Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Neglect - such a dirty 7-letter word...

It's really awful. She's been neglecting her blog.

No, that's not really what's happening. We are just so busy with school and life! The very thing I started a blog to cover has kept me busy! I just felt the need for myself (and anyone else that cares out there, but mostly for myself) to say that I am still loving being able to blog, and sometimes it just means playing catch up after a couple weeks. 

I have found that trying to overly focus on catching pictures of everything we are doing can sometimes overshadow actually doing them. So I grab one if I can, but I want to make sure I keep my focus where it's supposed to be. 

That, and the fact that I am starting to work on an at-home business (Plexus) and that has taken some time working that in to my schedule. 

Sometimes, things get a little crazy around here.... 

But what I love is this:

Lunch dates

I love seeing the light come on when a child learns to read. 

I love seeing the personal desire to learn something  when it's their OWN idea, not just mine!

I love seeing them be more than just siblings, but also friends.... 

I love getting to make these memories with them, at times when some parents can't.

Sometimes I can catch them on camera, but sometimes - I just have to put down the phone and do life! 

I am hoping as you read this, that you can understand :) 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lately In Life

Just an update of some of what we've been doing around here.


Bug finished the addition booklet I printed out for her to use with the addition finger chart. I also gave her the first presentation of commutative addition (modified because it's been a while since I gave it to Miss Priss, couldn't remember exactly the steps I  used last time, and I needed to give it immediately that day) with the printed bead bars. I am in the process of  making her a new version of the addition booklet, to practice identifying the commutative addition equations.

Miss Priss was working on some pages she tore out of an old workbook we had eons ago, that had been hole-punched and put in her binder. She came to a page that had addition equations involving money and several addends. She was having a difficult time, but has been resistant to using the stamp game - I think it's becoming more time consuming than she feels is necessary. I showed her how it is possible to do the same thing, using dry erase markers on the board. She really seemed to enjoy this, and it actually  made it very easy to slide her over to abstract recording with exchanges (carrying) by doing it this way. 

You can see that we wrote the equation on the left side of the board, used colored dots (to represent the *stamps*) on the right side of the board, and did our exchanging and carrying simultaneously. 

She had a total of six equations, all set around a theme of lunch menu choices - she had to locate certain foods on the  menu and first record how much each cost before being able to work the problem. By the time the sixth came around, she was fairly good at being able to watch the exchanging with the 'marker stamps' and record it as carrying on her paper. I hope that all makes sense. It was really quite neat to see her work that process out in her head and see the light bulb come on.

She also finished her multiplication charts and I pulled out our multiplication board. Here she is working through the board, one equation at a time (starting with 2x2, 2x3, 2x4 etc.) and seeing how many she can correctly recall and place on the board. Really what happened is the first couple of rows came easy, she would check each one with the Pythagoras chart, and she caught the basic skip counting pattern. She finished 4 rows, I think, and it's still sitting, waiting for her to get back to it on Monday. 

At the same time, Bug was working on the hundred board with a little help from the boys. Well, Hoss was helping. Buddy was just kind of there. Half observing, half getting in the way, most likely. Sadly we found that we have a missing #45 chip - got to find that thing. It ruined the work when she couldn't find it. 

I also did a review with the three oldest kids, although mostly in line with what Miss Priss needed, on remembering place values. They had to identify place values in to the millions  on paper, but up on our white board (not pictured) we had actually gotten in to the billions. And for some reason, Miss Priss is consumed with figuring out how much money Alice Walton (the late Sam Walton's daughter) has. That provided for some interesting talks and some intense work on how high a number can get... hahaha ;) 

In this particular work, they had a number in to the millions in each box. They sometimes had to circle the numbers with the correct color for it's place value, sometimes they had to make sure to add the commas in the correct places, or identify what digit was in what place, or the place value name of a given digit, etc. 

LM had been working diligently with the decimal board, and decided to review herself by giving Hoss a lesson. He is very good at adding money (hence early decimal work) of course, and is quite taken with adding money whenever he gets the chance. She decided to go at the lesson from that direction first, and I watched as she explained (in her own terms) what part the decimal point played, identified the numbers on each side - not completely correctly, so I jumped in there to throw in the right vocabulary - and they added a few 'money' equations on the board. 

Then, quick as a flash, she erased the dollar signs, and boom. There we just had decimals. She's quite the - ummmm - commanding personality, so that was right up her alley!

We've also been reviewing parts of speech - something we (sigh) haven't touched on since we moved. Horrid - I know. Oh, well. We haven't, and we needed to review before I introduced and worked with new ones. LM even needed it - she obviously didn't retain them very well. So it was good for the three oldest to. This week we reviewed the verb and adverb, and laughed a little at some combinations. I am going to pull out the logical adverb game next week, because Miss Priss will love it and Hoss is always up for a game. 

Yes, the above picture DOES say car (noun) talks (verb). LM thought she was being funny, I almost debated the logical rationality of such a combination, until I woke myself up to today's technology. Cars DO talk to you. LOL - my husband's car reads him his texts while he drives. Sigh. I kind of like things staying the same. They don't, though, so 'car talks' passed. 
However, when we reviewed the adverb and 'shaves awkwardly' came up, I began to wonder what was going through her mind.... :) 

Hoss was working on some correct punctuation here. He doesn't take his time in writing to make sure he uses correct punctuation, capitalization, and so on. I made a few sentence strip sheets for him to 're-write and correct' which I hope got him to slow down and work on making sure he uses correct sentence formatting (trying to make, "capital letters, periods, apostrophes in your sentences SON!" sound smart!) .

Another things that Hoss and Miss Priss have been working on is learning ASL.
This interest spurned from a series I found at one of our little libraries, actually. If you've never heard of the deaf FBI agent Sue Thomas, her life story is amazing! It was also turned in to this show, which just so happens to have a five volume DVD series, which I just so happen to *love*. The kids have seen enough of it to be very interested in ASL.

In the picture above they were getting a recap on the ASL alphabet, which they actually learned quite some time ago. Below Miss Priss and Hoss were 'talking' to each other over lunch. They said it was their 'secret language'. For anyone further interested, if you have a Netflix account, there is a show called Signing Time, and although we've only gotten to one episode so far, they really enjoyed watching and learning a few new things - like how to ask and tell someone their name. 

Bug is finally wanting to progress more with her reading. She wants to be able to read independently before the library summer reading program, and one day a week or so ago revisited the Bob books that are in 'her' school drawer. We also have an early reader, pink series work (which, if she would get a little farther in her reader, she could easily move in to blue) and other beginning reading materials available for her to choose from. The favorite is still generally the Abeka beginning reader book. 

Buddy hasn't been as busy with Montessori inspired work as I'd like him to be. I have gotten so far down to the basics that we keep the same style in some of our every day activities but I don't have as much out for him on the shelves as normal. And sometimes he does things, and I just don't catch him in time. I caught a picture of him after he decided to build the brown tower one day. He also claimed it was a Christmas tree, and that the bowl on top (which held the two smallest cubes, stacked, although you can't see them well in the picture) was the 'star'. So his imagination got in on that one a little bit, but he also did a great job for the most part of aligning each block - his attention to detail has been getting much better. He's also writing - mostly his name, but it's so fun to see that happen all of a sudden! 

I do try to incorporate 'practical life' i.e. independence whenever possible. Especially if it means I can be doing school or work while they are getting their own lunch. That's always handy :) 

Or if it means they are making goodies that I surely don't need, but that taste wonderful! LM and Hoss have decided that if they just embark on something without making a fuss, it's easier that way and they can show me they can really do it well. That has scored me some cherry pineapple cupcakes and brownies over the last week. 

I took these pictures one day. Raw honesty. All in the same moment, school can look like this in one room:

this in the next:

and this in another:

The beauty of homeschooling :) And the art of taking a picture of one particularly serene moment and, if you don't share the big picture, no one has to be the wiser for it :) 


We went to the pet store one day to get a necessary item for our kitty - who thankfully is now not going to ever be able to be a daddy kitty. If you don't get that taken care of soon enough, it's a rather horrid, stinky mess. Let me assure you. I digress - after we got what we needed to be able to take him to the vet safely, we had to look around at all the animals. Cats, dogs getting groomed, fish of all kinds, turtles, and all manner of rodents (everything looks too much like a mouse to me for me to be excited about this one). We were also able to see a few different types of birds. There's education everywhere, if you look in the right places :) 

Bug celebrated her 6th birthday. I don't know where the time has gone! Her cake went something like this:
1. See cake on internet. 
2. Have too many cooking/baking shows in your past.
 3. Because of #2, you show pretty cake to 5 year old.
 4. Make cake.
 5. Attempt to cover in fondant.
 6. Realize #5 was a bigger deal than you thought. 
7. Cover it anyway, and reassure yourself that it's really okay 
because, after all, she's just newly 6 and still thinks I'm awesome.
 She doesn't know any different...yet.
And she did, in fact, love it. 

I have been able to start getting up and walking in the morning - most mornings with my furry friend, Beaux :) I just posted this because - well - because it's life. I love that time to wake up to the day and be ready for the day before the kids get up, not the other way around!

This last small group of pictures was almost an afterthought. Who'd of thunk (that's a good ol' southern word there) that LM would decide to get serious about drawing with an etch a sketch?! She's always been a little artist - and apparently, there's a new art form - etch-a-sketchery :) 

Basketball Man

Grand Canyon (complete with cursive writing, sketch-style)

The Melting Pot


:) We always manage to have a lot of fun around here, get a lot of work done, and live life the fullest we can! I hope you are reading this and can say the same thing!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Magnetism and Using Worksheets in the Montessori Inspired Homeschool

Today we worked on some exploration with magnets. 

I found this very small, inexpensive set of magnets at a local school supply store here. They didn't have the one I REALLY wanted, so I settled for a cheaper one for the time being. 

I prepared for our day this morning by going online and printing off a few ready-made free worksheets. And here is where you insert the gasp-heard-round-the-world. :) 

I generally shy away from worksheets - we don't use them on a daily basis. I would not print out a worksheet for something that was new to my children. I believe you should always, as much as possible, give your children a concrete learning experience long before bringing in anything abstract, like a worksheet. In this case, they had already had that. 

When you are working with children who have had the concrete first experiences you can build off of those with some that review what they know and give them a chance to expand and show what they have retained. That's my feelings towards worksheets and combining them with a Montessori inspired homeschool. Generally not necessary, but can sometimes prove helpful if they are targeting what you are working on together. On to the fun pictures :) 

We all gathered around the table to talk about what makes up a magnet, and did several fun things (of which I have no pictures because my hands were rather busy) to talk about magnetic fields and how you can't feel them in their own with one magnet but see proof of them as you put two magnets together, first on synonymous poles and then opposite poles and see the reaction of the magnet. They thought the most fun part was when we laid two of the magnet bars on the table and used one to scoot the other along in a line, in circles, and finally figuring out how to make it fall off the table.

This led to a small rabbit-trail discussion of whether it was possible that the makers of the Lego movie could have used a magnet in the scene at the end where Emmett falls off the table.

(I couldn't find a youtube video that showed that specific scene, but this one is right before and right after it)

We did a few sheets about predicting what would and wouldn't be magnetic, then tested our predictions. I didn't get a good picture of us actually testing what we pulled out, but we had two groups of objects. 
Group #1 - seashell, washer, crayon, small springs, scissors, keys, and a pencil
Group #2 - penny, quarter, dime, nickel, can (vegetables), tweezers, a screw, measuring spoons, paperclip, fork, ziploc bag. 
They were all able to take turns seeing what was and wasn't magnetic, and saw that sometimes an object might LOOK magnetic when it really isn't. We also discussed how some things, like the scissors, are both magnetic and non magnetic, and some things - like the measuring spoons - might depend on what type and that there isn't always an absolute yes or no for different objects. 

We took a side trail here and everyone was sent to find 5 things they wanted to try with the magnets, and we made a list of what was magnetic, non-magnetic, and both. Then I showed them how they can lay that information out in a Venn Diagram. 

Next we used a couple printables to test and record the strength of a magnet as it passes through another object. They thought it was amazing that a magnet could lift their paperclips through glass, wood, cardboard, and even plastic. They really enjoyed watching the magnet not only lift the paper clips but me be able to move the clip around with the magnet.

This was just a fun little coloring certificate that I printed off for them to stick with their 'research papers' in their binders. This, of course, is obviously Buddy's work. 

Most of them scattered to do other things after our lesson, but Buddy grabbed the magnets and began a little work of his own. In this picture he has actually made something of a pattern with magnet-paperclip-magnet and found out that he could pull the entire line of magnets and clips with just one magnet.

Which inspired this 'train' that he played with for almost 20 minutes.

I couldn't help but take this picture. After I finished helping the others get their work put away, I caught his eye while he was playing. He very calmly informed me that the strong magnets in 'his train' were the 'men and boys' and the magnets that weren't strong enough to pull the train were the 'old ladies and girls' and that is why they were all by themselves in a pile. Oh, what a mess this little guy is...

And that was the big excitement today :) Now I think they are outside cleaning up from giving the dog an impromptu bath that I am sure they loved and he hated. 

Never a dull moment!!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Playing Catch Up

What a game of catch up it is, too. 

Blogging has taken a back burner for a little while, for a few reasons. 

#1 - We are SUPER busy! Just flat busy, no other way to put it. 
#2 - I am now solely dependent on my phone for pictures, which is fine - it takes great pictures, but I am trying to find the easiest way to get them from my phone to my computer in a way that doesn't try to save Every. Single. One. every time. I'm not real tech savvy so I am slow to try and mess with it. 
#3 - The kids have testing (state mandated) this week, and though it's only one day - half a day, at that - I generally try to put a focus on the type of material that they will be facing so they are not surprised and ill-prepared for the final day. 

I've pulled a few pictures together to try and give a good idea of some of the things we've been doing the last month or so, since the last time I posted. I still have a couple vacation posts I want to finish, and am determined to do that - before our next out of town trip, at least. 

Here is our month in review:

*The Game Changers*
(the biggest changes that affect our daily and weekly routines)

I started both selling and using Plexus in the past month. It has truly been an answer to pray, specifically in the energy level! I have no more afternoon crash and bedtime crankiness out of exhaustion. But I'm not saying that as a sales pitch - just an update on how I'm making it through each day, by the Grace of God.

Baseball season is upon us. This is always a busy time of year, keeping up with practices and games. It's even more busy when I'm the only parent here to keep up with it all. That being said, Hoss L.O.V.E.S. this time of year and that makes it all worth it.

*School Days*
(what has been going on in school life, both pictures and updates)

In the middle of March the kids had their annual Solo and Ensemble for their homeschool music group. Hoss and Miss Priss (in general music ed) didn't compete, only performed with their class. A skit, various different instruments, including the kalimba, bell plates, boomwhackers, and many other fun ways to play with music. LM actually competed, in that she sang a solo, and received one of the highest ratings.  

We got some new materials in recently, including a hundred board (above), multiplication board (below), and decimal board (two pictures down). In the picture above you can also see part of our Lego Timeline board that we have used for weeks while working on the Lego study we did. That was a fun one, but the kids were definitely past being excited about it, so we tapered off until we are now finished with working with it. 

Hoss is past basic multiplication facts and the memorization of them, but it is never a bad thing to practice what you know. That being said, Big Z was over one day and it's very hard to have school when outsiders come in. I just realized that sounded a little creepy the way I said that, but it is hard to keep their minds on school when someone else is over that isn't a normal fixture in our day. So I challenged both of the boys, who had never before laid hands on this material, to work together to complete it. I quickly presented it to them and they worked on it until they were completely finished. The picture itself isn't such a great angle, but I was also working with LM on something so I had to hurry.

LM definitely understands decimals, from the use of money. But the decimal work has been on my wish list for a while. So, I bought some, and improvised some. I bought the board (from Kid Advance, I think it was) and found the small wooden cubes at Hobby Lobby. There are , like, 30 or 40 in a bag - maybe more - and I bought two bags. Thankfully, I realized that to an extent, I will be able to use the same cubes to do a little bit of a volume lesson with them and the brown (pink) tower that we have. Anyway, I digress.... I gave her the first lesson on decimals that a friend and teacher at our local Mont. school showed me, then showed her how to lay out decimals on the board. Apparently I was going way too slow, because after showing her ONLY numbers less than 1 unit, she wanted to do her own. Before I knew it, she had  some  number in to the millions on both sides laid out and was making up her own numbers that large just to get to lay them out on the board. So adding and subtracting will come next, which will probably go just about as fast, and then we can move on. She's definitely able to do this, in fact, I'm probably much too slow on getting the actual lesson to her. It is what it is, though, and I'm glad that even when I didn't have the material right away or when we've been so busy that I haven't made a point to specifically introduce something to her, just keeping her involved with LIFE, explaining things to her (and the other kids) teaches them so many things!

Hoss was working with turning improper fractions in to mixed fractions here. I had been out of town for a couple days one week and left some *busy work* with my mother, who had them, so that she could give them something to do if she needed that time. He was brushing up on adding and subtracting fractions, and I realized that I didn't look close enough at the worksheet I printed out (I can hear your gasp from here - a worksheet in a Mont. inspired homeschool? It would be no different in this case than having a work card system to move through, or anything else. He already knows the material and sometimes you do what you have to do!). I introduced the concept of a mixed fraction to him, again, because it's been a while since we've talked about them, and he was easily able to go back and turn every improper fraction into one that is mixed.

I thought this picture was so funny. One of the things Miss Priss had in her 'busy packet' of work were a few reading comprehension exercises. This particular one was just a 'finish the story' creative writing exercise. I told my husband her feelings about disobedient dogs came through loud and clear. :)

Our next 'focus study' is going in a geographical slant - I have been working to combine some Waseca materials, both printed and purchased (got the wonderful North America map stencil to start with!) to do a continent study. I'd like to turn it in to a biome/culture/historical study of each continent, the countries in the continent, and so on. I'm still working on preparing this material, though, so I'm not real sure when we will start to be honest with you. 

A little practical life cheese cutting. Yes, Buddy Boy is wearing a pot holder, and No, I have no idea why. Nothing was hot, but I suppose he felt it was appropriate. 

Buddy has also been in this massive sensitive period, the best I can tell. He has been using our open-ended play materials to build. Everywhere. Everything. He gets the wooden blocks, tangram/pattern blocks, Legos, cars, and Lincoln Logs out daily and builds different things with them. I love it because he is extremely absorbed in what he is doing and always has a story to tell me about what he has made, sometimes very elaborate. He tends to use his cars as the 'people' in his story, which is quite funny. His concentration has improved immensely. 

LM is currently involved in a self-directed project of doing a report/presentation on Carl Linnaeus. We listen to a CD set called Jonathan Park, an excellent tool for families that believe in a young earth creation, and just recently one story involved Linnaeus in it's background. She has been diligently working on researching, working with  me and Google Docs to prepare her main points as printables, and the finished product will be a presentation board that she will use to tell about what she has learned. I am looking forward to seeing her finish this, and she is really enjoying the work.

On the heels of LM, Hoss took her lead and is working on his own such project, but on John Adams. He has been reading books in the Adventures in Odyssey series that cover early America, and that may or may not be why he chose Adams. I do know that he spent the better part of an hour one day working on a list of people he wanted to research, finding birth and death dates and why they were important. 

Miss Priss is - well, she's Miss Priss. She struggled through the last few days of working on her Lego Cards, which was one of the reasons why we let it taper off. She is enjoying working with multiplication and division, specifically word problems, of late. 

Bug has been working to finish her addition charts, although slow going, and is still working through reading. Were it not for our busy life here lately, she would probably be a little farther along than she is. One thing that has improved is her ability to focus on her work. It might also be because I strongly felt that if she wasn't able to focus on her work by the end of the *school  year*, I would be keeping her at a 'kindergarten' level next year. I may or may not have even told her that. What she doesn't know is that her work and what she could do would have steadily changed as she was ready. She just knows that if she can't focus on her work, she won't think she's in 1st grade. Mind  games, maybe, but it has shown her that she does need to complete what she starts and has driven her to push herself harder. 

Buddy is showing an increased interest in writing his numbers and letters. I purchased sand paper numbers recently, because I wanted them not only for him but also the younger two girls who sometimes still flip their numbers backwards when writing them, and he shocked me a couple days ago by pulling them out, looking at them, then covering them with his paper before writing the number on the paper. Not the traditional way, but it was his way and he was doing amazingly well at it. He is also writing, and just yesterday wrote his name completely for the first time. It was both sweet and sad, knowing my baby isn't staying a baby anymore!
*Family Life*

I did take a trip about 2 weeks ago, as mentioned earlier in this post, out of town. Actually, out of state. Me, myself, and I drove ALONE to see my husband in the great state of Texas! What a trip that was, let me tell ya! It was a beautiful drive on the way there, but the way home - I drove a great deal of that through the night, which was hard on this non-night-driver. 

I had no idea that there were such creatures as these monstrosities that met me on my way. From what I have read, these are 'Clean Energy Power Lines', but I'll be honest - driving through and seeing nothing but these things surrounding me on the trip was a little strange. So what do I do? Drive and catch a picture at the same time. Of course. 
 (the link shared is not from a personal opinion perspective, just what I found when trying to figure out what these were!)

Teeth are falling out everywhere in our house. In the last week alone I think I have pulled three of four from mouths in the house. :) Just another sign that #babiesdontkeep! 

Losing teeth and gaining family :) My three youngest children were a part of the latest wedding, when my sister-in-law got married a week ago. This is one of the harder parts of a military life - sometimes, you miss out on big events. My husband was unable to come for the wedding, but with the Lord's help, we pulled it all together and made it on time. 

I am absolutely in love with this handsome little guy. Also, very excited! His wedding attire is going to, in part, double as Easter clothes this year! :) I can't get enough of him in that hat. 

My pretty girls. I have been so blessed to have the children God has given us, and know I don't deserve to be their Mama, and that we have been given a most precious gift. 

That is what we've been up to! I hate that this post was so long, and in  my opinion, for myself, so overdue! :) When you get lemons, make lemonade! 

I'm pretty sure Spring has sprung just about everywhere, so I hope if you are reading this, that the weather is nice, the days are fun, and God is blessing you, too!

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