Saturday, March 26, 2011

Addition and Subtraction Hands-On

Dd5 has been doing some basic addition and subtraction. She loves doing things that supplement her lessons. We've been...

*...playing store, first with whole dollar amounts, later with coins, too. He would have to add the price for two or three items and give me the correct amount. I would even ask him simple making change questions.

*...making up songs to remember even and odd numbers.

*...playing anything that required two dice that would be added together before moving. I'm pretty sure we made a few file-folder games to practice this, too.

*...playing addition or subtraction war, first with only the numbers 0-5 and later adding the other playing cards.

*...counting cereal pieces at the breakfast table.

*...reading books from the MathStart series by Stuart Murphy.

*...using flashcards. They're easy enough for beginners, tough enough still for ds7 learning multiplication and division. Best of all, it's free.

*...making addition and subtraction riddles for everyday things. For instance, you can choose 3 + 1 books for bedtime reading time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What to do when a friend moves...

Last week the kids found out that some really good homeschooling friends will be moving to Wyoming. After talking about it together, the kids and I decided we could do a couple things to help us adjust to this exciting time for our friends.

*The library has some good books on Wyoming and the west including books about geography, landmarks, and western history (goodness, pretty much anything cowboy helps, here). There are also some DVDs about the landscape.
*Find the state and capital on the map. Use mapquest to find out how many miles it is from here to their new home. What do you pass on the way? Any Wyoming state study information is good here, too. We sent for a Wyoming visitor's guide.
*Compare the population of your state with Wyoming.
*Music: Look at the words and music of the state song which happens to be titled "Wyoming". All kidding aside, the song speaks of lots more Wyoming tidbits of interest.
*Check the average temperatures and climate for the state.
*What interesting animals would be found in Wyoming that are not native to your state?
*Art: Jackson Pollock was born in Wyoming. Wouldn't it be fun to let out some of our feelings with a Pollock-style work of art?
*Author Patricia MacLachlan was born in Wyoming. Not only did she write many endearing books, many also include aspects of western life that help us learn about places like Wyoming.
*Write a note to give them. Or send it so they have some mail at their new house.
*Use the Cricut to make them a gift. Create cards that the kids of the family can use to send mail to people that are now farther away.
*Pray for their safe travels.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Turn out the lights, the party's over

I've often been one to spend the last couple days of a vacation feeling a little sad to see it go. In my head I know it's silly--I'm still on vacation. Why waste the last moments because you're disappointed that they're over?

I'm trying to have a much better attitude this time around. After a nice week-long spring break it's time to get back to school. None of us are really itching to do it, but we all know it's time. After all, we only have about 40 school days left before a longer summer break.

Here's my plan for a successful first day back, and hopefully then, a great start to the rest of our year:

*Be clear about expecations.
 -I've mentioned the end of break a couple of times so that it wouldn't come as a surprise.
 -We'll talk after dinner tonight about getting back into the swing of things and put it in a positive light.
 -I'll remind the kids where to go tomorrow morning to find their assignments (they'll be taped to the fridge).

*Have something to look forward to.
 -When laying out tomorrow's assignments I've tried to plan a couple less "booky" subjects in addition to their more academic subjects to ease back into schooltime.
 -I'll plan an extra family movie night for something to look forward to. (We usually do movie night on Fridays.) It's a good reminder that we "work while we work so we can also play while we play".

*Be patient, be patient, be patient.
 -I'll remember to do my deep breathing and you remember to do yours. After all, one of our reasons for homeschooling is to develop a strong family relationship. We're in
this together. Time flies. We're going to enjoy each other while we can.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Little by Little

Have you ever read Aesop's fable about the crow and the pitcher?

I've been thinking a lot today about other areas in life for which the above fable's moral holds true: Little by little does the trick.

If we're doing a tough school assignment, we sometimes need to break it into smaller pieces. When we feel like giving up we often agree just to keep moving, even if it's a little bit. What often happens is that the satisfaction of getting that part done gives us just a litte encouragement to keep going even farther.

I also find myself using the motto when I'm cleaning or exercising. Just a little bit more before taking a break and the break feels all that much sweeter. It's incredibly satisfying to prove to myself that I really could accomplish more than I thought I had the energy to do.

For the record, I'm also a big fan of taking breaks and giving myself (and others) a little reward, which is why I often cozy up with my internet and a cup of coffee in the afternoons after school or other work is accomplished.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cleaning Up a Little at a Time

At the beginning of the year I made a pact with myself. I have a lot of things in my basement (and various nooks upstairs) that need to be gone through. I'm sure a lot of things could be thrown out.

Since our monthly garbage bill is the same whether my trash can is half-empty or completely full, I made a goal to try to get my money's worth. I've been trying to have a full can each week. If there is a bag's worth of room in the can on the night before trash day, I've been trying to go through something that could be thrown away.

So far this plan has worked out pretty well. Most weeks the can is pretty full. I've probably gotten rid of at least 4 or 5 bags of trash that otherwise may not have been gotten to yet. It's also a good time to review those school "projects" still "adorning" our home. Is it time to take a photo and toss the original project? After all, how long does it take before salt-dough castles start to attract unwanted visitors?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Memorizing the 50 States

(I recently had a conversation with some other homeschooling moms about songs to help kids learn. I thought I would re-post this entry for those of you trying to teach the 50 states.)

Did you know that "Grand Old Flag" is the perfect tune for memorizing the 50 states?

I didn't either. But on a (very) long family car trip a few years ago I decided to "entertain" myself by looking at a map of the 50 states. (I was the passenger, of course.) This map also listed the order in which the states were admitted.

"Wouldn't it be great to know all 50 states in order?" I asked myself.

With nothing but miles ahead of me I started experimenting with songs that might fit the natural rhythm of the states. Eventually I stumbled upon "Grand Old Flag" and it fit so well that I had to use it. By the time we had reached our destination, I had almost all 50 memorized.

You may not believe me, but my 2 year-old, blessed to be stuck with me in the back, had the first section memorized, too! It didn't matter that he didn't completely understand the words; he just loved music and he loved to repeat things. (He also loved "showing off" to his amazed relatives on that visit, and took pride in teaching the states to his Grammy!) Even today, 5 years later, it doesn't take much effort to recall those states. 

Music is powerful. I often remember places, people, events from the past just by hearing one line of a song. It's an awesome tool for bringing together bits of information and making them much easier to memorize.

I've broken up the states by verse below:
(As a bonus, the first 13 states are also the 13 colonies)

Tune: Grand Old Flag

Delaware, Pennsylvania,
New Jersey, Georgia,
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland,
South Carolina, New Hampshire,
Virginia, New York,
North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont,
Kentucky, Tennessee,
Ohio, Louisiana,
Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois,
Alabama, Maine, Missouri,
Arkansas and Michigan

Florida, Texas
Iowa, Wisconsin,
California, Minnesota, Oregon,
Kansas, West Virginia,
Nevada, Nebraska,
Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota
Montana, Washington,
Idaho, Wyoming,
Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico,
Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii
And the Capital is Washington, D.C.

I hope to figure out how to insert a listening clip of these. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When the cat's away, what will the mice do?

Do you leave "lesson plans" for your "substitute"?

I was going to be away for a couple of days this week. I left my husband in charge of the kids. I didn't leave instructions for any schoolwork other than a packet full of worksheets intended more to keep them busy on the morning he had to take them to work with him.

I returned from my retreat refreshed and renewed...and completely surprised.
Not only had the kids done very thorough, neat work on the worksheets, he had also taken them through a writer's workshop and part of a mini-unit he found (by himself) at

It was a good reminder that it can be very beneficial for both the kids and me to find someone that loves a particular subject and would be willing to mentor them in that subject. My husband is so good at writing and the kids did a really nice job in their writer's workshop. What a nice surprise.

(The sink was completely empty of dishes, too!)    :)

Staying on Track

What do you do to stay "on track" when things are crazy around the house?

One way I accomplish this is to buy a "complete" workbook each year. (I usually purchase the grade level above what my kids would be in school since they're working above grade level in most subjects.) I've been really pleased with Scholastic Success With 3rd Grade this year. Language arts, reading, math, and map work are all covered in pretty good detail.

If we're ever traveling to a far-away field trip or things are just too crazy to plan "regular" subjects I pull this out and feel my sanity returning with every moment.

What do you do to stay "on track"?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Marching Forth

It would be very consistent with my perfectionist tendencies to go back and analyze the reasons that I haven't updated my blog since January.

Instead, I'm going to use March 4th (tomorrow) to look to the future. With renewed strength and sanity I'm going to make an effort to be more regular in my posting. I'm reminded that I might actually have a few worthwhile things to write about and share.

I just returned from a 48 hour pastor's wives retreat with three other wonderful people. There was time for fellowship and Bible study, movies and games. Having the chance to share the ups and downs of our lives at present really helped me get perspective. I returned home feeling that I really can make it through to the end of our school year. I also had a sense of peace knowing that whatever does or does not get accomplished this school year is minimal in the eternal scheme of things.

Parenting and homeschooling can be difficult, living in a small town with few opportunities to get together with other homeschoolers. Taking this opportunity was definitely something I would recommend highly. I have a couple more really special people in my life that I'd like to share a smiliar renewing experience with.

Today I'm especially grateful for:

-this time away.
-a welcome-home full of hugs and kisses.
-a clean sink without any dishes from 46 hours ago.
-extraordinary friends and family given to me by God with whom I can share anything.
-the internet, which helps me stay connected with across so many miles.