Friday, November 4, 2011

Lattice Multiplication

I'd inadvertently downloaded a lattice multiplication app a couple weeks ago and thought "Huh?" when I looked at it. But yesterday I watched the Khan Academy video on lattice multiplication and now I'm sold!

I'd never heard of it before, but I think it is a really nice way to do multiplication of multi-digits. Better than remembering the 0 in the standard way--so nice to do all the multiplying then all the adding. Plus it's kind of fun. It feels like it is too tricky to actually work, but it does.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

We are really liking Real Science Odyssey: Life Science

I got an MS in Zoology, so it's a favorite subject of mine, but I have a hard time sharing my interest with my kids (besides catching bugs, having lots of pets over the years and reading National Geographic...) This year, on some recommendations from a couple of people here, I got Real Science Odyssey for Life Science. I have really liked it, and the kids have, too. So far we have done some good observational activities (outside doing a plot study and studying the parts of an egg) and some fun models (jello models of plant and animal cells and this week a karo syrup based model of blood). I love that the lessons are one page of text. I feel like it hits the key points of the material, plus gives a good explanation, but keeps it short enough so the kids stay interested. We've been supplementing with relevant Bill Nye videos and the Discovery Ed streaming stuff (the kids dig Slim Goodbody) and I feel like it's a really good curriculum for my kids.

Anyways, just wanted to share as I've seen lots of science threads pop up lately. You can download a pretty good sample at their website. I'd looked at the sample before, but it didn't win me over. Really doing it, though, has made me a fan.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

still chugging along

So I started working part-time from home in mid-October (the astute among you might notice that that date coincides with the date of my last blog post here), so it hasn't left a lot of free time for blogging. Yes, I do set my own hours, but with money always managing to find uses for itself, I don't spend a lot of free time blogging or otherwise enjoying the internet like I do when I'm not working.

Homeschooling is going well, though. I introduced "Independent Folders" to each of the school age kids, into which I put any of the stuff for the day that they should be able to do without my assistance. It has really helped us get started more smoothly in the mornings, as they can just open their folders and get to work. Then I can jump in between assignments if I want to do some of the work they need me for. Right now, Spud only has math, a maze (for fine motor skill development plus some fun), handwriting practice on a lined white board, and Explode the Code in his folder, but it is enough to get him going. Then we do reading time and a computer program for reading together.

Noodle has her math, cursive, Latin worksheets (2 per week), spelling, and sometimes math or Latin flashcards in her folder. She also does her piano practice and independent reading time on her own as well. I work with her on grammar and writing, and we all do history and science together.

I am feeling pretty good about our current curriculum setup. It is always a temptation to see if the grass is greener on the other side of some hill, but there is SO MUCH OUT THERE that I find it is better not to look for something new unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. So, I try and not look for problems. I am trying to figure out an approach to geography, though, as I'd like to do more of that.

We've started working with Sprout to learn his ABCs, and he seems really interested. he calls letters "ah-ees." I made a simple ABC book that I'm having printed, and I also compiled an ABC playlist on youtube. Youtube Playlist It's my hope that with a lot of exposure he might just kind of "pick up" on reading a bit more than the other kids have. It has been quite a bit of work getting the other kids to learn to read, so anything that makes it easier I figure is worth a shot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

happy reader(s)

So Noodle was a bit late to the whole reading game. A year ago at this time, we were diligently working through beginning chapter books (like the Rainbow Fairy series) by having her read aloud to me for a while every day. It was quite tedious at times, but I felt that she just needed to keep practicing to improve her skills, more than more phonics work, so that's what we did. Now she is at the point where she really does enjoy reading, and she is skilled enough that she does okay reading on her own. She started Scout, one of the Puppy Place books last night at bedtime and then finished it off today, all on her own! I was thrilled! I will continue having her read as part of our school day, but it is just so rewarding to think of the progress she has made over the past 18 months.

Spud is also doing really well with his reading. He is really getting his beginner books down solid and he is much less intimidated when encountering new words. He is working through Explode the Code book 1, and I think that is a really good way for him to practice & review.

Hooray for books!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Term A, Week Three

Highlights from the week:

We have been getting together with some homeschooling friends in the neighborhood one or two mornings a week for some "P.E./recess" type fun, and this week we biked down the River Trail to Utah Lake. I had never biked out there before, and it was really fun and beautiful. The kids did great. It was 4 miles round trip but nobody got too tired or complained (I think that's an advantage of doing these things with friends). It took a couple of hours, and we didn't get started doing "school" until after 1, but it was worth it.

On Friday we had arranged a field trip up to Tracy Aviary with the Boys Club I coordinated. It was a follow up activity to our owl pellets a couple weeks ago. David was able to come with us and we had a great time. My favorite parts were seeing the birds in the bird encounters (a red-crested turaco and an American Crow), seeing the HUGE Andean Condor basking with his wings open (very zen-like) in the sun, and hearing the family of five kookaburras laugh and laugh and laugh. I don't know if I knew (if I did, I'd forgotten) that they are called Laughing Kookaburras.

Kookaburra


Red Crested Turaco

Kookaburras have long been one of my favorite birds. I think they are just so cute and chubby. I learned that older offspring often stay around and help care for their younger siblings. David said he read that on a couple other bird species' signs, too. So neat! The kookaburras at the Aviary were a mom and dad and their three youngsters, all hatched this past spring. The chicks were already full-sized, though.

In other news, Spud is doing really well reading his beginning reader books. We have quite a number of Bob books, which he likes okay, but he really likes the Clever Critter books by Nora Gaydos. We only have the Advanced Level One set and one of the Level Two sets, but I am tempted to get more because he likes them so much. I think I should probably just check out other first readers from the library and save the $. I've reinforced to him over and over that if he doesn't know a word he can either sound it out or ask me (or both), so he has stopped doing his, "Uh, uh, uh.." pathetic thing when he gets stuck. That is big progress!

Noodle finished her math on the Green Track (I'll explain more later) so she was able to earn the cute hedgehog she'd picked out at This is the Place Park gift shop, plus an extra four dollars. The idea is that she controls how quickly she moves forward with math and if she can master the material faster, and have a Green Level Effort (finish with minimal mistakes in an appropriate amount of time without needing reminders to focus), she can earn rewards. If she moves at our old pace, one chapter a week with many "focus reminders," that's a Red Level Effort. In between is a Yellow Level Effort. Probably sounds a little more complicated than it is. Anyways, her math covered some new ideas the last three weeks and she is doing well at understanding them. I think she needs to solidify her add/subtract facts, though, so this next week we are going to do review and drill. I'm hoping that it will be easier for her to stay on task when the small tasks that make up the problem can be completed more automatically.

We are using Prima Latina for Latin this year (only Noodle and I, though Spud does listen in some), and I am really enjoying it. I think Noodle enjoys that we are learning it, though she kind of grumps when it is time to do it. As we learn a bit more vocab and can talk "secretly," though, I think the allure will be stronger. But I'm enjoying it a lot!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week Two

So, I don't think I have it in me to maintain an exhaustively detailed update of everything we do. Especially since I am kind of cutting back for now, seeing what we can handle, and then will add back in "extras". Some notable things from the week, thus far:

Spud has done REALLY well this week with his lessons. He has only had one "poor attitude" incident, and that was today. I tried to help him shake it, but in the end, I asked him to go to his room until he felt ready to continue with a happy voice and happy face. He came down and did just fine after that. I talked to Noodle about the importance of responding to him with kindness, as I think her rudeness earlier in the morning had put him in a bit of a funk that he just wasn't shaking. During lunch prep, we had a nice conversation about how you can always look for things to be angry about. I said, "You could wake up every morning and think of a new thing to be upset about, and NEVER run out of things." We went through a number of examples, mostly ridiculous like, "Today I'm upset that I don't have my very own horse to ride," and "Today I'm going to be angry that I don't get to eat all the chocolate I want," but I think it made the point. Not that they'll remember it, but I plan to revisit the lesson in the not-too-distant future. I said that we can also look for things to be happy about, and told them how people who look for things to be upset about aren't as healthy because their bodies spend so much energy dealing with the bad emotions that they get worn down.

One thing that seems to work really well with Spud is explaining the why behind some of the parts of his schoolwork that seem pointless. He is definitely not a kid to do busy work. Also, when he asks me if he has to do something a certain way, or at all, I will explain to him what the idea is, and allow him to do it "his" way as long as it accomplishes the same goal. For example, in his Explode the Code book, yesterday he said he couldn't read the sentences because they were too small. I am pretty sure that his eyes are fine, but I know that smaller print can be hard for beginning readers, so I didn't push it and allowed him to skip that page. I asked him if I could type the sentences up and print them larger so he could do the page, and he said he thought that would work. So I did, and he did the page without problem today. Also, today he was supposed to "X" the box that went with the correct sentence, but he only wanted to do a slash instead of a full X. Since this is something that obviously doesn't matter, I allowed it. Also, I haven't been requiring that he do the pages where you have to write the words out, since his fine motor skills are not quite there yet. But he has chosen to do them, after asking me if he has to write in lowercase letters. I told him that it is preferred, as most of our writing is, in fact, in lowercase letters, but that he can use capitals or a mix of capitals and lowercase if he wants. I figure this isn't a penmanship exercise (no way I'm touching that right now), so it really doesn't matter. He is sufficiently exacting upon himself that I really don't feel the need to be at all critical of his writing attempts. He has been very good at asking how to write the numbers he doesn't know, and has been amenable to my gentle suggestions that he might find it easier to do them in such and such way.

Today we did something that I've been wanting to do for a looong time and we've just not really done it before (at least not quite so thoroughly). Noodle picked up the most recent National Geographic magazine that was on the counter since it just arrived this week, and asked about something on the cover. We started looking through it, and we looked through THE ENTIRE MAGAZINE together, reading photo captions, answering questions, etc. It was awesome! And it was interesting to all of us. We learned about the oil spill in the gulf, talked about kids born with cleft palates (there was a Smile Train advertisement in there), talked about mountain climbers on Everest, a paternal mouth brooding fish, Jane Goodall and what she's helped discover about chimpanzees over the past 50 years, prehistoric animals of New Zealand/Australia, and problems of overfishing in the ocean. Pretty fabulous science/geography/current events lessons, methinks. I know they won't remember all or even most of it, but I love the analogy of the grammar school years giving kids "pegs" to hang future information on. They need exposure to a lot of information, and they will be able to start to organize it and develop interests. I am actually amazed at how much they do remember.

One last thing, then I've got to get to bed. Noodle is doing a karate class with a couple of friends at a local charter school two afternoons a week. After talking to David, I realized that I really need to give Spud more attention. So on Tuesday, after Noodle left, he asked (as he always does) what he could do while she was gone. He's usually hinting around to watch extra cartoons and such, but this time I said, "Why don't we start reading your Captain Underpants book?" He was pretty excited about that, and he chose to read it up on his bed. We read the first 14 chapters (they are short chapters) and the next day he was so excited to read more. On Wednesday, we also went on a walk to collect cans from the neighbors and came home and made pudding to eat after our reading. It was a lot of fun to spend some quality time with him, and I look forward to continuing it. Captain Underpants is a pretty fun series. Noodle started reading it at bedtime tonight because she wanted to be in on the story, too. I'm a fan of all things that promote reading!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week One - We survived!

Monday was rough, as it seemed that whenever I was in the middle of something with Spud or Noodle, the only thing that kept Sprout happy was wreaking massive destruction. The older kids did well on their lessons, but I was beyond frazzled by the end of school that day.

Tuesday was good but crazy and not super productive. We hosted Boys Club that afternoon, so we had the house to tidy and things to get set up in the backyard for that. It turned out really well, so I'm excited. The plan is for the Boys Club to have an activity and a field trip together every month. I am so glad it all came together, as it was hard to organize something with a bunch of people that I'd not met before. I think it will be a good mix, though. All of the parents who came seemed like pleasant, agreeable, fun people. Spud seems to me making connections with some of the boys, which is my primary goal, so hooray!



Wednesday was AWFUL. For reasons unknown to me, Spud is the sort of kid who really needs expectations spelled out explicitly. David and I had talked about this, and I was trying to implement a system of using a script to spell out expectations with our various school activities, but I didn't have one for one activity, and I don't know what triggered it, but he kind of went nuts. I could re-post what I wrote on a homeschool forum I'm a part of, but I don't feel like rehashing it. Suffices to say, he was very determined to NOT do a certain part of the lesson/exercise, and went crazy, screaming that I was torturing him. Then, after getting to the point where we finally completed the lesson, we had another explosion during lunch preparation. So, a couple people recommended a book called The Explosive Child, so I ordered it used from Amazon. It's gotten a lot of good reviews, so I hope it will have some specific strategies that might help me. Most of the time, Spud is really easy-going, but when he gets "stuck," it's terrible.

Thursday and today were both good days. We discovered today that Noodle definitely needs to do her math in the morning, as today a single assignment took over an hour, and she made a lot of errors. Most of the week we'd been doing it first thing, so I think we'll set that as the standard.

For Spud, here's what we are doing for Kindergarten:
Explode the Code Book 1 - I am requiring a page per day, but I think somedays he will voluntarily do more. One day this week, he did three. I think ETC will work well for him because it allows him to learn/review some material on his own. I did get the teacher's manual (I didn't have it when Noodle did Books 1 & 2, but found it was useful when I ordered it when she started Book 3), so I do hope to be able to do short instructional lessons with him (if we can avoid future meltdowns), but it's nice that it is fairly independent. His writing ability is really lagging, but I'm not worrying about that at all. He is trying to write, and doesn't seem too bothered by the fact that he can't make all his numbers/letters correctly, so I'm not going to stress it. I did print out and make a handwriting exercise book for him. I'll see if I can interest him in it eventually. We are doing Treasure Hunts from this book, though I've typed them up and made my own. We do one every morning, he earns a sticker, and at the end of the week, he can trade in his stickers (though I don't actually require him to give them to me, as we put them in his sticker book) for a "Mystery Car" (a hot wheels wrapped up in decorated butcher paper). He really likes these. For the early ones, there are a lot of pictures, so they don't actually HAVE to read, but he is learning some new words and being willing to try sounding them out, so I figure it's a major step forward. We are also doing Math U See Primer, a page a day. Finally, we are doing "Reading Activities," which is a bin I put 5-8 different activities in (beginning readers, flash card sets, things from Happy Phonics, Talking Words Factory DVD, Phonics Concentration (a simplified version of this game, and other stuff as I find/come up with it). He can pick 1, 2 or 3 activities. Two activities/day puts him on the "Yellow Track," three/day puts him on the Green Track, one is on Red Track. For Yellow or Green (or in between) he can earn a special prize at the end of three weeks. For Red, nothing special. I am doing a similar thing with Noodle's math to help her feel motivated to work independently and at an increased pace. He has been quite cooperative with the Reading Activities, so that's been nice. He is also doing lessons on Road To Reading, and he likes those as well. I figure we'll keep working on those as long as he is interested and enjoying them.

So, that's our Kindergarten. He also joins us for Story of the World, Vol. 2. We didn't start Science this week, but he'll join us for that as well.

I'll post Noodle's studies later. I'm tired of thinking about school.