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25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

“There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.” -Thomas S. Monson

23 December 2011

My Boys

Brotherly Love

The other night I checked on my boys, and this is what I found. They're not usually so cuddly, but this time they'd gone to sleep on my bed. It made me smile to see them snuggle.

19 December 2011

Great Ideals

Pre-K/K at Home (part 2)

In part 1, I talked about a number of things we do that help our little ones learn the language. Both of the boys have been early talkers, and I think all that talk and reading have contributed to that.


With Monkey, teaching letters and their sounds happened very much by accident: He asked to use my mouse one day, so I let him click around Starfall a bit. He loved it so much that soon we were limiting his screen time. (We only used the free parts.) By his second birthday he knew all the letters and their sounds, and not long after I was starting to research phonics in preparation for introducing the next step.  I knew he was young, but at the same time he was starting to show the "reading readiness" signs, and I had no idea what I was doing. I browsed across Happy Phonics and it has been the perfect fit in many ways.

Happy Phonics is an entirely games-based program: all the practice the new reader needs, but in a fun format. No writing necessary. Monkey and I started playing the program's games for about 15 minutes 2-3 times a week shortly before his 3rd birthday. (Now that he's older we've moved to doing it just about every day.) It starts with very basic stuff: letter sounds, matching the upper and lowercase letters, which was easy after Starfall. After a while we moved into the beginning blend games. Blends were hard for us. I wasn't teaching them very effectively at first, and we stayed there for a looong time. I'm also told that figuring out how to make those blends is the hardest part of teaching reading. With Dragon I'm planning to play oral blending games before we move to written blending games. I saw someone else had blogged about doing that and thought it was a wonderful idea that would make that leap into blending a lot easier.
To that point, Happy Phonics was wondeful, but as Monkey got the hang of doing the CVC blends, I started to feel like I don't know what I'm doing. The program assumes that Mom knows something about phonics... and I didn't know any more than the most basic blends. Enter Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. When I'd checked the book out of the library I'd rejected it because it was so painfully dry. But now I looked again, and I found that the program had something that I needed badly: an systematic approach to phonics. What rules to introduce when, and word lists for practicing the rules, as well as little phonetic stories for the student to read. I still didn't like the format that OPGTR suggests, so I changed it. The word lists I wrote out on 3x5 cards to play with file folder games and the HP games. Works like a charm, and takes about 5 minutes per lesson.

L: Silent E Machine. R: File folder game & word cards.
The other thing I do with OPGTR is a bit more involved, but since I'll be teaching more than one student with it I feel that it's worth my time. OPGTR has little stories that use the words from the lessons to give the student practice at reading. The book suggests using a sheet of blank paper to cover the extra text so it's not too overwhelming, and have the child read right out of the book. Phonics is probably the least favorite topic under study at our house, and I've have mutiny and tears if we did it that way, so I turn those little stories into little books. Over time, the collection has grown. I do not do this for every lesson. But enough to get some good reading practice.

Here's what I do:
  1. Take 5-6 pages regular printer paper and 1 sheet colored cardstock. Hamburger fold them so the cardstock is on the outside.
  2. Open them, and carefully sew down the fold. The color of your thread doesn't matter, and it doesn't have to be perfect. I generally make several of these at once, and often let Monkey choose the color of the covers.
  3. When I'm ready to make the books, I get out OPGTR and count the lines. Sometimes it works out perfectly to match my pages, more often I have to add something to make it fit, or occasionally double up 2 sentences on 1 page. If a family name fits the rules, I usually substitute family names for the generic ones in the book. Monkey likes that, and I like anything that makes him more willing to read the little stories. If I have to add stuff, I usually add silly stuff as it is more fun to read that way. Or ducks. He likes to quack, so there's been lots of ducks in our stories.
  4. Once the words are all worked out in my notebook, I write them into the book.
  5. Last, I draw pictures. We're not talking about beautiful pictures, just stick figures with clothes on them, usually. Or sometimes I'll borrow from the Bob Books style. It's very minimalist, but it does take some time. However, Monkey is soooo much happier reading these little "illustrated" books that it's worth the effort to me. I want him to enjoy reading, but right now he thinks it's tons of work, where so much of the rest of school comes very easily. Those little stick figures make a huge difference in his willingness to put out the effort. 
In addition to reading the story as we're doing the lesson, I use them to review old rules that we have already learned. There's some review, naturally, in the process of reading stories. But I think it makes a difference to go back and re-read the old stories too. Over time his fluency on the older books has really improved. Which is not the same as saying that he's fluent, not at this point yet. But we're not quite halfway through OPGTR, so I'm fine with that. When I asked around on my favorite message boards, it looked like it takes most people about 2 years to work through OPGTR. I think it's going to take us a little longer than that, unless he decides that it's important to him. Right now it's just not. But I'm OK with that. He knows the stuff that we've covered, and he's learning the new rules, even if he's not super enthusiastic at this point. But it's working. And it's thorough.

OPGTR uses very few sight words. If it can be taught phonetically, it is.  I like that. English has a reputation for being very irregular (and is, compared to other languages I've studied), it's still largely a rules-based system. I've seen a variety of numbers for how "regular" English is, but 80-90% seems to be the consensus. Although I've been told that expecting my sons to learn phonics is "too much to memorize," it seems to me that it would be much harder to memorize enough vocabulary, as whole words, to read even close to fluently. And this very phonics-intensive instruction is working. Monkey can read any word that follows the rules we have covered, and has a small-but-growing collection of truly irregular sight words as well.

Happy Phonics puts things into a format that Monkey enjoys. Doing it in a games-based way allowed us to start much earlier than anything else I've seen would have. OPGTR holds my hand so that I'm confident that I'm not missing anything, and helps me put things into a logical order as we progress. I need that. The two of them together are just right for our family.

18 December 2011

Peg People

I've been looking around Pinterest, and found this really cute idea for little peg faries, just in time for a birthday party that Monkey got invited to. We had a fun time getting them ready, and the birthday girl loved them!

15 December 2011

What's a Potter's Wheel?

Today, the question as we're learning more about the Indus River people was, "What's a Potter's Wheel?" I'm clueless about how to explain that in words, so we found some movies.

13 December 2011

Mohenjo-Daro and Some Critters

We've been reading about the Indus River civilizations this week, and it's very interesting. Mohenjo-Daro is a fascinating mystery! In addition to the city itself, as we've been reading there's some other, slightly more mundane things we've come across that needed explanation so that Monkey would understand. I love You-Tube for this sort of quick clarification - and he loves that he gets to watch a little "movie" for school.

This one is an artist's idea of what Mohenjo-Daro may have been like.

This one shows a tour of the ruins.

When we were talking about water buffalo, Monkey was surprised they weren't water animals. Clearly we ought to look at some of those! This one includes a rhino as well, which is nice, because we read about them last week, but didn't go look for any clips.

And here are some domesticated water buffalo.

We also read about camels.

08 December 2011

Art and Artists

We're having another go at learning about art, artists, and drawing. I found a set of lesson plans that go with Drawing with Children, and they have made my life so much easier! I love the ideas in that book, but just could not figure out how to translate them into doing stuff with Monkey. Those lesson plans are wonderful. We're actually making (slow) progress now. And I'm OK with slow: it's so much better than none. One of the first things the lessons plans wanted us to do was make a notebook for our Great Artists Studies. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with this until I saw this idea.

A "smashbook," where order is not so much a problem. One of the blogs I looked at said they'd created a table of contents by numbering the pages- but leaving the first 3 or 4 blank. I like that. Stuff goes in. Learning goes in, and gets remembered because we come back to the book from time to time. So we got those little composition books, and we're going to do it. A little at a time. In Baby Steps. Because small things add up, and it doesn't have to be a huge thing on any given day. It can wax and wane. We can do a whole bunch this week because making a collage to decorate the cover is fun, and then wane as we look at other things, but wax again when we find an interesting artist. And that's OK. Because in several months or even years, when it's done and the book is filled it will be much more than nothing. Which is what we're presently doing. Here are some ideas for what to put inside a Great Artists book.

I made this graphic to go on the cover of mine; Monkey just wrote on the lines on the front of the composition book. When they're done I'll come back and add pictures. But you can  have this "teaser" for now. And if you like it, you can use it on your Great Artists notebook. Drop me a line if you do - I'd love to see pictures of your finished product!

There. The cover is finished. Here are some pictures of mine. Monkey put his name on his, so you'll have to imagine the cuteness. We looked through Usborne's Introduction to Art and picked interesting pictures, which I looked up online and printed out. Then we glued them on our decorated notebooks. And, because our printer ink is very water soluble runs if you look cross-eyed at it, I covered them with contact paper. This will also make the covers generally tougher, which is a plus for a book I'm hoping will be sticking around for a while.

Front cover.

Back cover.
Front cover detail

05 December 2011

Pre-K/K at Home

A couple of friends have been asking me about doing preschool at home: what do I do? How do I know what to teach? This sort of thing. I thought that I'd write down what we did in doing pre-K and Kindergarten at home.

The first thing to do, in my opinion, is seek the Lord's blessing. The prophets have spoken very clearly about the critical importance of a mother's influence on her children, throughout childhood, but especially in those critical young years. President Benson was especially blunt about the importance of mothers for their preschool age children:

"It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters. We become enamored with men's theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother's influence. ... It is mother's influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child's basic character. Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love, and thereby learns from mother's loving example to choose righteousness. How vital are mother's influence and teaching in the home-and how apparent when neglected!"
-Ezra Taft Benson (Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 104)

In teaching Hero, I found the distinction between  preschool and Kindergarten to be relatively artificial. The primary difference was the amount of time we spent doing school in a week: as he got older, I expected more. But for the most part, we did the same stuff all along and it worked beautifully. I used preschool as a time to practice the skills that I need to do "real" school successfully, and so it was win-win all around. Here is what we did:


I do my best to speak to my children using adult language. If I don't think they understand a word, I stop and explain. I often talk my way through the day, explaining what I'm doing as we go.

"Turn off the television - half an hour of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood per day is plenty for any child under five. Talk, talk, talk - adult talk, not baby talk. Talk to her while you're walking in the park, while you're tiding in the car, while you're fixing dinner. Tell her what you're doing and why you're doing it. ('Now I'm going to send a fax. I put the paper face down and punch in the telephone number I'm calling... and then the paper starts to feed through like this.' 'I spilled flour on the floor. I'm going to get out the vacuum cleaner and plug it in. I think I'll use this brush. It's a furniture brush, but the flour's down in the cracks, so it will work better than the floor brush.') This sort of constant chatter lays a verbal foundation in your child's mind. She's learning that words are used to plan, to think, to explain; she's figuring out how the English language organizes words into phrases, clauses, and complete sentences."

The Well-Trained Mind, page 27


From the time he was a munchkin, I read out-loud to Hero, and now to Dragon. The first thing I recommend reading is the scriptures. I used this chart to track our progress - and it went in the scrapbooks when we were done. It took more than 3 years to go through the Book of Mormon with Hero for the first time. After that he wanted to read the stories of Christ's life, so we read the Four Gospels. Although it takes a long time to complete the project, I think it's well worth it. I also started him on a scripture box as soon as he could talk well enough. That has been one of the best parenting decisions I ever made. I can't recommend it enough!

In addition to scripture, I try to read picture books to the boys every day. Sometimes I choose, mostly they choose. We snuggle and read on the couch, the floor, in their beds, and wherever. We read at the doctor's office, and I read to them over lunch. They get books as gifts at their birthday and Christmas and as rewards for good behavior. We let them choose books they want to bring home at the book store and the thrift shop, and I write their names in books that are theirs. I try to keep the picture books high quality books, but some twaddle has slipped in from time to time, and a few times it's even become a favorite. We've had a few books destroyed by pudgy baby fingers. We've had a couple books loved to death. We have several books that have been mended with packing tape, sometimes more than once.

"A torn book or two is a small price to pay for literacy." -Susan Wise Bauer

I also read chapter books to the boys. We are reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator right now. We don't do the chapter book every day, but I do try to get it in three or four times in a week. It has always worked best for us to do this reading while eating lunch or getting ready for nap time. We often snuggle under the covers and enjoy a chapter or two. I don't hesitate to drop a book that isn't a good fit; Hero loved "The Secret Garden" but we dropped "An Incredible Journey" after only one chapter. When he was a baby, I read "Treasure Island" to him... but only the first half. Once I realized that the pirates were going to kill a bunch of people we set that one aside for a while. I love the 1000 Good Books list, and have found many old friends on there, and the new titles we've tried have been wonderful. If I can't think of anything to read, that's where I go.

When we read, I occasionally will stop and ask, "What's happening? Why did he do that? What do you think will happen next?" These questions check to see if Hero understands, and they helped him to get ready to narrate when we started moving into late Kindergarten and early first grade work. I stop and explain any difficult vocabulary as we go along.

Nature Study

Charlotte Mason, an 18th century educator, was a huge proponent of nature study - going outside and observing and learning about the world, first hand. We do that, and I love it. In practice, this has been walks in the park, looking for "cool stuff." We've played around with magnifying glasses and binoculars, but mostly we just go look and see what we can see. My plan is for this to grow into a more focused thing, and to use a sketch book to record the "cool stuff" we find, but at the preschool level it's just getting outside. When we do this we often finish our walk at a playground.


Both my boys learned their letters and sounds on Starfall.com. Once they know that, w use Happy Phonics and I keep one eye on The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. I keep the stuff the kids do looking like games, and we keep the lessons very short: 10 minutes is probably about average, 20 minutes if they're really into the game that we're playing.


I initially used Math Expressions with Hero, but later discovered Miquan, and we ME is a good program, I really like Miquan, so we use that now. It goes to about 3rd grade math, so it's got plenty of stuff for the pre-k/K years. We start with counting. Counting trucks and toys and forwards and backwards. This post talks more about counting, and links to an article with some great insights to how to lay a foundation. We play with Cuisinaire Rods, both formally, and informally, where the kids basically use them like blocks. We are learning Japanese as a family, so a lot of the math we do now Dragon is doing in both English and Japanese, and I've been really amazed at how readily he takes to doing it in both! I'm having Hero participate in some of the "easy math" but in Japanese to shore up his number literacy in both languages - I've learned a few things since we did it the first time!

For the first couple years, this was pretty much it, along with some finger painting and field trips. I don't stress about writing with my littles; we color, and do other things to develop the fine motor skills. We start doing the letters more intently towards the end of the kindergarten phase and into 1st grade.

29 November 2011

24 Hours: A Day of the Life

I saw a number of "Day in the Life" posts at the beginning of the school year and thought they looked like fun, but I keep forgetting to do one. Since I remember it now, I'm starting RIGHT NOW and I'll finish tomorrow. Not the typical format, but it will get done! (I'll be back and make updates for the next 24 hours or so.)

4:00pm - I'm visiting teaching tonight and it's her birthday, so I'm making pumpkin bread to take her. The boys are both napping.

4:05 - I realize (A)this bread is not healthy and (B)it's making a huge batch and is difficult to stir. I should have done this in my mixer. Can't wait to taste it.

4:30 - I add ginger, even though it's not in the recipe. The batter is delicious. Then I have A Moment of Panic as I realize that I have no idea if I've got carseats or not: they were both in the van, which Daddy has taken to work. I make myself finish the bread before I look, so it will be baking. I'm trying to think up alternate plans, just in case. I almost forget to set the timer on the bread.

4:40 - Peek out the window; the carseat is there. I should have known Daddy would remember. Close the curtains because it's already dark, and turn on the Christmas tree.

4:45 - The dishwasher is running, but I realize I forgot a few things. Dragon wakes up. I wonder what he did with his other sock. Monkey is still sleeping. This is typical: he's older, but his naps are still regular and usually longer. I'll have to wake him up soon so we can discuss the rules (No saying, "Are you done yet" or anything like it) before we go Visiting Teaching. I also should feed the boys a snack.

5:10 - Finish reading some stories to Dragon. He's a tough audience, but we made it through 3 this time. I remind him again not to pinch. And again. I think it's time to wake Monkey up.

5:12 - Monkey comes downstairs before I can go up. We negotiate for good behavior while Visiting Teaching: if he doesn't complain or ask to leave he can earn an extra TV token. Then we have a snack. While the boys eat, I read some more of Gilgamesh. When Monkey is done he works on his coloring sheet. We stop and talk about the difficult vocabulary: lintel, enraged, Ishtar, and frieze are some of the words. We look at a picture in the Assyrian Art book I'm reading when the explanation of what a frieze is falls completely flat. I have him do mini-narrations to check his comprehension. It's pretty OK, and we talk about the parts he's fuzzy on.

5:38 - The bread is done (I hope) and not a minute too soon! We need to get on shoes and leave... as soon as I look up where she lives again.

5:45 - My sister calls to firm up plans for this weekend. I say, "Can you call me back in 2 hours??"

5:55 - On the road. We're more or less on time. The boys are awesome. They play with the toys and books we brought and I don't have to say anything to Monkey and only have to chase Dragon off the lady's tree once. (It's not fully decorated yet; that helps.)

6:55 - We finish the visit. I heap the praise on the boys for their awesomeness while we drive to Walmart.

7:07 - Arrive at Walmart. Spend a minute unloading all the toys and books from my purse so they don't arrest me for shoplifting. I didn't check my recipe, but I can kind of remember what it calls for. It's only been 2 years... what could go wrong?

7:30 - Back in the car with what I hope are all the ingredients I need for the cheesecake and also some deli chicken for dinner and some dish soap. Dragon is frantically signing, "more! more! more!" so I tell Monkey to pray on the food while I get rid of the cart and they dig in.

7:40 - Home again. Put Dragon in his high chair and he's happily working on chicken. I also give them both a bit of the pumpkin bread. It turned out good... except for the spots where I apparently didn't stir enough and there are nice white flour bits. Ouch. Not what I like to give away. Definitely in the mixer next time. But it's tasty. Since nap time went so long, we still have school to finish. I need to find my list for today and decide what's next.

8:30 - We've practiced sixes, fives, and fours (he'd done the others another day), which Monkey thought it was fun to join like trains, and then we added a few more elements to our Raptors lapbook. Dragon gets a diaper change. Now, we pause for a lightsaber battle. Monkey is ferocious, but I can take him! Dragon has a brand new saber too, but he hasn't quite figured out the game yet, so he's sort of milling around through the battle, but manages not to be a casualty.

8:40 - Dragon is picking up food off the floor and eating it (I just fed that kid!!) so I call a halt and sweep. Then lightsaber battles continue.

8:45 - Monkey is sent to get his jammies for a shower. Dragon and I place chase, do a few jumping-jacks (he's been watching us do PACE), and then settle in with the legos to play a few rounds of "baby towers." That is, I build, he destroys, and we both laugh.

9:00 - Monkey finally comes back with jammies. Dragon is throwing legos over the gate into the bathroom. It's very distracting, but they are having a ball. Dragon turns up with his brother's shirt on. We play more legos.

9:10 - The water is finally on. I go wash Monkey's hair supervise while Monkey washes his hair. I also remind him that he doesn't need permission to get out of the shower. Dragon needs some jammies, so I find those while I'm waiting for Monkey to finish up. He gets cute monkeys with bananas. I also pull up All About Birds' page on mallards and pick out a couple of mallard clips from YouTube. And remind Monkey to finish up.

9:50 - Time for scriptures and prayers. No, we're not doing it at the computer. "No pinching, Dragon. Soft touches." Don't pinch your brother either.

10:08 - We call Daddy. "Are you going to be home in time to tuck boys in?" It's going to be close. He says goodnight to the boys on the phone, just in case.

10:15 - Brush teeth, go potty. All that good stuff. We're doing the scripture boxes when Daddy gets home, and pause for hugs and kisses, then finish the  box. Monkey asks for a story, so I tell him about Christ's birth, and then insist that he go to sleep. "No pinching, Dragon. Soft touches." Again.

10:55 - Back downstairs. Dragon is asleep; Monkey still is not. I still need to read scriptures myself and look at my plans for tomorrow.

11:38 - Looking at Pinterest for "just a minute" doesn't work so well. I need to get busy again and finish things up before bed.

11:45 - Finished reading my scriptures. I want to read the whole Old Testament, but it's hard. I started 2 years ago, and I'm still laboring my way through Numbers.

11:50 - List of school work for tomorrow is written out on a post-it. I think I need to go through my lesson plans and make some adjustments, but I'm going to have to pray about how much is the right amount of work for Monkey. If he didn't nap it wouldn't be a big deal, but the inconsistent amount of time to do our work is killing me - 2 hours naps, but only some of the time?! Blarg. I don't know how to plan for that. I'm turning off my computer, touching up the kitchen, and going to bed.

12:45am - We're going to sleep. It's a little later than we'd prefer, but not out of the ordinary.

1:15 - Dragon's fussing so I bring him to my bed. It's sooner than I'd hoped (he was starting to sleep through the night before he got bronchitis last month), but he'd had an impressively runny nose all day, so I'm not surprised. He's getting used to being weaned, and hardly fusses when I offer him a water cup rather than nursing. He seems restless.

1:45 - He's still restless, and coughing. We think the snot is bothering him and decide that he should sleep sitting up a bit. I take him downstairs and we settle in on my new chaise lounge. He seems more comfortable, snuggles in (I love that!) and falls right to sleep.

Sometime after 2:00 - I wake up because he's coughing a lot, and decide I want a bucket handy in case he pukes while we're on my new chair. As I'm getting up with him, he pukes. On me, all over himself, and on my chair. We head for the bathroom and I aim him at the pot. When he's done I check the damage, and decide to wake up Daddy. Dragon and I shower; Daddy takes care of the chair and the floor. I get the bathroom once we're done.

2:45 - We're headed back to bed. Dragon is playing and happy, until I make him go back to bed. He fights sleep for a few minutes, then drops into a very restless sleep. He wants his feet on me, but keeps kicking them around to get the blankets off. It's chilly! I try to recover him a few times, then give in to the inevitable. His sleepers should keep him warm. Now that my boy is doing better I am slightly miffed because I'd wanted to share a normal day, not a sick day!

8:22 am - Dragon wakes up. He's coughing and restless, but clearly still tired. I try to get him to go back to sleep. I'd really like some more sleep!

8:45 - I bring him downstairs to keep him from waking up Daddy. I sit down at my computer with him on my lap and his coughing eases, he snuggles in, and finally falls asleep again. I think sitting up is helping him, and Monkey will probably wake up soon, so I type one handed for a while, then go look at pinterest again. That seems like just the right amount of mental effort.

9:30 - Monkey's up. I send him back for pants, because he likes to sleep in shorts. While he's getting dressed, Dragon wakes up too. We're all hungry, so breakfast is next. I grab the scriptures to read to them while we eat our cereal and pumpkin bread.

10:30 - Breakfast is finished, Daddy's up, and we start doing math. Monkey loves it, so we usually do it first because it's an easy way to start. Today is "Math Lab," which means it's somewhat choose-your-own-adventure, and he chooses to play Skipbo.

11:00 - Daddy leaves to run some errands; we all wave goodbye, then return to the game. In addition to counting as we build piles, Monkey practices the partners of 5 to figure out how many cards he should draw. We use fingers to figure it out. It's easy; I don't think he really needs the fingers, but he likes them, so we keep using them.

11:15 - We finish our game. I probably should have made it just a touch shorter, but it went well anyway. Monkey wants to read some books, so we do. Dragon listens to most of the first one, then wanders off.

11:20 - I chase Dragon out of the tree. He brings me an ornament. He runs off with the globe and leans on the tree. It's cute. I chase him out of the tree. And try to read to Monkey about the Euphrates. Monkey's attention is wandering (with all these interruptions, who can blame him?). Dragon wants the wipes to pull out of the box, so I offer to let him empty the diapers from the basket instead. The tree is more interesting.

11:45 - I give Dragon some benedryl to try to dry up the river that keeps flowing from his nose, and try to put him down for a nap. Monkey plays with legos. Dragon, having had more sleep than me, outlasts me, and I give up on the nap and get myself dressed. Monkey comes upstairs to see what's taking so long, so the boys play in their room for a couple minutes while I update the blog and put the ornaments back on the tree. "Only" the bottom half is mostly naked. I hear regular thumps, so I know they're not doing anything too interesting, just jumping around. I need a nap.

12:20 - Since the boys are still playing nicely, I look up the recipe for the pumpkin cheesecake their Daddy asked me to bake for this weekend, and get the ingredients out so they can warm up to room temperature. Monkey tells me that they're bored, so I grab Dragon and we start doing more school.

12:25 - The boys are both saying they're hungry, and Monkey wants to make a "Super Hero map, that requires 3 pieces of paper and some tape, and the white parts are going to be bridges." So I give him paper, tape, and markers, give both boys cheese, and try to figure out lunch. This starts with finishing putting away the groceries from yesterday. I got so distracted that I didn't even open the dark chocolate I bought. How did that happen? This oversight is corrected, and I enjoy a piece of Giradelli dark chocolate. I still don't know what's for lunch or when Daddy's coming home. But the chocolate is good. Think I'll have another. We'll practice reading after lunch.

12:35 - I'm still trying to clean the kitchen so I can think. Monkey has decided that the map is in his head, so he's done with his project, and heads back to the lego pile. Daddy comes home and shortly is at the legos too, playing with the boys and also playing referee. Even with him there, there is a lot of crabbing from Dragon and more than a little whining from Monkey. Naptime anyone? Oh, yeah. That food. I start making enchiladas.

1:00 - Monkey is putting cheese in the enchiladas for me, and Dragon falls asleep in his Daddy's arms. Once the food is in the oven we play "Build a Sentence" to practice phonics while it cooks.

2:30 - Lunch is over. Monkey's getting ready for his nap. Dragon wakes up from his. So much for mine; Daddy's got work to do - he's telecommuting, not off.

2:45 - I'm done tucking Monkey in for his nap. He's not happy about it, but he clearly needs it today. Dragon grabs my face, turns it to look at him, and signs, "More! More! More!" I give him enchiladas and he chows down while I sweep the floor and consider cleaning that nasty bathroom. I also need to look at the plans I neglected last night before I run out plans to do. That would be a problem. I need a nap.

3:15 - It's starting to get dark. I turn on the tree, but put off closing the curtains. Dragon's cough sounds awful, but at least he's eating nicely. He's supposed to be rechecked from his bronchitis next week. I call about moving up the appointment to tomorrow. 11:15 tomorrow morning? Yeah. I can do that.

3:45 - Snuggles and lightsaber battles... at the same time. But it makes Dragon happy. I like that.


22 November 2011

Smart Ideas for Math

I've been reading blogs and message boards and email list archives and there are some smart people out there with good ideas for teaching math! I'm collecting some of them here/.

  • I have saved a page in sore need of correction for a week later...did some teaching in the meantime...and handed the page back to the child for an "Oh, I get it now!" (Forum post)
  • Make a rod-shaped tube from a trimmed 3x5 card & play puzzle games. "This end is dark green. What color is the other end?" Or, "Both ends are pink, what color is in the middle?" (Sep. 2003)
  • To teach division or fractions, cut some string into sections about 1 foot long and tie them into loops. Then put some kind of counter evenly into the loops. (List archive)
  • A Goblin Gaitor math game for learning greater than/less than. (blog)
  • A place-value game where they roll the dice and trade in for 10s and 100s as needed, stopping to write the numbers every 60 seconds. (List archive)

There are so many good ideas out there - and math is way more fun than I ever imagined it could be!

16 November 2011

Learning about Rosh Hashanah

We learned about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Joseph in Egypt last week, and this week we're still reading some of our extra books about Judaism. But some things are easier to learn with better pictures, and the shofar just needs some video, so we head to YouTube again. Amazing how educational that site is!

First, your basic overview. Lots of this was also in the book, Dance, Sing, Remember, that we're reading to learn about Jewish holidays.

The shofar is a long, twisted trumpet made from the horn of a sheep, and is traditionally blown at Rosh Hashanah.

And, because like any self-respecting holiday, there is food involved, we'll probably make some Challah - but next week because this week is a zoo, what with my brother coming home from his mission in 3 days. I think it would be fun to do this lady's braided Challah, but I think we'll let Monkey choose, and I'm betting he'll choose the one with the bird on it.

Placevalue and Writing

I've discovered that 10 + 3 = 13 is a relatively difficult problem for Monkey at this point; he hasn't caught the concept of placevalue yet. Which isn't very surprising, since it's a pretty new idea, this writing of numbers and matching them with their correct meanings. I realized this as we were doing some problems at Khan Academy. I like a lot of things about Khan, but there isn't much explanation or practice in the arithmetic section. It jumps from single digit problems to triple digit with no in between, and relies heavily on number lines. But as a supplement, to see how he's doing, and what happens when I sit back and let him do his thing, it's wonderful. So now, we're working a bit on some of the ideas that I've realized are weak. I thought that I might share the lab sheet I made up for him. To use it, copy, then paste into your word processor. Let me know how it goes for you!

Browsing the Nominees

My favorite blogs nominated for Best Homeschool Photo Blog

4 Little Men and Girly Twins 
Wow, the pictures on this blog! When I grow up, I want to take pictures like this!

A totally different feel, but so much fun. Love the Jedi pictures.

Finding Joy
I like this one. I like the peaceful quality to her photos.

Home is Where You Start From
She's got a fun variety of photos to look at.

12 November 2011

Weekly Wrap-up

Early in the week, we tried to get the last of our garden chores done before the snow came. It's been unseasonably warm, and it makes it feel like early fall, rather than late fall. I even briefly contemplated moving some strawberry plants, but decided that it's too late. Good thing I left them where they are: now we have snow on the ground. But it was a balmy 50F the day we worked in the garden.

Our Little Golden Dragon is struggling to get over a relapse of his bronchitis that he had a while back, but he's a trooper and is mostly cheerful most of the time. He and Monkey enjoyed an art project this week. They painted egg cartons, and Monkey has ambitions to turn his into a caterpillar. This is one of several crafts that Monkey thought up this week. It's fun to see him gaining enough confidence to think up his own crafts and then get them started! These caterpillars, being a painting craft, he had to ask for help. But one day this week I finished putting Dragon down for a nap and found him hard at work on a new folder game for us to use in phonics. We worked together to finish it off, then played with it right away. I need to find my contact paper and cover it, so that it will last through many games.

Speaking of phonics, it's going so well! We introduced the silent e this week, and Monkey had no problems with it. There for a while I felt like we were going sooo slowly, and wondered if we would ever get to the long vowel sounds, and now here we are! OPGTR actually breaks the silent e words into several lessons, but we covered a couple of them this week, in spite of not doing anything with it on Monday and Tuesday. We used a "magic e machine" (a cardstock frame we put the CVC words into to change the vowel sound) and his new folder game to practice. I just love hiding our phonics drill in games. We'd have fights over it every day if it wasn't for Happy Phonics and the other games we play!

In History, we covered Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Joseph in Egypt. We also had a look at the royal burials in Ur, since that's where Abraham came from. We were working with the Scripture Storybooks the Church puts out, since SOTW doesn't quite match up. Ur is pretty interesting. We spent some time exploring Queen Pu-Abi's tomb. Monkey didn't know what a lyre is, so I found a youtube clip to show him. It's Anglo-Saxon, not Sumerian, but it's the same general idea, and was enough that the picture made sense to him. We talked about the cylinder seals they used, and a little of what they used them for, then we used the clay that was leftover from making our cuneiform tablets to make a cylinder for Monkey and put a little cuneiform on it. Unfortunately, it was a short night last night, and so when I was putting Dragon down for his nap I passed out too... and the cylinder was burned black. We may make another one. Which would be OK. Turns out they had holes in them to string them onto pins and wore them. So if we do it again we'll try to make a hole through the middle (a needle maybe?) to make it more accurate. He had a great time working the clay and made quite the collection of little balls and even a turret while he was "getting it soft." The Sculpey being hard didn't seem to bother him much! In any case, we had a good time looking at pictures of cylinders, checking out Queen Pu-Abi's cylinder, and later I did some reading about them too. Interesting stuff.

 Here's his narration of the story of Joseph in Egypt. I'm thinking that we may look to see if Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is still on YouTube. A while back we watched it, since someone had helpfully put it all into a playlist.

Joseph was a righteous man. He taught his brothers about his dream, and then they sold him some Ishmaelites. They took him to Egypt. Potiphar bought Joseph. He was happy that he had Joseph and he put him in charge of his whole house. Potifer’s wife tried to make him kiss her, but Joseph didn’t, and he ran away from her. Then Potiphar’s wife told Potiphar that he kissed her. He put Joseph in jail.

He got out of jail when the king put him in charge of his whole land. Joseph was supposed to give them food for the seven years of no food. His brothers came to buy food. He told them that he was Joseph because they didn’t know it at first. He told them to come to Egypt. They did it.

Math is going awesome as well. Monkey's fine motor skills are starting to catch up a bit, so I started teaching him his numbers this week. Not too shabby, for the first official instruction. He decided that he likes the other kind of 4 - the one that's open on top - better than the one in the font, and I'm fine with that. In addition to learning to write the numbers, we continued to work on addition with sums to about 15. We also bumped into multiplication, played with some inequalities, and did some dot-to-dots. The choose-your-own adventure style math that Miquan suggests is working out beautifully! He's requesting certain types of sheets, which makes me happy since he's practicing his facts happily, and it makes him happy because he gets to choose what he wants. His choices are based on the decorations, which makes this very easy right now! We even discussed negative numbers just a little bit, courtesy of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, our current read-aloud: If Grandma Georgina is 78, and she eats 4 pills that each take 20 years from her life, how old is she? Why did she disappear? We used a number line, and it took 2 tries to explain it, but I think he followed the logic of the negative numbers. He wasn't that interested, which is fine, but I think he got the concept. I like that.

Other than that, the main excitement in my week was getting nominated for the Homeschool Blog Awards - super exciting! (I'm under Variety and Methods.)  How was your week?


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