Mapping Skills 3 Part Cards with Definitions

In the spring, after we finished our basic land and water forms study we moved on to learning different mapping skills. To help learn about the different types of maps, what a surveyor and cartographer do, how to read a compass, and the difference between longitude and latitude I made our own 3-part cards to go along with our study.

Mapping Skills Cards with Definitions

These cards are a little different in that they’re actually 4-part cards. Once a child moves on into lower elementary, the definition is added to each picture and label to help deepen the child’s understanding of the term and its concept. So here we have the the main card with picture and name, the picture, the word card label, and then the definition.

Mapping Skills Cards with Definitions

I’ve found as we’ve moved into Montessori elementary there are much fewer resources for students, so I made my own printable and it’s free for you to download and use too! Just click the link below:

Mapping Skills 3-Part Cards

w/ Definitions Printable


10 Changes to HomeschoolIt’s nearing the end of July and I’ve gone into full blown back to school prep mode. It’s fun.

1. No More Crayons.

I hate crayons, especially broken crayons. I have a crayon breaking bandit who loves to snap those babies in half and peel the paper off. Crayons are my nemesis and their wrappers that inevitably find themselves all over the floor. We’re switching to colored pencils. Still need to sharpen, but less mess overall and you can still control shading. Which leads me to #2…

2. Quality Art Supplies.

We’re upgrading to nicer art supplies little by little. Sorry Crayola and store brands. First up, colored pencils and watercolor paints. I’m tired of pencil lead that breaks as soon as it’s sharpened. Colored pencils and watercolors…excuse me, watercolor cakes.

3. Shopping Back to School supplies on Amazon.

I have four kids. Shopping with all of them is no longer fun, even when everyone is on their best behavior and no one has to go to the bathroom when we have a cart full on the opposite side of the store. Amazon is where it’s at. At the end of the year, I made a list of all the supplies I thought we would need based on what we used and priced it on Amazon. This week I managed to get to Target with just the baby (priceless!) and did a bird’s eye view of school supplies prices.

For the quantities I was looking for (and I don’t want to have to go buy construction paper or gluesticks every other month…or printer ink), Amazon was much cheaper. The only thing that was a better price were composition notebooks. Fifty cents is hard to beat. I don’t have the time or energy to pick up supplies at five different stores (with all the kids in tow..sounds like a blast!), so I’m ordering them online and having them mailed to me.

That’s going to be one big box. I can already imagine the rocket ships, houses, and forts that are going to be built.

4. Electric Pencil Sharpener.

My cheap side reels a bit at the prices of electric pencil sharpeners and I’m tempted to say we’ll just keep the small manual ones, but I also know my kids hate sharpening pencils. Only Olivia still finds it appealing and I’d rather not get carpal tunnel in my hands from sharpening 50 colored pencils. I’m taking the plunge and hoping the reviews are right. We’ll see.

5. Homeschool Inspiration.

It’s so easy for me to lose the big picture focus in home educating and get bogged down in scope and sequences, how the day or week turned out horribly, all the things I want to do that we aren’t doing, and on and on. My goal is to listen to at least one inspiring and encouraging talk (or podcast) on homeschooling and/or motherhood a week to help me stay focused.

I’m starting with the conference audio from the Wild + Free conferences. I’ve listened to them before and have a few favorite homeschool mom speakers (Toni Weber and Sarah MacKenzie are a few). You can find them in the Wild + Free content bundles (sample one here).

6. Scheduling Teacher Work Days.

Multiple times last year I’d need more time to prep materials or I’d reach my end mentally and emotionally and needed a good attitude adjustment or perspective change, but because we took 3 weeks off of school when Victoria was born and I didn’t want to do be doing school through June we kept plugging away to meet our 180 days.

This year I’m loosely scheduling in teacher work days and not the kind where the TV babysits and I’m in the other room (though that happens too). I’m getting a babysitter and taking at least 5 hours out of the house to refuel, focus, plan, prep, and educate myself. Traditional teachers need that and so do homeschool moms!

7. Read Aloud.

I wanted to get in a regular read aloud habit, and for a month or two we were pretty consistent, but I was slow to start and it fell away because I often thought it was taking too much time from the rest of our school day. But the times we did have morning read aloud, the kids were more engaged, eager to participate, kinder to each other…it kind of did this magical thing and put us all at ease.

8. Self Care.

I know it’s a buzzword these days, but for good reason. A lot of women, and moms especially, don’t take care of themselves in some basic and necessary ways. In the last eight years, I’ve had three babies, three miscarriages, three major moves, one minor move, depression, a few years where my husband worked 2nd shift full time and went to grad school on top of the regular day in/day out challenges and responsibilities I’ve developed a lot of bad habits and coping techniques to just make it through the days.

I’m focusing on my eating habits, getting back into my yoga and kettle bell routine, going to bed before midnight, and making that optometrist appointment I’ve needed since April. And coming to terms that results from the effort of these things (like working out after the kids go to bed instead of just watching Gilmore Girls) will take time. Ugh. I mean, Yay for self-growth!

9. Buying Montessori Albums.

I did it. I bought the North American Montessori Center’s Lower Elementary curriculum. It was a big chunk of change, but I feel good about the decision. I spent a lot of time last year reading up on the lower elementary scope and sequence, finding lessons, trying to piece together the gaps in my self-education, and stressing (so much stress! Just ask my husband.).

I spent three years teaching in a primary classroom and am comfortable with the primary lessons and did the training for infant/toddler with NAMC, but there were spots in the lower elementary scope and sequence I just wasn’t sure about and couldn’t find consistent and cohesive reliable resources. After researching homeschooling costs for non-Montessori families spend, talking with a friend, and also my husband, the cost over the years I’ll use it with each child (nine years in all) is reasonable. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go back and do the training as well.

10. Stress Less.

I’m remembering the big picture—building a love for life long learning and exploration.  We don’t have to learn it all now. It’s okay to leave something and come back to it later. Prize the relationship first. Big picture, whole person. That ideal homeschool I have in my head, the look of free-flowing and easy going comes with routine, patience, and practice.

Hour by hour, day by day, we’ll build it together.

What’s on your list to change this year?



This post contains affiliate links. 

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Koala Crate ReviewWe’ve been fans of Kiwi Crate for awhile now and recently the people at Kiwi Crate reached out to us and asked if we’d be interested in reviewing a Koala Crate.


These little faces were excited to get a box all their own.

Koala Crate Review

What’s the difference between Kiwi Crate & Koala Crate?

#1 – Kiwi Crate is geared toward children 5 to 8 years old, while Koala Crate is aimed at children 3 to 4 years old. 

When our Kiwi Crate box arrives, we generally do the activities together. Joey (age 7) is really the only one who can do the Kiwi Crate independently. All the kids have fun, but Kiwi Crate is much more hands on for mom with the littles.

Koala Crate Review

With the Rainforest Koala Crate, Otto (age 5) was able to complete the crafts independently. The step-by-step directions were written and paired with pictures for each step. Olivia (age 3) enjoyed building the crafts and playing the tree game, but did need some help with assembly.

#2 – Koala Crate comes with its own magazine called Imagine!. Kiwi Crate has its play and learn magazine, Explore!

Imagine is much shorter than its Kiwi Crate equivalent. There is still a story, a page with facts about rainforests, directions for an extra craft, recommended books on the topic, and a ‘Find the Difference’ picture game.Koala Crate Review

Joey was quick to point out that there are a lot more activities to draw, make, and experiments to try in the Explore magazine. This was a little disappointing, since Olivia’s favorite part of the Kiwi Crate magazines is to go back through and play the games and draw through the different activities. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more activities or even coloring pages in Imagine.

What’s the same?

Koala Crate Review

Everything you need is right in the box.

It’s still the same great quality of materials, as well as enough pieces leftover to use later.

The directions are simple, clear, and concise.

They still need a grownup. Yep. It’s not a babysitter in a box.

Tour the Rainforest Koala Crate

The first project was a butterfly puppet. The cool thing about this puppet is that you can fold the wings in and flip the puppet inside out to reveal the caterpillar side!

Koala Crate Review

Koala Crate Review

Next, they put together their own musical rainstick. They weren’t quite sure what a rainstick was and kept trying to shake it.

Koala Crate Review

Once they finished making their rainsticks, they assembled the pieces to the balancing tree game. This is where they had the most fun.

Koala Crate Review

Working on some fine motor skills right there…

Koala Crate Review

What do the kids think?

Koala Crate Review

Momma’s Last Word.

I love the quality, creativity, and design of their products. Seriously, I’m a sucker for good design and continuity. I love that it’s accessible for my non-readers. I do wish the Imagine magazine had more of the good stuff the Explore magazine has. Overall, the Koala Crate is a great product.

Since we already have a Kiwi Crate subscription, I’m not sure we’d do both (a monthly subscription is $19.95/mo or less depending on the type of subscription). However, if I was looking at a craft subscription service geared to a 3 to 5 year old Koala Crate would be my choice.

Want to try Koala Crate?

Kiwi Crate Family Brands >>

From June 6 to June 30th 2016, get 40% off your first month’s crate with a subscription! Use the code: EDU40


Want a peek inside a Kiwi Crate? Check out our review for Fun with Flight.


Caring for Chicks

Caring for ChicksWe’re urban homesteaders. Or at least working our way there. We have a small garden, a compost pile, and two hens. So when we drove by Southern States (akin to a farmer’s Home Depot) and saw that chick days were coming up we let out a collective, “Awww…”

We decided that we’d at least go see them, since we were scheduled to get six pullets in a few weeks. Did we really need more chickens?

Obviously, we did.

After a few conversations about whether we could handle more chickens and who would be the primary caretaker (me), we decided to do what a friend has dubbed “a calculated impulse purchase.”

Last Monday after we finished with school for the day, we went to Southern States oohed and aahed over all the cute chicks, bought supplies for the chicks new home, and went home to set up.

Setting up the Brooder

We had to clean everything the chicks would be using. The boys helped to wash and dry the tote box that would act as home, line it with newspaper, and then pine shavings while I set up the brooder lamp.

We added water and chick starter feed, and then we were ready!

Caring for Chicks

Caring for Chicks

This is a helpful post on getting started and setting up your chick brooder How to Build a Brooder from Modern Farmer and another from Southern States.

Caring for Chicks - Setting up the Brooder

Bringing Them Home

This was the fun part. They peeped, hopped, and skittered around their new home. I placed them in the brooder one by one, careful to hold them under their feet and cupped around their neck and back. Just this little hold and they become remarkably still.Caring for Chicks

When we put each one in the brooder,we had to dip their beak in the water so they know where to drink. They seemed to learn pretty quickly.

We ended up getting three Red Cross and three Easter Egger chicks. I really wanted Silver-Laced Wyandottes, but they were already gone by the time we got back to Southern States. Chick days are busy days!

Daily Care

Every day we clean and refill their waterer and add food to their feeder. Every couple of days we change the bedding as needed. I made up a chick record keeping chart, so that we could keep track of our chick care together and give the kids some responsibility for the chicks.

IMG_1283For the first few days, we checked the temperature every few hours to make sure we had the heat lamp right. We ended up having to elevate our box to get the right temperature.

It’s been really fun to watch the chicks, name them (from Curious to Brown Sugar), and watch them shed their chick fluff and watch their wings come in. As I’m typing this they’re chirping and chattering away while trying to figure out how to fly out of their brooder. It’s about time for a bigger box!

Caring for Chicks

Maybe you have chicks or are planning on getting some one day, it might be a helpful chart to have. I also made a chicken breed profile page, so that Joey could research (with help) the birds we have.

You can download your own right here:

Chick Care Recordkeeping


I’d love to hear if you have chicks or chickens and what breeds you have.


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How to Stop Asking, "Am I Doing this Right?"

I see it over and over in blog post comments and Montessori groups. Eager parents asking, “Is this okay?” “Am I doing this right?” “Tell me what to do!”

This makes me think of one of three things. Number one, people are eager to implement the beauty and goodness of Montessori. Number two, people are uncertain and don’t know what to do or where to start.

There’s nothing wrong with this. The Montessori lifestyle is a journey. You learn, explore, and discover bit by bit.

You’ll hear me say again and again, take the time to read Montessori’s books, learning the different stages of the absorbent mind, as well as taking the time to observe your child and his or her needs in various settings and stages. There’s no rush. Truly, it’s better to take it slowly than dive in fast and deep.

Now, the next issue I see is the continuous questioning,

Is this okay? 

Am I doing this right?

Tell me what to do.

I understand wanting to “get it right,” but think about this for a second,

one of the goals of Montessori is to have the child think for themselves, rather than looking for validation of a job well done in a parent or teacher our desire is for them to go through their own process of discovery for the sake of discovery…not to get it right or perfect.

It’s the process that’s important.

When we ask the questions, “Am I doing this right? Is this okay?” we’re doing the opposite of what we want to inspire and create in our children. Can we equip our children to pursue freedom and purpose in their education and lives if we’re consistently asking ourselves, “Is this right?”

So what to do?

Always and always, take a deep breath and step back. You’re not a failure. You’re not going to mess up your child if you don’t start Montessori as a baby or if you missed part of the scope and sequence or even, nay, especially if you can’t afford all the pretty toys, materials, or have a perfect space.

Here’s your pep talk:

Perfection is overrated. Montessori isn’t about perfection. Montessori was a doctor, a scientist…science is about forming a hypothesis or testing a theory.

There is no set curriculum by age. No perfect timeline someone can give you for your child. There is no one size fits all. That’s the beauty of Montessori.

It’s not about getting it right or having the perfect toys or an immaculate room or all the sanctioned words.

It’s about spontaneous activity. A natural love for learning. You can’t bottle that and sell it as an infomercial. It comes from within. So cull the environment, leave space for the child to find the proverbial matches and let them light the spark.

It’s about observation. Trial and error. No one can tell you exactly what your child should be doing. Get to know your child. Watch them. What do they like to do? What purpose are they finding in the activity? If you set up an activity, how do they interact with it? What purpose are they seeking to get out of it?

Get over getting it right. Ask yourself, Is this why I’m doing this?

To have my child turn to me and ask, “Did I do it right?”

What do you want to build?

Follow the child. Observe. Adapt.

Interact. Invite. Guide.


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