Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Great New Books

The boys and I have been listening to the Lion Boy trilogy for the past few weeks. We love to have an audiobook going in the car and a few weeks ago while at the library I spotted Lion Boy and thought it sounded interesting. The ending left us stunned and annoyed until we realized that it was book one of a trilogy.

Without giving too much of the story away in book one you learn the Charlie, a young English/African boy, can speak cat. It all happened because of an accident involving a leopard when he was a child. You also learn he has two of the world's most amazing scientists who've created a cure for asthma!

Unfortunately, Charlie's parents are "parent-napped" & Charlie sets out to find them and bring them home. Along the way he makes friends with a small pride of lions who are living in captivity, and agrees to help them escape.

In Book Two Charlie meets King Boris & an assortment of other friends including a chameleon who can speak reptilian, cat, & even english! Charlie's adventures continue in book two as he and the lions continue on their adventures, realize they may be related to some of the people they are running from, & eventually find what they are looking for.. Or do they?

We're ever so close to the end of Book Three & it's getting harder and harder to turn the cd off and come in out of the car! I will confess that Book One is read by someone different then the other three books and we really enjoyed the many amazing accents and tones he was able to give each character. In fact his African was just too fun to listen to! Unfortunately, the other reader doesn't do as fantastic of a job, but once you adjust it's not bad at all.

Notes: In book one & two the narrator states that Charlie's father always told him not to swear because then when you choose to it would really mean something. Thus, Charlie chooses not to say something rude a few times in the book. At some point in Book One & Two Charlie does choose to swear, but whatever word he chooses is not written or mentioned. It merely says, "For the first time in his life Charlie Swore." "For the Second time in Charlie's life he swore."  Book Three mentions voodoo as a way of life for some African people, it does not describe what it is or how it's used.. unless it comes up in the remainder of the book & if it does I'll come back and edit this note.

If you haven't noticed, the boys and I really enjoy historical fiction. Have you noticed the books flying through our sidebar on the left? I've been posting pictures of the books the boys and I have been reading together, chapter books anyway.

While visiting another library in the state recently {where our cards also work} I stumbled upon Looking For Marco Polo. The title actually caught my attention because we had just finished up explorers a few weeks ago. I was intrigued that someone actually wrote a book that is meant to bring this particular explorer to life via fiction. Needless to say we brought the book home.

We finally got to reading it this evening and were quite taken with the book. In fact, we would have gladly kept reading but Mr S was starving and really needed dinner. Apparently, not getting his afternoon snack because it melted before we located him was just more then the poor man could handle..

Anyway, the book is about a young boy, Mark, who's father has gone on a six month adventure to see what living as nomad in the desert would be like. He's living with the Mongol tribes in the Gobi desert and traveling many of the same paths that Marco Polo traveled. Unfortunately, after writing home often Mark & his mother have gone for over a month with no news and decide to fly to Venice to find Mark's father.

We're hoping to spend tomorrow afternoon building domino structures {the latest past time with the boys} & reading more of this book. Jayden wasn't too eager to read it at first because he thought we were done with explorers, however I noticed I had his full attention from the moment Marco Polo's name was first mentioned in the book, and he requested we "wait for me" while he ran off to fetch a much needed drink.. you know, all of around the corner and completely in hearing distance.  I'm eager to see how this book brings the explorer to life!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homeschool Checklists For Kids

One of the things I was really looking forward to with Winter Promise was the Independent Schedule for the students. I knew this would be a good thing for Morgan in helping him become a more independent learner.

However, once it arrived I was a little disappointed in it. You see, the schedule has a little information filled out on it that applies to your WP studies and then you, the parent, fill in more of the schedule in order to allow the child to know what is fully expected over the week. No biggie I thought!

Upon closer inspection though, there were a few issues with the WP studies all ready written on the planner. For one thing it only told the child what to do in regards to notebooking pages or hands on projects. It didn't mention a single book that needed reading!!

That seemed a huge problem when the curriculum is based on literature. I get that the families read them together, but Morgan is my literal child and if that schedule didn't say "Read books xyz" He'd come up to his notebooking pages and be in total disarray about what on earth he was suppose to do with them.

I debated this problem for a while. I even considered making up an identical schedule like the WP one and adding in the books with a note to "See Mom". In fact, I actually went the length of designing the schedule and starting to fill it in, but then decided that was insanely silly considering I'd just paid a pretty penny for what I had.

I decided to search out other ideas. Encouraging Morgan to do more of his school work on his own is a big deal here. This is, after all, the same child who will officially be in highschool before long. He's not incapable of it, but he does need to know what's expected of him. He works very well with lists.

The idea of checklists has been floating around amongst a lot of homeschool Mammas lately, and I admit that while I haven't chimed in on the conversations I have listened to them. It turns out that many people make checklists and they all seem to make them very differently! I remember being handed an index card each morning with my chore and school expectations on them, & eventually even a weeks worth of assignments at a time.

A friend mentioned using Wufoo for virtual checklists. The idea was that you make this paperless checklist and your child ticks off what they've accomplished and then the info is emailed to you, the parent. I liked that idea because I knew using the computer would add appeal to the idea of checking off what he had accomplished. However, I wanted something a little different for now, all though I'm certainly considering it for later down the road!

I decided to get creative and make my own checklist for Morgan, but I got a tad fancy and used the computer instead of an index card. The upside to this is if something changes I can quickly and easily adjust it and then print out the new weeks list for him. I can also save the printed lists, once ticked off, and put them in with our homeschool journal.

Because it's a weeks worth printed on paper I was also able to grey out blocks for days he wouldn't need to check off. I figure this will help with the "confusion" factor at first. I actually had them literally blacked out, but I decided to use grey to save on ink. I go through enough around here as it is!

You can snag a blank copy of the checklist here & fill it in however you like if you want.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pancake Crazy

We've been on a pancake craze around here lately. Or at least I have. Our weeks have been so crazy busy that it's nice to be able to sleep in on Saturday and start the day with a fun breakfast. It's pretty traditional in American to have pancakes or waffles for breakfast and not for desert as may be the case here in Australia.

Which means I've officially stunned my mother-in-law more then once when I've greeted her with a plate of hot pancakes on New Year's Day. It also means we have pancakes now and again on the weekends as well, more "again" lately then not.

I decided to experiment a bit with our traditional pancake recipe and see what goodies we could add to the batter to come up with different combinations. Here's what we've tried so far:

Old Fashioned Pancake Recipe
3/4 c white unbleached flour
3/4 c wholemeal/wheat flour
1 t salt
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 T xylitol, coconut sugar, or sugar
1 1/4 c milk, coconut milk, or a combo of both
1 egg
3 T butter, melted, or coconut oil, melted, or sour cream, melted, or any combo

Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl; mix wet ingredients together in another bowl. Pour wet ingredients into a well in the dry ingredients and stir to combine. I usually use a wire whip and give them a good mix up. Batter may seem runny, but will thicken. Cook on a hot griddle/pan flipping over once bubbles start forming on the surface of the pancake. Cook on the other side for a minute or two before removing from the pan.

I normally use Xylitol, milk, and coconut oil. But have used all combos of the substitutions listed above with no problems.

Apple Raisin Pancakes 
{aka Franklin The Turtle's Fly Pancakes}

1 Recipe Old fashioned Pancakes
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T mixed peel, finely chopped {I just pick up a container from the shop and chop my tablespoon a bit finer before adding it to the bowl}
1/3 c raisins/sultanas, chopped {I chop my raisins/sultanas before adding to the bowl}
3/4 - 1 c shredded apple; roughly 3 medium apples, peeled & shredded

Mix dry ingredients to Old Fashioned Pancake recipe in a bowl adding the cinnamon as well. Chop peel and raisins and dust lightly with coconut sugar, mix them up. I usually do this with my hands right on the cutting board because I find it keeps them from sticking together when I throw them in the batter! Toss the mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and work them through with your fingers.

Peel & shred the apples and then add them to the dry ingredients. Work them into the flour with your hands separating them as they go. Coating them with the flower will keep them from clumping together when you add the wet ingredients.

Mix together wet ingredients from Old Fashioned Pancake recipe; add to pancake mixture as normal. Heat pan & lightly oil. Drop mixture on by 1/4 c and cook as normal.

We topped ours with the "normal" which generally means maple syrup. All though they'd be great with warm applesauce too! Mr S prefers his with strawberry syrup or whipped cream, but that's how he eats all pancakes because he doesn't like maple syrup.

Carrot Cake Pancakes
1 recipe Old Fashioned Pancakes
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 c VERY WELL drained crushed pinapple
1.5 oz. sultanas/raisins, chopped
3/4 c finely grated carrot

Mix dry ingredients from Old Fashioned Pancakes with the 1/2 t. cinnamon in a large bowl. Chop raisins and sprinkle lightly with coconut sugar mixing them up with your fingers right on the cutting board. Add to dry mix and work in with your fingers. Mix up wet ingredients from Old Fashioned Pancake Mix; add peeled & grated carrot as well as pineapple. Mix into dry ingredients. Cook as normal.

Tip: To get the pineapple really well trained I measured out what I needed into a tea towel and squeezed the life out of it! You could also use cheesecloth or paper towel if you had it on hand.

We enjoyed these topped with maple syrup; except for those who topped them with whipped cream. I think they would have been great topped with bananas, but those are currently too expensive to be bothered buying!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
1 recipe Old Fashioned Pancakes
1/4 c butter, melted
3/4 c xylitol
1 T cinnamon

Mix pancakes up as you would for Old Fashioned Pancakes. Mix the remaining three ingredients together and put in a squeeze bottle or ziplock baggie with the tip snipped off.  Pour a pancake on your hot pan and pipe a cinnamon swirl onto the pancake. Flip when you would normally and finish cooking.

These pancakes are a bit tricky because many natural sweeteners melt quickly and don't harden back up as quickly as sugar does. Coconut sugar would be a mess with this recipe as it melts very easily and burns pretty quickly too. I'd love to try it with maple sugar, but I can't seem to get any around here. I'd also like to try this recipe again with cinnamon honey, but again honey melts really easy.

We topped these with a homemade icing, all though some of us found the icing too sweet and liked the pancakes just as they were.  The icing recipe is: 2 T butter, 4 oz cream cheese, 1/4 t of stevia, 2 T of maple syrup {Mr S never knew..}, 1/2 t vanilla. Melt the butter and cream cheese on the stove top in a small sauce pan. Add the sweeteners and vanilla. Spoon on top of pancakes. You might want to taste this as you go along and adjust sweetener{s} as needed.

These pancakes are not for the weak! There are several recipes out there for them and we just adapted them for our own needs.

Cherry Pancakes
1 Recipe Old Fashioned Pancakes
pitted, quartered sweet cherries

Mix pancakes as normal. When cooking scatter a few cherry quarters on the uncooked top of the pancake before slipping. The sooner you drop the cherries on the better they "stick" in the batter before flipping.

These were topped with the "normal" toppings: Maple Syrup or Whipped cream. Personally I think a nice cherry sauce would have been good. Recipe: 1 c of fresh or frozen cherries, pitted, 1/2 c coconut sugar {you could also use 1/2 t stevia & 2 T honey or Maple syrup}, 1 T of water if using fresh cherries. Cook on the stovetop in a sauce pan smashing cherries down as it cooks. Continue cooking until cherries are smashed and mixture is thick and syrup like. Unfortunately I'd used all the cherries in the pancakes!

Next up I'd really like to try:
Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Pizza Pancakes {because frankly one can never have enough pizza!}
Lemon Poppy Seed pancakes
Cheesecake pancakes {Morgan goes ga-ga for cheesecake!}

So far the guys are all firmly against the thought of pizza pancakes, so I'll most likely have to make them for a snack or with the chocolate chip pancakes. Because, let's be honest you can win them over on just about anything with chocolate in it!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Even Funnier..

That's right, my child is wearing a Pillow Pail on top of his head. I left the room after asking the boys to start cleaning up all those scraps of paper on the floor, I told them I'd be right back to help. I came back to find only half the job done and Jayden with a cow on his head. He was actually mid chase when I grabbed him. Apparently if you bend yourself in half and run straight at your brother pretending to be an enraged bull it's quite fun... you know, until your mother finds out you haven't completed the assigned task.

And yes, these are homemade pillow pals, but don't ask me how to do it! We actually purchased some that another person made and was selling at AgFest this year. Towards the end of the day people discounted items so they didn't have to haul it all back to their car. We picked up two for less then the price of one. And no, I did not giggle or smirk while finishing of school while my child had a cow on his head, but I'm seriously thinking it would be great to have him wear this when the home Ed inspector comes around in a year. What do you think?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Growing Up

 I admit it, I've been hiding. Not from the blog, but from certain facts of life. Like that fact that I'm the mother of a pre-teen, and the fact that my child is only sixteen months away from being officially considered a highschooler. Yes, you read that right. It's a horrifying thought isn't it? For me anyway, not for him.
When the realization hit me a couple of months ago I laughed about it, for about thirty seconds before I ran inside the pantry to cry. Now, I know your'e wondering why I do all the crying in the pantry instead of in my own bedroom closet, but there's a theory to this madness. My bedroom has two closets. One has no room to get inside of it and hide. The other one is the first place the kids look when I'm missing and I don't shout from the depths of the bathroom, "Be quiet and give me some privacy for two minutes, will you please!"
The point is, there was no hiding from this realization and it caused a lot of scrambling on my behalf. Not for what to do with him when he hits the official sixth grade level which is when children start high school in my neck of the woods, but rather the things he needs to learn over those four years. Oh that's right, I said four years.
Now, if you live in America and have done your math right you've just realized that my child will wrap up highschool by the time he's done with tenth grade. Yes. You're right. Are you panicking with me yet? After that my child can choose to go to a public institution known as a college {not to be confused with a US college} to get higher education. Or, we can choose to keep him home for a year and then he could take a year off and get a job or do a million other things before proceeding with University.
Either way, I'm having a really hard time envisioning the entire thing. Or is it that I'm trying to ignore the facts that are still staring me in the face. In fact, I think they've gone beyond staring at me and starting sticking their tongues out at me while screaming, "Na-na-na boo-boo" at me.
Needless to say I've spent a lot of time over the past month or two doing a whole lot of research on what options Morgan will have and what he may, or may not, need to now in order to get into university. He has high hopes of following through with that, and if he doesn’t like his first idea for his occupational future then he’s even got himself a backup plan.
So, while I’d like to close the door firmly and pretend this isn’t happening, I think I might have finally reached a point where I have accepted that it is happening and like it or not I’m going along for the ride. The upside is, there's a lot of people who've walked this path before me and they are all full of ideas, information, and support. In the meantime, I've agreed to go back to my semi-normal, non constantly freaking out self. That sounds good, doesn't it? xth grade level {when children start high school in my neck of the woods}, but rather the things he needs to learn over those four years. Oh that's right, I said four years.

Now, if you live in America and have done your math right you've just realized that my child will wrap up highschool by the time he's done with tenth grade. Yes. You're right. Are you panicking with me yet? After that my child can choose to go to a public institution known as a college {not to be confused with a US college} to get higher education. Or, we can choose to keep him home for a year and then he could take a year off and get a job or do a million other things before proceeding with University.

Either way, I'm having a really hard time envisioning the entire thing. Or is it that I'm trying to ignore the facts that are still staring me in the face. In fact, I think they've gone beyond staring at me and starting sticking their tongues out at me while screaming, "Na-na-na boo-boo" at me.

Needless to say I've spent a lot of time over the past month or two doing a whole lot of research on what options Morgan will have and what he may, or may not, need to now in order to get into university. He has high hopes of following through with that. Remember, he wrote to Lego to ask what he needed to know in order to get a job. On top of that, he's also figuring if that idea falls through he might do something down the engineering line because then he could take things apart and put them back together again.

The upside is, there's a lot of people who've walked this path before me and they are all full of ideas, information, and support. In the meantime, I've agreed to go back to my semi-normal, non constantly freaking out self. That sounds good, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life Of Fred

We've been enjoying using Life Of Fred this year, in fact it's one of the most requested items at school time! That's right, we're still working in plenty of hands on living math lessons around here. This is Morgan's core, in regards to living math, this year. Jayden's is a little different as he's not quite as interested, yet, in Fred.

Fred is a funny boxy little character in these math books. He's suppose to be 5.5 years old and all ready off to college. He's full of questions, which my child can easily relate to, and loves to make lists. Something else my child can easily relate to.

This book starts out slow and has plenty of review, for us, in the beginning. It also has some great opportunities to add to our math vocabulary pages. We don't answer all the questions on paper, some we answer orally. Others we record on school paper and file in our notebooks. All in all we're really loving this book!

You can read our full review over at The Curriculum Choice if you're interested.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

National Geographic Biography Books

Have you seen this series of books put out by National Geographic? They are so good! We started Daniel Boone and are hooked. The book is very well written, you know the type you can read for quite a while without quite realizing you've been sitting there for far too long. It has some fun sketches inside, and the maps the illustrator do are just amazing to look at! There's also a timeline that runs along the bottom of each page so you can see exactly what's happening in all the rest of the world at the same time as what you're reading. I love it! The boys are really enjoying the story, but then again it is Daniel Boone, what's not to like!?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Binding Messes & Good Books

No, it didn't snow in my house, that would be the results of listening to your 8 year old when you say things like:

"Jayde can you put this bag of trash out while I put sheets on the guest bed?"

"Sure Mom, just throw the bag to me!"

And then you know, you actually throw the bag to him and the broken binder inside slices through your cheap biodegradable bags and the 380 plus pages you just ran through the proclick {32 holes per page} flew out across your poorly carpeted stairs & your lounge room floor. Yeah, and you know what I did?

I stood there and laughed myself silly while kids scrambled for a vacuum cleaner. One day, I'm gonna save all those fancy pants dots and make confetti eggs and surprise the kids and the hubby. All though between you and I, I think it would look better if the dots were all colorful, but why waist the white ones?!

It was a whole lotta dots, I'm telling you! Spread across 12 stairs and half the lounge room, not to mention stuck to our wooly socks while we tried to clamber around them to clean them up. Wondering what I was binding that was so big? Two of these fun things:

That's right I bind the Time traveler packs. I print out the introductory stuff {intro, book list, schedule, etc.}, the schedule, text pages, and project pages and bind it all up. I bound two of them up this past week, as we begin Colonial Life as we embark on learning more in depth about the colonies and those who settled there.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Laughing yet? Now imagine looking up from a school lesson and seeing that staring at you. Laughing yet? Right, now imagine looking up from a school lesson and seeing that starting at you while, without a hint of laughter, the child says, "Don't stop! I need to know more!" It's all kinda normal, and I assure you I didn't even snicker while I snapped that photo. I simply said, "Be sure to wash those off when you're done, and why are you still in your pyjamas?" I don't remember the answer to the later, but I'm pretty sure it was because he failed to deposit his clothes in the hamper in a timely fashion. When you're homeschooled you probably go to school at least once in your jammies. Don't deny it, I'm sure you have!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

3-D Maps & Storing Them

One of the most prized books the boys loving is the Scholastic 3-d Map book. For just about everything we've learned about there seems to be a fun 3-D map. A handful of the explorers, piracy/privateering, Native Americans, Vikings, on and on. It was a great purchase for our school year.

The problem is the maps come in two pieces. You print them off, color them, cut them and reassemble them. Usually on bigger paper. The book suggests construction paper, but I usually pull out our no-fail 12x12 scrapbooking cardstock. The biggest problem comes when you're done making and assembling the map. It's too big and also has things sticking off of it thus making it complicated and difficult to store in your notebook.

I know I can take photos of the work and easily stick those in our notebooks. We've done that, but I really hate throwing out the boys hard work, and if they knew I chucked out maps they'd cry. Seriously. In fact my eldest would probably cry for days, loud huge heaving sobs of exasperation and desperation. He's like that sometimes. Point is, when you work hard on a project the last thing you want is to find out someone threw it away. So this time, I got a tad clever and came up with a solution!

We print off our maps as normal and then divided them up to color. We did a lot of reading last week and are working on projects this week. So the boys each requested two maps and I took the leftover one to color. In the above picture we've all ready assembled one of the maps Jayden has colored. Can you see all the 3-d bits? There's a Spanish boat that can move along that thick black line at the bottom. A group of Spanish soldiers at the top that can move on that thick black line as well. Then there's the golden temple on the far right. Assembled according to the instructions in the book and we'd have to squash it to put it int he notebook.

Here's a portion of one Morgan did. Don't you love that 3-d diorama at the top? He did, the gasp of "Oo!" once I got the city cut for him {I was using a sharp scrapbooking tool and didn't really want him to risk cutting himself..} was very fun to hear. Okay, so once you've colored your 3d maps and cut all the components apart glue or tape your map together. I prefer glue because tape is harder for the next step.

Fold your map in half. If your half happens to fall where you glued/taped it you'll find the tape is harder to lay flat after folding. Next, cut your cardstock to size Then glue each half to the map leaving a very small gap between the two halves. Look at the bottom and top of the map in the above picture and you'll see the tiny gap we left. This simply allows for smoother and easier folding. And it prevents the middle of the map from getting worn.

All most all the maps have moveable pieces. Usually as boats, horses, or people. We even had one with a moveable mammoth. Either way fold them and then instead of using adhesive use a paperclip to hold them together. I'm good for just grabbing a paperclip, but sometimes we do match them up with the coloring on the map. Blue for boats, brown or green for horses depending on where they are traveling, etc.

For pieces like the beavers and long houses above we folded as instructed and placed them on the map. You could glue or tape them down, but my guys like to move them around so we just placed them on the map for the photos. Other 3-d shapes, like the diorama in one of the above photos & the golden temple were only taped on side. This allows the item to still lay flat! For the temple we taped one side of the temple ensuring we could still lay it flat without damaging any of the folded sides. Place them on the map to check out what it looks like and to take photos if needed.

We took photos because we forgot to run copies of the finished colored products off the printer. This way each child can have a completed and physical copy in their timeline notebook. We do this with many things that need coloring so that we can work together on projects but each still have a "true" copy to own.  Now, to store the maps all you have to do is slip off the paperclips & lay all your pieces flat. Use the paperclips to secure each of those little pieces to the side/top/bottom of the map.

Remember the small gap between your cardstock? Fold the map in half that way. We usually fold with the picture out because it has dates on it and makes it easier to file. Plus, it's much nicer to flip through your timeline book and see the picture and know what it is and why it's there!

Slip each map into a clear page protector, we have a huge box full of them on hand so we're rarely without. We currently only store one map per page protector, all though I did consider having more then one in there. The reason we nixed it is because not all maps took place at the same time. Now your maps are safe and secure but can still be pulled out at anytime to admire or use. And can I just say this quick solution saved me a lot of tears! Now I just need to remember to copy them before sticking them on the colored cardstock!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shop Updates

Our products are now being carried over at Currclick! You can check them out here if you're interested.

LA Notebooking Fun

To make sure we've covered all the basics with LA we're using an Aussie version of Primary Language Lessons & expanding some of those lessons in with Word Spy & Return of the Word Spy. I also snagged a fun booklet from the Scholastic $1 sale called Grammar Manipulatives Kids Love! There are all sorts of fun booklets and whatnot inside which make for some fun and easy notebooking pages for this particular subject. When we discussed is & are the boys made the helping verb pages in the picture above. A nice way to wrap up the lessons!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Explorers & Indians

Over the past 5 weeks we've been learning all about Explorers & Indians. We've learned a few really important things. In an attempt to teach "savages" to be more "gentlemanly" most "gentlemen" behaved like "savages". It was amazing how time after time we read how even honest men were turned by the greed of gold and treasure!

We spent most of our time learning about them from the Homeschool In The Woods Explorer Pack. There aren't as many hands on & crafts with this particular pack, but there are a lot of maps to make with it.

We also read from our copy of Around The World in A Hundred years. A book I purchased a few years ago but didn't end up reading to the kids. I'd heard mixed reviews after obtaining it.  Many people told me that the book had a bad slant towards Christianity and relgion. I disagree.

Simply put the book never once spoke ill of ANY particular relgion. It simply pointed out that each person {Kings, Queens, & Explorers} all felt their religion was the only way and they were willing to share it to convert "savages" even if meant sharing it forcibly. We actually found some of the accounts fascinating.

All the projects and main information came from the Homeschool In The Woods Explorer Pack, which was, as always, quite good. I must be completely honest though and admit that while I adore all the HSITW Time Traveler packs, I think Explorers is probably our least favorite. Don't get me wrong, it's still got plenty to do in it!

We all enjoyed Naya Nuki, all though there's very little dialogue in it and what dialogue is there is jilted. Even still it's a great read about a Shoshoni girl who was kidnapped by another tribe of indians. She plots and plans her escape from day one, and eventually jumps on the perfect oppertunity. The rest of the book is all about her journey across the prairie as she tries to return to her people. While one of the boys wasn't keen on the book at the start they were all ears as we finished the last two weeks worth of reading in an afternoon. The other two books pictures above were equally good reads.

After finishing the three books above we started on these four books. We've been learning about the various homes Indians lived in for many weeks and are now focusing in on each home. I'm telling you, those longhouses are amazing things! In fact, Morgan was so taken by the books that he was having a chat with a local shop owner all about the issues the tribes who resided in them had when it rained.  Jayden is especially taken with The New Americans, all though I think it may be due to many of the war type stories we're hearing about. That and he's desperate to find out of John Smith really took a bullet to protect an Indian or if that was just a "movie" thing.

We all ready owned Scholastic's Native American pockets and I pulled them out recently when Jayden had more questions about Indians then I could possibly begin to answer. He doesn't remember seeing any of them in full dress and doing their various dances at events we attended in the US, but he's in complete awe that he saw real Indians! Anyway, we've been matching up the pockets to the books we read. We did the Sioux pocket while reading Naya Nuki  & have been working on the Iroquois pocket while reading Sign Of The Beaver. We do not make the full size construction paper pockets as the instructions suggest.

Instead I take a piece of cardstock and have the boys select a piece of colored paper. We fold the colored paper in half and adhere it {tape usually} to the cardstock along the short sides. Sometimes we do 2 pieces of colored paper because we really love color around here, but I prefer the durability of the card stock. Sometimes you need to print the pocket label at a reduced size in order to fit it. In the above pockets I simply trimmed them down to size instead. The boys color the bits inside and the pocket labels as I read books to them. Coloring is top on the list these days..

We have a few outstanding projects from our Explorer Pack to finish up this week and then we're jumping in head first with Colonial Times. Between you and me, I can't wait! Explorers were a little too ruthless and gruesome for me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nature Game Review

Cindy, the author of the NaturExplorers, was kinda enough to review our Nature Game for us. You can read her review here if you're interested! For those of you that have asked, yes there are still plans to make more expansion packs, I just need to find some time to put them into action! We actually have plans in the works for: birds, insects, ocean, woods, & weather. Can you tell which topics we'll be studying this year?

On a side note, I've been accepted to join the Curriculum Choice Team! So every month you can pop over there and read a product review that I've written. Don't panic, they are simply reviews for items we all ready own and love to use and want to share why we enjoy them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fraction Fun

We spent a lot of time concentrating just on multiplication. My momma might pass out to hear this, but I really love multiplication. I mean, I know that sounds silly but if I have to perform math I'd rather multiply then add, subtract, or even divide. I just get a really good kick out of multiplication. In fact, while I was teaching Morgan triple digit multiplication I told him that I thought multiplication was the most fun thing ever in math. He smiled, mostly out of confusion while his little brother pipped up with, "Well I don't! I think it's hard!" For the record, Jayden can answer all most all the same multiplication flash cards just as quickly as Morgan can except for the 9's. So I dunno what he's talking about.

I decided this year I wanted to focus more on fractions with Morgan. He can read a fraction easy peasy and can be turned loose in the kitchen with a recipe and follow it. {All though he can get mixed up by tsp and tbsp!} I decided that since he has such a good grasp that way and considering he can demonstrate fractions with manipulatives and so on it was time to move into some bigger fraction fun this year. So much so, it's going to be our living math lessons when we're not using our Teaching Textbooks, which means we'll do fractions 2-3 times a week.

To do this I managed to pick up Life Of Fred Fractions from a fellow homeschooling Aussie Mum and I'm so glad I did. The book is really funny and covers a lot more then math. I'm matching it up with a book I picked up from the Scholastic $1 sale: Mega Fraction Fun. The book is full of games, stories, worksheets and other fun ideas for helping learn all about fractions. The other day, purely for fun, Morgan did the pictured worksheet above. I called it a "code sheet".

To find the answer you had to solve the fractions. Personally, I found it a tad tricker then he did because trying to break down if one of those pies was 7/8 or 6/8 was a doozy! Morgan had no issues with it though and was in awe of the fact that Petal Mississippi is home of the Checker's Hall of Fame. There's a few games included in the book we can't wait to try out too!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tuk Tuk Taxi

This past weekend was miserably wet and blah. To top it off with Jayden had a cold, which came on very suddenly for the poor fellow. There was much misery, mostly over the cold, because we missed out on a fun field trip to the local Science Museum which currently has a Spy theme happening.

After a spazzy Skype phone call to their grandparents {Happy Birthday Dad} that was cut short when someone tripped over the cords.. No one's owning up to the problem, and I just have to say I'm kinda glad the conversation happened on Saturday and not Sunday because for the second time we had a transformer blow up in our neighborhood and it took the power out for an hour or so. {And for the record, never say to little boys, "Wow, did you see that transformer blow up!" because they'll ask if it was a decepticon or an auto bot..} In the end I suggested we play a game. We had several new ones that we wanted to try out not to mention a cupboard full of old favorites. The problem was, everyone was screaming the name of a different game!

We solved the problem by encouraging everyone to drag out 2-3 of their favorite games. Then Mr S. wrote all the names down on paper and we dumped them in a hat and took turns pulling them out. We did not play for two straight days, rather we played a game or two and then went about other activities and then when I heard the "I'm bored" footsteps coming I suggested we play another game.

We had quite the array of games out including math games which my kids consider good fun. One of the games chosen to play is called Tuk Tuk Taxi. This is a game the boys and I picked out for Mr S's birthday last year or the year before. It's been played many times and can become quite the competitive game amongst the men-folk. All though, honestly, I've seen Mr S, two of his brothers, and his mother have the most intense and wild game of Tuk Tuk Taxi ever!

The object of the game is to collect 2-3 passengers and be the first person to do so and return to your taxi station. The catch? You can only collect one passenger at a time. You have to obey the road rules in order to do so, and those rules/laws can change with the shake of a dice, the evil grin of your opponent, or the wise and clever move of yourself!

At the start of each turn you pluck a token to place on the game board. {I sewed a little draw string bag for our tokens.} You place it on the board as desired, roll the dice and off you go. This corner of the board if Mr S's corner. The boys were really after him with that stack of tokens! As for that passenger saying, "Taxi" in the right hand corner. That was mine. I felt he looked like Jesus so I took him to the beach so he could relax for a little bit. The boys thought I was being incredibly silly, and Mr S was speechless with.. laughter. I mean to say, when you have a job as big as Jesus you need a beach vacation once in a while, right?!

Come on, tell me that doesn't look like Jesus! Don't ask me why he's taking a taxi though. I must say though, I didn't hit a single speed bump, traffic light, or token on the board to hinder me while he was in my car. In fact, I hit a token that permitted me to roll again followed by one that permitted me to move 5 extra spaces landing Jesus perfectly safely on the beach!

Check out the variety of tokens! Each one means something different and you have have to "obey" it. There's also traffic lights on the board that occasionally come into play. Occasionally, as in if you pass by one it may effect how many spaces you can move based on what you rolled with the dice. See, the die is also coded with Red, Green, & Yellow. Snazzy, eh? {And just because I occasionally use the term "eh" does not make me Canadian.. just for the record!}

It really is a fun game and when you tire of the typical scenery and roadside, you can flip the game over and play on a whole new one. I prefer the side you see in the picture simply because the other side is a night scene and I have issues differentiating between puzzle cracks and road lines. Yep, the board game is a giant puzzle {6 huge pieces} you put together! So, if you're up for a half hour or so of fun you'd love this game. That said, I think you'll have to be tough skinned to play against the men-folk in this house though!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Binding Fun {again}

Remember my big notebook? Yeah, it was just too big and it was driving me insane! I hate D-ring notebooks. I know, I know but I do and I'm just being completely honest about it.

I find that D-rings make it wickedly difficult to quickly flip through your notebook. I found with the big notebook {I could only obtain one with D-rings in it} that turning any of the pages was stressful. Both on me and the page itself.

So, I decided to be resourceful. I pulled out our proclick and decided to bind up all the planning pages for our current courses. I hadn't done this previously for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the paper is US sized not A4 sized. My proclick is for an A4 sheet of paper. I can easily fit a US sized paper in it, but if I'm not careful about lining up holes right it can really mess things up.

The other problem is that my covers and backs would have been too narrow. Again, I decided to be resourceful. Before obtaining a proclick I use to pick up those $1 notebooks with clear page protectors in them. After getting the proclick I bound a bunch of those books and still had the notebooks. So, I took one apart and used the front and back plastic cover, but them to size, ran the proclick over them to put holes in them and then fed a spiral binding I also had on hand through the whole thing. Walla!

It lays beautifully flat so I can view both the Instructor Guide and the Student schedule at the same time.  the idea is that one fills out the student page for their child so they know what to accomplish within a week. We're not using these exact pages for check lists so I bound them right along with the IG as they have websites to visit on them and we didn't want to miss out on those.

I still have a notebook going for myself with goodies in it, but it's the smaller size which makes carting it around and using it so much easier! I'd be lost without the Table Of Contents to math items, weekly craft info, timeline pieces, our journal pages. I just like the ease of accessing them this way, a lot more!