There Are No Short Cuts

It’s amazing how much my homeschool philosophy has changed since I first decided we were going to homeschool.  Green Bubbles was only 2 years old when I knew that was the path we were going to take and I don’t regret that decision at all, even on the hard days when you doubt every single little thing.

What is a homeschool philosophy?  It includes the goals you have for your child, how you are going to achieve those goals, and any methods you use to do so.

When I was going to school become a teacher my philosophy for education was “There are no short cuts.” I read it in a book by the same title from Rafe Esquith. I still believe that and it drives our homeschool, but my philosophy is so much more than that.  Different methods of homeschooling include classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, unit studies, Waldorf, Montessori, and so much more. Based off of my own original philosophy, I knew unschooling would never work for us.  I believe a very strong foundation is necessary to succeed.  That means reading, writing, and math are on the top of my list and will not be left to chance or desire.  And the bars will be set high for them, based off of each child’s ability.

In the beginning, after researching different methods I felt so drawn to Charlotte Mason and her ideals of education.  But what looks great on paper might not actually fit your family and lifestyle.  While Charlotte Mason is a lovely educational model, it didn’t fit us well.  Green Bubbles is not a kid that sits quietly and wants to read books all day.  Living books are great, but going slowly through them with narrations was going to lead to frustration.  So we adapted.

We’ve settled, like so many homeschoolers, on an eclectic approach.  That means I draw from many different models.  We still have hints of Charlotte Mason going on in our school.  None of our lessons go over 20 minutes at the longest, most are only 5 to 10 minutes long for any given subject. Reading and math, as mentioned above, are the only two that go to the 20 minute mark. We also still love to read living books.  Most of our read aloud books are chosen based off of Charlotte Mason lists.  But we only read one book at a time this way, and only spend a week or two reading it. We also love our nature study time that was introduced because of Charlotte Mason.

We also have a lot of classical education sneaking into our school as well. There is actually a lot of over lap between classical and Charlotte Mason.  But unlike Charlotte Mason, we’ll be starting Latin in third grade and will be using a 4 year history and science schedule versus a 6.  That means, generally, every four years you’ll repeat these subjects.  So, since Green Bubbles started ancient history and biology in Kindergarten, we’ll be back to those again in 4th grade, and again in 8th.  We’ll wait until we get to high school to see what happens for 12th grade.

I also used unit studies and lapbooks as interests strike.  We’ve done lapbooks based off of favorite read alouds like Mr. Poppers Penguins, or things we’re studying in science such as plants.

Four years ago I felt very secure in our approach to our homeschool.  Now I realize it’s all about flexibility and what works for your family and children.  I take the parts I like and leave the parts I don’t.

Why You Should NOT Plan Field Trips

A zoo field trip is standard for most people, no matter where you live, especially for the younger kids.  But as homeschoolers, this can be so much more without even planning specific things to look for.

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So here’s some tips for how to not plan your field trip, but still have a good time and learn something!

1 – Go often.

We’re lucky to live close to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park, both world class zoos people travel to see.  Our family has been passholders for four years now.  We typically visit the zoo at least three times a year which more then makes up for the cost of the passes.  This is one of those places that that you can learn something new every time you go.  Zoos, museums, science centers, nature hikes.  All benefit from multiple trips, especially at different times of the year when seasons or exhibits are changing. Kids are more likely to explore an area they are familiar with so things they may have passed by the first time, they will stop and interact with another time.

2 – Don’t use a lesson plan.

When we first started visiting, I would try and make it educational.  I went out of my way to find lesson plans for preschool and kindergarten children.  Websites often have a page for teachers that help to coach the kids for what to look for.  These can be great starting off points to help build interest and promote looking closely at something.  But my kids already had their own interests.  They didn’t need their hand being held or pointing out facts that they already knew.

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3 – Follow their interests.

I started to go with the flow.  Each visit I have the kids pick one thing they want to do or see.  I do this for almost all field trips or activities we do so no one ends up going home disappointed or upset.  On our last visit to the zoo, Megatron wanted to see the giraffes, Little Miss the hippos, and Green Bubbles wanted some lions.  Of course, we saw many other animals as well, but no one was crying at the end of the day because we didn’t do something they wanted to do.

4 – Ask questions.

Everyone was happy with their picks but the animals and events that stand out  weren’t planned or picked at all.  The most memorable items from our visit happen by chance, and that’s the best kind of learning. Natural, fluid moments where genuine curiosity lead to asking questions. In my experience, people love when you ask questions and will almost always take at least a few minutes to talk with you about something they are passionate about.

As we were walking through the bird aviary on our way to the hippos, we passed a zoo keeper carrying several buckets, the kind kids play with at the playground or beach.  I commented to the kids about how she was going to build sand castles and they laughed.  But it led to asking her as she walked past what was in the buckets. She stopped and talked with us for a few minutes to let us know she was getting ready to feed the birds.   One bucket had seeds in it but she hesitated to show us the others claiming they had other items that may be alive or gross to look at it. We told her about how our box turtle also eats mealworms and asked if they were the same kind the birds ate.  That was all it took and she showed us the worms, crickets, mice and rats that were in her buckets for the birds.  She explained that many birds eat items like this as well as seeds, and some birds eat things that people like too, such as fruit.  The kids got a great lesson about the varied diets of different types of birds all because we stopped to ask a question.

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5 – Take advantage of interest based learning opportunities.

At this time of year, the flamingos were all nesting.  Little Miss loves all things pink and flamingos are no exception so, while they did not make her top pick, we always stop to see them when walking past. We had the opportunity to view their nests, see the eggs as they moved around, and saw various hatchlings from a few days old to a few weeks old.  There was a sign near by, including pictures, that explained everything about this cycle and what the chicks looked like at various ages.  I don’t normally read the signs to the kids unless they show an interest in whatever it is we are looking at, but this time they did. Green Bubbles loved telling me how old a chick was all by himself based off of this resource he was able to use by himself.  This required very little input from me besides reading the dates for them and a short paragraph about their nesting and eggs. It was a wonderful way to end our trip to the zoo that day.

 

Learning is more meaningful when it is interest based and natural.  I hope some of these tips help for the next outing with your family.

 

 

 

The (un)Perfect Planner – My homeschool Bullet Journal

The quest for the perfect planner is never ending.  I’ve tried a lot, both online and off.  Planners that came pre-printed, online planners, or planners that came with just a calendar.  Nothing seemed to fit well.  The last two years I ended up with a 3-ring binder of weekly assignments to get done that I highlighted as we completed them.  This worked well except it was a large binder, I had no idea how I was going to do the same system with two kids starting next year, and it was completely separate from all my other plans.  I needed something that included everything, could adapt to eventually three children, and would fit in my purse.

BulletJournal

That’s when I discovered bullet journaling.  Actually, I discovered bullet journaling the end of last year.  It was perfect for my weekly to do lists and even helped me plan out our trip to Disney World!  It is exactly what I need, when I need it. Weekly lists, to read lists, reminders or questions I need to look up later, all right there ready to go. But since I was using my 3-ring binder, it didn’t include my homeschool planning.

That had to change.  I wanted everything in one place.  I still couldn’t figure out how to do a weekly planning together with my household weekly planning though.  I joined a few different Facebook groups and stealing ideas from a few different layouts, I now have a brand new bullet journal all set up in time for summer! And hopefully, will work well for the coming school year.

Normally, a bullet journal isn’t divided into sections.  That’s why an index is so important.  But, I hated having to flip back and forth looking for things, so I made it work for me.  I found stick it notes that have little page dividers on them and labeled them Week, Kids, Me, spaced within my book.  In the very beginning, I set up my title page, index, key, and year ahead.  I find this last one important in my homeschool planner to see right away where certain dates fall.  I’ll go back and box out holidays.  Notice, there are only two colors on these pages.  Most of my pages are very minimal.  And, I make mistakes and try to just move past them.

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Directly behind my year ahead page is my monthly spreads.  I created the barebones for each month all the way through next summer, August 2017.  Currently, all of of my months only have the month at the top, empty boxes for Goals and Memories, and a calendar with days of the week and numbered. And thank goodness I did the months in advance as I watched my summer fill up quickly.  This became a valuable tool I used almost daily as I logged appointments, summer camps, play dates, family visiting us or us visiting family.  You don’t want to see what my July looks like! My favorite part of this is the memories box though.  I love coloring little pictures about all the adventures we’ve be on this month.  And my mediocre drawing skills can get some practice in both my memories, and the little cartoon I draw at the bottom of the page.

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My first divider, Week, lays out my weekly spread.  I started my bullet journal on the last week of normal school for us to see what it would look like with a schedule for two children.  The first box my personal To Do each day which includes my own routines, classes for the kids, cub scout stuff, and any appointments or things I need to remember.  The second column is for History.  It’s the only subject I’m combing the kids in for next year so in the interest of not having to write it out twice, it has it’s own place.  Little Miss asked to do math that last week so I was able to add a few things to her column.  I wanted to make sure I had plenty of room for her TK year in the fall, which I know won’t be a problem now.  And Greenbubbles school is, of course, a lot busier.

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Like my old binder, I still highlight school items as we complete them.  It’s an easy visual for me to see what’s been completed without having boxes filling up my page.  You’ll notice a lot of lines aren’t highlighted and I just have to say, it was the last week of school, we had a meeting with his teacher on that last day followed by a camping trip that weekend.  There was a lot going on.  It will be easy enough to add them to a following week during the summer after our few weeks of break.  Although Green Bubbles will only be working on the three r’s in the summer, I don’t want to slow to much out of our routine we’ve established.

The far right has the dates for the entire week, my meal planning for the week, any supplies needed or books for school, and notes at the bottom.  I actually have no idea what to put in the notes section yet, but thought it would be handy.

I created a new weekly layout for next week I’m hoping will work better for summer.  I combined school and summer into a simple ‘kids’ column.  My notes section is much larger and will be used as my supplies/books page as well from the original school layout.  Weather was added because we’re outside in it a lot during the summer and it’s good to look ahead to see if I want to change a trip to a cooler day that week and stay indoors, or at the pool on the hotter days.  I ended up doing this for our zoo trip this week which worked out beautifully.   Meal plans are still there, but larger.  And my tracker at the bottom of the page to help me work on my own personal fitness goals.

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Now onto the Kids tab of my book.  This is where I plan to put any homeschooling / cub scout related pages I might need to keep track of.  Currently, I have a reading list, a field trip idea page, and a list of names and payment information for a field trip I’ve already set up so I know right away who is going, how many, and who’s paid.  This area is the smallest in my book and will fill up as the school year begins.  If I run out of space, the pages will just blend into the next tab. Some pages have drawings and colors, others are just plain lists.  If I have the time to make it pretty, I will, but there’s nothing wrong with just getting it on paper.  It’s about function, not perfection.

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The Me tab of my book is just that, my personal space.  It includes quotes from books that grab my attention, fitness trackers, goals, and more.

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Hopefully this helps if you’ve been wondering about bullet journaling or even never heard of it before.  It took me awhile before I felt like I really knew how to make it work for my family and our homeschool.  Yours may look very different.  Let me know what you use to plan out your day, both personal and for school.

 

 

Blackberry Picking

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An end of the year, beginning of the summer tradition, for us is picking blackberries with our nature group. It’s always a fun time.  We pick from wild, public access bushes so some years we end up with just a few for each child.  Other years we end up with overflowing containers.  This year seemed to be somewhere in the middle.

The berries weren’t of as much interest this year honestly.  The kids had a lot more fun playing and finding other things. Pine cones, tree bark, dried sap formations, and even snails ended up in baskets.  Megatron digging in the dirt and bug chasing were some of the highlights.  So even though we only ended up with enough blackberries for Greenbubbles to eat with his lunch, the kids all still had a great time and explored the outdoors.  And isn’t that the whole point of this anyway?

Summer Plan

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean the learning stops.  And I refuse to go without routines.  Routines have become a bit of a mantra for me lately helping me with all areas of my life!  Without them there is crazy and I end up with angry, bored kids and one very frustrated mama. So I’ve roughly planned out our summer based on routines and things I wanted to accomplish.

Now, this doesn’t mean I have our entire days scheduled to the minute.  My kids have a lot of free time to do whatever they want, including screens.  I don’t limit much.  But our mornings are more structured.

Here’s Galleons Lap’s summer schedule!

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I like to think this is pretty self explanatory, but how about some ideas of what we’ll do these days!

Monday: Library/Park Day

A once a week library trip is just what we need to keep up summer reading goals and participate in all the wonderful summer reading programs that are going on both online and locally.  And right next door to the library is an incredible playground that includes not only slides and swings, but also building materials of all kinds, a sensory garden, chalk, trucks, sand toys, an art area with a new project always going on, and a water pump area with water tables that drain into a muddy creek bed.  Everything is supplied by the city.  All I do is bring a change of clothes, when I remember too, because the kids do get wet and muddy.

Tuesday: Art

This isn’t just drawing pictures, although I’m sure it will include that as well. We’re talking about sidewalk chalk paint, squirt guns filled with paint, clay, and lots of other messy, hands on activities that all three kids, even the toddler, can participate in.

Wednesday: Nature

This is our nature study day during the normal school year and it doesn’t really change in the summer time.  We’ll still be getting out once a week, although there’s a lot more beaches involved and maybe not as much study.

Thursday: Field Trips

I always have a long list of places I want to go to or see that never seems to happen so making a special day dedicated to doing these things is perfect!  We already have passes to the local Science Museum for days that we don’t want to spend a lot of money or time.  But I’m also including trips to the water park, art museum, zoo, and anything else that comes up that I feel the desire to do.  I know it’s summer, and many of these places will be crowded with camp kids and kids out on summer break.  I’ve learned if you go early, at opening, and plan to spend just a few hours, not only do you beat the heat of the day, you also beat a lot of the crowds.  And sometimes, you just have to deal with the crowds.

Friday: STEAM

If you don’t know, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. I’m setting aside a time to build, discover, and explore.  This includes creating slime and putty, making catapults, building bridges for hot wheels out of tin foil, LED circuits out of play dough, and more.

It’s also summer of course, and some days/weeks we won’t get to it.  We have family visiting, or traveling ourselves. Summer camps to attend.  And days we’ll just want to hang out at the pool or splash pads.  And that’s okay.  Having a rough guide is important, but it’s just a guide.

 

 

 

10 Histocial Fiction Read Alouds for Early Modern History

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Since I’m knee deep into planning next year’s school schedule, I thought I’d share some of our picks for historical fiction read alouds that fit the time period we’re studying, Early Modern history.  Of course, just because I schedule them, doesn’t mean we’ll read all of them.   Sometimes we end up reading other books instead and never make it to the one on the schedule.  Sometimes the kids just have trouble getting hooked into a particular book.  But I like having the rough guideline.

Some of these books are even from the Mensa reading list for K-3rd grade.  When you complete the list the kids can earn a free t-shirt.  And reading them aloud and audio books count!

(Note: Plain boring links, not affiliates.)

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A Lion to Guard Us –  Set in the 1600’s. Their father has gone to Jamestown and Amanda barely remembers him.  After their mother passes, she decides to take her siblings to Jamestown to find their father and be a family again.

The Courage of Sarah Noble – This is one of the few we have read before, when Green Bubbles was doing an American History year for TK at four years old.  It’s a great story about a young girl traveling into the frontier with her father, and having to be left alone.  Set in 1707.

The Cabin Faced West – A little later but still in pioneering times (mid to late 1700’s), this is about a little girl and her family who move to western Pennsylvania.  She even gets to meet George Washington.   On the Mensa reading list!

Paul Revere’s Ride –  Famous poem by Longfellow, this is a shorter read but has so much history it really can’t be forgotten.  And who doesn’t know the simple rhyme. On the Mensa reading list.

Sam the Minuteman – A shorter book but an easy reader for kids that are ready for them, this is about a little boy who becomes a Minuteman when the British are coming. Mensa reading again.

Toliver’s Secret –  When her grandfather is injured, 10-year-old Ellen Toliver replaces him on a top-secret patriotic mission. Disguised as a boy, she manages to smuggle a message to General George Washington.

Ben and Me – This is a biography of Benjamin Franklin as told by Amos, a mouse.

The Boy in the Alamo –   This is a story about a boy who was in the Alamo (1836) during the Texas revolution.  Full of action and brave deeds.

Caddie Woodlawn – Set in the 1860’s, this is about a girl and her family who live out in the frontier.

Note: I did leave Little House on the Prairie off of this list, but only because we’ve already read it.  It may make it on the schedule, but it’s already one so many lists I didn’t think it would hurt to leave it off.

These books are in the modern history period for next year but I thought they were worth sharing, even if they don’t fit the time period!  And so I don’t forget about them by next year.

Sarah, Plain and Tall – Set in the 1900’s at the turn of the century, another great story about a little girl. Mensa reading list.

All-of-a-kind Family – 1900’s.  Mensa reading list.

The Saturday’s – Set in the 1940’s this book is about four siblings who decide to pool their allowance money to allow each of them to do one longed for thing each Saturday.

 

 

2nd Grade and TK Currlculum Choices: 2016-2017

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I’m a planner!  I don’t know how obvious that is by this blog and my infrequent posting, but my school runs pretty smoothly.

So here it is, our curriculum for next year!

Transitional Kindergarten:

Language Arts:

Handwriting without Tears – They have a new TK book!

All About Reading – Pre-reading

Math:

RightStart Level A

Science:

Interactive Science Journal with topics including types of scientists, scientific method, five senses, what is alive, diurnal/nocturnal, birds, lights, bugs, properties/describing words (soft, hard, bumpy), types of matter, slime kit, animal research, and plants.  Units will be purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers or free units from Pinterest, since I need a plan!

As interested, tag along with big brother in chemistry.  But only if she’s interested.

Nature Study / Journal

History:

Story of the World Vol. 3 and Activity Book – Tag along with big brother with read alouds more at her level that follow the time line.

Other Stuff:

Art Class

Swim Lessons

Harmony Fine Arts: Art and Music Appreciation Grade 3 (Mostly just picture study, tagging along with big brother.)

 

Second Grade:

Language Arts:

All About Reading – Level 2

First Language Lessons – Level 2

Writing with Ease – Level 1 (finish), Level 2

All About Spelling – Level 1 (finish), Level 2

Math:

RightStart Level B (finish), Level C

Science:

Real Science Odyssey Chemistry

Nature Study / Journal

History:

Story of the World Vol. 3 Early Modern and Activity Book

Other Stuff:

Art Class

Freerunning

Swim lessons

Harmony Fine Arts: Art and Music Appreciation Grade 3

Typing

 

Toddler –

Potty train if we’re lucky.

Learn to not touch every single thing he sees, especially in stores.

Talking in more complete sentences.

Cut out all that biting and hitting stuff!

 

 

 

End of the Year Reflection: 1st Grade and Preschool

It’s the end of the school year!  While it’s fun to look ahead to summer and all the activities, trips, vacations, and just plain fun days, it’s also important to look back and reflect on the past year.  What worked, what didn’t, what needs to change and stay the same.  So here’s my 1st grade / Preschool reflection.

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Preschool – Planned for Princess Preschool with a focus on a different Disney Princess each month.  I planned out fun arts and crafts projects for 2x a week.  It started off great in the summer time but the moment I added Green Bubbles into his first grade schedule, it totally collapsed. This did not work at all.  Thankfully, it’s preschool and all she missed out on was arts and crafts.  I’m sad about that because it really was supposed to be something just for her that she loves, but she won’t have any major holes in her education at only 3/4 years old.

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1st Grade – I just now realized I never actually wrote a post about our 1st grade curriculum choices so…

Language Arts: All About Reading Level 1, All About Spelling Level 1, First Language Lessons

Math: Singapore Math 1b, 2a

Science: Real Science Odyssey Earth and Astronomy

History: Story of the World, Vol 2. Middle Ages

So how did it go?  We switched up a lot mid year.  History and Science were good fits and we will stick with them for next year as well.

What didn’t work and what we changed:

Math, we hit a road block which was totally my fault.  Singapore is a great program, but requires a lot of preplanning which I wasn’t doing.  We didn’t do mental math exercises, work on memorizing facts, use manipulatives.  It was open and go workbook which worked great until the last part of 1b which I noticed him slow way down and not get it.  We switched to RightStart Level B mid year and are blowing through it because it’s simple.  But it’s reviewing facts he didn’t pick up the first time so I don’t want to skip ahead.  He’s learning mental math strategies a lot easier and loves using the abacus and the lack of writing. I love that everything I need is right there in the book including needed supplies, games, review.. everything.  It’s so much easier for me to be open and go without skipping important things.

Language Arts, I noticed we had a major lack of writing going on which I also fixed in mid-year.  We added in Handwriting Without Tears Grade 1 and Writing with Ease level 1.  Since starting these, I’ve noticed his writing stamina improving.  It’s gentle copywork that slowly adds length over time so it doesn’t overwhelm him.  We do Writing With Ease 4 days a week, since nature study is typically a no school day for us.  In level 1, there is two days of copywork, one day of narration, and one day of narration that he then copies.  On the one day of narration, I have him to a page from Handwriting without Tears so he’s still writing something that day.

All about Reading is awesome and looking back to where we were in the beginning of the year when he struggled to read cat to where he is now is simply mind blowing to me, especially in just the last few weeks when he’s able to read so much more quickly and fluency is finally starting to kick in.  We started All About Spelling the beginning of the year but took a long break to focus on reading.  We started back at All About Spelling just recently and he’s flying through it.  The only time he struggles are with sounds that he has problems with due to his speech errors.  He completely understands the rules from when we learned them in All About Reading that I almost feel like All About Spelling isn’t needed if it wasn’t for him needing the extra practice with those select sounds.  I use it to help review those sounds, make him more aware of them, and practice saying the correct sounds so it’s not only spelling, it’s also extra speech practice!

We also took a break from First Language Lessons for a month and just played mad lib games.  It was a fun break and Green Bubbles loved all the silly stories we made up. I love the flexibility of putting something away for a short amount of time to just have fun and picking it back up again later.

I finished the year feeling like I finally found my footing.  Of course, that all changes next year with Little Miss entering into formal school age.  Hopefully it won’t take me as long to get into our routines with two as it did with one.

 

 

 

Fullerton Arboretum

It’s spring break!  There’s no speech this week and I’m only focusing on basic reading and math, because a complete break will be a disaster when it’s time to start back up again.

Of course, we still went to our weekly nature study and since I haven’t written about one in quite some time, I thought it was time.

This week we checked out the Fullerton Arboretum. It always brings back memories for me since I went to school at Cal State Fullerton so the drive there and parking always makes me think of college. Parking is free at the arboretum and they only ask for a small, optional, donation.

It’s spring time and everything was in bloom, including the cactus! I loved all the colors and the kids had fun playing.  There were field trip kids here the day we went so we weren’t able to do what we normally do, but still totally worth it.

After our hike we were able to check out their museum where they had a seed exhibit as well that was interesting.  Well, interesting to the adults.

The arboretum is always a relaxing day for our nature study without a prolonged hike or drive to get somewhere.  Check it out yourself.

Princess School Update

I haven’t figured out how to school two kids at the same time!  I need to work on that since Little Miss will be in TK next year.  That pretty much means Princess School stopped when 1st grade started for Green Bubbles.  I’m making an effort to try and include her back into her Princess School time since it really was an important part of her week and helped her feel loved and included.  Since I missed a lot of months, I thought I would just link up to my Pinterest board for each month for ideas for anyone who wants to do Princess School as well.

Snow White (September)

Cinderella (October)

Pocahontas (November)

Belle (December)

Anna / Elsa (January)

Jasmine (February)

Rapunzel (March)

I’m going to try and actually get caught up with Rapunzel, and we did do one craft from Jasmine in February, that I didn’t get any pictures of!  I hope this helps and gives me more incentive to do the arts and crafts my daughter craves.