Insect Thematic Unit

A few weeks ago I shared a lap book activity we did as part of our Insect Thematic Unit.¬† Since the creepy crawly bugs were a big hit at our house and the activity was at least noticed online ūüėČ I thought I’d post the whole thing.

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

We started by learning what makes a bugРthree body parts, six legs, antenna.  And since no theme unit in our home is complete without making something out of play dough, we went ahead and got that part over with had lots of fun making bugs!

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

Our Insect unit was full of science, so it was nice to add some dramatic play for social studies.  The kiddos acted out a butterfly life cycle, starting as a bunched-up ball to represent the egg, then crawling on the floor like caterpillars, hanging upside down and being a chrysalis, and finally emerging and being butterflies.

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

After emerging and allowing our wings to dry, butterflies of course, must find food!  So we had a drink of flower nectar with our long, straw-like tounges!

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

(That’s lemonade in cups with a construction paper flower laid over the top.¬† I made holes in the middle of the flowers and gave them our smoothie straws for sipping!)

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

And because all lessons are learned better with food, we also learned how bees, butterflies and other insects pollinate flowers.¬† First the kids cut and glued petals to the outside of a brown paper lunch bag.¬† Then I filled them with (a small serving of baked) Cheetos.¬† They ate the snack and wiped their fingers on the front of the bags as if it were pollen– what’s not to love?!

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

For art we painted a paper plate red, allowed it to dry, then cut it up the middle and attached the two pieces together with a brad.  Then they both glued a head and dots to their ladybug.  Naturally Brett added a face like the grouchy ladybug in the book.  While Anna worked on her gluing technique, Brett wrote down different ways to represent the dots on his ladybug.  He wrote a six first, then made an addition problem by adding the dots from each side of the body (3+3=6), then wrote a fraction showing how many of the bugs were on the left wing (3/6).

We added a few more things to our lap book.¬† There was the Grouchy Ladybug clock activity from the first post.Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

Grouchy Ladybug 1   Grouchy Ladybug cards 1   Grouchy Ladybug cards 2

And then we had fun with a life cycle circle with Velcro pieces that can be put together over and over and over again!

Life cycle 1   Life cycle circle

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

We collected pictures from magazines and printed some from online and then sorted insects from non-insects.¬† Watch the pictures you choose, cutesy ladybugs don’t always have six legs or three¬†body parts!¬† We¬†taped these Bug Sorting pockets¬†into our lap book and used them¬†for storing¬†our pieces.

Brett was interested (for a few minutes anyway) in watching YouTube videos of bees “dance” to show the other bees where the flowers are.¬† He had more fun gluing¬†his own dancing¬†bees into patterns on the back of his lap book.

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

And the Body Part activity¬†on the top half of the folder was a funny way to teach “head,” “thorax,” and “abdomen.”¬† Making sure each body part touched the edges of the paper we took turns drawing insects.¬† Then we lifted the flaps to create funny, mix-matched bugs!¬† Anna wasn’t much help drawing, but she laughed uproariously each time we made a silly creature!

Naturally, books are the most important part of any unit!  Our library had lots of non-fiction books about butterflies, bees, ladybugs etc., for all reading levels and but our favorites were The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Grouchy Ladybug, both by Eric Carle and several Magic School Bus books.  Oh!  Try Nexflixing Sid the Science Kid Bug Club too.  Enjoy!

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Grouchy Ladybug Insect Activity or Lapbook

The Grouchy Ladybug lapbook or center activity {}

If I ask you what bugs eat you might say “leaves!”¬† In which case you would be partly right.¬† Many bugs eat leaves; tree leaves, soybean leaves, corn plant leaves.¬† These types of bugs can be a problem at times.¬† There are other bugs, however, that can be a farmer’s best friend.¬† One of these is the ladybug, which is why we had to include “The Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle in our recent¬†insect lessons!

The Grouch Ladybug lapbook or center activities {}

Eric Carle dedicates the book with an explanation of how ladybugs eat aphids, a rather destructive little critter.

So in honor of ladybugs, here is a free Grouchy Ladybug Insect Activity that works great as a center in your classroom or in a lapbook like we did for homeschool.

Grouchy Ladybug lapbook or center activity

The Grouchy Ladybug activity for centers or lapbook

Grouchy Ladybug 1

Grouchy Ladybug cards 1

Grouchy Ladybug cards 2

{Update!  To see an entire lesson plan for insects, click here!}

Insect thematic unit‚ÄĒactivities and printables {}

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A Book for Your Tractor Lesson

You know that great feeling when you stumble on something great completely by accident?¬† I have it today!¬† We were at the library looking for books for school, which means I’m scribbling down reference numbers and chasing children’s books from all their misplaced places, when the title of this book caught my eye.

A great book for your tractor lesson plan!

Being “Daddy’s Tractor” of course, we had to check this one out.¬† And we’ll¬†probably renew it too!¬† Its a¬†whimsical book with bright illustrations and a¬†bit of nostalgia for the by-gone era of small¬†family farms.¬† Grandpa takes his grandson out to the old homestead, now fallen into decay.¬† There they find a forgotten (red!) Farmall tractor growing up with¬†weeds.

A great farm book for a tractor lesson plan

Please note that Farmall is¬†a predecessor to Case IH.¬† And if you don’t know what Case IH is,¬†kindly refer to the photos in the blog title.¬† And for all of you¬†cheering for green and yellow,¬†just allow¬†me this moment.¬† It is hard for all of us in ag to find truly good literature, but do you know¬†how¬†hard it is¬†to find books with red tractors?!

But back to the actual point…¬† Grandpa tells his grandson all about the work the tractor used to do on the farm when he was a boy, making this book a fantastic addition to our History of Agriculture Theme Unit.

A great book for a tractor lesson plan

The author/illustrator is not a farmer (or even remotely connected with ag in any way) and it was not written to be a scientifically, historically, or otherwise perfectly accurate portrait of farm life, but I thought Michael Garland did a nice job and avoided any of the usual mistakes of drawing all roosters instead of hens etc..   And the story of how this book came to be, featured on the last page, is probably my favorite part of all.

So now you can be as excited as I am :-).

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St. Patrick’s Day, A Missionary’s Story Lesson Plan

I love St. Patrick’s Day.¬† I’m not really sure why.¬† But I do know that most of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration seems to revolve around things that are… not as “G” as I’d like them to be for my family.¬† So I did a little hop, skip, and jump when I read Teaching the Trinity for St. Patrick’s Day from I Have No Greater Joy.¬† That post and a few quick searches later and this is the St. Patrick’s Day lesson plan we’re working from!

St. Patrick's Day, a missionary's story

We checked out Patrick, Ireland’s Patron Saint from the library (even before I read the Trinity lesson plan!) and it was the perfect book for introducing the kids to Patrick the missionary.¬† Did you know Patrick was held as a slave in Ireland, escaped home, and later returned to share the gospel?

St. Patrick, a missionary's story lesson plan

Then we made shamrocks from bits of scrapbook paper by cutting three hearts and gluing them to a craft stick.  Its not in the photo, but we also added ribbons to them to make them pretty.

St. Patrick's Day, a missionary's story lesson plan

We talked about the shamrock shape and how St. Patrick might have taught the trinity with it.¬† Anna didn’t understand at all, but Brett was able to follow along enough that at least he understands there is such a confusing concept, even if he can’t yet grasp it!¬† We sang the song “God the Father” as posted in the Trinity lesson and that was a great hit.¬† It was so easy for them to learn!

At the end of the Patrick book is a short section on the legends of St. Patrick.¬† Brett enjoyed the story about the snakes (of course) and he loved the gross motor activity we¬†created to go¬†with it.¬† I had the kids take their shamrocks outside and¬†chase pretend snakes out of the yard.¬† If there¬†had been any real ones… well, they’d be gone too¬†;-).

St. Patrick's Day, a missionary's story lesson plan

The kids also enjoyed this video I found on Pinterest.

I bought some dot paints from Hobby Lobby last fall, and if you haven’t tried them, they’re great.¬† All the fun of painting (mostly!) without the fuss and mess.¬† When I saw this it seemed like a great idea for the preschool kids in my Homeschool Co-Op class.

St. Patrick's Day, a missionary story lesson plan

And then I used those same leftover bits of scrapbook paper to cut out shamrocks– two of each design.¬† One shamrock I glued to a paper and the other I left loose.¬† Tomorrow I’ll have the preschoolers match the paper’s designs, then Monday I’ll make it a math lesson for Brett by writing simple addition facts on the loose shamrocks and the answers on the glued down ones.¬† Hmm, or maybe capital letters with a lowercase match?¬† Might need more scraps…

St.Patrick's day, a missionary's story lesson plan

And this has nothing to do with missionaries, trinities, or Christ in anyway, but I couldn’t resist.¬† Remember that whole me just liking St. Patty’s thing?¬† Well, I also love Lucky Charms.


I just admitted it.


I love them.

When I taught kindergarten I always bought one box for my class to sort the shapes and then I ATE THE REST!

Once a year.

But I haven’t taught kindergarten in six years.¬† So its been a looooong time since I’ve eaten Lucky Charms.¬† And I couldn’t resist.¬† Today we sorted the shapes.

It was so educational.

And tasty.

St. Patrick's Day, a missionary's story lesson plan

And then I gave them each a missionary penny.

St. Patrick's Day, a missionary's story lesson plan

What is that?¬† Well, a missionary penny is one SENT.¬† All people are sent to spread the gospel, some in foreign countries and under heroic circumstances like Patrick, but all of us are called.¬†¬†Funny enough, the penny is also considered “lucky,” but plainly states “In God¬†We Trust.”¬† We¬†discussed that it is not luck but God who¬†gives us all good things– which was important to me in a St. Patty’s Day lesson!

If you have other ideas for making Christ a part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, leave them below!

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Amazing Time Managment Tool!

Is your “To Do” list overwhelming?¬† Mine often is!¬† Some days are just jam packed or special events crowd their way into my schedule.¬† Those are the days I am so grateful I stumbled on this amazing time management tool!

Great idea for managing your time!


If you are the kind of person who likes printable, well, here ya go!, but one of the things I love best about this approach to time management is that it doesn’t take a lot of time!¬† In fact, where ever I am in my day I can stop and quickly organize everything I have left to do at any point and with only a few minutes.¬† All you need is to list the hours (in whatever increments you like– half hour, 15 min)¬† in reverse order down the side of a sheet of paper.¬† I do, however, keep a supply of these in THE BINDER, just ’cause I like ’em ;-).

Amazing time managment tool!

Then fill in any place to you have to be, such as soccer practice at 5:30.  When do you need to leave?  5:00?  5:15?  Write that down too.  Figure out what MUST be done for you to walk out the door on time.  Wash a jersey?  How long will that take?  Schedule that in with enough time to accomplish the task.  Do you want dinner in the crock pot by noon or will you make sandwiches at 4:30?  I use the boxes on the edge to make notes of all the things I MUST get done versus things I want to do.  Then I pencil them into my day by priority.

The sample at the top is from the week before my daughter’s third birthday party.¬† I don’t schedule everyday like this, but that week I made one for each day at the beginning of the week, making sure I made time for everything from cleaning each room to baking to decorating.¬† Boy was I glad I used this tool because otherwise I would never have left myself enough time to run to town for supplies or finish her scrapbook so it could be on display at the big event!¬† When I¬†laid¬†all the work out¬†it was easy to see I wouldn’t have time to make the cookie pops I was on the fence about.

One more word of hard-learned advise, be realistic.¬† If it usually takes you 30 minutes to clean the bathroom don’t schedule for 20.¬† And make sure you leave room for the basics.¬† Making lunch.¬† Eating lunch.¬† That kind of thing :-).¬† Otherwise, enjoy your new, amazing time management tool!

Categories: Family, Homeschool | Tags: , | 2 Comments

How to Teach using Thematic Units OR How to Teach a Strong Willed Child!

Yes, we farm around here, but we alsoHow to Teach Using Thematic Units homeschool.¬† And since I’ve had a few requests to explain how I teach using thematic units, I’m going to continue the current Organizational theme¬†and show you.¬† First,¬†THE BINDER!

I bought this when school supplies were on sale and I love it.¬† In fact, I want more ūüôā

I have 5 tabs inside, each labeling an important aspect of my daily life.¬†¬†My first tab is “Calendar.”¬†¬†This,¬†of course, lists birthdays, appointments, monthly goals,¬†etc., but I also¬†write the theme for the week on each Monday, which helps me see when we should be learning about spring¬†or Dr. Seuss’s birthday.¬† The key (for me) here¬†is¬†the more stuff is one place, the more I use THE BINDER, so add a babysitter phone number list, shopping list, whatever *you* need.

My next tab¬†is “Brett” for organizing his homeschool¬†curriculum, and this is where the thematic unit magic happens :-).¬† I made these cute pages with Photoshop elements and¬†a digital scrapbook¬†kit.¬† You can use mine or¬†create your own using any simple word processing program.

Using Thematic Units printable copySchool Schedule 2

Using Thematic Units printable Using Thematic Units printable 2

As you can see, I list all the areas I want to cover. So after I choose the theme I just work on filling in the boxes with activities.  Pinterest is a great resourceРI have a Kindergarten theme board and I follow several others who do as well.  I use a lot and just make the activities harder when necessary.  I Google themes, I check out library books, I use the same standard ideas and change them just a little to go with the theme.  For example, each week we journal something we learned about ______ (construction, ag history, pumpkins etc.) We often make a graph, use playdough to create something theme-related, do an image search to look at pictures, write a story, sort materials, diagram and label,  design an object using our collection of toilet paper rolls, boxes, craft sticks, pipe cleaners and whatever.  These kinds of activities save me a lot of time but still encourage learning through themes.

And here is the great part.¬† I subtitled my post How to Teach a Strong Willed Child because once these activities are filled in and I have completed the “to do” box I can let Brett make his own decisions about what we learn!¬† A little bit of control goes a long way with the child who must always be right and he’s still doing all the school work I want for him to accomplish in week, so what does it matter if he wants to graph first or read library books first?!¬† Plus I can choose topics he loves, which helps even more!

Yes, thematic teaching can be more work than teaching from a curriculum, but it is worth it!  Everyone learns better when they have the proper files and folders in their brain to categorize information.  Teaching with thematic units is a natural way to learn!

And if time management is a problem for you check back next Monday.¬† I’ll post my last in this organizational series about my favorite time management tool!

Categories: Family, Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , | 3 Comments

History of Agriculture Theme Unit

One of the best things about homeschooling is choosing to study what you like!  We recently completed a theme unit on the history of agriculture.  If this sounds like fun to you, here ya go!



The American Family Farm by Joan Anderson

Farming Then and Now by Katie Roden

Pictures from the Farm by JC Allen and Son, Inc. (Brett loved this one!)

Case Photographic History by April Halberstadt

The Big Book of Tractors by John Deere

Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm by Billy Steers (and other Tractor Mac books)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingles Wilder, Chapters 10 &11

History of Agriculture Theme Unit


Keep a vocabulary list of all the new words you learn

Brainstorm¬†facts you’ve learned about farming; choose one to write in your journal

Explore¬†the poem “One for the Mouse, one for the crow, one to rot, one to grow”

Pretend you are living on a family farm __ years ago.  Write a letter to someone telling them about your day.


Create a timeline of farm history (We started about 1800.).  Add to it through the unit.  These ready-made timelines were great resources!

“Plant” (glue) ears of corn in numerical order.¬† For older students, plant numbers by 2s, 5s, etc. or backwards.

Use this website from to learn how many miles a man walked to plant one acre, how much a plow cost and billions of other math facts from the 19th Century!

Use the “one for the mouse” poem to do a little hands-on subtraction

History of Agriculture Theme Unit


Try this experiment to learn why rubber tires were a great improvement over horses hooves and steel wheels.

Experiment with¬†tying straw sheaves.¬† If you don’t have straw large weeds from the side of¬† the road will work as well.¬† Will your sheaves protect the straw from the rain?

Make a farm diorama with a shoe box, clay, plastic toy cowboys and horses (can you figure out a way to dress your cowboys to look like farmers?), and any other things you can imagine!

Social Studies

Try sowing seeds yourself.  Grass seed is a great choice.

Use a hand grinder to grind wheat.

Watch the archival footage on these John Deere DVDs. Combines,  Tractors

Field Trip!  The best part of homeschoolingРright?!  Visit Missouri Town, an Amish community, or similar location

History of Agriculture Theme Unit


Make a collage of seeds

Design a piece of machinery the could help farmers.  Use food boxes, paper towel tubes, brads, yarn, whatever!

Roll toy tractors in (washable) paint and create prints


The Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:5-8

Other Internet Resources

Country Life vs. City Life from Home School Year Blog

Farm Theme Pinterest board

Fun on the Farm by Fabulous in First Blog

Counting 1-5 Grain Bins from Hands On: As We Grow Blog

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pumpkin Theme Ideas for Pre-school and Kindergarten

Pumpkin puzzle for pumpkin theme ideas

You may have read about the visitors to our farm a few weeks ago.  You may not have the opportunity to ride on a combine during harvest, but almost anyone can visit and farm this time of year!  Pumpkin patches abound with great opportunities for everyone to see bits and pieces of farm life.  And since we just did a homeschool unit about fall for my preschooler and kindergartener, here are some pumpkin theme ideas for you to useРand hopefully you can visit a pumpkin patch as well!

Of course, cutting open a pumpkin and playing with the seeds are a must.  But instead of carving a face, try these math and science ideas instead.

Clean the seeds, layer them on a baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt, and roast at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Eat and enjoy!

Pumpkin seeds, idea for pumpkin theme unit

OR put the seeds in a plastic tub and let the kiddos squeeze and¬†squish the squash ūüėČ

Make a pumpkin puzzle!¬† We tried a few different designs and the best puzzles were pumpkins cut in¬†horizontal “slices.”¬† For older kids talk about how puzzle pieces lock together and have them help design the puzzle.¬† For little ones just cut simple waves around the pumpkin to be used like stacking rings.

Pumpkin puzzle, pumpkin theme ideas

Design a pumpkin patch of your own.  We made fall leaves with my cricut, added a variety of pretty pumpkins, painted pumpkin leaves and vines, added a plastic rake from our summer sand toys, and talked about the pumpkin life cycle.

Pumpkin patch, pumpkin theme ideas

And speaking of pumpkin life cycles, we designed our own pumpkin life cycle chart with a paper plate, a seed, and tissue paper flowers.

Throw bean bags into a pumpkin.

Make a pumpkin smoothie.

And then when you are done with the pumpkins, place pieces in a plastic tub (you’ll want a lid for this one!) and watch the pumpkin decompose.¬† We journaled about our observations in our science journal.

Observe pumpkin decay, pumpkin theme idea

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