Saturday, January 31, 2009

Going through the motions.

I don't know what it is but at the moment it sort of feels like we are doing school without any real excitement in the subjects. This isn't totally true. Sophie loves doing math when it relates to money and the boys have picked up on this and have counted and recounted the pennies in their piggie banks several times. They are even doing chores around the house to earn extra money to add to their stash. But other than Math I can't say we have really energetically studied anything.

We did our History lesson this week and it was about the Turks taking Constantinople and changing it into Istanbul but my kids really didn't get into the subject. We did read a few extra books. We had a good discussion about the book "The hungry coat". It was the most thought provoking of all the books we read through and the kids thought the story funny. I personally have really enjoyed reading a lot of these folk tales from the different countries we are studying. They almost always teach a good principle which is I guess why the stories have lasted through time. The part of the history lessons the kids liked the best was making the dancing bears which is one of the activities from the WTM activity book. I ended up putting them on sticks and the kids dance around with their arms and legs swinging around. I have only had to take they away once when they became swords. Boys make everything into swordplay.

Science was the same. We read some more books about rainforests but the kids kinda acted like "we've done this already". So I don't think our hearts were really into it.

Sophie did really well with her Language lessons this week. She enjoys reading and discussing the lesson from the McGuffey Reader and she doesn't usually mind doing the short assignments from the First Language Lessons book. She has even taken some of free time to write her own stories. Ian too is doing great with his Explode the code primer and has read a few of the passages from his McGuffey Reader. He is doing better at reading but isn't really driven like Sophie was to read. He would much rather just have me read to him.

We have done well with our New Testament studies. It really feels like we are moving very slowly through the book and it may take us two years to get through it. We are going story by story or parable by parable so we are certainly taking our time. But we are reading and everyone participates. We didn't work on a new Article of Faith this week. Ian didn't get to recite the 2nd one last week at church so we are still working on #2 but haven't been as diligent at is as we have been I will have to do better around practicing it at morning and evening prayers.

Friday ended up totally being a day off of school. We went on a hike with some friends in the morning and played at the park for a bit afterward. We were supposed to come home and do our school work but when we don't do school in the morning it just doesn't end up happening. Oh well we had a field trip day on Friday. I think that is alright.

February starts a new month and hopefully a new mindset. I will have to work on making our studies more exciting and engaging. We will be starting our study of the Universe and Space so maybe that will be spark our enthusiasm in that subject and it will spill over into the others. I think our main problem is that I have not been up for making things more fun. I need to get myself in order and be a more fun Mom. I just haven't felt very fun lately. My creativity is waning along with my energy I guess.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chalk Drawing

Today we had such nice weather! It was still a bit chilly but it was so sunny. We went out for an early bike ride around the block to enjoy the sunshine and soak up some Vitamin D.

When we made our way back home Sophie quickly went to work tracing the shadow of her bike. She did a great job! I didn't even think the grab the camera until she was already done with it and had moved the bike so she could see the finished product.
She even did a very fancy signature complete with Cheshire Cat, butterflies and hearts.

Henry was just happy to knock rocks together.

Ian did help Sophie add the little tassels to the handlebars.

We have enjoyed our very beautiful day. We took a little time to climb some trees and toss around a ball and even clean up some of the yard after the days of rain we received last week. We haven't been outside enough lately and today it felt so good!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

5 days of School, 3 Days of Rain

Our school work pretty much went as planned for the week. I don't really have a plan written down anymore. Last Fall I broke out a teacher's plan book and wrote down what we would do each week during the rest of 2008. I thought I would get to writing the rest of the plans for the rest of this school year down eventually but here is is almost through January and I still have blank pages in my plan book. I think that is going to be my goal for the week ahead. I need to actually plan out the rest of this term. We are supposed to start doing astronomy and space for science starting in February. I planned all our biome studies to through January and then we are supposed to move on except I haven't planned what we are going to cover yet or thought about what to study first. Luckily History is always good since we just follow the book through and do a chapter a week. Math just keeps on going without a lot of planning but I know I should really put more fun real math things in. Mostly I just need to map out science, music and art for the rest of the term and then decide what we are going to do over the summer.

Ok... I got sidetracked. I was talking about this week.....

Our History chapter was about the first Russians. When we listened to our chapter, the kids said they already knew this stuff. Evidently my husband had shown them a movie last week that had already taught them all about the Russians. He had shown them Engineering an empire which is a History Channel documentary he has been receiving from Netflix and decided to watch last Saturday while I went shopping or something. But the kids already knew all about Ivan the Great and Ivan the terrible. So we colored our map and some great pictures of Saint Bazil's Cathedral.
We read a few of our favorite Matryoshka books (The littlest Matryshka has been checked out many times. ) as well as a few other Russian folk tales. Sophie didn't really like Clay Boy but she reallly loved The Old Man and His Birds.

Science has been somewhat lacking in excitement. The kids are acting a bit bored with yet another biome. I guess it is a good thing this is our last one and we get to move on (when I finally decide what we are going to cover next.) We read a number of Rainforest books but that was about it.

We did great at our Language Arts this week. We did a lesson every day. Sophie really hated the dictation but she still did it. She didn't mind the copywork and she really loved reading our McGuffy Reader this week. She recognized one of the poems as one that Alice gets all jumbled in Alice in Wonderland. This of course sparked her interest in Alice again and she pulled out our copies of Alice's Adventures and Through the looking glass. We have discussed Alice extensively this week as she rereads her favorite parts. She also broke out both of the Alice Pop up books that we have and she and the boys have been looking through those as well. It has been a bit of an Alice week. I even found out that she changed my IChat icon is changed to Alice. Somehow she knows how to change the icon? Anyway... I am happy with our grammer and reading lessons this week. Ian is still slowly working through his McGuffy Primer. He can read very slowly when he isn't distracted. He still needs some help with some sight words. We played a game of Boggle Jr. and he did well sounding out the words to put the correct letters together to form the words. Sophie had to then play a game of regular Boggle and she did pretty well making words out the letters that turned up.

We did math and had a pretty easy time this week. Sophie is adding and subtracting money with little trouble. She loves it when I break out the real money and she gets to play with it. But I keep finding pennies all over the house. The boys seem to think it is their treasure and have been stealing them to hide in their treasure chests.

We have been reading our New Testament each day and also working on an Article of Faith. Ian can now recite the 2nd article of faith perfectly. So on Sunday he should be able to do it for the Bishop at church and get his piece of candy.

Other than these things we stayed indoor a lot due to the rain we have been getting. I am happy to have the rain but we haven't been out on our walks or out much at all. Not that that is bad either. We have played most of the games from our game closet.

Played with all of our toys.

And I have actually made it through two books since Thursday's trip to the Library. Ok. so they were both from the Children's section. But this is quite an accomplishment sine for the last month I haven't read much of anything. Every time I picked up a book I fell asleep. I am starting to not feel quite so run down and I can actually keep my eyes open a little longer. But I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Beauty. After finishing Hugo I told Sophie that it was a book she would enjoy. She read the first little bit today. We will see if she is that interested. She liked that it has so many pictures.

That was our week.

How was your?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rainy Day Schedule

When I was a kid going to elementary school, on days it rained we were tole we were on "rainy day schedule". This simply meant that we didn't get to go outside for recess. The teacher than either let us play heads up seven up during what would have been our recess time or we did some other games and things inside. I never particularly liked rainy day schedule. School always seemed to last forever on these days.

Since my kids are home they never have to have rainy day schedule. We can still go outside if we want to. Wednesday is our park day. After we are finished with out school time we usually head to the park to play. Since it was only sprinkling today, I was planning on taking us to the park anyway. I knew the rain wouldn't last and it still isn't that cold out. But my kids looked out the window and saw the scattering of raindrops on the driveway. They decided they just couldn't go out in that "downpour". They all have been coughing so maybe it was a good idea to stay indoors today.

I did go out to get the mail and the kids of course helped me go through all the ads and junk mail that came. Sophie looked through the Michael's flyer and got all excited when she saw some wooden boxes listed for sale 2 for a dollar. She quickly asked me if we could go get her a box. "It would be just like Kirsten's and the other American Girl's trunks. I could keep my little treasures in it just like they did", she explained. The boys quickly caught on and started asking for boxes of their own. They wanted pirate treasure chests. I told them we could go get the boxes if they had the money to buy them. They all quickly ran to get their little banks. We sat down and dumped out all the loose change they had collected and counted out a dollar from each of them. They were ready to head to Michael's. They each picked out a box. We decided to get bigger boxes than the ones advertised. These were $1 each instead of 2 for $1. They were thrilled and could barely contain their excitement as we headed home to paint them.
As soon as we got home and I could get the painting stuff out they set to work.
That is the face of a very careful painter!

I always have a hard time holding back and not telling the kids how to paint or draw their things. I want to step in and clean it up and give pointers. I do make suggestions but I have learned to just let them choose their own designs and colors even if it doesn't turn out as "perfect" as I would like. They always love the finished product anyway.
Each of the boxes was well coated with paint, inside and out. Henry really loves the color orange!What a great project to keep little guys busy for about an hour.
While the boxes dried the kids reminded me of our rainy day toy. It only comes out on rainy days. I bought this toy when Sophie was 2 or 3 and Ian was still crawling around. It was a whole whopping $4.00 on some after summer clearance at Target. I can't believe this thing has lasted so long. I guess bringing it out only on rainy days, and only if the kids remember to ask for it, has saved it for this many years.

I wouldn't have thought that throwing balls and watching them roll down the runway would be that exciting. But they always look forward to this toy. They are very "helpful" while blowing up all the different little parts of this thing. (Thank goodness for an air pump). Ian almost always ends up inside throwing the balls at the other two. But they have a grand time.

After about 20 min of throwing balls the kids are so wild I send them all to their rooms to calm down. Today I required each to sit on their beds and read a book for 5 min. Their red faces had time to cool down.

The kids are currently watching their favorite movie, Toy Story 2. And when it is finished I think we will have to make cookies or the Cinnamon rolls I just saw in the new Family Fun magazine that came in the mail today.

Now that is the way to do "rainy day schedule". Even if it really didn't rain today.
We did get a little moisture but nothing I would call rain. Maybe today has been more of a "sprinkling day schedule".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge - Mammals - Squirrels

Well we finally got into gear this week and decided to actually join in on the Outdoor Hour Nature Study this week on Mammals. I took advantage of Librivox's recordings of Thornton Burgess's Animal book for Children. We listened to the first 6 chapters this week. My kids loved listening to these little stories. We did an outdoor hour study on rabbits a number of months ago when we had the opportunity to "bunnysit" our friends bunny. So we didn't join in with the bunny study last week but this week's study is on squirrels. We have a lot of squirrels in our neighborhood. So after listening to the chapters from the animal book about squirrels we headed out to find "Happy Jack".

Our mammal hunt of at first started out with the usual subjects. This is a neighbor's dog that almost always greets us when we walk by. It will often bring a ball and pass it under the fence for the kid to throw and play a little fetch.
As we walked around the block we noted that we still hadn't seen any squirrels. Usually there are squirrels running about all the time but when you go out to find them they must go into hiding.
We did spy a number of other mammals. These were the lounging type. They often found a nice chair to curl up in or a sunny spot on top of a car. My kids chased a few and most went into hiding under the cars or into bushes.

We finally spied our target mammal. We saw one run across the street and up into a tree. It was much too fast to take a picture of. But then we spotted one that we could actually catch on "film". He was just sitting quietly on a fence. Sophie noticed that he had a nut in his mouth. She had been gathering a lot of walnut shells as we walked around. They must have been the leavings of some of these little guys.
He sat still long enough for me to zoom in and snap one closer shot but then he took off.

I guess the boys who were ahead of us and had turned around to see what we were were looking at scared the little guy. He quickly scampered down the fence and across the street carrying his precious nut with him.

We really enjoyed the Burgess Animal book but I think we will take a little time this week and talk about some of the things in the Handbook of Nature study about squirrels. We have a few different color squirrels around our parts. We see some black ones (these tend to be a little more mean. We stay far away from these!) and some reddish colored ones which are a bit more rare but we see them when we go on walks up in the forests. Mostly we see the grey squirrels which my kids now refer to as "Happy Jack".

Educational Round-up

Just to get down in writing what we did do this week. I will bore you all with the details of our school week.

Our Story of the World chapter was about Marco Polo this week. I was surprised at how little there was about him at the library in the Children's section. We found one good biography book about him. Most of the books were too advanced for my kids so we will have to save them for next time around. We did read a few other books that take place in China. We also watched the Nest Entertainment's Animated Hero Classics: Marco Polo movie twice this week. Because the boys loved it so much. Since Marco Polo tried new foods while in China we of course also had to have Chinese Food and try egg rolls and eat using chopsticks. Ian really liked the Spring Rolls. I think he ate three and would have gone for more if I hadn't stopped him.

I can't say we did a lot of science this week. We are supposed to still be doing a study about ocean biomes. But we didn't much more than read a book or two about coral reefs. We have one biome left, Rainforests (which we already studied last summer). Then it will on into Space. I am looking forward to Space and Astronomy.
We have tried doing the Outdoor Hour challenges. Right now the focus is on mammals and my kids know a lot about mammals but we just don't see many here in the city. We have taken a number of walks in order to see any mammals and we don't see much more than cats and dogs. Even the squirrels aren't out and about. We almost always see them except when we head out to find them. We have enjoyed listening to the Thornton Burgess animal book which is recommended in the challenges.

Math has been sort of a roller coaster this week. One day Sophie will do it with no problem and then the next day will just be very difficult. There was even one morning where Sophie decided to do her math exercise while I took a shower. All I had to do was check the answers. We are adding and subtracting money and it is very easy for her which is why I don't understand when she throws her tantrums about doing her math some days. I know it has more to do with her focus and how many distractions there are around her. I just don't know how to keep the boys busy so they don't distract her so much.

I have been rather slack on Language Arts recently. We haven't done any lessons out of our Language lessons book. Sophie has been writing a few reports for me. On Monday she wrote a few sentences describing what she did at her Science Club/class. Then later in the week we finished the Josephina, American Girl books and she wrote a very nice book report about Josephina. She even included, not because I asked her to, a little translation page. She wrote down a few of the spanish words she learned from the books and what they mean. That was about it as far as writing goes though. I need to do better about encouraging Language Lessons. Sophie could really use some penmanship lessons too.

We didn't do any art or music this week. We did read a few books about snow, but that is about it.

Sophie has been very excited about the Sisters Grimm books. We finished listening to the first book and are about halfway through the 2nd book now. We listen for at least an hour or two each afternoon. I admit I am enjoying the stories but the sisters are a little more mouthy and call each other and other characters "not nice names" a lot. I have to remind my kids that we don't do this and that these girls are not using nice words. We are all enjoying the different fairy tale characters making appearances in the stories.

Ian has been doing his Explode the Code primers. He started the last of the three primers this week. I can't say he is really that interested in reading at the moment. He does them just to do them. He knows he has to "do school" so he does them as quickly as he can so he can get back to playing pirates or Legos. I have had to enforce a new rule. NO pirates during school time. They were too much of a distraction for Sophie and the boys can't play them quietly, even when sent to play them in their room. All these new toys are just too exciting for the boys. They aren't interested in doing anything but play with all the new Christmas and Birthday toys. They both usually sit through the history and science books when we read them each day but that is about it as far as school goes for them. But then they aren't really supposed to be doing school yet. It is just hard to keep Sophie on task when they aren't.

That is about it for the week. Not the most extensive educational week but not too bad. We covered just about everything.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are you sure this is Winter?

I know... most of the United States is either freezing or getting flooded but in California we are having very Spring like weather. In fact I had to convince my kids that this was actually still winter. We are running around without jackets and enjoying the bright sunshine. Today at the park the boys enjoyed riding their scooters down the hill. They did it over and over racing to the bottom and then quickly running back up to the top to go down again.

There were a lot of kids at the park today. I guess we weren't the only ones taking advantage of the lovely weather.

I do hope we get more winter weather. We really need the rain but for now we are enjoying the sunshine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We are a Breakfast Cereal family

Today while gathering up all the boxes and things to take out to recycling I couldn't help but laugh at the large stack of cereal boxes that I was taking out. In one weeks time we piled up about 10 empty boxes of Cereal. I don't really think we ate through 10 whole boxes of cereal in one week. I think it just ened up that way because we have been finishing off boxes that have sort of sat on the shelf with only a serving or so inside. But I know we eat a lot of cereal at our house. We eat it for breakfast at least 3 or 4 times a week, plus we eat it for snacks and often for dessert before heading to bed. Some may ask how we can afford to spend so much on Cereal and of course the milk that goes with it? Well... here is my secret.

We never pay full price for cereal. We almost always buy the store brand rather than the name brand and I get almost all of it at Target. It is the best place to buy cereal. We don't have a super Target just regular old Target. It has a small market section that sells crackers and cereal and such. No produce or freezer type things. But Target, unlike walmart, has a store brand. And we have found the store brand is just as good if not better than the name brand, for a lot cheeper. So I never spend more than $2.50 for a box of cereal.

Now as for the milk. Milk has fluctuated quite a bit in the last few month. Where we live it went up to $7.00 for two gallons. I think it is now down to only about $4.00 for two gallons. But I often when one of my gallon jugs get about half empty I make a few litters of powdered milk and mix it with the half gallon of store milk. The kids don't even notice the difference. If I was to give them the prepared powdered milk straight they always comment on the taste but when go half and half with the store milk nobody notices. I usually have a pitcher of prepared powdered milk in the fridge anyway to use with any cooking or baking that calls for milk. I save the store bought stuff for our cereal.

My husband drinks soy milk due to milk allergies. Soy milk is very expensive compared with regular milk. Does anyone have a secret for getting soy milk cheeper? We usually buy it at Costco which saves us a little but I would welcome any suggestions.

My kids new favorite is Special K fruit and yogurt. It was on sale at Target last week so we got a box or two. It turns their milk pink and they think it is a "fun"cereal. We don't usually get any "fun" cereals. No marshmellows or chocolate flavors. Those are treats if we happen to get them and they are only for dessert and never for breakfast. I tend to stick to only cereals that don't have any added colors and a reasonable amount of sugar in them. My kids love to add bananas and raisins to their cereal and if the cereal has berries it always disappears quickly.

So we go through a lot of cereal in a week. I take out boxes to be recycled today but they will quickly be replaced when we head to Target later on in the week.

There are worse food we could be eating.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Best Way to Do a Party

Since Ian's Birthday arrives so quickly after the crazy busy Holidays, it always spring on me too soon for me to actually plan a party for him. One day I will do a better job but this year this is what we decided to do.

Ian was able to invite two friends to go and play with him at the kids indoor fun land called "The Jungle". I knew the kids would have a great time and I would have to plan games or food or anything. Yes it isn't cheep, which is why we don't do this very often but I figured that it would be cheeper than a usual party would be. I wouldn't have to do a pinata and fill it with candy or do goody bags to hand out to the kids when they leave. There would be no decorations to hang or food to arrange. I didn't rent a room and arrange for food and cake or anything. We just met the friends at the door and all went in to play.

I know everyone had a great time. The kids started out in the arcade and went from game to game earning tickets and having the time of their lives. This wave runner was one of their favorite rides.

Here are the two friends that Ian picked to play with.

They took turns playing air hockey. This was one of my favorite games when I was younger. These kids loved it today.
Henry wasn't quite tall enough to reach the table but the slightly bigger 5 year olds were just big enough.

Another game that was a hit with the kids was Skee Ball. Henry kept trying to throw the ball over handed but enjoyed trying over and over again to roll those balls up the ramp and into the holes. I admit that I too had a few games myself. I had to show them how to do it, right?

Then the climbing began. This place has a huge climbing area where the kids kept going in, out, over, sliding, climbing and even some swinging. We kept loosing the kids in the maze of ropes, nets and balls. They would pop out of one of the entrances or exit holes with bright rosy cheeks and beads of sweat on their brows. They were in heaven.

I think Ian had a great time and enjoyed the whole experience. He certainly had a great Birthday!

His friends too were all worn out and ready to head home after their few hours of hard play.
I hope they all sleep well tonight!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Starting again is a bit hard.

I can't say we had a really stellar week as far as school work goes. It is always hard to come back after a few weeks off. All the kids would rather just play and play and play rather than put their new toys away so we can read books and do math. But we did accomplish a bit this week.

We did read through our Story of the World Chapter about Ghingis Khan and the Mongols. We also read a bunch of other books. Some were recommended as go alongs and others, I just found on the shelf at the library.
My kids always enjoy the Reading Rainbow episodes that I find to go along with our studies. This time it was Liang and the Magic Paintbrush. I do somewhat regret getting the Disney version of Mulan from the library. There is a reason I hadn't seen it. It wasn't horrible but they put too many 20th century ideas and actions into it. The film just didn't quite catch the essence of the traditional chinese tale.

For science we did read a number of Ocean biome books. And watched another Reading Rainbow episode about Coral Reefs. (In explaining our week I think it is starting to sound like we watch a lot of movies. But really we just watch one movie a day. That is our rule.) Sophie really enjoyed piecing together these 15 sheets of paper into a mural and then coloring it.
The boys helped a bit with the coloring and they all helped color, cut out and glue on the different fish and such that went on the mural. Sophie tells me it is going to hang in her room when I decide to take it down.

Sophie couldn't wait to know who our composer for the month was going to be. I had originally thought we would wait until we did our History Chapter about Russia but I broke out this book and we listened to Pictures at an exhibition. We haven't actually read the book but we have listened to the music through twice. Sophie really likes it and tells me of what each song reminders her.

We did do math each day and Sophie is making her way through the book. She hates it when I pull out the textbook and actually do a lesson first. She always just wants to do the pages as fast as she can and then throws a fit when I ask her to look again at a few of the problems. Ian is still doing one exercise a day but it hard doing math with him when he can't read yet. I end up walking him through each problem. But at this stage I guess that is as it should be.

Language arts is where we really suffered this week. Sophie refused to do anything but her Beyond the Code book. She almost blew her top when I asked her to do some copywork, dictation or even just write her own story. The Beyond the code book is just so easy for her. I don't mind that she does it but it isn't enough and I don't want it to be everyday. So we are going to have to really work on this next week. She needs help with her penmanship and her sentence writing.

I think that is about all we accomplished. We did listen to a few audio books. We are currently listening to the first of The Sister's Grimm books, The fairytale Detectives. The kids have really enjoyed the first few chapters. It is a nice late afternoon activity and we tend to listen to it during those hours just before dinner when usually the kids just fight. It has helped me keep my sanity.

It could have been a better week but honestly it ended up better than I thought it would be.