Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nice How That Happens

We're back to school after a two week break for Christmas.  I love how things are coming together, too.  The Littles are enjoying a science book called "Crinkleroot's Book of Animal Tracks and Wildlife Signs". One of the first animals mentioned are beavers.  We are reading a beaver book to get to know more about them before moving on to Crinkleroot's next friend. We're also beginning our geography study on Oregon, which is known as The Beaver State.  Happily, when choosing a book to read for history, Trouble and Anna picked out "Roughing It on the Oregon Trail", not knowing what our geography study would be!  I'll probably write out a Beaver Mini-Unit with links even though we aren't really doing a mini-unit this time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Mini Unit

It's nearing Thanksgiving! Time for the little ones to learn all about pilgrims, Native Americans and turkeys, right?

Books we read:

We read portions of Turkey, Pilgrims and Indian Corn.

We listened to real Turkey Calls and watched some videos of wild turkeys. We compared their lives to that of factory turkeys.

We made the Cranberry Bread recipe from Cranberry Thanksgiving. That was a lot of fun! I also made a Gluten-Free version so I could enjoy it, too. I also want to try the grain-free version. I'll blog pictures of the baking later on in their own post.

I printed off a few coloring pages:

There are, of course, many crafts ideas for Thanksgiving/turkeys. I am NOT fond of arts-and-crafts. When we actually do a crafty thing, the Little really enjoy it, though. Now that the Bigs are big, they can run crafts, and they enjoy it! Hooray!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Duel Reading

Troubles and Polly have been working together, reading Days With Frog and Toad. Polly is reading aloud and Troubles is following along...but did you see his book?

Look closely...

Nope, he didn't want the same one as she was reading. He chose this one instead.

Think he'll be conversing en Espanol soon? He just might the way his crazy little brain works!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hen Mini-Unit

Today's letter is "H". We chose to study Hens. What a great spring activity. Besides, May is National Egg Month and what better way to celebrate eggs, than to learn about hens?

We read a few good books:

The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone
Henny Penny by Paul Galdone
Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

We enjoyed a few fun activities:

Hen online puzzle

Online Farm and HenHouse game

Hen and chicks coloring page

"H" Tracing Page

Of course, we ate a good snack...

Chicken salad sandwiches

I also had a few dry wishbones that the children were able to snap.

For math, we learned that an egg is oval and why an oval isn't the same as a circle.

We also played a variation of Scrambled Egg Math. I took an egg carton and wrote numbers 0-9 inside each indention, along with an few extra 1's. I added two marbles. Each child got to shake the carton, then open it to see what numbers the marbles landed in. Then they counted out that many markers that were set nearby.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cross Lateral Movements

I've been researching cross lateral movements to assist Missy, age 9.5, with her reading. She has learning challenges and I am hoping that these will help her recall the phonic sounds and how they blend into words. We've been using 100 Easy Lessons for a couple of years and it just isn't clicking with her.

When I first introduced Cross Lateral Clapping (think of "Miss Mary Mack"), she couldn't do it, even slowly. She had fun trying, though! After a few days of practice, it was if she'd been playing this game for years! I call her a few times a day now and just clap with her for a minute.

I looked up some more exercises to add to our play time. I found one idea on one site, another couple on another. Finally I found one blog that had lots of ideas in one place. What a resource! This week we will begin doing windmills and elbows-to-knees in the mornings.

I have also dropped 100 Easy Lessons for now and began using Progressive Phonics. We're doing the alphabet portion first, beginning with Alphabetti Book 1-1. It's enough challenge for her and she's enjoying it. She's mastered the first book, "Dod the Dog" and has moved on to "Dod and Bob". It's a nice blend of phonics and sight work and has accompanying copywork, coloring pages and other busywork to print off if you want.

She may not ever read "War and Peace" but I do want her to have basic reading skills. If sight reading is something that will help her, I am going to give it a try.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Elementary Boy Books

It's always a little easier to find books for girls than for boys. My friend Crystal asked for ideas for her handsome readers, so here goes! I tried to choose books that might not be on the lists of great books that are easily found on the Internet.

Any and all Clyde Robert Bulla books. There are way too many to list, but every single one is good. The one I linked to is one I use with each of my first graders as we study the discovery of North America.

Homer Price and others by Robert McCloskey

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth

The Bones on Black Spruce Mountain by David Budbill You'll not find this book on any list of great literature, but it captured my imagination as a child, and all of my children have enjoyed it as well. I forgot the name of the book, but gave the librarian at every library of every school that I worked the details I remembered. I searched in vain. Not one knew the story. When I was around 25 years old, I finally found a copy at a used book store. I was ecstatic!

My Side of the Mountain and its sequels by Jean Craighead George. These are fantastic.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks Read all of the series.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden Another excellent series.

Any and all books by Gary Paulsen.  We love them.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Autumn and Thanksgiving Books

Hard on the heels of Halloween, it's time to discuss autumn books. I love this season, though we experience little of it here in the Central Valley of California. We do get cooler weather and changing leaves, but not the brilliant colors so many of you enjoy. We get our fall color on the pages of favorite stories! Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year (along with Christmas and spring). Oh, how we need to remember to be thankful to the Lord for His abundant blessings! Here are a few (and I do mean a few!) of the books we enjoy this time of year.

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dagliesh is one that we read every fall. Helen Sewell's illustrations are so gentle and classic.

Now It's Fall is a tiny little Lois Lenski story. It's a perfect before-bed story, short, sweet and filled with Lois Lenski's gracefully illustrations.

A Plump and Perky Turkey is the funnest book to read! It's a traditional November book for The Crew. It's got great rhymes and cadence and a creative, humorous story.

Leaf Man is one that I do not own, but it's one I will grab the first time I see it. I like all of Lois Ehlert's other books!

I have many of the adorable Mousekin books. Mousekin's Thanksgiving is as good as any. The details of Mousekin's life, and the animals he encounters, make this series useful for nature studies as well as literature.

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving I love the way this book gives all the glory to God. Squanto's life parallels the Bible's Joseph and it's clearly laid out in this well-illustrated story.

Sarah Morton's Day and the rest of the series are good for studying the life of the folks who lived in the 1600's. They are accurate representations of the activities of their days.

If You Were At The First Thanksgiving is full of facts about the life and times of the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Small paragraphs make the nuggets of information easily understood by younger readers, while not being "dumbed down" in content.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Scary Books...

... but not too scary! I am not a big fan of Halloween. I very much dislike the ugly, death-exalting facets of it. I don't mind "Hallowee-lite" costumes; the innocent, playful Halloween of days past. I'd rather attend a Harvest carnival than trick-or-treat. I do like to read some 'scary' books to the Littles at this time of year. Here's are some favorites.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is a classic. Every one of my children has listened to this repeatedly. Now, my older children are reading it to the younger.

Teeny Tiny is a teeny tiny paperback book that shares an ancient folktale. It's not a very long or complicted story, but children love it anyway.

We were introduced to the the Cranberry Family by FIAR. This is a fun story with engaging characters.

Another illustrated by Tomie de Paola, The Vanishing Pumpkin tells the tale of a couple, each HUNDREDS of years old, bickering their way through a spooky adventure. I think it's a darling story!

Mercer Mayer has a great series of books with monsters and such. I avoided these books with little-Littles until they were about six. No need to introduce the idea of things living under the bed or in the closet if they haven't made that up themselves already. If I did have a child with a fear of creatures, I would use these books to assuage them. He also has a series of Little Monster books that are similar to his classic Little Critter books.

McBroom's Ghost is just part of the great McBroom series with which every child should be familiar. I can't say enough about McBoom and his family. I love their tenacity, their aplomb and the simple fact that they are always there for each other.

Mommy? is a great pop-up books that we have enjoyed. I have even blogged about it before.

The Trip is a sweet book, like all Ezra Jack Keats books. It's another story in the Louie series.

Can I add another Tomie book? Four Scary Stories is always worth the read.

What about you, Do you have any favorite scary-but-not-too-scary stories? Please share! I'll post The Crew's favorite Autumn Books next time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Books

I went to a book sale tonight and came home with a mixed bag of great books. The first is "A Voyage of the Basset" by James Christensen. Wow. This book leaves me speechless.

The art is truly amazing. I can't believe that I hadn't heard of it before! Make a search of the title in Google images and enjoy some of the lovely artwork.
I haven't read the story yet, but if it matches the illustrations, it'll be wonderful!

The next one is "Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like" by Jay Williams.

This is illustrated by Mercer Mayer, so you know the art is great. The colors in this book are deep and earthy, just like I like best. The story is good, too! Han is polite and generous, to the joy of all involved. He also knows not to judge a book by it's cover!

I grab any and all Patricia Polacco books I see, if they are a reasonable price. This nice hardcover is a library-bound copy that looks new. Bonus-I didn't have this title yet!

Bill Peet doesn't write great literature, but he does write entertaining stories that stick with my children. The vocabulary is challenging, but the Littles understand just fine and always want another book. I am *this* close to having ALL his stories now!

I will be reading about the Kweeks with the Littles tomorrow, I believe.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stand Back......

I picked up a gem of a book at the thrift store today! For one thin little dime, I became the owner of "Stand Back," Said The Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" by Patricia Thomas, illustrated by Wallace Tripp. Have you read this story? It's hilarious! I am always on the lookout for good rhyming books. Two of my sons and one of my daughters seem to have been born without the ability to rhyme or recognize a rhyme when they hear it. We read lots of rhyming books to help them overcome this lack of poetic ears.

I read it to Troubles, Jack and Missy and they immediately asked to hear it again. That's a sign of a great book. As I was looking it up on Amazon to get the link for this post, Troubles saw the computer screen and gasped, "Your going to sell that book???? I don't want you to sell that one!". That's another sign of a great book!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Anatomy Dude

I've written before about how much Troubles likes anatomy. He's enjoying sitting in on Exploring Creation with Anatomy with the bigger kids. He's not required to do anything he doesn't want to, but he's listened to most of the lessons and participated in several of the "Try This's" and experiments. Today we got out Anatomy Dude to examine his muscles. Guess who has been playing Dr. Frankenstein all day?

I showed Jack and Troubles an Amazon page of anatomy models. Oh, how they want everything, especially the Anatomy Dude's Head, Skull, Heart and Hand! Maybe "Santa" will be bringing human models for Christmas!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

California State Unit

Here's a nice colorful map to show the different regions of California. We discussed the mountain ranges (Coastal and Sequoia), the Central Valley, the desert regions (Mojave, specifically) and the differing climates, plants and animals.

Here's a nice selection of printable maps of California.

We discussed the state symbols: flag, motto, bird, flower etc. This was just an overview, with no requirement for memorization of this information.

California State Flag Online Coloring Page I like activities like this since they use no ink to print, create no paper to manage, are fun and engaging for a time and teach mouse skills and hand/eye coordination.

Lots of printable and interactive activities

Mission Pictures We briefly discussed missions, but we do not devote very much time to them. We looked over the pics we took at Mission San Buenaventura when we visited and talked about how the Spanish helped and hurt the Indian culture.

We played a game with California trivia.

We learned about the failure of the Kaweah Colony. This area isn't too far from us, and we have been to the site in the past.

Here's an Amazon Listmania that I found helpful.

We watched a neat video clip of Market Street in San Fransisco days before the Great Quake. We also looked at lots of pictures of the aftermath and compared the with the 1989 quake in Loma Prieta. This, of course, led to a discussion of earthquake preparedness, the reasons we prep, and the real-time earthquake map I have bookmarked. Go to the left sidebar to change to a view of the whole USA or the world.

Books we read:

Nine For California by Sonia Levitin
John Muir by Charles Graves
If You Lived At The Time Of The Great San Francisco Earthquake by Ellen Levine

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Tower of Babel

We are using Mystery of History this year and are studying Sumer and the Tower of Babel. Among other activities, the younger kids created ziggurats using Lego. I love how each has their own personal style, yet all are similar to the pictures we looked at online.

These are the remains of a ziggurat in the ancient city of Ur. Abram might have walked past this!

This is an imprint of a seal from ancient Babylon showing a ziggurat. I love history.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How I Teach Larger Place Value (MUS Beta)

How do you turn 200,000 + 40,000 + 6,000 + 500 into 246,500 instead of 2,465?

Most of my children have had difficulty learning to order these big numbers. Personally, I wonder if this lesson group should be in a later book, but it's in Beta, so we deal with it. Here's what I do.

I have them turn lined paper to the side, so they can write one number in each lined column. I have them write the biggest number first, ie. 200,000. It takes SIX columns to write it out. I mention that you have to think about these big numbers right to left, which is backward from reading, so it makes it hard. I use my fingertip to block out most of the number and say "units", move it to the left slightly, "tens", repeat movement, "hundreds" etc. to teach the names of the places. I tell them that they can count the number of digits to make sure it is the same as the one printed on the page.

Then I have them write the next number (40,000) underneath the first, UNITS FIRST! I know it's backwards from the usual way, but it's what worked for me. That way units end up under units, tens, under tens, etc. I cover the number again, and verbally point out that the units are lined up, then the tens, then the hundreds, etc. Then they write the next number, units first, (6,000), then the next, units first, (500). Then we add the units, the tens, the hundreds, etc, to get the right number. I emphasis that in this kind of problem, the answer must have the same number of digits as the largest (and usually it's the first written) number in the series they are to add.

Some of my older students overheard me teaching this and came to say that it was the hardest part of the book. They also said that when these problems come up (very infrequently) later on, it seems much easier than it does when you are first learning it. I love spontaneous encouragement!

Also, I do not make my students *master* this skill like I do math facts. It is not really used much after these lessons and, like I said at the beginning, it is a higher skill, in my opinion, than is needed at this level. It comes much more naturally later on.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Black Bear Mini-Unit

Our school year has officially started! For my Littles (ages 9,9 and 6) we are beginning the year with a bear study. We're focusing on black bears, since they are our 'local' bear, with a sprinkling of grizzly, sun, koala, polar and panda for good measure. We had the good fortune of having a personal encounter with a black bear a few years ago while camping. The children were eating s'mores around the campfire in the afternoon. A bear came wandering near our camp, so my Honey, my SIL and I stood between the bear and the kids and watched him walk past. The children could see him well and they all, except Troubles, remember the experience.

For our study we read some books:

Bears for Kids by Jeff Fair
Black Bear Baby by Alan Lind
The Three Bears by Paul Galdone
Bearskin by Howard Pyle
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (This was made even more relevant by a recent gift to our family of pounds of blueberries from a friends bush.)
Little Bear (and the others in the series) by Elsa Holmelund Minarik
Jessie Bear stories by Nancy Carlstrom

If we want to spend more time with bear characters, we'll read some Paddington. We read both Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh's Corner last year. I have all my early readers read "The Bears on Hemlock Mountain", so I did not read it with them now.

We did not, please note, read any Berenstein Bears. I do not like them. Father Bear is portrayed as an idiot and he is looked at with scorn by Mother and the children. I won't have those disrespectful storylines in the house.

We watched some videos:

Baby Bear Squeaks
Lost Baby Bear Calls For Momma
Grizzly Roars
Sleepy Baby Bear

We used some other sites, too.

Here's a bear den webcam that we have kept an eye on.

Of course we discussed bear safety. This is old hat to my Lambies since we camp in bear country often.

We have seen a replica black bear paw, real teeth and even skulls several times in the ranger station that we visit when we go camping. I'd love to see a model of a black vs grizzly paw in real life. This would make a real impression!
(awesome picture from CoolRVers)

I created a pretty easy bear word search for them using this tool.

They did a coloring page or two.

Since bears love honey and seeds, we made these Sesame Honey Candies. We did not sprinkle them with ants or grubs to make them even more like a bears natural diet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

State History and Geography Overviews

This year (and likely next) we will be studying each state's history in overview fashion, its geographical features and learning things like its capital, famous residents, quirky stories, etc. We'll read story books that are representative of each, as well. I think it will be a fun study! Since we live in California, we're bucking tradition and beginning our study on this coast, working north (and west), then east. It's more important to me that my children are familiar with the states they may visit sooner than later.

I plan to blog the sites and resources that I use for each state. If you have a great state/regional story that we should not miss when we get to your state, please share it! I can use all the great story ideas I can get!

Friday, July 22, 2011


I've been reading through the Petunia books with the Littles. What a treasure this collection is! Poor little Petunia has some mighty common character flaws but she always learns her lessons at the end. Roger Duvoisin's bright, sketchy drawings illustrate her plights perfectly! Here, Petunia suffers the natural physical effect of pride...

which of course, results in a fall.....

...but leads to a search for real wisdom...

...which leads (in family discussion) to discovering James 1:5 (NLT) "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Planning 2011-2012

It's planning time again! I'll share some of the resources I am planning to use this year, along with links to some of the printables I am using.

I write out our term's week-by-week work using this form created by Linda Faye. I've used it for years and am so thankful that she made it available for all to use. Linda Faye is the creator of a great site called Charlotte Mason Help. It's a wonderful resource that should be bookmarked.

This year I printed off these cute little reading logs for the four youngest Lambies. When the book is filled, I plan to either take them out for something or get them a special treat. What that treat is, I have not decided.

My favorite attendance sheet is from Donna Young. I find her site helpful, but sometimes it's hard to find a particular page you saw that you liked. I usually make a master copy to keep on hand in case a favorite form goes missing. :)

EmBlem will continue with Apologia Science. She loves it. She'll be in Chemistry this year! GirlofGod has chosen to study astronomy in depth. She's using Jeanne Fulbright's book as a spine and other books to supplement. The rest of the children will be studying Human Anatomy, using Exploring Creation with Anatomy. Nature study will continue as it always does.

We're using Mystery of History Vol. 1 all together this year. I am not sure how it will work out, but I am looking forward to teaching history all together rather than to each child individually as I had been when using AO more closely. We'll be using our Book of Centuries as the timeline. I will likely use "A Picturesque Tale of Progress" as appropriate. I love this series!

Of course we will identify the area we are studying in MOH on the map, but the bulk of our geography will be US this year. I will use a few different resources. This free site has almost everything I'll need! I also have "Yo, Sacramento". It helps the kids remember states and capitals in a unique way.

For Bible, I am considering studying character traits this year, along with our through the Bible readings. This chart will be useful. I really like this printable record for personal Bible time. I also want to listen to J. Vernon McGee on a regular basis. The Way of the Master is very useful for learning how to share your faith.

We'll continue to do grammar, composition, spelling and such in various books depending on each child's abilities. My oldest will be doing Larry Burkett's Money Matters for Teens. I'd love to get Dave Ramsey's homeschool program to use in the future.

Some of the kids will be doing workbooks from Evan-Moor: "The Daily ______" series. They are quick and easy activities that pack a lot of punch for the time spent. I have a couple of kids who prefer this kind of independent work and I am glad to have found Renee's recommendation.