Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten

Shortly after Big Sis was born, I was in the hospital looking at her sweet face, still in shock at what had just happened. I was sleep deprived, beyond exhausted and so emotional. I was excited for the new chapter in our lives but in all honesty, I just wanted to sleep! I remember looking at her sweet self as she was screaming and screaming and screaming and thinking, “Before I know it, she’s going to be walking off to Kindergarten with an oversized backpack on her back, Dirk and I holding each other, shedding tears for our baby who has headed off to Kindergarten.” Over the years I have thought about what her first day of Kindergarten will be like both with anticipation and sadness.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

As the years have gone by, and God has pressed on both Dirk and I to homeschool, I knew that her first day of school was slowly morphing into something that I hadn’t dreamed of, but something that God knew all along. In some ways, it’s been hard to let go of those dreams. Going off to Kindergarten is a rite of passage, it marks the beginning of an era. I still vividly remember bits and pieces of my Kindergarten year, they are fond memories. In fact look at this picture…

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

That’s Dirk and I in the SAME Kindergarten class, what?! The fact that we spent an entire school year together in the same Kindergarten class, ten years before we would meet again, blows my mind. We didn’t find this out until we “met again” when we were 16 & 17 and then 18 years later and we were married. Crazy right?!

Dirk had said for many years that he didn’t want his kids to be homeschooled. I wasn’t as adamant but as a former public school elementary teacher I figured I’d continue teaching and my kids would go to the school where I taught. We never really discussed homeschooling before we had kids. When God called me to be a stay-at-home mom He also slowly started showing us that homeschooling is what we are supposed to do, at least for now. I’ve never been of the mindset that any schooling is the “right” decision. I firmly believe that God calls each family to different choices for each child and for each school year. My parents were a great example of this. All of us kids had times in our lives when we went to public school, private school and were homeschooled. They prayed for us each year and did what was best for us, although us kids didn’t always agree with them, I know in my life it was such a blessing. Following their example we will be praying each year about what God wants for Big Sis (and for Little E when her time comes) but for now, this is where we’re at and I’m really so excited!

I initially thought that homeschooling would be a breeze. If I can handle teaching a classroom of sometimes up to thirty-seven 5th graders, then surely one Kindergartener would be a breeze! Well, that wasn’t the case. We’ve only been at this for three weeks now, and it hasn’t been a breeze but every day it’s getting easier and we are all learning.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

I’m so thankful to have a few friends who are also homeschooling their Kindergarteners this year. It’s been so encouraging to check in with them and share my struggles and hear their’s. This is a learning process for our family, but I’m so excited to see all that Big Sis will learn this year, all that we will learn as a family, and to share some fun projects and units with you guys. It’s been so exciting to be back in the lesson planning phase, coming up with new units and activities. I love being home with my girls but there are still parts of me that really miss teaching. I have so enjoyed being able to be back in the planning and creating.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

And no beginning of the school year homeschool post is complete without sharing the curriculum we’re using, so here it is:

  • We’re continuing with the All About Reading curriculum. Big Sis completed the Pre-Reading curriculum last year and is now on AAR1. We really loved the Pre-Reading curriculum and are looking forward to this next level.
  • We’re also continuing with Handwriting Without Tears. We completed the “Get Set for School” book last year and she’s now working on the Kindergarten curriculum.
  • For Math we chose Right Start Math. So far, we LOVE this. I am so impressed by many aspects and I LOVE that it’s so hands-on.
  • For Social Studies, History and Science, I’m creating my own, standards-based units, which I will be sharing on here

So here’s to our first year of homeschooling. If you’re homeschooling I’d love to hear what curriculum you’re using and how your first few weeks are going.

Toddler Creation Unit


This is a creation unit I put together when Big Sis was two years old. We had a lot of fun and she learned so much from it. There are 7 days of creation, and I only have 5 completed crafts but I’ll explain that in a minute. To keep things more simple I’m just going to do a quick overview of the crafts rather than step-by-step instructions. They are simple crafts and most of it can be done just by looking at them, also think of the things you have at home and make do with what you have.

The objective of this lesson is to have tangible examples of each day of creation.
First we read scripture (I suggest the NIRV version which is at a 3rd grade reading level or The Message which is at a 4th grade reading level), then we do the craft/activity. As Big Sis completes the craft I ask her questions and continue to talk about the topic taught that day.

There is a lot of info here. If after you’re done skimming it, you’d like a more comprehensive view of it all, I made up printable versions that you can find here: Creation Unit Printable Lesson Cards.

Okay so here we go…

Day One: Day and Night/Light and Dark
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:3-5 
Craft: Black Circle/Blue Circle
Supplies Needed

  • Circle cut from black construction paper
  • Circle cut from blue construction paper (both blue and black circles should be the same size)
  • Glue

What You’ll Do:
Read Genesis 1:3-5. Have your little one put glue on one side of one circle. Then have them match up the two circles. You will now have a circle two different colored sides. (You will use this again on Day 4). This is the simplest and least involved of all days.

Conversation Starters:

  • Talk about light and dark, day and night, flipping the circles over showing black for dark and blue for light.
  • Talk about the activities that your child does during day and then during night.
  • Remind them many times that God created light and dark. Toddlers need lots of repetition.
  • Ask your child: Who made day and night (or light and dark)? Your child probably won’t answer so you answer, “God made day and night” You can repeat this throughout the day, by the end of this unit they will realize that God made everything.

Extension Activities:

  • Take a flashlight into a dark closet or room and talk about light and dark showing your child the difference between the two.
  • As night falls, take your child outside and explain that it was day when you had lunch and now it is night. Talk about all of the things you do at night and/or the things you see at night. God created day and night, light and dark.
  • Have them bring their craft(s) to Daddy when he gets home from work or to a family member’s house you might visit. They will be so excited to show them. As they show them ask them some questions to help them remember what you’ve learned.


Day Two: Separated the Sky from the water
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:6-8 
Craft: Ocean Sky
Supplies Needed

  • Circle cut from white construction paper
  • Blue Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Cotton Balls
  • Glue

What You’ll Do:
Read Genesis 1:6-8. Have your little one paint the white circle blue, however much or little they’d like. After they’re done painting, cover the top portion of the circle with glue and have your child place the cotton balls on one side.


Conversation Starters:

  • Talk about the sky.
  • Talk about the clouds in the sky, tell them that the cotton balls are clouds.
  • Remind them many times that God created the sky. Toddlers need lots of repetition.
  • Ask your child: Who made the sky? Also show them yesterday’s craft and ask them about that as well. Repetition is key!

Extension Activities:

  • Go outside and look at the sky. Point out the clouds.
  • Have them bring their craft(s) to Daddy when he gets home from work or to a family member’s house you might visit. They will be so excited to show them. As they show them ask them some questions to help them remember what you’ve learned.


Day Three: Oceans, Land & Plants

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:9-13 
Craft: Separating waters from Day 2 Craft & Land Collage
Supplies Needed

  • Craft from Day 2
  • Circle cut from white  construction paper
  • Glue
  • Black Marker
  • Scissors
  • bucket or baggie to collect items found on your nature walk.
  • Optional: print out of beach picture, showing separation of water and land

What You’ll Do:
Read Genesis 1:9-13. Get the sky craft from yesterday and, using the black sharpie, create the ocean waves, while explaining to your child that God created the ocean.

Next, go on a nature walk. Remind your child that God created land, show them what “land” is. Have them find things from the land, you’ll have to start by showing them and they will probably catch on. Collect things like flowers, leaves, bark, grass, dirt, rocks, etc.

Bring the items back home, cover the white circle in glue and have your child put all of the things they collected onto their paper.

Conversation Starters:

  • Talk about the ocean being separate from the land. Show them pictures of the beach and point out the separation of land and water. Tell them that God separated land from water.
  • Go over all of the things that your child collected and talk about how God made them. Beautiful flowers, scent, the feel, etc.
  • Remind them many times that God created the oceans and the land and the plants. Toddlers need lots of repetition.
  • Ask your child: Who made the ocean? Who made the land? Who made the plants? Also go over the previous crafts, showing them to them and reviewing what they’ve learned.

Extension Activities:

  • Throughout the week, point out plants that God made and remind them that God made them.

Day Four: Sun, moon & stars
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:14-19 
Craft: Moon/Sun flipper (inspired by this project at First Palette)
Supplies Needed

  • Craft from Day 1
  • White construction paper
  • Blue paint
  • yellow do-a-dots or yellow paint
  • paintbrush
  • Glue
  • Black Marker
  • Scissors

What You’ll Do:
Read Genesis 1:14-19. Get the light and dark craft from day one. Using the circle as a guide, cut out a crescent moon shape from the white construction paper, see picture. Have your child paint this blue. While your child is painting, cut out stars, or if you’re me, something that resembles stars, heh. Have your child glue the pieces onto the black side of the circle.

Cut a smaller circle on the white paper, see picture. Have your child paint it yellow. Glue it to the center of the blue side of the circle. Dot paint the “rays” of the sun. If you’d like you can draw a face onto both the sun and moon.

Conversation Starters:

  • Talk about the sun and moon and remind your child about God creating day and night. Explain that God uses the sun and moon to provide light for us.
  • Remind them many times that God created the day and night, sun and moon and stars.
  • Ask your child: Who made the sun? Who made the moon? Who made day? Who made night? Who made the stars? Also go over the previous crafts, showing them to them and reviewing what they’ve learned.

Extension Activities:
Go outside and observe the sun (don’t look at it directly) but explain that it’s in the sky and provides light when it’s day. At night go outside and observe the moon and stars. Ask them again, “Who made the moon/stars/sun?”



Day Five: Birds and Sea Creatures
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:20-23 
Craft: Birds (inspired by Oriental Trading Co.)
Supplies Needed

  • Circle cut from brown construction paper
  • Brown Construction paper cut into strips
  • Orange construction paper cut into two diamonds and folded in half
  • “Wings” cut out of construction paper (see picture)
  • The bottoms of two pull apart eggs
  • Hot Glue
  • Black Sharpie

What You’ll Do:
Read Genesis 1:20-23. Put glue on the outside edges of the circle, have your child put the strips on the glue. Meanwhile put a dab of hot glue in place of where the beak should be. Allow the glue to cool enough that it is not hot enough to burn you but that it will still stick. Have your child attach the beak. Do the same with the wings. (You can also do this yourself for safety reasons). PLEASE be sure to keep your hot glue gun out of reach of your child!!! You can glue the birds on the paper if you’d like, using the hot glue gun, but Big Sis liked to play with them so we left ours unattached.

Note: we didn’t make the fish but I found this fish craft that we were going to incorporate if you’d like to do it.

Conversation Starters:

  • Talk about God creating the birds. Where do the birds live?
  • Remind them many times that God created the birds and fish. Toddlers need lots of repetition.
  • Ask your child: Who made the birds? Who made the fish?

Extension Activities:

  • Go outside and see if you can observe any birds.


Day Six: Land Animals and Adam
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:24-31 
Craft: Cow Handprint and Man
Supplies Needed

  • Circle cut from green construction paper
  • White Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Black Sharpie
  • Man Outline
  • Water Color paints
  • small cup of water

What You’ll Do:
Read Genesis 1:24-31. Paint your child’s hand and put it on the green circle. Paint on a tail. While it dries give your child the man outline and allow them to paint it. When the handprint is dry, use the sharpie to draw on black spots, a face and the end of the tail. Cut out Adam.

Conversation Starters:

  • Explain that land animals are the animals that walk on the land. Give some examples and see if your child can come up with some on their own.
  • Remind them many times that God created animals and man, including them. Toddlers need lots of repetition.
  • Ask your child: Who made man? Who made elephants? giraffes? hippos? Horses? cows? etc. Review the previous crafts.

Day Seven: God Rested
Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:2-3 
Craft: no craft
Read Genesis 2:2-3. Review all of the things God made and talk about how God rested on the 7th day, closing your eyes and laying your head on your hands. We did this again and again and she did eventually get it.

Nature Walks with Purpose

nature walks with purpose

Are you on Instagram? Who isn’t right? One of my absolute favorite “IGers” is Kristin Rogers (@kristinrogers). She is such an inspiration. She is a homeschooling mom and often posts pics of their nature group’s outings and their nature journals.  Seeing Kristin’s IG feed has really inspired me to go seeking nature, not just going to the park to get Big Sis outside but to find places that allow for exploration. What’s so cool, is that since we’ve started doing this, even walks around our neighborhood have picked up so much more meaning. Big Sis often stops to collect all sorts of things and she now pays attention to things she used to just walk right by.

This is such a simple and fun thing to do. All you need is a place to go explore, the beach, gardens, even a park with a variety of greenery. A watercolor tablet, watercolors, and colored pencils. Some additional fun things to add are binoculars, a magnifying glass, camera/camera phone and a tote bag to collect fun things. Remember to respect the wildlife you’re around. Since we were at the gardens we made a point to only collect things that had already fallen off the tree or plant, you don’t want to harm the nature around you. I already have a list of local places to take her to, to explore. I can’t wait to try them all out!

Our first outing was to the UCR Botanical Gardens. We’ve been here several times before but always with an agenda. This time I just let her loose and followed her wherever she wanted to go.

naturewalk 2

Along the way I pointed things out to her, like vibrant flowers and unusual plants. After awhile she got excited about things on her own and would call me over to take look. She would collect some things and others she used my phone to take pics. We saw a lot of animals like turtles, fish, lots of lizards, a squirrel and a large spider. I loved watching her little self explore and the questions that came with the exploration. She wanted to know what each animal eats and where they sleep. Why the leaves fall to the ground on their own, etc. These are things she would never have thought to ask had we not been out exploring.

Then it was time to fill out her nature journal. Ideally I think this would take place at the area your exploring but it was past nap time and I knew we wouldn’t get very far without a full blown meltdown, so we headed home. After she napped we looked at all of the things she collected and the pictures she took. I set out the watercolors and colored pencils and told her that she was going to paint or draw what she saw today. We went through the things she collected and the pictures she took. She drew or painted some kind of representation of each item.

Here’s the pink tree she saw and how she painted it.

pink tree


I asked her what colors she saw on the tree and told her to find those colors to paint it. I was surprised to see that she actually painted something that kind of resembles a tree.

Here’s a picture of the turtles and fish and how she portrayed them…

fish and turtles

Our main focus was the conversation about what she saw and using the correct colors to portray what she saw. She LOVED doing this. On the left you’ll see a big orange oval. There was one really large fish and she said that one fish was SO big that it needed it’s own page. :) As she finished each page, I wrote down what she dictated to me and labeled each animal for her so that she can go back to it and “read” it or have us read it to her. Drawing or painting the items also led us to talk about how fish breathe underwater, and that spiders have 8 legs.