The best thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

The worst thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

In light of recent public school tragedies, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on peer pressure I know gets stronger every day, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on the lack of play because of the pressure to perform on standardized tests, I'm terrified of public schools.

Most importantly, based on the lack of Jesus in public schools, I'm terrified of public schools.

But that lack of Jesus is one of the main reasons I'm sending my kid to public school kindergarten anyways.

We chose to keep Cooper at home for the first 5 years and 11 months of his life.  And that was intentional.  Research tells us that 80% of the brain is fully developed BEFORE entering kindergarten.  80%, ya'll.  As a teacher, I realized that meant that parents were truly the first teachers.

And as a parent, I realized that meant I had to decide how I was going to fill that 80%.  Was it academics? Play? Or something else?

In the end, the decision to keep our son home instead of sending him to formal preschool was a decision made out of conviction.

Because the fact is that I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what public school wouldn't fill the other 20% with (despite many Christian teachers who desperately wish they could do more).

I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what I felt mattered most:  Jesus.

So, from his earliest years, to the last 2 years I've been out of the classroom at home with him all day everyday, that's just what we've been doing.

We've helped Cooper form the habit of having his own personal Bible and prayer time in the mornings and family devotions at night.  And we've had the best conversations about God, eternity and the big--important--questions about life.  Questions that he'll be challenged with and asked in public schools.

We've listened to Bible songs, Christian radio, and worship songs in the car together.  We've sung hymns together at nap time.  Because we believe that "meaty" Christian songs--both old and new--are mobile theology for our child.  So, when he is playing legos in his room, and I hear him burst out in a worship song, my heart just melts.  Because, that's Biblical Truth that he can carry with him in his heart to public schools.

We've disciplined him using the Bible as our guidebook.  We've shared scriptures with him to help build a strong foundation with him as to why we discipline the way we do.  We've intentionally given him the why from God's Word because we believe it will not return void.  We believe that it's a light to his paths.  He's even asks to post some of the verses on his bathroom mirror like we do to read every day.

We've looked for hands on ways to serve others in our community.  We've trained him to use his eyes to look for needy people and then use his heart and his hands to love and serve those people.  And we've counseled him to do those things anonymously, without bragging, and with a humble spirit--so that only God gets the glory.

And while we would've done this regardless of our choice about preschool, having him home all the time has given us more time to instill Truth in him and strengthen his foundation.  It's allowed us to be 100% responsible for the 80% of brain development that is "on us" anyway.  Because my husband and I are the ones that will be held accountable for our son at the end of this life.  Not a preschool teacher.  Not a babysitter.  Not a grandparent.  But us--mom and dad.

So, why?  Why is it so important to us to build a strong foundation built on the Truth of Jesus before he starts kindergarten?

Because I'm terrified of public schools.

Yes, I realize my child could "get more Jesus" (or not...) if we sent him to private school or homeschooled.  But that's not our heart.   Because when Jesus was faced with where to go, he didn't choose people just like him to hang out with.  He didn't choose to just stay home.  He chose to go out and seek out the ones who needed him the most.

So, we've sent our baby boy into public schools terrified and excited all in one.

Terrified that he will be met with resistance for his beliefs and pressure to conform to others' morals.

But excited because we've spent the last 5 years and 11 months preparing him for this day and covering him in prayer.  We believe that his strong foundation in Jesus will continue to transform him to be the hands and feet of Jesus in public school.  To reach out and be a friend the lonely kid on the playground, to encourage the sad friend in the corner, and to pray with the hurting kids around him.

In short, we have purposefully wired 80% of his brain to be a light in the public schools mission field.  We are sending him out and have prepared him to GO.

So, GO, sweet boy.

Go and shine your light for Jesus in the darkness like we know you will!  We cannot wait to watch you shine bright for Him!

We have been talking second grade science!  Specifically, we'll chat about the Next Gen standards on landforms and how to implement hands on activities, science labs, and STEM challenges while learning about Earth's surface.  You can catch up on all of the blog posts here:
Google Earth Landforms Tour
Earthquake Structures Science Lab
Volcano Effects Science Lab
Ideal Island STEM Challenge
Weather + Erosion Stations
Sandcastles STEM Challenge

Let's talk EARTHQUAKES today!  I'm just a southern gal who's lived in Arkansas all my life, so I don't have much experience with earthquakes.

BUT, in the last few years, we have actually had some very small earthquakes.  Like so small that I don't even know they happened until I see everyone's "Whoah, what the heck was that?" posts on Facebook!

And actually, the last one I did feel some vibrations, but didn't realize it was actually an earthquake until my husband came home from work.

So, I truly don't know what it's like to have to build a house that will sustain an earthquake.  That's part of the reason why I love this activity so much.  It just feels so exotic to me!  Here's a closer look at this science lab!
(This post contains affiliate links to help  fund my chocolate addiction and support this corner of cyber space)


Here is what you need for this simple experiment.

Wooden blocks
Cookie Sheet

If you are like me and don't have a ton of wooden blocks, this can easily be set up as a station.  I always have a content station during my guided reading groups and literacy stations that integrates reading or writing into science or social studies.  For second graders, this lab would be super easy to use for a station because it doesn't take a lot of adult help.  The directions are straight forward and there is no spill risk to have to oversee!

If you are lucky enough to have plenty of wooden blocks and cookie sheets to go around, then it will work well for everyone to do it together during your science block.


First, we built a house out of wooden blocks on the cookie sheet that we thought would be able to survive the earthquake.
NOTE: It's clear from the structures my son created that he's five...and doesn't completely understand physics yet, LOL!

Then, we drew predictions to answer the question, "What will happen when we shake the wooden block structure?"

Then it was time to make an earthquake.  You can have them shake the cookie sheet back and forth and observe the effects.  When we did this, we created a weak earthquake by shaking the sheet slowly.  And then we made a stronger earthquake by shaking faster.

And thanks to my hubby for the background music...he's the one in our family always finding just the perfect songs to play in the background during our projects and this one would be perfect in the classroom with this experiment! :)

Then, we recorded our observations and made a conclusion about why the building did not survive.

Next, we did the same thing with a lego structure.

Cue the music... #jumptheline

Finally, we evaluated which structure was the safest and why?

This is also what happens when you give a five year old a second grade experiment! #simplethoughts

You can grab this science lab handout for FREE here.  Or get the entire Landforms unit here.

We have been talking second grade science!  Specifically, we'll chat about the Next Gen standards on landforms and how to implement hands on activities, science labs, and STEM challenges while learning about Earth's surface.  You can catch up on all of the blog posts here:
Google Earth Landforms Tour
Earthquake Structures Science Lab
Volcano Effects Science Lab
Ideal Island STEM Challenge
Weather + Erosion Stations
Sandcastles STEM Challenge

Any time spent in my corner of the cyber world and you'll learn that I love stations.  I love giving kids a chance to explore and learn on their own in hands on ways.  Today, I'm sharing my tips and tricks for organizing and planning for exploration stations to learn about weathering and erosion.
(This post contains affiliate links to help  fund my chocolate addiction and support this corner of cyber space)

Station Set-Up

Before your station day, make sure you have all the materials you need (which are linked in this post).  Print out the station label cards with the directions on either brown (weathering) or green (erosion) cardstock and laminate.

Hang the station signs around the room.  Spread out the stations so that there is enough privacy to keep kids focused.  Think about which stations will work okay on the floor and which ones might need a table or desk.

I also suggest coming up with your groups ahead of time too so that less classroom time is taken up with trivial tasks.

I am going over the 8 stations we used in this post.  If you need more stations, or if there are one or two of these that you don't think will work for your classroom, you can substitute the landform word search and or crossword puzzle for a station to make an easy set up and change the pace.  That's totally up to you!

There are directions on each station label card, so you should not have to give specific directions for each station.  You will need to go over expectations and any classroom management things you need to address (stay in your station, stay focused the entire time, clean your space before you move, cooperate with your group...)

Set a classroom timer for 4-5 minutes depending on your kids.  When they hear the timer, they will quickly clean and move to the next station.  **CLEANING TIP: For stations where cups need to have the water emptied for each new group...Simply leave a bowl or foil pan for kids to dump the old water so they don't have to run to the sink each time they clean up.

Weathering Station: Skittles

At this station, students will fill cups with water and then put one skittle in each cup.

One cup will stay still.  For the other cup, they will swirl it slowly to mimic moving water.

Then, they will make observations on their recording sheet.

Weathering Station: Alka-Seltzer

Fill up a clear cup with water.  Then, drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet into the cup and observe.  Make observations on the recording sheet.

Weathering Station: Gravel & Sugar Cubes

Fill a clear cup with a small handful of gravel (we used some extra gravel from our fish/shark tank!) and 5 sugar cubes.  Cover the cup with a hand and gently shake the cup.  Let one person shake for about 30 seconds and observe.  Then, let another friend shake for about 30 seconds and observe.  Let everyone have a chance at shaking the cup.  Record the final observations on the recording sheet.

Weathering Station: Sandpaper

At this station, kids will get a new rock (or you can use cheap decorative rocks from Walmart like I did...just make sure they are shiny). They will take turns rubbing the rock with the sandpaper.  

Rub gently and quickly and make observations for both.  Record the observations on the recording sheet.

When kids clean up, they will need to put away the rock in a separate bag (or the trash if you don't want to keep them), so that the next group can start fresh with a new rock.  The sandpaper can be reused.

Weathering Station: Chalk

When setting up this station, go ahead and break apart the chalk into small pieces about an inch or so long.

Students will fill one cup with water and one with vinegar.  Put a piece of chalk in each cup.  Observe and compare the differences in weathering.  Record observations on the recording sheet.  If you look closely, you can see the indentions where the chalk is weathering away.

Erosion Station: Beach

For this station set up, you will need to "build" a sand beach in the bottom of a foil pan.  The day of the stations, add about an inch of water to the pan.

When students come to this station, they will gently "slosh" the water in the pan to mimic a beach.  Note the word gently.  And stalk those special friends to make sure they've noted the word gently too! :)

Then, they will record their observations to show how the beach changed.  Before leaving this station, they will need to make sure the beach is moved back to one side for the next group.  TIP: Use a spoon to fix the beach to keep the hands clean and save on clean up time!

Erosion Station: Sand + Water

To prep for this station, you need a bowl of sand, a foil pan, and water.

At this station, students will use a cup to build a simple sandcastle.  Then, they will spray in with a water bottle and observe the changes.

We did a few times with the spray and then a few times with the direct squirt line from the bottle.  My kiddo was a BIG fan of all the holes he could make in the castle.

Next, they will pour water over it from a cup and observe the changes.  They can talk about the differences in the effects and why each was different.

For clean up, they just need to put the sand back into the bowl.

Erosion Station: Sand + Wind

Prep this station the exact same way as the sand + water station, but no water is needed.

At this station, students will use a cup of sand to build a simple sandcastle again.  They, they will use a straw to blow through onto the sand castle to mimic wind.  We tried with 3 different sizes of straws.

They'll observe and record any changes they see.  To add to this station, put straws of different diameters and let each person try a different straw (no, I'm definitely not condoning straw sharing)!

For clean up, pleae for the sake of all that is germy in the world...make those kiddos trash the straws they used! :)

This activity and all the printouts you need can be found in this Next Gen Landforms unit.

Last year, I redecorated my church Sunday School classroom with a rainbow theme.  You can see the entire room here.

Since that time, I've had lots of questions about how I made this paintbrush bulletin board.  So, I thought I'd just blog a little how-to on this colorful board.  It's truly one of my favorites I've ever made!
{This post contains affiliate links to add to my chocolate addiction and support my corner of cyberspace!}

First, I covered my board with black fabric and paint swatches.  I just went to my local hardware store and grabbed a paint swatch for red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple and got enough copies of each color to go around my entire board.

Then, I made the paintbrush.  I used a brown posterboard and silver metallic posterboard to draw and make the paintbrush.  Yes, I just freehanded it.  First, with pencil so I could erase and redo and erase and redo! :)  And then, I went over it with a big fat sharpie marker.  I added some lines and dots on the gray to make it more realistic...I actually used my 1 inch hole punch to punch black circles to glue on.  NO, it's not perfect, but I like it just fine and think the imperfections add to the whimsy of it!

Next, I stapled the brown and silver posterboard up.  I did NOT staple the bottom so I could attach the brushes.

Then, I bought cheap, plastic table covers in rainbow colors.  I gathered one color at a time, bunched it some to make it look pleated, and then stapled it under the brush.  Then, I let the length just hang for now.  You really don't need much length of this, so if you have something else to use scrap plastic cloth for, there is plenty to save!  Or you can split it with a friend that wants to make the same board!

Once all the colors were stapled under the brush, I stapled the bottom of the brush down to finish that up.  Then, I trimmed all of the plastic table covers across the bottom of my bulletin board.  You can cut them to any length you want.  I used my scissors to add bristles at the bottom to finish it off a little better than just a straight cut.

After the paintbrush was finished, it was time to add the words.

I added a Bible verse since this is my church classroom.  You can use these same fonts that I used to create your own words:
*KG Sorry Not Sorry Chub
*CC Blurred Limes
*CC Pitcher Perfect

Or I have this Bible verse and some secular options available already made for you right here!

Just print and cut!  PRO-TIP: Cut with a little bit of a white space around the font to make it stand out even better instead of cutting directly on the black line.

I did not laminate these letters.  But on the cursive words, I did leave some of the "inside parts" there instead of cutting them out and just colored them in with black sharpie.  #lifesaver #thinfontprobs

I just adore how it turned out!

We have been talking second grade science!  Specifically, we'll chat about the Next Gen standards on landforms and how to implement hands on activities, science labs, and STEM challenges while learning about Earth's surface.  You can catch up on all of the blog posts here:
Google Earth Landforms Tour
Earthquake Structures Science Lab
Volcano Effects Science Lab
Ideal Island STEM Challenge
Weather + Erosion Stations
Sandcastles STEM Challenge

In the last blog post I told you how earthquakes seem like the most exotic thing to this Arkansas born and raised girl.

I lied.

Volcanoes are more exotic for me.  #shouldalookedahead

I've never so much as even seen a volcano IRL.  (Yes, I just said IRL in a blog post.  And I'm 34.  But, hey, I just learned what this stands for last week and I'm super proud of my hip self.  Also, I might be going a little stir crazy this afternoon. #InRealLife)

The closest thing to an IRL volcano I've experienced is the baking soda and vinegar kind.

That activity never gets old for me.  I love it every time.  And so do the kids.

But for second graders, I wanted to "beef" up this activity some.  Many kids start seeing this demonstration as preschoolers so I didn't want this to be the same ol' experience.  But mainly, I wanted to make this more of an experiment and have something to test.

And since our focus during this landforms unit is to observe changes to landscapes and landforms, I wanted to tie the experiment in to that idea.
(This post contains affiliate links to help  fund my chocolate addiction and support this corner of cyber space)

Volcano Set Up

For this experiment, you will need...
*paper plates
*empty water bottles with the bottom half cut off
*baking soda
*red dye
*cups to pour
*green M&Ms

We used the top half of the water bottle as the volcano structure.  We built a volcano mountain around the bottle with the play-doh.  The volcano will sit on top of the paper plate.

Then, we designed a "forest" of green M&Ms to represent the landscape around the volcano.  Have the students think about where they want to put the forest.  Close to the volcano? Far away?  All around?

Feel free to add "buildings" with brown M&Ms or lakes with blue M&Ms too if you like.

But most importantly, don't forget to sneak and eat a few M&Ms.  Trust me, the experiment isn't as fun if you don't eat the treats! :)

Volcano Predictions & Observations

Once the volcanic landscape is built, we predicted the effects.   We drew a picture of what would happen when the volcano erupted.  Specifically, we talked about the forest.  Would it survive?

NOTE: I did this at home with my 5 year old so he just drew a picture of what the red lava might do.  Second graders could easily write a sentence or two about their prediction. This is a very flexible handout.

Then, we put a spoonful of baking soda inside the water bottle...

and poured red vinegar into the water bottle slowly and observed the effects.

We recorded our observations.

Volcano Effects

The fun thing about doing several volcanoes during your science block is that you can compare everyone's volcano effects.  Give the students time to walk around and observe everyone's effects.  Not everyone's forests will be destroyed.  So, this makes a great conversation.

Why were some trees saved?  Why were some forests completely destroyed?

After our discussion, we wrote down our conclusions about how and why our landscape changed.

You can find this science lab, plus much more science and STEM challenges in this landforms unit.

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