Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: Where the Trampoline Flies Away

Iron Man- Kindergarten 
Iron Man and I took a little break over the last few weeks in regards to school work. Between VBS, my finals, and our annual trip to Georgia (see Legoland and Tybee Island to check out some the fun we had!) it was easier not to worry about doing any "school" work. Then last week I just needed a week to recover, so we took another week off.

Language Arts
We started using the free Progressive Phonics readers to review and build confidence.  I've also noticed that Iron Man doesn't necessarily care about NEAT handwriting, so I've gone back to some pre-writing skills to encourage slowing down and writing neatly.  We'll see how it goes.

I had plans to start 4th of July activities/readings during the second half of the week, but Iron Man got sick, so we took an abbreviated week.  We still have the weekend and next week to do a few things though.

This week's regular history story was called William Penn and the Indians.  It ended by talking about how William Penn played a particular game with the Native Americans, so that's how I led into our math activity.

Another book we have has a section on Early Native Americans, and describes a game of luck they played.  Since we don't have carved bone or antler, we of course adapted our playing pieces, but that was our math for that day.

We used 6 double sided counters as our playing pieces.  He chose red.  We put them in a cup, shook, and dumped them out.  For every red chip, he earned one point.  Then I took a turn, and for every yellow, I got one point.  We did this about 5 times, and then calculated our points.

We used bingo markers for our "points" and Iron Man was the scorekeeper.  He had to decide how many points each player received, and at the end of the game, he was responsible for counting them and comparing the totals.  I noticed when they were in a pile, he had difficulty counting them, so we put them in a straight line.  He used a Lego man to count them one by one, so as not to double count or skip any, and this was more effective.  The first round I won 15 to 12, and the second round he won 14 to 11.

We're also still doing a lot of living and hands-on math.  This week we played Candy Land, which is too easy to be considered even a review of any sort for Iron Man, but we're trying to teach Hulk the basics of board games.  He could care less right now.  Last night we also played Monopoly Town, which is a great introduction to the original with basic counting, money, buying items and paying rent.

I haven't been able to get the kids out before it gets too hot, so we haven't been doing as much Nature Study as desired these past few weeks, but we are getting in some very short walks late in the evenings.

This week we read the most recent edition of National Geographic Kids and Iron Man's favorite part was identifying the camouflaged animals in pictures.

Extreme Weather
Our Monopoly Town game was interrupted last 70+ MPH winds ripping through, knocking down trees and carrying away the trampoline. I mean, I've seen the trampoline blow over and roll around before, but it was anchored down really well this year. However, it was still flying about 5-6 feet above the ground when I saw it whiz through the apple trees. I thought it would stop when it reached the woods, but it damaged some trees and kept going. By some miracle, we still have power, and there seems to be little damage done in the particular area, though our state is in a state of emergency as hundreds of thousands in our region are without power. Please pray for these families, and the safety of the emergency workers as they work to clean up the damage and restore power.

Hulk - Tot School
Hulk is not particularly interested in really doing any work, which is FINE and actually preferred by me. He just likes the idea of doing what his brother does. So I usually just give him a few extra pieces of whatever hands-on items we're using, and he's content to sort by color, count them or stack them.

One day I did make a July 4th - Patriotic Sensory Tub for him. It was simple, but a great way to keep him occupied and entertained while I cooked lunch.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

July 4th - Patriotic Sensory Tub

I haven't made a sensory tub in a long time.  I find they are a good winter/indoor activity, but we've been so busy and are spending a lot of our free time outside, that I haven't bothered making them lately.

However, I decided to surprise Emory and make him a July 4th - Patriotic Sensory Tub.

clear flat marbles
red, white and blue beads
red, white and blue pompoms
red, white and blue pipe cleaners
red, white and blue sorting buckets
red and blue wooden blocks of different shapes and sizes
red, white and blue ribbon cut into snippets
red dice
glittery silver bow to represent fireworks
red, white and blue stirring sticks

Emory still enjoys scooping and pouring and kept occupied with the tub for a decent amount of time.

I included the dice in case Elliott wanted to join in.  He loves math games, so I figured he would enjoy making up his own games.  I was right.

Both boys also enjoyed turning these little buckets upside down and using the stirring sticks to "drum" and make music.

Nothing fancy, but it was a great way to keep the boys engaged while I cooked.

Linked up:  Sensory Tub Ideas , It's Playtime

The Fiddler by Beverly Lewis

I was introduced to Amish fiction by my mother-in-law, and I have since read a book or two on occasion. When given the chance to read The Fiddler by acclaimed Amish fiction author Beverly Lewis, I decided to give it a try.

Amelia Devries is a well-known concert violinist on her way to a promising career and international fame, yet she can't shrug the feeling that she's living her father's dream, not her own. She finds peace playing fiddle in country circles under the name Amy Lee, until her agent discovers her. She asks for silence, but that night during a storm, the confused young woman makes a wrong turn and is unable to backtrack when she finds herself with a flat tire too. She is on a lonely road that leads to a lonely cabin, but it happens to be occupied by a young Amish man, Michael Hostetler. The two have an immediate connection and unspoken understanding of each other, and Amelia even accompanies him to his Amish community to spend a few days.

While the two are building a friendship, they are independently trying to work through their own discontentment with their current path, and struggling with how to live their own dreams without crushing their parents.

I think the first 2/3rds of the book was developed nicely enough, if not a little slow, but the last third felt like it covered too large of a time span in too little time. It felt rushed and incomplete. As with most books in this genre, the ending was fairly predictable. I didn't feel like there were any major events or page-turning drama in this book, and I didn't fall in love with it. It was good, but not great.

Please note, I received a complimentary copy of The Fiddler from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Georgia Vacation part 2: Tybee Island

Our visit to Georgia was wonderful!  We try to go at least once a year to visit my family and it's always a blessing!  However, I lost all of my pictures when my cell phone died.  It's so much easier to carry a cell phone than a camera, but it somehow got water inside it and it was impossible to repair it!  :(

However, I did have my regular camera with me on a few occasions, so I managed to snap a few pictures.  I've already posted about how we took the kids to Legoland Discovery Center.  We decided to skip the children's free admission day, though we've gone in the past and LOVE it, it would have just been too much to do that week.  Instead we just let the boys enjoy visiting aunts, uncles, grandmas and cousins.  My mom introduced me and the husband to a fantastic BBQ restaurant and I'm sure my husband will want to go back every year now.

The end of our trip was a little different this year though.  Normally we stay in the metro-Atlanta area for the entire week.  This year however, we spent a few days in Savannah.  My husband wanted to visit Paula Deen's Lady and Sons.  No pictures!  The food was good, but overpriced, of course.  My husband can mark it off his bucket list at least.  We walked through town, and the the kid's enjoyed the splash pad.

Then one day we drove over to Tybee Island for several hours.  We didn't tell the boys about it until it was time to go, since this was a weather-contingent activity, so they were surprised and delighted!  My phone was a lost cause by the end of the trip, and I didn't have my camera out much, but I did snap a few pictures.

Finding shells and other "treasures" to decorate their sand sculptures.

Emory hated the ocean when he was 1, loved it at 2, and this year (almost 3) he loved it until a wave knocked him off balance.  I caught him, but it was enough to unnerve him.  After that, he preferred these puddles, which was perfect because when mom and dad needed a break from taking Elliott down to the ocean, Elliott could still splash around too.

Catch me if you can dad!!

You can't go the beach without chasing the wildlife!

 What a long day!

Wildflowers from Winter

Katie Ganshert really got my attention with this one. Wildflowers from Winter was not what I was expecting, but in a very good way. Bethany Quinn is a young architect who moved away from her "terrible" childhood home at the first chance she got. She wanted nothing to do with the memories, the lifestyle, or most of the people...until her best friend from her childhood, Robin, experiences a horrific loss, and her beloved grandfather falls ill. She decides to fulfill her obligatory duty to them by returning for a short visit, and finds herself wrapped in the emotions she had so long tried to avoid.

While there, Bethany meets her grandfather's farmhand, Evan Price, and an unexpected turn of events practically leaves his dreams in Bethany's unsure hands. Will her own dreams destroy his? The two started off on the wrong foot, so to speak, and quickly find each other condescending and difficult to understand. Their tit for tat behavior lies precariously between animosity and a budding romance, and this new found power that Bethany holds makes their acquaintanceship and temporary business partner relationship even more awkward.

Yes, this is a romance novel. However, it offers something more than your typical love story. There were surprising moments I didn't predict, but more than that, there was real emotion. As Bethany struggled to make peace with her past, I felt her angst. I cried along with Robin as she grieved. I felt Evan's heartache as he struggled to understand Bethany. I was overwhelmingly sad after the book was finished. There was so much raw emotion, I felt drained. The book was a reminder that sometimes we get so caught up in how we perceive things happened, and we hold that hatred for so long that it makes it nearly impossible to move on. As the back of the book says "Like the winter, grief has a season. Life returns with the spring."

There is going to be a sequel that tells Robin's story, and that is one I would willingly read!

You can read more about the book, including the first chapter at the author's website.

I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Georgia Vacation Part 1: LegoLand!

I can't remember which blog I was reading when I first discovered the there was a Legoland Discovery Center in Atlanta, but I knew we had to include that in our trip to GA!  The boys are starting to enjoy Legos, so it was a big surprise for them!

I didn't have my camera out very much because the boys were often in two different directions, but here's a few pictures.

We started out in pretty tight quarters as they showed us in the Factory how Lego bricks are made.  Then we moved on to Kingdom Quest ride to save the Princess.  Both boys enjoyed this!!

Miniland was a fantastic look at local attractions built on a miniature scale, but we had a little incident where the 2 year old realized he had lost his souvenir gift, so by the time I settled him down (his brother was willing to share his) the big boys were ready to move on.

They also really enjoyed the Earthquake tables, where they could build towers or whatever they wanted, and then turn on the building plates to see if their structure was stable enough to stand.

There was many of these little Lego pits around the center.

You could also build and race your own cars.  We did this after watching the 4D movie, which was definitely a BIG hit with the boys!

There was so much to do, that it was well worth the trip!

We had a lot of fun the whole week visiting with family and doing other "touristy" things, but I'll share those later!

Where Lilacs Still Bloom

Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick is a touching story of an "average" woman with no education, yet who has a passion to do something more with her life.  Hulda Klager finds her passion is gardening.

It all started with an apple, when her father encouraged her to continue her desire to create a crisper apple that was easier to peel.  Her success encouraged her to move on to flowers.  Endless hours of cultivating, pollinating and hybridization to create new colors, better smells and more petals on her blooms was what she enjoyed.  However, you can sense Hulda's fear that her passion was taking her away from her family, and that maybe the religious leaders had a point.  Should she be messing with God's creations?  Was she destroying them, or enhancing the beauty around her with her own God-given talents?  Should she yield to her common housewife status, or should she continue with where her heart yearned to be?

Based on a true story and the life of the real Hulda Klager, I found this book very interesting.  Although the book was not a must-read-in-one-sitting type page turner, I really do prefer historically accurate books that share enduring qualities of real people we would otherwise never meet.

I really appreciated the Cast of Characters in the beginning, which helped keep people straight in the beginning, and especially the Author's Note which wrapped up the life of Hulda Klager with additional information.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

P, Q and R

I got a little behind during VBS and vacation, so here we go...

P is for Play
I have said this many times, and I will say it again.  Children need time to play.  There is nothing more fun for me as a parent than to watch my children immersed in pretend play.  I enjoy listening to their choice of expression as they create dialogue between characters and watching their imagination turn to reality as they create entire playscapes for their toys.  Unstructured play is a big part of our day, and one of my favorites!

Q is for Quotes
Some of my favorite quotes by my children:

As my oldest (almost 3 at the time) happened to see me nursing his little brother for the first time "Oh Emory, don't eat my momma!"

"Does God have eyes in the back of his head if he can see everything?"  and other similar questions are often asked by Elliott.

Emory proudly announced to his Puggles class one night that "Jesus rides a motorcycle."

After giving Elliott the look he flopped lifelessly to the ground and nonchalantly asks "I just fell through the ice, didn't I?"

While Emory is singing about how Old McDonald has a pig Elliott jumps in with "Oh, it's a good thing they have bacon on that farm!"

Emory talking to himself:  "You are powerful.  You are wonderful."

R is for Reading
There is no better way to prepare your child for reading than to read to them! I am no expert in reading or in early childhood education, but I'm going to venture out there and say that it is widely known that reading to children is one of the most beneficial things you can ever do for your children.

Reading builds a special bond between parents and child. While I do most of our readings during the day, and we all enjoy cuddling for a good story, my children love that Daddy gets to read their bedtime story to them after he has been away at work all day.  We take turns reading, that way we both get to enjoy this peaceful and bonding time.

We read a little bit of everything in our house:  Bible stories, poetry, fairy tales, folk tales, quality picture books and even chapter books.   While they are not ready to read chapter books on their own, they have really enjoyed some of our read-alouds like Stuart Little and the original Winnie the Pooh. While I don't particularly like "kid" books that have no literary standards or are based off of television shows, they do get them occasionally. It's like candy. A little won't hurt, but I don't let them indulge in it.

There's no wrong way to read to your child, except to avoid it. Please offer your children one of the greatest gifts they can ever have, and instill a love of literature in them!  Read to them every day!!


K5 Learning Review

Several weeks ago I shared how I was given the opportunity to try K5 Learning.  Although it is an "after-school" program, I knew it could be a good supplement to our homeschooling.

What is K5?
K5 Learning is an online study program for students in Kindergarten through 5th grade, and is designed to build reading, math and study skills.  For more FAQ type information, check out What is K5?

How does K5 work?
There is a separate parent and student login area, so children have a user-friendly, add-free dashboard, that is very simple to navigate.  The parent dashboard allows you to see your child's progress and view reports.  It is recommended that you begin with the assessment so that lessons can be adjusted to reflect their skill level, meaning they can't just work the easy lessons and are challenged appropriately.  Parents have the option to select the grade level for lessons as well.  It is recommended that students work in short lessons (which I agree with) twice a week, or more if desired.

The Assessment
I requested both the reading and math assessments, just so I could see where they would place him.  The assessment said it could last anywhere from 30-45 minutes, and I felt like that's much too long, but both only took about 20 minutes each, which is still over our typical time limit, but not unbearable.  The segments were short, varied and there were short games between some of them.

These are not true diagnostic assessments to determine an accurate grade level, and K5 makes that clear.  They are to find an approximate level to place the student for lessons.  I can look at Elliott's results, and get an approximate idea of his reading and math skills.  The assessment also lists individual skills, so I know which areas are my child's weakest or strongest points.  

Reading Placement (Instruction)
 Phonemic Awareness Low 1st
 Phonics Low K
 Sight Words Low 1st
 Vocabulary Inter. K
 Reading Comprehension Low 1st

Math Placement (Instruction)
 Number and Operations Low 1st
 Measurement Low 1st
 Geometry Low 1st

Above Grade Level: student is placed at the next highest grade level.
At Grade Level: student is placed at the appropriate ability level.
Below Grade Level: student is placed at the appropriate ability level.
Mastered: student is exempt from instruction. Student has scored the highest level in Phonemic Awareness, Phonics or Sight Words.

From these charts, I know that he is above grade level in all individual skills, and that his lessons will be at the next highest grade level for each one.  I feel this is beneficial for parents who are using K5 long term to improve skills or fluency.

The Lessons
The lessons are age/skill appropriate and seem about the same as other similar websites. For instance, if the lesson in on sight words, it will show a word, say it, and then give a sentence and illustration. The student is to click on the appropriate word. This repeats about 4 or 5 times before moving to the next word. Math lessons on number order might ask you to place numbers in order, reverse order, or to complete a dot-to-dot. The lessons vary, so you aren't completing the same type of questions over and over, though I didn't notice a way to save a lesson. If we stopped, we had to start it over completely, and this frustrated the 5 year old. Perhaps I overlooked something, though.

There's also sections on Spelling and Math Facts, but we didn't get to them. I did look through them myself, and I assume they would be great for slightly older students who are working on fluency, but we just aren't that far along yet.

He likes the lessons well enough when I suggest them, but not enough to ask for them. It breaks up the monotony, but I agree with K5's suggestion that the lessons should be used as a supplement only a few times a week. Otherwise it might become too much, especially for a child that likes variety.

On a side note, the graphics and lessons have a very "young" feel to them, so if they are similar in upper grade levels, I imagine that older students might feel that it is babyish.

Parental Wishes
I don't have any real complaints about the program, except that sometimes it becomes repetitive with the instructions. For example, if the program thinks the student is taking "too long" to answer, you may hear the audio start repeating the instructions/question. By this time Elliott was trying to click the answer and it was still talking, thus preventing him from answering. This was also a problem in one particular type of lesson where it repeated the question for EVERY single example, even though every question was in the same format. This was also a little frustrating for a 5 year old.

Overall I enjoyed the program, but I would like to get a little further into our reading and math before I decide if he needs a supplementary subscription service. If the time ever comes for that, though, K5 Learning is definitely one I would consider.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary six week trial of K5Learning in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm still here!

I know I have been MIA lately!  I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth; things have just been crazy busy the last few weeks.  I have been busy writing research papers for class, we had a week of VBS then we were out of town for a week of family vacation!

I have several book reviews, a DVD review and a website review, but I will try to spread those out between regular posts and vacation pictures as I play catch up.  I'll probably never be able to catch up on my favorite blogs, but I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to this summer!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Opposites Attract: Magnetic Fun

The other day was a little rainy and the boys needed something to do.  Elliott asked for "science" so I pulled out some magnetic fun.

This book was a little tedious to read, because it starts out by describing some experiments to try.  It's not quite as "story like" as we prefer.  So instead I just set up something similar to the first experiment, then later we skipped to the parts that were easier to read through.

I set up a tray with random items and a magnetic wand, and asked Elliott to use the wand to separate the items into two groups:  magnetic and non-magnetic.  This is a great exercise for making predictions, because  he was surprised at a few of the results.

Afterwards I got out our Lauri Fun with Magnets set.  We didn't do all of the experiments in it, but we played around with a few of them.  They are great for reinforcing North and South poles, and of course the terms attract and repel.  I know he will be excited to get the set back out and finish the experiments.  This set is really great for free play too, as long as he is confined to the table.  I always dread finding random pieces in weird places!

The last thing I showed him was Magnetic Match Rings.  He really enjoyed this activity.  I love that it came with a little travel bag, because it'll be a great hotel activity.  

The boys have since gotten the tray back out, and set out various toys and other random items for the other to explore.  They also asked me to tie a string around a magnet so they could "fish" for magnets like in the book.  It's great for independent play and I'm glad I found something they are really interested in!


Shibley Smiles