Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good Books

Have I mentioned how much I love Lynn Austin's books? It's true, I do. They are just so good. The first one I read was called Candle In the Darkness, & it was book 1 in a Civil War Trilogy. I actually listened to it via Audible. Needless to say I listened to the other 2 as well.

Each one tells the story of the Civil War from the viewpoint of someone different. The first is from the view of a young lady who lives on a well to do Southern Plantation. They own slaves & she even has a mammy & all that.  Book one takes place mostly right in Virginia. The second book in the series is written from the view point of a Northern Girl who has servant not slaves, but is as equally spoiled. Book Two, Fire By Night, takes place in the North, in hospitals, & out on the battle field a bit as well where we also meet a girl who has disguised herself as a boy to join the fight.  Book Three, A Light To My Path, follows the path of two slaves. One who gains his freedom & fights for the north, the other who isn't brave enough to seek her own freedom. All together they made an amazing telling of the time period. They are Christian Fiction, so there's plenty of that in there as well.

Until We Reach Home is the telling of three sisters who immigrate to the US from Sweden. It's another delightful read about how each sister finds her own place. It's littered with Biblical points of view & a whole lot of history. A Proper Proposal is another of her books that I've read, & it's set during the time frame of the Woman Suffragettes & the Chicago World Fair. It's just as good as the other four I've mentioned.

I just picked up Wonderland Creek which is set during The Great Depression, the very time period the boys are currently studying. I can't wait to dig into it, because I'm certain it will be just as fantastic as her other books. I also remembered I have While We're Apart both on Kindle & Audio which is set during World War II time period. Can't wait to read that one too!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rainy Days

It's that time of year again where it rains more then it shines. Thursday was one of those days, & Jayden was running to the door every two minutes to check on how much it was raining. He doesn't like rain, for one thing, & secondly he was busy cruising through his school work so we could go to park day. He was worried his plans would be foiled.

Yeah, totally ignore the beach umbrella laying in my yard. Oh Jayden, what would we do without that child? He was desperate to jump on the trampoline & he'll do so pretty much regardless of the weather, but Morgan wasn't keen to be outside if it was sprinkling. Wednesday was one of those days. I look out the window & Jayden is jumping on the trampoline with the giant beach umbrella. Morgan joined him, eventually.. Clearly they forgot to put the umbrella back in the shed when they were done.

And no, I don't buy my boys pink balls. That's our dog's ball, who's also a boy, but when it comes to dog toys I go for hardcore stuff. That dog can do in a toy in minutes in his determination to retrieve something from within it. That ball is a hard plastic & he has to roll it around to drop out treats. It keeps us entertained, & him, while we're doing school. The only thing funnier is when we chuck out mostly peanut butter jars {Thanks RJ!} for him to lick clean. He can't reach the very end of it, but the Currawong that has decided he loves us does. Sometimes his mate Matilda comes along, but she's not nearly as brave as he is.

He comes up to our door every single day & peers in at us to see if we'll give him anything. We never do, but the pet feeding station is at the back door & he looks around to see if anyone spilled anything. We don't mind, & we're kinda intrigued to see if they'll nest nearby & hatch any little ones to visit the yard, wouldn't that be fun? We seem to be a bird sanctuary because we're about the only house in the neighborhood without a cat. Cats don't visit our yard too often because our dog is psycho when it comes to cats. Seriously psycho. I think the only thing that riles him more is either ducks or the kids wrestling & not allowing him to wrestle with them. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Another Review..

We shared our opinion on the Sonlight Curriculum we are using this year over at The Curriculum Choice. We'd like to think that we gave a rather detailed review in regards to what's included in the curriculum, what we love, & how we use it on a general basis.

We also included a run down on how Sonlight compares to Winter Promise, at least for us. One small fact I forgot to include in that comparison was that Sonlight can be resold, but Winter Promise can't. The Sonlight curriculum doesn't mind if you sell their curriculum when you are done with it. They do ask, that if you cash in on the update discount that you don't sell the IG, but in general there is no policy against selling their curriculum when you are done with it.

Winter Promise on the other hand, writes across the front of their manuals/instructor guides that they think you'll understand their request not to sell the materials they have personally developed/published. For some this doesn't matter, but for others that can eat pretty deep into their homeschool budget. 

Anyway, if your interested in seeing our comparison or reading our review you can find it here. If you're looking for more information about Sonlight you can obviously check out the Sonlight website, Sonlight Facebook page, or join their forum. If you're looking for how we use Sonlight you can find more of our Sonlight fun here or here, or simply use the labels on the left.

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 19

We were back at it this week & moving into a new time period, which brought about much excitement. Not that we didn't enjoy learning about the Civil War, because we did, but now that those questions are answered they are desperate to have a new set of questions answered to him.

This week was a bit of a between week, & we learned about some happenings after the Civil War ended. The finishing of the Transcontinental Railroad, the boom of Business Tycoons,  & how one can monopolize the market. All of which have caused for some big conversation topics around the house lately. We wrapped up Shades of Gray which was a delightful story about a young boy who lost a brother, two sisters, a father, & a mother in the Civil War. We're also well into Caddie Woodlawn, much to my delight. All though the boys are enjoying it as well, Caddie is Jayden's kind of heroine.

We started a new timeline, which we set up a little bit differently again. We went with the mini theme, but stapled the pages, even on one side, odd on the other, to the two sides of the file folder. This allows us the same ease as the last mini timeline we made, but saves heaps on file folders which we were running low on. It also means less gluing which delights a certain little boy I know who always screams, "Glue! My worst enemy!" when I suggest he use it.

We learned about when the first mail order catalogs came out which the boys found absolutely fascinating, then wrapped up the lesson with making these nifty trading cards from the HSITW cd. They had a picture advert on the front & the details on the back. That, "Say Mama" card is for root beer of all things! It made us all laugh imagining a baby asking for more root beer. We also had fun looking at a period time catalog which inspired the boys to make their own!

We read about Seward's Folly, which wasn't so foolish in the end at all. Incase your wondering, Seward was the State Treasurer who is responsible for the purchase of Alaska. People thought he was crazy & thus the purchase became known as Seward's Folly. Mind you, he paid only .02 per acre, but people were still not impressed. Until, of course, the Klondike gold rush. We also learned that Black Friday comes thanks to Gould & Fisk who took it upon themselves to try & buy up all the gold during the Klondike. It was all going great until on what's known as Black Friday {all though it happened in September, not the one we are now aware of happening in November} when the price of Gold spiked dramatically enough that President Grant ordered the treasury to sell a considerably amount of gold to lower the price. Fortunately for Gould & Fisk, they'd sold their gold before the release & weren't effected by it despite managing to monopolize the gold market.

We had a laugh learning about the last railroad spike being hammered in. Both railroad companies had a try at hammering it in, but both failed so they had to bring a worker in to do the job for them. The boys rolled with laughter when they heard this.

We also learned about some pretty big Business Tycoons. Sears being one of them. Can you believe he got his start in the sale business thanks to a mistake?! Yep, you read that right. Apparently he worked for the railroad & noticed a box of watches hadn't been put on the train, he contacted the company & they offered to sell them to him for $10 per watch. He took them up on the offer & sold them up & down the rail line for $12 per watch, making enough to quit his job & branch out on his own as a salesman. The boys are in awe that I've agreed to take them to a real Sears store while we're in the US later this year. They clearly have no memory of being in one quite often.

There was lots of free drawing time this week as the boys found the hidden stash of markers & some empty doodle pads. This picture of Jayden's totally cracked me up. The men in orange on the left.. the one in the middle is being arrested for being in public without a shirt on, the other two are police officers. The guy in blue on the right is running away because he saw the police coming. I have no idea where this child comes up with this stuff, but I really love his little police car which makes me think of a smart car.. minus the exhaust coming out the back end of it. He's turned into quite the little doodler lately..

We ran by our local library twice this week, which isn't any kind of record for us. Jayden adores checking out the display in the foyer lately as it's generally all war memorabilia. There's a small War Museum that is privately owned in the basement of the local RSL, he's desperate to make a visit. We've agreed to speak with someone who is an RSL & see if he can set us up with a tour.

We also had a lovely day out at the park, even if it was rainy & ran into more homeschooling friends at the library. The boys considered that a top notch week even if they did have to do multiplication & division drills every day & spelling.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cracking Codes..

Morgan loves codes & cyphers. I get notes all the time in code & have to request a cypher to even come close to cracking them. So, when I stumbled on a cute code that I'd never seen before I filed it away to try on him! I was actually planning to come up with all sorts of codes to leave him notes all summer long, but on Saturday I decided to give it a try.

I was sitting at the learning table getting pregame jitters {yeah, & that was for a footy match we were going to watch not play!} when I wrote out his name in the code. I put the cypher on a separate piece of paper & informed him I had a code for him. He played with it for 15 minutes before Mr S & Jayden joined him.

Mr S was on the right track, but he over complicated the situation. It was funny though, because Morgan picked up really quickly that Daddy was overcomplicating it. Morgan pointed this out, but Mr S was doubtful so they debated it out both giving their reasonings when Jayden says, "I'm pretty sure she probably just wrote something like Morgan." Talk about funny!

Morgan verified that Jayden was correct by appropriately cracking the code in the end, & then wrote out something for Jayden to crack. Yeah, it said Jayden. ha! Now that he understands how to crack the code I might have to leave him some longer notes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wild Weekends

I managed to freak my family out this weekend with a trip to the ER, via an ambulance. Yeah, really. We got home late Sunday evening & I complained of not feeling well, at first I thought I'd inadvertently consumed milk, but my icky ears quickly spread to a sore stomach. Then my throat started getting sore, so I took some vitamines for a cold, had a shower & went to bed. A few hours later I told Mr S not to panic, but he was going to have to get me help.. now. My pain went from let's go to bed to this feels like labor pangs.

Mr S called non emergency help, who asked to speak with me. Then they told me I needed to get to hospital immediately. Only, Mr S doesn't drive, & there was no way in my current state I could have driven the 10 minutes either. So Mr S rings back non-emergency care & says, oh so politely, "What's the number for an ambulance?" Seriously, I laugh about this now, but I was in so much pain then I tried to kick him. Yeah, he had a duh moment when the girl said, "Um, 0-0-0." It's funny, you know, because they warn you in all the CPR & First Aid training that people will forget the number in an emergency & you must specifically say to them, "Go dial 911/000, & come back to me!"

I'm pretty sure it took the ambo an hour to arrive, but Mr S assures me it was only 20 minutes, which is still insane knowing I could have driven the speedlimit in less time then that. However, I had enough clarity in that moment to suggest Mr S call the neighbor in to watch the boys who were sleeping, thankfully {Thanks Allen!} & then ring his sister & see if she could relieve the neighbor until one/both of us could get back home {Thanks Adrienne!}. Thankfully everyone was available, because no one's doing much at 11pm aside from sleeping.

The medics asked me all the normal questions, & then asked me why I was breathing like I was. It's probably a good thing the poor guy wasn't in leg distance. They gave me a shot of morphine, which knocked me out badly enough I complained of a stiff neck & legs. The medic says, oh so calmly, "Yes, I thought that might be the case because you aren't breathing!" Yeah, I was a bit loopy. I was with it enough to answer all his questions. I fell asleep on the way to the hospital, but woke up enough to blurt out that I'd taken cold tablets & had forgotten to tell him. He wasn't bothered by it.

I ended up in hospital overnight, freaked a nurse out by being sick in the morning, confused them by not having any of the problems officially wrong that they thought I should have. They ended up releasing me with the diagnoses of a virus & to report back to them if I got worse. Now, every morning I wake up my kids ask me if my tummy is okay.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July Review

Our latest review is up over at The Curriculum Choice if your interested in reading it. These are a couple of amazing unit studies we did a couple of years ago & absolutely loved. We have an Easter one we hope to do one year too, but you can see our notebooks & lapbooks, & read about our fun with these two particular studies.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

HSITW/Sonlight Rematch

I shared a quick match-up of the Sonlight Core E/4 earlier this year & it worked great for us with the Civil War when we were using our 2002 Edition what with the delay of the release of the 2012 editions. However, once our 2012 edition arrived it showed that our original plans weren't quite as well matched up as they could be with the 2012 edition of Core E/4. I sat down and reworked it, because it was driving me absolutely insane.

This layout jumps around a bit more, but the idea was to keep the lessons from HSITW matched up with what was being covered in the Landmark Book. Sometimes we chose not to read the Landmark book if we've all ready covered it in the HSITW cd, but I think there's a lot coming up in the Landmark book that goes a bit more in depth then the HSITW cd does. Thus, I wanted to keep everything on the same theme as best I could.

As a side note, there will be no lessons for 5, 10, 15, 20, or, 22-25. The first three mentioned are scheduled as catch-up days on the cd. They do have recipes in those Lessons though, so if you've never used the HSITW cds make sure you take a look at those! 22-25 are wrapping up the study, so they've scheduled time for you to assemble your notebook & lapbook, as well as time for a party to wrap up the overall study. It also appears I've accidentally forgotten to jot down when we'll be doing Lesson 7, whoops!  It should be listed on Week 17, Day Two. I'd better go mark my schedule!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Civil War Timeline

We spent last week wrapping up our Civil War study as we had a few straggling projects to deal with, including our big timeline. While we do love, & use, our timeline notebooks I don't like to put each & every one of the timeline pieces on the divider pages because it would literally overfill just one divider!

Instead, we work with the timelines provided in the HSITW Time Traveler packs. The only thing is, that the accordian file folding, while fun & clever can sometimes have a poor effect in a notebook we use often. Which is to say, that when a child with less then gentle tactics flops open his notebook the timeline can spill out. We've taken to keeping those nifty little things inside page protectors, because not only does it keep them in place I kinda have a thing for page protectors.

This time, though, I really wanted to change it up a bit & all week there was a file folder laying on our kitchen counter. Someone folded the crazy thing into quarters & every time I saw it, wondering who was responsible for it so I could ask them to put it away, it made me think of a book.

Which was my inspiration for turning a few file folder into our old reliable mini lapbook forms so we could tuck our timeline inside of it. The downside to this is that you can't see what happens Across Four Aprils in the blink of an eye, but it works for us & you can still see where things fell as long as you glue your pages in order inside the book.

Another little secret, or is it quirk?, about my kids is that they love the HSITW timeline, but they prefer them to be precolored. I know, crazy huh? It happened because we also had some Winter Promise timeline pieces in our home, & they were beautifully done in watercolor. So, on Friday while my kids were running around like crazy people I colored in one full timeline. I did have them sharpen pencils as needed & then, when I couldn't take one more child running through the house screaming, "No, I did not!" I made them sit down & color the covers for their books while we chatted about the various books we've read on this time period.

My guys are very proficient with technology, so I set them the task of running off copies of the colored timeline while I rounded up some nifty cutting tools. We all set about cutting around the exterior of each timeline page. There are black lines around it where you are meant to connect them to each other, so this was pretty easy to do. Then I cut down the file folders {it took three for each timeline} down to the size we wanted.

The cover is suppose to be for the Civil War Lapbook, but we glued all our lapbook pieces onto the back of notebooking pages, then I had the boys cut them out & glue them as desired to the front of their notebooks. Instead of punching holes directly in the filefolder I cut thin strips of file folder & folded them in half. Punch them, then tape to the file book. Easy Peasy.

Notes: Specific directions for the mini lapbooks can be found here. When you cut the trip of paper, make sure it's long enough to stretch across the prongs in your binder. That was another reason I added the blue strip of paper there, our timeline was now too small to stretch across the binder prongs. This was a quick & simple solution. I left the excess of blue strip sticking out because it made a nice bookmark of sorts for the kids to spot their Civil War section, a section they keep revisiting often around here because when they ask a specific question about what we've learned I'll suggest they go check a specific item in their notebook.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Learning to Write: YNaNoWriMo

Over the past many years I've participated in something called NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's one of those quirky little things where I spend an entire year debating plots, naming characters, & devising my endings until the beloved month of November arrives. Yeah, I'm that nerdy.

I've met my goal each & ever year of 50,0000 words, all though once only by the skin of my teeth. Each year it's a struggle to confine characters into their places, & last years is still nagging at me. I generally see the project through to the end finishing off what I start, but last years has really given me a run. I have not been able to get the story where I want it to be. So there it sits, nagging away at me. But I'm getting incredibly side tracked here..

Recently, Morgan asked if I would help him write a story. I bought him an empty notebook & a fresh pen, because every good story deserves a fresh pen. I generally empty a pen or two if I write by hand, & it's kinda fun. Morgan was delighted with the purchases, & of course Jayden wanted some too. They both grabbed their notebooks, sat down, & then stared at me.

"Excuse me, do I have something on the end of my nose?"
"Then why, may I ask, are you staring at me?"
"We don't know what to do now!"

I took the notebooks back & wrote half a paragraph leaving off in the middle of a sentence, then I handed the notebooks back. They spent days writing in them. Everywhere we went their noses were in their notebooks. One afternoon we were at a cafe with my mother-in-law having lunch & the waitress asked them what they were doing.

"Just writing a story."
"Oo, what's it about, will you tell me? I love to hear stories?"
Jayden shrugged & said, "I'm not really sure yet, but it does have a boy named Johnny, & a rude frog in it."
"That sounds interesting! What about you?"
Morgan comes out of his momentary fog & says, "Well, it's about a shadow, but I don't know what else yet."

She checked in with them a few more times before we left & promised that if she found their books in stores she'd purchase them to find out more. The boys were delighted. Shortly after that, though, the noteobooks hit back burners until Mr S asked if I was going to do NaNo this year.

"I hope to, my story plan is coming along, but I'm not sure how good it is. I've fallen asleep 3 nights in a row thinking about it!"

The boys ran off to get their notebooks & join the chatter. Which of course led to them writing more, until Jayden wrote something in his notebook that caused him to laugh so hard he couldn't stop. This distracted Morgan who didn't feel his story was at all funny enough if Jayden was laughing that hard at his own.

I pointed out that not every story is meant to be funny, & even funny stories aren't always funny every minute. This didn't help much, & we eventually sent him off to his room to write in peace. Which worked rather well until Jayden, certain Morgan was sulking, drew a picture of Morgan's favourite stuffed animal.. with it's tongue out, & maybe something wafting from it's back end. He found this so funny he barged right in on Morgan & announced, "Look what I drew for you!" That was the end of their writing careers for a while.

Until, month after month Morgan continued to beg me to teach him to write. Why? I kept asking. So I can write great stories that people will love, was always the answer. I lamented to my mother one day, & instead of sympathizing with me she told me she was certain I could do it & do it well.

Here's the thing, I'm pretty sure if anything ever happens to me my family will rifle through my stuff. I do not, for one minute, think they will be looking for riches untold or dirty secrets on me, instead my family is going to rifle through my stuff hoping to stumble across something fantastic that I've written. True story. I've never shared what I've written, at least not much. I very, quite nearly, posted a bit of my Nano here from last year, but I had second thoughts about it & didn't.

I once took the first chapter of a Nano & edited it & bound it for Mr S. The chapter turned out to be too long for him & I'm not sure he ever got to the end of it. Of course my mother is desperate to read something I've written, my grandmother use to be, a niece has begged off special permission to read something, but it all remains locked in the depths of.. Ha! You thought I'd tell you where it was didn't you?

The point is, I wasn't so sure about teaching my own child how to write. It's funny, because I've never thought twice about teaching him to do many other things I'm very capable of, but this particular area freaked me out. My child is a bit like myself in the fact that he is utterly relentless & so he pestered on. Never rudely, but always very serious & intent. "Please, will you teach me to write a story? I can't figure out how to get the words on the paper, how to make worlds that seem real enough you're in them. I want to do this!"

I finally broke  & said I would teach him. Then I debated buying a curriculum for this purpose, but for now we're doing our own thing. We've started with the Young Nano Programme put out by the Office Of Lights, which is completely free. It's set up for teachers to use in classrooms to encourage young students to participate in the frenzy known as NaNo. The difference being that children can choose their word limit to meet, they are not bound by the 50,000 word goal.

Lesson #1 had us discussing inner editors. I explained the job of a real life editor, & I explained what can happen when your own personal inner editor is turned lose. I had to explain that this was different then, perhaps, your mother correcting your copywork or other writing assignment. Then I asked the boys what their inner editor says, their answers were a bit surprising. I jotted them all down & typed them up later {excuse the typos if you're looking closely at the pictures..}. Then we drew our inner editors.

I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Morgan looks like when he's writing. Stressed out that he isn't writing fast enough, distraught he might not be spelling correctly, & boggle eyed so badly he forgets his punctuation. Jayden's inner editor scares me, because frankly it looks like a happy me! Holding flowers. With big red lips, & rosy cheeks. He denies that it is, in anyway, like me. I'm still scared. Mine, on the other hand, despite being poorly drawn is nothing short of a beast who hovers over my back, drools on my work, & constantly whispers indecision in my ears. We chucked the whole lot of them in jail, & they can't come out until December.

Yeah, I know December is a pretty long ways away, but we have an international trip ahead of us, a camping trip, & a few other major things on the table in the months ahead. I figure starting now gives us plenty of time to help the boys plan out their stories, work on their typing skills, & get a few more spelling lessons under their belts. The only one mortified that the inner editors are locked up until December, though, was Jayden. I'm still scared, but considering he didn't ask how I'd make dinner I'm probably safe for a while.

We also discussed what the kids all ready knew about writing. Morgan's answers fully explain his inner editor. He's worried about neatness & spelling. He wants to use amazing punctuation, but forgets to. Jayden's answers might also explain his inner editor, because he was mostly just worried about how to make up new words. Yeah, really.

We also discussed what they really wanted to know about in regards to writing. This was fun to listen to. Morgan would tell me what he wanted to know & then explain it via a book we've read. Again, I took notes & then typed them into a KWL chart, for the fun of it. I'm more curious to see the L side filled in from their perspectives at the end of November.

I turned our bulletin board into a story map. The idea originally was meant to be a visual reminder of the things that it takes to make a novel/book/story. In the end though, I slapped up post-its on the thing because I knew the boys would come up with ideas at all kinds of awkward hours & it would be quick & simple to jot them on the lined post-its. I'm not saying that I'm not still scared, but Im starting to see this as more of an adventure then I did before.

I have a few ideas tucked up my sleeves, & we'll see if they work. I'm curious to see exactly what kind of story Morgan is so intent to write. I'm eager to see if he applies everything he's learned in the past 5 years of schooling. I'm excited to read his story, because he uses fantastic vocabulary when he writes. I'm interested in seeing how far Jayden follows this through. He's funny like that & his last story was one page long, because at that point the frog & Johnny got quite angry with each other. There was a whack with a tree & well.. The only thing is, of course, when we get to December the boys are going to what to view what I've read, & I wasn't planning to write a children's book....

Notes: If you're looking for the lessons over at the Young Nano site, you'll need to click on the Educator's Resources. It'll explain how Young Nano works as well as provide you with ideas for 17+ lessons, an after party, & encouraging your kids to keep on writing during the month of November. There is a printable version of the Teacher's Lessons as well as the online version. The Teacher's Info will explain when/how to use the Student pages/book that is provided for free download as well. There are resources/lessons for Younger Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, & Highschool. You'll also find certificates to award after the goals are met, in fact there's even certificates available for children who participated, but weren't quite capable of meeting their goal in the end. There's information on having your children's book published, t-shirts to purchase, & so much more. Think you can't stop your normal writing lessons for something like this? Check out the core standards the Nano lessons deal with. Seriously, Nano is an incredibly fun & amazing thing to participate in, even if you're the only one having an all night writing session..

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Science Museum

Coming down the esophagus to the board game
Two weeks ago we met up with our home ed group for the first time in ages to head to the local science museum. They had a Biology display on which was perfect for our science curriculum this year.

If you've never been to this science museum there are two things to note. One, the director of this museum is absolutely amazing, & totally into his job. Many times when we've gone by ourselves this guy has followed my kids around or assigned someone to follow them through & answer every single question they have. The museum is also always hands on.

This particular display came up from New Zealand which caused a ripple of laughter around the room as the director briefed us on how things would work & when he'd call the kids back for a few science experiments.

Incase you don't know why there was laughter.. Think of the New Zealand/Australian thing like the Canadian/American thing. Know do you get it? Lastly, this post is going to be a major overload of pictures.

The main exhibit was a huge board game. In order to play on the board game you had to remove your shoes & climb up these steps & go through that giant mouth. Morgan is demonstrating what the giant mouth he's climbing into is doing.

Once on the board game the children took turns throwing the dice & doing as the board game instructed. Most squares had information written on them about digestion & then an extra step to fulfil. Notice the funny lines on the pictures near the words? Each time the kids stepped on the square it had a sound effect to go with it.

crawling through the small intestines to the large intestines halfway through the game
You know what this is right? It's how they "exited" the board game..

Out of the game into the stinky Loos..

The loos contained toilet seats & once you lifted the lid you could find quirky, gross, & interesting facts hiding beneath them. The boys found the pictured fact quite funny & wanted proof of where they'd seen it.

Each student was given a sheet to encourage them to read & look at everything. The Director explained it to them as a Treasure Hunt. The boys started out dutifully filling there's out, but then asked me to record the information they collected as they kept exploring.

Yes, we climbed through a giant nose, & yes my child hung from the nose hairs..
Another gross fact they needed for their sheets.. 
This tested how great or poor your lungs were..

Excuse the blur, this photo is heavily cropped.. Halfway through our time there the Director {pictures above} had the children come back in the little meeting room for an experiment on how digestion works. Morgan volunteered to help with the second part of this experiment & had to grind up food, help digest it, & in essence make poo. There was a whole lot of laughter in the room, & a parent next to me was desperate to remember every step to replicate this back at home. There are 4 different piles of ick on the tray, each one represents a different part of digestion.

This skeleton was near the exit & Morgan was really smitten with it..
This was in the senses booth, you had to work a pump, then sniff the clowns breath.
Demonstration about muscles..

A quick video that demonstrates how your muscles work

Towards the end of our time there the man pulled the children back in again & showed them an eyeball model. He explained a few main parts of the eyeball & then provided the children with lollies to make their own. The Marshmallow was the eyeball {US mallows would have worked better as they are considerably thicker, you can find them on rare occasions here as campfire marshmallows}, the musk lifesaver is meant to be the iris I think, the half jellybean is the lens, & the red licorice is the nerve stem.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's Official...

It's official, the boys have so much in their timeline notebooks that we had to get some new notebooks! We popped into our local office supply store to get two more identical notebooks to what we had, only to discover once we put all our Civil War notebooking papers in we were once again at maximum capacity. Whoops! We shifted more papers to the other notebook for now, but I'm pretty sure once Morgan wraps up Ancients year after next he'll be up to three notebooks. In the mean time we still have an awful lot of stuff to fit in them for the rest of this year!

Morgan is crazy excited for the Home Education Inspector to come this year so he can show her all his amazing work. That is, I suppose, if all the papers don't fall out between now & then. He can be incredibly rough on his papers so we had a lesson {sad but true} yesterday on how to turn large chunks of the timeline notebook without yanking on the papers causing them to tear. 

Like that cover on Morgan's notebook? He's crazy about it, all though I still think it would be better themed to go with a geography notebook, but if he likes it that's all that matters! It was a gift back at a local "cheap shop" for $1. I picked it up because it looked like a piece of luggage with stickers from all over the world on it. I'd actually intended it for him as a cover for a geography notebook he'll be making next year, but when he spotted it he asked if he could use it for his lovely Timeline Notebook. 

Jayden's using the cover that came with the Timeline Notebook, & he's pretty miffed that he doesn't have a clever cover like Morgan does. I've been on the lookout for other fun ways for him to cover his notebook, but we haven't been out much for me to spot much of anything. Generally we pretty them up with a bit of scrapbook paper, but I haven't felt like hitting that shop either. Pretty sad when the girl who owns it lives across the street from me, think I could ask her to bring us back a few samples? Naw, me either.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sequential Spelling With an ipad

Last year we used Spellwell which I was really happy with. Morgan was our main user & he shower great progress within the lessons, tests, & pre-tests. However, I noticed one small flaw, none of that was carrying over to his work! It drove me batty.

We had a minor break down shortly after our school year started which ended with tears, mostly mine. Frustration, mostly his. Then a laugh. Mostly, I'm sure, my mother who remembers the great pains she went through attempting to teach me to spell as well. Yeah, Mom, I remember..

Anyway, the point is that when your child feels the frustration it's time to change things up to help him. So I did. After a day of lamenting to my husband about our spelling woes, I tripped {not by accident I'm pretty sure God was just slapping me with this one} over Sequential Spelling. A few questions answered later & I'd ordered it.

I won't give a deep review about the programme right now, but in short regardless or your child's age & level you start with book 1.  This was a "good to know" so that my child didn't feel like a baby. However, depending on your child's ability depends on how quickly you race through a book. We did the first half dozen lessons or so in one day, & then intentionally slowed down to 1 lesson a day 4 times a week. This is a subject we will most likely do a couple of times a week even during a summer break period.

Each day I call out 25 words for him to spell, & after each word I write it on the white board using various marker colors to help point out similarities in the words. Here's where things got a little tricky. For one thing, we go through white board markers like most people go through water. It's not a joke! I must by a new set 2-3x a YEAR! Who goes through them THAT quickly? I don't get the cheapies either, the only ones I ever buy are the Crayloa low oder ones because my head can not handle the smell of other brands. In fairness, we use our whiteboard markers daily. On white board, windows, mirrors, clear table clothes, & just about anything else that we can view it on. Nothing says fun like working your math problems on the sliding glass door.. except for maybe the look on the gardeners face when he thinks your kids are coloring inappropriately on the windows...

Not only do we go through a lot of markers Jayden finished his first SpellWell book of the year & wanted to join in on Sequential Spelling. I was reluctant preferring to keep my kids on separate curriculum where one excels over another. Why? It helps keep them sane, & me. While using the same is easy enough, it can also cause a bit of friction.

Example: First day Jayden did SS with us Morgan scored a measly 62% on his spelling for the day. Next day I did them separately but Jayden was at the table keeping a close eye on stuff. Morgan scored an 84%. The next day I sent Jayden off to read on the trampoline while Morgan had his test & Morgan scored a 92%. He generally holds pretty steady in the 90% are for spelling since switching & yes it does carry over to his everyday work which is what makes us all the happiest. However, just knowing his brother might do better then him really threw him for a loop. Please don't waste time lecturing me on how he'll need to get use to the fact that people are better then him at all sorts of things, he knows this. We've told him this a hundred times. But when you hit something that you really struggle with on a daily basis, sometimes you need that special alone time to conquer the battle before you face the fact that there are going to be people out there who are better at it then you.

I told dh one night that it would be a lot easier if I could produce a slide show for each lesson. My theory was that then each child could sit & do their work while I called out words, or better yet if I added my voice to the slide show they could do the work independently while I kept an eye on things. After all one of our big goals with Morgan over the next 18 months is to get him really independent on with his schooling as he races towards highschool.

Mr S says, "Oh they make a programme for that." Then he really blows me away by pointing out I have said programme on my computer. Duh! One afternoon a couple of weeks ago while the kids took advantage of a beautiful winter day, I sat down & conquered said programme. Which, for the record is known as KeyNote in Mac, you window users are on your own because the name of the Windows equiv. is totally slipping my mind right now. I made up a couple of spelling lessons for each child & then brought them in one at a time to do the lesson. They thought I was pretty cool, thank you very much! Yeah, I marked the calendar because I don't hear that I'm actually cool very often. More like, "MOM!! That's SOOOOO embarrassing!"

It was honestly incredibly simple to get going with. Once I had a system down for getting all 25 words in it went really quickly. I also make a started page which instructs the kids to number their page with however many words I'm giving them {12-25 depending on said lesson & said words in said lesson}, it instructs them to circle all incorrect words before correcting them, & to put a smile face next to each correct word. Sequential Spelling is a self correcting programme. The child writes the word I say, then I write the word out so they can see if they spelled it right. If not, they fix it. In order for me to keep track of what each child is getting right & wrong I have them circle the number of the word they got wrong. If I see the same word consistently spelled wrong we work on it. I also include Bonus Words at times, these are the words they might consistently spell wrong but aren't on their list for the day.

After I get the whole thing done & dusted I log into our account over at icloud.com, then I can upload each lesson to be used on Keynote on the ipad. Easy peasy. Of course you will have to purchase keynote for the ipad {$9.99 I think it was}, but considering how often we use it, the price was minimal. Now, I can give one child the ipad & the other child the computer. I can call out a word for them each to spell {Morgan is now capable of having Jayden do spelling at the same time as himself, but Jayden is at the start of the book where as Morgan is a considerable way through it now}, they can spell it, then turn to the next slide & check their work.

A Few Notes:

If you're not sure how to use Keynote, Apple has a really quick & simple tutorial on their website which you can access from within your Keynote programme. I watched the very short video & was able to go to work from there. I did not make any of it fancy. I didn't want flashing, turning, or eye catching. I simply wanted the next word to appear just as if I'd written it on the white board.

Once you make one lesson up it's pretty easy to just cut & paste to create more, especially with Sequential Spelling because the words stay the same or have a simple suffix or prefix added in/on to them for many lessons in a row. It's also a lot easier to work backwards. Go to the last page of your slide show, type in all the words, adjust the colors as you want them to be for the lesson. Cut & paste what you've created into each page deleting one word as you go along. When you get to the first page you should have one word left. If you don't you've messed up somewhere & you just flip through the pages until you find it.

Also, to keep the slide show from being more then 27 pages long {Title page with instructions for the lessons, 25 words, 1 bonus word} make sure you select to have 3 columns. That way all your words, by the end of the lesson, can be on one page. This isn't a major thing, but I felt it was pretty important because Sequential Spelling builds off of itself as you can probably see from some of the pictures. Their theory is if you can teach your child to spell at you can teach them to spell cat, bat, sat, fat, late, fate, etc. That's why the color is different on various letter combos in the words. I go another step farther & sometimes make prefixes & suffixes another color as well. So a word like bat would look like this: bat but when we get to batting it would look like this: batting. Just depends on what the other word combos in the lesson are like.

So there you go! I will warn you though, making slide shows is a tad addictive. After I finished making the spelling lesson slide shows I thought about the hundred other things I could turn into a slide show, but then reality called me back..