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Even for a 5th generation Californian who loves to be outside, this heat wave has been a bit intense. I have been keeping the kiddos mostly indoors, with recesses in the morning and later in the early evening; however, we wrapped up our preschool lessons early today finding ourselves all a bit stir crazy. Braving a bit of the heat, we went outside with the sole purpose of getting as wet as we could—and we did!

It’s Friday!

Although we’ve been schooling throughout the summer, this week was our formal “Back to Home School” week for the McGaugh Academy. I planned out our lessons before the week began, and I am approaching our classroom at home with the same work ethic and rigor with which I went to work at TVHS. Knowing we are, at this point, accountable only to ourselves, I feel the extra responsibility of making sure that I adhere as much as possible to a schedule and plan out curriculum in advance.

Why start in August? Well, Bill is already back to work, so it makes sense that we all are. Also, I wanted to use these last two weeks of August primarily to establish a routine and get the wheels greased so that by September, we are rolling along more smoothly. I have a huge multi-disciplinary apple unit planned for September, and I am totally, terribly excited about it. I want to make the most of that unit by having our back-to-home-school kinks worked out beforehand.

Our schedule includes three three-hour days of preschool: Mondays, Wednesdays, and a floating day (usually Friday or Saturday). Why a floating day? Well, our family is our priority, and there will be opportunities to spend time with Nana and cousins at the end of almost every week. We also have Friday music classes starting up again. Yes, that is part of our preschooling, yet with driving time, we won’t really be able to fit in all of our preschooling hours on Friday mornings. I still have to work that out, but I know I can make up hours on the weekend, too.

Above our preschooling curriculum and our music class, I hope to have one field trip/enrichment day a week. An enrichment day does not need to be a field trip, nor does it need to be set curriculum. This week, our enrichment day happened to be a trip to the science museum. Other days it might include making a puppet show, or throwing a birthday party for the stuffed doggies, or playing an extended role play game: librarian, banker, grocer, etc.

So it was “Back to Home School” for us this week!

On Monday morning, Katie colored her “Back to HOME School” bus and glued on the wheels.

One of her Montessori trays was a water transfer activity. We used the glass milk bottles from Eric’s party, and she used the baster to suck up the water from one bottle and squeeze it into the other.

Dexterity and movements/concepts typical in a science lab.

Another tray: using a cutting board and plastic knife to slice up a banana for herself and for Brother. I gave her the instruction to cut the banana in half, and she did (fractions). Then she cut hers into slices and put them in a bowl, and she cut Brother’s half into chunks and put those pieces into his bowl. What a good helper.

Katie’s favorite tray this week: hot chocolate preparation. I surprised her with this, and she has mentioned it all week since. She had to open the packet and pour in the milk from the pitcher.

We love our Montessori practical life trays! I really wish I would have started these with her last year (between ages 2.5 and 3).

I try to get Eric involved in our lessons as much as possible. He made his first finger-painting this week!

One of science tasks this week was to make a bug box. We used the big box our wedding album arrived in and some styrofoam and t-pins I happened to have. Boppa caught a big beetle in his backyard, so we have our first official specimen.

We hope to add more! An ongoing project…

Our study of bugs has been fun, and even as we get ready to transition into apple science this next month and other aspects of botany, I know we will keep observing, collecting, and writing about our bugs. This morning, I showed Katie part of the French documentary Microcosmos, which shows the life of insects up close. It is a beautiful film, one of my favorites. I think it is important to use our mixed media as much as possible in our home school units. Katie really loved it, too.

We avail ourselves frequently of our Melissa & Doug products, like this spelling tray. We love this puzzle. Melissa & Doug “toys” are, for me, the go-to brand for Montessori-inspired teaching toys. We have several of their products, and I use them to help transition from one activity to the next, or to buy me some time to do things like make breakfast or give Eric personal time, or even to teach Eric. Our cousin gave Eric a beautiful wooden shape sorter puzzle for his birthday, and he has been working on sorting shapes this week and the precision of actually putting them into the right places with his little fingers.

Katie mentioned wanting to make another fairy house (like we made with my mom in April) for her dollies. I found a box in the garage, we cut a flap-window in the back, and then I gave Katie some fabric scraps. She cut them and started gluing the textiles onto the box in different patterns. We haven’t finished this project yet… We used some rosemary and Play-Doh to make a little stand-up tree inside of it, and we’re waiting for the right moment to go collect more items outdoors. Plus, yesterday got very pleasantly busy. We might make more headway on this tomorrow.

We loved our field trip to Pennypickle’s Workshop. Here is Katie in the time machine.

We also did our ice excavation science project this week.

And we used our new field notebook to make notes about our spider’s web experiment and how many webs we found in the yard.

Other than this, we worked out of our spelling and sight words and phonics workbooks, made more progress in the 5th Harry Potter, read to Eric, played, had music and dance sessions, cooked together, took walks, and worked math sums. It has been a busy first week back, I must say!

Next week, we’ll finish some projects I’ve had in my head this summer, and on Friday we’ll kick off our Apple-a-Day unit. Can’t wait! Teaching is fun!

Ice on a hot summer day? Sounds great to me!

I have seen this activity on at least three different blogs this month, so I make no claims to being original with this fun lesson plan (though this write up and the objectives are my own). Still, this activity  is so easy and perfect for these last summer days that I thought I would post it and pass along the idea.



1) Students will be able to identify methods for melting ice and apply those methods in a hands-on activity.

2) Students will have a working knowledge of the terms “excavation” and “archaeologist” and “fossil record” (This seems ambitious, but Katie and I have played “archaeologist” many times since she was a little older than Eric—I would bury her toys in the sand, and she would unearth them, a favorite game we invented one day—and she knows about the importance of fossils)


Small toys

Tupperware container (with or without lid—it doesn’t matter)


Salt in a bowl

Spray bottle filled with warm water

Toddler fork/scraper

The night before doing this activity, we froze small toys in a container of water. By the next morning, it was ready to go.

Katie and Eric with their tray of tools.

We talked about how the salt lowers the freezing point of the ice and how the warm water changes the temperature on the surface of the ice as well. Of course we also pointed out how doing this outside allowed the sun to help us, too!

The kiddos get to work. Katie uses the spray bottle and Eric uses his fork. (Hi Bill, yes this was highly supervised—no poking of his eyeballs!)

Eric tries the spray bottle and Katie applies some salt.

This was half-way through the excavation. Eric laughs as Katie drops the big ice block to shatter some of the ice.

I loved this activity. Both kiddos enjoyed themselves, and it was delightful to be outside. The science  (chemistry and archaeology) was straightforward, age appropriate, and fun. Katie especially loved trying out all of the tools, and we observed and felt how the ice changed on the parts where we added the salt. As a bonus, the kiddos loved playing with the ice shards after all the toys were excavated. We used the ice to write and draw on the concrete. This is an activity with mileage and natural kid-appeal: we were at it for almost forty-five minutes, and none of us tired of it. Ice excavation is definitely going to be a repeat project next summer.