Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Million Minute Family Challenge & Halloween

I posted previously about us participating in the Million Minute Family Challenge. We set a goal of 1000 minutes. We have passed that, and are currently at just over 1500 minutes. We would have far more, but I have set certain requirements as to what qualifies. I won't count any games that we're playing for school. I also won't count any that aren't being played by at least 3 of us. Tomorrow should up the amount quite a bit. Since it's Halloween, we're taking the day off school and playing games all day. Not all of our games will count, like pumpkin darts & pumpkin bowling. However, we plan to play several board & card games. It should be a really fun day. I've been working on preparing for days now. We have some word searches for down time. We've got Halloween themed Mad Libs. We've got a good sized pumpkin for knife throwing (pumpkin darts), and two pie pumpkins for pumpkin bowling. I started working on the food today. We'll play Halloween Bingo, Halloween Scrabble, Halloween Scrabble Slam, and some non-Halloween themed games, too. We'll also watch at least one Halloween movie. It should be a fun day, and we're all looking forward to it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Next Year

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have to cut next year's school budget by a large chunk. I will be buying materials for Jay for a few subjects. For Dea, I will only be picking up the new Grammar for her 9th grade year. When she finishes her 9th grade work, she can work on the 10th grade courses for which we don't need to buy materials.

I will be buying the next 3 levels of LOF - Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1, & Pre-Algebra 2. I don't think he really needs them, but I also don't think he needs to be doing Algebra in 4th grade, either. Especially considering how fast he speeds through Math, I would prefer to make sure we don't miss anything and give him a very solid foundation. At the speed he's going (he'll be starting those new LOF books as soon as they get here), he'll be doing Trig by 7th grade as it is. Plus, with a heavier focus in a few other subjects, I want to go lighter in Math. I will be buying LFC Primer C, because we do not want to take a year off in Latin. I will be buying Spelling, but only one level of AAS (level 5). I wanted to get 5 & 6, but we'll have to make it work with just one. I will be buying a few workbooks for Logic. Hopefully, they will last the year. I will be buying little to nothing for Science & History. For those subjects, we'll rely almost entirely on the library & Netflix.

I had planned to buy Joy Hakim's The Story of Science. Our library carries the books, so I thought I'd just borrow them. Then, I found out that 2 of the 3 books are Reference books, therefore can't be checked out. I don't understand this at all. Trying to plan out a History of Science course this late in the planning process, without a spine, and make it cohesive would be a lot of work that I simply don't have time for right now. So, we have decided to change the focus for the year. He will now be studying Dinosaurs, Herbology, and Marine Biology. I am now working on planning those. We won't be buying too many resources for Science, but I will see if I can pick up a few fun things. I don't know why, but I feel very strongly about having History & Science thoroughly planned for next year. I guess it's because I was planning on actually having spines for those subjects.

I won't be buying Easy Grammar for next year, but am planning to pick up some new books of Mad Libs. I think between Mad Libs & Latin, Grammar should be fine. I will also be incorporating more games into our days, games for Vocab & Spelling for a fun addition to Language Arts. We have every thing we need for Music. Art will be Art Appreciation for the year, and we have plenty for that. Since we always have art supplies on hand, he will get to do some hands-on Art. We already have the materials we need for Geography, so we're good there. For ASL, we'll either continue with free resources from the library or use The Joy of Signing, which we already have. Since he won't have a formal Writing program, I will just add writing assignments to his other subjects. We do have a few levels of Writing Strands still, so maybe I'll have him use that for the year. So, basically, I just need to figure out what materials we can use for History & Science. I have already come up with a good plan for History. I have found over 200 books & dvds from the library, Netflix, and what we have here. Plus, I've started a list of activities he can do for little to no cost. So, History is pretty well taken care of. Science is the only one left to really need work still.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week in Review 10/27/12

Let's get the school stuff out of the way first. We almost got a full week of work done. We skipped Geography, and he still hasn't start that Music theory program (we keep forgetting about that).

FF - p.81 - 96
LOFF - chap 10, bridge, chap 11-13
Metric2 - p.34 - 38

Lang. Arts:
AAS3 - step 21, 22
CTD - finish chap 7, start chap 8
EG4 - p.58 - 64, Verb Test & Cumulative Test (done with Verb section, moving onto Punctuation in EG3 next week)

LFC B - chap 5

ASL - I Want to Learn Sign Language vol 2

Logic - MWW, FWL, LS less 28, 29 (this is done now), Mensa Whodunnits

Art - Color Your Own Van Gogh

History & Science - read books

Friday was the best day of the week. Latin was Latin Bingo, and Spelling was Scrabble. The kids carved the Jack-o-Lantern. It was supposed to be a cat in front of a full moon, but, in the process of carving, the cat lost it's head, tail, and a foot. Using a knife & some toothpicks, I tried to turn it into an eye. It is either a cyclops' eye or the eye of Sauron, depending on who you ask. It doesn't look great, but it's better than nothing. We also made chocolate chip cookies. Dea got to go to her grandma's for the weekend. Jay watched Jaws for the first time. Some may think he's a little young for it (seeing as he's only 8), but he's a few years older than I was the first time I saw it. He loved the movie. He seemed a little scared once or twice, but mostly was just riveted to the screen. At the end, he was crying a little. I'm still not sure exactly why; all he would say about it was that the movie was kind of sad.

This week we played Wildcraft! for the first time. I bought it last year, but we haven't gotten around to playing it until now. It is a cooperative board game that teaches about the medicinal uses of some herbs. It's not a real comprehensive teaching tool, but it's fun, educational, and enough to get the kids more interested in using herbs medicinally. They get some exposure to the medicinal use of herbs because I am studying it & use them. They really enjoyed the game and have started asking more questions about using herbs.

Our house has been invaded by a giant centipede. Honestly, I haven't seen it & have no idea how big it is, but the kids say it huge. Today, we picked up some diatomaceous earth to kill it. We bought 2 bags so we could do inside & outside the house. It is safe to use around kids & pets, but will kill the nasty creepy crawlies. It should also get rid of the earwigs & silverfish, too.

One of our cats is sick. He has a urinary tract infection. One of the other cats just got over an infection, which required 10 days of liquid meds 2 times a day. I have to admit, I'm getting a bit tired of having to give cats medicine. This time we got pills, which are slightly easier than liquid, but we need to give them to him 2 times a day for 20 days.

While filling Jay's binder for next week, I realized a few things. One is that he will be almost completely out of Math by our Christmas break. Unless he slows down (which I doubt), he will be done with Life of Fred Fractions & Finishing Fractions by Christmas break. That will leave just Measurement, Metric measurement, and Tall-Tale Math (which he took a break from a while ago, because pretty much everything required fractions & he hadn't formally studied them yet), until we get the materials for next year. I could just let him go straight to Algebra. I don't doubt that he could it. I'm certain that all the Math in LOF Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1, & Pre-Algebra 2 (the three levels we plan on having him do next year) will be review, but I really wanted to give him a lighter year for Math in 4th. I would rather he do a year of fun review, with a program he loves, allowing time for everything he's learned to be cemented, than rush into Algebra and find out there's something we missed or something he still needs to work on. However, his current work isn't likely to last him til the end of 3rd. I really don't think the Meas, Metric, & TTM will last to the end of the school year, even if he waits until after Christmas break to pick up TTM again, especially since he's about to start Meas3. That means only 2 books left for each measurement series. Plus, he finished most of one of the TTM books & did some work from the other one, which means that combined there is maybe one full book of work between them. So, I'm going to have to figure out something for him to do to finish out the year.
The second thing I realized is that his Writing might not last the whole school year, either. He's in the last chapter of the first Writing book, which means he'll be starting the second one soon. The second book only has 6 chapters. If he works consistently, not taking days or weeks off in Writing, he will likely finish it before the end of the school year.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week in Review 10/20/12

I know. I have been horrible about doing these lately. This week wasn't exactly great for us. Our car died. Well, actually the transmission died. Anyone who knows anything about cars will know that is a very expensive issue. It is just one more unexpected, very expensive expense in a year that has been filled with them. In fact, things have been so tight for us this year that I have to cut the school budget for next year, by a huge amount. Luckily, we already have just about everything for Dea's 9th grade year, which will start in January. The only thing I don't have for her is the new Grammar program I planned to get. Unfortunately, it means that Jay's 4th grade year will require mostly free resources. I am working on replanning the year. We will still be buying materials for Math, Spelling, and Latin, but that's probably it. It means less projects & experiments than usual. It means less fun stuff. It means no formal Writing or Grammar. I will make it work, though.

Anyway, onto where we're at this week. With the car blowing up, my husband taking a few days off work (because of the car), and having to have people give us rides to all appts/errands, we did not get a full week of work done. We didn't do too bad, though.

FF: p.70 - 80
LOFF: chap 6 - 9
Metric2: p. 26 - 33

Language Arts:
AAS3: step 20
CTD: chap 7
EG4: p. 48 - 57

LFC B - chap 4

ASL: I Want to Learn Sign Language vol 1 & 2

Logic: MWW, FWL, LS less 27, Mensa Whodunnits

Art: Color Your Own Van Gogh

Geography: MC travel

Science: read a book, visited websites

History: watched documentary on Islam

Science & History are the subjects that took the biggest hit. We do those in the morning, which is when all the phone calls had to be made, the errands had to be run, and the appts were. So, mornings were very busy & we didn't get a lot done for Science & History. I was really just glad that we got anything done for them, considering how hectic & crappy the week was.

Monday, October 15, 2012

BzzAgent Review: Glade Expressions

As I've said before, I am a BzzAgent. Through BzzAgent, I have tried some awesome products. The most recent product has been Glade Expressions Fragrance Mist & Oil Diffuser. So, since I've been using them for a few weeks, I thought I'd share my opinion of them with you.

I'll start with the Fragrance Mist. I got the Fuji Apple & Cardamom Spice for this one. I love this scent. It is simultaneously familiar & different. This is because it is very reminiscent of apple & cinnamon, the usual combo, but the cardamom makes it a little different. I keep forgetting that it isn't cinnamon, until it is sprayed. The great look of the container makes it blend in so much more than a plain can of air freshener. You could easily hide it within plain sight. It is also insanely easy to put in a canister, so easy a child could do it. Plus, since you squeeze it to release the air freshener, instead of pushing on the top, you don't get that shot of air freshener on the tip of your finger or nail. The scent lasts a surprising length of time. The first time I sprayed it, I was astonished to note, about 30 minutes later, that the scent was still quite obviously there. I do have one issue with it, though. It didn't pass the bathroom test. We have four people in this house. One is a teenager. Two are male. We all share a single bathroom. We tried the Fragrance Mist in the bathroom, but it was not able to handle it. Like other air fresheners, it did not get rid of the odors, but merely tried to mask them. The result was not pretty smelling. However, it seems to work fine in other rooms of the house. We have cats & a dog, so pet odors are something we deal with. The Fragrance Mist does not seem to trouble handling them. So, while I wouldn't recommend it for bathroom use, I would recommend it for other rooms.

Now, onto the Oil Diffuser. I adore the look of this one. Ours is a brown bamboo, not white. The only start kit for the Oil Diffuser, that was available at the Walmart we got it from, was Pineapple Mangosteen. This is a nice tropical scent. I would prefer the Fuji Apple & Cardamom Spice for this time year. However, the tropical scent of Pineapple Mangosteen would be great for spring or summer. This one is also very easy to assemble and claims to last a full 30 days. I can't yet say if it lasts a full 30 days, but we've had it a few weeks & it is still going strong. The Oil Diffuser did pass the bathroom test. It doesn't prevent the odors, but does shorten the length of time for which they stay around. I enjoy being able to walk into the bathroom and smell the tropical scent, as opposed to the dirty laundry and other common bathroom odors. We normally use a candle for the worse offending bathroom odors, but young kids can't really light the candle on top of the cabinet after they make the room stink. This provides a child-friendly, safe way to deal with those odors.

Both are also decently priced and widely available. Plus, they have the added bonus of not bothering my very sensitive sinuses, as so many others do.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

So Frustrated

We've been working on building a castle. Well actually, we've been making the plaster bricks to build a castle. It has taken us a few months, because we could only do a few batches of bricks at a time, and only a few days a week. So, we finished the bricks and were ready to build the castle. The glue that came with the kit had solidified, so was useless. We tried using Elmer's, and that was pointless. The glue simply wasn't strong enough to hold the bricks together. I am so frustrated right now! I feel like we have wasted so much time & money on this project, only to get nothing out of it but a ton of irritation. The instructions for making the bricks gave the wrong measurements of water & plaster, so we had to tweak that to find the right mix. Then, we couldn't do enough batches (so theoretically don't have the right number of bricks), due to the amount of plaster wasted using the instructed amount & trying to move down to the right amount (the instructed amount was way more than would fit in the mold & wasted tons of plaster). Right now, I have tons of glue covered bricks just sitting on the table, as I try to figure out if there is something we can actually do with them now. I will wait awhile to make a decision, since I might get an idea once my frustration has diminished. My husband suggested using a stronger glue (actually, he suggested 2 part epoxy), but I want Jay to do this, not me, and I don't trust him with something like that (he got glue all over his hands & all sides of the bricks, I don't want him doing that with 2 part epoxy).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Lately, I've been giving some thought to our reading & poetry challenges for next year. We've had fun with them this year, and I feel they have served their purpose (to expose the kids to new genre's, authors, and poets). We haven't posted what we've read for every month, but we have read poems from every poet & books from every genre planned so far. While we've enjoyed the way we did these this year, I am planning to change them for next year. You see, there are only so many genres that have good books appropriate for kids. We could start digging into sub-genres, but that may also make it difficult to find good kids books as it will limit the options so much. We have enough problems finding good books for Jay, since they need to appeal to a child his age, have appropriate content for a child his age, but be written at a reading level far above that for his age. As for the poetry challenge, I just don't want my kids to limit themselves to only certain poets or styles of poetry. So, I'm planning some changes

I ran through several ideas for the reading challenge before finally settling on one. I thought about continuing the way we did it this year - a different genre each month. However, I decided that it's just too difficult to find 12 genres for next year, that we didn't do this year, that would interest a 9 year old boy (he will be 9 by January), would have a decent selection of books with content appropriate for a 9 year old boy & written at a level that is appropriate for him.

I thought about us each making a list of books & series that we wanted to read, and just work our way through our lists. However, he changes his mind too much for that. His list would change too often to keep up with it.

I thought about choosing a certain number of books to read for the year. There are 2 problems there. One is that going just by number of books read does nothing to help expand their horizons or make sure they read from several genres. They could easily hit the number while staying in a rut of just one genre. The other problem is that it would have to be a pretty large number in order to be challenging. Jay's already at almost 140 for this year, not counting books for school. Dea hasn't been very good about recording her books, and her list is at about 74.

When we were at the library last week, it hit me. I was wandering through the fiction section, slightly annoyed that Romance, Westerns, Mystery, and Sci-fi each have their own section, but horror does not. I went to the Fiction section (all the fiction that don't fit into any of the previously mentioned categories), started at Z and worked my way toward A (don't ask why, that's just the end I started at). I was walking down each aisle, looking at the shelves, just hoping to find a few good horror books for October. That's when it hit me. We will read our way through the alphabet. We will go to the Fiction section, start with A and read our way to Z. Then, once we hit Z, we can start back at A and just make sure we choose different books for each letter. Of course, we'll be going by author's last name, not by book title (that would be much more difficult). This will encourage us to read authors & books we've never read before.

So, that is next year's reading challenge - Read Our Way Through the Alphabet.

For poetry, we will simply choose a different poetry book each week, never choosing the same poet 2 weeks in a row. I may even alternate between books from the kids section and books from the adult section.

Dea has asked to participate in the reading challenge next year. I told her that was fine as long as she actually recorded what she read. She is theoretically participating in this year's reading challenge, but never gets me a list of what she has been reading. She has her own blog, so I will encourage her to post on it with her list of books read for the reading challenge.