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How to host a memorable playdate with some Disney Magic

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This post is sponsored by Disney as a part of the #DisneyKids Play Date campaign. All opinions are my own.

I love hosting playdates, so Miss Crankles and I decided to host a special Mommy and Me Disney Princess party for Mother’s Day a few weeks ago!

We started off by adding a bit of Mickey and Friends to our play space! We have a fantastic homeschool room that also houses quite a bit of our toys. It is right off our kitchen and made it so easy to have everything in one place!

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It would not be a princess party without princess costumes. As luck would have it, I had some extra princess dresses to share with our friends! I also cleaned out the craft bins to find some Melissa and Doug craft kits, some photo crafts from Michael’s, and some stamp sets from Target! We had a card making kit from HP, so we used that with our Mother’s Day craft!

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Next, I made sure I had some colorful finger food for the little ones. I was going to make cupcakes, but Miss Crankles wanted cookies, so I took my Disney themed cupcake liners and used them to put little treats that our small guests could easily grab!

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As our guests arrived, some of them dressed up in their finery!

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We had fun making crafts for moms!

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Someone was having fun pretending to be Cinderella!

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A few of the girls decided to have an impromptu tea party!

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Even their big sisters got in on the fun!

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The best part is that we all had fun! The girls had a magical time. I made sure to keep toys like play food, dolls, and blocks to inspire imaginative play. We kept the toys in the homeschool room, so it was fairly easy to clean up once the playdate was over. We made sure the snacks were easy and asked about food allergies before everyone arrived.

The most important thing to remember when hosting any playdate is to be relaxed and flexible. I love themed playdates because the focus is on certain toys or costumes. It is easy to get the kids engaged. At this age, organized playdates with lots of activities mostly falls flat. It is just too much for the little ones. I like to keep it simple to mostly playtime and sometimes an optional, yet simple craft because we moms should be able to have fun too (instead of finishing the crafts for our kids)! Keeping the food simple and in one place is nice because it means less mess. If you want your guests to eat food in only one area, just make sure you let them know when it is time to eat.

Most of all, have fun! Enjoy the magic of playtime and friends!

What are some tips that you could add to hosting a preschool aged playdate? Please feel free to add in the comments below!

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Fairy Garden Fun

I have what people call a brown thumb. This is problematic right now because our new house has several flower beds. I decided that since I am not really good with plants, I might do some other things in those gardens that don’t interfere with the plants that seem to grow on their own. Thank goodness they do that by themselves.

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I have been noticing Fairy Garden stuff everywhere…at Target, Home Depot, and even the dollar stores. Miss Crankles volunteered to be my partner in crime on this project, and she happily picked out pieces to start our project.

We decided that the fairies needed some houses, so we grabbed a few houses, and I am going to paint some more at ceramics class.

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To make it more interesting, I told her the fairies lived there. Then we set a fairy figure by the swing set so that he could push any fairies on the swing that may come upon our little garden.

We also thought they needed a place to sit, so we positioned a table and chairs. Then we placed another fairy there to await company.

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To finish the start of our fairy garden, we put a little bridge with a fairy to welcome others to our little fairy garden.

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The key to making this fun has been telling a story as we have been creating this garden. Miss Crankles is small, but she has a big imagination and loves being told how the fairies are going to visit the garden at night and stay in our little fairy houses and swing on our fairy swing. Adding whimsy to your life can make you feel like a kid too. Telling her the story and seeing her excitement makes me want to believe that maybe at night while I sleep, the fairies will play in the little garden we made.

What kinds of things do you do to spark imagination? I would love to hear your story in the comments below!

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Toddler Language Learning Fun

Lately, my littlest one actively tries to participate in homeschooling. Many times, I get out the Play Doh, felt books, or toddler games with her. A lot of times, I get the drawing supplies for her to use as well. However, my husband has been going through our vast collection of books and found our Polish-English toddler friendly board book dictionary. I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce her to Polish sounds.

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Through my own studies and experiences living abroad, I have had the opportunity to study four other languages other than English, Polish being one of them. I really want my children to learn at least one foreign language. Currently, my kids can say the word for “butt” in several languages, compliments of all of our exchange students. Thanks guys and gals! (I still love my exchange students, and they know my secret…which is that I curse in Polish and Serbo-Croatian in the car.) Through studies, I also know that children hear sounds in other languages that adults do not hear. It is one of the reasons why I have exposed my children to other languages at an early age. In fact, when I was in labor with Crankles, I played music by Darko Rundek. He is a Balkan singer, and I absolutely adore him.

The fun part about doing this too is that it helps me retain some of the languages I have studied over the years. Between my brain injury issues and lack of speaking, sometimes I get a bit rusty. Nonetheless, I would like to continue learning. I also want my kids to learn as well.

Board books with simple words in other languages and music from other countries is a great way to introduce your child to their first foreign language. It is also a great way to learn about the world around them. I strongly encourage it to all parents. You may even learn something too!

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Homeschooler Day at Lehman’s

Lehman’s in Kidron, OH hosts homeschool days every Tuesday now through March! At Lehman’s, your homeschooler can learn about a more simpler time and do the following:

-Churn Butter

-Peel Apples

-Learn all about Aladdin Lamps

-Wood Carvings Presentation from local artist Paul Weaver

-Treasure Hunt

-Taste Test funny-flavored sodas

For more information, see their event on Facebook or register on Eventbrite!

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Put some fun back into homeschool

It is that time of year where we get pre-occupied with holiday parties and get togethers, and our kids start to get a little bored with homeschool. It is very easy to want to take a break for a while, but instead of giving into the break, maybe you should step back and find some ways to add life into your homeschool day once again.

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Have you done a lot of field trips? If not, take a look at your list of field trip ideas. You can also see what new exhibits local museums or zoos have and tie it into your lessons. My kids and I recently got a family membership to a zoo about an hour from here, and we are looking at getting a membership to the natural history museum as well. Part of the reason for doing this is that both places have reciprocal memberships with other zoos and museums giving us options for field trip days. Sometimes we can find places that have events or exhibits that complements our lessons for the week.

Make sure you stock up on craft supplies. Right now the weather is starting to turn where I live, so we are not spending as much time outdoors. When you start getting frustrated, take a breath and get a project for the kids to do. Then you can go back to the lesson later.

If lessons are getting hard to push through, maybe this is a good time to take a look at your teaching methods and/or curriculum. I am not saying to change curriculums. Sometimes, you just need to change the approach, be creative. After all, that is what homeschool is all about: the ability to be flexible. Recently, we decided to delay the start of the next book in our history curriculum so we could focus more on 19th and 20th century history. Another book we are using discusses it, and the kids want to learn more. Again, it is about being flexible.

Finally take a look at your munchies! What are you serving for lunch and snacks? Is it getting boring? Then mix it up a bit! We started doing bento boxes recently because the kids have been having fun doing different themes with them. We are also trying to tie in foods to our lessons. This week we will be having a Boxcar Children lunch with dried meat, brown bread, butter, and blueberries. The kids are looking forward to it. When we are all happy, our homeschool day goes better.

I hope you find these tips useful, and if you are having the mid-year blahs, I hope you can breathe life into your homeschool day once more. Do you have anything to add to the list? If so, please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below!

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Taking time for yourself

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As a homeschool mom, blogger, and former party planner, I used to run myself ragged. In fact, I am pretty sure that my lifestyle choices helped with everything that sent me to the hospital last summer. Since then, I have been trying to put things back together in a way that I am not overly stressed, like I used to be.

Like most moms, I want to be a great mom. I used to think that I could just do everything after the kids went to bed or when the baby took a nap. It really did not work so well. I just ended up being overly tired, and as for working while Crankles napped, well there were too many other things to do during that time, like homeschooling with the kids or housework to keep me from having time for me or for the things I really wanted to do, like blogging. (That is probably a big run on sentence there. You may diagram it at your convenience to see for yourself.)

Anyways, I was looking at our daily schedule. It is kind of a rough draft for our daily lives…or more of a way to say, “Hey, you’re bored! Check what the schedule says.” It really works for that. However, I realized even with that, I am excluded from that schedule. Then I would get frustrated because while I wanted to blog or read an occasional book or something, I could not do so because there was no time for me in the schedule. With my husband now being home and not on the road, I wanted to keep nighttime for us because time with my spouse is important, especially when he has been more or less out in the oil patch for seven years. That left me staying up really late and then being a grumpy mommy in the morning because I have a toddler. It means I get up in the middle of the night sometimes still, and I wake when she wakes to nurse (because I still do that too).

I chose something that works for all of us and doesn’t require me to sacrifice sleep. The kids do better at doing school work in the afternoon, so the morning is playtime. All three can play, watch educational videos, enjoy the backyard. During that morning time, I can drink a hot cup of coffee, get anything organized that day for school work, make phone calls, pay bills, or write blog posts. I don’t get every morning as we do have a few days a week that we are out the door by 10am, but it is nice to be able to count on those days so that I can start doing the things I need to do without sacrificing time with my husband or time I should be sleeping.

It seems to work for us. As it is, it is late afternoon, and the kids have finished with schoolwork. They decided to go back outside, so here I am writing. However, I had this post in my head this morning. I am caught up on other things as well, and I am in a fairly good mood because I am not stressed out.

Putting too much into our schedules does not do us any good, but it is not great for our kids either. Happy mommies homeschool better. We are more cheerful, and our kids benefit from having all of us instead of burned out versions of us.

I know it is difficult to balance life. However, it is something in which we need to be more mindful. How do you stay balanced? How do you take time for yourself?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to start a conversation on Facebook!

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Recitals, Activities, and Managing Balance

One of the issues that homeschooling parents face is the dilemma over what extracurriculars to allow our children to participate. Sometimes things sound like fun, but then we get going and burn out halfway through the year because we are over-scheduled. I think the balance issue stems from the stigma that our children do not get enough socialization. For my family and most of my homeschooling friends, this is such a non-issue because we have so many things to choose from in way of co-ops, sports, and clubs that it is hard to figure out which ones our kids really want to choose.

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My big kids are dancers. Sissy started at age 2 in a Mommy and Me class, and Bubby started at age five. Dance has a way of taking over our lives…especially in the late spring with pictures, costume fittings, and dress rehearsals leading up to recital. This year has been especially challenging because my kids are attending different dance studios. Each studio is excellent and provides the kids what they need right now. However, the initial scheduling was a bit tricky, and it sometimes makes for an extra cranky Miss Crankles. Luckily, the recitals took place on different weeks, and the nice thing for the big kids was that they got to sit in the audience and watch each other perform. However, in order to make it all work, we scaled back on a few clubs this year. They attended a homeschool theater class this year and started at a new co-op. Sissy took an extra homeschool combination dance class for the first part of the school year, and I enrolled Miss Crankles in a play class so that she didn’t get lost in the shadows of the big kids. I told the kids that to keep us from burning out, especially since we just moved and have still been exploring the area, I wanted to keep it to one activity per day. This worked rather well because we could fit our school work into the day easily and still have time to have playdates with friends or play at home or the park.

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Getting through the last few weeks of recital rehearsals, pictures, and recital itself has been a challenge. Add the fact that I still have some anxiety issues probably didn’t help matters any. However, we all got through it. Crankles’ schedule was disrupted some, so we are taking this week to get her back on track and rest from everything. While co-op and some of the other activities are over for the summer, I am not eager to start scheduling things for the summer. The big kids will be taking some dance classes later in the summer, but for the rest of this month, we are taking the month off from activities to focus on being a family, catching up on schoolwork, and organizing the house a bit since we still haven’t finished going through everything from the move (yeah I know it has been 9 months).

The balance issue is a huge deal for me because I have been unbalanced in the past. I get caught up in the whole notion that I shouldn’t be idle. I have a hard time saying no, so I end up volunteering for things or letting the kids do this activity or that workshop. Before I know it, I am burned out, and so are the kids. One of the joys about homeschooling should be a focus on play time. Kids really need to be able to play. If I allow my kids or myself to get caught up in involvement in too many activities, then we don’t have time for play or to explore and imagine. This year that I have taken off from blogging, volunteering, party planning, and everything else has really shown me that I have been missing out on enjoying those activities with the kids. The past few years, I have been feeling old, and with good reason. I have been over-scheduled and not enjoying much of anything. I don’t want to be that unbalanced anymore, and I don’t want to push that lifestyle on the kids either. I want the kids to know that while we have responsibilities, we need to have balance to our lives and enjoy them.

So while I resist the urge to put the kids in lots of camps this summer and try not to let them overdo it with their activities during the rest of the year, I know that I am also allowing the kids to have time to be kids. Balance lets us be able to enjoy the activities in which we participate, and it gives us time to be able to focus on being a family and enjoy playtime and our studies too!