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Our First Camping Trip in a Tent

[…]had any sleeping bags. We stayed warm enough and had an absolute blast! The best part was – the kids woke up the next day and excitedly said, “We want to do this again next year but for two days with all of the same people!” So, now I’m shopping for a few more things to get us ready for our trip. Working on some sleeping bags for all four of us, some sleeping pads,  and a cast iron pan for cooking over the fire. That’s what we are getting for Christmas this year, camping gear! If you are a camping family – what are your must haves or tips to make this a fun and memorable experience for us? Any must see places in Ohio? We are for sure going to Hocking Hills but after that, not sure what all we will do yet. I love the Roadtrippers app so what do I need to add to our things to do on vacation […]

Our First Time Camping

The kids and I had our first camping trip in a tent last month and it was a […]

Upcoming Series: 52 Weeks of Board Games

[…]them. I’m so excited about this and so are the kids and my family who will all be playing them with me. Some are great kids games, some are great adult games. I hope you enjoy learning about each game as we add them. Here are some of the upcoming games: Some of these are cooperative games.  If you want to know more about what that is and some of the games – follow this link.   I will continue to update as I add games to this list. If you would like to have your game featured, please email me using the contact form or by commenting on this post. Readers: Chime in – which games do you want to hear about? Leave a comment and let me […]

Books We Love: Time Travel History Chapter Books for Kids

[…]in these stories. Magic Tree House – I have to be honest – these have never been a hit with my kids. I know kids everywhere seem to love them, not sure what my youngest thinks yet, we haven’t read one of them. These books take Jack and Annie on an adventure every time the magic tree house appears in the woods. Where will they go next? The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. You may have heard of these, I’ve mentioned them a few times before. We really enjoyed this series. Peter, Mary and their dog, Hank discover ancient scrolls that transport them back to periods of time in biblical history. Each book takes readers on a journey through different Bible stories. There is also a dark force in each book trying to stop them. I’ve loved everything about this series!  Want to read a more in depth review, we have written about them twice.   Ranger in Time. Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever who transports back in time to some great adventure. We discovered this series when a friend’s kid was reading one for a school assignment. You had us at the word dog! Anything animal related will always sit well with my kids and these stories are no exception. Wherever Ranger goes, there ends up being trouble but Ranger is there to save the day! These time-travel history chapter books are so fun for kids to read {or listen to you read} because they are about kids around their age going on these super exciting adventures! I KNOW that I haven’t discovered all of the amazing books that we need to so please – let me know if you have discovered a time-travel book that we need to check out! Looking for more great books to read? Check out weekly books we love feature. What should we read […]
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Cooperative Games and Why We Love Them

[…]not forget, a little friendly smack talk. However, these are the perfect games for families with younger kids who want to play but just can’t quite do it on their own. Because you are all working together, you can help or coach them to decide what to play {except in The Crew – no discussing the play}. If you are looking to work on teamwork skills, these games are a great way to do it. Cooperative games are also fun to play together with a group of adults, so not just for kids. I’m including a list and some links for cooperative games. Some I will be reviewing over the next few months for a more in depth look at the games. Hoot Owl Hoot! Players work together to move all of the owls into the nest in the center.  Ages 4-8 Wildcraft Players work together to collect berries to bring back to Grandma’s house.  As they go, they will have ailments and have to find the right herbal remedy to heal it.  Ages 4+.   The Crew and The Crew Mission Deep Space This is hands down my favorite trick-taking game.  You work together to complete certain goals by each player taking specific tricks each round.  The nice part is you can play only a few hands for a short game or more rounds for a longer game.  Each round gets more difficult to complete.  This is probably my very favorite game ever to be totally honest with you.  Ages 10+ but I would definitely suggest more teen to adult. Castle Panic We play this game pretty often.  It’s easy to set up and the kids can do it themselves.  Players all work together to protect the castle from being attacked.  Being able to effectively use each part of your turn really affects the outcome of the game.  Ages 8+ and this game can be played solo. Chronicles of Avel This game gets played regularly also.  The expansion really adds a ton to the game!  We still haven’t played all of the versions that are in the expansion.  This one – after the first few plays, we really knew what we had to focus on to succeed yet it’s still challenging every time and we lose plenty!  Ages 8+ Forbidden Island In this game, each player has a different skill set that allows them to do certain things that help you or other players out during the game.  We’ve played this a ton!  There are also a few other versions, Forbidden Sky, Forbidden Desert and now Forbidden Jungle.  I haven’t played Jungle yet but Island has been our favorite of the others.  It says ages 10+ but my 8 year old has been playing it since he was 6 or 7, he just needed a little more talking through what to do then.   Pandemic Four diseases threaten the world, and your elite team of specialists must find a cure for each of them before it’s too late. Everyone must work together applying their unique character skills to benefit the team—and the world.  Ages 8+  We haven’t played this one yet but we have it.   Cahoots In Cahoots, players work together playing one card at a time on one of the four piles of cards matching either number or color.  Sounds easy enough, right?!  Kind of.  However, as you add cards, you are working together to complete a set number of challenges before running out of cards.  Can you work together to get it done?  We play this one pretty regularly and have fun with it.     Outnumbered:  Improbable Heroes I forgot to add this one to the pictures but we play this pretty often.  My nine-year-old loves it even though he needs help to play it.  It involves shaking 3 dice and trying to make them work by solving math problems with those numbers or squaring numbers or using your individual super power to eliminate the villains on the game board.  You can make it harder by using the larger numbers.  Working together you have to eliminate the villains before they destroy you.       Have you played cooperative games before? Let me know in the comments below which games are your favorite cooperative […]

Books We Love: A Night Divided

[…]that we were a part of the story from the start. It had been on my list of books to read to the kids and I’m so glad we finally got to it!!! This book is pretty intense, so keep that in mind when deciding if it’s right for your family to read right now. Below you can read the back of the book to know what it is about. With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.But one day on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Gerta concludes that her father wants her and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom? Each week we feature a book we love. Usually something we’ve finished reading and I love when I come across a book that I love this much! If you have read this, I’d love to hear what you read next. Bonus for historical fiction. If you haven’t, let me know below a book you’ve read and […]

Botany Science Unit for Homeschool

[…]love this app.  If you need a way to discover some new plants, trees, etc. go hiking.  Go hiking with friends, with just the kids, anybody!  Don’t take the hike seriously.  Get down in the dirt, look at the insects or plants the kids discover.  Take pictures and learn more about it later or scan it in the app and discover it now.  We like to hike to waterfalls.  The kids know they will have a blast when we get there and we stop to discover whatever we want along the way. Books. This is always my favorite. I love that our library is so big and has so many books. Here are some of my favorites but to be honest, I could probably go on and on and on with this list there are so many we loved! It Starts with a Seed by Laura Knowles Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch The Seedling That Didn’t Want to Grow by Britt Techentrup Flip, Float and Fly by Joann Early Macken is hands down one of my favorite books.  The illustrations and information in this book is incredible and so beautiful. A Seed Is Sleepy by Diana Aston From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons The Amazing Life Cycle of Plants by Kay Farnham Plant Hunters from The Good and the Beautiful is about 2 female botanists.  I really love having a book or two about people working in the field that have had an impact on what we are learning about. Nature Journal  There are plenty to choose from so pick one that works for you.  I like this one and this one. Flower press. You can buy a set for this purpose or there are ways to do it on Pinterest. We also had a root viewer so we could observe the roots as they were growing.  Somehow I didn’t take a single picture of ours?  It was fun to watch.  We did this at the same time we were planting our garden which made it extra fun.  The kids planned the garden;from what we grow to where we planted the things and kept track of it all as it grew.     We had a blast with this unit and if you are wondering what’s next – it’s chemistry! Actually, we did insects this summer too – maybe I’ll get around to sharing that one also. Drop a comment below – I’d love to hear what you have added in for extra […]

Books We Love: The War That Saved My Life

[…]the stories I choose. The system works great for us and allows plenty of one-on-one snuggling with each of the kids. My daughter {12 years old} chose this book as a reward for the library’s summer reading program. She was reading it to herself at bedtime and THE SECOND that she finished reading it, she walked over, handed it to me and said, “You have to read this to Charlie!” As soon as we finished whatever book I had been reading, we started The War That Saved My Life. My daughter sat there listening again to the story every single night. We were hooked from the start – such an amazing story!!! I knew there was a sequel to it so as we neared the end, I put in a request for the next one. Well, as we finished this book, the next one wasn’t ready yet. Charlie {my ten-year-old} exclaimed, “Let’s just read this again. Start from the beginning.” Seriously, it’s that good of a book. Hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read to the kids and I have read a lot of great books. I’d love to hear from you. What book have you read lately that you […]

Water Backpack Reviews

[…]and off spot to be sure the water doesn’t leak KBNI – this is what I ordered for four of the kids Fantastic fit for the kids – every one of them Small zippered pocket to store a snack although you could also fit things in the large pocket with the bladder Exposed hose isn’t covered/insulated – read on to see if I felt like it made a difference 2L bladder Bungee strap – this came in handy for extra shoes, trekking poles, sweatshirts Cushioned pads for back comfort Once in awhile, we would catch one of the kids’ dripping water when they didn’t push their valve closed. It was usually the same kid so we put his hose facing up to help prevent that problem since he kept forgetting Miracol – this is what I ordered for the fifth kid to give each kid their own color 2L bladder Front storage pocket – bigger than the ones I bought for the other kids Front bungee strap Insulated / covered hose Aluminum foil insulation layer – not on both sides of the bladder, only on the back side Easily adjusts for fit Two front buckles Wide fill space to easily add ice Rockrain – this is what I purchased for me Tons of extra pockets for storage 2.5 L bladder – the website says 2L, but I’m staring at it in my hands and it is 2.5L Wide fill space which makes it easy to add in ice to keep it really cold Insulated/covered hose Two side pockets for extra water bottles or in our case, the bug spray or sunscreen or at one point, the bear spray – until we saw a mama grizzly and her two cubs and I realized I should make that bear spray more accessible, then I hooked it onto the front buckle clip 2 front buckles for added comfort.  As I mentioned above, I only used the top one, I felt the lower one was higher than felt comfortable to me but it was very comfortable with only the top one buckled Nicely padded for comfort on my back Can also hold a helmet if you bike Aluminum foil insulation layer for added coolness Just an example of how much I was able to pack into my backpack, here’s a picture.  Now, in this case, it was below freezing so there was no water in the bladder in this picture.  We went on an awesome winter hike in Canada and stopped halfway through to have soup and hot cocoa in our hammocks for a picnic in the winter.  So. Much. Fun. So – having shared some of the notable features from these four brands – what do I think.  I like them all for different reasons. The Camelbak fits the boyfriend well – he’s a bigger guy and was able to be pretty comfortable with this.  He’s the one who discovered that if you blow back in before closing the end that you could keep more water out of the hose so your first drinks aren’t warm.   I love my Rockrain for all the reasons – it works great and kept he water cold with plenty of space to carry what this family of seven needs. For the kids – It’s tough for me to declare a winner, they were all happy with their backpacks.  The biggest difference to me was how well we could get them to fit.  The four that were the same, only different colors – the KBNI brand – fit my six-year-old as well as the 8, 9 and 10 year-olds equally as well.  They are very adjustable.  The Miracol doesn’t adjust quite as small.  My nine-year-old is one of the tallest kids and it fit him fine, although I wanted it to fit a little more snugly but it still worked great for him and fit him fine.  As far as how both kids brands worked – The bladder on the KBNI can sometimes be a bit finicky as you screw the cap back on which is fine because I’m filling them most of the time but if the kids are, sometimes they need a little more help.  The opening on the KBNI isn’t as large as the Miracol brand but we were still able to put ice in them, so we were happy with them.  On a side note – I had the kids try them out for the week before we left to get use to them.  One of the KBNI backpacks – the cover wouldn’t stay on the mouthpiece which was a big deal to me considering how much hiking we intended to do and not covering it felt gross.  I emailed the company who responded very fast and immediately sent out a replacement that made it in time for the trip so great customer service if you were to have an issue.   Overall, I’m very happy with all of our backpacks and would buy them all again.  I don’t know that the brand made a huge difference in how cold our water stayed or anything else.  These backpacks will get a lot of use in the future as well, so if anything changes – I’ll be sure to update the post. […]

Chemistry Homeschool Unit

[…]was completely on board with this topic.  A lot of the time, I pull out some materials to let the kids get interested in.  Then sit down with them and talk about it or play.  I use The Good and the Beautiful as more of an order to go through things so I don’t get distracted and forget things I wanted to discuss.  Sometimes I use the lessons and experiments, sometimes I don’t.  Read on to see what we used for our chemistry homeschool unit.  {For those wondering, my kids are 12, 10 and 8}  Don’t want to do the reading – skip to the bottom for a video about all of this.   Let’s start with books! Solids, Liquids, Gases and Plasma.   This was such a fun book on exploring the different states of water. Splat!:  Wile E. Coyote Experiments with States of Matter.  This book was so fun, the kids absolutely loved it! Matter.  This book has some fun activities to do and you can easily break this book into multiple lessons. Experiments with Chemistry has different experiments to do. Fun with Chemistry in Action also has different experiments to do. DK Eyewitness Books:  Chemistry.  I like these to just set out and let the kids page through on their own to decide what they are interested in. Explore Atoms and Molecules:  25 Experiments.  This books is awesome and has fun activities and experiments as you read. The Way Science Works.  I pull this out periodically and we page through whatever fits our current topic but it also inspires them to learn about something else which helps in picking our next topics. Atoms.  This is a great way to introduce an atom and how small an atom is.  This book is a little more textbook style with hands on activities as you go.  I left this out for the kids to page through if they were interested. Super Science Concoctions.  This has hands on experiments and activities.  We used it for just whenever they picked it up and wanted to do something in it. The Elements Book.  This is a great way for kids to discover elements one at a time and learn little bits about them.  Sometimes we used this to just pick and read about a few elements. The Kids Book of the Elements.  This is similar to The Elements Book so you probably don’t need both. The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle.  I like this one because it talks about how the popsicle was invented accidentally which is a great way to discuss how things are discovered in the scientific world.  This was a fun storybook. I Am Marie Curie.  I love having a book or two that discuss different people in history who had an impact on what we are learning about. Stolen Science.  I was looking for a book about Alice Ball but not having luck so I picked this up to read the section about her. Lift the Flap Periodic Table.  Every flap tells you more about the exciting world of chemistry. See Inside Atoms and Molecules.  Learn why atoms are so vital to the entire world around us, including us!   Activities   A Little Everyday Chemistry is a fun introduction to chemistry in a coloring book/activity book style.  Sometimes we kickstarted our lessons learning something simple from this book like how soap works. Molecular Model Kit.  This is a great, hands-on way for your kids to build their own atoms.  It has a color coated chart or they can just create to understand how molecules are constructed. Snap Together Periodic Table Tiles.  I got this as a hands-on activity for the kids.  They had free rein over how they used it but it was a fantastic visual for why the elements are where they are on the periodic table.  They also used the picture of the periodic table to put it together on their own.  The tiles show the atomic weight and number.  Once we had it put together, we also used it to see who could find the elements I named first. Science Lab Kit.  There are a bazillion of these that you can buy.  I like this one because it had the safety goggles, beakers, test tubes, a book of experiments with all of the necessary things included.  This was a blast and there were a few we did over and over again.   Games We love games and play them almost daily so I try to find games for every single topic we learn about.  The games we picked for chemistry are a blast!   Science Ninjas Valence Plus. This game takes a few minutes to set up but is a lot of fun to play.  We enjoy playing this a ton and it’s one of my eight-year-olds most requested games.  You combine elements from the periodic table.  With some twists to add to the excitement, you decide how best to get to 16 points to win the game. Periodic A Game of the Elements.  This is my twelve-year-olds favorite of all of the science games.  This one takes more time to set up and to play than the others but is a lot of fun.  It’s a bit much for my youngest so he never quite finishes the game but we all have fun playing it.  In this game, you move around the periodic table to complete research and earn goal cards of varying difficulty.  As you go, try to complete the tasks on your agenda for bonus points. Ion A Compound Building Game.  This is a card game that is easy to travel with and play.  You play a card from your hand, then pass your hand and repeat with the hand you receive.  Repeat this process until there are only 2 cards left in every hand.   As you go, build compounds to score points.  Use the extras like play two, play from center or rxn to change up your turn and hopefully help your hand.  This is a quick game so great when you don’t have time for a longer game.   I’m adding a few more games that we didn’t get but considered.  I can’t give you an opinion on these games but if you have one, I’d love to hear it! Compounded Board Game Chemistry Fluxx Happy Atoms Covalence Subatomic   {You can learn more about each game in the next day or so in a separate post about them.}     I’d love to hear from you – we had a blast learning about chemistry!  What are your favorite activities to include?  What did we miss that should have been included?  Let me know in a comment below and as always, we love shares of our […]

Outdoor Gifts for Kids Who Love the Outdoors

[…]have these.  I started looking over Black Friday – but there are tons of them for great prices with great reviews. Trekking Poles. We do have one or two that we’ve bought on vacation and the kids fought over them. There were plenty of times when we were out in Glacier that I wished we all had some. I like the ones that adjust to a small size and fit on our water backpacks. Water Backpacks. Yeah, I bought these for our trip to Glacier and what a great decision that was! The backpacks have room for a few snacks and they can tuck a sweatshirt inside also. Plus – we add ice to ours and it makes a huge difference in how cold the water gets. Mine is bigger and holds our first aid kit, benadryl, water filter system just in case and whatever else I need.  You  can  read  more  about  the  differences  in  the  ones  I  bought  for  us  all  here. Snowshoes. I probably wouldn’t have thought of these but my eight-year-old asked for some today and I realized they really are fun. I have a few pairs but they are too big for him and we are planning to take them with us on our dogsledding adventure. {We are also going to Canada for a day to explore, so we will use them I’m sure}. Skis. My kids all enjoy skiing and my crew will ski all around the yard every day. We’ve found some for a good price at garage sales. Snow tubes or sleds or snowboards. Yeah, living in Minnesota, these are a must and we’ve gotten a bunch of fresh snow lately. The kids have lived outside!  It’s almost dark out and they just keep playing night after night. I was going to stop at mostly winter things but then I remembered a few of our favorites. Paddle Boards.  Our cabin is in a bay and we spend a ton of time there.  The kids love that they can paddle around by themselves. Kayaks.  We use these a ton at the cabin as well.  Maybe my sisters and I kayaked out one day and ended up at the bar…it could happen.     I realize I could go on and on with this list, but I’m skipping the things like good hiking shoes or winter boots, great outdoor wear, and lots more. However, I’m adding just a few things that came to mind when I think of gifts we would enjoy to use on our outings. What would you add to this list? You know…so I can start shopping for next […]

Homeschool Energy Science Unit

[…]like guided learning.  I read a lot to them and then set some games or activities out to go along with the topic.  For energy, it looked like this. I loosely follow The Good and the Beautiful science curriculum on energy.  I set out the snap circuits and a set like this electricity kit.  They both allow the kids the opportunity for free play on them or some directed activities so they can get an idea of what they are doing before trying their own thing. There are some great experiments in the curriculum but if you forgo that, we also used experiments from the Usborne Science Encyclopedia.  We also watched the Magic School Bus episode Getting Energized on Netflix.   Two of our favorite books that we read during our energy unit were Wired and Electrical Wizard:  How Nikola Tesla Lit Up The World.  We read Wired over and over and over.  It’s a fantastic book that takes you on the journey of electricity and how it gets to your house.  These are just our favorite books that we read, but we got a large stack from the library that covered topics like solar energy, wind energy, water energy and so much more.   We also got a solar powered building set . The kids were trying to really get the light in there and used a bulb that melted it so we never actually got our solar powered thing to go…so maybe we will redo that idea.   Between the books, video and hands-on activities, energy was one of our favorite science units to learn about. Generally, I find card or board games to go along with our units, but this time, I didn’t add one in.  If you haven’t done an energy unit, it’s a fun one.  If you have – I’d love to hear your family’s favorite ways that you have learned about it – books, games, activities, […]

History Pockets from Evan-Moor Review

[…]reading stories about people and places in history and it feels almost like we are right there with them. I love to read a few different books about a subject and wanted a way to tie it together and give the kids something to do while I read. We found the Evan-Moor History Pockets about The American Civil War and I couldn’t wait to check it out. What are the history pockets? It’s a series of different activities related to a theme. There are 7 pockets and they each contain different activities about that topic and everything is stored in that pocket. Check out this video to find out […]

Blankets Make Great Gifts

[…]I opened it and was instantly blown away by how soft it was. Fast forward like ten minutes and the kids were all sitting on the couch cuddled under the blanket because it is so soft. They all steal it every time. It gets better though, this thing is unbelievable warm! It is a sherpa fleece blanket and I’ve never used a blanket like it. Just go buy it, it’s amazing. Like – really amazing. And it will make an amazing gift. In fact, I ordered another one last week as a Secret Santa gift for a blanket […]