Keeping the Kids Active Through the Winter

Winter has settled in for a long stay and it’s likely your kids are getting restless. While snuggling on the couch is fun for a few days, after a week or so of being stuck indoors, kids need to run and jump. Unfortunately, doing this inside the house is not always an option, and sending the kids outside may not be either.

If you find yourself stuck in the house and slowly drifting into a funk this winter season, it might be time to find some ways to get out and let the kids run around. Need some suggestions on how to go about this? Here are some of our favorite ideas.

Find an Indoor Playground — The first and most obvious option is to find an indoor playground. Not sure where one can be found? Check out Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s. If fast food isn’t your thing, you might prefer Dynamo Gym in northwest Oklahoma City, where you can pay $5 to play on a gigantic play structure. For those with young kids, the small play area at Quail Springs Mall is great, and Unpluggits in Edmond is an amazing place to both play and do some crafts.

Invest in a Membership — A membership at the Oklahoma Science Museum is a wonderful investment. Add on the Oklahoma Museum Network option and gain access to a variety of area museums—some with playgrounds—where your kids can run, jump, and learn.

Head to the Gym — No, we don’t mean you need to take your kids to the nearest Gold’s Gym. However, finding a local church or school that is willing to open their gymnasium to visitors could be an option. Call around and see if you can find a place where the kids can let loose and run off their energy. If you do find a place, you might even help some other parents out by setting up a homeschool meetup.

Sign Up For a Class — There are tons of choices when it comes to classes that help kids expend some of their pent-up energy. Gymnastics and dance lessons are easy to find, as are sports teams. We even have the option of yoga with Emily right here at The Loop, and boy is it a great option!

We hope these tips help keep your kids active and happy, and also help save your sanity this cold season. After all, homeschooling is no fun at all if everyone is crabby. So what are you waiting for? Get out and start moving!

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Great Gifts for Homeschoolers

It’s that magical time of year. The time when holiday decorations light up the night and wonderful smells fill the air. That means it’s time to start creating Christmas lists and getting the shopping done.

While holiday shopping can be an absolute blast, it can also be a bit difficult. This is especially true if you feel like your kids already have every toy and game under the sun. If this is the case for you, why not take a different approach this year and limit incoming gifts to educational toys, games, and experiences? This will ensure your kids get all the same holiday fun they are accustomed to, but will also help enrich their lives and round out their homeschooling experience.

Wondering what kinds of educational gifts you could purchase for your young students? Well, there are hundreds of options. However, we are going to use this post to highlight just 10 of our all-time favorites:

  • Ticket To Ride — This fun and engaging board game is perfect for helping children ages 8 and up understand a variety of math concepts. It requires tons of planning and counting and demonstrates the use of mathematics in daily life. Have a younger kid? Consider looking for the junior version of the game.
  • Set — A fun game that helps players recognize patterns and improves mathematical thinking. Set is fast-paced fun with short-lived rounds that even the wiggliest little ones can enjoy. That said, this game is best for the 6 and older crowd.
  • Bananagrams — A fun game of quick thinking and word play, Bananagrams is a great way for intermediate readers and writers to hone their skills. It requires tons of reading and spelling and can even help extend a child’s vocabulary. Best of all, there is a junior version so even the littlest players can get in on the action.
  • LEGO Bricks — LEGO blocks are the ideal educational toy. They’re not only fun, but also work to encourage mathematical thinking, problem solving, and even engineering. Buy the bricks on their own or invest in a few sets. Either way, you can rest assured you are making a good purchase.
  • Snap Circuits — Anyone who has ever played with Snap Circuits knows just how amazing they are. This is the ideal toy for helping kids understand electricity and give them an introduction to the world of engineering. Be sure to look for a junior version for young children.
  • National Geographic Kids Books — From books about space to encyclopedias of animals, National Geographic Kids has something for everyone. We adore these books, and recommend that every homeschool parent invest in a few.
  • Explorer Kit — Everyone knows just how important it is for kids to explore the world. Why not give them the perfect tools for doing so? An explorer kit that includes binoculars, a magnifying glass, a flashlight, and anything a child might need for a backyard adventure is the perfect gift for curious kids.
  • Activity Kits — Whether you choose to pick up a craft kit or a science experiment set, activity kits are always a good bet. These kits are perfect for giving kids the tools they need to carry out projects on their own without investing a fortune.
  • Subscription Boxes — Subscription boxes such as Kiwi Crate and Little Passports ensure your gifts last the whole year. They are something the kids can get excited about each month, and they provide fun learning opportunities that may never come about otherwise.
  • Classes and Experiences — Kids learn best through experiences. For this reason, paying for your young student to attend a special class, workshop, or other event might just be the perfect gift idea. Choose an event at a local museum, take a short trip to another city, or pick a new class from the lineup here at The Loop. All of these are wonderful options that your child is sure to love.

We hope this list helps you find the right gifts for your children this holiday season. Happy holidays from all of us here at The Loop!

Snuggle Up and Learn

Cold weather is here, and that means it’s time for warm PJs, cups of cocoa, and cuddling around the fire. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to wear those pajamas later into the morning, drink cocoa at noon, and stay around the fire a bit later even though it’s a school night.

Even better than that, all of this snuggling can be done while sneaking in a bit of learning, meaning your fall family time can count as school. Try these six simple snuggle-schooling ideas the next time you’re too cozy to move off the couch and change into real clothes.

Read a Book

This is the most obvious idea on the list, but it is a solid one, and simply had to be included. There is nothing quite like curling up with a good book on a chilly day, and whether you choose to read individually or as a group, you can bet your kids will be learning all kinds of new things. Best of all, this activity can be done with a mug of cocoa or hot tea in hand.

Play a Game

Board games are one of the most fun ways to squeeze a bit of extra education into your day. Scrabble, Boggle, and Bananagrams all help with reading, spelling, and vocabulary skills. Meanwhile, games like Ticket to Ride and Pay Day make math fun.

Turn on the TV

Yes, you heard right. Why not use your TV for school? There are plenty of incredibly educational shows, movies, and documentaries out there. By viewing the TV as tool rather than a distraction, you will be enriching your child’s educational experience tremendously while also grabbing a bit of extra snuggle time.

Craft Together

Some crafts are not couch worthy. However, that doesn’t mean no crafts can happen while you relax under a blanket. Try teaching your little ones to knit, crochet, or cross stitch. They will be learning valuable skills and practicing math and problem solving skills while also getting quality time with you on a comfy couch.

Hand out the Tablets

Another device that is often looked down on by parents is the tablet. However, we find that these personal screens can be quite handy when used for schooling purposes. Apps such as Teach Your Monster to Read, DragonBox, and even an updated version of Oregon Trail make learning fun, and all can be played in the living room.

Pull Out the Legos

Almost every kid loves Legos.They are a very versatile toy, meaning they encourage creative thinking and problem solving. Additionally, they are perfect for teaching kids about counting, fractions, patterns, simple machines, and more. Best of all, Legos can be played with anywhere in the house.

Of course, these are just some of the ways to learn on chilly fall days. Writing and painting are also great cold day activities. Both can be learned at The Loop and even in PJs if you like. Be sure to check out our class schedule page for more info.

 

3 Fall Art Activities Your Kids Will Love

Fall is here, and that means it’s time to snuggle up, get cozy, and enjoy everything this amazing season has to offer. One of the best ways to help kids truly appreciate the offerings of fall is to help them use those offerings to create fun and beauty. After all, what kid doesn’t appreciate something that brings them joy?

Below we have compiled a short list of three great craft projects you can do using the materials brought to us by the fall season. This means some quality nature walks are in your future as you and your student gather supplies for your latest project.

Pinecone Birdfeeder

Most adults have made a pinecone birdfeeder at some point in their lives. However, the next generation is not seeing nearly as much of this classic craft. Help keep this tradition alive by creating pinecone birdfeeders with your little ones.

First, gather up several pinecones. These can be any shape or size, but should be whole. Spread a layer of peanut butter over each of the pinecones, making sure some of the peanut butter goes in the spaces between the spines. Roll the entire thing in a shallow dish of birdseed, making sure to cover the peanut butter completely.

To finish, hang the birdfeeder from a tree using a piece of yarn or string. Be sure to keep an eye on the feeder and see what kinds of birds it attracts.

Leaf Rubbing Collage

Leaf rubbings are great fun for people of all ages. They are simple enough for even the youngest kiddos to do, and almost always turn out looking pretty enough to hang. Best of all, collecting leaves for this project is a great opportunity to discuss various kinds of leaves and the trees they fall from.

To begin, gather leaves of various shapes and sizes. Place one leaf under a sheet of plain white paper, and use an unwrapped crayon to rub back and forth over the place where the leaf sits. This should leave you with a leaf-shaped impression on the page. Using another leaf and another color of crayon, repeat this process elsewhere on the page. Continue repeating the process until the entire page has been filled with overlapping colors and multiple leaf impressions.

The finished product is quite pretty, and something you may even want to frame to hang in your child’s room or playroom.

Autumn Wreath

Everyone loves a nice wreath hanging on the front door. Unfortunately, most professionally made wreaths are pretty pricey. Why not skip the expensive option and opt to make your own fall wreath this year?

The first step to making a beautiful autumn wreath is a nice, long walk in the woods. Spend your walk gathering any pretty things you might see. This should include colorful—but not crispy—fallen leaves, acorns, pinecones, and even small berries if you happen to see some.

After you’ve gathered a nice collection, head home and bring out a paper plate, scissors, and a hot glue gun. Cut the middle of the paper plate out, leaving behind a ring of plate. This will be the base of your wreath. Place the base on a flat surface and arrange your found leaves on top of it, making sure to cover the entire base. Once satisfied with the arrangement, glue the leaves into place. Use the pinecones, acorns, and berries as ornaments by gluing them into place wherever you see fit.

Once your wreath dries, be sure to hang it on the front door so you can spread autumn cheer to all your neighbors and friends.

If your child enjoys doing these art projects and would like more opportunities to get creative, it might be time to check into art classes. Lucky for you, The Loop has plenty to offer when it comes to art classes! Be sure to check out our schedule for more information!

Screen Time Tips for Homeschooling Families

For many parents, screen time is a touchy subject. After all, we’ve all seen the terrible effects too much tablet time can have on our kids. However, it is important to recognize that these devices can also prove very useful as educational tools. The trick is using the tool properly, a practice that is difficult to master and even more difficult to maintain. That said, if you can find a tablet groove that works for you family, you will find yourself with an amazing window to the world that can seriously enhance your child’s education.

So how can you use a tablet to your advantage? Well, here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks.

Skip the Browsing

The internet, Netflix, and app stores all have one thing in common; endless possibilities. For kids, this often means hours of mindless browsing. It also means your young students could potentially come across some things they may not be ready to see.

The best way to avoid this is to do the searching yourself. Ask other homeschooling parents, run Google searches, and keep your child’s interests in mind. Find the kinds of apps you’d like your kids to use and download them. Find cool Youtube channels and sit and watch with your child. Seek out Netflix movies and documentaries that tie into your curriculum and offer that option specifically. The key here is to be involved in your child’s online world and provide resources you know they will enjoy and benefit from.

Offer Choices

Sometimes kids want to have some say in what they use their devices for. This is perfectly understandable, and there is no reason why they can’t have some choices. In these cases, you may want to provide a list of acceptable apps, websites, and videos. This give your child the freedom of choice, but still gives you some control over what they are seeing and doing during their screen time.

Find Connections

Some of the best moments for homeschooling parents come when a lightbulb goes off in their child’s head. The best way to get those moments is to present connections for your student.

For instance, if you recently watched a documentary about Ireland, you might also read a book or two about Ireland, go to an Irish dance or music class or event, and make Irish soda bread. You could use screen time to enhance this experience by listening to Irish music, learning to say some things in Gaelic, or looking at photos of Ireland.

These kinds of connections will help your student understand how their newfound knowledge fits into the bigger picture. It will also help make their experiences memorable and instill in them a love of learning. You can definitely use the tablet to your advantage when trying to introduce these kinds of connections, making it a fabulous educational tool in this respect.

Offer Alternatives

If you find that the tablet seems to be taking over your home, if might be time to offer your children some alternative ways of entertaining themselves, observing the world, and gathering information. The goal is to remove the tablet from your child’s hands and replace it with other types of tools.

However, instead of physically removing the tablet, try simply making it known that other learning opportunities are available. This might mean offering a trip to the library, setting up a craft at the table, inviting the child to work in the garden, or suggesting a tea party in the dining room. You might be surprised just how easy it is to pull your child away from the screen and engage them in other things, leaving the tablet for another learning experience on another day.

Need an amazing alternative to screentime to offer your child on a regular basis? Why not sign up for one of the amazing classes at The Loop? With so many creative activities to choose from, you are sure to find one that your child will love. Who knows? You may even be able to tie their tablet time experiences to what they learn in class, making the whole situation a perfect fit.

 

 

5 Inexpensive Oklahoma Field Trip Ideas

School is back in session, and now is the perfect time to head out on some field trips without the crowds. Unfortunately, many homeschooling parents find themselves in a rut when it comes to field trips. Limited funds, a lack of time to research, and a host of other factors can quickly lead families to stick to their usual territory.

This is all fine and dandy, but it can also become incredibly dull. After all, not many people enjoy doing the same old thing day in and day out. If you are already finding yourself in a rut this school year, why not break out of it with one of these inexpensive, yet interesting field trip options? All are less than an hour away from Norman, making them easy day trips that don’t require too much car time.

Braum’s Tour

All Oklahomans know the Braum’s brand and most of us love the delicious dairy products they provide. If you are one of the many Braum’s ice cream fanatics out there, you will love the Braum’s farm tour. This tour is absolutely free, but must be scheduled in advance, so be sure to call a few weeks ahead of time to reserve a spot for your family and friends.

Sam Noble Museum

The Sam Noble Museum is a wonderful place full of all kinds of information and artifacts. Anyone who has any interest at all in natural history will adore this place, and even little ones can find something to do in the special room that is set aside just for them.

Unfortunately, this museum is also a little bit pricey. However, by waiting until the first Monday of the month, your kids will get in free, meaning you only have to pay for the adults in your group.

Edmond Historical Society Children’s Learning Center

While it is a bit of a trek, the Children’s Learning Center which is run by the Edmond Historical Society is a worthwhile day trip for those with elementary age children. The center focuses on the history of Oklahoma with a focus on role play. Admission is free and the museum often holds special craft days, making the visit even more special.

Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Slightly older children will appreciate the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman on the OU campus. The museum has several permanent collections on display, but also hosts temporary exhibitions on a regular basis. Admission is free, making this the perfect opportunity to introduce the young people in your life to the power of art.

Oklahoma State Capitol

Learn about the history of our state government as well as what goes on in the capitol building. The capitol building is open throughout the week for self guided tours, but we highly recommend planning to take a guided tour. These are available Monday through Friday at various points throughout the day. All tours are free, and well worth your time.

These are just a few of the wonderful things our state has to offer. Do a bit more research and we’re sure you’ll find even more fantastic field trip options.

Looking for a way to get out of the house on a regular basis in addition to your occasional field trips? Why not sign up for one of the many great classes here at The Loop?

Weaving History into Your Daily Life

History is a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, many of the history books out there make the story of our world appear to be a dry and boring matter, and this creates a less than wonderful relationship between the student and the subject. If your children are among those who claim to “hate” history and won’t touch their history books without groaning, it might be time to make a change in how the subject is presented to them.

This situation can be difficult for parents. After all, they are merely teaching the subject in the same way it was taught to them. What better way could there be? The truth of the matter is that history can be shown, taught, and embraced in a variety of ways that intrigue the student and give him or her reason to seek out more information and dive further into the topic.

Below are 5 amazing ways to weave history into your everyday life and get your children excited about the past.

Read

Reading can be just as wonderful as history when done right. Take advantage of this fact by making reading a big part of your child’s history education. No, this doesn’t mean you should pull out the same dry textbook. Instead, seek out historical fiction, well written biographies, and old documents. You might be surprised just how fascinating your journey into the past becomes when you replace the dull reading material with something interesting and fun.

Write

Writing is another great way to get in touch with the people of our past. Give your students interesting writing prompts and allow them to set their imaginations free. Some great options include writing a fictional memoir or novel. Not sure you can help much in this area? Consider signing up for the history writing class here at The Loop.

Take Field Trips

Field trips make everything more fun. Fortunately, we have tons of great history-focused field trip opportunities here in Oklahoma. Head to the Oklahoma History Center or the National Cowboy Museum. Check out the Medieval Fair or schedule a day at Harn Homestead. Whichever destination you choose, try to find some good reading material on the subject beforehand.

Join a Club

If your students show an intense interest in a particular time in history, you might consider joining some sort of club in order to allow them to explore further with like minded individuals. Some great options for this include The Knights of Castleton in Muskogee and Historic Dance OK.

Throw a Party

Nothing helps kids dive into the past quite like a party. Choose a time period, find period appropriate recipes, and get to work making some grub. Pull out the sewing machine and whip up some costumes that fit the chosen theme. Do some research on the proper manners of the time as well as ways our ancestors may have entertained guests and structure your party accordingly. Parties like this are a great way to end unit studies.

These fun and interesting ways of learning about our past are sure to pull your kids out of the history funk and get them excited about the story of our world. Why not try one out this week and see how the kids react? You might just create little history buffs in the process.