Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 5 Report (Term A)

I've decided to letter our terms, so this present week (Week 6) we will finishing up Term A. But here is our delayed report for last week.

Science: Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Watched 2 Bill Nye episodes (one on earthquakes & the other, you guessed it, on volcanoes) plus Magic School Bus Blows its Top. For Family Home Evening, David & the kids built a paper mache volcano, which was painted on Wednesday and finally erupted on Friday (I think). The kids really enjoyed it.

Science: Owl Pellet Dissection
We also dissected the owl pellet we'd found on the river trail. It was neat to see the tiny bones. I was hoping we'd have an intact skull, but we didn't. The lower jaws were really neat, as were the tiny femurs and ribs.

History: The Middle Kingdom of Egypt
I had plans to get some incense to burn (we talked about the Nubians and their use of incense and a lot of gold jewelry), but it didn't happen. Probably just as well as I don't particularly like incense. The smokiness of the aroma gets to me.

I don't know if I have mentioned what we use for history. We are using Story of the World (Volume 1). I like that it is really straightforward, and the story format is nice. You can also purchase an activity book that I think is really worth the money. It has maps and coloring pages, along with review/narration questions and project ideas/recipes. I split ours in half and spiral bound the "manual" portion of the activity book and then 3-hole drilled the remaining pages and scanned them in (which is allowable for use within your own family). So now I just print out the maps and coloring pages as we need them. Pretty nice. There are also CDs of the stories, which I think would be awesome, but they are too expensive for me to justify the price. I know a lot of families really enjoy listening to them in the car and such, which I think would be really nice. Maybe someday...

We did read an interesting book about the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, though. I was glad the kids didn't clue in enough on the adultery/fornication that was alluded to. Sheesh, what is with those ancient cultures? I guess it is convenient to have imperfect gods if you don't really want to strive too hard with your own morality.

Language Arts
The Happy Phonics set I have has some "flip cards" that change words when you flip the middle vowel. I did these last week with Spud for his reading lessons and he really enjoyed them and didn't grouse at all. So I made five more sets. It was a really great way to get him some reading practice. I don't know why he is so resistant sometimes. Okay, I have an idea why (just hates doing things he doesn't know how to do...I know I've said that a dozen times at least). He was able to fill up his sticker chart the same day as Noodle, so that was happy for both of them. She earns her stickers for doing her math pages independently. I've realized that rewards are a good motivator for these kids. I try not to overdo it, though. We also played The Castle Game from the Happy Phonics set that helps kids identify short vowel sounds in words.

Oh, and he went on an L hunt.

Lion, ladle, letters, ladybug, ladder.

I have to say that I am really pleased with Noodle's progress in reading over the past four months. Last May she was really stumbling over a lot of words , even if she'd seen them many times before. We have done a few things in the intervening months that may have helped. We watched the phonics lessons on The Phonics Page. Then I started working through these Blend Phonics lessons and reading from the Blend Phonics Reader. I think going through these things where the phonics rules are presented so sequentially and individually has likely helped her quite a bit. She's a rule-minded kid. (I'm pretty sure her OCD has a role in that.) We have a few lessons left on the Blend Phonics, and I think we will finish them, I'm just taking a bit of time off to review some of the word sets she's had some trouble with. (I'm using Phonics Pathways a little for the review.)

One cool thing was that I put a Dora early reader book that we've had for quite a while in her workbox. She saw it and said, "Oh, these are really hard. I'm not good at reading these." I told her I thought she'd do just fine, and she practically breezed through it. I think she is really gaining confidence, which is great.

I usually have her draw or color a picture after she finishes reading from her reader, and she drew such a great picture after reading the poem "The North Wind." You can see a little of it in a couple of these photos.Here's Spud making designs on the Geoboards. The kids really like these.

Noodle was doing the chapter about Making 10. One of the activities from the Games for Learning book was a perfect supplement/review of these facts. It's called Pyramid. We are using it again this week for Making 9.

For making 10, take out all the face cards, and make a pyramid of cards (facing up)..., one at the top, six at the bottom, each row overlapping/tiled over the one above. You can only use the "free" cards (the ones not covered by another card) and your extra cards in a deck to make 10s. Try to get the entire pyramid gone. For Making 9s, just take out the 10s. Here's a picture of her playing the Making 9 pyramid.

It might be really obvious to people who play Solitaire, but not being one of those people, it was new to me. She really likes it, though, and it's a great review.

Spud made a cute hand & footprint lobster from the Just for Fun blog (linked below). I should get a picture taken of it, but I haven't yet. Both kids had fun painting their hands and feet and making prints on the paper. We'll have to do those types of activities again. The blog has a lot of different ideas that involve hand & feet prints, so check it out!

We made stamps for our craft out of small log rounds and foam. We cut the shapes out of foam (also used some foam stickers we had). We finally found our stamp pads today and tested them out, and they work pretty well. It was a fun project, and even Spud got really into it. He wanted to make a rain stamp and a couple of circle stamps, then a fish stamp (with a sticker) for David.

And of course we had Muffin Tin Monday again:
Our other muffin tin is older and less nice looking, so the kids have to take turns having the nicer one. The left column is Desserts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

fun art projects

On this Just for Fun blog.

Ruth Heller's books about grammar

I just learned about these today. I'm going to check out this one from the library since we are still studying nouns. Quite a few people at the Well-Trained Mind forum have mentioned they like them. There is a whole series, including Collective Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs, etc.

UPDATE: These books are GORGEOUS! The illustrations are simply beautiful. Spud picked the "Verbs" one out of the library basket the other day to read, and while I don't know that the concept of "verb" sunk in, it was an enjoyable read and, like I've mentioned twice, the pictures are breathtaking. Definitely worth a look. We still need to read the one about nouns. I will try and get it in the workbox soon.

handwriting paper

I have done a few searches trying to find good printable handwriting paper, so just in case you find yourself looking, here's a good one.

fun phonics game

Phonics Concentration. We play a little differently, though. We don't keep any of the cards, we just put them in a discard pile after we sound them out. Noodle loves this game and it is good practice for her. I'm going to make a junior version for Spud, as he has played with us in the past (on my team) and enjoyed it. I've printed off her cards before, but last night I remade a set on some mini index cards, then sewed two little bags, one for the starting cards and one for the ending cards, then rather than laying out all the cards (which can take some time and more space than we often have cleared) we can just draw the cards out of the bags.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Week 4 Report

This week FLEW by! Spud hasn't been doing his workbox the past couple of days, which was good in that it gave me some time to reflect (and consult the folks over at the WTM forum) on what is most important for me to be doing with him right now. He knows all of his letter sounds and is quite good at sounding out 3-letter words. But he is so resistant to trying things in front of people when he doesn't feel confident that he will succeed. He has always been this way. He used to say, "Tant say it," when we'd ask him to say a word that he knew he couldn't. And then, voila! a few days or weeks later, we'd notice him saying the word without any fanfare. And he really doesn't like attention drawn to his new achievements, either. I guess it's some weird variety of perfectionism, but it sure is hard to figure out how to teach this little guy. He was/is the same way when learning his ABCs, drawing, counting, learning new songs, and pretty much everything I can think of. As a total non-perfectionist (I'm perfectly happy to bumble my way through most anything!), I have a hard time relating.

Anyways, all that to say that I'm going to back waaay off the reading stuff and just let him pick things up on his own. I'm also going to do some non-handwriting methods of reinforcing proper letter formation (draw in a pan of sand/cornstarch, playdoh letters, possibly make some sand ABC cards for some of the letters, etc.) as he likes to write letters, but his formation is just not very good and, not surprisingly, he is resistant to practice as that is an admission that he can't do it very well. But, back to the weekly report.

We did Rocks & Fossils this week. We had two Bill Nye Episodes (Rocks & Soil, Fossils) and one Magic School Bus episode to watch. Those are always fun, and I know they help me retain the information more when it is presented entertainingly. Yeah, I know we shouldn't have to be entertained to learn, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing when it works! We read a couple of books about rocks and fossils, including this one:

We also went to the BYU Paleontology Museum with our homeschool group. Can I tell you that I was delighted how the timing on that worked out? Fun fun. The museum is not huge, but it has a nice-sized collection and is about right for elementary aged kids. We love the one at Thanksgiving Point, but it is HUGE and really more than anybody can take in on a single visit. Plus, the one at BYU is free! (I gave the kids all my change to "feed" the dino skull donation box, though.) I think I'd like to make a point of going to each of the free museums in the area at least 1-2x/year. I think the repeated exposure is good for kids and adults, and you always notice something different.

We also did a rock craft, where we mod-podged fabric shapes on rocks to make animals. Or just a sticker. Or painted the rocks. Obviously we were flexible. We got that idea here. I think it would be fun to do what the blog author does and make enough to tell a story, but that would work better as a multi-part project (cut out all the shapes one day, find appropriate sized rocks one day, mod-podge another day) than a single afternoon.

We did Ancient Africa this week. There isn't a lot of information really about Ancient Africa (outside of Egypt) because they didn't keep written records that have survived. They did tell oral stories that were passed down, though, including the stories of the spider/man Ananse. (I've seen multiple spellings, but I'm going with that one.) We really enjoyed reading a lot of Ananse stories, listening to the Ananse song by Raffi, and then we finished up our week Friday afternoon by making our very own Ananse spiders out of Sculpey and wire. My first idea for doing the legs didn't work, so we ended up building an armature out of wire and then building the clay around it. I thought to make a sort of tutorial, but then got distracted by doing it and taking care of Sprout, so it didn't happen. The finished products are pretty cute though, methinks.

Language Arts
Like I said, Spud was taking a break from his workbox for part of the week, which was okay. Something new we added in this week for him, though, was "Letter Hunt." I sewed this polka-dot bag for him (you can kind of see it in the letter P picture) and I give him a letter card to go on a letter hunt. I have to say, I was surprised that we kept thinking of more and more things that started with P. It doesn't seem like that common of a letter, but we finally just had to stop looking (as the kids kept making me take a picture after we added each new thing. Good thing we have digital cameras!) I think he enjoyed doing it, so we'll probably add it to our mix of letter-related activities.

Noodle and I spent 2-3 days on soft "c" words. She also kept working through her Yesterday's Classics reader.

Muffin Tin Monday
I'm on a quest to find more fun things to make the days more enjoyable, and the first idea I came across that struck my fancy was Muffin Tin Monday.
It seemed both simple and fun, so I decided to give it a try.

It was a hit! And really didn't take any more effort than a regular lunch, so hooray! Noodle ate all of hers, Spud didn't quite finish. I think I'd like to find a 3rd muffin tin for me, too! And I think it is funnt that Noodle is making such weird faces in both of the pictures. Little nut.

Still chugging along! Sprout likes the manipulatives. I love that he can make a mess, be happy, and it is easy to clean up.

Other Stuff
We went on a loooong walk on the River Trail this week, too. Both kids are now really adept at riding their scooters, which is fabulous as they can speed around at a reasonable pace for me to kind of keep up with. Their bikes are too fast and with walking they get tired or bored too quickly, so the scooters are a nice middle ground. We had a really nice time and found a partial owl pellet on the trail that we will dissect this next week.

Oh, last week (week 3) there was a traveling "Leo on Wheels" science exhibit at one of the schools down in Mapleton, so we went to the Community Night. It was really cool, and free! I found out about it through the newspaper. I know a lot of people get their news (if they get any) online, but I can always find half a dozen things I'd rather do online than browse the news, and I like leafing through the paper and catching headlines. I don't get it read or even skimmed every day, but I like the connection to the community it affords. /tangent/

So, it was a good week. We have two more weeks until the end of our first term (we have six weeks on, one week off with a longer break for Christmas, and we have six terms in our school year) and I'm thinking of having a Fun Friday for the kids and some friends on the last Friday of the term. I think we'll invite a couple of the kids' friends over and the kids can all make mini pizzas and maybe sundaes or root beer floats and play together for a few hours.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

good links

30 Simple Ways to get your Child Ready to Read
Even if your child is reading, these are still some good ideas, especially if you have a next child.

Very Cute Coloring Pages (Animals)
If you have an animal-loving child like I do, you will appreciate these cute printable coloring pages!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week 3 Report

It was a good week.

We studied weather and storms. We watched the Bill Nye episode "Storms" and did three weather related art activities from this book. Here's one of them, Rainy Pictures:

I thought it was so fun that I had to make one, too.

We discussed Ancient China this week, and learned a little about dynasties. We discussed the emperor's wife who "discovered" silk, and how making it was a prized secret for a really long time. We also learned about pictograms and painted pictograms of our own to try and communicate messages. We realized there is lots of room for error when you are just drawing pictures, and it would be hard to communicate exactly without written words. We also readwhich is a cute story about a little duck who lives on the Yangtze River in China.

The chapter for this week was largely review, so Noodle did some of it but we mostly practiced more with telling time. She seems to be getting the hang of it now.

Language Arts
Noodle continued reading stories from the Yesterday's Classics First Reader, and I did a couple of Phonics Pathways (PP) lessons with Spud, and then switched over to The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading (OPG). He didn't like how PP has "partial words" to read, so I think we'll try the OPG "full word" approach for a little while. He is really good at sounding out the words, but I don't know how to facilitate him being motivated enough to want to read on his own. He's so difficult in this way, in that he can't be pushed into doing anything...he has to find it enticing. I'm not so good at the "enticing" part. Noodle's reading has really improved dramatically over the past four months, but she still isn't really interested in reading on her own for pleasure. I'm not sure how to spark that, if I even can. Perhaps it won't happen until she is reading with ease. I know there is a wide range of "normal," and she's still well within that, but I look forward to the day when she is excited to read for recreation.

Extra Activities
One fun one we did this week was an activity appropriately called "Estimate it!" We first estimated the number of Skittles in a cup.

How many do you think there are? Answers below. (Don't try and count and/or multiply...that's
not really estimating. Okay, maybe it is, but as the kids don't have that skill, we don't do it.)

We then estimated the number of pencils in the pencil jar and the number of marshmallows left out in the bag. Noodle got both the number of pencils and the marshmallows exactly right. Weird.

(I think not all pencils are visible...sorry about that!)On Friday late afternoon we went to one of the city parks and had a really nice time. We had an "early out" day, so the kids finished school rather early, played with the neighbor girl while Sprout took his afternoon nap, and then we packed snacks and headed out to the park. We took Daisy (our bichon frise) with us and had a lot of fun playing fetch and running around with her. We even took her to Michael's afterwards and they didn't bat an eye, in fact they commented on her cuteness.

I know I'm leaving out some stuff that is worth mentioning, but such is life!

160 Skittles
23 Pencils
48 Marshmallows

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Old Fashioned Primer Readers

I'm pretty sure I mentioned/linked to the readers I bought for Noodle. She has really liked them. On a forum I frequent, someone mentioned using Google Books and searching for "First Reader". There are TONS! So now I'm compiling a "combo reader" of stories I think Noodle will enjoy reading. Then I'm going to print them out and have them spiral bound.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

still enjoying our workboxes

This is week three, and the kids are still responding well to their workboxes. Some of the novelty has worn off, but they are still working through their folders with a general level of enthusiasm. One advantage I'd not really thought of to this system of managing our school day is that it is very easy to take breaks. When you have a baby that doesn't always have your schedule in mind, this is a really big benefit. Also, since most of the work for the kids requires some mom assistance, it is good to be able to switch back and forth. We do most of the stuff in the kitchen at the table, and the kids are getting good at waiting for a few minutes for me to finish up with the other child. I really like that the workboxes take me out of the equation of the kids knowing how much work there is to do. Before, Noodle was always asking if we were almost done. Now she knows how close to "done" she is by looking at the chart on the front of her workbox. It was hard for me to have to keep saying, "No, we still have X, Y and Z to do." Now she doesn't ask, she just does.

Oh, one thing that has really streamlined my workbox prep every evening is to make a 3x5 card for each day with the subjects that will be in the workbox that day. I can refer to the card, put those materials in the workbox, and then add any extras (games, etc) in to fill the rest of the box up. I finally got around to making up the 3x5 cards for Spud's box on Monday, and it has been really nice. Prior to doing so, I felt like I had 9 folders to fill "out of nowhere" every day. Now it's usually only about 4. Much more manageable.

Monday, September 7, 2009

great idea

Found this fabulous idea today. I already use transparencies in our Math U See workbook (the pages aren't removable), but this is a great way to reuse those tear out workbook pages, plus keep it fresh by offering just a few at a time. I already had some of the folders (got them at OfficeMax for 1 cent each a few weeks ago!), so now I have some of these made up for handwriting practice. Whoo hoo!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Week 2 Report

Language Arts
Noodle read the following stories from Yesterday's Classics Primer:

The Pancake
Three Billy Goats Gruff
Little Tuppens
Little Spider's First Web

And read The Three Little Pigs from the First Reader.

I had her do a coloring page or a drawing after each one, which she really seems to like. She did a paper craft of Little Spider's First Web that she really enjoyed. She'd asked to do some cut & paste projects like Spud has been doing.

She also did her lessons from Writing With Ease, Level 1 and we did our grammar lessons from First Language Lessons. Spud often joins us for the grammar lessons.* (see below for story)

Spud reviewed his short vowel sounds this week and we started on the "blends" in our Phonics Pathways book. He said he didn't like that the sounds (i.e. sa, se, si, so, su) weren't actual words, so we may need to try a different approach. From his Upstart (computer-based preschool activities) and some of our own activities, I think he is getting the concept of sounding things out pretty well, but he is so reluctant to DO anything that he can't do well. I really don't know how much to try some of the different phonics type activities with him, as he doesn't want to try them. I finally finished prepping the rest of my Happy Phonics materials, so I think we will utilize those this coming week in lieu of the Phonics Pathways and see how he responds.
Here's the awesome Alligator I mentioned before. The kids insisted that he have a body.

We did Seasons this week, and read a couple of books and watched the Bill Nye episode about Seasons. Also did a paper craft showing the different seasons. For our Earth Science text, we are using the First Encyclopedia of our World and doing either a single or multiple topics each week. So far, so good.

Ancient India was this week (Chapter 10, I think, in Story of the World Volume 1). In addition, we read One Grain of Rice and are going to read Once a Mouse tonight. The kids really liked One Grain of Rice and how starting with one grain of rice and doubling it every day for 30 days could result in so much rice by the end.

Spud did some number matching again and we also played Numberbow. (You roll the dice and add them up, then color that number on your rainbow. Each person takes 12 rolls, and whoever has the most of their rainbow colored wins. Of course, my kids are so competitive, or maybe just poor losers for now, that we don't focus so much on winning.) I got the big dice at Dollar Tree a few weeks back and they have been a fun addition to some of our games.

He did some pattern blocks and then made his own block "monster".
I told him it reminded me of an owl, but he insisted it was a monster, and then proceeded to add more "monstery" features.

Noodle did her Math U See lesson about doubles and only missed one on her test. She wrote that 30 + 30 = 16, which I think happened only in the writing stage, as she sometimes gets 16 and 60 messed up, as well as 12 and 20. I told her this week that I think it's funny she doesn't like math, as most kids like things they are good at. "They do?" she asked, incredulous. We started a sticker card for her in an effort to make math a bit less of a dreaded thing. She gets one sticker for each workbook page she does on her own, two if she gets 100% on her weekly test and 1 if she doesn't get 100% on her test. I caved and gave her two even though she had the mistake on this week's exam, because once I pointed out the missed problem, she solved it correctly right away.

Noodle did well on the songs she had a chance to practice and we played the duet version of Ladybug for Leadership School Tuesday evening. She was kind of worried that afternoon because she didn't have it exactly perfect every time, but when we performed it, she didn't miss a single note! And neither did I, thankfully.

I thought this was a cute scene I happened upon one day:
Sprout was clapping happily on the floor while Noodle played Yankee Doodle and Spud played with toys and bounced around on the sofa.

That's all that comes to mind right now. We ended up doing only part of our school day Thursday because Sprout was sick. I just couldn't handle a fussy, barfy baby who hadn't slept well the past two nights (which meant I hadn't either!) AND have the patience/attention necessary to help the kids with their lessons.

Friday we did our lessons and spent a couple of hours up the canyon at the 2nd Annual Homeschoolers Picnic, put on by our friends Nickie & Gove Allen. It was a lot of fun. Spud got soaking wet in the shallow part of the river there (which was fun for him) and Noodle got to play with a neighbor boy whose family is new to homeschooling this year. We are lucky to have a few homeschooling families in our ward, even if we don't necessarily do activities together. At least it makes us seem a little less "weird" at church.

* Noodle (and Spud, apparently) have been learning about complete sentences, and we were all hanging out up in my bedroom one afternoon and Noodle answered some question and Spud said, while dangling sideways off the desk chair in a bored, nonchalant voice, "That's not a complete sentence, Noodle." She was a bit taken aback, and I was surprised, and explained that while it wasn't a complete sentence, and complete sentences are really good to use, we often speak in incomplete sentences and that's acceptable.