you make a boat out of popsicle sticks? How about out of straws and pipe cleaners? Legos? Magnets? 

Suddenly the creative options explode because you’re not just thinking about how to make a boat, but you’re consider what it takes to make a boat based on the materials you have on hand.

Using STEM Bins at Home

While a lot of teachers use STEM Bins in the classroom for students who get done with their work early, we use them in our homeschooling as part of our curriculum. I have also grabbed a STEM Bin as we rush out the door to a doctor appointment or one of our many physical therapy sessions.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Candie found her 2yo was just as engaged and intrigued as my 9yo was. Just goes to show that there’s really something magical about hands-on play.

EDIT: My son has been using STEM Bins while I’m at my twice-weekly physical therapy appointments. His creativity has been fun to watch, but it has been AMAZING to me how he has interacted with others, explaining his creations. He now looks forward to PT/Stem Building Time. We were in a rush last week and I shoved an iPad at him instead. Within a half hour he was slumped over, saying “I’m bored.” This is coming from my technology-addicted child. MOM WIN!

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Setting Up STEM Bins

1. Determine what you’re going to store them in.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

It’s best to use small containers and keep all the various supplies separate. Candie uses $2 pencil cases for her STEM bins. I purchased these Sterilite containers (on the right in the pic) because I could get 10 of them inside my Ikea Expedit (formerly called Kallax) cubes.

I found some bins needed more room, so I also used these larger Sterilite containers (on the left in the pic) which fit beautifully four per Ikea Expedit cube.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

2. Purchase the STEM Bin cards.

Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers to purchase the STEM Bin cards. You’ll be able to immediately download and print. We put ours on cardstock and laminated for greater durability.

(If you don’t have a laminator, I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s crazy good quality and inexpensive.)

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

3. Gather Supplies For Your Bins

If you’re on a tight budget, you can literally use anything for these bins — including toilet paper tubes and sticks. But if you want to branch out, there are some really great manipulatives out there. These are our TOP TEN FAVORITES:

1. Plastic Bendable Straws and Joints — This is a HUGE hit with my kids; definitely one of the best purchases I  ever made.

2. Pattern Blocks — A surprising hit with both the toddler and 3rd grader.

3. Snap Cubes — These are great for building and double as good math manipulatives.

4. Plastic Bricks — Legos are crazy expensive. But these bricks function just as great as Legos at a FRACTION of the cost. I love that there are a wide variety of colors and sizes, too.

5. Wood Planks — Sure, you could buy expensive Keva planks. Or you could get a colorful Jenga set for cheap and call it a day.

6. Jumbo Popsicle Sticks with Velcro Dots — Attach the velcro dots on both ends and on both sides to help your creations stick. Literally.

7. Magnet Tiles — These off-brand Magformers are incredible, affordable, and have been an INSANE hit with everyone (adults included).

8. Pipe Cleaners — The softness and pliability of the chenille pieces make this a unique material to work with. And paired with a colander, the possibilities are limitless…

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

9. Building Bars – Bright, colorful, multipurpose, and economical. These are very similar to K-Nex (but not as expensive).

10. Tinker Toy — You might say Tinker Toy was the original STEM toy, clocking in at over 100 years old. My grandparents smiled when they heard my kids were playing with these.

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Got other STEM building/creative toys you enjoy? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep adding to our list!

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

An Open and Honest Letter From a Therapy Mama: 15 Things I Wish I Had Known

Find yourself shuttling your kids to therapy -- physical, speech, occupational, vision, and more? Though the road can be lonely, you aren't alone.

Dear Fellow Therapy Mama,

I just wanted to let you know that I see you.

I see you transporting your amazing kiddo back and forth to their therapy faithfully. I see you there, tired, exhausted, worn out, beat up, and pressed in from all sides. I see you sagging your shoulders, trying to figure out how to fit it all in. You are not alone.

You’re doing an AMAZING job raising your kid and getting them to their therapy sessions.

And you know what? This is hard. This life of raising an amazing kid with extra needs is HARD. But because we love our kids fiercely, enduring this crazy is worth it.

15 Things I Wish I Had Known

As I reflect back where the last few years have taken us (especially the last 10 months), I wanted to record some of the truths/nuggets of wisdom I wish a fellow mom had shared with me at the beginning of our journey. Granted, many of these principles one really may not fully grasp until fully in the trenches. But in years from now, I want to be reflect back and remember where we’ve come from. Continue reading

Review Games: Make Drilling Facts FUN! (+ Free Downloads)

Who says learning needs to be boring? Use these easy and versatile ideas to make reviewing facts FUN. Plus, get free downloads of our best review games!

Sometimes you just need some fun to spice up the mundane parts of life. Whether you’re practicing math facts, memorizing notes on the scale, or reviewing the periodic table — games can bring a whole extra element of fun.

My son has been receiving speech therapy for awhile and our speech therapist has been a MASTER of doing “review games” — taking a fun toy, game, activity and using it as a tool to review. She has taught me how you really can use ANYTHING to make a fun game. Continue reading

Car Schooling: 29 Tips To Survive School On The Road

When I first began dreaming of homeschooling, I had this luxurious idea of my kids and I huddled around a sunlit table, pouring over books and performing perfect little experiments together while the birds chirped outside and the flowers outside garden window smiled at me.

Do you SEE that sunshine? Ah, now I look back at this photo and just LAUGH. I thought I had it all together back then.

You see, the seasons of life have a way of changing.

Not long after receiving our Celiac disease diagnoses (yes, plural), my kids began receiving Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy every week. We spent at least 6 hours a week shuttling back and forth for these [medically necessary]  events. And this didn’t include doctor visits, grocery shopping, library trips, playdates, or homeschool co-ops.

AH! I thought I was going crazy!

I quickly learned the value of Car Schooling — that is, taking homeschooling on the road.

Continue reading

Marble Money: How Our Family Handles Allowance and Chores

Marble Money: How We Handle Chores

It’s been a challenge for our family to implement any sort of chore system over the years. Part of the problem is that the systems I have tried rely heavily upon me for successful implementation.

  • I’ve tried chore charts (kid sees card, completes card, flips it over when done).
  • I’ve tried bribery (“Hey, I’ll give you 25 cents for XYZ”).
  • I’ve tried just assigning tasks willy-nilly and saying you’re-part-of-the-family-so-do-it.

While each have worked, it really required ME being mindful and constantly remembering that this system needed to be used. I didn’t like that. In a word? I needed my kids to have OWNERSHIP.  Continue reading

Handwriting Without Tears (Review + Budget Friendly Ideas)

Curriculum Review: Handwriting Without Tears

Handwriting Without Tears is – hands down – my favorite handwriting curriculum for little people. It’s a manuscript-style (as opposed to cursive) program that specializes in reducing all pen strokes to two basic shapes: straight lines and curves. I find this reductionist approach simplifies handwriting for little learners and makes it approachable.

If you want to read more about the HWT philosophy – which really is extremely well thought out and quite excellent – see their website. I love that the program is simple, easy to understand, approachable, consistent, affordable, and FUN. Continue reading

How To Get A Homeschool Space That Cleans Itself – Part 1

How To Get A Homeschool Space That Cleans Itself

This post is the first in a series: How To Get a Homeschool Space That Cleans Itself.

A few years ago, I came across a book that completely upturned my life called The House That Cleans Itself. It’s a simple, easy read — and insanely practical with step-by-step advice and humor, as well.

I’m the sort of person who people describe as “organized” — which is true. I love organization. However, I’m also TERRIBLE at keeping things tidy. Confession: my nickname growing up was Messy Bessie…

I hated this about myself. So I did the only thing I knew to do: I read books, scoured magazines, and looked for ways to organize better. And as you can probably guess… none of them really worked longer than a few weeks. Continue reading

Review of 6 Books Every Parent Needs To Own

You remember that game called Desert Island? (You know — the one where you pretend you’re stranded and can only take three things with you?) I detest playing that game (and not because I think it is a waste of time). Rather, it’s unrealistic. The point of the game is to name your three most precious items you couldn’t live without. But let’s be real: if I’m on a desert island, the last thing I’m really going to want is some precious memento. Give me a knife, a field guide to non-poisonous plants, and Robinson Crusoe to help keep me alive!

But I have given great thought to my book collection. When we recently sold our house, I packed away 90% of our book collection. There were only a few books that got to stay out for 6 months. Which made me think: if I lost all of our books in the move (or worse, we had a fire), what would be the first 6 books I would immediately purchase again? Continue reading

{Classical Conversations} How To Survive Tutoring Abecedarians

Are you tutoring the youngest class for your Classical Conversations community? Check out our popular strategies to help your morning go smoothly.

When I went to college to get a teaching degree, I was adamant about one thing. Teaching preschool was NOT for me. The thought of spending hours in a classroom setting with 4 and 5 year olds literally made me break out in a cold sweat.

But becoming a parent has a way of changing you. And when my own daughter got old enough to participate in Classical Conversations, I took a deep breath and signed up to tutor her Abecedarian (aka: 4 and 5yo) class.

Continue reading

{Classical Conversations} What’s In My Tutor Bag (Plus Review Games)

Looking for creative items to make your stick-in-the-sand tutoring come to life? Need fresh ideas for your classroom? Check out what I keep in my tutor bag!

There are few things I relish more than being a Classical Conversations tutor. Our family is absolutely in love with the Classical Conversations program and the structure it brings to our school year. As I told my director: “Being a tutor is such a gift! I can’t believe I get paid to play games and hang out with kids all morning!”

Continue reading

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