Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School

Our school "room:" a hand-me-down little tikes workbench is the perfect desk. It has a groove that holds the magnetic white board we'll use for his magnet letters. To the left is a four-drawer Sterilite bin, picked-up at Wal-mart for $9. Not pictured is his "diesel" (easel) and my teacher storage space.
The oldest three are off to school, but Little Nephi and I have plans . . . at least, I do. My mother's advice was that, since he's an easygoing child, we'll be most successful with an easygoing preschool curriculum.
The bin system worked well with Mia last year for preschool, so I'm using that. Instead of 9 bins like I had with her, there are just the four drawers, plus space for library books. We plan to do preschool only three days a week (after all--he's not quite three himself).
I hope to keep you well-posted with our exciting school year!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Thought: Motherhood

. . . the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection. . . . There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.
~Julie B. Beck, "Mothers Who Know"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fourth of July

Okay, so I've been so busy living summer that I've gotten behind on blogging. Apparently a month behind.
The sugar cookie crust fruit pizza flag was delicious. I'm starting to relax better with our group activities. A few years ago, the blueberry stripes might have bothered me. Now, I think it's cute.

For Family Home Evening early in July, we did a patriotic art project. First we attempted the Lady Liberty Art Lesson from Deep Space Sparkle, but the younger ones were intimidated with drawing the Statue of Liberty (I should have told them to draw a stick figure with a spiky crown).

Then we salvaged the lesson. We drew "fireworks" with crayons on paper, then gave them a puddle of blue watercolor paint to spread over the paper. Mia and Dash dove straight in.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Opening Cans

What could be a more useful life skill than opening cans? The boys struggled with the manual can openers, but Super K was making pretty good progress with those pull tabs (and talk about a fast chore with immediate gratification).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Sweeping Lesson

Sweeping is one skill I have struggled to teach my children. Recently I told Dash that his job was to sweep around the table. He was quite distressed: "I can't do it!" Fortunately, a stray roll of blue painters tape was in the kitchen. I taped a blue square around one laminate "tile" on the floor. "Sweep into the square," I told him. With only a little more coaching, he swept some crumbs into the square, then into the dustpan. Hurray! Another chore option in the making!

Follow-up: I'm afraid the square made more of an impact than the experience. Silly me for leaving that tape in children's reach. Now we have a whole hopscotch design on the kitchen floor. How am I supposed to tell them to sweep into that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Library List Tuesdays

Another Tuesday, another library visit (if I didn't have to keep returning the previous books, I might stop checking out new ones!) Here we have:
a Spanish picture dictionary (a failed attempt. I can't pronounce with confidence yet)
Ancient History: The Emperor's Silent Army. Actually, we kept this book about the full-size teracotta warrior statues from the previous week.
Read alouds: Choo Choo Clickety Clack. For Little Nephi, of course.
Once Upon a Golden Apple. A dad jumbles fairy tales together into one family story.
Astronaut Handbook. A simple introduction to preparing for different jobs on a space shuttle. Could be used to teach about synergy.
Character/Behavior Training: Good Manners at School. I know, a funny thing to get when school is almost out.
Emily's Magic Words. We read this during a family home evening about manners. I prefer the illustration style in Emily's Everyday Manners, which is also from the Emily Post Institute. Still, this was good because it focused on one little aspect of manners, so we didn't feel overwhelmed trying to improve everything at once.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Thought

Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Movie Night: Ponyo

How can you get more Japanese than Hello Kitty pocky sticks? Find them in the oriental section of your grocery store. Caution: they taste strongly of partially-hydrogenated soybean oil, but the kids love them.

For an extra special movie night in March, we watched Ponyo. Click here for the trailer. Ignore the movie reviewer at the beginning who can't pronounce her subject. Originally released in Japan, Disney does a convincing job dubbing all of Hayao Miyazaki's films. This is a very creative twist on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." Forget mermaids. Ponyo starts out looking more like a goldfish with a face. When she is rescued by . . . cute-boy-with-very-Japanese-name, she likes him and decides she wants to become human so she can be with him. Lucky for her, her dad is an eccentric mad scientist with blue eye shadow (he was human, but hated them, so he moved under the sea where he is trying to resurrect ancient, extinct ocean creatures). An accidental tumble into the elixir of life and, voila! "she's a little girl with a round tummy."
One of my favorite parts of the movie is the Senior Center the boy's mom works at. The senior citizens are fabulous, well developed supporting characters.
Clean Rating: The questionables present: Ponyo's mom is once called "the goddess of mercy;" and a little playdate--ing before 16. The famous kiss? Well, Ponyo is in a bubble and the boy is told to kiss the bubble. Although he just happens to kiss the part closest to her face. I give it 4 stars for cleanliness, about on par with Monsters Inc.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Plus One

One of the preschool activities we enjoyed this winter/spring was adding one or two to single digits. Having seen what happens when you only give your kindergartener a day or two to master simple addition before moving on to the bigger numbers, I was quite willing to take it slow with manipulatives and repetition.
Still, I was surprised recently when Mia began spontaneously announcing random addition facts. We were driving together when inspiration struck. I recited the addition facts from 1 to 9 (1+1=2; 2+1=3, etc.) in numerical order. Then I started over, still in numerical order, asking her fill in the sum. She was quite quick up through about seven. When she paused on the next number, I "helped" her by answering. She told me, "Don't say it Mom! I can figure it out!" Then she did. I'm so excited that she figured out the "rule" of plus one addition: the sum is the next higher number that follows the big number in the problem.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Library List

I hereby decree that every Tuesday (or as regularly as I can reasonaly make it) every Tuesday hereafter will be Library List day. Books are one of the core elements of a classical education. As long as you frequently visit a well-stocked library, it's a very affordable way to educate, too.
Library List
Art: Katie and the Mona Lisa
This book would be a playful art history read for anyone studying the Renaissance; which we're not. I returned it unread.
Math: Millions to Measure
I was delighted to find another math picture book by the creators of How Much Is a Million? Despite its title, Millions to Measure has nothing to do with millions, but it is all about measuring. It begins with the history of the English system, including a little measuring chart which should be memorized (Grammar stage alert!) for kitchen use. Then it explains how the metric system began. It has a fold-out inset, which worried me, but it unfolded to have a ruler which was exactly one meter long. Understanding the principles of the metric system is easier for children who know basic fractions (like 1/10th). Highly recommended.
Biology: Eyewitness Skeletons
I was hoping this was a pure science movie. Dash has been fascinated with the human body this year. Unfortunately for us, it included culture associations, like taro cards, that were more confusing for him than informative. Only watched once.
Movie Night: Pete's Dragon
Mia's Choice: Scholastic DVDs Chrysanthemum, and Disney Princess Christmas
History of Ancient China: The Emperor's Silent Army and Growing Up in Ancient China
The Emperor's Silent Army was our longest book. It covers the fascinating history/discovery of the thousands of life-size terracotta soldiers discovered in the last century by the tomb of the First Emperor.
Literature: Each Peach Pear Plum (a board book Little Nephi loved), Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Storytelling Princess, and A Chair for My Mother.

Modest for the Temple

I let Mia have her bag of princesses down at the same time as the building blocks. She played quietly for a while, then brought Snow White and her dress to me. "Mommy, can you dress Snow White so she is modest, to get married in the temple?" Of course I did, and she took Snow White to the temple she had built out of wooden blocks (why she didn't take Prince Charming too, I don't know!).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Books My Mother Gave Me

The first book I remember my mother giving me was Meet Kirsten, for Christmas when I was 7. Receiving books for Christmas and Birthdays was an ingrained tradition in our family--they didn't even have to be new, as long as the story was worthwhile! In subsequent years, I devoured each new American Girls historical book, the Boxcar Children, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables (the whole series), The Chronicles of Narnia, Dealing with Dragons and Beauty, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Entering my teen years, I started borrowing from my mom's collection. Pride and Prejudice was lovingly struggled through on a road trip when I was 12 or 13. I still don't know if Mom planted it in the luggage for myself or her own leisurely reread.

Mom didn't just give books, she gave examples: reading in the kitchen, the car, between chores, waiting for appointments, feeding the baby, and just because. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at finding her the food editor of the world-famous literary blog, The Uncrushable Jersey Dress. Even less surprising is that I have continued the book giving tradition with my own family. Now I give books for Christmas and birthdays--and they don't always have to be new, especially if the story is worthwhile!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review: A Chair for My Mother

I wanted to review a book for Mother's Day. My first thought was the Caldecott Honor book A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams. This was one of my favorite books I was introduced to as a Kindergarten Learning Coach for Washington Virtual Academies last year.
Summary: The story begins with Mom's job: a waitress at a diner. Some days, after school, Rosa does chores there, too. Half of the money she makes is put in a big glass jar at home. Her mom puts all her tips into this big jar. If grandma has an extra coin, it goes in there, too. When the jar is full, they intend to buy a "wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair." They are doing this because all their old chairs burned up last year when their house was on fire. A year later they still don't have a sofa or soft chair to sit in after a hard day's work, but finally that huge jar is full. They take the coins to the bank, then buy the chair they were dreaming of.
My Take: I love provident living lesson in this story: choose a priority, work, save, be patient: then you can buy it. I also love the ridiculous chair they choose, "one covered in velvet with roses all over it." This book isn't preachy. Rather it's a comfortable tale of a family making a home of beauty and comfort with their thrift and industry.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Movie Night: How to Train Your Dragon

We usually stay in for movie night, but we don't often have family in town. So when my parents suggested going to see How to Train Your Dragon, we went.
Usually we stay in the cautious G-rated arena, soliciting Disney and Pixar, so we weren't quite sure what to expect from this Dreamworks movie with a PG rating. Some of the dragons might be scary to preschoolers (go figure--mine weren't fazed). Most of the violence is implied, except for some punches, etc. Our whole family enjoyed it, including myself and my husband.
Rating: the best action-adventure cartoon I've ever seen. I would recommend it especially for families with elementary age children and older. There's enough drama, middle school and high school kids (as well as parents) could go for it, too.
**picture of a two-headed dragon is courtesy of Dash, who also helped make a simple "dragon cake" for after the show.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Numerical Gumballs

We printed-off a gum ball counting activity from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Since I had gone to all the work to paint that silly board with stenciled numbers on it, I put the two together. Mia had to count the number of gum balls in each machine, then match it to the stenciled number. This natural placed the machines in order from least gum balls to greatest number of gum balls. A great number awareness activity!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sorting Beads By Color

I found a set of preschool beads at the grocery store. For a sorting activity, I got an egg carton, then put the first bead for each color in a "cup." I told Little Nephi to "sort by color." We got this activity down several times (supervise those small beads!). Once he became independent at it, he got bored and tried "unsorting" the beads. Then I decided it was time for a different activity!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cooking with Kids

And it came to pass that our family night treat was exceedingly sweet.
As a time-consuming practical life activity, sometimes I let my children help me make the treat for family home evening (I'm better at planning treats than lessons). At a young age, they can pour pre-measured dry ingredients, mostly into the mixing bowl. I usually stay in a rut with that activity for a while.
Mia was excited to put "her" cookies on the little toaster oven sheet. I insisted that only an adult got to put it in the big oven. After the sheet had cooled to the touch, I let her use a little spatula to transfer the cookies to a little cooling rack. She loved it ! Little Nephi, however, was jealous that we didn't have a second set of small bakeware. I let him use the big spatula and cooling rack, which he quite enjoyed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sorting Cars by Color

Little Nephi loves his cars. He often spends his quiet time parking them. Trying to think like a 2 year old, I came up with a car color sorting activity. I gathered two colors of vehicles, then put two color "mats" on the floor. He has done other color sorting activities before. I put the supplies in front of him, then just told him to sort by color. I was surprised that he didn't need further guidance in parking his cars. As you can see below, he really enjoyed himself.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Primary Song for February

The primary song for February is "He Sent His Son" (Children's Songbook, 34-35). See my last primary link for online music.
Looking ahead, March is "Follow the Prophet" (CS, 110-11); April is "The Church of Jesus Christ" (CS, 77), May is song-of-your-choice, June is "The Holy Ghost" (CS, 105), July is "Come, Follow Me" (Hymns, number 116); August is song-of-choice, then the rest of the year is open.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Behavior of the Week

Family Council: various bad habits discussed between Mom and Dad
Bad Habit Chosen for Focus: inability to sit properly during Sacrament Meeting, dinner, etc.
New Habit Introduced: to all children, as family home evening lesson, followed by fabulous treats
Habit of the Week Expectations: sitting (bottoms on chairs) will be practiced during family dinners, time-outs (extra minute for each infraction), sitting on bus, culminating in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, where children must stay on their bottoms until at least the Sacrament is done.
Win-Win (Habit 4): If the family meets this Sacrament Meeting goal, there will be a family outing to a fast-food restaurant on the next kids-eat-free day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ancient China: a Book List

Super K is so into our study of ancient Egypt that we've been doing informally since last fall (over the move, Christmas, etc.) I hate to end it, but we "only" have four years to cover 6000 years of human history; by his birthday it should be time to try another ancient civilization. I'm choosing . . . China! I was going to go with the Greeks and Romans, but they had a lot of nude male art that I'm afraid would show up a lot in the DK books. After another delightful browsing session on Amazon, this is the list I came up with:

DK Ancient China (This is the one I'll buy)
Chinese Children's Favorite Stories (good illustrations; a light read)
Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China (my kids are in love with Ms. Frizzle and that Magic School Bus)
If I Were a Kid in Ancient China (I actually haven't sampled this series yet)
Tales of a Chinese Grandmother looks good, but has far more words than pictures. We might turn to it our next time through ancient history, in fifth grade.

Aside from the DK Ancient China book, what we actually read will depend on what our local library has, but I save so much money taking my Amazon list to the local library.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beading Letters

I like to get each of the kids at least one "educational" toy or book each Christmas. My 2010 reading goal for Mia is to have her sounding out simple three letter words by the time she turns five. For her for Christmas, I chose a Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads set. It comes with over 200 beads, and shoelaces to string them on. She was eager to spell family names (with careful help). Then she wanted to spell "Mat sat on a rat." It was her idea. I wonder how she came up with something basic and phonetic out of the blue. I talked about spacing between words, and encouraged her to use the flowers to separate the words.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Matching Upper to Lower Case

Mia and Little Nephi are learning to recognize and name their letters. After that, we'll work on letter sounds.
We purchased Melissa and Doug's Magnet Wooden Alphabet. The set includes upper case and lower case letters. I cut cardstock in half, the
n traced each of the letters with a pencil (pictured below is the only set I attempted with pen).

The first time the children saw them, they just had to have every card laid out at the same time. It was a lot of work for them. After that, I decided to only get out one card at a time, with just the letters that go with that card (mixed up). Miriam quickly lost interest in this alphabet activity, but Little Nephi has been requesting it several times a week for a month or more. I try to stay nearby so I can name the letters when he picks them up. Now I will give him up to three cards at once. He can name almost every letter of the alphabet (although a few he pronounces incorrectly).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Primary Songs, 2010

High on my nurturing priority list for this year is teaching my children the songs for the 2010 Sacrament Meeting Presentation, which are:
"Come Follow Me" (Hymns, 116)
"Follow the Prophet" (Children's Songbook, 110-11)
"He Sent His Son" (Children's Songbook, 34-35)
"I Know That My Savior Loves Me"-2010 Outline for Sharing Time, 28-29
"The Church of Jesus Christ" (Children's Songbook, 77)
"The Holy Ghost" (Children's Songbook, 105)
Click here to access the sheet music and mp-3s from lds.org.

The song for January is "I Know That My Savior Loves Me." I'm surprised Mia already knows it better than her older brothers, and Little Nephi gives it a valiant effort.