Category Archives: With The Kids

A Look Back At Our First Year Homeschooling

A Look Back At Our First Year Homeschooling ::

Affiliate Link DisclosureA Look Back At Our First Year Homeschooling :: EverydaySmallThings.comWhat a year this has been! We made it through our first year homeschooling in the midst of running a home daycare and publishing a book. Sounds crazy, I know. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but I was busy with, you know, homeschooling and running a daycare. ūüėČ

The number one question we get is “How do you homeschool while running a daycare?” I think usually people are asking for the practical response but I think there’s also a philosophical piece that is important. It stems back to our approach on learning. One of the reasons we chose to homeschool is the opportunity for more relaxed learning through play and life. Looking back, I think one thing I did really well was having a laid-back attitude. If we were able to fit in some structured learning, great! If the kids were playing especially well for the day, let them keep playing! If the kids were curious about something, we’d explore that more. I would say we fit more into the “Relaxed Homeschool” approach.

On a more practical side, this is how we made homeschooling work for us while running a home daycare:

  • We did a lot of learning together. For instance, we’ve been learning about each state. Because of a trip to Florida, we learned about the ocean. If the daycare kids were interested, we did it all together. Reading aloud can be done with everyone.
  • We do “Rest Time” every day and most of the kids take a 1-2 hour nap during this time. This has been utilized as a more personal learning time in which we worked on math and writing.
  • We homeschool year round. This allows for flexibility in how often we sit down for structured learning. 
  • Technology was a great tool in having to balance homeschool and daycare.  Utilizing an online math program, and now a DVD program, removed lesson planning off my plate. All of my curriculum choices (aside from Science) were pretty much open and go. Very little prep required.

HomeschoolyearHere is the curriculum we used for Rilyn’s kindergarten year:

  • Math: and Math-U-See
    Rilyn had no interest in the beginning of sitting down and learning from me. We first tried Kahn Academy which she really liked but it doesn’t read the questions to you, so it required me to sit and do it with her. allowed her to be introduced to math in a fun way while giving her the independence she desired. This summer, we started using Math-U-See (Alpha for Rilyn age 6 and Primer for Landon age 4). We really like it so far. It uses a block system and is mastery based. This allows Rilyn, who is a visual learner, to see how the math works but also master the concept before moving on. It also comes with a DVD that teaches each lesson. 
  • Writing: Writeshop Primary Book – Teacher Guide
    Rilyn has always loved making books and this was a great tool for helping her understand how to write about an idea. Most of the year, she would dictate her stories but she has started writing them on her own. We found no need to purchase the worksheet pack that they also sell. We did all of her writing in a storytelling journal like this.
  • Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting
    This provided a more focused opportunity to work on her handwriting.
  • Science: Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day
    We took a road trip to Florida in May and so we wanted to learn about the ocean before we took this trip. Zoology 2 proved to be too advanced for my kids and so we eventually shelved it to be used sometime in the future. From what I’ve learned, it seems like Exploring Creation With Astronomy is more age appropriate. 

It’s hard to summarize a year of homeschooling into one blog post, but it truly has been a great year. Hard? Yes. But well worth it!

DIY Seek and Find

DIY Seek & Find // EverydaySmallThings.comWe are gearing up for a 12-hour road trip and I wanted to hop on here and share one of the things I’ll be packing up. They turned out so great and everything I used was found around the house!

This idea was found on one of my perusals on Pinterest for ideas on keeping kids busy on a road trip. I pulled together all kinds of foam stickers, beads and trinkets, took a picture of all of the items and put them in an old salsa jar (I always save them!). I then filled the rest with rice. Attaching a laminated photo of everything they could find in the bottle completed this super easy project!

This is a great little activity to have around the house and I’ll definitely save them for a future rainy day.

DIY Seek and Find //


DIY Suncatcher

DIY Sun Catcher |

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comThese sun catchers we made turned out really cute and I wanted to share them with you! This craft provides kids an opportunity to get messy and have fun.

You’ll need:

Pull out your smocks (which are old adult tshirts in our case) and get ready for some gooey fun! Grab some dollar store frames or frames you have around the house. Remove the glass and set aside the frame.

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comThe first thing you will want to do is pour glue onto the glass. And I do mean pour.  We tried squeezing it out the regular way and that proved tedious. The kids eventually got enough on the glass but it took alot of effort. Next time, I’ll just remove the lid and pour it on.

Once you have a good thick layer of glue, squeeze out one drop of food coloring in each corner using 3-4 colors. The gooey fun begins! Now, mom, this is a great opportunity to let your kids be kids and enjoy the mess! We tried using craft sticks to mix all the paint up but it just didn’t have the same effect as their fingers. Let them explore the colors changing and the fun shapes they can make in the glue. Rilyn ended up putting hearts in her design while Landon just went to town getting messy.

This part got me a little worried because everything turned black. My heart sank a little thinking about these botched sun catchers. I thought maybe thinner glue and keeping the colors separated would help, so I tried doing one on my own, keeping the DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comcolors separated. But mine did not look good at all.  It really needed that thick layer of glue and once they dry you can see all the awesome work your kids did blending all of the colors.

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comI loved how they turned out! They dried clear and the colors were vibrant and beautiful. Once dried, stick them back into the frame (without the backing) and hang them up  with suction hooks or Command window hooks (affiliate link), which is what we ended up using. 

These would make great gifts or just a unique window decoration for your home. We did this project with daycare kids and parents loved how they turned out! 

So, what do you think? Will you try this easy project with your kids? 


Color Coding Method: How I Organize My Home Daycare

How I Keep My Home Daycare Organized ::

Affiliate Link DisclosureColor Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.comMost days, I have six children running around my house because of my home daycare. There is one trick that I have implemented that has helped immensely: color coding.

Each child is assigned a color and everything from their cups and plates to their hand towels are in their color. This has been most successful with their cups. In the beginning, I would just hand a kid any old cup, but 10 minutes later I would find a stranded cup and couldn’t remember who I had given it to last. My younger children would just pick up a cup and drink out of it; no matter whose it was. This was not working in the germ department.

Color Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.comSo I began searching for solid colored cups that were eco-friendly and BPA/phthalate free and found the Kid Basix Safe Sporter. After my baby gates, these are my next favorite thing around the house. We LOVE our water bottles. They are lightweight, durable and made of food-grade stainless steel which translates into “will stand up to daily use by a toddler”. In all of the spills and drops, only one of our water bottles has slightly dented. They are easy to clean, dishwasher safe, non-leaching and antimicrobial. Awesomeness all around!

Color Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.comAnother piece of having a home daycare is the towels used to dry hands. DCFS guidelines allow two options, paper towels or separate hand towels.  Paper towels negate my pursuit of reducing waste and being eco-aware, plus I can’t imagine the cost of keeping them in stock. Thus, I have opted for the separate hand towels.  Each child has a hand towel hanging in the bathroom, in their specific color. All I have to do is throw them in the wash with all of my other cleaning cloths and we are good to go!

Color Coding ::


Do you have a system that you use to keep your day organized? I would love to hear about it!

The Only Baby Gate You Will Ever Need

The Only Baby Gate You Will Ever Need |

This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase from these links you'll receive tried and true products I love While supporting Everyday Small Things at no added cost to you!

This post is in no way sponsored by Retract-A-Gate; they have no idea I even exist. I am just that big of a fan and wanted you to know about this awesome baby gate that makes a mom’s life easier!

The Only Baby Gate You Will Ever Need | EverydaySmallThings.comI’m not one to fawn over baby gates, but this gate is the best thing since sliced bread and I had to share it with you!

My biggest beef with baby gates is their awkwardness. When not being used, where does one store it? Behind a door? In a closet? Ugh…who has the time?! It would just end up being put off to the side and would fall over with the slightest breeze. (Maybe I’m being a little dramatic…but they were truly annoying)

With a home daycare and my own children being preschoolers, I only need baby gates for a portion of the day. At the end of the work day, I want to be able to put it away without tripping over it but that wasn’t realistic with the setup of my house.

I did a lot of research. A lot. Like a ridiculous amount of time spent researching baby gates. But I am so glad I did because I discovered the Retract-A-Gate.

These are my 6 favorite features of Retract-A-Gate.

  1. Retractable
    Yep, it does exactly what the name says! It rolls up into a nice frame that rarely gets in the way and you hardly notice it. I never have to ‚Äúput it away‚ÄĚ because it is always wrapped up nicely when not in use.
  1. Easy Install
    My dad came through on this one and installed all of our mounts. Super easy! The permanent install with hooks sticking out of the wall could be seen as a negative; but honestly, we don’t even notice them!
  1. Single handedly open and close the gate ‚Äď quietly!
    There’s nothing like holding a crying baby and trying to get a gate open that is parent proof as well as baby proof. Squeeze here, then pull up, then push all while performing a rain dance…or something like that, and yet the darn thing still won’t open. Or naptime is in full swing and I need to open the gate but it makes so much noise that the baby wakes up. I never have to put a child down when opening up the Retract-A-Gate. I can single-handedly unlock, open and close the gate like a ninja.
  1. Move the gate around the house with ease.
    Retract-A-Gate comes with hooks that you mount to the wall. You can purchase extras so that you can move your gate around the house. We personally have two gates but 5 sets of mounts, so I can easily move the gate (again, single-handedly) to whichever room we’re in.
  1. Locks in place.
    This is probably where the most skepticism lies‚Ķdoes it really keep a kid from going through? If installed properly, I‚Äôm here to say, ‚ÄúYes! Without a doubt!‚ÄĚ My kids have pushed, pulled and even tried to climb under (yes, under) but were not successful. I have had these gates for a year now and have never had problems with a child escaping when the gate was locked.
  1. Great customer service
    Customer service isn’t something you normally receive with a baby gate, but this company is different! A few months after we received our Retract-A-Gates, one of the mounting hooks broke. It was a freak thing and Retract-A-Gate came through, sending us the new mount.

Have I convinced you yet? If you need to see it in action, check out this wobbly video that my daughter shot of me sharing how we use our Retract-A-Gate.

A Twist on the Clean-Up Game

“Clean up, clean up
Everybody, everywhere
Clean up, clean up
Everybody do your share”

If you have a little one you may be familiar with that little jingle made famous by a purple dinosaur. ¬†It’s a little song that you sing when it’s time to clean up with children. ¬†It worked great…until my kids turned 3. ¬†Then they realized they had an opinion.

I hate to clean and picking up is the last thing I want to do at the end of a day. ¬†I owe a huge apology to all of my college roommates because, looking back, I was a very messy roommate. ¬†Unfortunately, I have passed this on to my children…as you can see in this video below.

Our clutter finally was more than we could handle so today we went into clean up mode. ¬†It was like pulling teeth to get the kids to help clean up their rooms. ¬†I get it! I didn’t want to be doing that either. And it’s very overwhelming to look at a messy room and think you have to start working on it. After telling Rilyn for the umpteenth time that she needed to start picking stuff up, I finally had a lightbulb moment.

A Twist On the Clean Up GameI downloaded the Random Number Generator + app.  The reason I chose this app was because it does random generations of numbers, dice and colors.  But there are several out there to choose from.  So, I gave Rilyn my phone and told her to choose either numbers or colors and she had to pick up whatever the phone told her to.  If the app generated a 3, she would pick up three items.  If the app generated the color purple, then she would have to find a purple item to pick up.

This transformed clean up time for us!  She became engaged in the process and excited to see what number or color would come up.

It was also a homeschooling win-win because we worked on counting, adding (there is a dice feature – so she had to add the dice up) and organizing (home ec!).

Do you have a clean-up time trick with your kids?  Or a tip for someone with messy tendencies like me?  Comment below!

Fire Escape Plan :: You Should Have One

FireEscapeI never understood the importance of having, implementing and practicing a fire escape plan with your children until recently. ¬†I run a home daycare and one requirement is a monthly fire escape plan practice. ¬†I have to admit that inwardly I rolled my eyes and dragged my feet as my thought was, “If a fire were to start I would be in the same room as the kids and obviously they would try to¬†escape it.” ¬†So I halfheartedly came up with a¬†meeting place thinking that was the most important piece. ¬†I talked to the kids about if a fire happened we were to get outside and meet at our front tree. ¬†However,¬†I knew that we needed to actually practice it.

Gathering the children together near the front door, I talked through what we were going to do and told them when the fire alarm sounded we were to quickly exit the front door and meet at the front tree.  I pushed the button just to give them an idea of what sound we were listening for.  Everyone covered their ears and started giggling.

“Ok guys, this is going to be the real practice! ¬†When the fire alarm sound happens, let’s go out the front door!” ¬†I pressed the button and my 5 year old daughter led the pack out to the tree. ¬†I began counting all of my heads and came up with one missing. ¬†Surely not! ¬†We were steps away from the door, where could they have gone? ¬†So I look again and realize my three year old son is missing. ¬†I glance¬†around the yard thinking maybe he thought it would be funny to go elsewhere. ¬†Nope, nowhere in sight.

I head inside calling “Landon!” Nothing. ¬†I begin checking¬†the rest of the house when I catch a glimpse of two little feet sticking out behind our big rocking chair in the basement. ¬†There was my little guy, face down on the floor covering his ears.

My son had been afraid of the loud noise of the alarm and his first instinct, despite the fact that I was standing right next to him, was to run to the basement and hide behind a chair.

I could only imagine how this scenario could have ended horrifically if this had been the real thing.

If you’re anything like me, the idea of a fire escape plan has flitted through your mind as something that would be great to do if you had the time. ¬†In my own head, I had hastily¬†evaluated exits but never a strategy and I most certainly hadn’t communicated anything¬†to my kids.

So how does one even begin?

Fire Escape Plan :: Everyday Small Things
Who needs fancy drawing skills?!

Here are 5 everyday small things you could do to prepare for a fire escape.
1. Make a simple drawing of your house and draw out a route.  Include your kids in this process!

2. Choose an outdoor meeting place (i.e. neighbor’s house, tree, mailbox, etc.) a safe distance in front of your house where everyone can meet. ¬†Remember to include this location on your escape plan.

3. Talk through what the fire alarm sound means and what you should do if you hear it.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice.  With the alarm.  Every few months, press the alarm without telling your kids so they can practice how to process the situation.  One daycare provider shared that she cut out large pictures of fire and puts them in different exits so the kids have to practice going different directions if one way is blocked.

5. Once a year, do a practice drill during the night.  NFPA suggests preparing children by telling them that a practice alarm will be happening when they sleep as this helps them master the drill and not fear it.  Did you know that children tend to sleep through a fire alarm?  Check out this video.  Eye opening!

Fire Escape Plan :: Everyday Small ThingsEarlier this week, our dishwasher lost all power which made it a sad day in our household.  The electrician came to check it out and he found a corroded wire in the back that had completely melted the cap and could have caused more damage.  Seriously scary!  Just another reminder that you never know what could happen and being prepared is important.

Do you have an emergency plan in place?  Comment below sharing what your family does.