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10 Classic Kids Books with Realistic She-ro Girl Protagonists for Women's History Month

Hello my dear friends of this blog on free printable lesson plans! Teacher Omi here from the Omschool. Today, March 1, begins Women's History Month so we're going to look at 10 classic kids books with realistic girl protagonists. These young ladies will make you laugh, cry, cheer and most importantly resonate. 

First, a bit of back story. I'm 59 years old and I was lucky to be a kid during a great literary revolution in young adult literature. Beginning in the mid-ish 60s, youth, YA and teen literature was turning a corner away from the more cardboard hero/heroine characters to much  more realistic, identifiable, fallible 3D characters. And I, being so fully human, very awkward and out of step, embraced, this change with open arms. 

Because let's face it, the Disney princesses, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Nurse Cherry Ames, Trixie Borden, Nancy Drew, even the March sisters of Little Women, are all much larger, and well, gooder, than life. They are poised and pretty.  They make mistakes but they never fail or fall. They are the toad-kissers but never the toad. This was difficult for a little girl who always felt fat, warty and klutzy. 

So the "heroines" in my book list are believable. Most of these works of classic children's literature date from my childhood and teen years. 

Sam, Bangs and Moonshine This book is an excellent resource for helping kids deal with grief. Sam has just lost her mother and she's developed the habit of making up stories to cope (denial). Her lies cause some real problems. But what makes her a she-ro, in my book, is the way she recognizes and works to fix the damage she's caused. 

The Pigman This one is definitely not for kids under about 13 (take this from someone who read it at 10). Lorraine and John both live in dysfunctional situations and find friendship in each other and an elderly man. What happens is very upsetting but it's real and what I like about Lorraine is that despite her cruel upbringing, she very maturely takes responsibility and doesn't blame anyone else. 

Harriet the Spy So Harriet isn't your average kid detective. She's a snoop and a bit of a stalker. But she's just so darn clever about how she does it, with all the little gadgets she invents. I couldn't help but admire her, especially being weaned on Nancy Drew, who if I'm honest, is incredibly annoying. Nancy is a busybody snoop too. But it never backfires like it does with Harriet and usually in real life. 



Honestly, Katie John! (Mary Calhoun, author of lots of good kids books) I seriously love this series! Just look at her facial expression! Katie John gets into so many mishaps all with the best of intentions. She's not beautiful or a star pupil,  just a plain old kid and so relatable. Her ways of shirking work, helping her parents ready their new boarding house is hilarious. 


Katie Kittenheart
 (Miriam Mason) Hands-down, my favorite book from around age 6. From forgetting to dress up for picture day, to nearly incinerating her kitten, to single-handedly getting 40 kids through a flood, Katie is a delight. 

Velma (Scooby-Doo) Can we just agree that without brains-behind-the-outfit Velma, Mystery Inc. kids would have been gunned down, drowned or eaten alive in every episode? Velma shows that you can be smart and cute even without red hair and a scarf! 

Laura Ingalls Little House on the Prairie series I identified so with Laura. She is always the one in trouble. She can never match up to perfect little blonde Mary. She hates her brown hair, Sunday clothes and having to sit still and quiet. She's a little mouthy. But when push comes to shove, like in The Long Winter, Laura proves that she is the bravest of all! 

The Cat Who Went to Heaven The she-ro in this story is a sweet, self-sacrificing little cat who gives everything to help her friends. I cried my eyes out at 8, reading this story under the covers one night. 

I Was A 98 pound Duckling What resonates in this story is the challenge of those bumpy tween years. So I was "too chubby" and this character is "too thin" we struggled with the same issues, feeling (and sometimes being made to feel) ugly. 

The Doll of Lilac Valley Another one I cried myself to sleep over, what got me is how sensitive and empathetic Laurie is. When  she loses her favorite doll, her kindly (but non-child-aware) caregivers present her with one the complete antithesis of the other.  But the universe rewards her gentleness. 

Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? The great thing about this book and Margaret the main character is that they talk about the unmentionable...getting your period. Regardless, of time or age, all girls have to deal. Most of us felt like freaks. We hated it. Thank God for Judy Blume who at least normalized it. 


These girl protagonists may read like just kids but that's what makes them she-ros. Every girl is in my book! Most of these kids books are available on Thriftbooks or Amazon. Happy reading and HappyyWomen's History Month! 


Hands-On Preschool math and science lesson plans with play food, with free printables


Hello teacher Omi here with more free printable lesson plans from the Omschool! Today we are going to talk about how to use children's toys and common household objects to create interactive, Hands-On lesson plans for preschool, in your classroom or homeschool. Here's an idea to use play food to teach early math skills like sorting, symmetry and matching. These activities build fine motor and STEM skills as well. 

I recently bought some play food for the grandchildren to play with at their kitchen set at our house. Most play food now comes pre-cut. Children can use a knife to "cut" food into pieces and then reassemble by attaching velcro pieces. The bananas corn on the cob are "peelable" too. Use these as an easy matching game. This can be adapted for children ages 18 months through preschool and kindergarten. It's perfect for children with special needs, too.

For the youngest learners, (Omi is looking at you, Remus and Emmett! And Flora you'll be there soon too) simply have them separate the pieces or separate them for children. Then they match up the two halves. For older children (hello Juno and Ezra), put all the pieces in a basket and have them sort to find matching pieces. You can also play a memory game with kids of all ages (that's you, Lucian, Lola, Milo, Moses, Silas and Henry!) by placing food halves randomly on a grid you've made on a board. Cover each and have students uncover two at a time till they find the matching pieces. 

Students can also sort food by food group, color or plant part (in the case of fruits and vegetables. So this activity does does double duty as science lesson plans. 

Here are some more free printable matching activities (Education.com) and Memory games to print (Busy Bee Kids) for your classroom or homeschool. And check out Enchanted Learning which has 1000s of free printables with banner ads. You can also subscribe for the  nominal fee of $29 a year to print banner-free. If you subscribe for three years, it's only $69 which is almost a full free year. They offer school district pricing too. 

Bibliotherapy with Vintage Children's Literature: Lesson Plans Using Old Kids' Books


Greetings from the Omschool! Teacher Omi (grama) here with lesson plans using vintage children's literature. I was an avid reader pretty much from day 1. I grew up being read to, reading and and then reading to others, as a parent, teacher and grandparent. I have a huge memory bank and now library of old kids' books from my childhood and earlier.  Here are ways to use vintage children's literature as bibliotherapy. 

First, think back to favorite books from your childhood. If you can't remember the title or author, ask a librarian. This is how I unearthed "Mr. Miacca: An English Folktale (Evaline Ness, 1967). She was able to do a Google search and found it because I vaguely remembered that it was written by the same author as another favorite "Sam, Bangs and Moonshine." Another librarian helped me find my beloved book "The Doll of Lilac Valley." I knew the name but not the author and since it was withdrawn from circulation, it seemed lost in time. Which brought me to the next step. 

Do your own searches with Advanced Google Book Search, or Google Books just Google, using details I recalled from other works of children's literature I'd loved. This is how I found "Walter the Lazy Mouse" (Marjorie Flack, 1937). I'd been read this story at around age 4 and could only remember that it was about a mouse who moves to an island and makes furniture. 

Use picture memories. Many of my earliest books memories are of the illustrations. Before discovering Walter, anyone I'd ask would suggest "Stuart Little." I knew that wasn't the one because I recall the image of Walter making a stick bed and table. My mental image was a little blurred with Stuart Little but when I saw Walter's furniture, the illustrations fit my memory image perfectly. 

Begin (or continue) collecting old kids' books. Through garage sales, library book sales, thrift stores and now Thriftbooks and Amazon, I've amassed over 1,000 kids books, most written in the 1960s or before. Some were from the Little Lending Libraries. I rarely pay more than a buck or two per volume. I've had to pay more for a few of them because of age and the fact that they're collectibles. "Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat" a classic my dad and I both loved, was going for about $50 but finally, I was able to purchase it for $8 at Thriftbooks. 

Find old kids books at Thriftbooks and Amazon. These sources have the best pricing for purchasing used and vintage children's literature.  As part of our travel quest, my husband and I rediscovered Uzbekistan, specifically Tashkent and Samarkand. He'd not heard of these cities but I remembered reading of them at about age 5, in my grandmother's Childcraft series. 

Try to recall as many details as possible. The Childcraft books were a children's encyclopedia set. My husband had not heard of these so I thought maybe I'd gotten the name wrong. All I remembered was that they were white or silver books with a dark red banner. I searched and found that the Children of Many Lands was volume 5 (with the Uzbekistan stories) but the cover didn't look familiar. I kept searching and found that Grandma Langerak had the 1961 collection with the covers exactly as I had remembered. I was able to locate and purchase volume 5. I've not received it yet so I don't know for sure if the stories of Taskent and Samarkand are in it but I will update you!

Keep digging. My husband had a favorite book called "The Big Book of Real Trains" that was lost. It took us awhile to locate, first because he forgot the "real" trains part. Then we discovered it had about 6 editions as trains changed over the years. We finally located one based on his memory of the cover. The illustrations were close but not exact. So we'll keep pursuing till we get the correct volume. 

Be prepared for some culture shock. I'll talk more about this is upcoming posts. Just to summarize, your beloved kids books will likely contain some things that might be uncomfortable or even offensive to you now.  Depending on time period, many kids books contained racial profiling, cultural appropriation (or misappropriation) and inappropriate depictions. I recently found a recording of one of my favorite albums "Aunt Theresa Please Tell Me a Story."  I cringed at how missionaries were portrayed as so superior and condescending to those they were missioning to. The racism, bigotry, inaccuracies and Messiah Complex in "The Stick of Wood That Talked" was rampant. 


Free printable Chinese New Year lesson plans for wood dragons and the rest of the zodiac


Hello my friends of this blog on free printable lesson plans (and other goodies!) Teacher Omi from the Omschool here with free Chinese New Year activities. CNY 2024 celebrates the wood dragons of which I am one! Learn all about Chinese or Lunar New Year and Chinese Zodiac with these fun lesson plans! 

We start all units in the Omschool with books! I ground lesson plans in children's literature because kids books are THE root of a good education. Here are books that, while not exactly about Chinese New Year, do explore culture and traditions of China. Some are based in Japan but still deserve a mention because they deal with animals, especially of the zodiac. 

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac Children will laugh at the ambitions, follies and foibles of 12 animals who enter a swimming contest, and which became the basis for the Lunar Calendar. 

Buddha Stories (Demi): Buddhist and oriental fables are generally allegorical. Demi's stories are translations of Buddhist wisdom. Children can learn important truths from the antics of the animals in these stories.

Zen Shorts and Zen Ties (Jon Muth): Gentleness is the key construct in Buddhism. Stillwater the Panda and his Haiku speaking nephew Koo, teach three children of the wisdom of the orient is these endearing tales.

Three Samurai Cats (Eric A. Kimmel and Mordicai Gerstein) Three brave warrior cats learn the art of humility and patience from an aged Samurai cat.

The Story about Ping (Margorie Flack, Kurt Weise, 1933) Ping is an adorable, nosy little yellow duck who lives with his family of ducks and people aboard a Chinese junque on the Yangtze River. Children will delight in Ping's mischief and subsequent close call with the soup pot. Kurt Weise's delicate pictures evoke the fishing life on the Yellow River.

Tikki Tikki Tembo (Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent) The curious naming of children in Chinese culture almost causes grief in the village when little Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo falls into the well. Almost as much fun to read as it is to hear, this is a must read for young children.

Pearl S. Buck stories. Buck was a missionary to China and early winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ms. Buck writes with compassion and verve about her beloved China. Best selections include: The House of Earth, The Mother, The Big Wave and Other Gods

Red Dragonfly On My Shoulder (translated by Sylvia Cassedy and Kunihiro Suetake; illustrations by Molly Bang) This whimsical collection of oriental Haiku, published in 1992, is perfect for introducing children to the joy of poetry and Haiku.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven (Elizabeth Coatsworth) At age 8, I stayed up reading this book till the late hour of 10pm, under the covers with a flashlight. I cried my eyes out at the tender story of a little cat named Good Fortune and the gentle painter who loves her.  This 1931 Newbery Medal winner tells of a poor painter who adopts a white cat whom he names Good Fortune. Fortune smiles on him when temple priests consign him to paint Lord Buddha and with animal friends. One problem, though: Cats mustn't be included because they once scorned the Buddha. Little Good Fortune loves Buddha and grieves to be denied worship of him. This tale is appropriate for Chinese New Year theme of good fortune.

The Chinese Cinderella Adeline Yen Mah, the ill-fated fifth younger sister, retells her story of abuse and neglect by a wicked stepmother and cruel father. Mah finds solace in Shakespeare and later becomes a physician and author.

The Five Chinese Brothers (Claire Huchet Bishop, Kurt Wiese) There is a famous legend retold in many cultures about five brothers who all look alike, but each have a unique power. The fidelity of the brothers is called upon to rescue one brother from death by the combined efforts of their special talents. This is the Chinese version of the tale.

The Funny Little Woman (Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent) This is a kind of Chinese Little Gingerbread Man story with much silliness, chasing and three wicked Oni to outwit. It won the Caldecott Medal for children's literature illustrations. This story will enchant young children.

Free printable Chinese New Year crafts from Activity Village will help extend lesson plans based on kids books about the Chinese Zodiac and Lunar calendar. 

Free printable Lunar New Year coloring pages Crayola offers some really attractive coloring pages for children and adults to enjoy. Each animal and  mythical beast (dragons!) of the Chinese New Year is represented. Coloring.ws has free printable dragon coloring pages with printables ranging from primary to challenging coloring pages. 

I had written parts of these blog post years ago and rereading, I see some problems with terminology and ethnocentrism. I grew up in a time where terms like "ethnic", "foreign" and "oriental" (meaning eastern, contrasted with occidental or western) were used. I thought then that I was writing primarily to westerners particularly in the US. I'm realizing now how big the internet is and how readers visit from all over the world. 

Also, I loved books like Childcraft Children of Many Lands which explored cultures and  traditions around the world. I never thought of them as being racist or profiling. Now I see how the original title "Our Own Country and Foreign Lands" might seem that way. But reading the stories you'll feel the deep respect and appreciation for the many wonderful people in our big multicultural world. 

For myself, I respected, admired and longed to be part of these world cultures more than my own. I still do. Probably because my country of the United States is just a big conglomeration of cultures across the globe. I don't pretend to know or understand it all. So I approach like a child, eager to learn and explore! A few years ago, watching a travel vlog about Tashkent and Sammerkand, I gasped with joy remembering reading of these "exotic" places in Childcraft when I was around 5! I hadn't thought of these cities in 50 years! All the fascination and longing to visit came flooding back and now Uzbekistan is top of my to-see list. 


Free printable Valentine's Day Lesson Plans: Love coupons


 Hello friends of this free printable lesson plans blog! I'm teacher Omi (grama) of the Omschool! Today I'm sharing free printable Valentine's Day lesson plans to make Love Coupons. We made these years ago, when I was homeschooling our children. A love coupon book is very easy to make with kids of all ages, from toddler to teen. And they make great Valentine's Day gifts that cost nothing. 

You can get free printable love coupons and love coupon booklets to personalize from Spruce Crafts and FTD. BH&G has more Valentine's Day love coupon printables and crafts. But you don't have to print anything if you don't want to. Kids can design their own and probably will enjoy it more. 

For homemade love coupons, simply have kids design a frame pattern like a store coupon. I made some for my now-husband, when we were dating, using index cards. Even the youngest can illustrate or color the coupons. Kids can write in "this coupon entitles the bearer to__________" with a blank to fill in. You can then photocopy the page of coupons to fill in. 

Then practice writing skills having children fill in what the Love coupon is good for. Here are some great free Valentine's Day gifts kids can give. 

--back rub

--do the dishes

--play with little brother

--clean garage

--wash the car

--hugs and kisses

--make breakfast

--feed the cat

--walk the dog

--fold clothes

--quiet time for parent nap

--shovel snow

--rake leaves

--reading to siblings

The list is endless! And best of all, none of these task cost anything. Toddlers can help by doing shorter simpler tasks (sorting socks, picking up toys, drawing a picture). I really encourage all teachers and homeschool families, to keep lesson plans simple. As much as possible, make them, individualized, open-ended, hands-on and designed for high success. 


International Holocaust Memorial Day: How to remember

 Hello my dear friends. Some blog posts are easier to write than others and today's is one of the hardest of all. January 27 commemorates International Holocaust Memorial Day, to honor the 6-20 million souls killed during the Nazi genocide of Jews, Poles, Slavs, Roma and Sinti in World War II. Sadly, it didn't even end which those millions of people. Anyone deemed undesirable, such as gays, political dissidents, developmentally and physically disabled, was targeted, persecuted and ultimately murdered. 

International Holocaust Memorial Day focuses on this genocide but it's also a day to remember all those lost to war, in refugee situations or in planned genocides, of which our world has seen so heartbreaking and atrociously many. To help understand and lovingly remembered those who were lost, visit Yad Vashem which is the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It is located in Jerusalem in Israel. 

It is particularly important in this time of conflict in Gaza between Palestine and Israel, to pray for and work toward peace in the Middle East. We will never understand the entire situation. It would be arrogant to think, especially if we are westerners, that we could. We don't explore the situation to pass judgement to but learn and grow. 

Of course, as educators, it's crucial to be very sensitive to each child's response to this situation. Be sure to judge wisely when a youth is old enough to learn about these terrible crises without causing needless trauma over things she can do nothing about. If you are a family of faith, whatever that may be, remind your children that we can offer up these sufferings to our higher power. 

Thank you, Love Omi


Free printable animal tracks flashcards to play nature detective

 


Hello my friends! Teacher Omi (grandma) here with some fun winter science lesson plans for you. Today at the Omschool, we are having a big blizzard, so the ground is covered with snow. Opi (grandpa) was clearing the snow and noticed that lots of different animal friends had visited. How did he know? Yes, you  guessed it. Because he saw animal tracks in the snow! But the mystery was, which animal tracks are they. So we decided to play nature detectives and thought you might like to join us. But first you'll need some free printable animal tracks flashcards to help. 

We can figure out who visited by looking at the footprints and sometimes, tail prints that they left behind. Let's begin by printing those free printable animal tracks identification cards to help us solve the mystery of the who visited our yard.  You can use these to make your own field guide. 

Exploration America offers free printable animal tracks flashcards for you to print out, cut and assemble into a booklet. You can even use these as animal identification coloring pages. Maine.gov offers free downloadable printables of animal footprints and the Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has 14 more free animal tracks printables. Massachusetts.gov has free printable animal identification flashcards.  

Along with our field guides, nature detectives need a magnifying glass. A camera would help, to take pictures of the tracks in situ (as they are). We can then make them into a nature scrapbook. We might also bring tweezers and some small plastic bags to collect any specimens we find, of fur. If we find any scat (animal droppings, or poop), we'll just leave it there and take pictures! 



Free printable snowflake patterns for winter science lesson plans


 Good morning! Teacher Omi (grandma) on this lovely winter day! We were just hit with a massive blizzard and it reminded me that when I homeschooled our kids, the weather and seasons played a big part in our lesson plans. Here are free printable snowflake patterns to extend winter science lesson plans! 

First Palette has long been a favorite for free printables, activities and lesson plans. This site offers free printable snowflake patterns and templates for snowflakes to cut. Use these to explore crystals, three forms of matter (solid, liquid, gas), fraction math and weather lesson plans. 

When I was a kid, we learned to cut snowflakes by folding paper. A snowflake crystal always has six sides. To create that, you need a perfect square piece of paper. And to create that from 8x11 paper, fold in half and then half again (quarters). Then without creasing, fold again, into 8ths and cut the excess off. Now open the paper and fold diagonally to form a triangle and then in half again so the points of the triangle meet. Now fold both sides half way in, so they overlap and cut off the excess. 

What you are left with is 12 sections, folded in on each others. Keeping that folded, make any cuts you like but don't cut all the way through. You can cut the center point to make an open pattern. Whatever cuts you make will be repeated 6 times. The snowflake pattern is achieved when the 12 sections are divided into six repeated sets of two each. 

You can do the same design folding the paper into 8ths. You'll still have 12 sections only this time, the pattern will be repeated four times instead of three (or six). It won't be a  snowflake but it will be very pretty. And you can teach fraction math and also the factors of 12: 1, 2,3,4, 6 and 12. You can also teach symmetry (mirror images) by showing how, when you open the snowflake pattern, the repeated patterns are facing each other, exactly the same but opposite. 



Creating easy free homeschool lesson plans with toys around the house

 Hello friends of my Omschool blog. Omschool is lesson plans from Omi (grandma), a 40 year veteran teacher and homeschool parent. My focus is always on free, cheap and recycled so today, we're looking at free easy homeschool lesson plans with toys around the house. Here are ways to repurpose the play room as a homeschool and toys as lesson plans. 

First, select multipurpose, educational toys. Whenever you purchase a toy for a child, consider how to use it in lesson plans. When people ask what you'd like for the kids, give learning toy suggestions. You could even have a Target, Walmart or Amazon registry. Every toy should provide quality learning experiences. Otherwise it's just a waste of space. 

Now when you plan lessons, you can select from the toys and save money. Montessori says that quality educational activities should use materials found on hand. During the Covid 19 quarantine, I read on Facebook of so many parents looking for online learning activities for their kids. It made me sad because here was a chance for parents to homeschool their kids and all they wanted to do was stick them in front of yet another screen or buy an overpriced, unnecessary curriculum package. 

I get it though; a lot of folks are worried they don't have the skills to educate their children and let Omi just assure you...YOU DO! I was talking to a young mom whose daughter was just diagnosed with autism. She was convinced to enroll the little one in a very expensive program. Basically all the program had done so far was to tell her to engage her daughter in activities (wait for it) around the house. $6,000 to be told that? I'd have told her that for free. 

You don't have to pay for something to learn to do what you probably already do anyway. Trust yourself. There are many excellent schools and programs but ultimately you are the first and most crucial teacher. So give yourself permission to sit back and enjoy watching your children play (as you are able). Montessori also says "Play is a child's work." 

Stay tuned for my list of best educational


toys for children. 


Puddleglum's Apologia or What's wrong with TV, computer games and screen time?


Hello friends of this free printable lesson plans blog! Teacher Omi of the Omschool blog here and in the New Year, I'm thinking of ways to make activities less "see and hear" and more "do"! Let's explore how we as educators can help kids engage critical thinking skills by watching less--TV, computer, phones, screens--and interacting more. 

I'm a Montessori special educator, grounded in hands-on, learning center based, VAKT, higher order thinking skills education. I'm all about getting kids away from TV and computer screens, off the internet and into real-life learning activities. 

Now this might seem daunting as so much of current educational activity is computer-based. And while working with technology is an important skill, it is one kids can and will learn everywhere. What they engage far less in, and need much more of, is DOING: touching, smelling, tasting and experimenting with. While see and hear shows them things, multisensory experiences teach. 

This is obviously going to take a lot of unpacking, so let's begin by clarifying just what is so wrong about TV, screen and computer based activities. Yes, I did say wrong. It's not just that screens are less effective teachers. They're insidiously dangerous. 

Computer-based activities are less so because at least the child is doing something if only inputting data (the lowest form of  learning). But they're stultifying because they don't teach in real-life ways. They rely on magical thinking, exaggerated characters, lurid colors, artificial sounds, and strangely contrived situations, that completely contrast with a child's experience with the real world. And that doesn't even begin to address the lack of creative thinking, imagination and doing required. (But we will, rest assured!)

What worries me even more are the kids TV shows. All that was bad with the video games and computer activities is magnified 100-fold. An unrealistic computer generated cartoon character behaves in unreal ways that defy the laws of nature. Animals are cute little candy-colored creatures that talk and dress like people. They don't get hurt (at least on realistically). They aren't depicted as they really are. They're "cool" and smart and everything always works out. They fly, leap, bounce off things and never fall. In contrast, a gravity-bound child who is subject to the laws and rules of the real world, feels feeble knowing she can't do that.  

Staring at games or TV shows deadens a child's ability to think for herself or even know that she can. Everything is scripted, spoon-fed and done for her. Nothing is required. She experiences only vicariously. She learns that she doesn't impact her world and is not a participant but just an observer. This creates a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and apathy. 

She also learns that she is not only useless, but worthless. It isn't necessary for her to even watch this or that show. It will still happen. She learns she doesn't matter. She's just the straight man, the schlimazel. When I was a kid, Bugs Bunny and Superman were faulted for making us think we too were invincible. That we could eat gunshot-laden birdseed and not explode. But we didn't watch Superman all day and no one knew what an anvil was or thought to drop it on someone's head. 

And I haven't even touched on the "real-life" TV shows where "real" kids (Ryan's World) and adults (Blippi) play with toys all day and never do anything that normal kids are expected to do. They do whatever they want with no consequences. They never do the boring work or difficult jobs that are a part of life. Rules don't apply. And kids see this and think it's real life and their own lives are what's unreal.

No wonder so many adolescents disappear into video games and don't know how to interact in life. They have been taught that real life is boring and of course it is compared to the fake, Marvel-verse they see on screen. No wonder that so many adults cannot hold down a job or walk down the street without all sorts of adaptations, therapy animals and medications. They have been conditioned to think they are broken, compared to the fake-whole they see on screen. They have been confused by what is real and what is pretend.  No wonder self-harm is so alarmingly prevalent now. 

Factor into that the marketing to (exploitation of ) children through these shows and it's a pandemic that threatens to destroy childhood. Please, for the love of children, pull the plug or at least limit screen time to an hour a day. 

Kids should spend the bulk of their days, running, jumping, pretending to be a train engineer, building forts, having acorn tea parties, making messes and having to clean them up, helping with chores. They'll learn resilience and self-reliance, They feel self-respect when they learn to be bored but behave, running errands without being given a phone to stare at. They should fall and learn they can get back up, dust themselves off and ask for help if needed. 

Most important, children need to learn that they CAN. They can explore, invent, fail, fall, experiment, try again, spill, drop, fix, survive, implement, apologize, interact, get along, try and see, wait, get mad, get disappointed, problem solve and endure. These activities may not look as glamourous as they do on Paw Patrol but they are also not fake. 

I'll end with a quote from Puddleglum, the Marshwiggle to the Green Lady (Witch) in "The Chronicles of Narnia" "The Silver Chair." The Witch was gaslighting Puddleglum and the children into believing that her dark underworld was the real one and that the world they described was imagination. Puddleglum said, after being tortured (*wipes tears)

"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow."

#Respect! And that's how I see TV vs. real life. Real life isn't perfect. We aren't perfect. We stumble and don't always do it right. We aren't always brave. We can't fly and we feel pain. But for all that, it beats a fake, computer-generated world "hollow"! 

Thanks for reading. I'll post more about this later. 






Active learning vs. Passive watching: building lesson plans that engage students


Hello Omifans! I've been teaching in one form all my adult life through a spectrum of teaching styles and theories. And one thing that has never changed, though it is seems "more honoured in breach than observance" is the importance of active learning vs. passive. These days, we may talk active learning by we walk cyber school, heavy internet focus and near-constant screen time (via mobile phone, TV etc.).

Yes, I know, it's easier to do everything on the computer and there is surely a place for digital learning. But as our bodies have shown, constant sedentary activities are not healthy. More kids suffer from juvenile obesity, diabetes and learning problems than ever before. Reading comprehension goes down 25% when reading a screen vs. a hardcopy book. 

Cyberschool may have its place but not to the exclusion of hands-on learning. So I'm issuing a Get Up, Learn and Play (GULP) Challenge. Even if you're classroom bound to a large extent, students can and should be doing more hands-on and interactive learning experiences AWAY from a screen. They should be engaged in tactile exploration, building and active play. They should be doing a lot more than seeing and hearing. 

Here are some relatively simple ways to build active learning in your homeschool or classroom:

Don't just turn TV off, put it away.  Losing the remote is not the worst thing that can happen. It will force kids to turn to activities and use their own creatively and inventiveness to entertain. 

Same with phones. This goes for adults too. None of us is going to get to the end of our lives wishing we'd fooled around on our phones more. 

Put on a play or puppet show. Bust out your dress up stuff, recycle bin and craft supplies. Get kids busy writing scripts, creating costumes, working out blocking and stage movement, experimenting with lighting, building sets, designing puppets, even making music to accompany the show. A historical or literature based play? So much the better. You can cover the entire curriculum:  math, STEM, creative writing, social studies, science, reading, drama, by putting on a play. I'll blog more on this for sure. 

GET OUTSIDE: Did I yell that loud enough? Read outside. Have a picnic. Take a nature hike. Do arts and crafts. Cook outside (thank you Coleman stove and campfire!)

Every time I talk to my grandkids (hey Silas, Moses, Lola, Lucian, Milo, Ezra, Juno, Emmett and Remus!) it's the active things I hear about not the TV shows or apps. My kids' best memories are of forts and sidewalk chalk and homemade games! I'll blog more on that later too! 

I'm not trying to guilt anyone for relying on the TV or phone to entertain. I get it. But I will guarantee better behavior and happier kids when you shut those off, haul out the blocks and tell kids to build a city!



Autumn leaf lesson plans with fall crafts, activities and printables

Hello Omifans! Teacher Omi (grandma) here with an autumn leaves party planner complete with fall crafts, activities and printables! From childhood to adulting, I've loved the beautiful season of autumn especially here in Michigan! Fall is the perfect time to explore seasonal science, fall crafts and foods, autumn leaves and harvest themed activities. These fall lesson plans are include cross-curricular, multiage activities for use in homeschool or classroom settings. There's lots to do for the very young toddlers (I'm waving to you, Ezra, Juno, Emmett and Remus!--my youngest grands!)I've included free printables but you probably won't need them as these fall activities focus on nature's bounty which is available for free right outside your door! 

Fall math lesson plans. Fall leaf crafts are perfect for preschool and early elementary (Silas, Moses, Lola, Lucian, Milo and Henry, these are for you!). Go on an autumn leaf walk and collect various colors, shapes and varieties of leaves. Have children sort and categorize leaves by color, tree of origin and size. 

Fall science lesson plans. Using your collected leaves, research leaf types and identify which trees they come from. Discuss deciduous (trees that shed leaves annually)  and evergreen or coniferous (which shed cones). Make a leaf identification chart or booklet. Label leaves. Here are free printable leaf patterns. Wildflower Ramblings has free printable leaf identification cards too. Here are more tree and leaf guides and printables. Here's another guide to tree and leaf identification.

I'll add more to this post soon! Just want to get you started. 

Book BAGS: Apple Party with books, activities, games and snacks


 Hello my dear friends in the Omschool-iverse! Teacher Omi (grama) here with more apple activities plans for autumn harvest lesson plans. We talked in my last post about crafts and snacks for an apple party and today we'll extend that with a Book BAGS unit. Book BAGS are my lesson plans that focus around a (B)book with accompanying (A) activities, (G) games, (S) snacks and craft projects. These free printable lesson plans cover cross-curricular activities: math, reading, literature, science and social studies and are geared to Pre-K up to about grade 2. Book BAGS are heavy on hands-on, multisensory activities for all learning styles and special needs. They're multiage for homeschool families, too! And being that I'm teacher Omi, they feature my beloved baby grands Silas, Moses, Lola, Lucian, Ezra, Remus, Milo, Juno, Emmett and Henry in starring roles (Hi, guys!)

Let's begin with kids books about apples. Here are some favorites.

Ten Apples Up on Top by Theo LeSieg (aka Dr. Seuss!) Here's a video of Ten Apples Up on Top for all learners to sing and read along with. This is perfect for the younger toddler and preschool learners to practice counting (Juno, Ezra, Emmett, Remus this one's for you!) Dr. Seuss books provide perfect emergent reading practice also. Also, value added are games for simple physical education by balancing apples on your head! Then off course you can eat the apples or make them into applesauce. 

The True Tale of Johnny Appleseed by Margaret Hodges. There are many wonderful kids books about explorer and environmentalist John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) but this one is my favorite. There's a Disney version of Johnny Appleseed legend from 1948 that children will love today. The wonderful thing about this story is that unlike other Americana legends or tall tales like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, this one is essentially all true. Read John Chapman's wikipedia page for details on his life. This book/movie combo is perfect for teaching apple science. 

Use free printable apple lesson plans from Enchanted Learning. This website feature dozens of free printable apple themed activities from craft projects, reading, creative writing, penmanship, science, drawing, phonics, math and more. 

Oh and speaking of applesauce, young learners will love Tigger and the Apple Tree from the Mickey's Young Reader books. The ever-bombastic Tigger assists Rabbit's applesauce-making in his own avant-garde style! Follow up reading by bobbing for apples in a tub of water (older kids) or using fish nets to "fish" for apples (younger learners). Then make your own applesauce with honey (Pooh Bear's recipe). You can peel and core apples or, if you have a applesauce mill, use that (much tastier and prettier). Simply add a dab of honey when done. 

Plant parts booklet. Kids love making their own books and apple science is a perfect subject. You can make kids books simple. Staple a few sheets of paper together (recycled from recycle bin) .Or get fancier and bind books and make a cover. Draw progress of apple from seed, sprout, stem (trunk), leaves, blossoms, fruit and finally back around to seed. Students can make it like a flip book if they choose also. 

Visit and apple orchare and host and apple tasting party. Assemble various types apples and have students sample, rate and categorize. They might arrange by color, sweetness and texture. Make a map of where different apples are grown regionally. Here are some apple varieties to try:

Granny Smith

Northern Spy

Macintosh

Ida Red

Paula Red

Jonathon

Red Delicious

Yellow Delicious

Pink Lady

Cosmic Crisp

Fuji

Gala

Honeycrisp

Sweetango

Winesap (harder to fin)

Host and an Apple Hunt (like an Easter egg hunt). Then make apple prints. Cut apples widthwise and find the star hidden in the apple. Saturate paper towel with food coloring to make stamp pad. Or use lightweight paint  to make apple print T-shirts. 

Teach Bible lesson plans on apples. Of course there's the Adam and Eve story, but I like to focus  Christian lesson plans on the more positive Bible verses such David being the "apple of God's eye" meaning beloved. We are all beloved, as children of God, by extension. 

Teach Jewish Rosh Hashanah lesson plans with apples and honey. Chabad.org offers wonderful lesson plans and activities for kids to explore this Holy Day tradition. 


Free Printable Apple themed Fall Harvest Lesson Plans: Apple Party



Hello to all of Teacher Omi's  ( Grama's ) Omschool friends! I'm Omi to 10 going on 11 wonderful grandkids and as a former teacher and homeschool mom, I'm all about educating kids! The Omschool is 2nd gen homeschool with the grandchildren and I'd love for you to join us! Today we're thinking about one of Omi's favorite foods: apples! Let's explore some free printable apple themed activities for fall harvest lesson plans. 

We live in Michigan and in autumn, Michigan is pretty much apple central! So why not celebrate this fall harvest goodness by throwing an apple party with a potluck of apple foods, apple themed crafts and games and apple lesson plans! First the free printable apple lesson plans.

California Apples.org has a harvest basket full of apple themed lessons, games, crafts, cross-curricular lesson plans, coloring pages, apple recipes, etc. Michigan Apples has a free printable apple resource kit for homeschool parents and teachers. 

For your fall harvest apple potluck, you could make anything from apple soup to apple dumplings, to pork roast with apples (my Omi's special recipe) to Our youngest Emma's famous 9-egg apple peanut butter cake (made when she was four and complete with peelings and seeds!) Last year, I gave each member of the family a bag of apples when they went on sale preference is McIntosh). This includes children. Each was tasked with looking up or inventing an apple themed recipe. This year, we're looking for even more creative goodies. 

I've got to dash to work but I'll post more later in part two of these apple themed lesson plans (plus great-Omi's apple pork roast recipe!)

Book BAGS: preschool book-based activities, games and snacks for "Blueberries for Sal"


Hello friends! Teacher Omi (grama) here. As a former homeschool parent and special needs teacher, I'm excited to bring this passion for education forward to the next gen grandchildren. When he was 4, my eldest grandson Silas called me Teacher Omi (grama) so I'm calling this new phase of homeschooling our Om-school.

I've been putting together a series of Book BAGS (literature-based units with books, activities, games, snacks and crafts). Today's Book BAGS unit is based on the 1949 Caldecott winner "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey. My mom read it to me when I was 4 and it's become a family favorite. We also live in Michigan blueberry country and it's coming on blueberry season, so a perfect story to celebrate. I've geared this to homeschooling, erm, Om-schooling families with activities for all ages. If you're using in a group setting, preschool to 2nd grade would be best. I'm dedicating these free printable bear lesson plans and activities based on "Blueberries for Sal" to our grandboy Lucian, bear aficionado and explorer extraordinaire. 

Begin your Book BAGS unit by reading "Blueberries for Sal." Enjoy the beautifully detailed block print illustrations of Robert McCloskey.  I recommend getting your own copy of this classic story and Thriftbooks is my go-to for reasonably priced used books. 

Note the similarities between the bear cub and his mother and Sal and her mom. Both moms are preparing for winter. Sal's mom is going to can the blueberries while Little Bear is exhorted to "eat all you can hold for winter." "Blueberries for Sal" is the perfect segue into life science lesson plans on bears and hibernation. Bear.org has a plethora of free printable bear lesson plans and activities based on bears. 

You might actually do a fruit canning project with children. Or if you're like me and not much of a home-canner, make freezer blueberry jam. Here's a freezer blueberry jam recipe from Farmhouse Harvest. Jam-making lesson plans are perfect for multiage classrooms or homeschools because everyone from the baby on up can participate. Toddlers like my Omschool littles Remus and Emmett could practice eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills placing canning jar rings on a spoon (as Sal does) while the prechoolers Juno and Ezra could be blueberry stem removers and squashers. The 4 and up crowd (Lu Bear, Milo, Lola) can get math skills practice measuring and counting. The big Kahunas like our Moses and Silas can be project coordinators. And everyone will enjoy the tasting! 

If you don't want to mess with making jam (and I confess I for one might not LOL), you can make a multitude of snacks from blueberries for your unit. How about rainbow sandwiches? Spread bread with cream cheese, slice strawberries, mandarin oranges, bananas, green grapes, blueberries and red grapes and arrange like a rainbow! Or make Super Berry Chicken Salad with cubed chicken, celery, green peppers, blueberries, cashews (or chow mien noodles) mayo and Dijon mustard. Lots of slicing and chopping for cooking skills practice. Or you could do blueberry muffins or pancakes. 

Grade one and up might also discuss how things have changed in Sal's 1948 family kitchen and what things have remained the same. Stoves for example look much the same but are fueled differently (discuss how). You might assemble a collection of "vintage" cooking utensils like a rotary hand beater, potato masher, metal cookie cutters, flour sifter and pastry dough cutter. Put these in the  sand and water table for exploration. 

A perfect game for "Blueberries for Sal" Book BAGS (bags is book, activity, game and snack) is clothespin drop which lets kids explore another old-time tool, clothespins. This was a favorite at birthday parties when Omi was young. All you need is a package of clothespins and a canning jar. Students practice eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills dropping pins in the jar. 

And for the activity or book-based craft, make clothespins into "puppet" characters from "Blueberries for Sal" and act out the story. Here's where that recycling bin I'm always on about is invaluable. Let kids forage for scraps from there and a fabric scraps bag, to clothe and fur the characters. No fur fabric for the bears? Just draw on brown paper bags! Then add faces and voila, your own puppets!