Where Is Hopkins? | Winterset, Iowa

Our family has recently moved to Iowa, so this summer we’ll be taking lots of day trips to explore our great (new) state! This weekend, we took Hopkins to Winterset, Iowa–birthplace of John Wayne and home to several of the covered bridges made famous in a book/movie you may have heard of…

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Our first stop was the Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center. We picked up a map of the area and browsed the souvenirs available for sale.WhereIsHopkins1 (2 of 9)

Then we took a walk around the town square. Stepping into Mom & Pop shops is one of my favorite things about visiting small towns! Montross Pharmacy has it all, including a restaurant in the back of the store!WhereIsHopkins1 (3 of 9)

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Winterset is the home of the Madison County Courthouse, built in 1875. The overcast sky was the perfect backdrop for our visit!

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You can see the street sign behind the girls says John Wayne Dr. You can learn more about his birthplace and museum by clicking here.

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It rained quite a bit on Saturday, so most of our exploring happened by car. We drove through Winterset City Park up to Clark Tower, built to honor the first residents of Madison County (named after President James Madison).

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After climbing to the top of Clark Tower (or just the second level for those of us afraid of heights), Hopkins really wanted to go see a few more covered bridges.

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Hopkins showing off the Holliwell Bridge, located near Middle River just southeast of Winterset. (This one you can walk through.)

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This summer, you can join along with our adventures (and those of other Signing Time Academy instructors and fans) by following/using the hashtag #WhereIsHopkins!

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Learn our sign of the week, BRIDGE, from Rachel:

#WhereIsHopkins--Winterset, Iowa

Mother Goose Day is May 1st!

One of the perks of parenting small children is adding a bit of FUN to the mid-week mundane. The easiest way to do that is through celebrations of silly and special days!

This week stumped me a bit, so I searched online for April/May holidays and discovered that May 1st is Mother Goose Day! What a perfect opportunity to celebrate the silly and explore nursery rhymes with both of my girls.

But first, why should we rhyme with our children?

Our older daughter was unexpectedly born 14 weeks early back in 2008, followed by a 135-day NICU stay. Those first six weeks, I sat by her bedside with a large stack of books–since this was pre-smart phone, I didn’t have Facebook and Instagram to keep me company during the long, long days.
One of the first books I read by the light of Addie’s isolette was Reading Magic by Mem Fox. Ms. Fox is an excellent author of children’s books, and she wrote this excellent book for parents about reading aloud.

Chapter 10 is titled The Magic of Language, and it profoundly impacted the way I think about nursery rhymes. (This is AFTER a degree in Elementary Education/Reading and four years in a classroom.) I’d like to share a few quotes with you:

“Songs and rhymes provide comforting rhythms in children’s early lives and also expose kids to gorgeous forms of language. They are a natural extension to the heartbeat of the mother and the rhythmic rocking of a child in loving arms or in a cradle.”

reading aloud to girls in hospital
“Rhymers will be readers: it’s that simple. Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually the best readers by the time they’re eight.”
Read more about adding nursery rhymes into your routine with this great post from Story Time Secrets!
 The girls and I love to play a simple rhyming game in the car. One of them says a word, and then we all take turns shouting out a word that rhymes. Sometimes we talk about spelling patterns (cat, bat, sat, fat), and sometimes, this happens: shoe–true, flew, Gru, boo.

To prepare for our celebration, we went to the library and gathered up a handful of Mother Goose collections.

(Just a reminder that Lone Star Signers does use affiliate links at no additional cost to you.)

My second grader was SO excited to recognize a bunch of rhymes from her Spelling You See curriculum:

Can you think of any other Mother Goose anthologies I missed?

Be sure to check out our Mother Goose Pinterest Board for more ideas:

Mother Goose Day

Happy Earth Day! ASL and Activities

Signing Time: HAPPY

EARTH, as signed by Dr. Bill Vicars from lifeprint.com

EARTH, as signed by Dr. Bill Vicars from lifeprint.com

Signing Time: DAY

Happy Earth Day from Lone Star Signers!

We have been spending a lot of time outdoors this month: taking nature walks around our neighborhood, walking to and from the town library, and exploring the nearby lake. Both girls have been making daily entries in a nature journal (4-year-old draws a picture, 7-year-old draws a picture and writes a paragraph) and watching spring slowly blossom here in the Midwest.

Teaching our Children to Love the Earth from lonestarsigners.com

We are learning about local birds, trees, and flowers that share our space and participating in a Nature Pal Exchange with another family in Minnesota.

The girls and I look forward to our daily walks; we have a great opportunity for real conversation while looking for small changes in our natural environment. We’re also growing sunflowers in indoor pots, so the girls get to take ownership and learn about taking care of living things.

Of course, we’ll be doing a few fun activities to celebrate Earth Day (check out our Pinterest board), but I want my daughters to love the Earth every day!

And now, some of our favorite Earth-related resources (affiliate links, natch…thanks for supporting us!):

RTS-Extraordinary Earth

Explorer's Set 2

Kidnoculars

Happy Earth Day! ASL and Activities

Want to win a FREE digital copy of the Rachel & the Treeschoolers: Extraordinary Earth music album?*
Leave a comment below:

How are YOU celebrating Earth Day this year?

* Quick casual giveaway ends on 4/22/2016 at midnight (Central time).
Winner will be notified by e-mail.

April Tot School Unit: CAMPING

Every month on the 15th, we release a new pre-planned Tot School Unit for our friends who are either homeschooling their preschoolers or looking for fun, hands-on activities to supplement the preschool program that they love!

My own preschooler is a sensory-driven little girl who prefers inquiry-based learning and exploration over a curriculum with lots of printables, so you won’t find those around here. (If you are looking for amazing printables, check out The Moffatt Girls on teacherspayteachers.com. We love her!)

Camping-Themed Tot School Unit from lonestarsigners.com

We kicked off the camping unit with our own two girls this week by setting up our tent in the backyard, grilling hot dogs, and making s’mores. We talked about what camping together might be like and building anticipation for our “real” camping trip at a local campground later this spring. Once we were done with dinner, we packed the tent back up and went inside!

The next day, I had our camping books all set out for the girls to explore, and we whipped up a couple batches of homemade playdough. We used our leftover marshmallows for some building & fine-motor activities before spending the afternoon learning more about the birds building a nest in our backyard.

We have a whole month of fun planned–lots of active outdoor math, science, and literacy activities and several lessons about fire safety! If you’d like a copy of our PDF plans, including a list of recommended songs and books to round out the unit, you can

SIGN UP HERE.

And just for fun, enjoy a little mood music from The Okee Dokee Brothers.🙂

Happy 100th Birthday, Mrs. Cleary!

As most of you probably know, I have been an avid reader for longer than I can remember. I have so many happy memories of reading under my Strawberry Shortcake comforter or out in the backyard on my swingset. Getting chickenpox meant I had a WHOLE WEEK at home to read to my heart’s content–probably not a typical reaction for a 3rd-grader.

(Just a friendly reminder that Lone Star Signers does use affiliate links, at no additional cost to you.)

My favorite childhood reads include Little Women, Betsy-Tacy, Little House on the Prairie, and of course, Ramona.

Beverly Cleary Turns 100 | Celebrate with lonestarsigners.com!

It’s been years since I read through the entire Ramona series, but I still remember Willa Jean and the box of tissue, the brown-paper towel shoe, the hole in the house, and Susan’s owl.

It probably comes as no surprise that the very first chapter book that I read aloud to my older daughter was Ramona the Pest. (Though the fact that she was less than two pounds at the time might surprise you!)

This morning, I asked my two girls to head downstairs to our reading nook and grab all the books that we own that are either written by Beverly Cleary or about her. (We picked up this fun biography at our Friends of the Library book sale this weekend!) Addie also reminded me to grab the iPad, where our Henry Huggins audio collection lives.

Celebrate Beverly Cleary's 100th Birthday with Lone Star Signers!

If you are wanting to celebrate Mrs. Cleary’s 100th birthday with us, enjoy this interview from the Today Show and be sure to check out all the fun D.E.A.R. Resources from Sarah MacKenzie at Read Aloud Revival!

Which Beverly Cleary book is YOUR favorite?