Sunday, October 25, 2009

workboxes, update

I still really like the workbox system. We use it for Noodle's school everyday. Most days she does all 12 folders, but maybe once or twice a week we only have 10. With Spud, I have been adjusting his preschool "work" so now we are only using about four of his folders, and I fill the rest of the chart with the stars and take out the unused folders. I made his box with the intent that he'll grow into using more of it, anyways, so I'm okay with not using it all that much right now.

After 8 weeks of workboxes, I think the primary benefits have been:

1. I am forced to plan our day beforehand when I get the workbox ready the night before (and even earlier when I am more on top of things). I made a "Workbox Extras Sheet" which is just a simple table with Monday-Friday down the left hand side and the kids' names across the top. I jot down in the space for each day what extras I want to put in (e.g. flash cards, books for reading, read-alouds, mazes, coloring pages, history or science stuff, games) and then it makes the process of actually filling the workboxes each night much quicker. Also, I have found it very helpful in typing up my weekly report, as I can just refer to this page as an overview. (I did this last week for the first time and it was great!)

2. Noodle feels like she has some control over her day because she is the one who gets to get the next activity out. She also knows how far along her school day is.

3. Easy to schedule time to do the small and/or fun activities. Along with this, I also like that it is easy to take breaks (necessary to take care of the baby, have lunch, have a snack, help the other child) and then resume.

So, I don't really see us NOT using workboxes in the foreseeable future. In case you were wondering. :o)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Term B, Week 2 Report

Oh yeah, I'm on top of things this week. We actually ended a little early today because Noodle had a friend come over so I decided "socialization" (snerk) was more important than more science (which we've already done 2x this week).

Language Arts
Noodle is nearly finished with the Yesterday's Classics First Reader. It has been a good one and she's enjoyed it. Three days this week, though, she read from Ruby the Red Fairy. It is a bit above her comfort level and is a beginning chapter book, but I wanted to find a book she'd enjoy reading and that would show her that YES she CAN read chapter books. If I'm there with her to help her when she gets stuck on a word (only so she doesn't get too confused trying to decipher the meaning when the words are wrong), she can maintain a fairly decent pace and enjoy reading the book. Earlier in the week we agreed on a "4 page/day" assignment, which seemed a little skimpy to me but I didn't want to push her too much, and today she was so into the book she read 10 pages! She just kept saying, "I have to find out what happens next!" and, "Sorry, Mom, but I just have to read one more page." I was so delighted!

She also read some advanced BOB books that we hadn't done before. And she picked up the Big Dog, Little Dog book I'd read to Spud yesterday and read it all the way through. Since she has not been a self-motivated reader, I am tickled every time she chooses to read something or read more on her own.

We (Noodle & I) also played the Y Not? game from Happy Phonics a couple of times this week after reviewing the Y-ending pages in Phonics Pathways. The first day we played it, she loved it and we had to play it three times. I was happy to do so.

We learned pronouns this week. "A pronoun is a word used in the place of a noun."
I, me, my, mine
you, your, yours
he, she, him, her, it, his, hers, its

we, us, our, ours
they, them, their, theirs

She did really well and seems to grasp the concept without much difficulty. Next week we'll do a review page (from the Worksheet generator link I posted yesterday) to see if it is clicking. I think it is.

Noodle was struggling with the words could and would when she would encounter them in her reading, so we did a list of regular "ou" words (i.e. proud, loud, round, found, out, etc.) and the three irregular words could, should & would. She got 100% on her Spelling Test today, but then in her reading stumbled over could the first time, but got it in subsequent encounters. Being as visual as she is, I think she has to see the words a lot before they are solid in her mind. My goal with spelling is to reinforce the rules as well as revisit some of the ones we may not have covered too solidly in the past.

Spud spelled some words from some pictures cards, but he wasn't too excited about it. I am planning on taking a break from really requiring him to read anything for a while. I wish I had some sort of handbook that would tell me the best way to motivate this little guy to learn. Te thing I have to remind myself over and over again now is that he hates to do things he can't do
well (as judged by some unknown standard in his mind), but he likes to do things he CAN do well. He hates to be on the spot for knowledge he isn't confident about. So we are shifting our preschool approach to reading books and doing activities.
One of Spud's favorite books is Big Dog, Little Dog, so for our first day of "new" preschool, we read this book and then he colored pictures of items from the story either red or green, depending on whether they went with Fred or Ted. I cut them out for him (because he didn't want to, for who knows what reason) and he glued them on. I freehand drew the dogs, and was pretty proud of myself.

Our agreement was that we would do two activities of my choosing every day (in addition to his computer school) and then we would do "Fun Time," where he gets to choose an activity to do with me for 15-20 minutes. We only started Thursday, but both days we built towers/buildings with blocks in the playroom and then crashed our matchbox cars into them. It was surprisingly fun. I have to keep reminding myself that learning stuff (reading, numbers/math, etc) isn't a race, and it really isn't going to affect them in the long run if they master reading 6-12 (or even longer) months earlier or later. What WILL matter, though, is the attitude they have about learning. Spud is a hard kid to teach, but he's a pretty easy kid to have fun with. So I'm hoping that working on our relationship will help him feel happier and more capable.

Noodle is doing really well with Writing With Ease, Vol. 1. I like that the lessons are grab-n-go and typically take less than 15 minutes to complete.

History - The Phoenicians
Did you know that the reason purple dye/cloth was so expensive long ago is because it came from sea snails that had to be gathered and boiled to get the dye, and it took a lot of snails to make the dye and it STUNK. Maybe you did, but I didn't. We learned all about the Phoenicians this week. How they lived in land (modern day Lebanon) that was inhospitable to crops or raising animals (due to the whole "no crops" thing), so they became totally awesome goods-makers and traders. They were the first to invent blown glass! They also had the first alphabet and made really nice furniture from the cedar trees there. They set up colonies around the Mediterranean. For our activity we made "Phoenician bread," which is known today as pita bread. No, I don't know if it is exactly the same, but it was one of the suggested activities in our book and we did it. The bread is delicious, by the way. I think we'll make it again sometime. (And I had to include these pictures of the kiddos enjoying the bread this morning!)

Noodle started subtraction this week. She actually did a bit of subtraction in the Primer book last year, so it doesn't seem to be giving her any trouble right now. I suppose we could move faster through the Alpha book, but I feel okay at our current pace and I like that she is getting these basic math facts down solidly. From everything I've read, staying at our current pace she'll be plenty caught up by the end of elementary school. Also, I'm considering doing math through our longer breaks (Christmas & summer) which would help us keep making progress. Ever since I instituted the sticker charts for doing her math work, her attitude has been a lot better. I will say again, incentives definitely have their place! I also found my old addition flashcards so we did those a couple times this week. She earns one Skittle per card correctly answered, as many as she can do in a minute. (She also earns an equal amount of Skittles for Spud. I have him earn Skittles for her, too, some days, to keep it equitable and help them be happy for each other's achievements.) It's great because on Tuesday she got 9 the first minute, 10 the second minute, then 14 the third minute. She wanted to keep trying for more. Thursday she got 14 right off, and tried one more time and had some trouble and only got nine. A book I read about right-brained kids talked about how doing math problems quickly for timed tests can be a challenge since it takes time to visualize the problem, so I'm hoping doing the flash cards will improve her speed in a fun, not-too-stressful way.

Spud can count to 20 very solidly, so we are working on going to 100 now. He will get a "100 Cake" when he can count to 100 unassisted, just like Noodle did, and he is excited about that.
He also does well actually counting objects up to twenty and not just saying the numbers. We are also working on counting by 10s, as I think that will help with counting to 100.

Science - Seas, Oceans
So much STUFF about the ocean to learn. Which makes sense, seeing as oceans cover ~70% of the planet. I had no idea that the Pacific Ocean alone covers 1/3 of the Earth!! Crazy! I think it would be fun to do a longer, more in depth study of oceans sometime, but for now I feel okay with only a week. We did some experiments from the book Awesome Ocean Science. Two addressed how warm water and cold water interact and one was about how the coloring of penguins helps them hide from predators. There were 3 Bill Nye shows to watch (Ocean Exploration, Ocean Life and Oceanography), but we only got the first two done. In addition to our notebook page of drawings/information, I had each kid pick an animal discussed in one of the books we read and we did a coloring page of it. Spud picked an angler fish and Noodle picked dolphins. Spud really wanted a flatfish, but I couldn't find any good coloring pages of flatfish, unfortunately.

This experiment shows how warm water and cold water can take a long time to mix (part of what happens during El Nino). The yellow water was warm and the blue water was cold. Five to six hours after combining the two, they were only somewhat mixed (2nd picture). By morning they had completely mixed. It was really a fun one to do.
For this one, we made a red ice chunk in the bottom of a paper cup and froze it, then put it in a glass of lukewarm water. You can see the cold water carrying the color down, so it demonstrates cold water sinking.

New Activity - Safari
I came up with a new activity for Spud's workbox this week. We call it "Safari" and it means he picks an animal out of our "Wildlife Fact-File" and we read about it, find it's location on the map and then color a picture. This week he picked Desmodus rotundus, the Vampire Bat. We found out that an adult Vampire Bat drinks about 5 teaspoons of blood/day, so we measured out five teaspoons of water and dyed it red. (Though at first we couldn't find red so we did green instead. Then we found the red.) And then the kids wanted to drink the colored water. Sure, they don't really need the food coloring in their systems, but it was a nominal amount and added to the fun.

Music Appreciation - J.S. Bach
We did Vivaldi last week and are just going in order. I'm either going to have to keep rechecking this book out from the library or find another one. (Heck, if I get some $$ I might even buy it.) I really like the one I've been using. We talked about Bach and listened to some of his music. I also got some very simple sheet music from Making Music Fun
It's a little advanced for Noodle right now, but I played it for them and when she has the skills, she can try it. We also colored pictures of Bach. We all did really funky color combinations, which made it fun. Punk Bach.

In other music news, Noodle was assigned to learn a simple version of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." At first, she was really intimidated by it (it is her first encounter with eighth notes) and said she didn't think she'd be able to do it. Within two days, though, she was in love with playing the song and played it many times a day. Soon she had it memorized. Such a funny girl. I'm trying to teach her to replace her negative "I'll never get it!" self-talk with more positive speeches. Slow going.

Other Stuff

The Hiding Ghosts activity. (They liked it, then Noodle drew one for me to find the ghosts.)

Muffin Tin Monday
Yup, we're still doing it. I've seen some online that are all theme oriented (i.e. apple related or all round). I don't yet have the creative juices for that (nor do I have the money to buy "special" food), but the kids enjoy eating their lunch this way. I have been glad that we often have a variety of cereal opened,as it's good when I run out of other foods.

Either Tuesday or Wednesday, we woke up to see that most of the leaves had fallen off our maple tree. The kids had to run out and play (they even raked the leaves themselves to play in!). It was great to watch them and it made me happy that we have the flexibility we do because of homeschooling. Granted, overall there are lots of great reasons for homeschooling, but somedays it feels more poignant than others.

It can be a challenge homeschooling with a baby. His new mobility (he's a great crawler, though still not too speedy) is both a blessing and a challenge, as it keeps him entertained but his capacity for finding the wrong things to play with has exponentially increased. Plus, the diaper changes and naps can interrupt our flow. And it's really hard to do read-alouds if he wants to be held, since he likes to grab the book and crumple or eat it. That said, he's a lot of fun to have around. And he helps us not take ourselves too seriously, and remind us of what's really important.
(Not to mention the awesome power of cuteness.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

awesome worksheet generator

Seriously, this is so cool! Even if all you wanted to do was make mazes, totally worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

use this all the time

I've been using this for to make spelling lists and copywork for our grammar lessons. It's great! (Tip: If you don't have a color printer, uncheck "Show Color" and the lines will print in black & gray.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

fun fall crafts

Oh how many hours I could contentedly while away looking for fun crafts and art projects to do with the kids! Here are a sampling of ones I hope to get to soon:

Hiding ghosties

Frankenfootprints & other Fun

Potato Prints (So pretty!!)

Fall Leaves Forever (or, Fun with Mod Podge) We did this over the weekend. Awesome!

And I can't remember where I pulled this guy off of, but isn't he cute? I think we'll use thumbtacks instead of golf tees just because I don't have golf tees.

Not fall related, but still fun:
Modern Art

Term B, Week 1 Report

This is going to be short and devoid of photos. I'll do better for this coming week, though.

We had a good week. I was feeling pretty stressed about our current financial situation, so it was hard for me to be as "into" some of our activities, and therefore it didn't occur to me to take pictures. Also, Sprout was sick one day (Thursday) and the five days prior to that had not been sleeping well, so I was a bit out of the loop.

Some highlights: Noodle finished up the unit in MathUSee, so now she is ready to move on to subtraction. She did well in the subtraction that was started in the Primer, so I hope this won't be too big of a challenge for her. She took both her Chapter 17 test and her Unit Test (2 pages, 48 problems!) and aced them.

I told Spud that his attitude about getting his computer school done in the mornings would directly affect my attitude later that afternoon when he asked to watch cartoons. I also just told him he would be doing it first thing in the school day, since he seemed to just kind of mope around and stall because he didn't want to do it. Usually he enjoys it well enough once he gets going, but when he has all day to get himself in a bad attitude about it, it's that much less enjoyable. So, we laid those ground rules and it's been going better.

Both the kids filled up their sticker cards (Spud gets stickers for doing reading lessons/activities with me and Noodle gets hers for completing math pages & tests) and they got to pick a new little Neopets figurine. (The kids could care less about the Neopets part, they just like that they are cute. I picked up four sets at Shopko back in August that were on clearance, knowing the kids would think the little imaginary creatures were cute. Since each set has 3 figurines, it was a good value and the kids enjoy playing with their figurines together and anticipating earning the next one.)

For History we learned about Moses & the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Didn't really do anything special with it except read a story book about Miriam and baby Moses and color some pictures.

For Science we learned about mountains, and while it would have been awesome to go up into the mountains, we didn't. Our car is having a bit of an issue with coolant, so until we get that resolved, we're not making trips of any real length/intensity. Also, gas costs money, which we just don't have right now. We read a cool book, though, called Up On Denali that had a lot of interesting information about Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) in Alaska and mountains generally. The face of Denali is taller than the face of Everest, which I thought was cool. Personally, I think the face of a mountain is a more interesting measure of height than just the standard elevation. I'm interested in the amount of mountain, not so much in the amount of earth underneath the mountain!

I thought these pictures by the kids were pretty great.
Zebramobile, by Spud

Octopus School, by Noodle

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Term A, Week 6 Report

I'm late getting this one up because we have had such a nice week off!

History: The New Kingdom of Egypt
We learned about Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh, and Tutankhamen. Both interesting characters. I printed off a Who's Who in History page and both kids drew a picture of Hatshepsut--Spud drew her fake beard, which was pretty cute. One of the suggested activities was Be an Archaeologist, involving making the kids a map to follow and setting up a "tomb" like treasure that they have to find and then sketch it to document before they touch anything. David drew the map for me and had the kids go around the front yard, around the house a bit, and then around the back yard before ending up in the shed.
So, the rocks were arranged in a circle around their two chihuahua beanie dogs. I'd filled a jar with oversized plastic coins (the packaging actually said "Ginormous Coins") and filled their candy jars with Cocoa Puffs. The wrapped parcel with the string and spider on it was a package of little foam animal puzzles that you punch out and put together. The kids had a lot of fun with it.

Science: Rivers & Floods
We just read books. I had fun plans of doing a field trip to the river, but it was really cold most of the week and not conducive to outside adventures. We had a Bill Nye show to watch as well.

Language Arts
More of the usual. One of Spud's activities was Sound Match, where he had a bunch of items in his bag and the corresponding letter cards. Pretty straightforward, but he enjoyed it.

We also played "Scrambled Sentences" from the Happy Phonics. I think it is a good way to have him read without the pressure of reading a whole book. For some reason, he isn't excited by the prospect of reading books "all by himself." I guess I shouldn't be surprised, seeing as he hates being on the spot to do things he doesn't think he can do as well as others. But the games are a good way to practice the reading skills he does have. We also did the Word House and a game suggested called "Read Me Cards". He liked the house but didn't care much for the Read Me Cards game.

I did the EA Game from Happy Phonics with Noodle this week, too, as a review.

Other Stuff
We had our first Fun Friday where the kids got to invite some friends over. It went really well. We made mini pizzas, the kids played in the yard for a while and then came in to the garage for a dance party. We took a break in the middle of the dance party to have a nighttime sack race in the back yard.
I personally like the blurry pictures better as they capture the movement and lighting, but you can't see the kids that well.

I think before the next one I'll learn some of the "old" dance moves (Mashed Potato, etc) and teach those to the kids along with some of the disco moves. I also really want to learn the Miley Cyrus line dance and teach that to them. The dance party was amazingly fun, even for me. Nothing like cutting loose with a bunch of kids. We might even invite some more next time, now that I know we can handle it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Lacking the money to purchase a snazzy spelling program right now, I'm going to just keep doing my own thing. I think for now we'll do "word families," which is a fairly standard approach for lists. I'm planning on just picking from this list or similar ones. I want to incorporate the rules of phonics/spelling as I think it will be a big help for Noodle as she continues to gain confidence in reading and as she prepares to do more independent writing.