27 October 2014

Finding Patterns

One of the things I love about Miquon is the way it emphasizes patterns. It used to be, when I'd look at our Kindergarten materials, I would see the emphasis on patterns, and I couldn't understand why. Something related to counting? I had no idea. At the time, I viewed math as being pretty arbitrary: a whole lot of formulas, largely unrelated to each other, which must be memorized and recalled exactly perfectly, or the problem will be wrong. I was completely mystified by the strange people who gave every evidence of actually enjoying that sort of thing. 

I was missing a HUGE piece of the puzzle: patterns. 

Miquon is great for patterns. Today, for instance, we had a couple sets of problems like this: 

5 + 5 + 5
3 x 5
4 + 5 + 6

Hero declared them easy, and had them done in no time. But then came the search for patterns: he had to make up a set of his own, following the same pattern as the sets he'd been given. Maybe this wasn't so easy after all. So I helped him, and set up the rods for one of the problems. 

3 + 3 + 3 
3 x 3
2 + 3 + 4


Hey! Look at that! Now the relationship is much easier to locate: he moved one white rod from the four to the two, and suddenly had a problem just like the first two. 

Rods are so cool. I didn't learn using them (I have no idea what we did to learn this stuff: I can't remember.), and it's fascinating to see what they are teaching me. 

And those strange people that like math? I'm one of them, now.


21 October 2014

Nature Study: We Found a Pond!

I was so inspired by the pond study these guys did! The idea of going every week, always to the same place, is one that has appealed to me since she talked about her rationale for going to the same place. I think it was Angelic Scalliwags, anyway, but I can't find it on the blog this morning. But the idea was that, in going to the same place repeatedly, you get to know it in a much more intimate way. You get to know the regular critters, the usual plants, and you can see how they change over the course of a year. Things that you just can't learn in a single visit. I love that idea. So we tried a while back, but the weeds grew up around our first pond and we couldn't get to the water, so that plan fizzled after just a few weeks.

But we found a new pond. And friends to go with us. It's very exciting. 

Nature Study: Pond Study at Baby Steps Blog


It's only a few miles away, and it's plenty wild, so there's lots to see. It's got 2 docks, plus a small shore area, and the rest is wooded right up to the water's edge. In addition to the pond itself, there's a good size nature preserve, and a little nature center with people who Know Stuff.


Nature Study: Black Eyed Susans near "our" pond.

Tons of wildflowers, though most have gone to seed and died back for the winter already. I was quite surprised to see these Black-eyed Susans so late in the season. They're definitely past their peak, but still so cheerful. 

Nature Study: Field in Autumn

It's mostly wooded, but in a few places, it opens up to some great views. 

Nature Study: We found a tree frog by our pond!

This week, we found a frog. Again, a bit surprising for so late in the season. We've been getting frosts already. I would have guessed the frogs would have gone into hibernation or whatever it is they do; we still need to look that up. 

The green stuff on those fingers is duck weed. We asked about that last week at the nature center, and checked it out this week. They told us that it's such a desirable species that people with ponds will often plant it. Interestingly, it isn't slimy at all. Feels a lot like couscous when you touch it; it's all dry and grainy. I was pretty surprised by that. 

Nature Study: Checking out the Gray Tree Frog we found.

The kids had a good time looking the frog over. We talked about how his feet looked like tree frog feet, but we didn't have any way to identify him right there. I was amazed at how tightly he clung to our fingers! He had to be pulled off when it was time to put him back where we found him. We looked him up later and decided that he's probably a gray tree frog. 

Nature Study: Buckthorn gives us an opportunity to learn about invasive species.

Saw lots of these shrubby trees with berries on them. We had a conversation about how they are similar to blueberries, but not quite the same. The guy at the nature center said they're actually buckthorn, which is terribly invasive, so much so that there's a group that periodically comes to help them kill a bunch of it. So we need to do some learning about invasive species. 

Nature Study: Love that autumn maple color!

This one is a maple. The maples are just amazing right now. 

Nature Study: The thistles are almost spent.

The thistle are pretty well spent. But still so pretty. I was pretty surprised to see a bumblebee out so late it the season. She was definitely sluggish, like they get in the fall. 

Nature Study: A sluggish bumblebee, getting the last bits of necter.

I'm not sure what these are, but the seed pods are just so striking against those lovely yellow leaves. Autumn is so beautiful. 


And one more maple. There are do many of these around town; the whole city is just on fire with autumn maple colors. 


Over at Angelic Scalliwags, they had something of a plan as they started out. We haven't gotten so formal as that, at least not yet. But we do look things up as we're there (Hurray for little computers in the pocket!), and this week we're headed to the library to learn about tree frogs and invasive species. But for the most part, we enjoy the pond and keep an eye peeled for interesting things. Can't wait to see what our pond does next.

15 October 2014

Day in the Life

10:30am - The baby wakes me up. I wonder why she slept this late, but count my blessings, since Dragon did some sleep walking last night, and it took nearly 2 hours before I could get back to sleep. Hero hasn't been up long either, around a 1/2 hour. Slow start for us today, I guess. Not my favorite, but after last night, I'm not complaining. Morning is going to be short. He has helped himself to a bagel and peanut butter, and I am surprised to find he is reading a graphic novel version of the Iliad. I was guessing it would be Harry Potter #2.

11:00 - Jump in the shower, quick. I want to be done before the Daddy leaves for work. I grab some laundry and fold it up when I'm done, trying to find a shirt. I also need some socks for Hero; he's been wearing mine for the last two days. I don't start the washer yet, though, because the Daddy is using the water.

11:30 - I've stopped folding (which is not the same as being done with it), and change Tigress's clothes and diaper. I still need to do some yoga, and feed the two little kids. The Daddy leaves for work. Hero is reading Harry Potter now; The Weasly's flying car has just crashed into the Whomping Willow.

11:45 - Dragon wants a Minecraft coloring sheet. The printer is complaining because I'm out of yellow ink, and wants permission to print in black only. I also coax it into printing out my shopping menu: today is shopping day. We have a ton of errands to do, and I also want to get the basics of school done. I think the universe ate my print jobs, then I realize that I'd hit cancel, rather than OK. Oops. That won't work; try again. Tigress climbs up on my lap to draw. Dragon immidiately, very politely, asks for markers, which we keep up high. Put her down, give him the markers, clear enough of last night's cups from our drinks just before bedtime (midnight) that he has space for coloring.

11:55 - Pull up Pinterest to help me to think up stuff to put on my menu. Desperately try to stay focused, rather than being sucked into the wonder of Pinterest-land.

12:10 - Give the  younger kids some bagels too. Wonder where my hairbrush got carried off to. Return to Pinterest and my menu.

12:35 - Release Tigress from the high chair. Ponder doing some math with Hero, but return to my menu instead; we really have to go shopping. Give him my phone to listen to The Secret Garden. We are "officially" having a literary morning, and this goes with our current history chapter, on colonial India. Still no hairbrush, and the baby has an... aroma. Guess it's time for another change. My menu is 1/2 done.

12:40 - My nose lied about the diaper. The boys migrate to the basement and listen to the story while they play with their new balls. My girl has figured out how to connect Duplos. Sort of. And is very involved in doing just that. My menu is almost done. Dragon's nose is gross. I must remember kleenex when we go shopping.

12:55 - The menu is done! Now to make the shopping list. And figure out how to get Dragon's cooperation on this shopping expedition. He is, shall we say, unenthusiastic.

1:05 - The shopping list part is relatively painless, and goes quickly. I give Dragon a timeout - and some tylenol and sudafed. Poor kid feels rough. The boogeyman has eaten my hairbrush; count my blessings that I can convince my hair to be presentable without one, in a pinch. I wonder if I can squeeze in some yoga before we go shopping.

1:40 - Found my hairbrush. It was put away. Yoga's done; feels good. I ask Hero to turn off The Secret Garden (can I just say how much I love the Librivox app on my phone, and how much I appreciate the volunteers that read?!), and we all start looking for sock and shoes. First stop: Kohls. Hero needs pants in the worst sort of way.

1:48 - Where is Tigress's other shoe? Everyone go potty!

1:55 - We're off! The boys both bring stuff to play with in the car. It's so much fun to see old toys become new again after yesterday's Big Toy Toss (in which we lost 3 garbage backs of toys and things -- miraculously, without tears), and the toys that come with us are ones that have all their pieces again after all the sorting.






2:40 - We've been to the music store. Dropped off the banjo to get a minor repair done. Now we're at Kohls, looking for those pants for Hero. He has none that are nice. It's embarrassing. This is our second attempt at remedying the situation, but the first store, last week, didn't have anything.

3:15 - Success! On to Sam's Club.

3:35 - Lunch at Sam's.

3:50 - Shopping! We head away from the deli and into the store. It never matters that we just had lunch, the kids are always on a sharp look out for the "Sample Feast" and they are not disappointed.
4:50 - We're back to the music store to grab my banjo. It's all fixed up now, so when I play it next, I'll be able to tune it. Yay!!



5:15 - groceries in. Hero starts making wands (think Harry Potter), but gets side tracked by finding the missing balloon pump. Tigress actually makes the transfer, so she'll have a good nap. Hurray! Now to put away groceries & round up some Math. 



6:00 - After a delightful few minutes messing with the balloons, I coral the kids into doing some chores. Hero is unloading the dishwasher, which he can do (almost) independently, and Dragon is picking up the toys in the living room, which overwhelms him easily, so he has to be coached through it bit by bit. I have the table nearly cleared off, though, the math is out and ready to go, and as soon as the dishwasher is emptied, I can start working on catching up on those icky dishes while the kids do some math.




6:30- The boys' jobs are done, but not the math. Tigress woke up, and she thinks it's tragic that I won't let her chew on balloons. Sometimes, she is still very much the baby. Waking up poorly from a nap brings that out, so we sit down and snuggle a bit. She's coughing, but not as bad as yesterday.

7:00 - Dishes are coming along. Tigress spent some time playing with patter blocks while the boys used rods on their math. Now she's "helping" with the dishes. My kitchen isn't nearly so appalling as it was a couple hours ago, since I've been sneaking things into the dishwasher between helping the boys with their work. Sometime soon, I need to figure out what's for dinner, since we cut the shopping short before we got everything I'd planned to use for tonight. Oops. 

7:15 - Math's finally done. Piano practice is underway.  




7:35 - Dinner. I'm making this up. We have various snacky things: bread with Happy Cow Cheese, and hummus on bread and bell peppers. Sauerkraut. I get the bumps on a log almost completely to myself: the boys won't touch them.


7:35 - Clean up dinner. Hero does violin. Tigress is still eating, and Dragon is wilting. He just wants to snuggle. And play Minecraft. I'm hoping to get some violin out of him too, but I'm not really holding my breath on it. 

8:10 - Dinner's done; table's cleared and wiped. The dishwasher is still running, so I stack our plates and ignore the rest. It's worlds better than it was, and I'm tired. 


8:30 - Tigress comes for a cuddle. We read a stack of books, then she reads her giggle book with the button that giggles, and I try to read Transforming the Difficult Child while we snuggle. It doesn't work very well, but I got a few paragraphs.


8:45 - Tigress is in the bath. I sneak a few minutes with my banjo. 

11:00 - Family scriptures & prayers done. Now for potty and teeth. We had a good night call with Daddy because he's getting home too late even for our late bedtime tonight. Hero is hoping to make it long enough to get a hug, but in my heart of hearts, I'd like him to sleep sooner than that. 

11:15 - Everyone is in bed. Oops. Tigress escapes while I'm telling a story, and goes to play the piano. She's very happy with herself and comes running and giggling when I go catch her again. I do a "snot chase" (AKA lymphatic massage) on all the kids and tell them a story. 

11:40 - Both boys are asleep, and Tigress is about 75%, but fighting hard. I realize that both of them passed out without doing either personal prayers, or having scriptures read. Which is why we do stories last most of the time. Guess I messed that up. 

11:50 - The Daddy gets home and gives the kids their "snoozy snuzzles," as promised. I reclaim my arm from the now sleeping Tigress, and debate: more banjo, scrapbooking, or working on my book. There's not tons of time left before I need to sleep too, since we're meeting friends for Nature Study bright and early tomorrow (10:30), so we'll have to have an alarm to make sure there's no repeat of today's late start.

1:00am - I ended up playing around with Family Search, figuring out how to tag people in photos, and adding a bunch of my Aunts and Uncles to my file while I waited for the Daddy to finish up his paper work and stuff. They're all still living, but it's good practice, and I think that the picture will go public after they are deceased. I hope. Think I'll head to bed now.

13 October 2014

Weather Cards

I'm getting closer with my efforts to set up some calendaring. First, I printed out these free weather vocabulary cards on cardstock, and cut them out without the English labels. Then, I made these new Japanese labels, which are available at Scribd. Next, I mounted the pictures on the red cards. Then I put contact paper over them all, to help them last longer. Finally, some hole punching and they're ready to go! Next up: the poster to hang them on.


08 October 2014

Heroic Number Line

Dragon is four now, and starting to do more school work more of the time. In math, he's been able to list numbers pretty high for quite some time, and we're working on helping him attach the concept of two to the number two, and the rest of them. Today, we worked the numbers up to five.








06 October 2014

Switchable Multiplication

Today's math project was pattern discovery. Yesterday, we did a worksheet that was intended to help the kids discover the communitive principle of multiplication. He did the work reasonably well, but it seemed clear that he had not noticed the pattern. So today we got out the completed worksheet and the rods, and we went after the pattern. 

First, we built rod trains for yesterday's problems. And I made a new train, following the same pattern. 


At this point, he thought he had this figured out, and he didn't like my train; he wanted to build his own. I knew he didn't have the pattern figured out yet, but I also knew that he'd learn more being more active, so he built his train. It was wrong. Now I had his attention. We looked closer at the patterns in the other trains, and he was able to figure his out. 


Once his train was following the pattern, we grabbed a new sheet of paper and started looking at yesterday's problems as a model for problems he would. 



This was tricky at first, but soon he was really understanding what he was looking at, and the hardest part was writing small enough to fit on the page. At that point, I helped with the writing again. 



Then, we looked at a new problem, and how we could use this idea of "switchable" numbers in addition & multiplication to solve easier problems. 

Altogether, I feel like it was a very successful lesson!



02 October 2014

Writing is Fun

"Mom, how do you write, 'Optimus Prime?'" So I showed him. And he wrote it. And tried to sound it out. Not too shabby! 



29 September 2014

My Commonplace Book

I got asked, today, how I organize my commonplace book, so I'm sharing my system. This is the same system I've used for years; this notebook is more than1/2 full, and I have another two like it stashed. 



The notebook itself is pretty ordinary. I do sping for the plastic cover, since that's more durable. It's a 5-subject notebook, and I like the big ones because they last. I'm not very good about going through old ones and reviewing what I learned, so I like a big sturdy one that lasts. 
One of the challenges, with a book like this, is organizing it. I decided that, in the top right corner of each page, I'd write the topic and the date. When I run out of room on the back of this page, I turn to the next clean page and label it, and continue as if there was no interruption -- even if there is a huge distance between the pages. Since I tend to have several books going at once, and often other projects as well that get tucked into my notebook, this system seems to work out well.

Figuring out what to put in my book was a bit of a challenge, at first. I learned about it when I was reading The Well-Trained Mind, and then later read this online:

"Commonplacing is the practice of entering literary excerpts and personal comments into a private journal, that is, into a commonplace book or, to use a 17th century synonym, a silva rerum ("a forest of things"). Typically the excerpts were regarded as exceptionally insightful or beautiful or as applicable to a variety of situations, and so as such they are often especially quotable. . . . The practice of commonplacing can be traced back in the European tradition to the 5th century B.C.E. and the Sophist, Protagoras.
-Norman Elliott Anderson, quoted by Lucia Knoles



My own personal style is a blend of literary excerpts, note-taking, essays I write for my blog, and even lists for long-term projects and goals. Since the notebook is large enough to last for several years, it has been a particularly effective place to lists of house and yard projects. It's not, classically speaking, something that belongs in a commonplace book, but it sure works well for me, so I keep it there. It's actually really nice to periodically review what commonplacing is, at its core, about. For whatever reason, the literary excerpts and quotes are easy to let fall by the wayside somewhat. Reading this reminded me that I need to do more of that again.

Here are some pictures of several different pages from my current notebook:

The quote in the box I actually copied from a friend's facebook post, explaining how formality/humility works in Japanese. I'd been studying this for years, and she made it all come into focus in about 3 sentences.  (Ah, the advantages she has for that sort of thing, living in Japan!)


This page is a segment of an essay that I wrote a while back, 7 Lessons From the Bad Guys. That post grew out of noticing a several month pattern in what the Spirit pointed out to me, and then several weeks of trying to coax it into words. I wanted to remember it, even if the blog disappeared.


This one is actually an excerpt and commentary. My sister and her husband gave me a lecture series, The Great Debate, a while back, and because I can't just listen to it, I have to read every single extra reading they list, and that slows down the process greatly. It's slooow... but I'm such a happy camper.


 Several times, in doing the work for The Great Debate, I found that I needed to know more about the geography of the early States. (No fancy markers; I'm pretty sure I just used the kids' crayolas from their art box.) This time, I drew a picture. I found that I couldn't write on the back of the page, and that bothered me, so next time...

I printed and glued in maps. This has some plusses, but also some drawbacks. I may do both techniques again. (Don't you love the Angry Birds Star Wars sticker? It was a gift from my seven year old, who asked that I put it in my notebook.)

This page has both a quote, and a practice art for my scripture journal, with which I get a lot more fussy about the artsy elements.


I love my notebook. I read more deliberately, and remember more consistently since I started using it, and I highly recommend the practice. I don't have too many rules for myself. If it strikes me (and I have time), it goes in. Sometimes I make a point of practicing writing, particularly with the literary excerpts, in a particular style, and in that way I've developed a couple of options for beautiful handwriting. And sometimes I just use everyday printing, or even occasionally all caps. It's very mood-driven. I'm a pen snob (my husband teases me about an over-fondness of the office supplies isle), and so the pens around the house tend to be ones that write well, but other than the pen has to be pleasant to write with, I use whatever pen comes to hand.

Hopefully that helps. Enjoy your own commonplace journal journey!


P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

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