Category Archives: Math

Day in the Life 2013

Date: January 30, 2013

Players: Henry (7), Samuel (6), Kate (4), Becca (4)

The conundrum: It’s been a rough month getting back into the groove after the fun of the holidays. Kind of like trudging through the mud. I’ve been realizing lately that my children excel in the Art of Leisure (a.k.a. dilly-dallying) and that when we do school well, it’s to the exclusion of everything else. But we have to eat. We’re nicer to be around when we wear clean clothes. I’m more positive and patient when clutter is picked up. So what’s a mom to do?

The solution: Ha! Of course it’s not as simple as that. I think we’re probably only on version 1.6 on our way to success. But we’ll get there.

No, seriously, I spent last weekend brooding over this conundrum and woke in the middle of the night with a brilliant plan in my head. We had a Homeschooling Huddle on Sunday to talk about the new plan and get the kiddos on board. It was simply this: each child is assigned an hour slot in the morning to work with Mom one-on-one. When their tutoring session is over, they finish their assigned work independently before they’re free for the day. Simple enough.

So this is how the plan went down on Wednesday, January 30th.

I (surprisingly) popped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. ready and rarin’ to go. I read a chapter in the New Testament before double layering my usual walking attire and heading out into the 45-degree-plus-a-stiff-headwind  morning to meet my walking buddy.

I returned at 6:30 with a cold, red nose, and after stretching, bundled up in a cozy blanket and downed a couple of chapters in Don Quixote. The house still quiet, I took advantage of the extra minutes to enjoy  a quick, but nice warm shower. By the time I got out and dressed, the sleepy kiddos were starting to stagger into our room bleary-eyed, looking for a cuddle to help them wake up.

By 8: 15 a.m., the day’s normal volume had been attained and pop-up pancakes were baking in the oven. I fixed a bowl of greek yogurt and granola for the son with the egg allergy. Dad headed off to work for the day.

Now, the new schedule mandates that I begin school with Child #1 at 9:00. This has been a lot harder than I thought it would be but today, I knew the schedule needed to bend a little. Why? Double-ad Wednesdays at Sprouts. The kids and I have this worked out to a science. We try to be out the door by 9:30 at the latest so we can skip morning commute traffic but also avoid the lunchtime crowd at the grocery store. The kids are all actually very good at selecting the produce for the week and we can usually get all of the groceries we need (mainly produce, dairy, and bulk items) and be back in the car heading home in around 30 minutes.

We returned home by 10:15 a.m. and by 10:30, the cold-sensitive groceries now residing in the refrigerator, Samuel and I were in the middle of a math lesson on adding double digits to double digits (RightStart B). He kind of had a case of the dilly-dallies so I decided to cut the lesson a little short and push the math game for the day to Thursday. He read a chapter of The Littles to me while we cuddled on the bed together. I helped him work through a page in Explode the Code Book 5. Then we called Henry to join us for grammar (First Language Lessons Book 2) and writing (Writing with Ease Book 1). Then Sam was off for some independent reading while I did math with Henry (determining perimeter, also RightStart B).

By now it was 11:40 a.m. I felt panic starting to well up, but reminded myself that we were making forward progress, so I forged ahead. Henry and I cuddled up with his National Geographic’s Rocks and Minerals book and worked through reading a page together. This book is a reading level or two above his reading ability but the topic is one he’s passionate about now, so it’s worth it to me to take a team approach to reading it. He then happily did his Explode the Code Book 5 page by himself and went to the front room to do his independent reading while I started math with the girls. (Dizzy, yet?)

I forget what our math lesson was on (RightStart A) but feel fairly confident it involved both abacuses and giving out a chocolate chip for each correct answer. Becca and Kate worked in tandem on their handwriting pages (Getty and Dubay Italic Handwriting Book A) and then took turns on the couch with me, working on their reading, which right now equates to a page in The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, followed by practicing their mad skills on a BOB book.

1:12 p.m. Phew. Made it to lunch time! The kids were happy for some play time while I prepared lunch. We ate, and then they headed outside to play in the backyard while I hurriedly cleaned up the kitchen. I now had exactly one hour to get a batch of bread in the oven and the kitchen ready so a friend could come over and use my wheat grinder to grind her wheat.

3:00, friend comes over, grinds wheat. 3:10, two neighbor boys come over to play for the afternoon until their mom gets home. 3:30, new piano student shows up for a lesson. 4:00, piano lesson #2. 4:30, piano lesson #3. Thankfully (oh, so thankfully!) the weather had warmed up from the morning and all six kids (my four plus the neighbor’s two) were happy as clams playing outside.

5:00: Sent neighbor boys home. Started dinner.

6:00: Dinner while everyone caught Dad up on the news of the day.

7:00: Showers for four dirty children (how do they get so dirty playing outside???), all got ready for bed, stories, etc.

8:00: Lights out for the kiddos.

8:30: Drove to the church to meet a student for an organ lesson.

9:15: Back home and got ready for bed.

9:50: Lights out and ready for a good night’s rest!

Considering all of the external intrusions on the day’s schedule (grocery shopping, bread making, piano lessons), I felt pretty good about the work we completed. Looking back on our week overall on our new schedule, I think it has its merits. At least it was a great jumpstart to get us back in the groove. I just need to figure out how to get history and science back into the schedule and we’ll be 100% back on track.

I was actually talking to a friend about the “homeschooling to the exclusion of everything else” problem today. Does anyone else have this problem, too? I love being up to my eyeballs in schoolwork and discovery and learning with my kids, but sometimes think it would be nice to find a few hours to batch cook some freezer meals. Providing, of course, I am able to find an hour to actually plan said meals!

Hope you enjoyed the snapshot of our life right now.


Our Day in the Life 2012

Date: February 2, 2012.

Players: Henry, age 6; Samuel, age 5; Kate, age 3; Becca, age 3

No disclaimers. It is what it is.

I woke up at 6:42 a.m. feeling more rested than usual. Joe forgot to set our 5:00 a.m. alarm, but neither of us were complaining. Our early mornings tend to take a toll later in the week, especially if we haven’t been very diligent about getting to bed at a decent hour. Yes, it’s been one of those weeks.

I had time to pray and read my scriptures before the kids started filtering into our bedroom. We piled on the bed for our family scripture study before the kids ran into the kitchen for breakfast. It’s oatmeal for the kids, and since I was up late last night, I decided to try Aimee’s Apple Pie Steel-Cut Oats in the slow cooker. My 4-cup Pyrex wouldn’t fit in our slow cooker, so I had to cut the recipe in half. I know the kids would like this recipe, so for the moment, I was very happy that there wasn’t enough to share! It was delicious and Joe and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We got Daddy off to work and then aliens descended and abducted my children while I was getting dressed (no shower today! Ah, sweet slumber…).

A little back story might be helpful here.

My four kids are three years apart. I’ve been in survival mode for the last three years. I feel like I’ve gotten my footing as a mom, but there are lots of things that I have to let go. Cleaning frequently is one of those things. I’ve made feeble attempts to teach my children how to clean the toilet and unload the dishwasher, etc., but what happens is that all four of my kids are eager to help at the same time. It’s just plain HARD to put shoes away, pick up books, wipe down a bathroom counter, and make a bed simultaneously, with helpers. So most of the time, I end up doing it myself because it’s faster.

A few months ago, in a moment of brilliant brainstorming, I came up with the idea to write various small chores on a little foam stars glued onto tongue depressors. There are eight for the morning and eight for the evening. Each child draws two stars at random and they have the option to put one of them back if they’re not feeling it for both chores. As we inaugurated this program, we drew one star at a time and I showed all four of them how to complete that task, and then we moved on to the next one. It worked well for a while, and then the holidays rolled around, and well, we haven’t gotten back into the groove yet.

Enter the aliens. My kids, of their own accord and smiles on their faces, divvied up the morning stars and with little assistance from me, completed their tasks. Cue heavenly chorus. Two of the four even made their own beds without any prompting!

Home Economics = A+

I was so inspired by their industry that I started sweeping the kitchen floor. Samuel, in his exuberance to take the recycled items to the outside bin, chose the low road after a rain and tracked mud all through the kitchen when he reentered the house. I needed to mop anyway, so I just thanked him for seeing that he was making muddy footprints and for taking his shoes off before he got to the carpet.

While I mopped (and perhaps hummed a little as I did so), I listened to the joyous sounds of the kids entertaining educating themselves. For Sam and Henry, it was Engineering and Architecture (a.k.a. Legos). For Becca and Kate, it was Interpretive Dance and Drama (a.k.a. playing Dance Class and re-enacting their favorite scenes from The Parent Trap. Hailey Mills version, of course.). My, this morning is shaping up to be just heavenly.

I took advantage of the relative quiet to prep the day’s school work, and had time to work one-on-one with each of the girls before lunch. For Becca, it was the numbers 7-10 via a dinky dollar store workbook. For Kate, it was the same numbers from an identical dinky dollar store workbook, plus six pages of her Explode the Code primer. She’s in Book Two (Get Set for the Code). Becca hasn’t shown any interest in her primers, so I’ve been playing math games and doing occasional workbook pages with her. She’s cool with that.

During lunch, I directed the boys’ attention to our school wall so they could see what was on the docket for the day:

Yes, I know the chart says “What are we doing this morning?” But I am not crazy. My kids did their chores PLUS now I had a sparkling clean kitchen floor. There was no way I was about to give all of that up for grammar.

Besides, it’s the idea. The boys know that they can’t take the word strip off the chart until they’ve completed it. Time is irrelevant.

Samuel and Henry each got a private math lesson (we use RightStart A and B, respectively) before I called them both back to the table for grammar and handwriting together. We’re using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for grammar. Today’s lesson was on aunts, uncles, and cousins (common nouns) and the special names for their aunts, uncles, and cousins (proper nouns). Samuel is using the Getty and Dubay Italic Book B for handwriting and is about halfway through; Henry finished Book B last month and now copies a sentence or two from the Narnia books for his handwriting.

We finished with enough time for me to do the girls’ hair and get them dressed in leotards and tights for their afternoon dance class before we were out the door. The boys decided ahead of time that they wanted to find a quiet corner at the rec center and read aloud to me so they could log some time on their Read to Succeed charts; they both have about two hours left before they qualify for those Six Flags tickets!

Daddy beat us home by a few minutes, so he heard all about the kids’ day while I heated up leftovers for dinner.

After dinner, it was jammie time (no baths because we just re-caulked the tub and it needed to cure) and as a reward for obeying quickly, the kids chose to watch an episode of Star Wars: the Clone Wars (or something like that!). I checked email while Joe caught up with his Wired magazine subscription. When Star Wars was over, we all piled on the couch and read stories together before brushing teeth, going potty, and getting tucked into bed for the night.

When all was quiet in the house, Joe and I worked our way through the five loads of laundry I’d managed to run through the washer and dryer during the day. We caught up and got some needed face time in while we folded, and Joe had me listen to his latest podcast so I could critique it before he sent it to iTunes. Then we got ready for bed ourselves and made sure the alarm was set for 5:00 a.m.

I’m pretty sure I fell asleep smiling. 12 hours later, and I still couldn’t get over the fact that my kids had cleaned the house and that I had a clean kitchen floor.


Hidden Lessons in Math

I’ve always loved Charlotte Mason’s term “Twaddle.” This is a word she coined to describe children’s literature that has been dumbed down to the point of boredom for both parent and child.

Who knew that “twaddle” had crept into the math world? 1 + 1 = 2, counting to 10…seems basic, but I will contend, having delved into RightStart, that math in general has been dumbed down.

When we started the RightStart Curriculum, I never in a million years thought that my kids would be getting simultaneous lessons in vocabulary right alongside number concepts. And not just any vocabulary. Mul-ti-syl-lab-ic. It makes me smile.

For example:

Parallel and Perpendicular. Henry and Samuel can demonstrate parallel and perpendicular planes with their arms, can find various examples of either kind of line or plane in any given room, and yes, can even say the words. That may be the best part. I think it comes out sounding like “Perpen-dicca-ler.”

Most kids can identify and say correctly “square” and “rectangle.” But how about “quadrilateral?” We’ve spent some time over the past two weeks learning the differences and similarities between the three. I am pretty impressed that my 5-year old and nearly 4-year old know that a square is both a rectangle and a quadrilateral, as well as what a quadrilateral looks like that isn’t a square or a rectangle.

Perpendicular. Quadrilateral. They roll off the tongue. So fun to say.

I really think I would have liked math if I had had it presented to me like this.

I generally don’t think to pull out the camera for any of our studies other than science and art, but I have taken a few during some math classes as of late. Here we are today, working on our squares/rectangles/quadrilaterals on our geoboards:

A few weeks ago, we got to “Build the Stairs” on our abacuses, meaning the boys entered one bead on the first wire, two on the second, three on the third, and so on. Nothing that required great skill, but it was fun for them to do something different with the abacus besides basic math.

[Their abacuses are facing them, so their 1 is in the bottom right corner as you look at it.]

All said and done, two months into RightStart and I really feel like I made a good decision on math curriculum. We have only had one—ONE!—worksheet in the two months, and yet, the boys can do any addition/subtraction problem from 1-10 showing the numbers on their fingers, with their tally sticks, saying it out loud, or on their abacus. They can mentally group 5’s and have learned some memory tricks for the second 5 (6-7-8-9-10). They’ve delved into geometry. Done plenty of sorting, comparing, and matching.

I’ll take it.


Life as School

The pattern of our Mondays consists of an entire day of laundry and bread- and roll-baking.

Most of the time, I’m able to make it through the mound of clean laundry by bedtime.

Last week, it was Thursday and we still had clean laundry piled on a chair in the living room, surrounded by laundry baskets spilling jammies and socks on the floor.

I didn’t have it in me for our usual school routine. Chaos was reigning. Instead, it was time to teach the boys how to fold more than towels and washcloths.

We spent nearly two hours sorting clothes into boy and girl piles, sorting those piles into categories of clothing (shirts, shorts, underwear, socks, jammies, church clothes), and learning how to fold and put said articles away. Given the fact that we spent time last week in math working on sorting and categorizing, I didn’t feel one bit bad about calling “teaching my kids how to fold laundry” school for the day.

Who said you don’t use math skills in real life?


Random Ruminations

Ruminations on Reading: Reading is going well. Henry is able to sound out the words in his workbook every day with very few hang-ups. He is always excited to read a story or a book and get a sticker on his progress chart. And he’s always willing to pull his workbook out whenever I ask him if he’s ready for reading. Okay, those were more observations than ruminations. But they set the stage for the ruminations.

I wonder when Henry will start seeing the words he knows how to read in picture books not part of Hooked on Phonics. I wonder when that light will click on for him and he’ll start transferring his skills outside his comfort zone. He’s only been reading, really, for two weeks. I’m not trying to rush this. I just wonder.

I also realized with a start this week that Henry becoming an independent reader means that my days of snuggling on the couch with him, logging hours of reading together, are numbered. Sad thought.

Ruminations on RightStart: We introduced the abacus to the boys this week. They both liked being able to represent quantities in a way other than their fingers or their tally sticks. I asked them to show me “4” on their abacus. Henry selected the right amount and pushed them to the left as a unit. It was exactly the way the textbook wanted him to and I didn’t even say anything to him about it. Yay, #1! Then, I asked him how he knew it was four. He said, pointing to the lone blue bead at the right, “Because there’s only one blue bead left!” That was literally a textbook answer. Yay, #2! I think I did an inner Toyota jump because he’s getting it. So exciting.

This math curriculum is geared for two lessons a week. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to do one more day a week since they both seem to like it so much. But sometimes I think I should just hold back a little and keep from overwhelming them. Fine balance.

Ruminations on Art: Not our best week. I didn’t do a very good job of explaining the scope or what I expected of them. Oh well. It’s okay.

We did Fanny Joly’s “Mr. Fine, Porcupine” (Storybook Art, page 31). The boys think the story is hilarious and it’s one of the most requested reads from this round of library books.

The idea was to finger paint a simple large line drawing of choice (think a drawing of a sheep or a house) before using craft sticks to scratch away paint to create a textured look. Instead, both Sam and Henry opted to recreate a page from the story. Sam did a darn good job of creating Mr. Fine, Porcupine, and Henry chose a page with a town on it. Here’re the finished products:

Please meet Mr. Fine, Porcupine.

This is the town Mr. Fine rides his bike through, a la Henry

So…the ruminations in my head that are art-related are mostly happy thoughts at finding such a great resource to gently guide our creativity. I love that my boys are creating. It’s fun to see them be more excited over a blank piece of paper and a box of markers than a coloring book. It’s fun to see what’s in their little heads—especially the level of detail! I love learning new techniques and love that we’re being exposed to more than just line drawing or painting with watercolors.

Ruminations on Science: My biggest concern in this area is that I need to practice with different settings on my camera. I need to learn how to take better pictures. I know what I want different compositions to look like in my head; I just haven’t figured out how to make them happen. Not even school-related. For the boys, anyway. Just realizing that if I’m going to document our journey, I’d like to figure out how to capture better shots than blurry stills or flash-washed close-ups.

But our science experiment this week was tops. We tackled “Shine Your Pennies” (Mudpies to Magnets, page 99). I was messing around with the camera more this day, so my explanation of our experiment will be peppered with pictures.

The set-up was pretty basic: four bowls, varied combinations of salt, vinegar, and water.

(Yay! I figured out the macro setting!) 3 of the 4 bowls required 5 mL of salt. Thank heaven for medicine cups. I had no idea how I was going to measure 5 mL!

Our first bowl had vinegar only; our second, salt only; our third, salt and vinegar; and our fourth, salt and water.

We placed one dirty penny in each bowl and made observations after five, ten, and fifteen minutes. The most pronounced changes were observable at the five minute mark.

The penny in the vinegar didn’t get shiny but it put off a lot of bubble chains from the penny to the surface of the vinegar.

Hmm…nothing’s happening…

Ooo! Can you see it getting shiny?

The boys thought this one was cool. Maybe a teensie bit more than the shiny one.

After we recorded our observations and the boys made their notations in their science journals, I let them go crazy trying to shine the rest of their pennies. It made for a fun project.

Ruminations on Spanish and Social Studies: I’m kind of bored, not going to lie. I’m pretty sure we’ll be through both the yellow and red levels of Spanish by Christmas. Then what? Who knows.

I think if I cared more about our approach to Social Studies this year, then I could make it more fun with menu plans and supplemental library books. Maybe when I find my groove again in the menu planning arena. Hmm. Something to think about.


Learning to Juggle

This past week was a really good illustration of what happens to well-laid plans when life gets in the way. For various reasons, it was hard for us to find our groove.

However, I will say that the flexibility of homeschooling is something to love. Even though we still tried our best to do some learning during the girls’ naptime, I loved that when it didn’t happen, I could do it whenever it worked best. Sometimes it meant doing math with the boys while the girls were in the tub and couldn’t steal the manipulatives. Sometimes it meant working on our art project with all four kids at 8:00 in the morning. Whatever, you know? It’s working.

Henry made some great progress with Hooked on Phonics this week. He read his second story, “Dan Ran,” and his first book, “Cat.” He was so thrilled to be reading an actual book (term used loosely) that he called Nanny and Poppa to read it to them. I’m sure they understood every word of the six page plot, no problem.

Our two math lessons were pretty basic. I think both boys will be happy to move onto more challenging things. Still, they did hands-on exercises with patterning, matching, and sorting, and learned about parallel and perpendicular planes.

This week the boys joined Joe at the convention center for a morning to go see and play with the robots during the company’s yearly conference. Daddy was happy to fill in for me on science this week! Here are some pictures of the boys before the camera conked:

Operating a robot with a joy stick

The boys in front of “The Bear,” a rescue robot

So yeah, science this week was a raging success. The boys couldn’t stop talking about all of the robots they had seen and I think gratitude for being part of the event was even expressed in their evening prayers.

I am still loving Storybook Art. This week, we checked out Donald Crews’ Ten Black Dots from the library and had fun with stickers. All four kids gave this one a thumbs up. The question is posed at the beginning of the book: “What can you do with ten black dots?” The author/illustrator used various numbers of dots as a starting point and then created a picture around the dots (Storybook Art, page 46). Henry jumped right in and had created this before I had finished passing paper and sticker dots out to the crew:

It’s an alligator, folks. A five-legged alligator with menacing eyebrows. I love it.

Here’s Samuel’s creation, a water slide, complete with splashes:

Henry did two more pictures, one was a spaceship and the other a train. Here, he’s working on the train:

Not to be outdone, here’s Becca’s creation. Once she saw the boys drawing on and around their dots, she followed suite. The boys and I thought this looked like a bunch of lightning bugs.


Ups and Downs

Week Two of our homeschooling adventure started out kind of bumpy but we had a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am finish!

Phonics (Henry): We kept plugging away at the flashcards. I struggled all week with the dilemma of starting him on reading without being 100% confident with all 26 beginning letter sounds vs. making sure he could nail them. He just didn’t seem to be “getting it” and I didn’t want him to be frustrated.

I finally pulled the yellow workbook out of the box, along with some accompanying books, and explained to Henry that once he knew all of the sounds the letters make, we could start doing some of these different things. I think having a vision helped. He immediately began making up little games to help him through the flashcards (trying to beat the lady by saying the sound first) and within two more days, was nailing all but two letters. From there, it was easy to drill him on those two throughout the day as he played or while we were driving.

By Friday (July 30th), he was ready for the first story in the workbook. We spent double the time we normally take for phonics because he wanted to get to the story so badly.

The excitement that accompanies the success of reading something independently is immeasurable. Henry was over-the-moon excited and wanted to read to anybody who was willing to listen. Lucky for him, Daddy came home from work early this day, so he was able to read to Dad. He also was lucky enough to see Grammy and Grampa, so they were also an attentive audience for a labored rendition of “Fat Cat, Fat Rat.”

What an accomplishment! We are on our way.

Math: July 29th was one of my happiest days this year. It was the day the UPS man rang my doorbell and dropped a package on my doorstep that had our RightStart Math curriculum in it. Oh, my laws. It was seriously like Christmas for me. The kids and I tore into the box and started playing with all of the manipulatives. The girls loved the abacuses (abacai?) and would daintily move the beads from one end to the other, chanting, “One, doo, one, doo.” I could hardly wait for everyone to get into bed so I could curl up on the couch and read the teacher’s manual. Giddy would describe it. I kept ooing and aahhing over the way math concepts are presented and figuring out how it all fits into the big picture. I loved how each lesson is brief and extremely well organized and easy to teach from. I loved wondering why we were doing certain things (i.e., teaching the poem “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe”) and then discovering the reason a few lessons down the road (ultimately teaches kids to count by twos). I was fascinated by all of the introductions to geometry. This is just a way cool program. I was 13 lessons into it before Joe peeled my fingers off the manual and pointed me in the direction of the bedroom to get ready for bed.

Needless to say, we had our first math lesson the next day.

Both Sam and Henry did a great job. It was a pretty basic lesson but they were able to do everything I asked them to. It will be interesting to watch the two boys as we go along. Henry will have to overcome the crutch of counting where Sam won’t, but he’ll also have a year’s cognitive maturity advantage.

Really excited for math. Really.

Social Studies: We read about Mohammed (Egypt) (Children Just Like Me, pg. 36) this week. Still no reaction, good or bad. The boys were eager to cuddle up to me and read, so maybe I’ll take that as a good sign.

Spanish: Sam only wanted to do one lesson this week and Henry three, so I let them run with it. It wasn’t really a big deal since they were learning how to count from 1 to 10 in Spanish. Samuel struggled with the number recognition, and then having to translate that number into Spanish was a little much for him. Another reason why I think RightStart will be a good fit for him. He doesn’t need to worry about number recognition right now.

Art: This week we read Leo Lionni’s Fish is Fish (Storybook Art, pg. 53) and our art project was one that mimicked the illustrator’s style. The book is done with crayon rubbings on various textures for the background, with the drawings cut out and placed on the background.

The boys decided they wanted to make a space scene, so we spread various textures on the kitchen table (crumpled tinfoil laid flat, cardstock with holes cut out of it, cardboard, sandpaper, etc.) and used different blues, purples, and blacks to create outer space. Then they went to work drawing pictures on construction paper. We traced a bowl so we could make a planet. Henry made a space man with a jet pack and a rocket ship. Sam made (and cut out himself) an asteroid. Once they were done drawing and cutting, they pasted their scene together. Henry grabbed the hole punch and added a border of “stars” as a finishing touch. They were quite pleased with their efforts.

Here’s some detail on Henry’s space man (with jet pack):

The thing I think I really love about Storybook Art is that we can do these projects every year and every time the things we create will be different. That could especially be fun to compare year over year as the kids get older and more competent in different areas.

Science: We explored the world of bubbles this week (Mudpies to Magnets, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” pg. 96). This was more an observation project than one to walk through the scientific process with.

I filled plastic cups about an inch with bubble solution and stuck a straw in each one. And then we spent the next 20 minutes blowing. Blowing hard, blowing soft, blowing fast, blowing slow, moving our straws…it was a very enjoyable discovery process. We observed how bubbles pick up colors based on how much light was in the room. We had fun experimenting with lots of bubbles (think bubble trail on the table) and big, big bubbles. It was a definite hit and one I may use with Sam’s preschool group this year.

Again, I loved watching how the boys interpreted their experience with their drawings:

Love Henry’s bubble chain with flecks of color in each one.

And I love Sam’s variety of bubble colors and sizes.

Overall, another successful week. We are really having a blast!


The Beginning that Wasn’t

Henry started Kindergarten this week without any fanfare, fuss, or hype. We just sat down at the kitchen table and started doing it. And it was awesome.

I had originally wanted to wait until my math curriculum arrived to ‘officially’ start school, wanted to take a First Day of School photo, wanted to make it more of a big deal overall. But the moment was right, and I had promised Henry while we were on vacation that I would teach him how to read when we got home. So we dove in.

Thinking about it, it just felt right. I’ve been anticipating this phase of life since before Henry was even born. Since I knew I wanted to be an integral part of my children’s education, we’ve just kind of always been homeschooling. So it turned out that fanfare wasn’t really needed.

We’re using Hooked on Phonics as our Phonics and Reading curriculum; will be usingRightStart Math once I get around to ordering it; Mudpies to Magnets (Williams, Rockwell, Sherwood) for Science;Storybook Art (Kohl, Potter) for Art; Children Just Like Me (Kindersley) for Social Studies; and Hooked on Spanishfor Spanish. Phonics will be 4x/week; Math, 2x (more if the boys request it); and science, art, social studies, and Spanish 1x each/week. I’m also shooting for 30 minutes of reading with the kids each day as a minimum. We generally hover around 50. I also want to start some daily memorization work but haven’t added that yet. I’m thinking the Articles of Faith will be a good place to start.

We use the girls’ nap time for school time. That gives us between an hour and a half and two hours to work on things that need a little quiet and concentration. So far it’s working out well. Neither Henry nor Samuel has complained about the cut in their play time…so far.

Since Samuel is around and interested, he’s participating in the once a week subjects. Both he and Henry will work on math together in tandem this year. And of course the daily story time applies to all. But Henry is the only one working through the phonics and reading course.

Phew. There’s the background.

Our first week of school had a golden glow around it. We had so much fun!

Henry began his foray into reading by working through a stack of phonics flashcards so he could master the sounds each letter makes. He worked on flashcards for four days. I wasn’t sure about the whole flashcard thing in general, but in my heart knew it would be the fastest way to get him reading. I guess he liked it okay, because the one day I tried to work with him on vowel sounds, he said, “Mom, I just want to do my cards with the lady” (on the HOP CD). We spent one day doing an upper-lowercase matching game in addition to the flashcards.

Hooked on Spanish is one of the boys’ favorites and I think it’s because it’s a CD-ROM program, requiring use of the computer. Yes, my boys are 5 and nearly 4 and neither have had any hands-on experience with using a computer until now. They have enjoyed learning to use the touch pad mouse and learning to navigate around their program. They had so much fun they requested two days of Spanish this week.

For science, we did an experiment I had read about on a blog somewhere. We created four different sizes of ice cubes using a medicine dropper (4 mL, 3 mL, 2 mL, and 1 mL) and then color coded the ice cubes before freezing them (4 = green, 3 = blue, 2 = red, 1 = yellow). We wanted to see how long it would take the ice cubes to melt on the sidewalk. Henry hypothesized that the yellow ones would melt before the green ones because they were smaller. He was right. 🙂

I had the boys draw in their science journals about the experiment. I loved how they both chose to use the colors we had picked for the ice cubes, and how they used different sizes to depict the ice cubes melting. They haven’t shown any real interest in drawing and I haven’t really guided them at all in that area, so to see them expressing their thoughts and observations with markers was exciting to me.

For social studies, we read about Esta from Tanzania (Children Just Like Me, pages 42-43). I don’t think it had any real impact on them, although they were able to pick out Africa on a global map.

Art was my favorite this week. May I recommend—HIGHLY—Storybook Art? It is a must have for any household with small children. This book highlights 100 different children’s picture books and then creates a corresponding art project for each book. The idea is that you read a book from the list with your child (what’s not to love about that?) and then you do an art project either based on the idea of the book or based on the technique the illustrator used to create it. We picked up a few titles this summer at Half Price Books knowing we would be doing these projects; the rest I think we’ll check out from the library.

This week’s book was Elmer, by David McKee. It’s a darling little story about an elephant who’s just a little bit different. He’s patchwork in a field of grays. Literally. One day he decides to be different so he finds a way to cover his patchwork and turn himself gray like the other elephants. He plays a trick on them and they think it’s so funny that they declare that day to be Elmer’s Day and celebrate it once a year by turning themselves patchwork while Elmer turns himself gray and then they have a parade.

I cut out a bunch of elephants and divided them into patches with a Sharpie. To make our patchwork elephants, we experimented with the different outcomes household objects produce when dipped or rolled in paint. Legos were a clear hit while pinecones were not. The potato masher yielded some cool results while string did not. Samuel decided to finger paint his third elephant and finger painted the entire elephant the same color. I like to think he was making his own Elmer. Once the elephants dried, I cut them out and pasted them on a long sheet of paper so we had our own patchwork elephant parade.

That sums up our first week. I don’t know that I’ll go into this much detail with subsequent weeks but I had a lot to process as I got going.