Friday, September 18, 2009

some of the reasons...

we homeschool are...

so we can take part in amazing events...
witness enchanting cultural dances...
and slide down a Picasso....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

games for math

A good friend of mine let me borrow one of her books the other day...
Games for Math
It is such a cool little book! I have acquired quite a collection of math game books but haven't really loved any of them. Then my friend let me borrow this one. First of all, it does not require a collection of fancy materials to make the games work. And for the most part, there is no prep.

I decided to try out our first game yesterday. Clara and I played in the morning and she enjoyed it so much that she wanted to teach Alex how to play that afternoon.

Basically, each child rolled the die twice. On the first roll, they made that many big circles on their card. On their second roll, they made that many items inside each big circle.

Then we wrote out the problem two ways...
First as an addition problem, then as a multiplication problem.

So, in the case of Clara's pink card at the bottom...on her first roll she got a six, so she made six big circles. Her second roll, she got a two, so she made two little circles inside each big circle.

Since we were only concerned about the little circles, her addition equation looked like this:


and her multiplication equation looked like this:


She didn't actual "do" the multiplication. We worked more on the concept of how to set up the equation and seeing the relationship between it and the addition equation.

Oh... back to the game... whoever had the highest answer on their card got to keep both cards. In the end, the person with the most cards won. I'm not sure if that was how it was outlined in the book but that's how it ended up at our house. The kids love to play war so they just treated it like a different version of that game.

I can't wait to try more of the games from this book!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

language arts

That pile above is what we have for language arts this year. I'm very excited about what we're using this year... and that says quite a bit given I generally "strongly dislike" language arts.

First we'll start with the core of our language arts this year...

On top is Grammar Island. That's the book we're currently working our way through. It is a totally different approach to grammar than we have ever used before. It actually scared me a bit when I got it. I didn't know what to do with it! It wasn't the typical workbook format that we've had in the past. That said, I joined the yahoo group and got a general idea as to how people used the curriculum and off we went. We're not terribly far into but I have to say that the kids love it. Yes, I said "kids". This was supposed to be for just Alex but one day Clara was hanging out just outside of Alex's door while we were working in Grammar Island. She wandered in, loved listening along and has insisted on being part of Grammar Island time ever since. Now, she doesn't do the actual work with the book that Alex does, but if she loves listening in and is getting anything at all from it, that's a nice bonus. In a couple of years, when she's ready, we'll go through the book for real with her, but for now, the exposure is great.

The other books in the stack are Sentence Island, Practice Island, Building Language, and Music of the Hemispheres.

For variety and work with punctuation, spelling, capitalization, etc., I got this...

Last year I got a proofreading book for Alex. He enjoyed it somewhat, but didn't love it and I wasn't completely sold on it. So, as I went paging through my great big Rainbow Resource catalog, I found The Great Editing Adventure books and thought I would give one a try.

So far I've been very pleased with the book. It is a series of short little "lessons" that go together to form a funny little story. I bought only the teacher's manual. In a classroom setting I'm assuming you would write the "lessons" on the board, but I decided to just type the lessons up with my handy dandy StartWrite software (I love that program... I use it all of the time).

Above is an example of one of the lessons. I sit down and type a bunch up at once and then put them, one at a time, into one of Alex's file folders throughout the week.

In order to do some of the lessons, he needs these...

If a word is circled, he's to look it up in the dictionary and be able to tell me the definition. If it is underlined, he needs to look it up in the thesaurus and substitute a new word in place of the underlined word.

He makes editing marks to make corrections on the part I that I had typed out. He brings it to me once he thinks he's found everything. We go over the answers and then he rewrites the lesson, with corrections, on the blank lines below.

He doesn't exactly love it yet and maybe he never will, but it's a pretty low key way to work on his proofreading skills and I like that he has to actually rewrite the lesson versus just make editing marks.

As for Clara, we're taking a much more low key approach with her this year. She has struggled with school in the past and needed to learn to love school again. I thought these would be fun for her for grammar....

She is so enjoying the one on one time with me this year. We're doing so much more reading, discovering and discussing when it comes to school. These books have been so great for that. We curl up on her bed together and read... discussing the little prompts in the book along the way. There is a whole teachers guide that came with the set, but I haven't really used it yet. It has these cute little reproducible mini books inside, but our copier is out of ink so I haven't done anything with them yet. I really think I want to get the Punctuation Tales set too, but I haven't completely justified placing yet another amazon order (yet).

Finally, I also have these in the mix...
Clara enjoys watching the Grammar Rock portion of School House Rock. So we work it in when we can.

I have no opinion on the Standard Deviants' Enormous English DVD pack but NOT ONE SINGLE DVD in the ENTIRE set works. Thankfully I purchased the set from Rainbow Resource and they have an amazing customer service department. They contacted the manufacturer and they are sending me a new set directly. I'm anxious to get it so I can check it out and see what it's like.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

back to the box

Yes, we have returned to Sonlight.

We did Core K Alex's first grade year and Core 1 Alex's second grade year. My theory was to split the difference between my two kids and do the core that fell between them. It didn't go as well as planned.

I'm not sure how else to do this, so here goes...

Why we stopped using Sonlight...

1. To be honest, the amount I had to read aloud was too much for me. I seriously began to dread it. I didn't always want to do it and the kids didn't always want to sit for it. Not a good combo.

2. The schedule. I loved the idea of having a schedule but it frustrated me as well. I always felt behind. I insisted on ordering the 5 day curriculum each time which just made matters worse, because it didn't leave much wiggle room. With the kids and I not always wanting to do the reading aloud, it was so easy to get off track... once I got off track it would spiral out of control.

3. Cores K and 1 felt too random to me. I know it shouldn't matter, but the kids had no answer to the "so what are you studying in school?" question. Science was a random topic each day... how an oven works, what makes bread rise, how a camera works... etc. I didn't feel like we had time to explore any of these topics because the next day we were scheduled to read about something else entirely. I found myself creating/participating in unit studies so the kids could be "studying" something.

So... I made the decision to drop Sonlight last year and go out on my own using Story of the World as our spine. We honestly had a really fun year with it. However, it was a lot of work.

Why we went back to Sonlight...

1. We were ready for Core 3. Core 3 is the first core that really seems to tie everything together. History, Readers and Read Alouds all cover the same time period. The science has focus. The randomness I had disliked in the earlier cores was gone.

2. Alex is now a strong reader. And because of this, I feel like I can turn him loose on his own with a lot of the reading. Which solved issue #1 above.

3. I decided that given the issues we were having with Clara (we had full scale learning assessments done over the summer and got the results last week - but that's another post for later) combining the two kids was not the best route right now. Clara needs space to be her own person in school and not in Alex's shadow. Once Clara is a stronger reader, I do believe I could have them both working on the same Core, however, I don't think I will ever really "combine" them again. In order to simplify things, Clara is covering the same time period as Alex using other materials. I may post more on that later too.

4. The schedule. Ah... see, what was once an issue for me is more welcome this time around. First of all, I ordered the 4 day curriculum not the 5 day. I had to get over "missing out" on some of the great books. If we get ahead of schedule, I can always add them in at some point (especially since the instructor's guide includes both the 4 day and 5 day schedules). With my new system, having an instructor's guide with reading assignments broken down into daily bites has been wonderful.

5. The books. I have always loved the Sonlight books. I love getting the great big box full of all of the books I need for the year. I did love going to the library and discovering new books last year... however, it wore me out! Since many of them were random finds, I felt like I needed to at least skim them first which meant I had to find time for that, then break the book down into a reading schedule, assign it to Alex and hope that he got it read before it was due again. We had so many books in our house that just came home and lived in the library bag for three weeks because I just never got to them. Last year one of their classes was right by the library so it was convenient to go weekly... this fall none of our classes are near the library which means getting there would be an extra trip (which means it wouldn't always happen).

Anyway... those are some of the basic reasons we left Sonlight and are now back again. I'm sure I have more reasons and maybe I'll add to this post at some point.

Hmmm... which subject should I post about next?

Monday, September 7, 2009

a weekend away...

***shoot... I thought I was posting this on my other blog when I typed this up. Oh well... I'll leave it here and copy and paste it to the other one***

We decided to take a last minute weekend trip to our favorite place... Crystal Mountain Resort in Michigan.

We left mid-day on Thursday and got there just in time to have dinner and head to bed. We had to get a good night's sleep because we had a big day planned for Friday.

Friday morning we got up and drove out to the dune climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes. The kids love it there and insist that we go each time we're at Crystal Mountain.

Here they are climbing up the dune....
From this point... Alex and Jeff continued on across the dunes to get a view of Lake Michigan (they took photos with the point and shoot but I haven't downloaded them yet).

Clara took off running down the big dune...
I followed her a ways down. Then she climbed back up to the top so she could run down again.

Here she goes....
(apparently "jazz hands" are necessary for dune running)

she decided to take a running jump into the sand...

We then went back down to the bottom to wait for the boys...
Then, before long, here came the boy running down the dune....
After that we loaded up and headed for our next destination. We stopped at a little sandwich place for lunch along the way.

Then it was time to play in the Platte River...
This really is a nice place for the kids to play... nice little river with a gentle current that empties into Lake Michigan just a minute or two walk from where we set up shop. The rocks here are amazing... the kids could play with them all day. Lots and lots of perfect skipping stones, smooth rounded rocks, and the occasional fossil. They really didn't want to leave but we had a surprised planned for them later that night that we had to get ready for.

We went back to our cottage and got cleaned up for the surprise.

While we waited for it to be time for us to leave, the kids went frog hunting behind the cottage...

They didn't catch any, but they did spot a couple of them.

Hey... look at this....
... a "real" smile!

And more "real" smiles...
The trick? Having them recite tongue twisters! The downside... they we were rarely looking my direction when they were laughing.

One last set...


black and white?
That's as far as I've edited today... hopefully I'll get to the "surprise" photos tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

first things first...

Due to the responses to my last post, I will start posting about some of the new stuff we're using. But before I started with that, I thought I would post about my attempt at getting organized this year.

Okay... I'll just start by saying that this is an area that I really, really struggle with. I'm not a terribly organized person. To those of you who know me, this comes as no surprise. :-)

So, I've been reading everywhere on the net about workboxes. I really liked the concept, however, I knew there was no way that we would have the space for the system for one child, let alone two. After reading about workboxes, I began reading about the different variations people were doing. Then I stopped reading and tried to figure out what would make sense for us.

And here's what we're trying...
... a modified workbox system using hanging file folder bins.

Each child's bin has twelve folders in it that I fill the night before or first thing in the morning. I then leave their box outside of their room (they each have desks in their rooms now, so we're trying that instead of having stuff all over the dining room table all of the time). They start with folder one... once done, they bring their folder to me to check and put the folder in an empty bin in my office (that bin becomes the next day's full bin, and the empty one from that day goes to my office to receive finished work).

So far, so good.... but we have only used it two days (starting day three). I have found that it makes me batty to fill the files.... I avoid it and then stress out while filling them.... BUT the difference is that this lasts only an hour tops versus the all day stress I would feel in previous years. I fill the files with a good mix of subjects and a variety of activity types (and usually try to have something fun/reward-ish near the end). Once the files are set for the day, I'm done stressing, I stop running around like a crazy woman and just focus on working with the kids as they go through their schoolwork for the day.

Here's an example of one of Alex's folders from yesterday...
(oh... backing up a bit... I made a whole stack of no-frills bookmarks the other day. Each one has five lines with checkboxes. I just write what to do each day on each line and they know to do the first unchecked line. On some of the bookmarks, I fill out all of the lines at once, so I'm done making assignments until we finish all five lines.)

He was supposed to practice his multiplication using our new Wrap-Ups. So, when I went into his room to check on him, this is what he was doing...
I love that the kids are transitioning rather seamlessly from one activity to another. We spent way too much time last year waiting for me to determine what we were doing next and where all of the stuff was that we needed.

Please ignore the chaos of stuff that is all around Clara in the photo below (no matter what, her room always returns to this state within half an hour of cleaning it).

This has been another perk so far...
... music practice. We struggled with finding practice time before... I'm not sure why, but we did. Now I have made a bookmark that says "practice violin" or "practice guitar" and write a time increment on the assignment line. When they get to that folder they grab their instrument and my phone to use as a timer and practice away! Since we just started back to lessons this week I just have them play whatever, but at some point I may write actual songs or exercises as their assignments (mainly because Clara plays Bile 'em Cabbage Down for the ENTIRE fifteen minutes straight... ugh).

So, that's the plan (for now) and I'm happy with it and it's potential. I hope it makes sense, if it doesn't, let me know!

And I'll leave you with a photo that has nothing to do with the rest of the post....
... the girl with a bad case of stripes! :-)