Sunday, March 31, 2013

Don't Forget the Fun

We have a lot of games. We don't have video games, for a few reasons - 1) I refuse to spend that kind of money on them, and 2) I know the people in my house, and some of them would easily get addicted to video games. We do have a Gamewave. It's a dvd game system. We have 5 games to go with it - 2 trivia, 2 word, and a puzzle game. In addition to those, we have several other dvd trivia games, including multiple versions of Scene It!

We also have a few decks of cards, for playing card games. Aside from the regular playing cards, we have Scrabble Slam, Man Bites Dog, and Apples to Apples.

What we have the most of, though, are board games. We have many board games. Most are trivia games. Many of the trivia games are general trivia, though we do have some that are subject specific. We have Big Bang Theory trivia, Lord of the Rings trivia, music trivia, movie trivia. It's not all trivia, though. We have Boggle, Scrabble, Blokus, Chess, Risk (original & LotR), and more.

Why do we have so many games?  We love playing games, that's why. We start the kids playing board & card games at a young age. We have regular family game nights. We use them for school. We play them on days when we're stuck inside. We plan times to play them, as well as playing spontaneously. Our collection of games is ever-changing, as we add new ones each year & weed out the ones the kids have outgrown. Our game collection is currently around 65-66, if you count each of the chess sets separately. If you count all the chess sets as one, the number is about 58-59. Yes, we have at least 7 chess sets.

We have several games we use for school. Scrabble & Boggle are great for Spelling. Blokus & Chess build strategy & logic. We've recently added Budget for money management, Go Mental for logic, & Word Sweep for Vocabulary. We'll be playing Wildcraft! for our study of herbs. We've got Travel Mania for Geography. We also make our own games.

Games can be such a fun way to introduce or review concepts. Games can be used for almost any subject. They can be used for little kids or adolescents. In addition to educational benefits games can have, they also can create lasting memories for your kids, memories of quality time together. I think games get overlooked far too often in education. Yes, we recognize that little kids need to play. We acknowledge that toddlers & preschoolers learn from games. However, I think that, as our kids get older, we use games less & less and focus on formal instruction more & more. Formal instruction does have its place, obviously, but so do games.

We get so wrapped up in making sure our kids get an excellent education that we forget that replacing one Spelling lesson a week with a game of Scrabble won't hurt them. Even as high school students, it won't decrease the quality of their education & may even increase their enjoyment of learning. I'm not suggesting that we replace all formal work with games, but replacing a formal lesson with a game every once in a while is fine. What a nice break for the hard working student. What a fun memory for them.

Think back to your own school years. What sticks out? The hours of boring lectures? Watching your teacher write something on the chalk/whiteboard? Reading textbooks? For me, it's the classroom Jeopardy-like games, dissecting cow eyes, pig hearts, & owl pellets, writing & performing skits, making videos, etc. It's the  fun stuff that sticks. It's the days you break out of the norm & do something different they will remember years from now.

Don't underestimate the role of games, hands-on work, projects, and fun in education. Instead of always sticking to book work, add in some fun. Let them make videos, write skits or plays, design their own games. Let them teach you. Spend the day outside, getting to know nature. Or, just pull out a Chess set, Boggle, or some other game & have a tournament. Shake things up now & then. Don't  get so busy giving them a great education that you forget that fun can be part of a great education. Plus, think of the great memories you're making and the traditions you may be starting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Not a Lot Going On

I haven't been doing my Week in Review posts lately. This is mainly because there really isn't much to say. Jay's 3rd grade year is coming to an end. He is done with most of his 3rd grade work. He wanted to end his study of Pirates & Explorers early, so we finished up that study. He only has one thing left to do for his Geology study, which he also asked to wrap up early. He is done with Geography for the year. In addition to being done with almost all his work, he is not feeling well. He has been dealing with a cold for a week now. So, an average day consists of playing Math games online or doing exercises on Khan Academy, watching videos on MathTv, watching videos from Art of Problem Solving, doing a few pages of Key to Metric Measurement, 1-2 pages of Latin for Children B, and All About Spelling 4. He spends the rest of the day playing, resting, reading, and watching some tv. His cold is combining with his allergies and causing a lot of coughing, congestion, and general icky feelings. So, he really isn't up to doing much right now. Luckily, he hardly has any work left to do, so he is still doing all of his work each day.

Since very little of my day is currently spent working with Jay on school, I have been making sure everything is ready for his 4th grade year. I have all the dvds we own that will be used for the 1st half of the year together in one place. I have a list of all library materials I want to use for History & Science. I have everything I want to use from Netflix for the year in our queue. I have the online portion of his courses ready.  I have the paper planning done. I want to look into creating a list of library materials for Art & Geography. I think I might also try to come up with some writing assignments, since we won't be using a Writing curriculum. Other than that, everything is done.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pirates & Explorers 3rd Grade

We did have more planned for this study. However, Jay found the study of pirates a bit less exciting than I had expected. So, we ended up cutting the study short. Some of the books & dvds were returned before I got them written down, so this isn't a complete list of what was used.

History of Piracy
Patch the Pirate
Pirate Flags
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates - National Geographic
The Pirates Realm

A Long and Uncertain Journey
Vasco Da Gama: So Strong a Spirit
A Pirates Twelve Days of Christmas
Biggest, Baddest Book of Pirates
You Wouldn't Want to be a Pirate's Prisoner!
Shiver me Timbers! Pirate Poems & Paintings
A Thousand Years of Pirates
Why Why Why Did Pirates Bury Their Treasure?
The Book of Pirates
Terror of the Spanish Main
Pirates Most Wanted

Historical Fiction & Other Fun Reads:
Vampirates Demons of the Ocean
Isle of Swords
Nick of Time

The Great Ships: The Pirate Ships

Design pirate flag
Write pirate themed poem
Make pirate ship

Less 'Formal' Material Does Not Have to Mean Lower Quality/Rigor

I have been rather occupied lately with planning Jay's 4th grade year. With the necessary cut to the school budget, we've had to cut out many of the materials we had planned for the year. However, I refuse to allow financial restraints to lower the quality or rigor of his education. There have been a few areas that have needed more planning and/or creativity to keep at a standard I accept.

Language Arts is one of these areas. With nothing formal for most of Language Arts, I have had to make sure we have plenty to keep him learning.
For Grammar:
I had Jay do the Pre/Post test that came in Easy Grammar 4. I didn't tell him how he did on it, as I only used it to determine which areas should have more focus during 4th grade. I have found 8 sites that have interactive exercises and/or games, covering pretty much every aspect of Grammar we could want to cover during the year. We will be doing Mad Libs, to review parts of speech. I have a copy of Grammar Land that I downloaded for free. I have printed all the pages and am planning on having Jay use it, possibly adding extra activities to it. I have also searched our library's collection and found a few books that I think might be useful.
For Spelling:
We will be using All About Spelling level 5. In addition to that, we'll also be playing Scrabble and Boggle.
For Vocab:
I have never really been concerned about the kids' vocabularies. Both were speaking in full sentences (not 2-word sentences, full sentences) by age 2. By age 3, they were regularly using words many adults didn't understand. They surprise people all the time with their manner of speech. So, I have never been concerned enough to really force formal Vocab instruction. I do want their vocabularies to continue to increase, though, so we include vocab games. They play online vocab games. We'll also be playing Word Sweep.
For Literature:
I have a list of 20 books for required reading for the year. He will get to choose the order in which he reads them. He will keep a notebook for Lit. While reading each book, he will write any questions he has, his thoughts, and any words he needs to look up in the notebook.
Literary Elements:
I will be using picture books for this. There are books & sites that discuss using picture books to teach Literary Elements to students as old as middle school. From looking into those sites & books, I have a list of books to use & have double checked that our library has them. We will do one picture book per week, discussing the Literary Elements (& maybe doing some kind of activity) throughout the week.

Logic is another area in which I don't want to slack. Jay loves Logic and will not be happy about the fact that I cut it down to only 2 days a week for 4th grade. So, I really don't want to slack on the quality of what he'll be doing. I have 3 different workbooks for him to work his way through. Logic Safari book 3 is below him, but he really enjoys the series & this is the last book. It has grid puzzles. Perplexors Level A has puzzles similar to grid puzzles, but instead of grids, it has columns. Advancing Through Analogies, is (obviously) a book of analogies. I also found 5 sites that have online Logic games for him to play. He will continue to play Chess with his dad (I'm actually hoping to increase the regularity of their games), and we will add in playing Go Mental.

History & Science are the other two subjects for which I have had to do extra planning. I have huge lists of books, dvds/Netflix, and websites for these. There will be less hands-on activities than we normally do, but I have still come up with a few activities for each topic. With over 200 resources for each subject, I truly hope we have enough to thoroughly cover them.

With any luck, we will not need to worry about cutting the budget for Jay's 5th/Dea's 10th grade year. Also, I'm so glad we already had what we needed for Dea's 9th grade year. It wasn't really such a  bad thing that she didn't do a great job on planning her own schedule & managing her own time. If she had finished 8th on time & started 9th when she was supposed to, she would have needed materials at this time, too. With what is planned for her 10th grade year, there is no way we could cut the budget the way we did this year. She will start 10th before we buy her 10th grade materials, but will start with the courses that will cost us nothing. She may even be able to finish some of those courses, leaving extra time for the others, once we get the materials.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Here! It's Here!

Yay! Our order from Rainbow Resource is here! The kitten has claimed the box as his. He has been in & out of it since I finished pulling out the packing material. While I was going through it all to check the contents against the packing list, he was sitting on the materials, trying to dig behind them, and ate a hole in the corner of the box. He moved one of the books around - pulled it away from the others, then pushed it until it was next to the one it had been in front of originally.

The kids jumped, shouted, and tried to lay claim to the box before I opened it. Dea started working on a Spanish workbook right away, and Jay had to be told to stop pulling things out of the box (I was trying to keep it all organized & see what was there). The dog sat staring expectantly at the box, as though I was going to pull out dog treats. Apparently, we are easily amused & rather easily excitable.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Year Coming to an End

3rd grade is coming to an end. 4th grade will be starting in about a month. We're working on finishing up some things. We aren't really concerned about finishing things by the end of the year, we just happen to be near the end of many things. Jay is wanting to cut short his Science & History, because he just isn't that into them. So, we're finishing up those. He just finished More Word Winks & Mensa Whodunits, which means that he's out of Logic until 4th grade. He also just finished Easy Grammar 3 & Easy Grammar 4. We decided not to do the last 2 chapters of Flip the Deck. One was writing an article, and I simply don't believe his skills are there, yet. The other was writing a business memo, which I don't think he needs to know how to do at 9 years old. So, we're done with Writing, too. We're still doing ASL, but we're currently taking a break from learning signs. We're spending some time learning about deaf culture and about Helen Keller. We've watched The Miracle Worker, and are reading a few Helen Keller biographies. There are also a few documentaries on Netflix, about deaf culture, that we are going to watch. We will probably wait until 4th grade to start Joy of Signing. We're done with formal Art for the year. We're almost finished with this year's Geography, which is currently connected to History - Pirates & Explorers in History & Explorers in Geography. It looks like the only things that will continue until the end of the year are Measurement/Metric Measurement, Spelling, Latin, and Music (which this year has really just consisted of him learning/practicing his instruments).

I'm still waiting on our order from Rainbow Resource. One of the items was on back order, so the order hasn't shipped yet. This weekend, I will be picking up all the basic school supplies we need - paper, pens, pencils, index cards, etc. I'm also waiting on an order from Barnes & Noble - a book for me (to replace a copy that is falling apart) and a book for each of the kids. We can hardly wait for the school materials to get here. Jay is really excited about 4th grade. Dea is looking forward to her new Grammar. I am impatiently waiting to finish the planning/prep for 4th grade. I hate cutting it this close. I will have less than a month to finish the planning/prep once the materials get here. With less actual programs for the year, there is more planning that needs to be done. I usually don't really have to plan Grammar, Spelling, Writing, or Latin. Since we use programs for those, it's just move onto the next chapter/step/lesson/page. We'll still be able to do that for Latin, but not the others. With only 1 level of AAS, I will have to plan what to do for the days we aren't doing AAS, how often to do AAS, etc. With no formal Grammar or Writing, I have to plan how to make sure those are covered. With 3-4 different Logic books, I have to plan how those will work together. This stuff can't really be done until I have the materials here & can look through them all. I am hoping that it will all be here in the next few days.

Monday, March 11, 2013

New materials on their way

I ordered school materials yesterday. When I told Jay that I had ordered the materials for his 4th grade, he literally jumped for joy, while shouting "Yay!" He then threw himself on my lap, gave me a huge hug & kissed me repeatedly. I think he is happy about getting his new school materials. Dea was even happy, since she will be getting her new Grammar. She said she felt a bit odd being happy about Grammar, but she is really looking forward to the new Grammar.

In vaguely related news, Dea is starting over with a few subjects. She is starting over with the Lit portion of her English. She is starting over with the Writing portion, switching to doing 2 Writing classes on Universal Class. She is also starting over with Government, switching to a Government class on Universal Class. She is switching because the Writing & Gov classes she was doing just weren't working for her. She really needs to have an instructor to be accountable to for those.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Garnier Olia

As I have mentioned before, I am a BzzAgent. Through BzzAgent, I get to try out all kinds of great products in exchange for my honest opinion.

My most recent opportunity from BzzAgent is Garnier Olia Hair Color. I spent days debating which color my hair should be next. There are 24 shades to choose from. I do wish that there were a few more red options, as there were only 5 shades of red, and only one of them was a bright vivid red. I eventually settled on black.

I was a little skeptical about the claim of having a floral fragrance. I have colored my hair many times (I've been coloring it since about age 14). Over the years, I have tried several different brands & tons of shades. Some of those have been tolerable & some have been awful smelling. A few have even caused headaches & asthma attacks because they had such a strong & horrible stench. I have never used one that smelled good, though.I honestly expected a vague floral scent trying to mask harsh chemical smells. I was completely surprised at how good it smelled! There was no heavy chemical smell, even an underlying one covered by a fragrance in an attempt to make it smell good. The scent was quite mild & not at all bad. It was definitely the best smelling hair color I have ever used.

It was no more or less difficult to use than any other home hair color. I do like the teardrop-shaped bottle, though. It seemed to waste less than typical bottles. The gloves that came with it were chintzy, very little stretch, not one-size-fits-all, and easy to rip. If you have first aid gloves in your house, use those instead. The conditioner that came with it was not horrible, but also not great. It left my hair frizzy & full of static. Next time, I will use my regular conditioner. I did need to get 2 bottles, but that is normal for me, as my hair is incredibly long.

This is a product I intend to use again. My hair is a gorgeous color right now. There were no chemical fumes (no ammonia!). There's a decent selection of shades to choose from, though a few more shades of red would be nice. It is an oil-powered hair color, made with natural oils. It is a nice, thick cream, not runny or drippy. I very much recommend Garnier Olia for anyone looking to color their hair. This is an awesome product!


4th Grade Plans

Jay's 4th grade year starts in about 6 weeks. So, I figured I'd do a post about our final plans for the year. We have changed many things from the original plans. Most of those changes were materials, as I had to cut the budget for the year drastically. We will be incorporating more games & fun into some areas, due to little to no formal work in those areas. I am fine with going lighter in some areas, but not with skipping them entirely. Also, we will be going a bit heavier in Science & History for 4th grade. So, we chose to go lighter in Math.

Math - 1hr per day, 5 days a week:
Life of Fred Elementary Physics
Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics
games, Khan Academy, and videos from Art of Problem Solving & MathTv

If he finishes all 3 Life of Fred books before the year is over (which he most likely will), he will start on Life of Fred Beginning Algebra. (and yes, this is light in this subject for this child)

Language Arts - 2.5 hours per day, 5 days a week:
Spelling (30 minutes/day) - All About Spelling level 5, Boggle, Scrabble
If he has not finished All About Spelling level 4 by the end of this year, he will finish it before starting level 5.

Vocab (30 minutes/day) - online games, Word Sweep

Grammar (30 minutes/day) - MadLibs
I also have a copy of Grammar Land that we may use.

Reading (1 hour/day) - He will read assigned books for an hour each day. He will also be reading books of his own choosing before bed & whenever else he wants to read.

Writing - This will be incorporated into other subjects this year, instead of using a formal Writing curriculum.

Latin - 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week:
He will not be done with Latin for Children Primer B before 4th grade starts, so he will finish that and then do Latin for Children Primer C.

ASL - 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week:
The Joy of Signing book, dvds, and one of the puzzle books

Logic - 30 minutes per day, 2 days per week:
Logic Safari book 3
Perplexors A
Advancing Through Analogies

Art - 30-60 minutes per day, 1 day per week:
Art appreciation with a main focus on Norman Rockwell, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, and Ansel Adams.

Music - 30 minutes per day, 1 day per week:
Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory
He will also continue with his instrument practice & lessons.

Geography - 1 hour per day, 1 day per week:
study of the states

History - 3 hours per day, 2 days per week:
U.S. History Columbus - Civil War
The 3 hours per day will allow plenty of time for him to read the non-fiction & historical fiction, visit websites, watch videos & documentaries, and work on projects/activities. There will be no spine for this, with most of the materials coming from the library & Netflix. I've got a list of over 200 resources I hope/plan to use.

Science - 3 hours per day, 2 days per week:
Dinosaurs for the 1st half of the year
Marine Biology for the 2nd half of the year
Herbs throughout the whole year
There will be no spine for this subject, with most resources coming from the library & Netflix. The 3 hours per day should allow plenty of time for reading, websites, videos & documentaries, and projects/activities/experiments.

Informal & Optional Subjects:

1 hour play outside each day or one of various exercise dvds
knife throwing

Home Ec/Life Skills:
cooking/baking - he will continue to help in the kitchen learning more about cooking, baking, nutrition, and food safety
time management/organizational skills
money management
household chores
yard work

Computer Programming:
Logo Adventures
Logo Works

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Week in Review

Jay still isn't feeling great. He hasn't vomited since we were at the ER yesterday, which is fantastic. He has headache for the past few days, though, and is still dealing with some nausea. I'm not expecting him to get any school done today. Dea likely won't much done, either. We have to take one of the cats to the vet this afternoon, as she has been vomiting for the last few days.

Really, not much happens today. My husband is home sick from work, with a horrible migraine he has had for 3 days. Jay is still fighting his migraine, which he has also had for 3 days, in addition to the nausea. So, we try to keep the house quiet & dark. Dea does get some schoolwork done, and I try to take care of some housework.

Jay is still not feeling well today. So, we get virtually nothing done again today. At least my husband went to work today, though. It's also snowing out. So, we spend the day inside, staying warm & not doing much. We watch a little tv today. Jay watches a Standard Deviants dvd on Geometry, and we watch an episode of Discovery Atlas for Geography.

I take both kids to the dr. this morning. Jay is feeling better & the dr. doesn't see anything wrong with him. Dea has been getting light-headed & having headaches & nausea if she goes more than 4 hours without food. So, they run some tests. By the time we get home, it is far too late to start the chili I was going to make for lunch.  We did have just enough time for pita pizzas. Unfortunately, the pita bread was furry. So, with nothing else thawed & no time to make chili, we ended up ordering pizza. It was over 20 minutes late, greasy, and they messed up the order of wings. Yet another day when virtually nothing gets done. We did get a call from the doctor's office, about her labs, though. They said everything was normal. This is great news! It means she doesn't have diabetes, which is what I was concerned it was.

Jay is feeling much better today. He asks to do school. He spends a good portion of the morning visiting websites for History. Dea does some school in the morning, but not much. She also helps me get the chili cooking for lunch. After lunch, Jay plays for a bit, & Dea uses the computer. Then, Dea goes to her room, & Jay goes on the computer for Math games & MathTv. We then watch videos from Art of Problem Solving, while Dea works on History. We stick to fun games & videos, since it seems kind of pointless to start school on Thursday.

Jay chooses to stay home today, while Dea & I go grocery shopping. Again, Jay does fun, easy stuff - online Math games, MathTv, AoPS videos, reading, etc. Dea does some schoolwork, but not a lot. It has just been a lazy week, with everyone dealing with headaches, stomach bugs/food poisoning, etc. We really haven't done much this week. The kids spend most of the evening painting.

We go get taxes done this morning. Then, we come home for a quick lunch before running to the library. It is kind of a lazy day. After dinner, my hubby goes over to jam with a friend. The kids paint the new window shades.

My husband & the kids go to a baptism this morning. I stay home for multiple reasons. I'm not Christian & have never really been comfortable sitting in a church. I have some social anxiety issues & don't do well in large groups of people. Despite both of those, I had originally intended to go. However, we then found out that my husband's sisters were also going. We are currently not speaking to one of his sisters. She sent me a series of messages a few weeks ago, attacking me. When I refused her invitation for us to get together & 'work this out,' an invitation which included her calling me a bitch & saying that my husband could tie her hands so I don't get hurt (because she's delusional & apparently thinks I'm scared of her), she informed me in no uncertain terms that she intends to go out of her way to be a complete bitch to me anytime we are around each other. I feel that the baptism of my husband's cousin's kids is simply not the place for the scene that would inevitably take place if his sister & I were both there. So, I chose not to go. I'm sure she'll take it as me being a coward & to scared come face to face with her, but I honestly don't care. Contrary to her opinion of me, that I am selfish & refuse to put anyone else's feelings before mine or do anything for anyone else, I don't want to ruin this day for my husband's cousins. They are having their kids baptized. To them, this is an important religious ceremony. Having one of their cousins act like a toddler, screaming, yelling, and threatening someone else at the baptism would taint their memories of this day. I refuse to be a part of that, in any way. I can't help the fact that she is psychotic & delusional, but I can avoid being around her at important events, when I know she intends to create a huge scene that would make everyone else uncomfortable. I would have ended up not going anyway, though. Last night, I was cleaning and, while in a slightly precarious position, slipped & fell. I woke up this morning with about 17 different muscles hurting & a headache.
So, I stay home & make slow-cooked chicken on the stove. It will cook for a few hours, until the meat is falling off the bones. Then, I will let it cool until I can remove all the bones. Once it is boneless, it will cook some more, with more seasoning. Then, it can be used for many things - sandwiches, pizza, risotto, pasta, etc. I'm thinking we'll use it on pita pizza for dinner tonight. While they are gone, I get Jay's schoolwork for the week ready & into his binder. Then, I work on finishing getting the online aspect of his school for 4th grade ready. I also do a final review of the materials I will be buying in a few weeks. With just a few weeks until I purchase for next year & only about 6 weeks until Jay's 4th grade year starts, I need to make sure everything is ready.