Sunday, February 28, 2010

Question #98

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Ahh, yes I wondered how long I could avoid questions on that one.. A fellow homeschooling Aussie Mum (thanks Kim!) told me all about Book Depository one day, and I was hooked. Book Depository is located in the United Kingdom and will ship books world wide for free. I was sceptical on how long shipping would take, if they'd have the books I wanted, and over all service. You know, the old saying, "You get what you pay for.." However, after comparing the prices at Book Depository with the prices at Amazon I found that most often the prices were even. Only a few cents or the occasional dollar off. Not bad considering the pound is worth more then most denominations!

I was also running into a lot of issues with Amazon. For instance when i put items in my cart with an American address they charged me MORE for the items but LESS for shipping. When I put my Aussie address in they charged me LESS for the items and a LOT MORE for the shipping. As in, they generally charge me 25-50 dollars for a few books to be shipped this far. That was not only exuberant, but frustrating. Do you know how many books I can buy with that monies? Not only that, but I can pay for "normal" shipping to me or express shipping to me and they both take exactly 2 weeks!

When we ordered our Sing, Spell, Read, & Write we wanted it yesterday. So I paid for the SUPER fast shipping. Then I noticed that two days later my order hadn't even shipping. We called them about it and they tried to blame customs. We told them we knew a customs form took 2 minutes or less to fill out. They bumped our order up and had it shipped out the next day. Despite paying far more then I care to think about it took that package over a week to arrive. That is not satisfactory when I paid for extra quick shipping. You know what happens when you live overseas and you complain about shipping delays, especially to big companies? They blame the little people. They blame customs. They make excuses.

So, we tried out Book Depository. We placed a simple order for 2 books that we needed and found that they arrived roughly 2 weeks later. Same time frame as Amazon, and a whole lot cheaper. I paid 2 dollars more for the same items then I would have from Amazon, which to me was a 23 - 48 dollar savings! So now all our book orders go through Book Depository. The best part? They recently opened a Book Depository in America, we can order the books that the UK version doesn't offer and they still only take 2 weeks to come.

The other bonus for me is that Book Depository made me an Affiliate so each time someone buys a book after clicking on one of my links I make a few pence. Yes, pence. It's all in UK pounds. We don't honestly make very much from our affiliation, but we figured if we were sharing links we'd go ahead and take the affiliation. Make sense?

So, I know your final question on the topic will be, "Do you still buy from Amazon?" Yes, on rare occasion. For instance, those monthly kits I make for my niece, when I include a book I often get it from Amazon for her because I can get free shipping right to her home. We will occasionally buy other things from Amazon (non book items) and have them shipped to family in America (thanks Mom & Dad!) and they ship them onward to us. Amazon pretty much only ships books overseas. Oh, and for the record, I tried to get a gift certificate from Book Depository to give away on my blog but at the time they didn't do gift certificates. Bummer!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

FFWW: More W.ward Expansion

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With the olympics coming to an end shortly we'll be returning to our regularly scheduled schooling around here. So we'll be back to our Westerward Expansion studies here. During the afternoon break, there is no Olympic coverage, there's been a bit of rearranging happening in our house. So, for now, our workboxes are taking a small change. I'll still be posting our weekly school plans here, but they may not all be 100% workbox related because of our current change. As for our Westerward Expansion study, we're looking very forward to getting right back into it. The boys have really fallen in love with the Little House On The Prairie book. They enjoy seeing what befalls the Ingalls family next and the general way of life the Ingalls enjoyed/experienced. The only downside to reading the book is that I'm hearing a lot of, "Mom, did they have .... in the olden days." (Laugh all you want Mom!) I'm not exactly sure how long ago they think the "olden days" are, but it's quite funny the questions they come up with. This week we'll be:

  • Homeschool in the Woods Early 19th Century -- we're working our way through this as our spine for the Westward Expansion study. The boys really enjoyed learning about the Barbary Pirates too.. all their narration of it over the lunch table for Daddy was quite humorous!
  • Little House On The Prairie -- we've been enjoying reading this and using the freebie lapbook from HomeSchoolShare. The lapbook is basically a way for the kids to narrate back or "report" back on various elements of each chapter.
  • Native American History Pockets -- we're still working our way through this as we learn about the various tribes of Native Americans. The boys are equally intrigued by this study as well, and they've enjoyed learning that their opinions were quite off the mark when it comes to the Native Americans.

We might also begin cursive with a book I picked up, Morgan's quite eager to get started on "squiggly loopy" writing. We shall see, we shall see. I'm not sure I can keep putting him off any longer!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Organizing a Math Lesson

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Planning maths is a constant around here. It takes a lot to stay ahead of the game when not using a math curriculum. I have several books that are always open, and more that are always bookmarked that help me in the planning process. I also keep track of plans, ideas, and games with gobs of notes in many different places around the house. So, how do we pull it all together so we can actually enjoy a fun math lesson? It’s not all that hard, to be honest, and I like to use a three stage planning process.


1. Decide what we want to teach. Sometimes I have predecided this, or I see a weakness one of the kids has and I decide we need to focus on that area for a while. There are many great resources out there for helping decide what to teach children based on their age and grade level. One of the best free resources I’ve found comes from World Book. It breaks down what children should know from Preschool through Level/Grade 12, and it covers a lot more then maths. So, if you’re curious where your kids fall compared to what they might learn in a schooling system you can always check there. You could also invest in the “What Your Child Needs To Know...” series, but I prefer to go with free when I can.

2. After deciding what we’re going to learn I have to deicide how we’ll learn it. My favorite resource, which you probably all ready know, is A Collection Of Math Lessons. We own the Red and Blue books thus far in this series and each time I read through a section of the books I have this feeling that I’m peeking in on someone else’s math lessons. The ideas are simplistic and represented in a very gentle way, two features that truly appeal to me. They are, of course, the first resources I turn to, but not the only ones. I also like looking in Meeting Math Standards With Picture Books, which uses picture books to teach various math lessons.

3. Lastly we look for ways to tie it all together. This would include our math journals, games, hands on work, and the occasional worksheet. Our math journals are where we store our game sheets (when a game requires one), math vocabulary sheets, and other bits and pieces. Sometimes I’ll make the kids papers with 3-6 problems on it that help them use previously learned skills, they also tuck those in there.

The games we play may vary from day to day and week to week. I will often let the kids pick a game if they want. Jayden’s hand down favorite is Tens Concentration. He can’t get enough of it. Morgan loves them all. I often pick a game we’re more familiar with to start our lessons, and one that will help us work on the new skill or master a skill we need more practice with. We have a variety of resources for picking games which are not limited to, but include Family Math, A Collection Of Math Lessons, Card Game Round Up, The Kid’s Everything Math Book, & various places online that I’ve bookmarked over time (I’m actually trying to compile an organized list of these games and the topics/skills they cover. A bit nerdy I suppose but,..) I also have a new book on my wish-list called Mega Fun Math Games & Puzzles for the Elementary Grades.

I often make the kids “worksheets” which include a few problems to work on new skills and a few problems to work on skills they should know. I often include one problem on the paper that is a skill they struggle with. However, if you’re not up to making your own papers or want to do a drill paper or whatever you can make your own worksheets here or here.

We’ve also really enjoyed using the book Math Minutes put out by Creative Teaching Press. Now, I’m going to be honest here and say that I wasn’t entirely sure which level to buy and was planning on getting 2nd & 3rd grade for my boys. In the end I purchased the 3rd grade level with the idea of going back for the 2nd grade level later. Thus far, and we’re not SUPER far in yet, my boys have had no issues with the problems at hand. Yes, this includes my 1st grader. Because we learn together we learn the same stuff at the same time, sometimes pared down when the younger one needs it. Thus, my kids might know things that are above their grade level, but they might also be unaware of things that are on their grade level or below. It all evens out in the end.

Once I have all my plans made and manipulatives (if needed) gathered together I present the lesson to the boys. Often times we present the skill to them and then continue to play games and openly discuss it over the week ahead. Other times they catch on so quickly that we mention it once, play a few games scattered over several weeks and that’s that. Yet, other times we may stick with a particular skill because while they grasp it there’s still an obvious need for more work on it. I kinda of take my cue from them.

In fact, I tend to take notes on those cues too. I’ll write things down in my planner like:

“Mon: M, understands the concept of place value, but struggles with the ten’s area. J, understands concept of place value but struggles with thousands.

Tues: M, did much better today and seems to have fully grasped it. We’ll continue playing various place value games before introducing written work on this concept.

J, still needs reminder that we say thousands first, but otherwise doing quite well. Again, continue to play games before giving written work with this concept. “

I tend to keep notes on other various subjects too as it helps me plan my weeks ahead and know which areas the kids need more work in and which ones only need the occasional glance or reminder. I don’t often use anything fancier then our “What we did this week” page in the planner.

Keeping notes also makes starting conversations quite interesting. Jayden was struggling with addition when he first started. He’d see 2+2 and say 22. So, one day while cooking breakfast I made up a story about the farmer, his cows, and his sheep. The farmer couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t figure out how many ears, feet, and tails were in various word problems.

It sounds like a lot more work then it is, and generally as long as I know what I want to teach in a week then the plans come together quite quickly. It also helps having my notes to refer back to so I know which games or problems the kids need for review work.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Unschooling Moments

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Due to time differences we have to watch the olympics in two parts. We get a few hours coverage in the morning, and then we get recaps and highlights around 9:30 pm. This means that we find ourselves glued to the early morning sessions, which caused a bit of unrest with me.

There was this big huge inward struggle.. ‘do we watch the olympics, which are only on once ever 2 years-- 4 if you count from winter to winter or summer to summer. Or, do we do school.’

Now, I know many homeschoolers took advantage of the moment and are doing olympic studies. The thought had crossed my mind, but I wasn’t sure how much we’d get to see considering the huge time difference and the rumor that Australia isn’t too big on winter olympics. Due to those concerns we were going to stay the path with our Westward Expansion studies.

Only, it became more and more difficult to stop watching sports we rarely see. We were watching in horror when the Aussies rode down the bobsled course on their heads. We had lots of woots and screams when Tora won gold. We were elated too when Team U.S.A. won the hockey match against Team Canada; after all we had a bit of pride riding on that match! And there was many gasps of relief when Team U.S.A. advanced forward in skiing. There’s just too much excitement in watching your country(s) come to victory, cheering for the underdogs, & watching amazing stories of sheer determination unfold.

So we threw our plans out the window, grabbed the remote and settled down for a few hours of fun. Some of which was spent running up and down the stairs to give updates to Mr Scarecrow who can only join us for bits and pieces between work.

The boys took a huge interest in the country flags. This isn’t a big surprise to me. Morgan has always been intrigued by flags and he finds no greater joy then when people bring him back one from their various travels around the globe. So when I spotted him drawing flag after flag on scrap paper and then asking which country they were I was struck by a moment of ingenious planning. The idea was to keep everything laid back and simple. To, in essence, do a bit of unschooling for the duration of the games.

This is a big thing for me. I’m a planner. I like to color inside the lines. I like things to be even and square and perfectly straight. I like my sheets of notes, my file box of plans, & above all I like to be prepared. So doing something on the spur of the moment, while fun, was also slightly daunting.

We pulled out our book of Flags Of The World (our copy is truly called Flag Book, and is not the same as I’ve linked to, but we also like the one I’ve linked to and borrow it from the library quite often..) and I let the kids hunt for each flag they’d drawn from the olympics. We then proceeded to write the names of the countries on the flags. Then we checked out where each country is located.

We pulled out a world map that only showed continents, no country lines, and we hung it up. Then we printed out country/flag papers from Crayola of the flags that the kids had drawn. After the morning coverage of the Olympics was over today the boys each chose a few of the flags to color. Then, we checked witch continent each country was located in.

We colored the country (the country & the flag are on the printouts from Crayola) the same color as the continent is on our map. There is a method to that madness! Then we pulled out our big box of flags. (We use to purchase a large flag that was identical to the country flag we’d be studying about. They use to cost $5.00, but the price went up dramatically last time we went to order from the company!) The boys had a blast looking through the many flags and each selected a flag that was neither Australian or American.

Morgan chose South Korea because he loves their flag. He's fallen head over heels in love with it. Jayden had France out, which was not a surprise. He truly loves France, but he opted to put it back for the Japanese flag. I suspect he was looking for something similar to the flag Morgan had. We then hung up their flags in their room. I’m pretty sure during tomorrow’s olympic session they’ll be taken down, and that’s okay.

We also made copies of 6 contintent maps that had the countries broken down on them. We made our copies from the scholastic Ready To Go Super Book Of Outline Maps. Yet another one of our many geography resources. Can you tell we like geography around here? They took turns coloring the country on the map who’s flag they’d also colored. They were permitted to color the country on the map any color they wanted so long as someone else hadn’t used that color first. The idea was to help us be able to see the country more easily once we got several colored in.

Our plans to finish off our “study” with are nothing major. We’ll continue to color the flags and locate the countries on the map. Then we’ll make a graph of how many countries came from each continent. (Do you see my method of madness now?)

We’ll also make a graph of medals won, but how we’ll do that yet is still up in the air. I’m not sure if we’ll do each country; each country we’ve colored; or the countries we are most gung-ho for. That’s to be decided. We’ll most likely also read up about each country. Nothing major, just a small bit of info in books we all ready own or what we can gleam from My Country Report.

The best part is, the kids are delighted to do "Olympic School" and couldn't wait to tackle finding the flags and countries in the various Atlases and Flag books we had on the table. They were inspired to ask lots of fun questions, and were completely amazed that my grandma use to live in Germany. Wait until they hear "the poem".. Interestingly enough while they are always cheering for the Aussies and the Americans they don't hesitate to find someone to cheer on if those aren't available. And, in true American style they were slightly put out that America got silver to Canada's Gold in ice dancing. (No offense to ANY Canadians, but you know we have to pick on you, right??) However, in true Olympic spirit they dug out their Canadian flags and waved them for the ceremony.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Almost..

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Today, while out running an errand, Jayden tripped and fell. He proceeded to limp very slowly across the car park. So I stopped and asked him what happened, "I fell off the path and my skin ripped off!" There was no blood so I didn't bother to verify the story. I just picked him up and carried him to the car. While I'm carting him to the car he looks at me and says, "Mom, I'm all most a big boy now!" I was slightly taken aback that he didn't think of himself as a big boy, I got in trouble a long time ago for calling him baby. I simply said, "Really, all most? How much longer do you have to go?" "I'm thinking until I hit 100 and then I'll be all grown up, but I might have to wait until I'm googolplex."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Question #97

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It started as a bit of a joke, but to get to the joke I have to back up a bit here. My husband created an online gaming site many years ago. It started out quite small just for family and a few friends when the site we use to play on went offline. Within a year the site had grown quite well traveled by a few hundred thousand people. 8 years later the site has more then tripled in size. We do not use our real names on that site. There was no particular reason for it when we started, but over time the nicknames we used there stuck and as the site grew we felt it was a wiser choice. My husband heard tell that there was a Facebook fan page for the gaming site and he decided to check it out. When he tried to join with his name from said website they didn't believe it was really him and wouldn't let him join. Thus, he had to create an incognito account. We thought it extremely amusing, and, once the rest of the family figured out who he was, found it highly amusing too. It's not abnormal to hear people calling him Charlie Smith either, including our kids from time to time! When he was helping me set up a place to store the pdf's I offer here he liked thescarecrow graphics I had, and as a joke I referred to him as Mr Scarecrow. It kind stuck considering his incognito"ness" elsewhere on the internet. Have a question, feel free to ask.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Goldfish Prize

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No Carnival is complete without a few fish, right? Well, I knew better then giving away real fish so I decided to make soapie fish. I picked up some glycerin soap that can be quickly melted in the microwave, a few clear plastic bags, and some plastic fish. (Mine happen to be clown fish, Marlin from Nemo to be exact. I scored them off ebay..) First I chopped up my soap and melted it in the microwave, it works best if you do this in a container with a pour spot on it. Pour the melted soap into the baggies, I only filled them 1/4 of the way. Then quickly poke a fish down into the melted soap. Work quickly, this soap started to set quite quickly! I then scrunched the bags closed and sealed them with a twist tie. Then, offer your friends a fish!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bye-Bye Toothie

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When Jayden was 2 we were shopping for Gram-Gram's birthday present in a CVS, and I promise it was a requested present! Jayden had the horrible habit of holding on to an adults hands and leaning as far back as he could setting the adults balance off and often causing huge pile-ups. Fear of pain has never stopped this kid from doing anything.

This is the child who climbed out of his crib and fell twice in doing so making the lights downstairs shake; he scaled the bunk beds in an attempt to get to his brother; he willingly sat in the front on a skateboard that was being bushed down a steep tiered hill; he jumped in the pool and swam across it at 18 months while I stood on the side screaming before instincts kicked in and I took off across the pool after him (for the record, he swam the entire thing without slipping under and giggled when I dragged him out..); he tried to climb into the pen with the zebras at the zoo, and when that didn't work he attempted to join the rhinos. It's a miracle this child has not landed in the hospital with a broken bone or some other horrifying ailment. I'm completely off topic now though..

While shopping that day he pulled on me and I felt myself falling. Only problem was I felt myself falling straight on top of him. Rather then crush him I let go. I figured he'd tumble backwards and I'd fall straight down. I didn't fall, he did. Face first. he smashed four of his top front teeth and it took 2 rolls of paper towel to get the bleeding to stop. Oddly enough not one CVS worker looked up to see why my child was screaming or why I was pulling paper towel off the shelf. Nor did they question why I wanted to know if they sold popsicles or ice. The teeth were knocked so loose we expected him to lose them overnight, but he didn't. However, over the years those four teeth have slowly turned a funny color and looked downright icky.

So when Jayden came in the house the other day declaring he'd lost a tooth we were quite excited because his top tooth had been loose for a while. What I did not expect was to be showered in blood when he opened his mouth, nor the tears that followed it. I did not panic, I think I deserve a gold star for that one. I simply took him to the sink and made him rinse. A lot. Then I started to ask how he lost the tooth. Turns out, he and Morgan were wrestling and Morgan popped him in the mouth and out flew the tooth. Jayden also managed to bite the inside of his lip, which is where the blood was coming from. Which means now, when people say, "Who knocked out your tooth!" he can proudly say, "Morgan!" and people laugh because they don't know what you and I know..

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine Mailboxes

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On Valentine's Day we always give the kids a Valentine, a small chocolate, and often a stuffed animal. This year, I gave the boys laundry soap boxes to decorate for mailboxes; Morgan had a blast with this, Jayden decided jumping on the trampoline was much more fun. So I did Jayden's box while Morgan worked on his (and for the record his purple strip had his full name on it, so I scuffed it off for this post..) We covered our boxes with fun wrapping paper and then we used hearts and stickers on them. When the boys went to bed they left them on their nightstand, and we filled each box with a Valentine from Mr Scarecrow & I, 2 raspberry fruit sticks, 1 sugar-free chocolate bar, 1 small lego set, & a set of fun coupons. The coupons each have something different on them and they get to use one (each) a month over the next 12 months. They've all ready selected exactly which coupons they hope to use this month!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Carnival Party

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Sunday was our big birthday bash! The kids have been talking about nothing else, and were quite excited by the time Sunday finally rolled around. There was much hustling & bustling and plenty of colorful decorations too. Morgan adores color, the more the merrier so I picked up some cheap crepe paper and Mr Scarecrow helped me hang it up on the roof of the side deck. Mr S. criss-crossed it all over and I twisted it and had to boost him up a few times to reach the higher parts. When Morgan walked outside to see what we were doing his response was, "AWESOME!" We also purchased the chinese lanterns, which were in part for the party, and partly because we'd been after some for that area for a while. They work via batteries, weird, huh? They were only $2 each.

Next we put out the games, we had a total of eight carnival style games (not all pictures above or below) and we'd tested them all out the night before. Those pieces of silver tape on the deck mark where people had to stand depending on which game they played. Only one game required smaller ones to stand closer. These games were kept under wrap for a long time around here. I knew if i told the kids what we were playing I'd have them begging to try it them all out, to keep the playing field even I refused to let them know what I was up to until roughly Saturday night.

Milk bottle toss was a big hit. I took 1 litre milk bottles and wrapped them in colorful wrapping paper. Then we filled them (varying a bit) with sand. The bottles to the left were heavier then the ones on the right. We draped a Buzz & Woody sheet over the table and over part of the lattice work on the deck. For safety sake we slipped a bit of cardboard between the sheet and lattice work. I was worried if an adult threw HARD they'd bust the lattice work. It also gave me someplace to tack our sign up, which had the title of the game and the instructions on the bottom. Because we had the milk bottles and all I purchased was the wrapping paper this game cost .75 to make.

Toilet Paper Toss: This was made for the boys, 100%! We took an empty trash can and cut out a toilet seat to pop on top. We were going to use the old training seat (you know the one you stick on top of your potty, but we'd recently thrown it away!) We used 3 rolls of toilet paper that I duct tape to keep them from flying open. And yes, 1 roll is brown. We use recycled toilet paper, which sounds gross, but I promise ONLY the paper is recycled and non bleached so it has a brownish appearance. We picked up two cheap-o rolls to use in addition. Due to purchasing the extra paper this game cost us $2.

Ball Bonanza: This was suppose to be like the game at the fair where you throw a ball or penny into a goldfish pot. You know what I'm talking about, right? Anyway, we tested various cups, but due to the wonderful curve of that blue bench/box we had issues. So I grabbed our empty seedling trays and we found they worked perfectly for us. We gathered up all the ping-pong balls we could find and stuck them in that bucket on the ground. For the record, that big empty space had our last name on it in chalk, but I removed it for posting purposes.. We put an old table top (the one Morgan sat on and broke the legs off.. that's a very funny story you should ask me about it sometime!) behind that Banana in Pyjamas cloth to use as a backboard and to give us something to put the sheet on. The poster has the name of the game and the rules. This game cost us $0 to make.


Pony Races: These beloved stick-horses were Christmas presents in '06 from my dad to the boys. These little stick horses get used so much it's a wonder their little sticks haven't worn off to be honest! The boys were delighted to find them in use at the party. While the picture shows them outside, this game was played indoors as we had threatening rain and we needed a large space to play it in. We took colored paper (two colors) and cut the sheets in half making between 8-12 spaces. At one end the spaces said START the other end said FINISH. We had a large squashy dice (free from an event 2 years ago) that someone would roll while two people rode the horses. The players took turns moving, alternately, when the dice was rolled. First one to the finish was the winner. There were some very cute horse sounds happening during this game, not to mention some very realistic ones too! This game cost $0 to make.

Ring Toss: No carnival is complete without it, right? We used glow sticks which were also party prizes and glass lemonade bottles. Originally we had a piece of foam with straight glow sticks in it, but I felt it looked way too cheesy and considering how cheap the rest of the party was I splurged on these bottles at the last minute. We only had 10 bottles and Mr Scarecrow came up with a pattern that looked very symmetrical and worked quite well. Again, a posted with game name and instructions. Due to splurging on the bottles this game cost us about $8. After the games were played we allowed people to ring a bottle and keep it.

Clothes Pin Drop: This game seems to be quite standard at our parties and this old fahsioned milk jug is what we always use to play it. The idea is to stand above it and drop a clothes pin/peg in. It's not as simple as it seems. Instead of having people climb up on a chair we had them stand up at the top of the stairs and drop one in. To mark where the jug went I threw down the wild rainbow pillowcase. Can you guess who owns that? We used a bottle and pegs we all ready owned so this game cost us $0 to set up.

End Of The Rainbow: was the only game we played outside of cover. We drew the rainbow the night before and it was washed away by some mega fierce rain in the night. So on party day I let the birthday boy draw it. Mr Scarecrow drew the outline and Morgan colored it in for us. We put little pots at the end of the rainbow (I do mean little too) and put a bit of sand in them to weigh them down. People took turns chucking 5 cent coins in them (a 5 cent coin is equivalent to the size of an American dime, just to give you some perspective on size.) You can just barely see a smidge of a Thomas sheet, that was the backdrop for this game, as well as a sign that explained what to do. We all ready had the chalk on hand and the little buckets and coins so this game cost us $0.

Each game had a backdrop which was nothing more then a colorful kids sheet/doona cover from the house. Each station had a sign telling what the game was and how to play it. Each station also had a pad of tickets for the kids to take one if they achieved the goal. If not, they could move on if there was a waiting line and come back to it when they wanted. If there was no line they were welcome to keep trying. Not pictured was Carnival Tic-Tac-Toe (all though our silly sign said Bingo). We took a box and divided it up with cardboard into a tic-tac-toe board. Then we provided a bucket of balls, they had to try and toss the balls so they scored 3 in a row.

Prize Booth: We used our Party-mats that match our Party Cloth for the backdrop there. We'd used our party cloth on the food table and our party banners at various other places around the party zone. The prize booth had playdough, glow sticks, Bouncy Balls (left over from other parties), Bubbles, Gold Fish (see an upcoming post for more info), face paint (not labeled), Pinwheels (homemade), Just Clowning Around Game, Clown Kit, lollies (sugar-free), Homemade Animal Crackers. They cashed in their prizes for these, all though it wasn't necessary, all the "kids" got one of each prize, and the adults were able to collect prizes on what was left.

We had chocolate cupcakes with cooked honey frosting on them. We tinted coconut and sprinkled it on top. The cupcake toppers are homemade, and it was a 3 man team putting them together the night before. We had a circle cutter, a gluer, and a toothpick applier. I'd purchased the fun candle before his actual birthday knowing that I wouldn't have room on the cupcakes for candles. It just so happened that the candle we bought had 9 candles on it. We found it cute afterwards considering none of us counted them in the shop! This was one seriously fun party, and the boys are still raving about it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Birthday Oreos

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Don't you just love the look on his face? Or how about the fact that he's got a Jaja Binks character clutched tightly in his hand there? That was one of his beloved birthday presents and it wasn't out of his sight or hand for the first 48 hours he had it. That included a trip to the grocery store, the fruit market, and even outside to watch the repair man fix the fence! Thankfully I wasn't asked to kiss it goodnight, I might have had to draw the line.. On Morgan's birthday I made him oreos (again) and he was delighted! I'm glad too, it was so hot and humid here too that having the oven on for the short time it took to cook the biscuits left us all sweating while playing a game of cards! We even stuck candles in them and happily sang Happy Birthday to him. The dog was a tad confused as to why we were singing over chocolate cookies, and most put out when the birthday boy offered everyone else, except him, a cookie. May I just say those candles were HOT. I told him that if putting 9 candles on a plate of cookies was that intense I wasn't sure I'd be able to carry 10 candles next year. Which led to a very long discussion on how he was nearly 10 (can I adjust to 9 first?!) because there's a video game they were told they couldn't play until they hit the ripe old age of 10!

We used the same Oreo recipe from last year which can be found on the Smitten Kitchen website. We made the same alterations as last time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Clowning Around

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Are you tired of our Carnival Party prizes? Here's another one we've dubbed Just Clowning around. It's a simple tic-tac-toe game with the big top as the board game and we picked a few of our favorite clowns from those fun clown graphics we purchased. We laminated the whole thing and cut it apart. Then we slipped them in bags and stapled a fun homemade tag on top. Our big Tic-Tac-Toe fan can't wait to play a game he can win one of these in and he's quite hopeful that perhaps, just maybe, for sure he can't have a set of these to give away at his own party too.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Scented Playdough

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Staying in theme with our Rainbow carnival party we decided to make playdough to give away too. Only to make it more colorful and fun we decided to use bright colors and matching scents. The origonal plan had been to have a few more colors, but we ran out containers to put them in. We may, or may not, come up with a few more, so guests can take home more then one bowl full. We used our normal playdough recipe, which is super simple to make and usually gets lots of nice comments about how smooth and soft it is.


Then I cut it in third. Each third was dyed a different color; pink, yellow or orange. We also added about 2 teaspoons of each flavoring (lemon, orange, and peppermint.) Peppermint needed less then the others, and we just kept sniffing them to see if they smelled as good as we wanted. I will say that they smell even better in the morning! I made the silly labels on the computer, and then cut them out. May I just say that having a scallop punch would have made the job WAY easier, but I don't own one and I'm too cheap to buy one. So I cut them out by hand instead. I just used a glue stick to adhere them to the lids. They do stick, but will peel off easily enough too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Build A Clown

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We're still preparing for a fun carnival party around here, and these clown kits are another prize to be won. Honestly, I kinda cheated on these fun and cheap prizes. I rounded up some of the cardboard tubes (which sounds way cooler and nicer then toilet paper tubes) and I printed off a craft to go with them from the DLTK-Kids website. I then cut it all apart, wrote up instructions and put them in little bags. I made the fun tags at the top of the bags and then we stapled them on. They are virtually free if you own paper and a color printer. We also tend to have a stack of cardboard tubes in varying sizes stocked up in the craft cupboard around here. Even the colored staples (to go with our rainbow theme) were in the giant jar of staples in the cupboard. I paid 20 cents each for the bags at the local balloon store.

Here's the top of the bag, isn't the clown cute? I didn't make him, he was part of the set I purchased from Pc Crafter for our invitations. We've actually used the same image set to make invites, various tags for prizes, party picks, and more.. Honestly, this has to be one of the funnest times we've had preparing for a party, and probably the cheapest too. Morgan is extremely excited about it, he's holding out hope for a real clown too..

We have an entire parade of clown kits here, don't ask me why there's only three in that picture! The only difficult part about this craft was cutting out all those fiddly little bits, that and perhaps trying to decide if giving people empty toilet paper tubes was too cheesy or not! Frugalness won out, or is that cheapness?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy 9th Birthday Morgan!

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What's your favorite:


Cereal: Cheerios

Vegetable: Tomatoes!!

Drink: Grape Juice

Toy: Star Wars Lego

Tv Show: Uh, what’s a tv show..

Game: Card games

Restaurant: McDonalds

Book: Anything by Mo Willems

Holiday: Christmas

Animal: Zebra


If you could change your name, what would you change it to?

Stripy (Thanks for that Jayden!!!)


What is your favorite thing about each person in our family?

That they are nice and kind.


If you could choose where we go on vacation, where would we go?

Africa (that’s been top on the list for a long time)


What do you hope to do now that you are nine?

Get a zoo job..


Did you notice that some of this year's questions were the same as last years? You know, he's loved zebras & tomatoes since birth. Mo Willems and Africa are always top on his list too.. May I only pray the Star Wars craze passes before the neighbors catch me talking like a Wookie. If Mr Scarecrow thinks I'm crazy, I can't imagine what they'll think.. I laughed when he asked the tv show question because I was pretty certain he was going to say Amazing Race which is about the only show we watch, and that's usually pre recorded for our viewing purposes first.. I guess I should have asked movie, but we all know that woulda been Starwars!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

FFWW: Westward Expansion

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This week we're hitting the trails with the Westward Ho! website. The idea is to "travel" the Oregon trail on your way out west and see how you'd survive picking your way along. We won't be studying much about the Oregon trail itself, as we've opted to focus on a few other pieces of history based from the westward expansion. We've decided to spend our time studying Lewis & Clark (more of a small wrap up from our previous study), Pioneers, Native Americans, Pony Express, & Gold Mining. There's so much one could cover in regards to westward expansion that I'm sure if we'll cover some of the other areas at another time. In the mean time I decided to pick things that interested the kids & that we had the books on hand to study. It took a bit of prep work for me, but that might be because I opted to get 5 weeks worth of school together at once! So here's our plans for Week 1 of the Westward Expansion!

Lewis & Clark:
  • Read Lewis And Clark And Me each day. Because we wish to wrap this up in a week we'll be reading 2 chapters a day. It's a short and simple book and it shouldn't be a difficult to read that much a day.
  • Finish any outstanding bits of our Lewis & Clark lapbook, there aren't many, but we'll also look over what we have as a review. The lapbook has really beautiful artwork in it too!
  • Read The Story Of Sacajawea. We didn't focus in on her much last time despite the best laid plans. So, if time permits, we'll enjoy reading the short chapter book about her this week as well.
  • Read up on Thomas Jefferson, we discussed Jefferson before and marked some things about him in our notebook timeline. This time we'll read about him from our book of presidents and add him to the large wall timeline. In fact we'll be adding all key events to our large wall timeline this time too.
  • Do a couple of the fun activities we didn't get to in Lewis & Clark Expedition. We'd like to try surveying land, make a balsa wood canoe (if we can find a large enough chunk of balsa), and moccasins.
Through out the week we'll be adding things to our wall timeline, tracing routes on various maps, and celebrating a little boy's birthday. We'll also be playing some fun math games from the Card Game Round-up!
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What about you, what do you have planned for your Fun Filled Weekly Workboxes? Blog about it and then come back and link up! Don't have a blog and want to play along? Just leave a comment telling us what fun things you have planned for your workboxes.

Face Paint

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We contemplated a face painting booth for our Carnival Themed party, but in the end the idea was tossed out. Not, because it was a bad idea. Rather because it would mean someone would most likely need to man the booth in order to paint faces. No one was feeling entirely talented enough to want to do this. The idea then came up to let kids apply their own face paint, which inspired the idea to give away face paint as one of the party prizes. I decided making face paint would be wiser because the stuff isn't exactly cheap. The little plastic containers came from a local shop and I picked up 18 of them for 2 dollars. The lids do not screw on, but instead pop on and off, and are quite a tight fit so there's no fear of them popping open. We opted for a simple recipe that involved face cream, corn starch, water, and food coloring.

The recipe only made up a tiny bit at a time and in order to get 3 little jars full I had to quadruple the recipe for each color. We also tested a bit of it on Morgan's face. While it works, it's not particularly bright he was pleased with it. I suspect that if I made it again I might go for the clown make up recipe I saw instead. It, however, contains lots of shortening and vaseline which seemed really greasy for applying to ones skin!

After we mixed and bottled it all up I made up tiny labels to go on these bottles. They are seriously small and only hold about 2 teaspoons of paint each or so. I figured that smaller was better in this instance. I had actually considered buying those week long medicine boxes so that each person would receive a variety of the colors, but these little bottles were better priced.

Yes, we gave them all colorful names again. They don't smell any different then each other, but we decided that names like Berry Blue sounded way better then Blue. All though I'm not entirely sold on Yummy Yellow, hopefully no one will think it's so yummy they can eat it!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Place Value War

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We've been working on place value around here this month, and it's been a lot of fun too. The kids caught on quite quickly, as normal, and we've been playing games to enforce what they've learned. One of our favorite games is The Place Value Game. Today, though, I taught the boys how to play Place Value War, which they found, "Totally smashing!" You'll need a deck of math cards, which are quite simple to make. Uno cards are AWESOME for turning into math decks. I'm not keen on ruining the Uno set, but they're especially awesome for Place Value War. To play you'll need to either take 4 sets of 0-9 cards out of your Uno set OR take Aces - Jacks out of a deck of cards. (Aces represent 1, Jacks 0) I prefer the Uno cards because the kids can visualize each number as they'd see it written. To play you'll need to shuffle the cards up and then divide them into two even piles, put one face down in front of each player. You can have your players sit across from each other or next to each other, it depends on your preference and perhaps how good your group is at reading higher numbers. My fellows did fine sitting across from each other. Decide how high you want the place value to go. We've practiced a LOT with Thousands, so in the pictures provided you'll see we only played with tens & ones today. To play with Hundreds, Tens, & Ones follow these instructions but draw three cards, four if you choose to add Thousands in. Just remember to have fun!

Once you've got the cards all set up, and you've decided what place value you're covering each player flips over one card. That goes into the highest value slot, for this example that's the ten's slot. It's not a race and it doesn't matter if people flip them the fastest or at the same time.

Flip over a second card each, this goes into the ones place (or next place value slot.) Each person reads out their number and then they determine who's number is highest. That person earns all the cards of that round. The game continues until one person has all the cards.

In the event of a "War" (we played a whole game without one, much to their disappointment!) you do as you would normally for war by placing three cards EACH face down, and then you draw two more; one for the tens and another for the ones slot (or as many as you need to fill your place values.) Then, you can choose to have the highest number overall win all the cards OR you can choose to have them add the two numbers together. Providing paper and pencil or a calculator for them to do the sums on is a wise choice. If you're gang enjoys this as much as mine, they'll complain when you tell them to put it away!