Practical Lessons: Working With Tiny Hands

Usually when the homeschool co-op semester begins, I choose classes that the kids will enjoy, classes that I’m too broke or bored to teach. Lego Art, Messy Munchkin Crafts, Edible Science, and Cupcake Decorating are some of my boys’ favorites. Since I’m trying to monopolize our school time this year, I am opting for more practical co-op classes this semester, classes that I can’t teach and that might help the kids after this year and beyond. These type of classes can be taught with YouTube videos and a few supplies as well.

American Sign Language (ASL)

I cannot teach my kids sign language because I don’t know any language besides English. I jumped at the opportunity to put my first grader in an ASL class, because it is practical, affords the opportunity to interact with other kids, and can lead to career choices later in life. When a hearing child knows sign language, they can be an unexpected blessing to others, so this is a great opportunity.

Hand Sewing

I don’t sew. My husband learned to sew in the Army, so he does all of our family sewing repairs. It’s an incredibly positive influence on my boys. Since Daddy can sew, my eight-year-old was more than happy to take on a sewing class (with a needle and everything). At an age where they cannot do a whole lot to help, how wonderful will it be for him to contribute by sewing on buttons, hemming his pants, and making minor repairs? He’s already excited that his first project is nearly finished and, after missing two weeks of class, he can move onto the next one to catch up with his classmates!

Idle Hands

What are your homeschool kids doing with their hands? As parents and homeschoolers, we so often depend on art to keep our kids’ hands busy. Scissors, penmanship, crayons, paintbrushes — these are all a necessary means to help children develop. As they grow, there are other practical tasks they can do with their hands, skills they can learn.

  • Make crafts to sell for a “book fund” or “field trip.”
  • Build bird houses, towers, or feeders to help the environment.
  • Dust the furniture to help Mom and Dad.
  • Wash dishes (correctly) to help Mom and Dad.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Plant an herb garden to contribute to the pantry.
  • Take up an instrument.
  • Learn to type (stories, letters, news, etc.).

I believe there is a reason that God opened the Bible by proclaiming Himself as Creator. As God, there are many ways He could have described Himself. Jesus Christ worked with His hands as a carpenter, creating. God the Father created the heavens and earth from nothing. We’re created in their image, and I’ve found that no matter what learning type, personality type, or age humans are, they still create. Starting this semester, the Ashworths are going to work with our hands. Starting with sign language and hand-sewing, the sky will be the limit.


Outdoor Activities You Can Fall For

My boys are outdoor country boys through-and-through! They wake up and beg to go outside before breakfast is warm and table is set. We coax them into waiting until their bellies are full (and mom and dad are dressed), and in the summer we have to debate about the usefulness of clothes on a young boy as well. When fall swings around, there is no damper on the boys’ excitement for the outdoors, but we do have to change the experience slightly.

Less Sun, Still Fun?

The sunny, warm summers meant the boys could run free morning, noon, and night. They’d come in the house with crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, roly-polies, caterpillars, lady bugs, frogs, lizards, and handfuls of other cringe-worthy organisms. They knew just where to look to find the best critters.

When fall comes around the leaves die, the tiny bugs and reptiles seem to hide, the wind is cold, and the boys grow…bored. Where we used to coax them into staying inside during the hottest parts of the day, now we have to convince them there is something worth finding outside after the first run of the morning. We don’t get much snow in even the deepest months of winter, but in October? Nothing but gusty, brown cold. Mom and Dad have to put on their thinking caps when the seasons change.

Routine, Routine, Routine

The R-word is one I hate, and I’m not fond of that word either. The only thing routine about our family is the places we go through the week at the same time every week: church, taekwando, Celebrate Recovery, my mom’s, repeat. During the winter, if we don’t slip outdoor play into our daily routine, it just won’t happen.

This year I’ll be talking a lot about practical life schooling, which is my focus in my homeschooling with my boys. They’re using an online curriculum for their main academics, which means Mom’s role is practical life application. Part of the challenge will be to include outdoor activities during cold months!

Practical Outdoor Play Made Easy 

First, make sure you know what your kid likes to do outside, how they like to learn, and how they burn their tiny-human energy. If it’s looking for critters (spatial, logical), then maybe they’d also like to look for other forms of wildlife — or proof of wildlife (nests, scratches, tracks, droppings). If your kid likes to dig in the dirt (kinesthetic), maybe he or she would also like to stack firewood, rake leaves — and jump into them — and paint a fence.

Here is my list for this October/November:

  1. Yard Work: Clearing trash, brush, weeds, leaves away so that next year our yard can flourish (and we can enjoy the snow more thoroughly this winter).
  2. Nature Hikes: To find nuts, nests, bones, turtle shells, etc., that point to life in the woods. Also bird-watching is fun this time of year because some leave, and others arrive.
  3. Building and Maintaining a Bird Feeder: Build a bird house or feeder for those winter birds that stick around. Let the kids photograph the birds and make a book that they can add to as seasons change.
  4. Stacking Firewood: Mainly because the kids unstacked our firewood this summer, playing, they can stack it this fall. Discuss fire, responsibility, safety, and gain a little exercise.
  5. Fun Play Ideas: Dodgeball, catch, freeze tag, Olympic competitions, leaf/finger painting, and an internet’s worth of other outdoor activities to choose from.
  6. Star Gazing: I don’t know one kid that doesn’t like a bonfire on a fall night. This is a great time to star gaze with your students. If you have a telescope of your own: BONUS. If you don’t, your local library may have some to check out.
  7. Local Nature Excursions: Our regional Nature Center has fantastic programs, and many specific to homeschoolers. They also have backpacks full of themes activities for two-week check-out. If you live near to a nature center, conservation area, or zoo, there are many similar programs for homeschoolers. Also, many regions have fairs, fall festivals, and orchards with regular programing.
  8. Camping: My family loves to camp, and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity this summer. So we’re planning one fall campout before the weather turns too cold for our littles. If you are a camping family, plan ahead, and choose a camping area that has some educational programming during you stay.
  9. Have Fun: Your outdoor play may not be part of your specific schooling, but it is part of staying healthy! Set an example by spending time outdoors, and do something you love to do outdoors. Your enthusiasm will show.
  10. Include Others: Activities can be more fun when you include people you enjoy to hang out with. Spend time outside, then come in for some hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire.

Rock On!

Have you heard of Kindness Rocks? They are hand painted rocks, usually in bright colors, often with affirming words or phrases put on them, that people decorate and hide as random acts of kindness! I had seen them here and there on the internet this summer but didn’t look into it at all.

Then in mid August we found our first rock! We had gone to the library for story time, and found it sitting on the bench outside the front door of the library. Someone was really excited to find it!

It turns out that the city we live in launched their own little branch-off of Kindness Rocks on July 4th. The back of the rock directed you to the Facebook group (that has nearly 2,500 people in it) where people were sharing pictures of rocks they found and giving hints to where rocks were hidden. That afternoon we went out and got ourselves some rocks and some cheap acrylic paints and started making our very own rocks to share.

Serenity picked the colors on the very first rock that we painted and hid. She painted all the pink all by herself. We hid the rock when we made a run to our local Post Office.

The wonderful thing about being in the local rock group is that we get to see every day the joy that our rocks bring to people in our community. Whether it’s through them finding rocks that we decorated or us finding rocks that they have decorated, it’s a treasure hunt that brings joy to all that participate. The local police and fire departments have decorated their own rocks. A fire department rock will get you a tour of one of the fire stations if you bring it back to them. A police department rock will get you a cool swag bag if it’s brought to the police station.

Our local lumber yard has gotten in on the rock fun too. They are selling rocks for $1 per plastic grocery sack full.

I highly recommend doing Kindness Rocks as a homeschool art project. It’s a great way to connect with your community, to teach sharing, and to appreciate the art of others. We have discovered new places in our city that we didn’t know about (even though we’ve lived here for 10 years), discovered incredibly talented artists, and met new people.

Serenity decorated this rock all by herself. She painted it with pink metallic craft paint, and then drew an octopus on it with purple sharpie. (Sense a color theme?)

This is her favorite rock that we have decorated. It was painted by dripping different colors of old nail polish over it. It was finished off with a googly eye in the middle. 🙂

This is one of the pretty rocks we found on our first outing to a new park we learned about through the rocks Facebook page.

Sashay Cowl Main

Crafts for Kids: Sashay Chunky Cowl Crochet Pattern

Hi, guys! I’ve decided to take things in a different direction with my blog feature this year, and use my posts to share some fun craft tutorials — specifically easy crochet patterns — with you. This cute cowl is something kids, teens, and adults will enjoy wearing, and uses only three stitches: chain, single crochet, and slip stitch.

If you know how to crochet (and know the names of the stitches), but are not sure how to read a crochet pattern, I’ve included a quick tutorial below.

If this is your first time looking at a crochet pattern, you may be wondering what all these letters are for. To save space and time when writing down a pattern, designers use abbreviations. The nice thing is that most of these terms make a lot of sense since the first letters of the stitch (i.e. sc = single crochet) are frequently used in patterns written in American English.

Here are a few common stitch abbreviations and their meanings:

  • sl st = slip stitch
  • ch = chain
  • sc = single crochet
  • hdc = half double crochet
  • dc = double crochet
  • tr = treble crochet
  • BLO = back loop only
  • FLO = front loop only

Many patterns also have extra information that will explain special stitches, or additional notes on how to work the pattern. It is important to read all the notes before you start; otherwise, you might have to rip out (undo) all your hard work! In the crochet community this is referred to as “frogging” (“rip it” sounds a bit like “ribbit”). 😉

The way you would interpret terms in a pattern is as follows. (I’ll be using part of the cowl pattern below to explain).

Round 1: ch 30, join with sl st to form a circle
Rounds 2-4: ch 1, sc in each stitch around, join with sl st to first sc (30)

In simple English, Round 1 tells you to make 30 chain stitches, then instructs you to join the ends of the chain with a slip stitch. This will form a circle. Round 2 tells you to make one chain as you start the new round, then to make a single crochet in each chain (these are the chains you made in Round 1). Rounds 3 and 4 will be the same as Round 2. The number 30 in parentheses () at the end tells you how many stitches you should have in your round when you finish it. Proper stitch counts are very important for quality crochet work! One extra item of note: If you see instructions between two asterisks (*), that means you need to repeat what is inside of those asterisks until you reach the end of the round.

Measurements will tell you how big your project is supposed to be when it’s completed, and gauge tells you how big or small your stitches are supposed to be. In this particular cowl pattern, each stitch should take up about an inch. The yarn is very thick, so that shouldn’t be a problem! However, if you crochet tightly, you may want to use a larger hook than the one I used. Everyone’s tension varies, so making a gauge swatch before starting can be helpful, especially if the piece you make will be fitted (gauge is not as important with this cowl as it would be for a hat, for instance).

If the above instructions make sense, let’s move on to making the cowl!

Chunky Cowl crochet pattern for kids

Sashay Chunky Cowl
Materials Needed:

  • 16mm Q hook, or hook needed to obtain gauge
  • 8mm M hook (a smaller hook will work though, since you will only be using it to slip stitch the ruffle on)
  • 1 ball Red Heart Boutique Sashay in the color of your choice (I used the colorway “Mambo”)
  • 25 yards of Super Bulky (#6) yarn in a complementing color of your choice (I used Red Heart Boulevard in “Society”, which is labeled as a #7 “jumbo” yarn, but it is comparable in size to the Sashay and other #6 yarns I’ve worked with)
  • Bow or flower accessory (here is the one I used, but you can use whatever you like)
  • Large-eyed yarn needle
  • Scissors
  • Sewing needle and thread, or hot glue gun

Stitches Used:

  • sl st = slip stitch
  • ch = chain
  • sc = single crochet

Additional Terms:

  • BLO = back loop only. Work all stitches for the round in the back loop.
  • How to find the back loop: look at the top of your stitches, they should look like sideways V’s. The part of the V that’s the closest to you is the front loop, and the other one is the back loop.
  • Working in the back loop will create a small line around the outside of the cowl. You’ll be working in the front loop when slip stitching the ruffle on.

4 stitches in 4″

24″ around by 4.5″ tall

Additional notes:
This cowl will fit pre-teens/teens and adults the way this is written. If you would like to make it to fit kids, reduce your starting chains by two or four stitches. This would give you a starting number of 26 or 28. You could even make it smaller, but you may want to leave off row four or seven, depending on how small the child is. Because of the danger of choking, please do not make this with the glue-on/sew on flower accessory for children ages three and under.
Ch 1 at the beginning of a round does not count as a stitch.

Round 1: ch 30, join with sl st to form a circle

Rounds 2-4: ch 1, sc in each stitch around, join with sl st to first sc (30)

Join next color through last sc stitch of Round 4. Pull the old color forward so the end is hanging out the front of the cowl. Don’t cut it yet! Join the new color with a sl st to first sc of round. Now you’re ready to begin Round 5.

Round 5: ch 1, working in the BLO for this round, sc in each stitch, join with sl st to first sc (30)

Round 6-7: ch 1, sc in each stitch around. Join with sl st to first sc.

Fasten off second color. You can either fasten it off with a slip stitch, or try this invisible join. If done correctly, you won’t be able to tell where you joined the round when you finish.

Go back to Round 4 and pick your first color back up (your cowl should still be upside down). Note: If you have made a typical “Sashay” scarf before, this next part will be very similar to the steps you took to create that project.

Using an 8mm hook, sl st into the front loop and pull up the thick part of the Sashay yarn, move forward an inch or inch and a half, and put your hook through the thick part of the yarn and pull it through your first loop, move to the next stitch *2 sl sts in each front loop only, being sure to move an inch or so up the Sashay yarn each time* repeat * to * in each front loop around, this will create a ruffle around the middle of the cowl.

Fasten off securely, and weave in ends

Ask an adult to use hot glue to attach a bow or flower accessory to the cowl, or use a needle and thread to sew the accessory on. If you use a hair clip bow like I did, you can simply clip it to the cowl. The nice thing about this is that it can be unclipped and worn separately when not wearing the cowl. I love things that have multiple uses!

I hope you have had fun with this tutorial, and I look forward to sharing another one with you in a couple months!

If you enjoyed this, and want to take a look at some more of my patterns, you can check out them out here.

Sashay Cowl Main

Sensory Slime Fun!

Slime, slime, beautiful slime! It is one of our favorite sensory items to play with! We love how easy it is to make an how open ended it is. Plus it lasts a long time if you store it in a Ziplock bag! One of our favorite things to do is to use clear glue and add food coloring and glitter!! You can also add sequines, stars, little plastic toys…the options are endless!

Our favorite recipe uses clear glue, liquid startch and food coloring.

Slime Recipe:

1/2 Cup of Elmer’s Washable Non Toxic Clear Glue or White Glue

1/2 Cup of Liquid Starch

1/2 Cup of Water

Measuring Cup

2 bowls and a spoon

food coloring, confetti, glitter {optional}


1. In one bowl mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup of glue {really mix to combine completely}. Pour glue into water. Stir the glue and water together well!

2. Add color, glitter, or confetti! Mix the glitter and color into the glue and water mixture.

3Pour in 1/2 cup of liquid starch and mix. The slime will begin to form. When it begins to turn into a glob, use your hands to mix and stretch it until it’s no longer sticky. Then it’s time to play!

One of our favorite ways to use Slime is to add in little animal toys, bugs, and play dough tools.  It really is so easy to whip up and the possibilities are endless. Need some more ideas? Check all of the gread slime ideas here: Best Slime Activities