Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Christmas Strategy

Something to read
Something to wear
Something to do
Something to share

In the past, we've tried to do 3 gifts, like Jesus received from the Wise Men. That hasn't always been so successful. This year, I'm going to try to use this as a guide. I already have ideas for each of the boys. It will help me to be intentional with our gift giving this year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My mantra tonight: I love them, I love them, I love them

Wednesday 12:45 am. In preparation for hosting Thanksgiving here, I have begun cooking, dicing and pureeing. Dave, on the other hand, is getting ready for his running club's 5K race on Thanksgiving; he is the race director for this charity event. He's also finishing tiling our downstairs bathroom and prepping for installation of a new toilet.

Amongst all these projects, I discover tonight that Liquid Plumbr does not work on the slow clog in my kitchen sink. at all. Hmm. Could it have been some of the dirty water dumped into it during the mortaring and grouting? Na, he says, and decides there must be something more. He removes the PVC drain screw at the bottom of the p-trap. Rubber bands start falling out. He feels something else in there and then starts getting queezy. He has hit his limit and starts getting grossed out. He and I are a good pair -- he can sop up water remaining in the toilet before we move it outside and I can stick my finger in the p-trap to clean my drain. I need my drain. I'll do whatever it takes.

(mantra: I love them I love them I love them)

I begin to pull out: two popsicle sticks, a black plastic handled paintbrush, several rubber bands, a couple twisty ties, a piece of green Easter basket grass, and (I love them I love them I love them) two straws. And several small rocks of hardened mortar (I love them I love them I love them).

Boys. All of them.

I love them I love them I love them....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week 12 Report

I have a cold right now, and don't have the energy to review our entire week, so I'll just write about a couple of things:

  • Math -- This is going fine. Ben is making great strides on this math facts. He is able to use the FlashMaster (F.M.) to drill addition, subtraction and multiplication (0-12) with 90% or better accuracy with 4 sec. per question in addition/subtraction and 7 sec. per question with multiplication; he's working on the 4 sec. threshold this week. He's at level 8 (of 9) with division, and I suspect he'll have division wrapped up by Christmas.
  • Sonlight Core 3 - We're almost done! We have history readings that will take us 2 1/2 weeks to complete, and just one more Read Aloud: Swift River. Ben is reading a book about Robert Fulton
  • Tapestry of Grace -- This is where we will go in January. We're not going to use the entire Unit 3, just the weeks leading up to and including the Civil War. We'll also be finishin up a lapbook unit study for our state. State history is typically covered in 4th grade, so we'll do a unit on it in Dec./January.
  • Science- We finished our unit on force, energy and work. I like that they introduced the concept of a physics formula (work = force x distance) and through experimentation, we acutally got to see this in action. We used fruits to see how thier force (weight) would do the work of stretching out a slinky (distance). It worked out well.
  • YIP - In my state, there is a program called the Young Inventors Program, which encourages creative thinking and problem solving skills in the solution to everyday problems. Ben has been participating in this program since October with a bunch of other homeschoolers, and this week, he and his dad worked on fabricating his model. He is very excited for next week's final judging (similar to a science fair) and celebration.
  • Luke -- Luke has nearly completed the Explode the Code Online book 1! He is doing fantastic with it. He is able to write and spell CVC words with short vowels. He is doing well reading Bob books, too. We're beginning to work on place value as well -- which I think will help him alot to understand the numbers 11-20 and to understand the difference between numbers like 12 and 21. He is getting confused with these.
This coming week, our homeschool group is having Math Day. Divided into age categories, the kids will use math manipulatives to explore mathematical concepts and critical thinking skiills. It should be fun!

Sorry there are no pictures...I just don't have the energy to plug the camera in and download it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

I miss summer already.....

This is Levi and I at a lake this summer. He discovered fishin' with a plastic fishie at the end of his line. Occupied him for HOURS.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Developing Our Math Strategy

The groundwork: really and truly, I like math. I did well in high school math classes (offered in my school was algebra, geometry, algebra 3/trigonometry, analytical geometry/algebra 4 for those on the "regular" track). It clicked for me there.

When I chose a math program for Ben -- who was at the wee age of 3.5 -- I wanted one that would give him good math reasoning skills. I wanted him to have an uncanny ability to do math in his head (something I'd hoped was passed on to him from his dad). We used Singapore Math Earlybird's 4 book series. I did not like the Earlybird books that I used with Ben (they seemed haphazard in their topics and there was little teacher help). Not sure of my choice (something that I still deal with today -- did I make the right curriculum choice for my children?), we dabbled in Scott Foreman's Exploring Mathematics (not at all to be confused with the arguably horrible Everyday Mathematics) and Math U See during the later part of Kindergarten into 1st grade.

I admittedly made many mistakes in our early homeschooling journey, and pushing MUS on Ben when he was too young was one of the biggest mistakes I made; I started him with the old primary book and bypassed the primer-level introductory course for him. This set Ben up for failure in that he was not at the maturity level to handle what I was asking of him. So, we dropped MUS, Exploring Mathematics and -- having seen that the grass was no greener on the other side -- we returned to Singapore Math.

Recently, I have begun to notice that Ben needs a lot of review in math. This was more pronounced in the fall when I discovered that Ben had forgotten practically every math fact he knew. Instead of making steady progress with our math lessons this summer, we didn't even crack open a book for the entire month of July through August 25. In that time, he forgot all but the most basic fact. Since August we've been very diligent to work on the Flashmaster and the MUS drill website and Ben has achieved sucess in addition, multiplication and division up through all the levels and we're almost there in division (yea, Ben!)

So, I though about switching Ben over to Horizons for the remainder of his elementary math program. Why Horizons? I am using the K program with Luke this year and rally like how some practically life math is folded into learning. He's learning to tell time by the hour as he is learning to print his numbers; he is learning about the value of coins as he is learning to count by 10s. There is a spiral of skills that is appealing. Ben took the grade 4 placement test. Outside of missing all the fraction problems (we haven't studied anything past the concepts of 1/2 and 1/4 and maybe 1/3), he would've been appropriate for that grade level placement. I also borrowed Horizons 3 IG so I could see how math concepts are developed and the guidance given instructors in teaching children.

I am SO glad I did borrow this, because after 5 years using Singapore, I now so appreciate of the education I've received in teaching math to my son. I have regained a new respect for SM's concrete -> pictorial -> abstract teaching continuum (something that I didn't always use when teaching ds#1 but will be more diligent with when I instruct ds #2 and #3). I appreciate that hand-holding that is available in the HIG to teach concepts that Ben might be having trouble with. I like the variety of angles that are given for tackling math problems (especially for mental math techniques). And, while I don't have to have the HIGs to teach SM, I do like it for the amount of additional helps that it gives to me. I feel armed when I have the HIG on my desk.

To Ben's delight, I've thrown away his placement test for Horizons. We are sticking with Singapore math.

I just returned from CBD with the extra practice book for 3B and the textbook for 4A (something I didn't have yet) and the HIG for 5A and 5B. I will be pulling out the Challenging Word Problems 2 book and assigning assorted problems periodically for the rest of the year. I'll be looking through the extra practice book for supplementary lessons to fill in areas of weakness that Ben still has.

I am hoping that this is the last "Math Freak Out" that I have with Singapore (I've been known by a local homeschooling friend to have at least 1 or 2 every year since 2nd grade). I know that it is and excellent tool to teach mathematicall reasoning and problem solving to my sons. It is up to me to use these tools to their fullest.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Week 11 Report

We have had a busy, but fun week. Monday we visited Lowell National Park (links to the educational programs offered at Lowell NP) which was a fantastic introduction to the mid 1800s and the industrial revolution, which we are only glossing over in our history studies right now.

Monday was also my homeschool support group's monthly meeting, and we talked about writing. I'm using -- not consistently, to my chagrin -- Writing With Ease and the Level 2 workbook. Actually, what I'm finding it most helpful in is getting Ben to succinctly summarize information, certainly a helpful life skill and thinking skill. I'm also trying to get him to do more writing in school, and this week, he was challenged to write a summary of our field trip, which I'll re-type below:

We went to the Lowell mills where girls would go to weave and make cotton. This happened during the Industrial Revolution. This is a period of time when new machines came to America. Before the industrial revloution Lowell was a farming town, but when the machines came Lowell became a city
He did this all by himself! I did ask him to tell me what happened when to Lowell when the machines came, but other then that, it is all his. I thought he did an excellent job!

I also had him summaraze Naya Nuki a wonderful adventure story of --- well, I'll retype what Ben wrote and he can tell you himself:

Naya Nuki means the girl who ran. Naya Nuki was a Shoshoni Indian. Once she and her best friend Sacajawea were captures by a enemy tribe. If they tried to escape they would be killed. Finally Naya Nuki had the chance to escape. She once encountered a grizzly bear. She had to climb up a tree for a couple hours. Luckily grizzly bears can't climb trees. Finally she found her tribe. I liked this book because it was exciting. I recommend this for other kids.
He also wrote this all on his own. I asked him for the "review" of the book, and he added that. He actually created a second draft on his own that resulted in this final piece. Now, if I'm going to be real here, I will tell you that Ben knocked my socks off when he rewrote his piece on his own and when he churned out this great piece of work (if I do say so myself). I'm chalking it all up to God and counting my blessings.

The rest of school went well, but it sure was hard to get into the groove after such an exhausting day on Monday with our field trip. We're making very slow progress in science, and will do the rest of our reading and our experiment tomorrow. Spelling is going very well, and we're 4 chapters away from finishing AAS-3. We have had some hurdles to straddle with math, and I'll leave that up to another post. However, we worked on learning about English capacity measurements and -- after a year of waiting to get to this topic -- finally made Gallon Guy:

These Gallon Guys are on three walls in our dining room. It was a little weird having them as an audience during dinner tonight, but everyone enjoyed working on them.

We're slow and steady in Latin, though we are about 4 weeks behind what I'd planned. Ben is understanding conjugations now and it is very encouraging to see this knowledge become a part of what he knows.

It is amazing to think that we are almost done with Core 3! Switching from the 5 day schedule done in 4 days to the 4 days schedule was a huge help for us! We will not be reading one book -- the Eli Whitney one -- but I will assign it to Ben (or we'll read it aloud together) over Christmas break.

I'll write about math later.

Advances in Boyhood 101

I'll write our weekly report later today, but I just had to report on the big advances Ben has made in boyhood this year....he's learned to make himself burp, he can whistle, and just this morning while we were doing our read-aloud, he learned how to make --- umm--- flatulence noises with his armpit.