October 5, 2011

A Pizza Confession

I am about to share something with you that just might shock you.  I don’t like pizza.  I don’t.  I think it’s gross.  My family, on the other hand, loves it and they want to disown me.  They love it so much they’d eat it every meal, every day, for the rest of their lives and never complain.  The only thing standing in their way is me. 

After many years spent debating Pizza or No Pizza I’ve reached a painful decision.  I’m just going to have to embrace pizza.  I don’t want them sneaking out of the house to eat pizza.  Or lying about going to someone’s house to get a pizza fix.  They might even rob a store to get pizza money.  If they’re going to eat pizza, I’d rather it be somewhere safe, somewhere where I can control the pizza.  I’m going to have to make pizza at home. 

A part of that decision is to try to make it as healthy as possible (which isn’t much).  The other part is to save money.  At least once a month the boys (and my husband) will get a little pizza crazy so we’ll order out (or go to the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet a.k.a Heaven).  This costs much money.  Much, much money.  Sometimes up to half my weekly grocery budget.

So, the hunt for the best homemade pizza dough is on.  I’m going to be trying a lot of whole wheat ones, but I may end up compromising for part white flour.   I’ll keep you updated (aren’t you excited?).

My kids are rather boring.  They like cheese pizza.  Just cheese.  If they’re feeling a little crazy the older two will go for pepperoni.  And if I’m going to be forced to eat pizza I’ll have an alfredo or garlic sauce with spinach, onion, mushrooms and perhaps a bit of bacon.  And I’m REALLY embarrassing because I eat it with salad on top, using a fork and knife.  Do you see now why they want to disown me?

September 10, 2011

My first 5K

I did it.  I ran my first 5K.  The one I wanted to run last month was cancelled, which was a good thing because I hurt my knee and had to take 2 weeks off to recover...and then I got a cold and couldn't breathe while I ran with boogers running down my face (pretty)...and then....just kidding, that's the end of my list of complaints.

My crazy neighbor  ran with me for most of it, even though she’s 8 months pregnant.  She had to slow down after a bit due to some pain, but she insisted I continue without her.  After ‘yelling’ at each other for a bit (and some emotional “we leave no men behind” and “go on without me” type drama), I moved on ahead and kept my promise to not walk any part of it.  I finished with a personal best of 36:54 and she finished too!  Her husband came and walked/ran with her for most of it, and I went back after I’d finished to walk with her and we ran over the finish line together.

It’s been a fun journey.  No, fun isn’t the right word.  Running isn’t FUN yet, but I like feeling healthier and it does help me feel a bit more mentally stable (which is always a good thing in this house).  There are a few more races before the year ends that I’m going to try to hit, but I’ll be doing it solo since my friend will be giving birth here shortly.  Good thing I have an iPod to keep me company.

So far I’ve lost 17 pounds and went from an XL running pant to L.  I almost cried in the dressing room when I pulled up the XLs and they fell down to my ankles!

This picture shows me running across the finish line, looking rather happy and peppyIt’s a fake.  My husband didn’t get one the first time so I had to re-do it, but by then the giddiness of having FINISHED had set in so I was able to ham it up a bit.

And thanks to our husbands who put up with our 3x a week running then hour-long gab fest while we “cool down”.

September 5, 2011

Raising Real Men - a review

So here’s a confession, I’m a girl.  I was never a boy nor will I ever be one.  But I am currently raising four boys.  And I have no idea how boys think.  They are foreign to me.  Sometimes I look at them and can’t figure out how their brains came up with whatever behavior/game/idea they just displayed/played/told me.  Truly.  They think differently.  They react differently.  They are different.  Some days I’ll ambush my husband when he comes home to tell him all about the crazy things his sons did, to which he’ll reply, “So?  What’s weird about that?”  Huh?  It’s weird because a girl would NEVER think of that.

I’ve always wanted an Owner’s Manual for Raising Boys.  Then I was given the opportunity to review Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys by Hal and Melanie Young as a part of the Timberdoodle Blogger Review Team and I think it’s as close as I’m going to get!  I have had this book on my list of “to read” for years and now that I’ve read it I’m sorry I waited so long.

Written by conservative Christian homeschooling parents of 6 boys and 2 girls, this book was full of funny anecdotes, real life example and practical ideas.  Over and over again I found myself saying, “Hey honey, listen to this”.  In fact, he left the room several times because he couldn’t get his own work done with me interrupting him every two minutes.  Reading this book was like light bulb after light bulb going off.  “Oh, so THAT’S why!”  “Okay, NOW I understand.”

 The book is divided into two sections.  The first deals with “values” or “virtues” and discusses such things as the need for heroes, what play for boys really is, leadership, and whether to allow weapons or not.  The second half talks more about “civilizing” a boy or the things which will help them grow into well-rounded men.  The authors discuss, among other things, education, responsibility, dating, manners, and whether boys should help in the kitchen.

Some ideas I had heard before, some were completely new to me.   For example, the Youngs discuss how boys are born with the desire to be leaders.  It’s how God made them…because one day they will be in charge of their families, their employees, their community.  They state, “We’ve got to teach them how to submit to authority without destroying their leadership.”  This put disobedience and their often challenging behavior in a whole new light.

 There were a few points I didn’t necessarily agree with, and a few scripture references I felt didn’t support their arguments.  It is also written by a couple who firmly believes homeschooling is the best option and a person who doesn’t homeschool might feel a little ‘judged’ or excluded in some of the comments.  The book, on the whole, however, was well worth reading.  In fact, I’m going to read it again and mark it all up and take notes and write down ideas I have on what I’d like to change about my parenting, new things I’d like to try.  You don’t have to agree with everything to make a book or idea valuable and instructive.

As a mother of boys, I highly recommend this book.  It has changed how I view my sons and helped me create a better vision for how I want to raise them.  I feel like I understand ‘boyness’ just a little better.  This book will stay on my shelf for years to come, and I know I’ll reference it often.  Along with Last Child in the Woods and Boys Adrift, this should be required reading for all parents of boys.

By the way, if you haven't heard of Timberdoodle yet, check out their free catalog.  I do a lot of our school, birthday and Christmas shopping there. (which is why I wanted to review for them...I like 'em!)

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Legal Disclosure:
As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of Raising Real Men in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

September 3, 2011

Stories That Build Statesmen

I recently listened to a talk given by Marlene Peterson entitled "Stories That Build Statesmen".  She shared some wonderful examples of the power of stories and the need to teach through stories.  It truly inspired me to look at what I'm reading to the boys, and what they are reading in their spare time.  And just when I thought I had all my plans finalized for the year!

I highly recommend you listen to it...and I found it free here.  It's on the right-hand side, towards the bottom.

I'd love to know what your favorite stories are!

August 30, 2011

Kid History

Just wanted to pass on some videos that my children LOVE. This is the first one, but there are 6 in total so make sure you watch them all (each of us thinks a different one is the best). Before you watch you need to know this....some brothers in their 30s asked their kids/nieces/nephews to retell some stories about their dads/uncles lives and then the adults acted out the stories. FACT - it's hilarious. And as an aside, my husband and I have been laughing our heads off about #6 where the mom cooks healthy foods and says to her poor kids, "Here are your perfectly normal pancakes....You'll never taste it!" Oh, the times I've said that to my dear children...

August 24, 2011

Frogs by Nic Bishop

FrogsFrogs by Nic Bishop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As strange as it may sound, we're reading this for Circle Time! My little guys are LOVING the book. The pictures are amazing. If I didn't know it's impossible to do, I'd say that Bishop was staging the photos and asking the frogs to pose. There is just enough information to keep it interesting without feeling like you're reading a textbook. We've read many, many books about frogs and this still has new stuff to learn. My 5-year-old has been walking around for days spouting frog facts. The older boys have read it 3 or 4 times themselves.  And I'll just say it right now....see-through frogs are gross.  My 7-year-old has commented many, many times, "I didn't even know they existed!"

We own several Nic Bishop books and I will continue to buy them whenever I can. (I could check them out from the library but they are so well done I want them in my home library as I KNOW they'll be read over and over again.) At the end of the book he spends a page or two discussing what it was like to shoot the pictures and travel around. It makes you feel like a real person made the book and that that person is your cool friend.

Highly recommended.

Here is a list of his other books (done in the style of Frogs)....I hope he makes many more!
Butterflies and Moths

There are two "field guide" type books, but I've never seen them in person.
Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close
Forest Explorer: A Life-Sized Field Guide

And a Scientist in the Field series...but I think he's only the photographer in these.  I'm not sure if it's the same great style as the others.

View all my reviews

August 21, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow... I love this version

In an attempt to cheer up a sulky 11-year-old my husband was playing all sorts of "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and other uber happy songs.  He came along this version which neither of us had ever heard.  I instantly fell in love.  I love the music, his voice, his smile.  And I cried to watch the end of the video, the celebration of his life instead of the sorrow from his death. 

August 20, 2011

Help! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom

Help! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom: Showing Dads How to Meet the Needs of Their Homeschooling WivesHelp! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom: Showing Dads How to Meet the Needs of Their Homeschooling Wives by Todd Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book helped me realize that I'm not crazy or weird. I'm just like most other homeschool moms - stressed out!

Seriously, I laughed a lot while reading this book. And nodded my head over and over in agreement. The author completely understands the heart and mind of homeschooling moms and offers valuable insight to the husbands. And great ways in which to support them as well.

Highly recommended for moms and dads.  It is another part of my permanent homeschool shelf and I pull it down to read when things are getting hard.  And for the record, I do NOT own a demin jumper.

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August 19, 2011

George Washington (one of many!)

George WashingtonGeorge Washington by Ingri D'Aulaire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My kids were enthralled with this. At one point someone commented, "George Washington moved around a lot just like us!" Being military kids they were able to identify with some of his earlier life.

The illustrations were lovely and the text easy to understand. It was a great introduction for the younger kids. My older boys will need more but this was a fantastic start.

Highly recommended.

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August 17, 2011

Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe

Lies Homeschooling Moms BelieveLies Homeschooling Moms Believe by Todd Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great book by Todd Wilson. I really love his humor and his honesty.

In this book he looks at the common 'lies' we homeschoolers all seem to believe like "everyone has a clean house except me" and "everyone else's kids are really obedient, talented, smart, etc". He points out the lies and then shows WHY they are lies and how to feel differently about them.

I so identified with many of the points made here and it helped calm my fears and doubts. If you are at all worried you're not doing a good job homeschooling your kids or that you're the only one who doesn't have it together, this will help.  This book will stay on my shelf forever, and I try to re-read it every year to not only remind myself that everything will be okay, but that I need to set an example of transparency for those around me, to show that I am human and not Super Homeschool Mom, because I'm not!

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August 16, 2011

Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?

Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My boys really enjoyed this and told me that 'lots of other kids should read it because it's so funny'. We read it in two days and I've found them looking through it over and over again.

The book treated King George very well and we learned a lot about him we hadn't already known. I liked that it mainly focused on him and not so much on the battles. I liked this better than George vs. George for actually learning about the King.  George vs. George, however, discussed the battles more in-depth.

A nice addition to our study of the American Revolution. Highly recommended.  This would be best for elementary or early middle school.

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Portuguese Lesson 1

So, I spent 18 months in Brazil doing missionary work for my church, many moons ago.  I failed to teach my children the language when they were young, but we've started now and hopefully it will all come back to me.

I couldn't find a program I liked (that didn't break the bank) so I'm sort of piecing stuff together and figuring it out as I go.  If any one has any suggestions or wants to have me review their program for free, just let me know!

I'll be posting lessons every day or so, possibly once a week.  I'm not sure of the format I want to use yet so it may change over time.  We're writing things down on a white board so they can see it every day and use it to practice, but I also want a more permanent "book" for them so we can review it as needed.  I need to figure out how to make the accents and such too, so I may have to come back and revise this as I go.

You can learn along with us, or completely ignore these posts!  We starting out SLOWLY.  Some of these lessons you will be able to do all in one day, as opposed to spreading them out over a period of days.

Underlined words are the new words of the day.  You will have already learned the words/phrases in previous lessons.

Day 1
Person 1:  Bom dia!  Como vai?
Person 2:  Bem, obrigado.

Person 1:  Good day.  How are you?
Person 2:  Good/well, thanks.

My best attempt to give pronunciation hints:
Person 1:  Bone jee-a.  Como vye?
Person 2:  Bain, o bree ga do.  (If you're speaking to a female add an "a" instead of an "o" at the end - o bree ga da.)

Day 2
Person 1:  Bom dia?  Como vai?
Person 2:  Bem, obrigado.  Como vai voce?


Person 1:  Good day.  How are you?
Person 2:  Good/well, thanks.  How are you?


Person 1:  Bone jee-a.  Como vye?
Person 2:  Bain, o bree ga do (or o bree ga da).  Como vye vo-say?

Day 3:
Person 1:  Bom dia!  Como vai?
Person 2:  Bem, obrigado.  Como vai voce?
Person 1:  Bem.  Eu sou ___________.

Person 1:  Good day!  How are you?
Person 2:  Good/well, thanks.  How are you?
Person 1:  Good.  I am _________.  

Person 1:  Bone jee-a.  Como vye?
Person 2:  Bain, o bree ga do (or o bree ga da).  Como vye vo-say?
Person 1:  Bain.  A-o so ___________(say your name).

Cashew Almond Butter Chocolately Goodness

This recipe comes from my good friend Misty.  It is one of my favorite smoothies because it tastes like a milkshake.  I save it for a treat, for when I need something sweet.  

  • 4 c frozen bananas
  • 1/2 c cacao nibs
  • 1/2 tbsp cashew butter
  • 2 c vanilla almond milk*
  • 1/4 c agave (I use raw honey)
Blend all ingredients in high powered blender like my beloved Blendtec.  I should give that thing a name.
*Sometimes I don't have almond milk so I just use raw almonds (soaked and dried) with water or homemade almond milk. I also usually add in a few handfuls of raw cashews (also soaked and dried) and sometimes some almond butter.
If you make your own almond milk and/or nut butters this would be considered a "raw" recipe.

August 15, 2011

Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin by Ingri D'Aulaire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The boys loved this book. It was always their first choice of which books to read in the day. The information was clear and interesting. The illustrations very d'Aulaire. We enjoyed reading the various sayings of Franklin's listed on each page and trying to figure out what they meant and how one would say them in modern English.

Excellent choice for learning about Benjamin Franklin.

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August 14, 2011

more Starfall

Have you seen the more.Starfall.com site yet?  It's lovely.  Well, a better description would be cool, colorful, engaging, fun.

 My two youngest (ages 7 and 5) had been messing around with the free version for a few months.  While they loved what they saw, they were always mad there wasn't more.  And I was too frugal to want to pay $35 for a one year subscription.

Fast forward to me agonizing over school plans for the upcoming year and wondering what to do with my 5-year-old who technically only has 30 minutes of "school" time, in addition to story time.  He usually sits in with us but sometimes (okay, often) gets bored with us and starts to cause problems.  I know MOST 5-year-olds would not do this...he's an unusual child. 

So I sat down and gave the more.Starfall site another look.  Hmm, early phonics and reading.  Games.  MATH!  Colors.  Nursery rhymes.  I took the plunge and bought the subscription and that's when my jaw dropped.

I now have access to HUNDREDS of worksheets.  Now, I'm not a worksheet mom but they do have their place for keeping little hands busy.  These are fun worksheets, cool activities, puzzles, word family printables, handwriting, sorting, coloring and the list goes on.  

AND THEN...I saw the lesson plans.  They have 31 weeks worth of lesson plans (mostly geared to kindergarten) which blends phonics, science, math, reading and all sorts of fun things.  It gives you the teacher prep involved plus lists what you’ll need each day then gives you step-by-step instructions on how to mesh everything together.  I'm not sure this is something I'll use, but it's nice to know it's there!

My two little guys have loved using the full version.  They can easily navigate without my help (the interface is just like regular Starfall).  When I’m teaching the older boys their individual subjects (math, reading, spelling) I let the younger boys explore more.Starfall or work on some of the activities I’ve printed.  I'm so pleased with the variety of tools it provides, not only for the kids, but for me as the teacher/parent.  

August 3, 2011

Our LAST kindergarten year

Here is the NON-plan for my 5-year-old.  He is just barely starting “school” as I wait until a child shows interest in reading and writing before beginning.  He participates in all our family studies, at whatever level he feels comfortable with for that day.  Sometimes he sits on my lap the whole time (with or without a back scratch), other days he plays (not so) quietly on the floor while I’m reading out loud and still other days he goes upstairs to play by himself, watch a “school” movie or use the iPod apps.

He gets about 20 to 30 minutes of individual teaching time a day where we work on handwriting and reading.  We also have “circle time” with the 7-year-old where we sing songs and read picture books.

This is also his first year trying workboxes – at his request.  His older brothers are moving out of their 6-drawer workboxes into milk crates so littlest brother wants both of theirs!  I’m not sure we’ll use all 12 for him each day….we’ll tinker around with it the first few weeks.  Every night I put in his handwriting book, a reading game and a worksheet or two.  He helps me choose the remaining activities from his activity bag file folder box.

I use Handwriting Without Tears and have for years.  All my boys have used it because it’s the easiest and best system out there!  We work on one letter a day, although sometimes we spread a letter out over a few days.  Since he knows the letter names and sounds already, we don’t need to spend extra time drilling those.  It’s just the physical exercise of writing them.

I have also printed some “worksheets” from Confessions of a Homeschooler for him to use in his workboxes.  He particularly enjoys the dot-a-dot and toothpick poke pages.  We also use the “circle the correct letter” pages.  He does activities from the Letter of the Week and kindergarten sections of her printables so make sure you check out both.

We just subscribed to the more.Starfall site and I was thrilled to see they have multiple (read many, many, many) printable sheets for reading and writing.  I’ll be printing out some fun pages to keep him occupied. 

I don’t follow a single reading program with my kids.  I sort of mix-and-match the resources I already have.

I love Happy Phonics and use the games to practice and reinforce various sounds and concepts.

For beginning readers I prefer the Now I’m Reading series by Nora Gaydos.  I pull out the book that corresponds with the lesson we’re learning in Happy Phonics….or vice versa.

We have used Starfall for years and he is now progressing past the letter sounds and moving into the early reading games.  As I mentioned above, we just joined the more.Starfall section and it is AMAZING.  There are so many wonderful activities for a beginning reader.  I need to spend some time looking through it.  I may create an “order” for him to do them (corresponding with the Happy Phonics and Now I’m Reading) or I may just let him play around with it.  Okay - I did create one.  And here it is!  They even have lesson plans for each week, but I’m not sure if I’ll be using those or not.

In addition to the above, I also let him watch the LeapFrog videos, WordWorld and the Preschool Prep Company dvds.  I love, love, love the Preschool Prep Company dvds.  We have Meet the Sight Words 1, 2 and 3 as well as the new Meet the Phonics series (Meet the Blends and Meet the Digraphs).  They have been great for the 5-year-old as well as the already reading 7-year-old.  They’ve even been useful for my struggling 11-year-old reader.

Other activities
Over the past year or so I have created various “activity bags” to keep his little hands busy and his great brain engaged.  He has been asking for more “school” stuff, meaning worksheets, so I’ll be perusing Confessions of a Homeschooler, more.Starfall, and Homeschool Creations Preschool Packs for printables.  I pick and choose which ones I want – I never print the whole shebang.

The Reading Plan

I'm teaching my last child to read.  It's a bittersweet thing.  I've used this same general plan for all my kids....he just has a few resources that the older boys didn't have.

It's hard to show in a list like this, but once he starts reading the Now I'm Reading series, he will read one book a day AND play a game or watch a Starfall video.  We spend between 10 and 20 minutes on 'reading instruction'.  Some time in a book reading and some in a hands-on type activity.  I usually have him watch the movies on his own, during a time I'm working with his older brothers. So, on any given day he reads a short book with me, we play a game, and he then watches a movie, plays around on Starfall, or does a worksheet.

I use a lot of games from Happy Phonics (HP).  I'm only going to link to it once!

Leap Frog Videos
Starfall (basic ABCs)
Keep Away*
Letter Go-Fish
Alphabet Bingo
Muffin Match (upper/lower case letters) - from HP
Castle Game (short vowel sounds) from HP
I Can Read Cards (HP) – CVC words - from HP
Starfall Learn to Read games 1-5, Skills movies #1-3
more.Starfall – Word Machines
more.Starfall – Short Vowel Pals
Meet the Sight Words (dvd – watch one video every few days, do coloring pages)
Build a Sentence – some sight words, mostly CVC -from HP
Scrambled Sentences - sight words, mostly CVC -from HP
Meet the Blends (dvd)
Starfall Learn to Read, Skills movies #4-8
Meet the Digraphs (dvd)

Start Now I’m Reading series by Nora Gaydos
Animal Antics books 1-5, then Playful Pals 1-5….
then go back to Animal Antics books 6-10 and Playful Pals 6-10

Read one book a day, repeat the same book for 2 to 3 days….continue to move through the series (Clever Critters, Snack Attack, Amazing Animals, On the Go**)

Sight Word Bingo; Roll, Keep, Say or Keep Away*
Silent E game (HP)
Starfall Learn to Read games 6-10
Climb the E Tree (HP) – various sounds of “e”
Sight Word Bingo; Roll, Keep, Say or Keep Away
CH, SH, TH, WH Game (HP)
The E-A Game (HP) – watch Between the Lions EA video
Starfall Learn to Read game 11
Starfall Learn to Read, Skills movies 9-11
Climb the E Tree, gradually move up to level 4 (HP)
Sight Word Bingo; Roll, Keep, Say or Keep Away
First Nurse Game (HP) – er, ir, ur, wor, ear
Starfall Learn to Read games 12-14
Y Not? (HP) – y_____, _y, ___y, and __y__
Three in a Row (HP) – oi, oy
Sight Word Bingo; Roll, Keep, Say or Keep Away
Boat Launch (HP) – au, aw
Mountain Climber (HP) – oa, ow, oa
Silly Sentences word strip game
Space Race (HP) – gn, kn, wr, ____b
Climb the E Tree last level

Begin Dr. Seuss, Frog and Toad and other books
Begin All About Spelling Level 1 (unless his writing is good enough to start earlier) - I feel like this program fills in any holes I might have missed.

* Keep away is a game where I hold a stack of cards.  I show him one card at a time and if he knows the letter sound, name or word he can keep the card.  If he doesn't, then I keep it.  Whoever has the most cards at the end, wins.  I always lose.

**more.Starfall has many beginning reader books in the “More Phonics” and “Backpack Bear’s Books” sections if he needs more practice than the Now I’m Reading books.

Preschool/Kindergarten Activity Bags

Oh, how I wish I'd known about these when my oldest boys were little!  These bags are a great way to keep little ones busy, but still learning.

To make activity bags I print, cut out, laminate, sort, etc and place everything into a gallon-size zipper plastic bag.  Please use your best judgment with a child – my son does not place things in his mouth (never did) but if your child does, don’t include activities with small items.  Also, gallon size baggies can fit over a child’s head so please teach them to keep it off their noggins.

I’ve found it helpful for many of these to have a small tray or cookie sheet available so that when something gets “dumped” it’s contained in a specific area instead of all over the table or floor.

How we use them:  Last year we’d just grab out a handful of activity bags and use them while I read out loud to the older boys or at the school table upstairs.  This year he’s using his own workboxes.  He wants to do 12 a day – we’ll see how that goes.  Every night he helps me choose 2 or 3 things he wants to include (one in each drawer – I choose the other activities).  The next day he pulls out one activity from one drawer, plays with it/completes the worksheet, then returns the activity to the bag and to the drawer.  I store most of them in a hanging file folder box, each activity in a separate, labeled folder.  The bigger, bulkier items are in a dish pan in the school closet.

Here is a list of activities we’ve created with his reactions to them:

Color and shape matching wheels – loves it as do all our little visitors

Color matching with objects – loves it
I used foam sheets (you could use cardstock or felt) and collected a ton of small objects in various colors (between 5 to 10 per color).  To play he lays out the color sheets and dumps the bag of objects on the floor.  He then places each object on the corresponding color sheet.  For example, the green frog would go on the green foam.  The pink pig would go on the pink foam.

Hide and Seek – chooses this one a lot
Take pasta, dry beans or rice and put in a tupperware like container.  Hide some small toys and have them search for it.

Mix and Match – uses it but gets frustrated sometimes
Have a bag full of different items, 2 of each.  Have them find the matches.  You can time it if you want - how many can you get in 1 minute?  Or just let them make the matches.  It can be whatever - milk jug caps, coins, small toys, stickers on small pieces of paper, paperclips, etc.

Alphabet train – doesn’t use this one very often
Print and color (there's a color version but would probably use a lot of ink) or print on colored paper.  

Shades of color – he hated this and told me to get rid of it
Get some paint chip "ladders" (strips that are the different shades of same color).  Make a master list with the color at the top and squares to put the other colors.  Have them sort into the grid.  Can use velcro, magnets or just have them lay it on the paper.  If you use magnets they can be put on a cookie sheet or magnet board.  I picked up some cards at Walmart but their selection was pretty stinky.  I think Lowe's would have a much better, and larger, selection.

Measure it – only used a few times and said it was “boring”
Print this onto cardstock or laminate.    Cut pieces from ribbon, yarn, pipe cleaners, etc.  Have the child measure each thing to determine where it goes.   

Spooning beads – does this one over and over again
Get 2 small bowls, and a spoon (check $ store).  Put all beads in one bowl and have them spoon to the other bowl.  

Counting frogs – loves it
Make a mat for each number, like 1, 2, 3, etc.  Have them put right number of frogs on each mat.  Or flowers or whatever small item you can find several of.

Patterning pom-poms – will do it if I set it out, but won’t choose it on his own
Make some pattern strips for using the colors of a bag of pom-poms.  Cut some strips of paper about 8 1/2" by 3 or 4 inches and color circles to match the pom-poms.  The child should place the pom-pom either on top of the matching color or underneath it.  You can have a set pattern like ABAB, or ABCABC or just a random mixture of colors.

Double Trouble Shapes – new to try this year
Make some grids and laminate.  Across the top row of each make some shape combinations (a circle on top of a heart, etc).  Glue all together.  Child needs to find both shapes needed to complete a square.  Separate each grid's shapes in different bags.  

Mini clothes line – thinks it’s hilarious
Cut small pieces of clothes from felt or other fabrics.  String twine between 2 sticks and use mini clothes pins to secure them.  For the base you could drill holes into a wooden plaque or glue it to the inside edges of a small box.  We use this tied between two chairs.  We have an alphabet set too – each clothespin has an upper or lowercase letter written on it and he pins the corresponding letter (written on paper) to the line.  It could just be an index card with the letter on it or you could cut out “clothes” shapes.  You can mix and match this as well – uppercase pins to lowercase, upper to upper, etc.

Stickers and paper – I have to regulate this and only do it once in a while because he goes through stickers so quickly.  Include a variety of stickers and some paper (or cardstock) and let them go to town.

I covered the can so he wouldn’t get all excited that he was getting a snack.  I also used a few more colors than pictured, and made two with different colors on each one.  All the kids that come to visit have loved this as well.

Pumpkin transfer – loves it
I picked up two small plastic pumpkins on clearance and filled one with small foam thingies (airplanes, frogs, bugs, shapes, etc).  He loves to transfer it from one pumpkin to the other – he uses his fingers, kid-sized chopsticks or tweezers.

Cutting – loves it
In a bag include child safety scissors and cardstock, which is easier for them to cut.  You can also include some patterns for them to cut if you want to teach more control.

Gluing – loves it
Include items for them to glue to cardstock/construction paper.  Die cut pieces, shapes, letters, whatever.  I patrol the craft stores for clearance items (think collage) and use what I can find.

Marble counting – loves it, but loses his marbles
We used foam sheets but you could also use plastic lids.  Punch a hole in the foam sheet and write the corresponding number on it.  For example, punch one hole and write “One  1”, punch two holes and write “Two  2”.  The child then places the marble into each hole.  I matched up a hole punch with the marbles at the store before buying to make sure the marble wouldn’t fall through the hole.  I also made sure to get a hole punch with a longer reach so it could go in an inch or so from the edge.

Black Scratch paper – loves it
I only buy this when I see it on clearance.  It’s one of his favorites but he’ll go through a whole package in one sitting so I only give in two sheets at a time.

Parmesan cheese can – loves it
When you empty a plastic Parmesan cheese container, clean it out and pull off the label.  Fill it about ¾ full with small pom-poms, bells, coffee stir straws, anything that will fit through the hole.  To play, unscrew the lid and dump it all out.  Put the lid back on and open the side with the small holes.  Have the child place each item in the hole….it takes a long time but they usually stick with it.  45 minutes of blessed silence.

Pipe cleaner beading – loves it
String beads onto pipe cleaners.  As they get more agile you can use shoe laces or strings created especially for beading.

Maze book – loves it
I ripped a maze book apart and put each page in a protective sleeve.  He uses a dry erase marker and then wipes it clean at the end.

Chalkboard – loves it
You can use a sponge to “draw” or include a small bag of chalk and a damp sponge for an eraser

Places to look for more ideas

August 2, 2011

A peek into the chaos of our upcoming school year

It’s that frantic time when most homeschooling parents are realizing that they actually need to PLAN the upcoming year.  And just so that I feel like a part of the craziness….here are our plans for the 2011-2012 year (subject to change!)

And just for reference, I have four boys, ages 11, 10, 7 and 5.  We also school year-round so we’re actually right in the middle of some studies, halfway through levels and other such confusing things.

Devotional – family, daily, 30 minutes

We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and will be reading the Book of Mormon and Old Testament as a family.  My two older boys will be doing a study from Discover the Scriptures

We will continue to work on our Scripture Memory Work using this system.
We are working our way through the hymn book and children’s songbook from our church (we sing the same hymn every day until we know it).  We also read the children’s magazine put out by our church called The Friend.  And we choose one “religious” book to read – right now it’s a history of our church.  Next will be a scripture hero book.

And this isn’t a part of “religion” but we also do the following during devotional time:
One idiom -  (I have the old version)

History – family, 4 x a week, 20 to 30 minutes
We are finishing up American History (we’ll stop right before WWI).  We’ve used a booklist I compiled.  We should be done in another month or two and will then move to the Ancient World again.
Because I like pain, we’re going to try to cram Egypt, Rome and Greece into one year.  I’ll use the Simply Charlotte Mason guide books and their suggested readings with a few books of my own choosing thrown in.

Science – family, daily, 20 to 30 minutes
We have a few weeks left of chemistry and will then move into an eclectic mix of biology, physics and earth science.  We’ll finish Flying Creatures (younger Apologia series - we did half the book last year), and work on Ocean Animals as well as Land Animals (from the same series).  For physics we’ll be using Real Science 4 Kids.  And for earth science I’m undecided.   We might do a week or two on botany as well (the boys vetoed anything longer).

We’ll also throw in some nature study books here and there (actually, on Fridays).  I have a ton downloaded on my Kindle or bookmarked around the web.

Piano – individually, daily, 20 minutes
Taught by dad.  Mom is not talented that way.

Foreign Language – family, daily, 10 minutes
Starting Hebrew and Portuguese.  My husband is a Hebrew speaker and I’m a Portuguese one so we’ll be teaching them ourselves, using our own small brains.  I’ll be trying to use the Sarah and David Hebrew books with them as well.

Math – daily, 30 minutes each (all taught separately)
Right Start for all of them.  Still love it almost 3 years later.

Spelling – individually, daily, 10 to 20 minutes
We use All About Spelling.  They are each in a different level.  Love, love, love it.

Literature/Read-Alouds – daily, 20 to 30 minutes
I use this list for the family.  I read one book to them during the day and their dad reads one at bedtime.  We’ll try to get through as many as we can.
The younger boys and I have “Circle Time” where we sing songs and read a few books from this list.  The older boys work on their workboxes or chores during that time. 
On Fridays we read Fairy Tales (currently an Andrew Lang Fairy book).

Geography - family, once a week, 30 minutes
Instead of history on Friday, we work on geography.  I use Galloping the Globe as a guide and grab whatever books I can from the library about a specific country.  It takes us several months per country.  China is next.  And we haven't voted on the one after that.

We also do a Map Drill on Friday with our geography.  Currently we're working on the United States.  All four boys participate (I write for the 5-year-old).

Artist Study – family, once a week, 10 minutes
I’m following this list I made.  We are on Botticelli.

Composer Study – family, once a week, 10 minutes then listen to pieces throughout the week
Following this list I made.  We just finished Mozart.

Poetry – family, once a week, 10 minutes
I just grab a poetry book and we read from it. 

Art – family, once a week, 10 minutes
A woman from our church unit comes and teaches them about art and does projects with them every Thursday afternoon.  I get to play with her baby girl. 

Older boys:
Each of them has a workbox (milk-type crate with file folders).  They will do the following subjects (daily) on their own:
  1.  Scriptures – read 10 minutes a day
  2. Discover the Scriptures Book of Mormon (as listed above)
  3.  Copywork
  4. Grammar – we use Growing With Grammar
  5. Explode the Code
  6.  Cursive – Handwriting Without Tears
  7. Math worksheet – a one page practice sheet
  8. Geography – Daily Geography Practice
  9. One boy is doing Star-Spangled States
  10. Switcheroo – every day I change what is in the folder – homophones, story prompts, crossword puzzle, etc.
  11. Exercise – 20 minutes, they choose the activity

Then 3 times a week they will do some independent reading in history or science.  They will work on transitioning from oral narrations to written narrations this year.  Yippee!

Once a week they will have a Logic class and we’ll be reading and discussing The Thinking Toolbox together.

One of my sons needs extra reading practice so he works with me an additional 30 minutes or so a day, using Happy Phonics for games.  The rest of the time is just spent reading outloud.

He joins his older brothers for devotional, history, science, read-alouds, foreign language, and the other family studies.  He works individually with me for math and reading/spelling.  We use Happy Phonics for reading games.

His workboxes contain:
  1. Scripture reading – 10 minutes with mom
  2. Math worksheet
  3. Explode the Code
  4. Handwriting – printing, Handwriting Without Tears

He will probably start copywork with year.

His job is to stay out of my hair and not jump all over our stuff.  He has a variety of games, activities, iPod apps, etc to keep him occupied.

He is working on his handwriting using Handwriting Without Tears.  He is also learning to read using a crazy and disorganized mix of Happy Phonics, Now I’m Reading series, Starfall and the Preschool Prep dvds.  He also sits in on all family subjects and on the 7-year-olds math and spelling lessons (his choice).