Monday, April 16, 2018

Discussion Clips for Non Fiction Close Reading

I found these cool clips at Lakeshore Learning. (This is not a paid advertisement. I just like to share about products I think are great.)

You can see in the pictures that there are several different types of clips, 6 of each one. They're just thin pieces of plastic, printed on both sides. You slide them onto the page, with the arrow pointing to the appropriate part.  I really like that they're all different colors.

We've used these a couple different ways. On the following occasion, each kid chose a different book about a Renaissance artist. They were also given one of each different clip. As they read their books, they inserted each of their clips so they would be able to remember the important things they learned. When everyone was done, they took turns teaching each other about the artist.

This time, I had 4 books that I wanted everyone to have a chance to look at. They had 10 minutes to skim the words and look at the pictures in one book, and then we rotated books and set the the timer again. They were required to find at least 1 interesting thing and put an arrow on it. When everyone was done with every book, we went through and they each were able to say why they picked that page to be highlighted.

I found that these arrow clips kept the kids focused on what they were reading or seeing on the pages. It also helps them retain the info they're learning if they have a purpose ("Where can I put these 'cause and effect' markers?") and an opportunity to teach each other.  They also would be helpful for when the kids do non fiction reports, instead of taking notes on paper as they read. They can use these and then go back and look at them later to write their reports.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Homeschooling Means...#32

...when a friend is doing a small fundraiser before school to buy new books for her kids' public school library, I take my kids in their pajamas to support her. I've said this so many times on here, but I love my public schooling friends and am happy to support any school when I can.

This cute prize wheel was a fun treat (50 cents per spin). How creative is that? I wish them lots of luck with the fundraising efforts! A well-stocked school library is an invaluable treasure!

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Monday, April 2, 2018

New Field Trip Resource

I am so ridiculously excited right now! Before the good news, some background.

 We love our charter school. One of the things they boast as a perk of enrollment are school-organized field trips. These are very cool in theory, but we've only attended one in all our years of homeschooling with them. Here are some reasons that we haven't been doing field trips with the school:

  1. Sometimes they're set for days that don't work for our schedule.
  2. While we can use our educational funds to pay for the student's participation, I would have to pay for my ticket (and enrolled younger sibling's ticket) out of pocket. We're too poor for that.
  3. Sometimes bringing a younger sibling isn't even allowed. Getting a babysitter just isn't worth the hassle.
  4. Dropping off your kid is not an option. A parent has to attend.
  5. Sign ups for trips fill up fast and sometimes I just don't know if we'll be able to attend far enough in advance for when enrollment opens.
  6. The one time we did go, it was a pain in the butt to get my ticket paid for and sorted out in advance of the trip. 
  7. I haven't been convinced that any trips would be worth the hassle and expense. I would rather spend the kids' instructional funds on other things.
  8. I thought that school field trips would be a good way to build a community within our school. But our school is just too large (several counties) and diverse so you wouldn't necessarily see the same families each time. When we did go to that one trip, there was no effort to connect us as a community. We were all supposed to gather at the front entrance so we could check in and then we were free to go our separate ways, which every family did.
There you have it. So we've just been doing our own thing. We'll occasionally plan field trips that are free or cheap and local with friends or just by ourselves. But now our school has made a new resource available to us...

Explorer Field Trips, Field Trip Kits!

We can use instructional funds to purchase these kits (which include admission tickets and educational activity guides) and then use them whenever works for our family. There is even provision to allow my ticket as the parent to be paid for from student funds. And this is the perfect year for us because now all four of my kids are enrolled and so as a family we have more school money to play with, and less things we need to buy because a lot of my curriculum is non consumable and gets reused every year.

Some of the available field trips are closer to us, like the Sacramento Zoo. While there are a ton of other great trips all over California that would be nice if we could afford travel expenses. I have friends from other charter schools that have used this resource to take their family to Disneyland for a couple days!

It's going to be awesome figuring out how to make this new vendor bless our family next school year!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

One reason it's hard for me to make new friends...

I recently made an interesting discovery about myself: I feel uneasy around quiet women.

I thought I was just uncomfortable with quiet *people* and that it had something to do with my extrovertedness. I think it's also because I don't know what's going on in their head and that worries me. (Interesting note: it's also one reason I don't like animals.) It's hard for me to "click" with them, relate to them, and converse with them.

But then as I was talking with Hubby about it, I was listing some examples and we realized that everyone I listed was a woman. I can think of several quiet, reserved men who I'm perfectly fine socializing with, not the least of which being my husband!

Apparently I just don't like quiet women. It's probably because of my own insecurities! If I don't know what's going on in your head, that means I don't know what you think of me. I don't know if you like me. I need to know if you like me. I need to know if this friendship is going places. I need to know if I'm insufferably annoying and should just go hide under a rock.

I want to know if other women like me, but it's not important to me if other men enjoy my company. I already snagged a guy (introverted and contemplative though he is) who has convinced me that he loves me and wants to spend eternity with me; I don't need any other man.

So there you have it; a little revelation of the inner workings of Shirley's twisted, self conscious mind. Anyone else feel the same way?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Goodbye Gift for Primary

I've been teaching the same kids in Primary (Sunday School for children) for about 1 1/2 years. I've now been released from that calling and am going back into the Nursery. I am so excited because working with the 18 month-3 year olds is my favorite. But these kids I'm leaving behind are my buddies!  I decided I needed something fun to give them on my last day.

"To an *Extra* special kid,
It was an *Absolute Joy* being your teacher!"

On the back I taped a small picture of the Savior.

I know these kiddos are in good hands, and I'm looking forward to the next adventure, but I'm really going to miss teaching them each week!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Are Leprechauns Real?

The morning of St Patrick's Day, Secundus excitedly rushed into our bedroom to tell us all about the amazing discovery her sister had made. The night before, the kids made a leprechaun trap and when Primus got up she noticed that the leprechaun had cleverly used a piece of yarn as a bungie cord to retrieve the chocolate gold coin bait without getting caught in the trap. Secundus showed us the picture that her sister had taken of the evidence: the piece of yarn, the ball of yarn the "leprechaun" found in our craft basket, scissors, and the coin partially unwrapped and nibbled.

We called Primus in to interrogate her. We were sure that she had sprung the trap in order to keep the magic alive for her siblings. She denied it and convinced us she was telling the truth. After interviewing the boys, I was starting to freak out. (Yes, I'm gullible. And I hate horror movies. They *could* be real!)

We then brought Secundus back in and her smile as she entered told us instantly that she was the leprechaun. I'm very impressed with her sneaky creativity in tricking her siblings! She was the first one awake that morning and didn't want the other kids to be disappointed that there was no leprechaun evidence. It really was sweet! I can't wait to see what happens next year!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

You've Finished DISTAR...What Next?

I've spoken several times about how much I *LOVE* Distar ("Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons") for teaching my kids to read before or about Kindergarten. But once they finish that 100th lesson, what next?

I like to do 3 things with my little ones once they are graduates of our favorite reading curriculum: sight words, phonics readers, and random phonics/early reader worksheets.

Sight Words

I'm a fan of the Dolch lists. Here's where I got my lists and record sheet. Dolch is 220 sight words that are divided into 9 groups. A Google search will take you to a ton of sites providing flash cards and game ideas to help your child memorize the words.

I require my child to read the word correctly (with no coaching or sounding-it-out) 3 times over the course of 3 separate (not necessarily consecutive) days. Once he's done that successfully, then I mark that he's mastered that word.

Depending on the child's need, that may mean we spend a couple days playing flash card games and then spend a day quizzing him on as many lists as his attention span can handle. Tertius, being an active boy, did really well when I had him run back and forth in the yard between practicing each flash card.

 My kids loved to see my record sheet get filled up with dates showing their progress. When a word or whole list got crossed off, we celebrated!

Phonics Readers

I have a ton of random phonics readers. There isn't one particular series that I like more than another. I've just collected them over the years from various thrift stores.

We've checked the BOB series out from the library a couple times, and I guess it's widely respected, but we hated it. The pictures were boring and ugly. After getting through Distar, with one simple drawing per story, my kids are ready and eager to read books that actually look like fun books.

Grandma let Tertius borrow a big anthology of classic Dick and Jane stories when he was ready for them and that was great! He felt so important carrying around his big book that was just for him and being able to open it up and show off how far he had gotten.

These little books get read as often as the child has interest. Typically, since we have so many of them and we're eager to move on and read new stuff, they only read each book to me once. I never wanted my kids to think of reading as a chore. Phonics readers are short and rewarding and a great way to reinforce the phonics they learned  in Distar and the sight words they learn from Dolch.

Phonics/Beginning Reader Worksheets

I always seemed to have these random Kindergarten workbooks around. I'll find them partially used at thrift stores or friends will give them to me after doing only a couple pages with their own little ones the summer before Kindergarten. I've also found fun ones at the dollar store.

Usually, pages that teach or reinforce things like letter sounds, blends, and rhyming are completely unnecessary after completing Distar. I still have my little ones do them sometimes though, just because it's fun to have an easy page that they can be successful at and feel smart. Also, much of my big kids' curriculum is in the form of workbooks so this way my little ones can feel like they're doing important work like their siblings.

As I always say, every kid is different. Do what works for your child and go at their pace. Have you tried something that your new reader has loved or been really successful with? Share below!

Monday, March 12, 2018

This is How We Survived the Flu

Our family (excepting Hubby) hardly ever get sick.  Thankfully the children appear to have inherited my healthy immune system (good genes combined with breastfeeding for the win!)  Unfortunately, the flu got us this year.  In order to get everyone healed as quickly as possible, I had to stay organized.  

All four kids had a comfy place in the living room so I could keep an eye on all of them at once.  We draped the couches with sheets to keep things clean and cozy and they watched movies all day.

Each kid was given their own gallon size ziplock bag with their name written on it.  Inside they had plenty of applesauce pouches and whole wheat fruit Newtons to snack on.  I figured these would be easy things to digest, they're reasonably healthy, and we don't buy them very often so they seem like a tasty treat.  On the outside of the bag is where I write when they were given medicine and their temperature.

To keep them all hydrated, I kept the fridge and their sippy cups filled with flavored water.  It's clear (so I don't have to worry about stains when it spills), reasonably healthy (not as much sugar as juice or soda), it's carbonated (we like something with bubbles when we're feeling upset tummies),  and it's a yummy treat that we rarely buy so they'll be interested in drinking lots of it.

Thankfully the flu wasn't too severe for us (headaches, fevers, fatigue, a little bit of puking on the first day, coughs) but it was enough to keep us holed up in the house for about a week.  These strategies made things a little easier.

Monday, March 5, 2018

To Those Who Aren't Allowed to Complain About Infertility

Dear Sister,

You have a beautiful child (or a few).  You have been so blessed!  I know you're grateful.  And I know you wish and pray for another baby.  Yet, for one reason or another, you're experiencing secondary infertility. I'm so sorry!

Hopefully you've surrounded yourself with good, kind friends that would never shout you down if you were to confide in them the ache you feel when you long to hold another infant of your own in your arms. However, you probably don't share with them your grievances because they've experienced the pain of miscarriages, primary infertility, or infant loss while you haven't.  You don't want to sound ungrateful for your fortunes, and you would never want to contribute to their pain!  If your friends have had it much worse than you, you're probably used to being the designated supportive listening ear. I hope you have the right friends that will compassionately take a turn being your listening ear once in a while.

Do you cry when you remove the too-small clothes from your youngest child's dresser?  Or when you see the storage boxes of baby gear and toys taking up space and wonder if you should just pass them on?  Do you get teary eyed when you hug your child's head to your chest and remember when their entire body used to fit there?  Or when your littlest one plays sweetly with someone else's baby and your heart yearns for them to have a younger sibling of their own? Do you sob while watching your favorite show, Call the Midwife perhaps, and wonder why you keep torturing yourself like that?

Complicating things further, perhaps you're like me in that you're so poor it could be argued that having another baby right now would be incredibly irresponsible.  At the same time as you're praying for a miracle you must worry about how you would even announce such happy, hypothetical news when others will likely criticize you. But even the fear of their judging gaze and your tightly stretched bank account usually aren't enough to stop you from praying, is it?

My dear sister, you are not alone. I'm so sorry that you carry around this burden, especially if you feel like you can't reach out to others for support.

The only advice I have is to continue to turn to your Heavenly Father.  He knows you and loves you. I don't know why you have to endure this trial, but He does. We just have to hold onto our faith and trust that whatever plan He has for our lives, that it is the best for us and our families.

 I know that he knows me and that means he knows what I need to learn and the best way for me to learn it. I know that when I turn towards my Heavenly Father and Savior in times of doubt and pain, instead of angrily turning away from them, then I am blessed, strengthened, and comforted. I hope you can also find peace!

Your Empathetic Sister

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Gift From the Forest

Primus was studying The Hobbit and when she got to the part about Mirkwood, her curriculum suggested that she research a National Forest.  She found an address online for Tahoe National Forest and wrote to them to request information.  

She included a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I assumed she would just get a form letter directing her to their website (the Forest Service website is actually very informative.)

In actuality, they sent her a huge envelope full of fun stuff, like the Smoky Bear-shaped bookmark pictured above.

Of course a nice letter was included, along with these really neat 8.5 X 11 posters of insects, animals, flowers, bird nests, footprints, butterflies, birds, trees, and reptiles.

Here's a large poster about fossils.

Finally, this old Junior Forest Ranger Handbook cracked me up.  It was originally published decades ago.  I'm so curious!  Are they still publishing these things?  Did they make a million of these originally and still haven't passed them all out?  Did they just happen to find one hanging around the office and decide to throw it in her envelope?

It was such a surprise to receive all these goodies in the mail.  Definitely made Primus' day and gave her lots of things to read to learn about forests!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Time With Cousins

It is such a blessing to live less than an hour away from my brother and his family!  (In addition, we were blessed to be able to host my other brother's kids for an extended visit last summer.)  I did not grow up close to my extended family.  I'm jealous of the relationship my kids have with their cousins.  It is so fun to watch them together.  It's also really awesome to be able to spend time with my nieces and nephews and dote on them.  Being an Aunt is the best!

We try to do sleep-overs and kid swaps as often as we can.  Whenever the kids come to our house, I take them out to the grocery store to stock up on candy and junk food.  I'm not above bribing them to love me (though I prefer to say that I'm simply building fun memories.)

Lately our nephews have wanted to come spend the night so they can play hours and hours of video games with their Uncle.  

Most recently, we had our oldest, teenage niece over for a couple nights for a Stranger Things marathon.  That was especially awesome because we had a chance to talk about a couple serious topics.  It felt really good to know that she was comfortable talking with me about things that other teens might be too embarrassed about.

I hope that I can always have this close relationship with my nieces and nephews.  But even more than that, I hope my kids always consider their cousins to be their friends!  They are so lucky to have these opportunities and I think one day they'll thank us for making it possible for them to hang out together so much!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Confident Kindergartners with New Reading Skills are the Best!

Quartus is officially a reader!  He's finished his Distar reading curriculum, is just devouring the many phonics readers we own, and is enjoying reading harder books like Go Dog Go and Green Eggs and Ham.  

This is such a fun phase where he is trying to read everything he sees.  

Our grocery store has this awesome huge sign above the dairy case and I never thought anything of it until Quartus suddenly blurted out, "No one saves milk, you moron!"

It just made my day and now I will never read this sign the real way again.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Life Size Zoo

I found this really awesome book at a library used book sale for 50 cents!  Super cool!  You can see I put a pencil on the cover to give you an idea of the size of this thing.  

It's full of life-size pictures of various wild animals.  Or rather, since most of the animals in the book are quite large, on a two page spread it shows one part of the animal.  

Then in the top corner of the page it shows a reference guide so you can see the size of that part of the animal in relation to the rest of its body.  

Also, the table of contents includes measurements for the animals.

One afternoon we packed up the book, chalk, a yard stick, a measuring tape, and bikes and then trecked over to the nearest large empty parking lot to draw some animals.

I'm sure we weren't totally accurate with our measurements.  But the process was what was most important.

It ended up being the perfect homeschool afternoon!  We did science, math, and cooperative learning all at the same time, followed by PE as they rode their bikes around for a while before heading back home. Homeschool win!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Taller Than Grandma

Well, I think it's official; the long-awaited day has come.  At almost 12 years of age, Primus is now taller than her grandmother!  Three out of four grandparents are tall, Hubby and I both got tall genes, so we always thought it would be funny when our oldest Amazon woman passed up her grandma.  

Also, I can't believe my baby is now taller than a full grown woman!  Why isn't she my little girl anymore?  Stop time, please!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Voltron Party

Primus is obsessed with Voltron, Legendary Defenders on Netflix.  This summer when season 3 came out, my friend hosted a Voltron marathon for her daughter, my girls, and a few of their friends.  I made some snacks!

These pictures are not the greatest, but I am glad I at least took them because I almost forgot about it! Also, it should be noted that I know nothing about Voltron.  I don't remember watching it as a kid, I haven't watched the new version, and every bit of knowledge that follows was gathered from the internet and the ramblings of my 11 year old.

This is supposed to be a lion.  I wanted to use all the Voltron colors.  The blue in the middle is Ranch dip with food coloring.  The black face is just black icing gel.  I don't think any of the girls ate any of this. :)

These are peanut butter cookies in honor of Pidge.  They're made with creamy peanut butter because Pidge once said that she loved peanut butter but didn't like peanuts.

I made garlic knots because Lance says he had fond memories of garlic knots from back home.  These are just canned Pillsbury pizza dough cut into strips, tied into knots, brushed with garlic butter, and baked.

Food Goo was apparently an absolute must.  It was easy to make with green food coloring in mashed potatoes.

Finally, black and white swiss rolls were perfect to honor Shiro.  This "Fiction-Food Cafe" blog has a good explanation of the black/white symbolism of Shiro.  It's so deep!