Friday, September 30, 2011

Building Big Ben and Stone Henge

These photos are from our unit study of the British Isles. We pulled out our Landmark Flashcards (from the Target dollar bin) and showed the children Stonehenge and Big Ben.
A fine example of the post and
lintel architecture of Stonehenge.
I got out the classic building blocks and suggested we build Stonehenge and Big Ben. The children did the rest! Little Nephi insisted on a more colorful rendition of Big Ben.
Big Ben immediately prior demolition.
Later, we watched Disney's Peter Pan, which shows the Darling children land on the hands of Big Ben. Little Nephi squealed, "Big Ben! Big Ben!"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Book a Day . . .

keeps, ah, illiteracy away?
The school psychologist referred to his tested reading level as "near genius." I'm not fully sure what that means, but I do know he reads the scriptures out loud much more smoothly than a few adults I've heard at church.
Super K.'s latest habit is reading a book a day. Seriously. Since he brings home the 3rd grade level chapter books, it only takes him about an hour or so after school. Yes, he can read much, much more advanced books, but he likes to choose something he can finish in one sitting. Otherwise, he'll just pick up a different book or start in a different place or skip a few chapters when he gets back to it.
We might want to work on developing taste, though. Monday he brought home Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombies, and didn't start his homework sheets until he was done.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lego to See the Temple

Seattle Temple with fountain and red car.
This might be a good activity to keep hands busy while listening to LDS General Conference at home this weekend.
I've seen elaborate lego temples before, but we only have a handful of white bricks, and I was building with a five year old, not a ten year old. This is what we came up with.  Those are extra small figures from the Lego Harry Potter Game (hey, gray suits and ties!), and please tell me you can tell that's a fountain out front. And a red car.
Specs: The base of the temple is 2x8; Those dimensions go 6 layers up, then center 2 layers of 2x4 bricks, then center 1 layer of 2x2 brick. The next lego is a specialty brick, a thin 1x2 plate that goes over two pegs, but on top has one centered bump up. Onto that plate, stack 3 layers of white 1x1 bricks, then add one yellow 1x1 to imply the Angel Moroni statue.
We added a covered entry by putting a 1x8 brick on stilts.
M. added green bushes, and we used colorful "caps" for the foundation flowers.

For a list of creative Book of Mormon or Old Testament Lego Ideas, please see my post: October 2015 General Conference Plan.

Monday, September 26, 2011

General Conference Prep

Okay, so now that FHE is done and the kids are in bed, I know our scripture study for the week. We'll use a picture of President Monson from the Gospel Art Book to memorize Amos 3:7 ("Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.")
I downloaded a free pdf workbook on the life of Thomas S. Monson from Book of Mormon Discovery. I might work on that with the oldest boys during their personal scripture time this week--or try to do it during family scripture time. And now, I might encourage them to learn the names of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve with this somewhat amusing video clip.
Now all I need is to figure out what to do with the kids during conference.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

MEP Math

Adding alligator teeth to
the "greater than" sign.
We have discovered MEP Math. The "Mathematics Enhancement Programme" is a little-known British jewel available for free online.
Mia is using Year 1 (Kindergarten). There are 4 days of 45 minute lesson plans per week for 35 weeks, the 5th day being devoted to review (or skipping ahead, if applicable.) I actually have not found the lessons to take nearly that long in our one-on-one setting. Unless she wants to color-in everything on the whiteboard and her worksheet, or wants our counting song played ten times over, we're done in about 20 minutes.
So, what's special about this math program? Well, it's free, for starters (not counting your ink). It doesn't require $60 worth of manipulatives (they have printable cuisenaire rods and suggest using a set of small toys, buttons, shells or other objects as counters). It only requires one worksheet a day, unlike some math programs where all the work is in worksheets. It introduces kinesthetic ideas I hadn't thought of (knock on your desk as many times as I jump. Tell me the opposite word when you catch the ball).
Using shapes from our art box,
we compare quantity.
Year 1 starts with a review of preschool concepts, like "as many as" and position relations. Then it moves into counting and comparing small groups of objects. It uses the traditional greater than/less than/equal to signs. Some of the worksheet problems are logic puzzles. Then it works toward addition of small quantities. By the end of the year students are studying number bonds and calculations up to 20; multiple-step calculations (i.e. 1+4+5=10); addition using traditional numbers and roman numerals pre-algebra, and more advanced logic puzzles.

I printed off the first 30 pages of her practice book (black and white outlines--not too ink heavy), hole-punched them and put them in our "math binder." There's about one page per lesson. Cory saved the first 30 lesson plans as a PDF and downloaded them to my kindle--PDFs are bulky files for Kindles, so I'll delete it when we're ready to download the next 30 lessons. I do need to glance over the lessons in advance, sometimes I need to put something on the whiteboard (or BB as they abbreviate it), or it may call for number cards that I haven't printed yet.
Comparing height of 2 "classmates."

Family Fun Saturdays

Last Saturday we went to a local swamp. My favorite part was our canoe ride through water-lily infested waters (seriously. you get mired in the lilies). The water is black from the tree sap. It isn't really that deep. I saw one wild alligator in the distance, but it quickly submerged and all the family could see were the bubbles.
Guess who was sure we would sink. 
He's the one not smiling.
We walked through the gardens, enjoyed the butterfly house and reptile "zoo," and watched the captive alligators get fed. It looked like the keeper was throwing whole, raw, chickens into their pond. Do they ever choke on bones?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Playground School

It was supposed to be "bike school" for the day. It almost was. We packed read-alouds, flashcards, workbooks, and our fabric world map (thanks Mom!) in backpacks with snacks and water bottles. Mia and Nephi had biked almost halfway to the park when we realized Mia had left her backpack at home. I wasn't sure if Nephi had the stamina to bike to the park after that, so we just got in the van and drove there.
Little Nephi enjoys his snack while
Mia matches analog time to digital.
The world map? That was for shade.
I can't say it was especially comfortable teaching school at the top of a playground slide . . . but the kids enjoyed the change of pace for the day, which is really what it was for. Maybe next time we'll use playground school as an incentive to do great M-Th, and then go on Friday.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memorization with the Friend

We've been memorizing scriptures this year with a little help from a friend: The Friend, to be exact.  For the last couple years, the Friend, a children's magazine published by the LDS Church, has included a "Bright Idea" page every month. Each month has a full page illustration to accompany a quote from the Bible, Book of Mormon, or church leaders, such as President Monson.
Unfortuantely, by the end of the month, our used and abused Friend is often only good for the recycling bin (we should get one of those). So . . . we were a little lacking in back-issues when I decided to use these "posters" for family scripture memorization. That's okay. You can print them for free straight from the Friend web-site. I suggest a heavy-weight paper . . . and expect this to take a bit of ink if you want to print them all at once.
We introduce the scriptures during Family Home Evening (Monday nights), then tuck it in our oversized family scriptures, where it gets reviewed every night when we go to read family scriptures. This week I want to use the one from the September Friend, "You are never lost when you can see the temple." from Elder Stevenson of the Seventy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Melissa and Doug Magnet Letters

I've had a bit of curriculum envy this week. I mean, The Ordinary Parent's Guide for Teaching Reading is the most cost effective phonics program in existence, taking a child to a 4th grade reading level for about $20 on Amazon, but my artistic daughter has been very grumpy about reading the pages with no illustrations or color.
Fat Cat Phonics is all cuteness and color, but the starter kit is $200. Ouch. All About Spelling is closer to our price range, being $30 for level one, plus the interactive kit (which you use for all levels). But I'm not quite sure; and, anyway, our budget is spoken for this pay period.
So it's back to whatever I do when the budget trumps an otherwise good idea: use what I have, just more creatively.
I pulled out the old Melissa and Doug magnet letters and arranged them alphabetically on a magnet whiteboard I got at Wal-mart a year ago. Then I turned to lesson 89 in OPG to see which words they used to teach the vowel team "ee." With marker, I wrote two Es on the board. After I reminded Mia what "ee" says, I told her to make it say "see," then "seed." It was a great big colorful hit. After we had gone through the word list, I opened Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop to the "SEE BEE" pages. She breezed through that cheerfully and we were done for the day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


"It seems to me he needs an outlet for his energy," Miss Clavel on Pepito.
His first flip at the vault.
I hope our fish has finally found water: 2 hours a week of gymnastics class. We had signed him up for an hour, but he begged to be allowed the 2 hour maximum--which his coach was cool with. Tonight he tried the vault, rings, and parallel bars, as well as floor activities.

Portable Education

I didn't want Little Nephi's weekly speech therapy sessions to upset our school day--so we brought it with us! Fortunately, no one else seems to have appointments that time of day, so we had the waiting room, complete with table and chairs, to ourselves. I decided to pack for the 3 Rs:
Reading: a lesson from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and 2 pages from a Dora reader.
Writing: a Handwriting Without Tears chalkboard and chalk, plus Kumon handwriting workbook.
Arithmetic: an addition workbook from the Target dollar bin (and we used the chalkboard to practice writing numbers).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Little Mozarts

He put up the "forte" flashcard and
enthusiastically played "forte" up and
down the keyboard.
I wanted to introduce our two youngest to music, both appreciation and learning an instrument, but without doing more than a few minutes practice most days. You know, the "slow and steady" approach.
I chose to start our 5 3/4 year old and nearly 4 year old on Music for Little Mozarts, Level One, simultaneously. Mia said she loves piano practice because she can "color, color, color." I'll have to make her slow down so she doesn't finish all the coloring pages on the second week of lessons.
The both love playing their first song, "Racing Car." We have a CD that accompanies them. Whenever the singer says, "ready, set, zoom!" the children do a glissando up the keyboard. They struggled a lot with their bare hands, so I gave them a small stuffed animal that they drag gleefully up the keyboard.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fine Art: "Coming from the Mill"

For art appreciation this year, we are using the book Where in the World? Around the Globe in 13 Works of Art by Bob Raczka.
We began in the middle of the book with Coming from the Mill, by L.S. Lowry in 1930. This was painted in Salford, England, so we're including it in our unit study on the British Isles.
I based our first fine art lesson of the school year on Charlotte Mason's instructions in Home Education.
1. I opened the book and asked the children to quietly study the picture, then tell me what they could find out about it. My children chose to describe the buildings (house, church, skyscraper) and show me where all those people were going.
2.  I told them what I knew about the painter and the painting (mostly paraphrasing what I had just read on the facing page--thanks Bob Raczka). I also pointed out that Lowry's buildings were outlined in black, then colored in.
3. Then I gave my kinder some heavy paper (cover stock) and a black colored pencil. She drew a house with a sidewalk. Then I gave her watercolor paints, and she completed the painting to her own satisfaction.

"The art training of children should proceed on two lines. The six-year-old child should begin both to express himself and to appreciate, and his appreciation should be well in advance of his power to express what he sees or imagines," (Home Education, Charlotte Mason, kindle edition, page 201, location 4587).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fast Sunday

What Super K does while
his siblings eat breakfast.
Super K turned 8 this Spring. I was pretty nervous about his first fast Sunday. I mean, going without two meals can be a big challenge for anyone, especially an 8 year old who is always sneaking raisins from the pantry. I would have been willing to ease him into it, just waiting to eat until after church, but we have afternoon church this year, which isn't out until 4 pm. Well, it is what it is.
Surprise! He's had a fairly easy time of it. Thankfully he loves reading books. He's just decided that fast Sunday means curling up with a good book for most of the morning. He doesn't even complain about his 3 younger siblings eating Cheerios in front of him. Then, once we're at church, we're away from any temptations in the pantry; and, because I do really love him, dinner is in the slow cooker and ready to eat as soon as we get home.
Oh, and since fasting without a purpose is just starving yourself, I asked him what he was fasting for. He said, "For Heavenly Father and Jesus to help me do good in Cub Scouts."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ever had one of those days?

It has been one of those days . . . three in a row, actually. Struggles with Dash's homework and his teacher who "doesn't want to involve the principal" if he doesn't have every sheet done every day, no matter how much is assigned. Groceries cost more than they should have, at the same time we had to replace the printer (it's been 3 months) and my husband's new sneakers (he really needs them) cost more than I expected either. I was asked to do more Church work than I was ready to balance with my family, the house was clean three days ago . . .
Deep breath.
More tears.
Maybe reading someone else's blog would help. I found My Ordinary, Every Day, Happily Ever After for the first time. I might have to add Courtney's button to my side bar. Back in August, she posted this Youtube video. It hit the spot this time. I'm better again.

Friday, September 2, 2011

All Over the World: Week 1

I'm so excited I figured out how to do this! I've been creating my own curriculum to use to homeschool my kindergartener with literature from all over the world and LDS gospel study. Enjoy!
This PDF is free for anyone to download, print and use (but not sell).
This has everything except the 3 "R"s, so be sure to have a plan there, too.
Week 1 All Over the World