Suminagashi Art

The Ancient Art of Japanese Marbling

Suminagashi is an amazing art form that originated in Japan around the 12th century. I introduced it to my boys a few years ago and they loved it because it is a form of art where they can have some immediate success. Each print is completely unique and completely gorgeous.

What is Suminagashi you ask?

Suminagashi means “floating ink” and it is the process of marbling plain paper with water and ink to transform it into something vibrant and colorful. This website provides some background and history lesson behind Suminagashi:

Watch the skill of the Japanese artist in this short video:


While my kids and I aren’t as talented as the Japanese masters, we are able to successfully float ink with this Suminagashi Marbling kit that’s only $12.95 on Amazon: Suminagashi Ink Kit

The kit comes with instructions and ink. You’ll need to have your own paper (I use white cardstock) and a plastic tub or large baking dish to fill with water.

Add a couple of inches of water to your plastic tub. Next, take one of the “float paper circles” from your kit and push it to the bottom of the bin with a paintbrush. Allow it to float back to the surface.

Select the color of ink you want to use and place a single drop on the float paper being careful not to touch the water. If you don’t use the float paper, the ink falls to the bottom of your pan and will not float. However, it’s easy to deploy that single drop – my kids do this all by themselves.

Homeschool Suminagashi ArtEli's Suminagashi art for homeschool


Next, either add another drop of ink or gently blow the existing ink across the water and watch it magically shift patterns! It’s truly beautiful.

We had friends over last week and they had fun making their own Suminagashi prints to take home. We cut ours into small squares and use them as note cards for gifts. Although Suminagashi prints are ready to frame all on their own, you can also add additional media to create texture or a 3D effect.

Suminagashi Garrett

Our friend, Garrett, creates Suminagashi

If you decide to try Suminagashi, please leave a comment below and let me know how it goes!

Happy homeschooling,

NOTE: This page contains affiliate links to This means at no additional cost to you I earn a small commission on those links where you click and purchase. Thank you for your support in this small way!

DIY Gratitude Jar

A DIY Gratitude Jar is A Fun, Colorful Way to Say Thanks

When my husband and I were dating, I used to leave tiny, little love notes in his truck. I would drive by his place of work early in the morning and place a note under the windshield wiper or sneak one on the dashboard after a day of diving at the local quarry. I made so many notes that we now have an entire box of them, tucked away in the closet.

Those notes always made him smile.

Remembering how much fun it was to write those notes, I started the same tradition with the boys a few years ago around Valentines Day. Since the boys don’t go to school, I became their number one valentine and left the kids a note in their hand-made valentine box each morning.

The notes were simple, yet full of love and acknowledgement.

“Jack, I notice  you worked really hard building a tower yesterday. You’ve got incredible focus.” “Eli, I see that you like to play make-believe chef. Your creativity is endless.”

The boys would race to the table each morning to peek in their valentines box and see what I had written. The look of glee was priceless!

Notice there is no toy attached! Only a simple word of encouragement, love or acknowledgement.

Today, that tradition continues year-round with our DIY gratitude jar. Our jar just graduated from a craft-papered milk jug to this pretty glass vase. My inner Martha Stewart is really stirred up right now, lol!

I keep pretty pieces of scrap paper and a pen sitting nearby and leave the jar on top of the kitchen bar where the kids can get to it and I am reminded to write a daily note. You can assign a different color to each family member for easy sorting and reading.

This could also make a beautiful gift or uplifting pick-me-up for a friend in need. Hope it’s a fun idea for your homeschool household.

Happy homeschooling!


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Wicked Fun Water Beads

Tiny Pustules of Polymer Fun

WNatalia Waterbead image 2ater beads are tiny balls of polymer originally designed to hydrate plants. They miraculously hydrate and dehydrate as you add and subtract them from water. I first read about them on the Play at Home Mom blog a few years back.

As toddlers my kids loved scooping them about their water table. At first, I purchased them at Lowe’s, Walmart and Michael’s where they are presented in the floral and cleaning departments.

However, they’re EXPENSIVE if you purchase them hydrated at retail so I finally got smart and started buying our water beads on Amazon for the same price, except I was able to make buckets and buckets of water beads instead of buying one small jar. Here’s the link: Cosmo Beads

I last purchased a packet of Cosmo Beads in 2013. Seriously. It’s A LOT of dehydrated beads!

Last summer, my husband brought home a box of clear PVC tubing and funnels and we spent many a summer night on the porch watching the boys shove colored polymer into the tubes; squealing as the beads spiraled faster and faster until they shot out into the driveway.

Don’t worry! They are biodegradeable!

This past week, we got together with our homeschool friends to play with volume and measurement at the local park. I brought a vat of water beads and I’ll tell you it wasn’t just the little kids who were having fun!water bead homeschool science play

While the younger children patiently scooped their beads into various containers, the big kids had fun bouncing, squishing, deforming and swirling water beads all over the pavillion. I mean, if you’re going to measure volume, why not make it a rainbow of squishy spheres, right?

Best of all, these little pustules of delight can be dehydrated and saved again for later.

Although we never have. We usually squish them to death. LOL.

NOTE: The water beads I have linked to in this blog post do not grow huge if ingested. However, please supervise little kids and for goodness sake don’t let them swallow the beads, nor put them down the drain. Although highly unlikely, a blockage could occur (both in children and in drains).

I think this weekend we’ll see if water beads make a good replacement for marshmallows in our marshmallow shooter. Whaaaaaa! I feel my inner ninja taking over…

Happy homeschooling!


PS: So are you game for some summer water bead fun? Give us some ideas in the comments below on how you’ll be playing with water beads at your homeschool home!

PPS: Thank you homeschool mama, Natalia B., for the pics. I wasn’t sharp enough to take any, bah!


DIY Geography Ideas

Try These Map Activities for Some Geography With A Twist

The Shwedagon Pagoda is located in Myanmar. I know this because my four year old told me so. He also knows where all 54 countries are in Africa and can put them in perfect order.

Huh. Well, there ya go.

Last year began a passion for maps in our homeschool household. Geography is a non-stop topic at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I’m not complaining.

To facilitate the boys’ fascination, we’ve come up with some fun ideas that I hope you’ll enjoy:

LETTERBOXINGEli Letterboxing

Learning to read maps has been a joy due to letterboxing. Letterboxing is a simple form of Geocaching. All you do is look up Letterbox locations for any park you are visiting and follow the directions to locate a hidden letterbox. Inside the letterbox is a small journal, stamp and stamp pad.

You carry along your own unique stamp, journal and stamp pad and when you find the letterbox, you stamp the letterbox journal with your stamp and write the date along with your name or initials. Then you stamp your own journal with the unique stamp contained inside the letterbox.

The kids LOVE letterboxing. However, to find the letterbox they had to learn to read a compass, follow directions and understand cardinal directions. Not a bad way to learn these essentials, huh?

Ready to try it? I use Atlas Quest to find letterboxes at Gainesville parks. I’ve also used Atlas Quest to find letterboxes out-of-state during vacations.


Salt Dough Map of FloridaMaps are representations of areas that are actually three dimensional. To help kids get a sense of what a map really represents, creating a simple topographic map is a lot of fun. Just mix together a little salt, flour and water!


  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup warm water


1. In a large bowl mix salt and flour.

2. Gradually stir in water. Mix well until it a dough forms.

3. With your hands form a ball and kneed it for at least 5 minutes. The longer you kneed your dough the smoother it will be.

Store your salt dough in an air tight container for several days.

Our boys each chose a geographic region and we researched the culture and natural landscape. I traced the countries onto foam core and the boys set to work pushing the salt dough into form.

We let them dry for a day or two and then painted rivers and mountains using acrylic paint. We also printed landmarks and glued them to our board to add some cultural facts.

It was a great project that lasted over a week – a true accomplishment in a household of young boys!


Homeschool mom Ariel G. turned us on to an iPad app called, Stack the Countries (this is an affiliate link). I didn’t think much of it and downloaded the free version. Within 24 hours my boys were begging for the full app and at a $1.99, who could argue?

Stack the Countries challenges the player with questions about country borders, capitals, landmarks and flags. It also has a special Map It game where the player is given an empty continent and asked to fill it with shapes of various countries. Here is where my four year old can completely navigate Africa like it’s his native land. I’m amazed.

The app isn’t very repetitive either. I’ve played it dozens of times and only rarely find a repeat question.









What geography ideas does your family enjoy?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Have a great week,


PS: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means at no additional cost to you I earn a small commission on those links where you click and purchase. Thank you for your support in this small way!


DIY Native Bee House

How to Make a Bee Habitat

Last fall the kids wanted to study insects and spiders as part of their homeschool co-op. I was looking for some hands-on activities and thought how cool it would be to make a native bee house.

We’ve all heard of honeybees and bumblebees, but the real pollinators are the smaller native bees — mason bees, leaf-cutting bees and others. Of those hard-working natives, roughly 30% nest in holes that beetles, grubs and other critters have drilled in dead wood.

Like all of my brilliant, well-intended ideas the thought of crafting a bee box came to me just a mere two days prior to our co-op meeting — leaving me little time to gather and prepare materials. Sigh….

I jumped onto Facebook and asked if anyone knew where I could find empty coffee cans. Our favorite pizzeria, Satchel’s, answered my call and the following day I had a dozen industrial-size coffee tins  (along with a glorious pizza pie). Psych!

If you’re looking for empty cans, restaurants are a great source. If you’re in Gainesville, you might also call the Little School daycare who also responded to me on Facebook last fall.

Next, I gathered small limbs that had fallen from the oak trees in our backyard. Due to the thoughtfulness of my neighbor, we also have running bamboo and I gladly hacked a few shoots down.

materials for a native bee housePaper, not plastic, straws are also excellent, but don’t feel like you have to buy these. Most of the straws you see here, I cut from hardware-store craft paper and rolled them around a pencil to create paper tubes.

The last bits of material include something to hang the native bee house with, such as wire or string and a drill with bits ranging in size from 3/32-inch to 3/8-inch, and long enough to drill a 5-to-6-inch deep hole. Oh, and you’ll need a method to trim branches so all of your materials fit flush inside the coffee can. I used a hand-saw (good-grief!), but hopefully you’ve got a power saw.

South facing native bee house hanging under house eaves

If not, I hope you won’t be prepping a dozen bee houses by hand like I did!

Once all the materials are prepped, the kids happily stuffed them into their bee houses in any random order. It’s best to find a south-facing location that is protected, such as under eaves or a large tree, to hang the bee habitat. After storing it for the winter, we’ve just hung ours in our butterfly garden as we look forward to the return of our little native pollinators.

Happy backyard bee keeping!


PS: Follow the Homeschool Help Desk on Facebook where we post two homeschool resources daily. Resources include new curriculum, field trip ideas and special events.



Best Homemade Play-Doh Ever!

Homemade Play-doh Rocks!

Homemade play doh organs inside canopic jar

Canopic jar with play doh liver

I am always in a  panic for play-doh. Yep, there ya go. My kids love the stuff and we use it for so many learning applications it’s crazy.

However, our store-bought play-doh is never colorful for long. As the boys mash it and blend it to make their various creations, we end up with this yuck-o pile of dark green dough that does anything, but inspire.

I decided to resolve this dilemma – and save some dough  – by finding a homemade play doh recipe online. Anna, the brilliant mama at The Imagination Tree, shared this recipe and it rocks! I made a batch four months ago and keep it in the fridge. Still fresh, still bright colored, still soft. No kidding.


  • 2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • Up to 1.5 cups boiling water (adding in increments until it feels just right)
  • food coloring (optional)
  • few drops glycerine


  • Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl
  • Add food coloring to the boiling water then into the dry ingredients (optional, but I chose neon food coloring)
  • Stir continuously until it becomes a sticky, combined dough
  • Add the glycerine (optional, I didn’t use it)
  • Allow it to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead it vigorously for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. * This is the most important part of the process, so keep at it until it’s the perfect consistency!*
  • If it remains a little sticky then add a touch more flour until just right

We are studying Ancient Egypt right now and one of our activities was to make canopic jars. We used our homemade play doh to create the organs that went into each jar, appropriately marked with the four sons of Horus.

What could be better than neon play doh lungs, stomach, liver and intestines? The kids in our homeschool play group loved it and I happily packed away the left over homemade play doh into my fridge for another homeschool day.



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DIY Flannelboard

It’s not very often that I pull off a “Martha Stewart,” yet today I created a flannelboard that I’m totally excited about. I was inspired after a visit to the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN. If you haven’t had a chance to vacation in Chattanooga (or nearby Cloudland Canyon), it is well worth the trip!

Creative Discovery Museum is one of the top children’s museums in the country and when they say “hands-on” they mean it. Everything can be manipulated, explored and experimented with in ways only kids can imagine.  In the lobby my kids were drawn to a large flannelboard and they immediately set to work creating these elaborate stories.

We spent our first hour (of eight total!) playing with this simple tool.

Homeschool Help Desk DIY Flannelboard City Landscape

French fry truck exhaust!

On this rainy Sunday, I created our own, smaller flannelboard to pass the time and quite honestly, I could barely cut out shapes and figures fast enough as my kids barked out their desired patterns. “We need a volcano!” they shrieked. “More rain clouds and lightening!” my older son bellowed. “Mom, I think we need more coconuts for the palm tree!” squeaked the younger one.

I cut shapes freehand as fast as I could for over an hour.

To replicate the museum flannelboard I bought an inexpensive 24×36 framed cork board at Walmart. I also found a neutral flannel remnant for a couple bucks.

I later read in The Flannel Board Storytelling Book that it’s best to use a dark fabric, so I’ll remedy that with felt from Michaels using my 15% teachers discount.

Homeschool Egypt DIY Flannelboard

Homeschool friend plays Egypt

I already had a bunch of felt fabric squares from a “felt pizza” I made my youngest son last year. I cut patterns from the felt squares in response to the boys’ ideas.

I used a permanent marker to sketch in some details if the shape looked too plain.

What I love about this tool is that the boys and I can use it for so many learning applications. My oldest loves ancient civilizations, so as we learn about them I can cut out related figures and he can create his own stories to reinforce his learning. Or you can cut out numbers and letters, a whole slew of items related to nature or airplanes or famous storybook characters, etc. The possibilities are endless!

I found these inexpensive pre-cut themes, which help in a pinch: Dinosaurs Felt Figures $8.95Rainforest Feltboard Figures $4.95, or check these out Human Body Flannelboard Figures $21.75.



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