homeschool preschool - the ocean, week one - age 4

After taking the summer off, Ethan and I were both so eager to get back into tot school. This was the fall where most of Ethan's peers -- the ones born before the cut-off, anyway -- began VPK. Because we decided to redshirt him a year due to his summer birthday, he did not start VPK and instead began another year of homeschool preschool at home with me. I'm grateful for this time together and also a little weepy about it being our last official "school year" together but, what can I say, I'm a sap.

Ethan had mentioned (like, four hundred times) before tot school started that he wanted to learn about fish. He had so many big questions about fish, the ocean and other aquatic critters so it seemed like a good place to start. My plan for this year of tot school is to keep each theme lasting two weeks. This will give us ample time to explore everything in detail instead of rushing through. However, I'll be changing up the trays each week, while keeping with the theme, so there are always fresh, new activities. We wrapped up the first week of our ocean theme and so far everything has been going swimmingly (pun totally intended).


For this one, I printed out some cards with different amounts of fish on each one. Ethan's job was to count the fish, determine which number matched up with the number of fish present and then use the clothespin by placing it on top of the correct number. Usually Ethan tends to be less enthused by number and counting activities but he really enjoyed this one and working with the clothespins was an added fine motor bonus.


For this one, Ethan got to make a hypothesis as to which items would sink or float in the freshwater and saltwater. This one was a fun one and taught us that saltwater is more dense than freshwater. Ethan loved how the egg sunk in the freshwater and floated up in the saltwater.


Using magnet tape to back everything, I set up this little tray on a round cake pan. We learned about the different parts of a fish and the purposes of each. Ethan also worked to sound out each word and place them on the corresponding parts of the fish.


Among Ethan's many questions about fish was about their sleep habits. I printed out some sentences about fish (and their sleeping habits!) and Ethan and I worked on identifying the parts of a sentence. For added letter writing practice, some of the words on our sheet were dotted lines so he could do some tracing.


Ethan is really into using his scissors these days, so he had a blast with this jellyfish cutting practice tray. His job was to cut along the dotted lines to get to the jellyfish.


For this one, we practiced writing the numbers 10-30. Up until this point, we had solely practiced writing the numbers 1-10. I filled up a gallon sized bag with some blue hair gel from the dollar store -- this was our ocean -- and Ethan got to have some fun sensory writing practice by using his finger to write the numbers on the ocean bag.


We used this tutorial from PBS to create our jellyfish in a bottle. I set everything up ahead of time so Ethan could independently work on assembling his jellyfish in a bottle activity, which he loved!


Tot School Montessori MondayI Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flash CardsFor the Kids FridayThe Weekly Kids Co-Op

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tot school close-up: the postcard corner

For the most part, our tot school classroom is unchanged. Why ruin a good thing, right? There were a couple of additions that I wanted to add as everyday classroom staples now that Ethan is older. One of those things was an official postcard station.

We have a beautiful set of classroom maps on the walls and now Ethan is really interested in learning his way around the world. I signed us up for Postcrossing and we have been marking where we send a postcard to as well as where we receive postcards from. This has given us a wonderful opportunity to learn about different places around the world!

I constructed a quick mailbox out of some paper. Ethan and I write out, address and stamp his outgoing postcards and place them in the paper mailbox. When we leave our house, we bring them with us to place in our regular mailbox outside. When Ethan gets postcards, he's always happily surprised to find them waiting inside his classroom mailbox for him.

I love exposing Ethan to actual handwritten letters and familiarizing him with, you know, mail that isn't received on a computer, so our postcard station has been such a welcomed part of our classroom. I can't wait to see our maps at the end of the year and marvel over all of the places our postcards have gone to and been received from!

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gurus natural rubber sandals review and giveaway + exclusive discount code

I kicked off August with a brand new pair of Gurus. As the weeks have passed, I have put these sandals through the ultimate Florida girl test and, oh, these shoes. I just love them. As a Floridian, I wear flipflops daily. I've never experienced real brand loyalty before, often just buying what is on sale and happens to fit my criteria (see: basic comfort, because I'll wear the heck out them). Gurus have become my new go-to brand and my new staple sandal. I can honestly tell you that these are the most comfortable sandals I've worn and, believe me, my feet have seen a lot of sandals.

Snagged from my Instagram

Something you don't really find a lot in your run of the mill flipflops is support. My feet have been through the ringer (before kids, I wore a size 6 shoe -- now, I'm an 8) and sometimes it's nice to have that additional support. The thick, soft sole quickly adapts and molds to your feet, making it feel as if your Gurus were custom made for your feet. The ankle straps also have a twist-to-adjust design so that you are able to tighten the straps to fit your feet perfectly. Also unique to Gurus is the toe post, which is based on the 5,000 year old Indian sandal worn by Mahatma Gandhi. When people have stopped to inquire about my shoes, the toe post is what catches their eye the most. Most people ask if it's comfortable. The toe post is actually really comfortable and stops you from having to scrunch your toes together to hold on to your shoe.

Aside from being the most comfortable shoes on the planet, Gurus also have a commitment to sustainability. Every pair of Gurus contains natural rubber sustainably sourced from family farms in India. No synthetic materials needed. Gurus have also partnered with Trees for the Future, a non-profit organization that plants trees in rural communities in the developing world. For every Gurus product you buy, they'll plant a tree.

My Gurus go everywhere with me and there are no conditions they can't handle. In fact, I was able to comfortably wear them on my nightly walk around my neighborhood when I didn't have my sneakers accessible and my feet felt awesome after the fact. Gurus are comfortable, practical and supportive. The natural rubber and thickness of the sole help keep your Gurus in great shape unlike flimsier sandals, and your feet stay comfortably in your Gurus as you walk.

Gurus are available in men's, women's and children's sizes and in a variety of colors and designs. At $27-35 per pair (adults) and $25 (children), Gurus are nearly half the price of the other top sandals brands on the market (and a much better product, if I don't say so myself).

You can shop for your new favorite pair of shoes at ilovegurus.com and can follow along with Gurus on Instagram at @ilovegurus. Take 10% off your order with code ifthefaultfits.

The wonderful folks at Gurus have also offered my readers the chance to win a pair of their very own. Good luck -- you are going to love these shoes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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cooking with kids: peanut butter banana donuts

A few months ago, Ethan and I bought a mini donut pan on a whim. It was a pretty fabulous decision and we've had a great time experimenting with donut recipes. Ethan's favorite part about the mini donut pan is piping the batter into the wells -- and the fact they only take, like, 7-8 minutes to bake. Instant gratification, or close to it.

Ethan had been asking to make banana bread but instead, we decided to make banana donuts. We used 2 1/2 ripe bananas for this recipe so -- that basically means it's healthy, right? I'm just saying.

Anyway, to make these, you'll need:

- 2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (we had 2 1/2 for some reason, so, 2 1/2 it was)
1c flour (we used a gluten free blend)
1 egg
1/2c nonfat or lowfat milk
1/4c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl.

Put your batter into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off and pipe into your donut pan.

Bake for 8 minutes at 425 degrees.

For the icing, we melted a cup of peanut butter and then spread it on the top.

Of course, Ethan insisted we added sprinkles. Who could argue that?

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cheese sandwiches

Ethan has been sick all week with some unrelenting virus and, admittedly, if there's one aspect of motherhood that I don't exactly excel at, it's sick days. The cabin fever sets in quickly and there are only so many prerecorded episodes of Blues Clues you can watch and before long, your entire floor is caked in glitter and playdough and you decide if you don't experience the outside world soon, you may just go insane. My husband caught the virus in it's entirety and I have been fiercely battling a weakened strand of it over the past two days which isn't surprising considering my shirt sleeves are apparently my son's favorite tissue. Tonight, after his third bubblebath of the day (you know, because sailing the soapy seas is something to do, at least), we sat on the couch and stared at the disaster that laid around us. "Maybe a Blues Clues, mommy?"

Ethan took a break from the TV to look at me. His eyes were red and glassy. "Mommy, remember that restaurant at the science museum?" We frequent a science museum which has a Subway located in the back. "Yes, buddy, I do." "Remember how I always get cheese sandwiches there when we go?" Well, once. Once he got a cheese sandwich there because Mother Of The Year over here forgot his lunchbox on the counter at home. "Yes. I do." "Well, I think what would make me feel better is if we drive to the science museum and then we go to that restaurant and we get cheese sandwiches." It was already almost 7 o'clock and the science museum is an hour away, but it was a prime opportunity to blow Ethan's mind when he realized there was a Subway just down the street. I wrangled him into a pair of mismatched pajamas and we went to our local Subway. "I want some bread with cheese, please," Ethan ordered.

(When I was pregnant with Ethan, Subway turkey subs were my biggest craving. I refused to eat them, though, because of listeria and cold cuts and being the neurotic lunatic that I was (okay, am). There was one day in particular well into the second trimester that my need for a Subway sub was so intense that it brought me to tears, and so I cried my entire way to Subway where I ordered a sub, asked them to heat it in the toaster until it was steaming and then just stared at it. I couldn't do it. I threw it out and spent the rest of the day crying. This story just feels like it belongs here. That was also the last time I was in a Subway, I believe.)

We came home and ate our sandwiches on the couch over -- what else? -- Blues Clues. It was one of those weirdly peaceful, touching moments that made me tear up a few times just because I love this kid so much and these moments are just so incredible. I mean, we were eating Subway subs on the couch surrounded by sensory bin remnants, empty Target bags and clumps of moon sand, but the stress of the day just sort of melted away in those few moments. Ethan kept one hand on my knee as he ate his cheese sandwich and I felt that familiar lump in my throat, the I don't know what I would do without this little boy in my life one, the these moments are too magical to be real feeling that mommies get rippling in my soul. For a moment, I forgot the germs. For a moment, I forgot the cabin fever. For a moment, everything seemed wonderful -- and those moments, they're the ones that convince me this world is going to keep spinning no matter what.

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juniper springs

I don't know about you, but it seems like in my life, all the crazy stuff just happens at once. Once a series of mishaps kicks off, every day following it something else ridiculous and annoying sort of joins in until you reach that point where you're not sure whether to laugh or cry. I mean, at some point it's just funny, right? (Or so I tried to tell myself on the day we were stuck with one functioning car, as the key broke off in the ignition.)

Anyway, things have been a little stressful and crazy around here so we really wanted to just get away if not only for a day or two. I've been eyeing Florida's natural springs online, captivated by the beauty and a little shaky about the whole alligators-and-bears thing. By some miracle, my husband was able to get off of work long enough for us to develop some kind of plan to take Ethan up to one of the natural springs that has a designated swimming area (which only 30% minimized my fear of alligator attacks but, hey, I'll take what I can get). My parents have a lake home about forty five minutes from this spring, Juniper Springs, so it all seemed to work out perfectly, give or take a few hiccups (see also: our diabetic cat had no choice but to join us on this trip and Ethan wound up coming down with a yucky cold).

No one got attacked by alligators (actually, we didn't even see any alligators) and, despite the spring water being a crisp 73 degrees, it was the perfect getaway.

Our little trip made me promise myself to force these little getaways on our family more often. Even if we only have a day or two to work with, make it happen. There's so much to see in this state of ours that isn't a theme park and it's worth taking advantage of. Less things and more experiences.

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chapters closing & new adventures

When Ethan was born, it felt a little like starting over. None of my friends had children yet and once my husband went back to work, it was Ethan and I, just the two of us. All on our own. I'm a socially awkward, antisocial-by-nature person but even so, those days spent at home got old real quick. As soon as Ethan turned two months old, I popped into our local My Gym and signed him up for a mommy and me class. It was our first mommy and me class. A chance to play (or, well, talk to other adults while the babies slept on blankets) and get out of the house and explore this new world together. Sure, we attended some other storytimes or music classes here and there over the years, but our weekly My Gym mommy and me class -- that was our thing. As Ethan got older, we were bumped up to different levels but, still, never missed a week (I mean, so long as no one was sick).

Our weekly My Gym mommy and me classes began on September 1st, 2011. And they ended yesterday, August 11th, 2015.

First My Gym class swing

Last My Gym class swing

Ethan has officially graduated from mommy and me classes and is now in his first ever independent class at My Gym. That means I now sit on the sidelines and watch Ethan interact with his classmates and teachers (I'm not very good at that). I feel silly for how sad I felt yesterday as I watched Ethan play through his last ever mommy and me class -- I mean, he's still going to go to My Gym every week. He's still enrolled in an independent class. I'm sentimental as it is (alright, that's an understatement), but it was still very much a chapter closing. Regardless of whether or not we ever have more children, yesterday was still the very last mommy and me class that I would attend with Ethan. He was my first baby, my first mommy and me classmate and, yesterday, that chapter closed. There will be no more mommy and me classes in Ethan's future.

Of course, having the ability to watch my beautiful son grow up and blossom into the sweet, wonderful boy that he is, it's an honor. It's an honor that I don't take lightly. Watching him thrive in his independent classes, well, those are new memories to be made. New happiness, new friends, new memories. One day, too, that chapter will close and I'll be back in the same place, wondering where the time went. For now, I'll soak it all up as I hope I did these past four years -- Ethan's entire life so far -- in our mommy and me classes. Longer than he was bottle fed, longer than he slept in a crib, longer than he was in diapers -- we did My Gym mommy and me classes together. (Hey, these things are hard for a sentimental, emotional sap!)

Yesterday the mommy and me chapter in our lives closed, four years from where it all began. Four years. Ethan's entire life so far! I waver between super irrational sadness, nostalgia and then happiness when I think back to all of our time together. I know, this is only the beginning. Only the beginning of classes and lessons and chapters closing and chances to say "where did the time go?"

Here's to independent classes and new adventures.

And being the longest running My Gym members in the history of My Gym, because that's a record we're working on.

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