Hands on Reading

     Yes, you read that correctly. This post is about hands on reading. It is possible! I love to read and a great way to help inspire your children to enjoy reading is by making it totally awesome. 

     The Wizard of Oz

"Because if you do not wear glasses the brightness and glory of the Emerald City would blind you." He opened a box filled with green tinted glasses of all sizes and shapes. He fitted them all with a pair; even Toto. -Wizard of Oz

"Because if you do not wear glasses the brightness and glory of the Emerald City would blind you." He opened a box filled with green tinted glasses of all sizes and shapes. He fitted them all with a pair; even Toto. -Wizard of Oz


   As we were reading Wizard of Oz I was doing my usual 'print out a picture of the characters for J to color as we read' routine when I came across this. It was a light bulb moment for me. I can make reading hands on? Wow.....

         I came across this and thought it would be great. Visual plus hands on!  What a fantastic way to retell stories! Now we use the 'Yellow Brick Road Method' after all our stories. 

There are tons of different ways to do this if 'Yellow Brick Road' is not for you or if, like us, you thrive on variety.  Here are some other ideas:

Hands on reading ideas galore!

Instead write questions like: Who was your favorite character and why? Are you like him/her? How? What is the setting? Would you like to be in this story for real? Describe the villain. What do you think will happen next? How does _________ make you feel? 

Instead write questions like: Who was your favorite character and why? Are you like him/her? How? What is the setting? Would you like to be in this story for real? Describe the villain. What do you think will happen next? How does _________ make you feel? 

You may also like this.

You may also like this.

I saw this recent post that focused on emotions. Click to view. 

I saw this recent post that focused on emotions. Click to view. 

What I would do with a retelling rope is have a pre-knotted rope like you see above. Have children draw pictures to represent the knots. For example, draw or color a printed picture of a forest and then tape it to that area of the knot. You could use ribbon and Velcro if that's what you have on hand. 

What I would do with a retelling rope is have a pre-knotted rope like you see above. Have children draw pictures to represent the knots. For example, draw or color a printed picture of a forest and then tape it to that area of the knot. You could use ribbon and Velcro if that's what you have on hand. 

James and the Giant Peach

     For this book I chose to focus on each character. As you can see we wrote about each one as they were introduced in the book. Then I printed out pictures via google search. Then I drew some and J drew some and she colored them in. It was easy. 

     I have a friend who lets her kids pick out one 'topic' to listen for and highlight as they have family scripture study. One son chose food. Every time food is mentioned as they read he highlights it in green. Another chose animals. Any time an animal is talked about, it's highlighted in orange. Older children may choose harder concepts like service or miracles. 

You may be surprised to find how often books talk about food. This is a great way to incorporate hands on learning in reading! Plus after you have made it, let the kids eat while you read. I find that's one of the best times to read to kids. 

You may be surprised to find how often books talk about food. This is a great way to incorporate hands on learning in reading! Plus after you have made it, let the kids eat while you read. I find that's one of the best times to read to kids. 

Host a Reading Fair

I am actually throwing one of these shin digs for my home school group at the end of the summer to encourage summer reading.

Check your local library to reserve free rooms for your event.

 Let me know if you do it!

Follow this link to help you get started. 

Follow this link to help you get started. 


As always, I leave you with a quote:


Stay tuned for next week when I will be sharing our latest and greatest reading adventure!

Happy Reading!

Semester of Science: The Human Body Part 3

     You made it to round three!  I'm so happy!  This one will be awesome.  You'll see.  Today's post is going to complete our Human Body series.  I will continue by giving you even more hands on science experiments to do with your kids.  So,  put on your goggles and lab coat and let's get started. 

brain 2.jpg

     This picture got a lot of likes on my facebook page and it was really the easiest experiment to do.  You need two things: red or pink play dough and a bowl.  First you get a small bowl.  The larger the bowl the more brains you will have to make.  Maybe you want to be ambitious and use a bowl that will fit your child's head, go you!  Next, Cover the bowl with the play dough since some of it will show through. Then, roll the remainder play dough into snakes. It doesn't matter how long your snakes are. You will need a variety of sizes but they all should be about the same thickness. Start by bending the snakes into S shapes. Take a look at the pictures to get a general idea. There is no wrong way here. The hardest part is getting the snakes to stick well enough on the bowl. If you wanted to, you could try gluing them. It took days for mine to harden and then pieces would fall apart. I wasn't really expecting it to last too long so it was not a big deal to me.  If you want to keep yours, maybe try modge podge glue over the whole thing when you finish. If you have a suggestion that worked for you and want to share with others, leave it in the comment section below.

     Here is the link I used for the idea though I simplified it. The brain was originally listed as a Halloween decoration! Double uses here people! 

     Here is a link for DIY play dough but since cream of tartar costs just as much as buying ready made play dough, it may not save you money if you are only making one. I think one can of play dough per brain should be enough if the brain is not too big.  Also, there are tons of different recipe ideas if you want to make things like Chocolate or cotton candy play dough.

Here is another activity we did for the brain.


     I drew an outline of the brain myself and then sectioned it off.  It may be easier to print it out. Use card stock if you want to use play dough.  Otherwise you can just color it in. Here are some  additional ideas that go along with learning about the brain. 


Lets see, what else did I promise from last week... Oh yeah, lungs! 

Here is the link I followed from Pinterest.

     This lung experiment took more planning than I wanted but still it was easy enough. I took a video of it to show people on my phone when they ask about home schooling. Yeah, I'm bragging to them but now you can do the same thing!  Aside from the .75 fake sprite I bought, (my kids were in Heaven or maybe just a sugar high) it was made with things I had around the house. Yes, I do keep balloons around my house. I actually have a kid that I babysit who looks forward to getting balloons at Sis. P's house.  I'm like the cool aunt!  Make sure you use non bendable straws. I didn't cut two holes in the lid of the bottle as the directions from the site said- too hard.  Instead I put tape around the straws nice and snug.  I used rubber bands to secure the balloons to the end of the straw. The directions also said to use a big balloon for the bottom of the bottle. You know, the kind with the rubber band attached that you bang back and fourth trying to annoy your brother with?  I didn't have one on hand, though you can get them 3 for a dollar at the 99 cent store, so I used a plastic grocery store bag.  Anyone else have a bag filled with other bags living under their kitchen sink?  I put a rubber band around the bag to hold it tight as well. Then just blow into the straws and you have lungs!  Perfect unexpected side effect: one balloon often would get bigger than the other. Did you know the left lung is smaller to make room for your heart? We always made sure the smaller one was on the left by turning the bottle upside down if we had to. Coincidentally I drew the left lung smaller on my human body chart by accident. Bonus! 


     The digestive system surely has more experiments to choose from.  I wasn't too thrilled with the outcome of this one, though I do think it teaches the topic very well and lots of websites have this experiment listed when teaching this concept. Here is a link that shows something like what I did.

     I got a gallon sized Ziploc bag and filled it half way with water.  I think vinegar and a little green food coloring might have been better to show that our tummy is full of stinky (but totally helpful) acid and in my imagination that acid is green (resist the erg to google it).  I used an empty paper towel roll as the esophagus and as you can see in the picture above J put it slightly in the bag without getting it wet. Then we fed it bread. Something more colorful like cheese may have been more visually stimulating.

     After that J used her hands to act as the muscles in our stomachs to break the food down ready to enter the intestines.  We learned about the intestines on a different day though it could go along with learning about the stomach since it all makes up the digestive system. This day, however, was focused on the stomach and what goes on there.

     Since I'm not super enthusiastic about this one I'm giving you a bonus link that looks very nifty to try.  Give THIS life size looking digestive maze of awesomeness a go.

You can always make a Tee Shirt.  It seems a bit strange, but it's sure to be a great conversation piece at any home school function.   It would also be great reinforcement if you challenged the kids to tell about the digestive path anytime someone asked about the shirt.  I can't even look at this shirt without laughing.  I'd love to see a picture of one of my readers wearing their original digestive system shirt!  You would totally rock in my book.


     I'm going to end my Human Body Series with the nervous system. This was SO simple and really neat, even for me.  By now I hope you have partaken of the awesome sensation of going back and fourth between a hot tub and a swimming pool. It really stuns the nerves system. That is this experiment on a giant level. We want to make it portable and able to fit on your table top.  You start with 3 bowls. In bowl 1: Ice water. Bowl 2: room temperature water. Bowl 3: hot water of the non flesh burning variety.  Have the student place one hand in the ice water and the other in the hot water.  Keep submerged for 1 minute (3 if they have been bad that day ;-).  Then place both hands in the lukewarm water. The hand that was in the ice is now very warm while the hand that was in the hot is now chilled. Easy!  By the way, if you are following along on your Human Body Chart from Part 1, we colored in skin for this experiment.

brain 10.jpg

Ok, so I couldn't find the link where I got this idea but It's simple enough to follow the steps above I hope.  And I'm also giving you THIS link for an optional idea to choose from.

brain 11.jpg

     The human body is amazing!  I didn't cover every topic we learned in our semester at home, or that is listed on the human body chart I made, but I have faith that you can come up with some one your own. Also, there is no rule that says each topic must have an exciting hands on experiment.  If you comment with your email address I have an overwhelming list of resources I can send to you on the human body. I really think that this semester could be done inexpensively. To conclude this topic for now, I'll leave you with some books I kept on hand.  If you have suggestions- post them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Semester Of Science (Human Body) Part 1

     Howdy everyone! Welcome to my first blog post about hands on learning. Jump over and read my bio for more information about me and why I'm writing about this special learning tool.

     I thought I'd start you out with a bang for my first few blog post by giving you a semester of science. When my daughter, Jillian (now 6), started showing an interest in science at an early age, I was kind of worried I would not be able to meet her needs. I may have even been dreading it a little bit. I'm sure you can relate, even if it's not science that gave you a scare, maybe it was math (for me it's only math now). I believe my past science teachers would all be surprised to learn this about adult Bethany: I am totally in love with science! I'm not sure what is different now then when I was in school but I am so interested in the topics I am teaching. Doesn't it make school so much more fun to teach if your learning, too? Anyway....

     The topic of the Human Body has been fascinating children since the beginning of time. Ok, I don't have proof that's true but I wouldn't be surprised to one day learn that Adam and Eve taught their kids about guts and body functions. Surely kids way back when asked their parents where poop comes from. Don't be squeamish, people. We all wanted to know at some point. For some reason kids really want to know what is going on under their skin. The great thing is, I have some very cool experiments and ideas you can do at home to teach your kids all about the human body. Let's start simple.

     If you look in the back of the book: The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body, you will find the inspiration for my human body chart. 


     Let me tell you how I made the coolest chart you've ever seen (hey, I know you were thinking it).  This background is a roll of mailing paper (found at Dollar Tree and Walmart near the mailing envelopes section). I rolled the paper out and had J lay on it then cut it to size across the top. I trace my kids on the trampoline with side walk chalk a few times a month so it was simple enough to trace around her using a pencil. I did have to erase or else her right leg would have been about as thick a ruler but that's why I used pencil first, right? After corrections were completed, I used a black sharpie to trace the pencil markings. Being a bit of a perfectionist I turned the paper over and followed again with the sharpie (it showed through from the back) so you couldn't see the eraser marks. I did this with all the organs and such which I'll admit did take all the artistic abilities I claim to have and also doubled the project time. It may not be worth the effort for you, do whatever you feel comfortable with. As I was working on my chart I turned on Netflix and let the kids watch The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body. Yes, they did get to watch it twice since I chose the hard perfectionist way. Option B: If you are already saying to yourself: No way could I draw this! Never fear you can simply do a google search to print out organs and glue them on.



    What makes this hands on learning? As we learned about each topic we colored them in. That's it. Simple. You see, J loves to color and I've realized if I give her something to color as we are learning she does a much better job at paying attention. It's true, give it a try! It works great with History.


     You will notice in the next picture I added the  bladder since J specifically asked about it. Customize it all you want. You may also notice that I got a better camera since starting my human body chart (yahoo!!). Perhaps you spot the brain on the shelf as well. We will get into that project too in the coming week(s) as we get more into experiments and such. So, here it is, the finished project . . . 


Let me know if you take this on! I'd love to see your super cool human body charts as well. Stay tuned for next week's 'Semester of Science (Human Body) Part 2'.

 "God did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously," - Richard G. Scott. 


Learn more about Bethany

Gettin' Your Game On...

This year winter in our area has been extreme cold coupled with a bad inversion, which means we’ve been spending a lot more time than usual indoors. With a Kindergartener, a Preschooler, a toddler, and a bun in the oven, dealing with the pent-up energy has been quite the challenge for me. We’ve had to change things up a bit around our house to be accommodating.

Probably the most successful way I’ve found to keep everyone happy, is to turn our learning into games. I try to do this more or less all year long, but during these cold weeks it seems to be the saving grace keeping us from going insane, while still allowing us to accomplish some resemblance of “school”. I’ll share three of our favorites, because I think they are fun and can be adapted to a variety of subjects.

Nerf Gun Matching

This is a pretty simple game. I made a homemade dice with simple three and four letter words on it, and printed out pictures of each of those words and taped them onto small paper plates. Then I hung the paper plates up on the wall. My Kindergartener has to roll the dice, read the word, then using a Nerf Gun shoot the picture that best matches the word he rolled on the dice. You could also use this game for matching capitol and lower case letters, shapes, colors, math problems, counting, etc.  And you don’t have to use a Nerf gun either, a ball or a paper air plane would work just as well.

Swat the Bug


For this game, you’ll need a poster board, a fly swatter (or two depending on how many players you want playing at the same time), and about 20 bug shapes cut out of a variety of colored paper. Glue the bugs onto the poster board. We happened to be talking about simple words that start with D the day we played this game, so on each of my bugs I wrote a D word, but again the possibilities are pretty endless. Then I made cards, one card for every bug. In our version of the game, we had two players. I drew a card and read the word ‘dog’, then the two players had to find the bug with the word ‘dog’ on it and swat it. First one to swat was the winner.


Gone FishingI saved my favorite game for last. I like this game because all three of my kids can play together without my having to change the game to adapt it for one level or the other…it already comes that way. You’ll need several sheets of craft foam in different colors. Trace a simple fish pattern onto foam and cut out. How many fish you make is entirely up to you and how long you want to fish for.  I made about 30. My Kindergarten has been working on the “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking” rule. So, on one side of each fish I wrote words like road, laid, beat, etc. that I wanted him to practice. My preschooler is just starting to sound out simple words, so on the other side of each fish I wrote words like cat, dog, mom, etc. And my toddler is working on her colors, hence the different colored fish. I stuck a metal paper clip onto the nose of each fish. Then I had my Kindergartener make me a fishing pole out of Trios (but anything long and strait would work just fine) and we tied a piece of yarn to it, and a circular magnet onto the other end of the yarn for a fishing pole. Next we filled up the bathtub and dropped the fish in. The kids took turns catching the fish, and either reading the appropriate word for their age level, or telling me the color of the fish, depending on who was fishing.

The Not-Back-to-School Bag

Confession:  I’m addicted to school supplies.  I get feverish over all of the back-to-school sales and can’t wait to “get high” on the smell of a new box of crayons.  Crayolas® do smell good anytime, but add a wisp of a crisp fall breeze and a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils and I am in heaven.

My obsessive craving of “Essence de Crayola” goes all the way back to Kindergarten.  I remember my giddiness the couple of weeks before each new school year began. I’d fuss over my new clothes:  try on, model, fold and stack, repeat.  I’d daydream about the first day of school. And I’d open and close my pencil box to get that smell of brand new school supplies over and over.

“Back to school” time was always very exciting for me.  I still feel something during that time of year, even though I’m no longer a child or in school, and even though I homeschool my own children.  I don’t know what it is and I can’t explain it.  But it prompts me to do my part to help school supply companies stay in business, and it invokes in me a fervent desire to do something special in our homeschool at that time as well.

So far in our homeschooling journey we’ve schooled year round in some form or another.  It allows us more freedom throughout the whole year and it keeps the kids from hanging out in front of a screen all day when it’s too hot to do much else.  But every “year” in our homeschool has a different theme.  Sometimes we begin our new school year in August, sometimes September or October.  (It depends on how long it takes us to accomplish our goals of the previous year, the scheduling of vacations, how the harvest is going, and it accounts for a few weeks’ break in between themes to unwind and then prepare.) 

The first day of our new theme, I present each of the children with a goodie bag full of things that reflect that theme and our upcoming learning adventures and goals.  There are always little treats in there, like Smarties®, with a note about how smart we’re going to get.  There’s usually a book. Some of the aforementioned school supplies are stuffed inside, often with a thematic twist.  It might include an imaginative toy, role play item, or activity kit associated with an upcoming unit.  One year we were going to be doing a lot of international studies and so I made each child his own very real-looking passport (that we put stickers in as we studied, representing the countries we “visited”).  One year our theme was “Treasure,” comprising units such as Pirates, Knowledge, and Ancient Egypt.  I sent the kids on an elaborate treasure hunt with the not-back-to-school bags being the treasure at the end.

The bags serve multiple purposes.  They mark the beginning of something new; they give a heads up as to what there is to look forward to; and one by one as we take the items out of the bags, we discuss the goals and expectations associated with the tangible reminders. Of course, they’re also just plain fun.

When most everyone else your kids know is getting new lunchboxes and backpacks preparing to leave home for the day, the not-back-to-school bag is an exciting way to prepare your kids to stay home for the day.