Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who is Jimmy?

Do you have a mysterious person living in your home? We do. His name is Jimmy. He's been living in our home with us for 6 years. He's quite well traveled too because he seems to come and go everywhere we go, all though how he tucks himself into the car between all the other odds and ends is beyond me.

Jimmy made his first appearance one day when the boys needed a "bad guy" while playing. I've no idea what inspired the name or the funny little person, but ever after when a "bad guy" was needed or a "naughty" boy was needed Jimmy was always the culprit.

The boys have never blamed Jimmy for things that have happened around the house though. They've never blamed him for the missing items, broken toys, or anything else. That's always Mr. Nobody. No, Jimmie has his own host of issues.

He locks up stuffed animals with rope and handcuffs. He stuffs perfectly good toys into laundry hampers so they have to sniff dirty socks, or he makes naughty sounds when all the rest of the toys are trying oh so hard to snooze a bit. His latest crime? Naughty phone calls.

Yesterday, after a rather spotty day.. You know the type where chores aren't finished until lunch time, lunch is then postponed for another "five" minutes which turn into an hour or more. The next thing you know the entire day is gone and you're not sure what on earth was accomplished. So, throwing caution to the wind we went for a lovely walk on the beach which was a total mess with the typical winter changes that happen down there.

The boys and I were walking along when Jayden spotted a puffer fish on the beach ahead {I forgot the camera, ratz!} he and the dog took time to examine it while Morgan and were picking up a few pieces of sea glass when the phone in Jayden's pocket "rang".

Jayden sighs deeply, looks off towards the horizon pulls the phone out of his pocket and says, "Yes?" with all the tone and excitement or a person about to go to the dentist. There's a long pause on his behalf before he says, "Are you joking me?" Another long pause and then a spew of dialogue that went something like this:

"No, I won't do that! Because I just won't. Don't be silly. It's wrong. We won't do that. I'm hanging up now. Goodbye." he throws the phone back in his pocket but before it gets there it's ringing again.

Morgan and I were attempting to mask snickers as we continued walking up the beach when Jayden pulls the phone back out and answers it with a, "Jimmie you're getting on my nerves now! I'm trying to go for a walk on the beach. Yes, it's hard work...." and on and on this conversation went.

Suddenly, with no warning for Jimime, he slams the phone shut throws it in his pocket walks up beside me and says, oh so seriously, "It looks like Jimmie is acting up today!" I lost it. I mean I really lost it. I guffawed so loudly the people several meters away beach combing stopped to stare at us.  I managed to pull myself together long enough to hear Morgan say, "Typical Jimmie for you.."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Mix

It's cold here! I mean really cold here in the mornings. Yesterday we topped out at a whooping 3 degrees. Cold mornings call for warm breakfasts. I have one child who would eat eggs every day for breakfast and another who'd gladly eat a bowl of oatmeal every day. Especially if it's cold.

The problem is too many cooks around the stove can cause mass confusion and people tend to get cross and burned. Then while searching down ideas for a craft project I stumbled across the idea of making your own instant oatmeal mixes.

In the US you can buy all sorts of instant oatmeal from Maple Pecan all the way down to some "hidden dinosaur" which basically means oatmeal with sprinkles in it. We've rarely ever purchased any of the packets because it's far more economical to get the big bags of oatmeal.

After looking at something like a dozen different recipes it all came down to four ingredients. Instant oats, salt, sugar, and spices/flavoring.  I figured it couldn't be that hard and decided to try our own combination out. I decided to skip the salt and any spices or flavoring. I never salt any of the hot cereals I make and I rarely add spices so that each person can deck their bowl as desired.

We ended up mixing the following:

4 cups of ground instant oats {I simply tossed them in my mini food processor and gave them a whirly gig until they were the substance of flour..}
8 cups of whole instant oats
1/2 t of pure Stevia Powder Extract
2 cups of powdered milk {we used whole instant because it's what we had on hand}
3/4 wheat bran

I put it all in a large lidded container and mixed it all up with a large spoon & then, just to be safe, I shook it up some more!

To use the kids put 1/2 cup of the mixture into a cereal bowl. They pour 1/2 - 3/4 cup of boiling water {they use the electric kettle} on to the cereal. We like to put a small plate on top to let the steam help soften the oats. Set the timer for 2:00 - 3:00. When the time goes off top as you like. I prefer maple syrup and fruit. The kids prefer coconut sugar and fruit with the occasional splash of milk to cool it down.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crazy Quilting

I was recently in a local quilt shop and while admiring the gobs of over priced fabric I noticed two cushions sitting in a pile of other completed crafts. I was enthralled by the crazy quilting on them and when I pointed them out to Mr S {yes, he obliges me and tags along to quilt stores.. and unlike the children he doesn't ask where the cat is or if the clerk running the shop enjoys her job..} and he agreed that they were really cool.

All though he was drawn to the size and how awesome they'd be to use while he was watching a movie or laying in bed or any million of other things. My children were king enough to stop asking the clerk questions and looking under the tables for her cat long enough to state that they'd like one too.

Unfortunately it wasn't anything she had a pattern or any form of instructions for. Apparently they were very large quilt squares girls had made in a crazy quilt class and then transformed into giant cushions!

Honestly I've never done proper crazy quilting before and I wasn't completely sure about taking on the project, but I really liked the cushions and decided to experiment with it. A basic search for crazy quilting can turn up a wealth of information. Basically, you cut a piece of muslin or other light weight material and you sew the scrap pieces to that. Not all of them will be adhered so you'll need to do some hand stitching or lots of top stitching.

It's a great way to use up all sorts of little scraps of material too. You lay one piece down just off centre of the middle of your material and sew it down. Then you sew more squares on top of it, right sides together, and flip it over to attach the next. I'm not sure that's super clear, but I will admit it's pretty simple. You can't really go wrong because you're just putting all different sizes and shapes on.

The pinned pieces are the ones I still need to sew down or top stitch. For now I'm going with the hand sewing, but I must admit I'm more of a top stitch person so I can finish the project up quickly. I know, a bit naughty but I'm just being honest! I'm eager to finish sewing the top together so I can finish sewing it into a pillow. I still need to take the strips of red off from around the edge as I'm not happy with them and didn't have enough to back it anyway. Alas..

Friday, May 27, 2011

Carmel Apples

The boys have been pestering me for years about carmel apples. They see carmel and candy apples in the shops and they really want me to cave in and buy them.

My response is always the same, "Nope." They seldom ask why, because my answer is usually the same then too. I decided last weekend to make some carmel apples. I was debating using my typical carmel recipe or trying a new one, and in the end curiosity won out and I went with a new recipe.

The new recipe is as reasonably simple as the old recipe and only involves three ingredients: Cream, Honey, salt. Super simple. The original recipe I use called for the use of a candy thermometer but I don't own one.

The thermometer for cooking I have only reached half-way to the temperature I was suppose to reach. I decided to go the old fashioned route and use the "drop in a glass of cold water" trick.

They aren't too tricky to make either, especially if you do a little prep work first. Wash up some apples and dry them off. You can stick them in the fridge overnight if you want which will help the carmel set more quickly, but it's not necessary.  Either way you need to put sticks in them. I recommend craft sticks and not skewers, but skewers will work in a pinch.  If you don't have a candy thermometer place two cups of cold water next to the stove. Fill your kitchen sink 1/4 - 1/2 full of cold water. Make sure your apples have sticks in them and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper or a silicone mat near your sink.

The original recipe said to place 1 cup of cream in a pan and bring all most to a boil. If you live in Australia and go pick up a small box of Pura cream you'll find you have 1.5 cups which is just enough for 1 1/2 recipes. That's what I went with and had enough for roughly 14 small apples. Either way, place your cream in bottom of a large pan and bring all most to a boil. Then pour in 1 cup of honey {if you're using that whole box of Pura cream then you'll need 1 1/2 c of honey} and 1/8 t of salt. Stir constantly until you get to softball stage.

When it reaches that stage I find it goes a really nice ambery color. If you have a candy thermometer you're good to use it and heave it reach 250 on the thing. I'm presuming that's Fahrenheit otherwise your kitchen just might be on fire, but the original recipe didn't specify. If you're doing the water test I just let a drop fall in the water and find that it sits there. Sometimes it falls to the bottom of the cup but holds it's form reasonably well.

Carefully put your pan in the sink. The idea is to let the pan cool so it stops cooking, but not to get the water in your pan. As long as you don't drop the pan in the water it shouldn't be too difficult. I also find that once the pan has been in the water for a minute or two that you can drain the water out of the sink. This helps keep the pan from tipping all over while you try to dip your apples. Once your carmel is slightly cooled start dipping your apples and spooning the carmel over them. If the carmel doesn't stick you need to let it cool a minute longer.

I dip the apples into the pan and spoon it in order to get an even coating. Lift the apples out and spin them a bit for a nice even coating. Place them back on the baking tray and continue until all your apples are coated. You'll need to move reasonably quickly here because as your carmel cools it will thicken and be harder to spread evenly. I like to use what's leftover in the pant to dip a few apple slices in. Yummy!

Once all your apples are coated, place the pan in the fridge until they are fully set. You'll know they are fully set because they are easy to pull of the baking paper. Otherwise they might stick a little bit. I hear tell you could put them outside if it's chilly enough, which it is here, but I wouldn't trust the birds or the neighbors cat not to come along and help themselves.

Once they are set, enjoy! This is actually the second batch we made, the first batch wasn't as pretty as I'd cooked the carmel a wee bit longer then I should have. Still tasted great but was more ate candy stage, meaning it hardened/thickened much more quickly. Best part? My kids decided after all those years of begging, they don't really like them! Oh yeah, and Mr S is not a fan of apples. I've only got about a dozen more to get through, anyone want to join me for a carmel apple? Very worth it!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Homeschool Conference Plans

I’ve been lamenting for a while that while that I really would love to attend a homeschool convention. The idea being that you could pick and choose which talks to enjoy and you could walk the vendor halls. The idea being that you would get a sense of refreshment, new ideas, and be able to check out a variety of homeschool offerings.
It’s not that we need new supplies, but it’s nice to be able to look at items before you purchase them. I’ve had a few Nature Titles on my list for ages, but would really like to check them out before purchasing them. Then there’s the major curriculum switches we made, it might have been easier to have been able to thumb through all the manuals I was attempting to check out e-versions of.
It’s actually more the refreshment aspect that appeals to me. The idea of learning more about the ideas and philosophies we have would be amazing. So it was really neat to stumble across people who took these kinds of matters into their own hands. How? They held their own homeschool conference.

Before you get to carried away wondering which amazing speakers you’d try to invite to come chat with you, let me explain a bit more. They gathered resources and set up in hotels, libraries, and other public places. The idea being that they removed themselves from the everyday in order to concentrate more on ideas and topics they wanted to learn about in order to bring refreshment and new life to their own homeschools.

The idea wasn’t just intriguing, it was very possible for me! I might not be able to attend a conference, but for me that’s because there aren’t any in my area. It’s disappointing that people aren’t often willing to come to Australia and share their knowledge and products with us. Some of them won’t even willingly ship this far which is equally frustrating, but I digress...

A home conference was something I could do! Now, I know some of you are probably wondering what about those free etickets I won to the two well known online conferences and why they didn’t fulfill those needs. Two words. Time Differences. Which means I receive recorded sessions, which are just as good as the live. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a spare moment to listen to some from one conference and the other conference won’t have theirs available for another few weeks yet.

I decided to make a list of all the resources I had that I’d not had the chance to plunge into as I’d hoped. Once I had my list made I based a schedule around that. It all came together really smoothly. The idea is that I'll hit the library and a few other local places to work through my own "inservice" day, better known in the homeschooling world as a convention or conference. Im really looking forward to mine!

Here's a few extra thoughts: I think I could have easily made it a four-day session, but I really didn't want to do that. I also took the suggestion from others to leave the home to get the most out of this time. Less distractions and all that. I avoided doing this on a weekend for a variety of reasons. One, and most likely the biggest, was that our library is only open a short time on Saturdays. Secondly, and equally big and pressing, we enjoy hanging out and being a bit lazy on Saturday mornings. Everyone looks forward to it and in the afternoon we spend a few hours doing something together as a family before each person gets lost in a hobby of choice. I enjoy those moments as much as the rest of my family and I really wanted to keep that time special for them.

I've also set things up so that I can start at 9 am. The idea being that the kids will go hang with a local grandparent while Mr S is off to work, & I'll trek over to the library. Unfortunately, our library doesn't open until 930  so I'll probably do my first listening session while walking on a local walk path. {If you live around my parts and see some women "texting madly" while walking. It's probably just me taking notes on my phone!} Mr S and I all ready agreed to meet up for lunch as our library isn't too far from the office he works in, so there will be minimal travel for me which means I can spend more time listening & learning. I'm looking forward to the refreshment and what it will bring to our homeschool! 

Here's links to the resources mentioned in my schedule:
  • Heart Of The Matter mp3 sessions -- You can buy 5 for $5 or 10 for $10 and so on.
  • Simply Charlotte Mason -- you can find both here as well as other terrific resources.
  • Vision 1 & Vision 2 -- they are not other's visions just resources, verses, & ideas to help you make our own
  • Charlotte Mason Volume 6 -- this is suppose to be a modernized reading and it's available free; I'm choosing to use it because my volumes are in the US.
  • Geography Info -- this could be used as a curriculum on it's own, we don't need a geography curriculum but we love geography and this is free!
  • Homeschooling As A Ministry blog post -- I may or may not read this after Sally Clarkson session, but I linked to it because I enjoyed it when I read it the first time.

This post linked to The Carnival Of Homeschooling.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Counting The Days

This year we decided to count our school days. The idea was that we wanted to have a funtastic 100 Days Of School celebration. I've been collecting ideas from all sorts of places, but it's hard to have a 100 Days of school party if you don't know how many days you do or don't have. I was even going to celebrate it on the 100th day of the year last year, but that didn't pan out either.

So this year, I decided we'd have to keep track of our school days in order to know exactly when we should have our 100th day party. I thought of about a hundred {no pun intended} different ways we could do this. All of which I was game to get moving on when a late night google search for I can't remember what turned up some fun printables from Mamma Jenn's.

As it turned out she had links and printables all over for just what I needed. Gotta love that time saving find! I ended up printing out a few different charts that would not only help us count down days but would also help us work on a few math areas that my youngest needed to learn about at that time.

Chart number one is nothing special. We've used one similar to this on and off for a while. Basically we record the date each day. I did like that this one had a slot for writing the date in numbers only. I felt it was a great opportunity to teach that to Morgan, and it so happened we were all ready working on it and this helps enforce it. Unfortunately we could kinda use a new one because the laminate we have doesn't like the dry erase markers we've been using. Alas.. I added the Even/Odd tags. We swap who writes the date each day so that everyone has a fair go at it, whichever child changes the date is also responsible for deciding if it's an even number or an odd one. This was something we added because at the start of the year Jayden was asking lots about odd & even.

Next up we have a weather chart. This hangs directly above our yellow daily calendar. The idea was to give the boys some graph work. It can be hard, as a small family that homeschools, to find great ideas for graphs. Keeping track of the weather seemed a great idea for this. The idea was to compare everything at the end of the month and then at the end of the school year and see how many days we had of each form of weather. I snagged these fun weather charts from here.

On the wall right next to the above charts {it's a corner} we have a Tally Mark sheet. I wanted to work more on tally marks with Jayden as it wasn't something we'd covered yet. Generally we do this by playing games and letting the kids keep track. So this was another fun way to let him work on tally marks. Again, the kids take turns. One day one child does the calendar and weather chart while the other one does the remaining charts. Each day we simply have a tally mark added to this chart. When we get five we tend to write the number we're up to. All though, as you can tell from the jumble above it might have been wiser to have had them use the dry erase crayons.

Here's the infamous 100 Day's chart! Each day we simply add another number onto the chart. Can you tell we swap considering the many different handwritings above? We're been using the Crayola Low Odour dry erase markers. I love them because they don't set off a migraine due to the stink, but unfortunately the boys haven't figured out how to get a nice fine line. I really need to pull out our Crayola Dry Erase Crayons for things like this.

Last, but not least, we have the Place Value "wall". This hangs below the orange chart I showed previously. It's just another way to keep track, but also gave the boys a daily dose of place value. Really, it was nothing new for Morgan, and now it's nothing new for Jayden. They learn so quickly it's fun to look back at what we started the year with.  Can I also share that having these number charts going is fun for me?

It really really is! Why? Ever have those days when you think, "Man we don't do enough school! We're going to be so behind..." You know the typical things Homeschooling Mamma's say, right? Yeah, well when I think like that my husband simply points to the number wall and says, "Just wanted to share with you that you guys have currently done xx days of school." I've needed that a lot over the past month. We made all the school changes and it seemed liked we'd just begun. While waiting on everything's arrival I started having those self-doubts running amuck. It's fun to say, "Wow guys can you believe we've done 50 days of school?"

As long as I'm sharing fun daily math things.. I pulled these fun Thomas Train days of the week out of my file box. I made these up for Jayden when he was in Kindy. He's been a Thomas fan since the day he was born. Really. Isn't it funny how some children are just attracted to certain things? Jayden has always been attracted to trains. The first house we moved into in Tassie had a train that ran past our home several times a day and night. Anytime he heard it he'd clamber up into a window and squeal, "I see it, I see it!" Anyway, to help him learn his days of the week I'd made up these really fun strips above. We use to help him put one on "Today Is." "Yesterday Was." "Tomorrow Will Be." And we'd sing our fun little song. I even went the length of making sure the picture of the train matched the first letter of the day of the week. Except for Wednesday because even my 4 year old couldn't tell me a train that started with a W.  I pulled these out and hung them up, in order {with his help}, on a shelf in the school area. We move the arrow to whatever the day of the week is. I pulled them out because while he knew his days of the week he didn't know them in order, so now we say them in order each day.

I told you we had a Thomas fanatic in our home! I even made these month of the year slips & somewhere are matching calendar numbers for each and every one of them. I pulled these out and had Jayden help me hang them in order. We say these each day too because apparently while he knew how to read a calendar and he knew which months certain things happened in he didn't actually know the months of the year. Problem solved. I made an arrow to point to whatever month we're currently in. Funny thing about pulling these out was that Jayden didn't remember them! I was shocked because they use to be the highlight of his morning getting to adjust all the Thomas stuff. Makes me glad to have the need and opportunity to pull them out and use with him again. Sorry, no printable on them. I made them a couple of years ago and don't even know if I have it saved and/or if sharing them would be a copyright violation due to the Thomas pictures..

Sunday, May 22, 2011

These Things Happen..

Now there's a picture that's going into the family scrapbook. Not because we rode on the boat on that particular night. Not because the picture is so amazing we must save it for all time. It's because of the story behind the picture.

The sun has become incredibly lazy around here lately and isn't waking it's sleepy little head until after 7 am. This is putting a real damper on my daily walks. Last week I figured instead of trying to squeeze it in between school and other happenings the kids and I would walk down to the ferry to meet Mr S on his way home from work.

I informed the kids of my idea and they were on board. All though Jayden requested he be permitted to ride his bike. Morgan wanted to ride his, but unfortunately the poor kid was sporting one nasty wicked bruise across his backside. {He fell at the playground and got trapped under one of those wicked "merry-go-rounds" and was dragged thus creating the bruise..}

It's a 30 minute walk to the ferry, and Mr S is usually boarding the ferry at 5. I figured if we left here at 4:30 we'd have enough wiggle room for anyone feeling slow. I warned the kids in advanced so there'd be no last minute  potty runs, snack breaks, and water guzzles. We still left 3 minutes later then we aimed for. Did I mention I took the dog with us?

That's right, and our dog is use to running free on the beach where he does reasonably well. All though he's not an aggressive dog by any means he is a nosey dog. Which means he must greet each and every person and pet he sees with the affection of a rhino. He means well, we'll give him that much.

So off we trot down the road, only Jayden is feeling a little wobbly on his new two wheels, so it takes him a few minutes to gain his balance and master the bike. Unfortunately there's no council strip between the sidewalk and the road so I was horribly nervous he'd ride right off the sidewalk into the road. Then the dog spotted a cat and a dog and was so torn on which way to go he started to scream. Oh yea, our dog screams.

It starts out like this low moan deep in his throat and builds to a whine and eventually escalated to a scream. It's highly annoying and I don't tolerate it, so I told him to be quite. He groaned at me and attempted, very hard I might add, to convince me we should go greet these two animals. Morgan, on the other hand was annoyed that I couldn't stay focused on his theory about lego men.

We live on a very long road. You can follow it from the ferry clear up to the highway if you walk long enough. We live about halfway down the road or so. Exactly three houses outside of the main neighborhood. Which means that most people don't deliver junk mail to us, the council only mows the grassy strips once or twice a summer, and that we have no sidewalk until we get past those three houses and cross the road.

It also means that we're pretty set on following the same path Mr S would follow to get home. In fact we walked all the way up to the point where the sidewalk runs out. I've no idea why it runs out, especially next to a cricket pitch and major tourist area, but it does. Rather then have Jayden ride in the road we verified Mr S was not on that road and took a side street which is one block away from the chosen path. We hightailed it down that road and then checked to see if Mr S was on the origional path. Because he wasn't we continued straight ahead towards the ferry.

It wasn't until we reached the ferry that I realized I'd left my phone at home. I do this often much to the annoyance of my poor husband. He figures if one has a mobile phone one should carry it with them so that when one's husband attempts to contact them he can do so. Mind you, it does him no good when I'm grocery shopping because I can't get a signal in the shop, but that's completely not the point!

We decided to wait by the ferry to check with the driver to see if we'd missed Mr S, all though we were totally baffled on how it could have happened. As it turned out we had indeed missed him. At this point I realize I did have my watch on either so I snapped the above photo to check the time. Only to remember I had my ipod in my pocket and could have checked that way.

I told the boys we'd better hurry home before Daddy panicked because we had no way to get in touch. So instead of taking the same route back we went a quicker way which involved walking past a pub at happy hour. There was an entire gang of motorcyclists outside having a laugh and a smoke. I told the boys not to touch the motorcycles and we hurried past. Only, Morgan, our social butterfly, says, "Oh hi guys!"

These big burly men were so taken aback they gawked for a minute before saying, "Good morning, I mean good afternoon mate. Um, is everything okay? Do you need help?" I was just waiting for Morgan to say, "I've lost my Dad and Mom's making us go home.." but he refrained..

By the time we got to the end of that road, which goes uphill, Jayden was tuckered out on the bike. I had to pick that stinking thing up and carry it uphill. No joke there! I also had to carry it down the other side because I wasn't about to let him ride it down the extremely steep hill we were on.

It took us longer to get home, which might have had something to do with the extreme dark, me carrying a bicycle, and the boys theorising about what Daddy must be doing because we weren't home. We get home and I realize that 30 minute walk took us 2 hours. Charming. Only, I go to find Mr S and he's no where to be found. At which point the kids are looking under beds and in closets, because that's the first thing anyones gonna do when they find out they are home alone, right?

I used the more sensible route and called him. Apparently he figured we were out for a walk but after 30 minutes passed and we didn't return he decided to come meet us on the beach. Only, when we weren't there he took his bike up the walk path. When we weren't there he resorted to calling his mother to see if we were visiting her. When that failed he became completely panicked and was convinced we were laying on the path somewhere and that he'd need to call the police or the S.E.S. or any other number of rescue orginizations.

We told him to stay put and took the car out to find him. Of course by this time everyone's excited to get home and there's some great new theories in the back of the car going on about what we're having for dinner and how toasty warm the house will be and so on. Unfortunately I had to break that one wide open by pointing out two small factors. 1. We were not home so there would be no tea awaiting us.  2. We were not home so no one flipped on the heaters. There was much disappointment, and waffles for dinner.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Times Alive!

Another way we've been working on our times tables around here is via the programme Times Alive! The programme teaches multiplication facts with song & story and the boys really love it.

I usually require Morgan to work on one lesson each day before doing his math lesson, but he often asks for at least two lessons because he enjoys it so much. Each lesson teaches you a single math fact.

Except for 0, 1, 2, 5, & 10 family which are taught all at one time with counting or skip counting the rest of the facts are taught one at a time.

Some of the stories are better then others, but all have picture clues as to the numbers and answers. In the picture above the math fact was 6x4=24. There was a story about a little snail who always wanted to fly like a beautiful swan. So he went into a magic pond that was shaped like a 4 and was transformed into a beautiful swan. Not one of the better stories, but it works for the kids! I think one of the better stories is the one for 6x6 where two sixes go walking in the desert and become very thirsty, thirsty sixes.

After the story there's a song that helps cement the fact in your memory. Then the ask you to review what you learned by looking at the picture and writing down the answer.  I will admit that the pictures all do wonders for a visual learner, and the songs are quite catchy. Both of these are a huge plus in this house because my boys are very intune with music and can quickly learn just about anything if we set it to music.

They also ask them the problem again without the picture clues. There's also a section where they review many of the previous learned facts. Each of those areas is timed, but they do seem to focus more on having the child get all of the facts right rather then how long it takes them to accomplish this feat.

A couple of the lessons have a "coloring" or "painting" section to it. Honestly, the first time one of these popped up Morgan could have cared less about it. I'm not sure he cared much more about it the second time either, but because Jayden was hanging out with him at the table he fully enjoyed making the picture super crazy just to entertain his brother. Jayden actually enjoys the coloring more then Morgan, but i haven't had Jayden using the programme, all though he gleefully sits in on the lessons and has even requested Morgan wait on that part of his math until Jayden was available.

We figure it was worth the money we spent on it because Morgan has very quickly picked up on an entire stack of his multiplication facts that would have most likely taken us longer to help him remember. Though I will admit that after a week's worth of using the programme and working on his math he reached a moment of overload and sat there staring at a few of his review problems. When I asked what was wrong he gave me a blank look and said that he had all the numbers jumbled together. Poor fellow! With story clues he was able to finish his work on a high note and we skipped math on Friday.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bible Notebooking

After watching The Prince Of Egypt Jayden kept asking if certain scenes really happened in the “honest true Bible story!” He’d explain in great detail the scene he was referring to and I’d tell him the Bible version. For the most part the video sticks well to the truth, but Jayden was just not satisfied and felt that despite a hundred  different readings of the story that he just needed to hear it again.
I remembered that I had a copy of Herein Is Love Exodus upstairs and I pulled it out, much to his delight. I explained that it wasn’t a Bible, but it had Moses’ story in it as well as lots of other information for us to think about. The Herein Is Love commentaries are meant for children, all though I was worried when we first got them that they’d be too much. They aren’t. The kids love them and it really encourages some thought provoking conversations around here.

We’ve been using Grapevine Bible which had us drawing pictures on a timeline and the boys really love doing that. I decided to print out some notebooking pages for the kids to use along with the Exodus book. {I didn’t make any, I simply used some from the Notebooking Page Treasury}

The boys were delighted to be able to draw pictures of the stories and to narrate bits to me to write down to them. All though in Morgan’s case he often narrates the entire book and I have to remind him to stay on track with only what we are covering on the particular notebooking page we are working on. Morgan is always eager to draw his own pictures and likes to keep them secret until he’s ready to share them with us. Check out the snake in his picture above. He was quite pleased with it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Multiplication Fun

Have you ever seen these clever little things? They go by many names, but the brand we have is called String N Learn. We picked them up at a local shop where they've been on the shelf for ages. {If you live in America you can obtain a slightly different version of them from Rainbow Resource. I personally don't order from Rainbow Resource because I find they are extremely unfair in their international shipping prices}  I recall Mom having a much better set when I was learning my own times tables, but this set will more then do the job it's intended for!

The idea is that each one tackles a multiplication family, that number is in the middle of the piece of plastic. Down the lefthand side is the other factor. The products {answers} are on the right.

You start with your string on the left and take it to the left so that you go from factor to product. When you're done if you've answered all the questions correctly your string will match the design on the back.

The design on the back is just lines, so don't expect anything fancy back there. It's simply a way for the child to self-check their work when they are done.  Morgan has really enjoyed being able to use these and I like that it's just one more fun way he can practice his math facts!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Teaching TextBooks

As we mentioned before we decided to throw in Teaching Textbooks to go with our Living Math Lessons. The idea was to use the programme to tie up some lose ends we had hanging around here. I was worried that my children knew stuff across three grade levels, but perhaps not everything within one full grade level. Make sense?
We ended up purchasing TT 3 & TT4. TT4 is taking it’s sweet time about arriving so I set Morgan up with some review lessons from TT 3 where he can work on his multiplication facts. Jayden, however started at the beginning with TT3.
Here’s my take on this math curriculum. Most curriculums are meant to last 180 days because that’s the average school days required, by law, in the US. Oddly enough Teaching Textbooks has 117 lessons plus an additional 17 quizzes at the 3rd grade level, totaling 134 math lessons. The 4th grade level has 2 more lessons equaling 136 lessons. 
I see this to our advantage on a lot of levels. We’ve never, until this year, counted school days! Ever. Seriously. It’s not a requirement where we live and we tend to school on a pattern of so many weeks on vs so many weeks off. This year I decided to count school days only so we could have a 100th Day of School party. {Something I had hoped to do last year but lost track of the days. This year we’re keeping track with a place value & tally chart, it’s a triple whammy for us!}  By not needing to do math every day of a 180 day school term you leave yourself with 45 additional days where you can either ignore math completely, move ahead to the next level, or do lots of fun hands on lessons! 

If you’re like us you’ll probably do a little bit of all of those options.Not only that, but if your child is having a hard time grasping a concept you’ve got time to deviate from the curriculum and work on the concept. We haven’t had to do that yet, but right now most of what the boys have seen in their lessons is all review work. All though, I will admit that while Jayden knew the days of the week he’s not big on saying them in any form of order which has led to a small snafu for him in a couple of questions he had in a math lesson.
There’s also the fact that they like to teach months of the year by saying things like, “What month would you most likely be outside doing this?” and they show a picture of a man using his outdoor bbq. Yeah, my charmer picked February, and in all fairness he’s right, unless we were under a fire ban. Then we’d be at the park using the electric ones. 
I’m not entirely keen on the way they teach new concepts in this programme though. This might be my overly pickiness or the fact that we’ve been doing our own thing long enough that nothing else compares. {Ever have that happen to you?} Let me explain. Instead of helping the child learn a certain set of math facts, let’s go with multiplication, they say things like: Let’s look at our 2x family. Then they spit the facts on the screen and let you look for about 20 seconds before removing them and explaining ways you can find the answers. They explained it as getting only an even number as an answer which was a great way to check if you were right. By skip counting, etc. Unfortunately they do this with all the multiplication facts which when they hit the 8x family my son’s head started spinning.

I heard moans like, “But I don’t know the answer!” Which left me running to see what was wrong. Needless to say we gathered up some of our multiplication resources and restocked our Joey-Joey can in order to better assist him. In fact, I’m really loving Times Alive! as much as he is. 
I will say that most of the time I like the fact that if the child gets an answer wrong, they can take a second chance at getting it wrong & then they can view how they should have solved the problem. However, there have been a few true or false answers that we’ve opted to find out why the answer is right and there’s no true explanation. {Ie. We know that 7x3=21 because we memorized it.} I don’t like that.
One of the things I really like about the programme is that if my child makes a typo I can go in and change if they got a problem right or wrong in their gradebook. That’s a big deal because I have a child who can still have number reversal issues and I often have to slow him down and say, “Please read the number again out loud, starting with the digit on the left.” Most of the time that’s enough for him to see the error.

My children’s favorite part? Overall they really enjoy the entire experience. I’ve had them request many times to do more then one lesson in a day. However, their absolute very favorite part is something known as a Bonus Round. They get 2-3 minutes to answer as many math facts, out of 40, that they can. There is no explaining the excitement this little section causes around here.
The creators of TT were wise and they only made it come up every so many lessons which means you don’t get to have a Bonus Round every day. I think that keeps the whole newness and coolness about it alive. I’ve even had them double up on lessons just to get to that bonus round lesson. 
Another nice key factor about the programme is that the kids can proceed with a lesson even when I’m incapable of being able to teach them. I was floored with a cold all last week, but that hasn’t stopped the boys from asking if they can tackle a math lesson. 

I don’t know that we’ll stick with this math programme forever, but I’m glad that the boys enjoy it and that it will help us tie up some lose ends. They’re enjoying checking out their “grade” after each lesson which cracks me up to no end. 

I will also state that the programme is pretty expensive at each grade even if you just buy the cds. We’ve opted to only obtain cds, all though I think one child could have easily benefitted from having the workbook as well.  A bit of graph paper, a laminated number line, and some scrap paper go pretty far in allowing him to work out the bigger problems without the need of a workbook.
I’ll also suggest that if you’re going to buy the programme, especially if you live overseas, look around for it used. It still has a pretty high resale value on it but it’s beats the excessive shipping fees they were going to charge! We were able to score one used and purchased the other new. 
All that said, as long as we can still enjoy our math games my kids are cool with the switch in math, & no, I haven’t been asked to review this programme. I did have questions about the switch though so I thought I’d share our general opinion on how it’s working for us thus far. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free Homeschool Products

Have you checked out the list of Door Prizes over at the Homeschool Expo? There's some amazing stuff to win! Homeschool In The Woods is offering all of their Time Traveler packs {these items are amazing!} and their Old & New Testament lapboks {equally awesome, we own the OT lapbook!}  All About Spelling, Kinderbach, Circle C, Spears Art Studio, Drive Thru History & Math U See are all giving away gobs of goodies and that's just the tip of the preverbal iceberg of items being given away in this week's Expo!  Rainbow Resources, for instance, is giving away a $100 gift certificate & Apologia Ministries is giving away quite a few goodies. You can check out the entire list of goodies here, but in order to be win the prizes you need to attend the live meetings! As a side note, because I know some of you will be wondering.. Overseas attendees aren't eligible for prizes that will be posted, but they are eligible for digital prizes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Books

We love books. You probably all ready know that though, right? We’ve been enjoying seeing the mailman stumble up to the door with a stack of packages for us each day the past 2 week. 
I’m not sure which part the boys like better, ripping open the packages to see which books have arrived now or checking out the bookmarks that Book Depository includes with the books! 
So far we have 13 of 31 books from our first order. These are the books we’ll be reading and exploring over the course of the year with our new curriculum. There’s been lots of oohing and ahhing as we’ve opened up the books. 
In fact, when the boys caught the title of The Secret Soldier which is about Deborah Sampson there was quite the scramble over who’d get to read it. She was one of the many ladies we learned about in the revolutionary war last year that really struck a cord with the boys. They were both disappointed when I snatched the book away and said no one was reading it yet. Pitiful I know..
Just don’t tell the boys, but I’ve been reading through some of the books. Amazing, I’ve loved each one I’ve looked in thus far. I could ooh and aah over them for days, but by then the postman might have another stack of them awaiting me.

And just because I know someone will think I can't count, the extra books in the photo are books we all ready owned that we will also be using.. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Choosing Read Alouds

Do you compile a list of books you’d like to read aloud to your children? I usually have a mental running list of the books I hope to read to the boys. Usually books I remember being read to me or that I once read and have very fond memories of. 
The problem is, I can get really carried away when it comes to books. This isn’t a great shock to my family. In fact Mr S often refers to me as a book snob, in the most loving way possible of course. Choosing just one book can be a really difficult task! I’ve often found myself debating reading the next in the series or diverting for a while and reading another book that I’m just itching to share with the kids.
The side effect of such muddleheaded nonsense {oh I do love the word muddleheaded don’t you?} is that we can often get in a rut of choosing the book and never deciding! It’s a sad day when one is surrounded by so many good titles they can’t decide which one to read.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and made a list. I jotted down all the books I wanted to read in the now fashion with my children. Meaning, books that were on my mind and I just couldn’t bare to think of not putting them on a list to read like now.
Then, I decided that my list was really long and I’d need a plan to make it through all those terrific books just itching to be read. My answer was audio books. We all love audio books around here. I’ve often got a couple going at a time on my ipod, and the boys will request some to listen to while doing chores or traveling in the car.

We usually get our audio books through Audible.com where we are members. After comparing my list with which books Audible had I then organized my list with the titles under Audio Listen Alouds & another list with Read Alouds. Now I can print my list out and stick it in my planner.  

It also gives me the ability to let both boys pick one book at the same time. One might pick audio format while the other picks physical book, then we’d swap next time around. But, it gets better, I was able to slip notes in about the books on my list. In other words, some of our books are historical fiction so I jotted down what period or event they covered so I could match those up to weeks when we’ll be studying a specific event or time in history. I’ll even admit that I’m guilty of putting little check mark spaces next to the books. Sad? Maybe. Overly efficient? Probably. Effective? You betcha!
After all there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book, unless of course you’re in good company when you do so; and, the only thing better then visiting friends hiding inside the pages of books is taking your own real friends with you.