Friday, February 27, 2009

Homeschool Share

Freely Educate's resource today is Homeschool Share!!! I just assume everyone knows about these great resources except me, but that is not so. But really, if you are looking for unit studies, if you like lapbooks, or if you just want some ideas to go along with a book or topic, check Homeschool Share. They probably have it. Or at least something related. It really is a phenomenal resource. I got many of the ideas and resources for Snowflake Bentley, The Mitten, and last fall's Pumpkin Jack from Homeschool Share. Oh, and if you have something you would like to share, a unit study you have put together, well, let them know! That is how the whole thing works! You have something you think others might like, you share it, others do the same, and you can use their stuff, too! Go check it out!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Audio Books

I love audio books, especially for long car trips. I went looking today for some books for the kids to listen to and came across LibriVox. The site has audio recordings of a multitude of classic works. The goal is to get all works that are public domain recorded and have the recordings available, public domain. In my short visit, I found the works of Jane Austen (GOODY!) Louisa May Alcott, L. Frank Baum, Edith Wharton, and Charles Dickens, to name a few. Maybe everyone else already knew about this, but it is a gold mine for me. I am so excited, not only to find books for the kids, but to have some new listening while I walk!

If you are looking for audio recordings you should also check out Lit2Go from the University of South Florida. They have some great offerings as well, broken out by grade level. Their website also has materials to go with the audio, including the text. The audio recordings are available not only on their website, but also on iTunes, which is where I first found them.

Do you have a good source for audio books? Please share!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Kiddo LOVES mazes. He used to sit down and work through 10 of them in no time flat. When you have a kid who is that excited about something, it is greatly helpful to have a site you can go to and just print a bunch. Krazy Dad's Mazes is just that. It has a TON of books that are 20 mazes a piece at different levels of difficulty. Kiddo does the intermediate level with no difficulty at all. I might have to look at moving up another level. These are very basic mazes in their appearance. There are no characters trying to get to a destination, they aren't cutesy shapes. They are just mazes, but for my kid, that is perfect.

I usually print one on the back of a math worksheet, a little reward for working through all the problems. It seems to work well for Kiddo. He actually enjoys working math problems, so he doesn't even think of the maze as a reward. He thinks the whole sheet is just fun! I figure the mazes are good for his spatial reasoning, and for his ability to keep at something until he is successful. He sometimes runs into dead ends, but turns right around and keeps on going. It isn't about doing it perfectly the first time.

What activities do you do with your kids? I am looking for some games and activities for things like math and reading. If you have any suggestions, pass them my way!

Monday, February 23, 2009


The other day we were at a gathering at a friend's house. As we were getting ready to go, Kutey and Kiddo both said they were hungry. I told them we would get some lunch. Kutey asked if we could eat at a "restaurnaut." Both of my kids say restaurant this way. I think it is cute, and actually have a hard time saying it correctly these days. The woman hosting the gathering looked at Kutey, smiled and asked "Do astronauts eat at restaurnauts?" All the moms there giggled a little, but Kutey got a very serious look one her face and responded "No, astronauts eat on spaceships." That's my girl!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Math Fact Cafe

Have you heard of Math Fact Cafe? It is a wonderful site that has a worksheet generator on it for addition, subtraction (take aways, as Kiddo calls them), multiplication, and division. I have been using it to generate problems for Kiddo (who for some reason actually likes to do worksheets...maybe only because it is his choice). Occasionally I get a "bad" worksheet, like the one that had the same two problems repeated in the first 5. I have found, however, that I just need to preview it before I print it. If it isn't what I want, I just reshuffle it and generate a new one. The best part? It is FREE. So check it out!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A craft site

This one is new to me! I have been doing a bit of blog reading today, and came across this site on two different blogs. So I checked it out. Lots of cute, and different, ideas! It is called The Crafty Crow. It is a "craft collective" which seems to mean they compile crafts from all sorts of people. Most of what I looked at I haven't seen anywhere else. These butterflies look like fun, and just in time for spring! We could have used these bird feeder ideas before the Great Backyard Bird Count, but maybe we'll make them anyway. Spice jar snowmen, how fun! I think I'll add this one to the sidebar, it has GREAT potential!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Math helps

Freely Educate has become one of my favorite sites for discovering new and interesting sites and tools for homeschooling. My recent favorite is Khan Academy. They have math videos for a variety of things. Much of it is far more advanced than we are doing right now, but there are a few videos for arithmetic. I pulled up the one on basic addition, and Kiddo was instantly on my lap. That was Sunday. Since then, he has been happily working addition problems using a number line, with no more assistance from me. Do I think we are done with manipulatives? Hardly. I am just happy to see him working so diligently at math problems and gaining confidence.

The video is basically a blackboard where the narrator demonstrates concepts. He is very clear in his instruction, does enough problems to thoroughly explain the material, and is actually somewhat entertaining in the process.

Check out the website, though. Lots and lots of videos. I have only watched the one, but they have calculus, they have linear algebra, trigonometry, everything! They also have a section on banking and money, the credit crisis, and finance. There is even a section on physics! I might spend more time watching videos there than necessary at this point in our homeschooling.....

The Great Backyard Bird Count in review

We completed the Great Backyard Bird Count last weekend. All that is left to do is log our results into the system. We watched every day from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16. Unfortunately the birds did not cooperate. We saw a mallard flying by, two house sparrows (no surprise there, they live in the bush outside our kitchen window!), 4 black-capped chickadees, and a crow. The final day of the count we saw nothing but two birds flying in the distance that we could not identify. The chickadees were the most exciting because they were very active in the yard. I was a bit disappointed, since usually we see a good number of birds at our house.

The upside is that Kiddo LOVED it. He thinks we should do our own backyard bird count on a regular basis. I think I'll sign us up for ebird. That way we can log our sightings year-round. And it looks like I should plan some nature hikes to good birding areas this spring and summer!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Planning and the Homeschool group party

I have found a wonderful group of homeschool families in my area. I am very grateful for it. Last fall we did park days and got to know each other. There are many kids around my kids age, older and younger than them. We don't have as many that are MUCH older than my kids, which is too bad, but the group we know is great.

Last fall we had a Halloween party, which was great fun, if a bit chaotic. Last Friday we had our Valentine's Day party. We had 8 families and more than 20 kids. It was chaos. There were crafts, but they were loosely organized (I admit, I didn't want to sit at the table for the craft I brought, so it was often abandoned). There were games, but they were games the kids sort of played on their own (board games, etc.). There were cupcakes to decorate, but that, too was a bit chaotic. There were Valentine's cards exchanged. That was mass confusion. I know that not every child got a card from us, because I came home with more than I should have. We let the kids basically wander about and give out cards.

I am not much of a planner. I tend to go with the flow. But this party was a little crazy even for me! I don't know how to make it better, and I am afraid that if we don't do something, all of our future parties will follow the pattern of this one, or get progressively worse. Yes, it was fun. But I was not the only one feeling a bit, well, wonky, about the whole thing.

So, how do you organize parties for your group? Any tips or pointers? Thanks!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Works does it again!

Today's homeschool day at The Works involved creating a hovercraft out of a cd (a brand new one. Do they not know how many old ones are out there?), a film canister and a balloon. Intrigued? It looks something like this, only ours used a film canister in place of the bottle top. It was very cool. Kiddo and Kutey thought it was fun. Kiddo and I then had to go out and find some videos about hovercraft. This one is fun, and this one shows you how it works.

We also had a blast making K'Nex cars and racing them down the track they have there. Kutey had never really gotten into it before, so today I built her a car that actually went all the way down the track on most trials! That was an accomplishment for me, too. She loved racing it down, cheering, and taking it back to the top. She didn't understand that her car sometimes came in after the other car. She was just thrilled to have finished. Gotta like that kind of enthusiasm!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

mmmmmmmmmm, Toblerone.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Memory work

When we stared school in the fall, I read a number of other homeschool blogs. In the fall, people tend to put out what curriculum/books/units they are planning to use, etc. I read on this blog that she was planning to do memory work with her kids using Shel Silverstein. Now, I am a Silverstein fan from way back. We never had any of the books, but my best friend J did. I loved them. I coveted them. I wanted them. I had to wait until I was an adult to get them, but now I have a good number of them. Still, even when I read that this was part of her plan, it did not occur to me to even think about trying it. Kindergarten is too young to memorize poetry, isn't it?

Turns out it is not. And turns out that Shel Silverstein is perfect for this level. Kiddo finds the poems hilarious. We spent the last two weeks committing "The Acrobats" from "Where the Sidewalk Ends" to memory. He knows it much better than I do at this point, and it thrilled that he can recite the whole thing. We'll probably do a few more Silverstein poems before I try branching out to some of my other favorite poets. What a treat to be able to share them with the kids!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jan Brett Books

I have noticed (thanks to the addition of a new gadget to my blog) that several people are arriving from I figured out that somehow my blog has been listed on that page. Cool, but you probably are coming here expecting more in the way of Jan Brett material. Sorry. Right now we are working our way through our snowflake unit using Snowflake Bentley. We are not very good at sticking to one thing at a time, however, so it is taking MUCH longer than anticipated. Hopefully next week we will move into our unit on "The Mitten," at which time I will once again have Jan Brett content. Hopefully I will also have the ability to post pictures once again, so I can demonstrate what activities we are doing in conjunction with the book. In the meantime, thanks for reading! and hey, while your here, why not tell me which Jan Brett book is your favorite?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Great Backyard Bird Count

I have read about The Great Backyard Bird Count on more than one board and more than one blog. DH and I have long been birders and Kiddo and Kutey enjoy their sightings as well, so I figured, why not!

It seems fairly simple: pick a spot, watch for at least 15 minutes, and count and identify as many of the birds you see as you can. There are lists of common birds for the time of year for your area available, and the report form seems fairly simple. You can do it one day, two days, three days, or all four days. You can pick one spot, or do more than one spot.

The educational opportunities abound with this, of course, so we'll be doing more than just counting. It also feeds well into our annual trip to the Mississippi River to watch the bald eagles. That comes in just over 2 weeks.

I'll let you know what other resources I find, but there is a great coloring/activity book at Homeschool Mate. I doubt I will use the whole thing this year, but maybe I can print some of the more likely birds (black-capped chickadee, blue jay, robin, to name a few), and use those for this time. I think we'll also read "In the Snow," which is a book we were given a few years ago. It is very simple, but talks about feeding the birds (and other critters) so it would be a good story to add. Any one have any other ideas for books to read?

Math with pom-poms

No, I haven't turned into a math cheerleader, though if it would make Kiddo interested in math, I might try it. It isn't that he is not interested, I guess, more that I haven't put in a serious, concerted effort in teaching math. We do some math everyday, but what that is varies and how much we do varies. There were a few weeks where we focused fairly intently on being able to count to 100 (and then PAST 100, which was a HUGE deal in kiddo's mind), but then we sort of backed off again. We have been using this curriculum, well at least the workbooks, since January and it has at least given us a focus, though Kiddo is only moderately interested. It focuses a great deal on greater than, less than, and equal to. Great concepts, but I think Kiddo wants some more meat to his math. The last few days, he has actually ASKED me to drill him in math. Maybe he just thinks it takes less time, so he'll get to legos/K'nex faster. But I oblige.

Today we had a little fun with the drilling. We used craft pom-poms in three colors (red, green, and white, because that is what I had) to do math with 12. We added up to 12, we subtracted from 12, we divided 12, then we did it all over again. And again. And again. Honestly, I lost track of the actual number of times we went through the drills, but we were having fun. Kiddo was finding creative ways to take the number of pom-poms away, divide them into groups, pair them, etc. I guess my math curriculum of choice should have some manipulatives to it. It really is much more fun that way!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bowl hunting

If you have arrived here from Jan Brett's site, click here to go to my main page...there is more Jan Brett related content there.

Does anyone else have this problem? We can't keep track of snack bowls at our house. I have 18 (I kid you not) of those little IKEA bowls, (Kalas, if you must know), and yet when I went to give kids their bedtime snack of cereal, there were 0 in the cupboard. And the dishwasher is empty. So where are they?

Now, I admit, I let the kids have their snacks pretty much anywhere. I don't give them things that spill poorly. They get goldfish, cereal, granola bars (which require a bowl for whatever reason) raisins, etc. But they eat where ever they want to when it comes to snacks. Meals are at the table, snacks, well, not so much. (Yep, I'm redundant tonight, and I like to repeat myself, so?)

As I type, the kids are on a "bowl hunt." I sent them in search of the bowls I couldn't round up in the kitchen. They are enjoying it as a fun game, I am getting my bowls back. Maybe I should train them to bring their bowls back to the kitchen when they are done, but that would mean I would have to lead by example. I am pretty sure that half the bowls they have found were sitting next to my spot on the couch....

Thrift shop find

I am a sucker for books. Really. I have far too many, most of them I have already read. My kids have far too many. They are taking over the house. And not in the good, "oh, look, everyone is reading!" sense. No, they are taking over in the "when did you get this funky new carpet with the Elmo faces on it?" or the "Ooooo, LOVE! the new coffee table, are the legs made out of old books?" sense. I have been trying to be good and check books out of the library instead of buying them (it is a lot cheaper, as long as one remembers to return or renew them on time). That has only helped somewhat, because I currently have 22 books checked out of one library, 29 checked out of another, and 2 checked out of a third! 53 extra books floating around is hardly helpful.

Sometimes, though, you see something that you just have to get, or it is too good of a deal to just leave. That is what happened to me today. I went to the thrift shop with the intent of buying one book. Someone sent me one of those book club chain letters, which I usually break. But hey, it says I could get 36 books for mailing out one book and 6 letters. I like new reading material (I just finished 2 books on Saturday, so I need new reading material!) and it might be fun to see what others recycle. The problem is that while I have a ton of books, I am willing to part with very few of them. The ones I have kept I like. SO I needed one book to send. The kids, of course, each needed to pick out a book. That is fine, I'd rather buy them books than toys, and really, $1 for a book isn't bad.

While I was looking for a book to send for this chain letter, however, I came across a copy of "Now I'm Reading for Beginning Readers--Animal Antics." It is a set of 10 phonics books, short vowels, so they will be an the easy side for kiddo, but again, success makes it fun! I had been looking for a cheap copy of these, or a library copy, to see what they were like, but there they were, on the shelf, for $1. And when I got the register, they rang up at 50 cents. You can't beat that! I am probably lucky I walked out of there with only that and 6 other books. They actually had a great selection today, for once.

Now, if I can just find some way to get Kiddo to think they are a treat to read......

Explode the Code

On Saturday I picked up Explode the Code from my library, thanks to Inter-library loan (ILL). They actually belong to a library in Sheboygan, WI. After all the scary warnings from library lady regarding ILL, I brought them home and have carefully looked through them (the replacement cost for one book is $50--in spite of the fact that the books actually only cost $8, at most, but whatever, I'll be very careful!)

I looked through all the levels. Books 1 and 1 1/2 cover short vowel sounds. Kiddo has those mastered. And they don't really teach any rules, per se. We'll be skipping those entirely. Books 2 and 2 1/2 cover initial consonant blends and final consonant blends. I copied a couple of review lesson pages, and did a few exercises with Kiddo orally. He is having no trouble with them at all, so I think we can safely skip them as well. Book 3 and 3 1/2 start introducing rules. Silent e, the sounds of y, and digraphs like sh,ch, etc. He knows quite a bit of what will be covered, but I like the way it is covered in these books, so I think this is where we will start. Besides, early success is a good thing!

Book 4 and 4 1/2 covers compound words, endings (-ful, ing, and the like), and syllable division. Again, he already knows some of it, but success is good! Book 5 (and I am guessing 5 1/2, though I didn't get to review it) covers some word families ( -all and -alk words, for example) three letter consonant clusters and the -ed ending. Book 6 (and I am guessing 6 1/2) finally gets to ar, er, ir, ur, or, along with igh, ea, ie, and some other vowel clusters. Much of that book will be review, so we'll see if we got that far. Book 7 (there is no 7 1/2)covers the alternate sounds of c and g, -dge and -mb, kn and wr, silent t, silent h, ear, and ph. Book 7 is also where they begin presenting passages to read and answer questions about. Book 8 (there is no 8 1/2) covers -ness and -less, -ous and -or, -ist and -ity, -ture and -ment, -able and -ible, -sion and -tion, -ance and -ence, -tive and -sive, -ify and -ize, -ti- and -ci-. all suffixes or endings.

It seems very systematic, with enough practice and exposure without overdoing it. My only complaint thus far (and keep in mind, I have only looked at most of them, not used them with a child) is the pictures. What we have done with Kiddo has required minimal explaining as far as what he is to do, but much more explanation of what the picture is showing. As an example, in one lesson, kiddo looked at a picture of a girl and said "dance!" and wrote down the word dance. Looked like she was dancing to me, too, but I knew the lesson was about consonant clusters, and dance is was not one of the words. Silent e hasn't been covered, nor has soft c, so it couldn't be dance. We had to spend some time thinking about what else she might be doing. Jump was the word we finally came up with. Another one had a picture of a boat, but the word choices were stiff, skip, and skiff. Kiddo had no clue what to circle, as he had never heard "skiff." So, while most of the activities he can do independently, Mom or Dad have to be accessible to help decipher the pictures. Even so, I think we'll give it a try.

Oh, and for the curious, the half books do not introduce new content. They simply give more practice with the content presented in the previous whole number book. I won't be buying 3 1/2. I figure I can pick it up if I find Kiddo needs more. I guess we'll see!

I am not sure what pace we will use with these. Kiddo was thoroughly enjoying them yesterday, but I also don't want to burn him out on them, so I guess we'll have to see. The lessons in book 3 are mostly 8 pages long, and there are 13 lessons. I doubt he will want to do all 8 pages in one sitting, but we will see! I am sure I will post more as we go.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Paper Toys

Last fall, DH and Kiddo spent a great deal of time making toys out of paper. Campers, trucks, vans, airplanes, etc. They came up with them all on their own and then built them out of paper and tape (and occasionally string, if it was a trailer in need of a hitch). They had a great time, and it was a great learning project.

Last week I came across this site. I printed off the White House model, and two nights ago, Kiddo and DH put it together. Kiddo thought it was great. He can't do much of it by himself, his favorite part was the flag, which is the LAST piece to go on, but it was an activity he did with Dad, so he loved it. I imagine we'll be doing a few more. Check it out, they have some great stuff!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kiddo's Reading

If you have been reading this blog, you know I spend a lot of time talking about reading. Mostly because I think it is essential to learning. And because I am teaching someone to read for the first time. While it is a thoroughly rewarding experience, it is not without it's frustrations.

Finding just the right teaching tools has been the biggest frustration for me. Leveled readers are not all the same, and picking them out sight unseen is risky. The vocabulary in some of the "Level 1" books is outlandish, and other "Level 1" books are too simple. And worse, within the same series, it sometimes seems there is little rhyme or reason to the level assignments. I checked out books from 3 different levels of the "Rookie Reader" series at the library this week. They are all more or less the same difficulty. The higher level ones have more words, but the words are no more difficult than those in the lower level books. This is why I have started going to the library alone to get books for reading. While it would be great if Kiddo could pick out his own books, I can't simply tell him to go and get a level 1 book and know that it will be appropriate.

Because of that, I am starting to maintain a list in the sidebar of this blog of the books Kiddo has read. Maybe it will help someone, maybe not, but at least I have a record then of what he has read. I'll hopefully start adding authors and maybe dates. I am trying to find a way to put up a review of the level of the books, so that others can use the list as a resource, but that will take a bit longer!