My Top 3

Are you drowning in all the resources available? Let me sift through the links and never-ending articles for you. These are the ones worth your time while home with your kids.

May 29: Anti-Racism

Are your kids too young to talk about race? Nope.

Learn: A Kid’s Book About… Racism by Jelani Memory

How I use it: I’ve just ordered this book to help create a framework for some of the discussions we’ve had and continue to have with our children (here’s my referral code for $5 off if you want to order it too). We’ve introduced the idea of white privilege and the history and systemic oppression of African Americans and other minorities. I’m attempting to teach them to be “color-brave, not color-blind” as Mellody Hobson brilliantly explains in this 15 min Ted Talk:

Create: Starfall (app free version) – Who Am I?

How I use it: When the kids sign into Starfall, a learning app I used for emerging readers in my K and 1st grade classrooms waaaay back when, they are invited to create their own character (similar to skins in Minecraft!). We’ve used this as a conversation starter to recognize and celebrate the physical differences in the people around us. Here’s a screen shot:

Screenshot from Starfall app.

Note – this game immediately asks the child to identify as a boy or girl, which annoys me, but we never make a big deal out of which gender they choose. I’ve noticed that they’ve changed the clothes options over the years to be less gender-specific!

If you’re looking for off-screen creativity tools, you can order Crayola’s 8 color Multi-Cultural markers here or pre-order their new 24 Colors of the World Skin Tones here.

Play: Izuki Dolls

How I use it: VF went to a local production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid this fall with my mom. She came home confused because Ariel “didn’t look like Ariel.” I explained that actors don’t always look like the animations, but then I realized that the actor in this production was African American!

I’ve never bought a doll for my kids – they inherited my dolls and the doll Joe’s mom made for him when he was little. Since VF was born we’ve slowly accrued more and she loves them. But this week I realized that we needed to diversify her collection (though I never realized how EXPENSIVE dolls are!). I found this mermaid doll with medium brown skin for $15. Perfect.

P.S. I’m stepping up my game and making sure we show our kid shows where the protagonist is not white. Here are some on my list:

  • Spider-Verse is my current favorite movie
  • all three kids are digging Avatar: the Last Airbender
  • Brandy in Roger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
  • Annie (2014)

P.P.S. There’s so much more. Do the work on yourself. If you don’t know what that means, ask me or join a local Be the Bridge or anti-racist group. I’m working through it too. I’d love to know your resources.

May 1

Learn: Hour of Code

How I use it: Check out this Hour of Coding to learn the basics of coding! My boys loved the Minecraft option. They worked on it every day for an hour for a week. Joe helped them with the first session but he said it was pretty self-explanatory after that.

Create: Design your own mural for a wall or fence (bonus points if you actually paint it too!)

How I use it: Reconsidering the walls you’ve been staring at? My friend, Kelly, is planning a mural with her family. Last weekend they did a car tour of murals around town. Here’s a post I did while we were on the road about rocking mural and street art tours with kids!

For my Nashville friends… here are maps of murals around town!

Play: Level-Up your Games

How I use it: (Watch out, here comes the early-ed teacher in me.) Three easy ideas: 

  1. Little kids – Add letters/numerals to Candy Land. Put one letter on each stop and then use the letters to help develop letter recognition. Start with uppercase, then lowercase. Go to numerals or repeat the alphabet on the color trail!
  2. Bigger kids (and littles) – Add common letters to Twister (MSRTEAOIU plus more like your child(ren)’s first initial – and consider using two Es – E is the most common letter can can turn simple CVC words into silent E words). Make words or find letters while you twist! Extra challenge – add Scrabble point values and keep score. Math, done. (You can buy the official version of this game here – and as an Amazon affiliate I get a kick back from your purchase. Thanks! xo)
  3. Create your own game. Modeled after Candy Land, we made this game on cardboard one night. The boys LOOOOVED creating it and we added lowercase letters because there’s still a few that VF can’t identify yet. When we play, she gets counting and number pattern recognition practice with the die and moving her piece and we talk about the letter names and sounds.

April 24

Learn: Mystery Science

How I use it: I found this awesome science resource, Mystery Science, when I homeschooling last spring. They are offering it free right now to everyone. All three of my kids LOVED this wrecking ball experiment. I LOVED that each lesson is written in the form of a question, tapping into my kids’ innate curiosity. Some of the activities have some major prep work, but most of the 5-8 year old activities are no- or low-prep.

Create: Set up a creativity station, table, or tray.

How I use it: This is about process and exploration of materials, not a finished product. Here’s how one mom does it. This was mine from the road:

Here’s my materials idea list, but really you can collect any art supplies around your house. The point is to make it easy and accessible for your kids to explore and create without an adult-driven timeline or objective.

Play: Cosmic Kids Yoga

How I use it: I love their yoga adventures. I noticed that my kids just watched until they were 4 or so, but then they were able to mimic Jamie’s moves. Even if your child just watches, the message of each adventure is always loving and positive and you might find your little one trying out poses later!

April 17

Learn: Gameschool

View this post on Instagram

Hey there! We’ve got some new ppl following so I thought I’d introduce myself and talk about games (since so much math can be learned and practiced thru gameschooling)🎲 . I’m Mandy. I’ve been roadschooling my three kids (almost 9, 7, almost 4), for the past two years as we lived in an RV and drove around the lower 48 and into 🇲🇽&🇨🇦! . We’ve just resettled in Nashville for a few months and are cleaning out the RV. I thought I could tell you which games we’ve used and loved (and which ones drove around with us but didn’t get much use!). Leave a comment and let me know your favorites! . ❤️❤️❤️Top picks: Cards (crazy 8s, adding/fraction war, nickel nickel, solitaire) . Dominoes (train and block). UNO . Blokus . Rummikub . Rat-a-tat Cat . (Thank you, @roryjensen!) 💛💛 Once or twice: Battleship . Monopoly (Nat’l parks Ed.) . Chess . LRC . Farkle . 💚Tried but not there yet: Scattergories Jr . Big Boggle . Bring Your Own Book . What are you favs? Introduce yourself and include your kid(s)’ age(s)! . ((If you’re looking for more math inspiration, check out my blog about the curriculum and supplies we use and how I prep on the road! Link in bio! 💛))

A post shared by The Magic Homeschool Bus (@themagichomeschoolbus) on

Create: Canva – free graphic design app/site

How I use it: Personally, I use Canva for all of my logos and pictures. It’s fantastic. My kids use it to design birthday greetings and send them to relatives. Even my 4yo gets a kick out of clicking on an element and watching how it changes as she manipulates the colors! It works best for kids on a touch screen.

Play: Sing with me! Guaranteed giggles.

I’m sure you know about the Sing Along with Mandy Podcast – the show I produce and host. Each episode is full of classic songs, rhymes, and games that are perfect for little ones. During COVID times VF and I are recording at @singaalongpodcast on instagram LIVE on Weds at 10a and I’ve created a YouTube channel and will be adding content as we record new shows. You can read more about why I created the show and listen to the latest episode here or you can listen on Spotify or anywhere you get podcasts!

Keep in mind – even if your kid listens or listens for awhile and then loses interest, it’s totally fine. She might sing with me the second or third time she hears it – or you might find your little guy singing to himself or making connections to the lyrics in a totally different context! Playing with language through song is THE BEST way to develop crucial early literacy skills!

April 10

Learn: Make a super easy name puzzle!

How I use this: Learning how to spell and write your own name is such a great way to connect the idea that words are names for things! VF is to the point where she is discriminating text from pictures and writing her name. To get her started, I made a puzzle with her name and a little sing-song to help her remember the order of the letters in her name. Kids love putting together the puzzles, copying their names, and singing them!

Create: Kids Art Hub – free online drawing lessons.

The dude is awesome and films the lessons with his kids. Here’s an Easter Bunny (simple or more complex) if you’re looking for something for this weekend!

How I use this: When we homeschooled, I let each kid pick a lesson at least once a week. Beyond the actual drawing skills, these videos are perfect for boosting skills like following directions and refining fine motor skills. The dad is enthusiastic and talks his kids through their mistakes in a positive, growth mindset-oriented way.

Play: You will never read Fox in Socks the same way again.

This read aloud rap is perfection.

How I used this: This week Joe watch this WIRED video about beatboxing and introduced “Books, Cats” to the kids (note: the video is intended for an adult audience, definitely screen it first if you plan to use with your kids). My boys are obsessed with drumming and percussion right now and Valerie is learning to read, so this is the perfect springboard into letter sounds and playing with language. We haven’t done any formal lessons or activities – this is just a great way for a family to discuss language and use that as a touch point for future connection and learning.

April 2, 2020

LearnScholastic Learn at Home (bonus points to Dav Pilkey for his Dog Man fun)!

How I use this:

Valerie (4) is going through the pre-k/K weeks. I sat with her to complete Day 1 and she has been able to do most of the activities on her own (or at least click around happily on the activities) since then. I usually do the “Activity” with her (or at least get her started). Today we made a “Bear Den” (week 2, day 7). Then we collected all of the bear books we could find on her shelves and put them in the den. I read her one and then left her to ‘read’ more to her stuffed animals (and now have time to work on this page!).

Also, a friend alerted us to Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man Fun yesterday. All three kids clicked through all the activities – the Cooper (9) and Franklin (8) performed a dramatic reading of the graphic novel excerpt for Valerie and then all three of them created their own graphic novel page with the story starter. It was not in the plan for the day, but was an awesome 45 min of engagement for all three kids!

ExploreVirtual Field Trips

How I use this: Franklin (8) has been really into these. He’s toured White House (his favorite) and the Grand Canyon. We looked at the Great Wall of China together – super awesome because I’ve been there and have similar photos!

PlayMy Indoor Ideas for when the weather is crap or littles need something to do

How I use this: This is a blog post I wrote when pregnant with Valerie. The boys were 4 and 2. This week, VF and I have made paper airplanes out of post it notes and repaired her puppet show theater with needle and thread. Tons of indoor activities in the post and links to similar posts I’ve written with more ideas – some hands on but many hands off (for you!).

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