Saturday, April 25, 2009

A better week

This week seemed to go a little easier. I focused on getting grammar and writing to go a little better then we have been doing in the past. It has seemed to be hard to motivate Sophie in particular to do writing the last few weeks. She doesn't want to sit at the table any more after doing Math but it is hard to bring her back to the table to do some writing after we have done some history, science or other subject. Usually we have started our day with math but this week I figured we would start with our Language Lesson and reading. It has worked out so much better. The language lesson goes smoothly for the most part (she still complains if she has to copy too many sentences and such.) And we have been doing Math after lunch which seems to be working out alright. It is what we "finish" our school time with. So that has been a success.

This week has been Queen Elizabeth week. We reviewed Henry VIII's 6th wives and their children and fates and then learned about Edward, Mary and Elizabeth's reigns. We read a few books, watched a few movies and Sophie even drew a number of pictures of Elizabeth. Now every Red haired queen she draws is Elizabeth. We especially enjoyed a few audio books. We listened to Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the house of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky. It was all told in Elizabeth's voice through a diary she kept. We watched the movie that goes along with it as well after listening to it. They loved seeing what they had just heard.

I can't say we did any science this week. We didn't even study any new birds. Maybe science will have to next week's focus.

Ian is doing very well with his Explode the code book. We only do one page a day, if I try to get him to do more then I can tell he looses interest. A lot of each lesson is repeated on each page so he feels like it is exactly what he just did. So one page a day plus trying to read a few sentences from his McGuffy Reader is about all I can ask of him.

He is also doing very well in Math. His writing is still slowing him down. He writes a lot of his letters backward and I usually have him erase and write it correctly but this makes everything take a long time and he doesn't get much farther than a page or two. He is doing well with the actual addition it is mostly the writing part that is still holding him back but we are working on it.

Sophie's Math has been going well. She doesn't seem to struggle with the multiplication and division too much. This week has been multiplying and dividing 4s. Staying focused has always been her struggle. We also made laminated number charts, 1-100, and the kids have had a good time practicing skip counting on these. Playing with markers is always a big hit.

This report doesn't seem like much but it sure feels like we did a lot. We sure played a lot of games and read a lot of books and Audio books have almost constantly been on but I can't think of anything to report here as far as formal schooling goes.

I guess we do a lot of our "schooling" informally.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I actually did some chores.

I feel like I am always cleaning, cooking, schooling, and doing laundry but there are some "chores" that I have been meaning to get to for some time and just never do. I have bathrooms that need more than just a surface cleaning (Boys just don't seem to have very good aim). A refrigerator that has had something sticky on one or two of the shelves for weeks now. And a car that needs to be washed, cleaned out and vacuumed. I didn't do all of these tasks this week. But I have made a few steps forward and I am proud of that small accomplishment.

We have two bathrooms and on Monday I actually broke out the cleaner and gave the kid's bathroom a good cleaning. Not just a quick wipe down like I usually do but actual scrubbing was involved. I was going to do the master bathroom too but when I walked in there I was just too tired to do another bathroom. I told myself I would do it the next day. It still hasn't been given the good thorough cleaning yet. But half done is better than not done at all.

Yesterday I actually removed everything out of the fridge, threw away a few things that should have been gone ages ago, and wiped down all surfaces. Ian had a great time helping me put all the different items back in. I was happy hear my husband remark "wow, this is really clean" when he opened it next. Hurray! something on the list completely finished.

Now for the car. This is a rather big job. We park outside under a tree so the birds have decorated it a number of times recently. The outside needs to be washed really well. The inside has gotten a bit out of control. My kids can't seem to walk out the door without a book in hand but they don't bring them back inside when we return home. So the van has so many books scattered about and the kids have even ween walking on them as they climb in and out. This really bothers me. Then there is of course the many different papers that sort of find little homes in all the crevices. Then we have our sun hats and the change of clothes for Henry, as well as CD cases and boxes for the stories and music we listen to. And then along with all of this (amazing there is still room for anyone to sit) there is about an inch of sand that covers the entire floor. We must take home cupfuls from the park each week. Today I tackled the car.

After our trip to the library today I had the kids gather every book in the car and take them inside and actually put them on the shelves. I found a new home (the recycle bin rather than my van) for all the papers in the car. I removed the clothes and hats and stuff that has just collected there and put them where they belonged. This is where I stopped. The sand is still in my car the the bird calling cards are still decorating my windshield but at least there is progress.

There is still Friday, one more day this week to finish these seemingly small tasks. Maybe I will tackle that other bathroom (by now the kid's bathroom could probably use a good cleaning again.... next week.... maybe..... ) and finish the car tomorrow.

We will see!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Legos leads to Tintin

About a year or so ago I signed up Ian to receive the Lego Magazine. It is a free subscription and comes every other month or so. Ian would love to have it come more often. He asks me almost everyday if a new Lego magazine came for him. Many of the features in the magazine are stories told in a comic book style and little lego men are the characters. They are usually an episode from Star Wars, Indiana Jones or sometimes a story that goes along with the latest lego sets that are out and that they are promoting. (The magazine is really a big advertisement for legos. Which is why it is free! Thanks to Uncle Ryan my boys now have "little legos" and can build ships and have a number of Star Wars guys to fly them. )

My boys love to have these stories from the Lego Magazine read to them and they clamor for more and more. My husband is usually the one reads the magazine with the boys and after finishing the latest magazine he told me that we should see if we could find some other comic books for the boys. I looked for comic books at the library and didn't come up with much more than Calvin and Hobbs or Garfield. Calvin wouldn't be too bad but it wasn't quite what we were looking for. It wasn't comic strips we were looking for but graphic novels as they are now called. We really enjoyed Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale not too long ago so I knew we needed to look for something along those lines.

Most graphic novels are in the Teen section of the library so I was a little leery of them at first. Then shortly after having this discussion with my husband and sort of half heartedly looking at graphic novels my friend Alison posted about some books that her husband read and loved as a kid when he lived in Europe and had just found again at his parents home. I thought they sounded fun so went to our library website to see if they had any of the Tintin series. I love our library system. They seem to have just about everything. They had the series and I quickly put the first two books of The Adventures of Tintin on hold. Each book is a compilation, so actually has 3 stories included.

My boys, including my husband, have thoroughly enjoyed them. Tintin goes everywhere. He started in America and had adventures with indians (Native Americans, the books are from the 30's and 40's and aren't PC) and then in the next one he is in Egypt and exploring the pyramids, and then in the next he is in China and then on to Scotland. They are looking forward to when Tintin goes to the moon and under the ocean. The boys can't tell me which story is their favorite so far, they just love them all. I think they have now finished 6 and are on their 7th book in the series.

There is some violence. Some bad guys have to get their just rewards and Tintin and his trusty dog snowy are there to make sure they do. Or at least so I am told. I haven't actually read any of these myself. I just know my kids, including Sophie love them. No it may not be great literature but when quiet reading time comes each day the boys will revisit the stories and Sophie steals the books whenever she can. Each night my husband has to go and find the latest book in Sophie's room, where she was up late reading them.

So, no, it isn't shakespeare but my kids are reading and having a good time doing it. I love to hear them all laugh and laugh at some of the slapstick humor that is prevalent in the books. They are always bringing me the book so I can see the funny parts. My husband enjoys his daily dose of Tintin too. So if you have any boys, or girls for that matter, that would enjoys some graphic novel type stories these are very fun. And I am sure we will have to revisit them in a number of years so the boys we get some of the satire and political commentaries that Herge put into his stories. This is what my husband enjoys about them. The kids just like to see the bad guys get their just rewards and Tintin to somehow always get out of the scrapes he finds himself in.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Weekly, or should I say monthly, report

It has been a number of weeks since I have gone through our studies to really look at what we accomplished that week. So I will try to do a quick sum up and update on our work. We have actually been doing school but somewhat haphazardly and somewhat reluctantly.

History: We have gone through a lot in the last few weeks. We covered Martin Luther and the Reformation, the invention of the printing press. We jumped into the early renaissance and spent a good amount of time reading lots of books about Leonardo de Vinci. This week we added in a bit about Galileo which overlaped in our Science lessons on space quite nicely.
A few things we have particularly enjoyed......Galileo and the Stargazers, Monday with a Mad Genius, Uh-oh, Leonardo

Along with our reading we have also watched a few movies about Leonardo. We watched the Animated Hero Classics film about de Vinci done by Nest Entertainment as well as the Schlessinger video on him from their Inventors of the World series. We even watched the film Ever After. Sophie loved this one. I put it on one Saturday morning and she couldn't figure out why I picked it until Leonardo showed up in it.

There is still a bunch of books on our shelf related to these topics but next week we are going to move on.... or maybe we should stay here a little longer and read some more about Galileo and Leonardo. At least my kids can now recognize the Last Supper, the Mona Lisa and the sky line of Florance Italy. No matter where any of those things pop up they point them out. I guess it has been drilled into their heads well enough maybe we will move on to Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare. I already have a stack of books for this subject as well. I love our Library system!

Science: We have actually done a little science the last little bit. I think it is just a hang over from our history lessons but isn't it great when subjects overlap. We certainly know our astronomers now. I know about Copurnicus, Ptolomy, and Galileo.
We have mostly been reading the Magic Tree House guide to Space. The boys seem to stick around when I read this book as opposed to some of the other general space or planet books I have picked up. They really love Jack and Annie and the pictures in the guide keep their attention. We read a great book today called When is a planet not a planet?It explains the reasons why Pluto is no longer considered a planet but is now classified as a dwarf planet. It was rather lengthy but was very interesting for me. The kids paid attention to me reading it while they played with knex on the floor. They would jump up to see the pictures when I finally turned the pages. I kept asking them if they wanted me to stop but they insisted I read it all. So I feel good about our science studies. We know our planets well, and now even know the current definition of a planet.

Math: Sophie has made it through to the first review in her 3A book. She is doing great with her addition and even the subtraction. She doesn't like the subraction as much because it takes more effort for her and she can't do it as easily in her head but she is doing so much better than she had been. She still has me help her a lot with the story problems. She often has trouble figuring out which kind of problem she needs to perform. And they threw in some two step story problems the last few days and this really worked her. I had to talk her through most of them, mostly just to keep her on task. The boys just are so loud and distracting. She liked it today when I sent the boys to their room to play while she did math. I even turned on some very quiet Debussy for to listen to while she did her review. She loved having the music and it seemed to help down out the fighting and toy noises coming from the other room.

Ian too has been doing a page of math each day. He is doing so much better with his writing and as long as I write the numbers across the top of his page he seems to make the numbers correctly. He writes them backwards a lot of the time. But the math itself seems easy for him. One page a day and line of numbers is what I expect of him each day. He loves it so far.

Language Arts: As usual this is where I drop the ball.
Ian is doing great with Explode the code. He recently started the first ETC book and is learning the short a sound. He again mostly struggles with the writing part of these exercises but is catching on quite well.

Sophie on the other hand has not done much of anything the last few weeks. I can't get her to come back to the table for writing. We do math first and then have some sort of activity or craft to change things up. I can't seem to settle her back into table work like writing very often after that. I need to work on this because she really needs to do some grammar and writing. She did write me a very nice long story about robins this week, and on lined paper too. I am trying to have her write more on this lined paper because her penmanship needs a lot of improvement. Oh... and now that I think of it she did some copy work for me as well. I need to really buckle down and get more from her than this.

Nature Study: We have continued our focus on birds. This week we have seen some House finches visit our feeder so we read about them in our field guide. We compared them to the Purple finch and other finches. I am impressed that Sophie can even tell the difference between the female house sparrows and the female house finches. They are very similarly colored and they both visit our feeders regularly. Sophie says the finches aren't a fat as the sparrows. I think she is right. We read the chapter about finches in the Burgess bird book for children. This little book has really taught us a lot about the birds we see around us.
We have also been outside enjoying all the spring flowers in our neighborhood. Lots of California poppies, iris, tulips and lilies as well as countless other beautiful flowers everywhere we go. I love it that my kids notice everything. They point out all the butterflies and bees we see on our walks. They spot humming birds flitting in the trees all the time. They get so excited about finding a different colored iris or rose than what they usually see. They really are looking at all the nature around them and not just passing by. But all these walks sure leave my poor feet tired.

I can't we have done any music or art studies recently. I guess learning about Leonardo would count as art as well as science and History. But we haven't done any music study at all. We listen to music once in awhile between audio books. But that too isn't really a study. I think I will have to look up some renaissance music and see if the library has any. Finally there is music that goes along with our history time period. I just need to do a little research to find some.

That about sums up the formal stuff. We of course read tons, play a lot, cook and clean together all the time. We need to do more cleaning. I look forward to the day I can retire and my kids will take care of the cooking and cleaning for me. That day seems a long way off.

Homeschool Freebie of the Day

There are a number of sites I check almost every day. Homeschool Freebie of the Day is one of these sites. I have a bookmark button positioned where I won't miss it. I try to remember to check it each day to see what they are offering. I admit most of the time it is an ebook that sounds interesting but I know I will never print out and use, so I just let it go. But sometimes there are really fun things that we do use. I got Grammerland from this site and we used it. Sophie really enjoyed it. I have also downloaded a number of .mp3 audio files of stories. The kids love to listen to stories and new ones are always good because we get tired of listening to the same ones over and over again.

Today they have two audio downloads, both are related to Paul Revere. This weekend is the anniversary of his midnight ride, which happened on April 18, 1775. Included on the Freebie site are also a few ebooks that go along with these audio tracks. They are worth a look. The links will be good all weekend.

If you are a FIAR family, you can use these items when you Row Paul Revere's Ride by Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand. This was one of our favorite FIAR books. My kids still read the book for fun and we used it again last year when we did a Colonial times unit around the American Girl, Felicity books. I am sure these downloads will come in handy when we study the Revolution again next year when it comes around again in our History rotation.

Just thought I would share. I haven't listened to the files yet so can't comment on the quality but the other things we have downloaded from this site seem to be very well done.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday's Excuses for why I haven't been blogging.

The last few weeks I have been somewhat lacking in posts. These are the only excuses I could come up with.

1. Naps - I take a nap almost every afternoon. I used to blog or read blogs while the kids watched a movie and/or listened to audio books, now I nap.

2. Sleeping in - I can't seem to get myself up in the mornings before the kids get up. Once they are up, I field all sorts of requests for breakfast and help getting dressed. And if I want to fit in my trip to the gym once a few times a week, I need to get everyone, including myself, moving.

3. Laundry - I do so much laundry! 2 loads every day. Why do we go through so much clothes? My kids need to learn to fold more than just the towels.

4. Mud - My kids seem to think playing outside means they have to play in the mud. (Maybe this has something to do with the laundry problem). I have had to spray off the side of the house after a few mud fights this week. It is always amazing how much mud can be made from a tiny little bit of water. The neighbor's house too has had to have some TLC after one of our mud battles. The mud doesn't stay outside either. After outside play time there is almost always muddy footprints through the house toward the bathtub.

5. A lot less convenience foods - I have been trying to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup, Food colorings, MSG, and a number of other additives in the foods we eat. This has resulted in a lot more home made items. I am making a lot more of my own syrups, sauces, dressings, breads and such. We have become more adventuresome as a result. We now have all sorts of toppings on our pancakes and waffles instead of just syrup. And my kids have sampled different dressings on their salad. Ranch isn't the only thing they will try now. So I spend a lot more time in the kitchen, cooking and doing dishes. My house almost always smells really good though. And my kids are really learning how to read food labels. They catch things all the time that I miss.

6. I can't seem to make it through a book or movie - My husband laughs at me because I have to watch my movies in episodes lately. (Thank goodness Masterpiece Classics repeats it's shows on Saturdays so I can catch the end of each installment of Little Dorrit) I can usually make it through the first 30 min of a movie but never seem to get to the end before I fall asleep. When I even pick up a book to read, I quickly nod off. Luckily I can make it through some of the story books each day with the kids. So at least they are being read to. I just am not doing much personal reading.

7. The weather - you can't beat the lovely spring weather we have been enjoying the last week or so. We have some chilly winds one day but mostly it has been such perfect weather. We can't say inside when the sun is shining but it isn't hot. We are still wearing pants and long sleeves but the sun feels so nice. We head to the park, around the block or just out into our little yard for a lot of day.

8. Lack of motivation - Schooling has been happening each day but I can't say we are very enthusiastic about it. I don't know if we are just in a rut or if I am just preoccupied and not making it fun but I remember feeling this way last spring too. Maybe I need to think about throwing a unit study or something very different in March or April just to give us a break before heading into the last part of our "school year". Right now we fit most of the subjects in but we aren't really that absorbed by them like we are in the Fall and Winter.

9. My Camera is dead - It was already damaged from a fall. I have had to keep the battery door closed with a rubber band for about 5 months now. Not the most convenient but the camera still functioned fine. About 2 weeks ago I dropped it again. This time the screen doesn't display the picture any more. I can still take pictures but I can't see what I am taking. I need to buy another camera but just haven't yet. I hate spending money, especially since it was my own mistakes that busted a perfectly good camera. We have been trying to use our old camera. Our 2 mega pix camera just doesn't cut it. I feel so limited with what I can do. It is hard to blog without pictures to go along.

This is just a sampling of excuses. I am sure I can come up with more if I really wanted to but at the moment my kids are begging to go on another bike ride. And I a walk will do me good too. Fresh air and sunshine are always good things.

I hope you are having a lovely Spring too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Our Curriculum - Science - Sorry ended up being really long.

I should be writing a weekly report right now. But instead I thought I would just venture into our next subject and talk about what we do. Today I thought I would talk about Science. Science hasn't ever been my favorite subject. I took as little science as I could get away with in High School and Collage. It just wasn't that exciting to me. Since doing school with my kids I am surprised at how interesting Science is and how much I missed as I grew up. Sure my daughter is only finishing 2nd Grade but already I feel like I have learned so much more than I had learned in school.

Just to give you a little about my science background...... ( I ramble on here so you can skip all this if you want.)

I don't remember studying science at all in Elementary school. I am sure we had a science book and we read through it and memorized facts and such. They obviously weren't that memorable.

In 7th and 8th grade my science teacher was rather strange and that is about all I remember about those years. I don't remember anything we actually studied, just that my teacher, Mr. Umland, was a bit crazy and would sometimes throw chalk at kids when they fell asleep in his class. He was also the only teacher ever to send me to the Principal's office (I was talking to the kid sitting next to me).

In High School most kids took three years of science. Since I took band and drafting every year I just "couldn't" fit in everything so I squeezed in the two required, Biology and Chemistry. Biology was all about copying down notes from the board and then spitting them out again for the test. We did look through microscopes a few times and handled real bones but mostly it was just read the book, outline the chapter, and copy down the notes. The next year I took Honors Chemistry (no AP classes in my school). Why Honors? I don't know, I thought I was smart or something. But Chemistry made not a lot of sense to me. I honestly don't know how I passed it. The teacher would give us partial credit on tests. If you answer wasn't correct but if you at least put in the correct formula you got half right. I think I passed because of this partial credit. I usually could remember the formula but didn't have a clue about why you used it or what information when where. Sad I know. And my teacher worked so hard with me. He had me stay after school a number of times to explain things better to me. He happened to also be my families home teacher and even taught my Sunday School class each week. He must have really been tired of teenagers!

Then off to college I went. At BYU they require Biology, Physical Science and a Natural Science. I took Physical Science the 2nd semester of my freshman year. I actually did well in the class but really had to work hard and lucky for me my roommate took it at the same time and we studied together.
For my natural science I took Nutrition which was very interesting to me and I still think about many of those things I learned in that class. Then the very last semester of my years at college I decided to finally take biology. The teacher was very excited about the subject and his lectures were interesting but they were given in a huge lecture hall with hundreds of other students. Interesting but again mostly regurgitation.

So that is it. My entire science carrier up until learning with my kids.

When Sophie was about 3 1/2 we started doing Five in a Row. We really loved these unit studies based on Children's books. We would discuss the little bits of science that came up in the different books each week. I was often surprised by what they pointed out for us to do. When doing Mike Mulligan and the Steam shovel you studied steam and when the little boy in Ping jumps into the Yangzee river with a barrel on his back you study boyancy. We also kept an animal notebook. All the different animals from the different books we read went into this notebook and we studied about them. I would print out pictures of the animal that I found online. She would cut them out and past them into her notebook. We got an information sheet from Enchanted learning and we either just pasted it in or wrote down some of fun facts that we read on that page or from other books we read. Sophie liked the animal notebook so much we did many more animals than we found in the books. It was a great way to bring science into our studies during preschool and Kindergarden.

When first grade rolled around I decided to follow the 4 year cycle that is outlined in the Well Trained Mind. I like having direction in our studies but haven't bought any set curriculums for Biology, which was the first grade year, and Earth Science/Astronomy this 2nd year. For each of these years I took the list of subjects to study that were outlined in WTM and just got books from the library on those subjects.

Here is Ian's Brain Hat that we got out of the book Easy Make and Learn Projects the Human Body

We do simple projects like lapbooks once in awhile and I have at times bought supplement books or found great lapbook links online to help us along the way. So far it has worked out alright. I can't say it has been great. Science does at times get pushed to the back burner or skipped when we get busy doing other things. But I know my kids are learning all sorts of science. I get a lot of science books from the library and have bought a number of them to keep on the shelf. My kids read or look through them all the time. My kids current favorite is How Science Works. A Great find at the library's used book sale. Maybe they will just teach themselves science.

Next year we supposed to do Chemistry. If you read my science history you know chemistry isn't a subject I am particularly good at. The WTM doesn't give a lot of direction on this subject as far as topics that should be covered and since I need all the help I can get with this subject, I think I am going to actually purchase a program. Kristiana at La Scuola d'Argento has been very helpful and has sent me some links for some great elementary school Chemisty programs. Thanks for all your help! I haven't decided yet what I will follow. I may not follow any and just take ideas and book recommendations from them. Which is what I usually end up doing.
Here are two programs that I am still looking at.
Elemental Science- this one looks simple and easy to use. I am seriously considering it.
Neo Science. I wouldn't buy the whole package but the guide would be helpful. The book recommendations look interesting, I am looking to see if my library has them.

I think a molecular model kit will make its way to our house for next year. I think my kids would really love this.

One of the many blogs I read just had a post about chemistry today and she has also put together a whole lapbook page with all sorts of resources she is planning to use with her daughter over the next year with Chemisty. I bookmarked it and will visit it often during the next few months as I plan more fully what we are going to do.

We also do a lot of Nature Study. I am so grateful for Barb at theHandbook of Nature Study blog who has made nature study so easy, and interesting for us. We love participating in the Outdoor hour challenges and have learned so much about the plants, insects and animals in our neighborhood. They are a great resource for anyone who wants to do more in Nature study and just needs a little direction. The challenges can be adapted to any age level and any area of the world. The actual Handbook of Nature study is no longer daunting but has been so interesting to me as I read it and then point out things to my kids.

Just for fun the kids also go to a science workshop where they can do more hands on Science projects. They seem to enjoy it and look forward to it each week. I tend to call it "Science club" and consider it extra curricular. I figured it was a fun way to spark a love of science.

So that is Science at our house. I am sure as the kids get older and as we get into higher grade levels we will follow a more directed curriculum (Apologia looks great!) but for now this is what we have done and what I am thinking about for next year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Our Curriculum - Math

The last few weeks I have had many conversations with other home schooling Moms about plans for next year. Funny how Spring always get us thinking about what we are going to do differently or such during the next school year. Most of us start our school year in the Fall just like the public schools and end it in the late Spring. Some take the Summer off, we on the the other hand tend to do school all year long. We have done unit studies and such during the summer which keeps us busy and somewhat structured. Most of what we Moms discuss is what we are using and if it is working for us and what we like about it. So I thought I would put my thoughts down here on what we have been using and why and if we plan to continue using it. Hopefully this wont bore any readers too much. It is good to actually write this out. I love to read what others think about the different curriculum choices that are out there.

I thought today I would start with Math.

We use Singapore math. (This isn't a surprise to those who read my weekly reports) I haven't used anything else so I didn't choose Singapore based on something else not working for us or for any real specific reason. Before even jumping into a math program, I read a number of books like The Well Trained Mind and seen lots of recommendations from other home schoolers. Most of them raved about Saxon math but listed other options, Singapore being one of them. I looked at Saxon but felt it was too much like math was for me growing up, drills, drills and more drills. My sister-in-law, who also homeschools, had been using Saxon and her kids weren't enjoying it. In fact she ended up taking a number of months off of math as a result. Her kids started to really HATE math. (Another Sister-in-Law using Saxon with her kids loves it and feels like they are getting the best Math base) Knowing my daughter and how she doesn't like to do busy work, I looked into other programs for math. I have heard great things about Math-u-see, this is what my sister-in-law ended up switching to, but wasn't really sold on anyone program and most of them seemed so expensive. I hated to get one and then end up not liking it. Singapore Math is relatively inexpensive and had great reviews, so I thought I would give it a try. I wouldn't be out too much if we ended up not liking it.

When Sophie officially started first grade we got the 1A and 1B workbooks along with the textbooks. (I didn't really do any math with her before this.) This math was very easy for her and we flew through the first few lessons. The novelty wore off and the math got a little harder. She struggled a bit with it. But we continued to plug away at it. I really liked that the lessons seemed to build on each other and each of the concepts was taught in increments. As we have now gone through the 2A and 2B books as well. I have grown to really like the program. They do introduce concepts a bit earlier than in other programs or than I remember learning them, but they are introduced in relation to things already studied, so they don't seem like a big jump. I usually see what direction they are moving and I personally think it is a logical progression. The basic skills are drilled but they are usually practiced in relation to the newer concept. I don't usually worry if Sophie doesn't catch everything the first time through. I know the topic will come up again and again but with a little added difficulty or some sort of twist to it. We have at times added a few drill sheets, usually subtraction, so she can practice a little more on something she struggled with but these have tended to backfire. She really fights doing drills. My husband and I agree that we don't want to push her so hard at math so that she hates it. We want her to enjoy math and feel that she is good at it. She just isn't the type of kid who is willing to do pages and pages of drills, even if they are easy for her. So Singapore has worked for us, for the most part. The lessons are short enough not to kill her and the concepts are taught in a very clear method. The skills are drilled without being drudgery or forced too much.

There have been times when we have had to take a break from our Singapore workbooks. Usually this is because I have pushed Sophie to do drill sheets in addition to her daily exercise. When this happens we still do math but instead we play math games from Family Math, break out Sum Swamp, or our pattern blocks and tangrams. We have a few books that give us set shapes and patterns to try to make but the kids tend to enjoy just using the blocks to make their own designs.

We will see how Singapore does with my boys. Ian is starting Kindergarden this year and isn't reading or writing yet. He has had trouble writing his numbers but seems to understand the concepts. We did the Singapore Earlybird 1A and 1B and he did great with it. It seemed almost too easy for him but he enjoyed having math to do like his older sister. I was going to order the 2A and 2B books but after getting out Sophie's first grade book to look through I thought he could probably jump into that rather than the Kindergarden stuff. We did the first few lessons but soon figured out he needed to learn to read and write better before moving ahead. So we have put math for him on the back burner and have focused more on phonics and writing. It wasn't that the math concepts were beyond him but he just didn't have the writing skills to do what the workbook was asking of him. The Earlybird math books were mostly just circle this and x out that. In the new first grade book we got him they were expecting him to write his numbers and he needed me to sit there with him and read every problem to him. We will give it another go in a few months. His reading and writing are improving.

So for now we will continue with Singapore Math. We like it and it fills our needs. Math is one of the subjects I don't feel like I have to worry too much about. We do it everyday in one form or another and all the kids seem to be progressing. What more can we ask for.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge -Bluebirds

Last week we went to the park to play. I picked a park that had ducks and geese that we could go and see along with a nice walk, around a small lake (which ended up being empty at the time, but the birds were there), that would lead us to the playground. The of course had to feed the birds even through there was a sign that said not to.

We continued our walk and the ducks and geese followed us around expecting more food, but the kids didn't have any more crackers.
While the kids played at the park I sat and enjoyed the sunshine and listened to the chirping of the birds. I knew most of the birds that we saw were house sparrows. But every once in awhile I would see a bluebird. They were not a numerous and didn't sit still very long so it took me a long time to catch one sitting long enough for me to snap a shot of it.
It may be hard to tell this is a bluebird from this angle. The breast of this bluebird is a rusty brown color. But when it was flying you could really see the blue color of its back and wings.

It actually sat still long enough for this female bluebird to come and perch near it and I was able to capture both in a picture. The female is slightly duller in color but still has a blue tinge to the feathers.
When we got home from the park I looked up the bird in our field guide and found out that it is called a Western Bluebird and that it is a relative of the robin. This information came in handy this weekend when we saw a number of these same type of bluebird up at Grandma's house while we took a walk through her neighborhood. We saw lots of new birds up where Grandma lives. The kids even saw some quail while out playing in the pasture and there were lots of hawks flying around too. We are still trying to decide what kind of woodpeckers we see in Grandpa's trees. We are leaning toward acorn woodpeckers but need a better look.

Today we got out the Burgess Bird book and read the chapter about Bluebirds and then tried to draw one in our sketch books.
Sophie got a little frustrated with her drawing skills and got discouraged. I helped her with her sketch and then she colored it in nicely. I think she was just a bit tired after a fun filled weekend at Grandma's house playing with cousins.

We are certainly becoming more aware of the different birds we see. It is funny how you don't really see them until you are actually looking for them. I never knew how many varieties of birds we have even here in the city.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Laughter

When I was a kid I loved watching the movie Singing in the Rain. I used to fast forward through the mushy scenes and skip ahead to my favorites. I showed the movie to my kids several weeks ago and they took wanted to skip some of the "boring parts". But when we got to this scene they wanted to watch it over and over again. And they just laughed and laughed the whole way through. .

It is one of my favorite things to hear my kids laugh. In the early mornings they get together and read books together and sometimes I hear them just giggle and giggle and I have to go in and find out what is so funny. When we drive to grandma's house we put on a DVD and they always request a certain scholastics story collection. I believe it is the "Miss Nelson has a field day" disk. But it isn't the Miss Nelson story that they love they want to see some story about a bear and a bee. They laugh so hard through that one. Since I don't see the movie it is so funny to just hear the laughter. And my kids don't do anything half heartedly. They full out, bust up and would be rolling on the floor if they weren't strapped into their car seats.

If you really need a good laugh I recommend reading Roald Dahl's book The BFG. I don't usually get too giggly when reading a book to the kids but this one had both Sophie and I just laughing and laughing. My husband had to come in and ask if everything was alright. I think he just wanted to be in on the joke but there wasn't any joke. It was just a silly chapter about frobscottle which causes the person to let off wizzpoppers. Why are bodily functions always so hilarious? I was in tears when the chapter was finally done. Not because it suddenly got sad but I am one of those people whose eyes water when they laugh really hard.

I haven't had a good laugh like that in a while. I must be taking life too seriously or not letting myself see the humor in things as much lately. I may need to go find the BFG and read that one again. The boys haven't heard it yet.

Or maybe I need to read all the other people's Wordful Wednessday postsfor today, that you can find at Chocolate on my Cranium. I am sure I will be in tears (Happy tears that don't make my face all splotchy!) by the end of the day.