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Saturday, December 7th, 2013
Every year there are a few Christmas decorations that I absolutely LOVE bringing out! I wanted to share a few of our family favorites!
My personal favorites are the ones that include pictures of the kids. One year when the kids were not-quite-2, 4 and 6, I made a holiday picture banner. I took pictures of the kids holding all the letters in Merry Christmas. Then I laminated them and strung them on a long Christmas ribbon. I sewed small red fabric bows and holy in between each picture. We hang the banner up in the living room and the kids always come rushing to look at their pictures!
I also love putting this ornament on our tree! I made a simple popcycle stick Christmas ornaments one year for all of our extended family. My older two kids were 2 and 4. It’s a bit cheesy, but boy do I love pulling this out of the box!
Fingerprint Christmas Ornaments:
We made these ornaments last year making fingerprints into snowmen.
This year we’ll be making fingerprint reindeer ornaments (like this reindeer ornament at the Crafty Crow):
And finally the Christmas Star:
The kids glued toothpicks onto a star shape (it needs to be cut from a firm piece of card board). After the glue dried, we spray painted it gold and glued a toilet-paper roll to the back. It slides easily onto the top of the Christmas tree!
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Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Last week I mentioned that we’ve been doing some grammar review again. We went over 11 comma rules. Then each day they’ve been doing five or six sentences — adding in the comma where needed and identifying the comma rule that applies.
My kids love science, so the comma worksheet has a lot to do with science this time. (There are sentences about the plague, polio, the Venus fly trap, ocean currents and so forth.) I made another sheet last year that is quite similar and I’ll include the link to that and some other free grammar sheets I’ve made at the bottom of this post.
As always, the Comma Rules and Practice Worksheets are free to download!
By the way, if you don’t have a color printer I included p. 3 without pictures at the end of the document.
My youngest wants to do everything her older brother and sister are doing. I made a simple comma rules practice sheet for her as well, but she only went over four of the comma rules:
In this related post, you’ll find links to more of my other free grammar sheets. They cover not only comma rules, but capitalization, homophones, possessive nouns and pronouns, the use of apostrophes, quotation marks, underlining and more: Various Free Grammar Sheets
Here are examples of a couple grammar worksheet sets I’ve made.
NEXT: Printable Christmas Coloring Pages
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Sunday, December 1st, 2013
I hope everyone had a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving holiday. Life seemed to charge forward at break-neck speed and suddenly it was Thursday — Thanksgiving. We hadn’t even bought a turkey!! Since we didn’t have any extended family coming over (and the turkey was frozen solid!!!), we decided to have shrimp and veggies and a pumpkin pie on Thursday. Then we made the full spread on Friday (turkey, sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce and of course dilly bread — a recipe from my great grandmother that my family has made since before I was born). Yum!
We had so much to be thankful for this year — and I love going around the table and hearing what the kids have to say. They are growing up so quickly and sure do impress me.
On Saturday, I got up on the early side and made pumpkin muffins. Yum! (Here’s our pumpkin muffin recipe if you’re interested.)
Then I delved in to my work. I had some posts to write and I also wanted to be on top of school for these next few weeks. I made a whole bunch of math games for ED and sorted out what we’ll be doing in some of our other subjects. We’re going to do a unit on electronics (Fun!!)… and I have the fuses and wires and things like that all ready to go. Now (since that’s not my background) I just need to read a bit more of the book because I have no doubt that LD will catch on quicker than me and leave me in the dust!! That reminds me, I also need to find the snap circuits and bring them down for ED to work with. It’s been so long, I bet she’ll enjoy working with those! We’re going to finish up our unit on India (Taj Mahal and then modern India and Gandhi)… and from their we’re going to do a unit on the Civil Rights Movement in the US (since Gandhi had such a profound impact on MLK, Jr. and the movement itself.) I suspect that will be after the holidays, but we’ll see.
Did you all brave the crowds on Black Friday? I didn’t. For one thing, I was cooking much of the day, but for another I’m having balance/dizziness issues again. Loud noises are extremely hard to deal with (all connected to my ear surgery). :( I need to stay close to home and even so, there have been a number of times I’ve lost my balance and fallen over. Anyway, we did check out some of the online deals, but didn’t go wild shopping for the kids. We actually have a lot of their gifts already. Hubby and I had decided we were not going to buy gifts for one another, but that quickly fell by the wayside. Since I got tendinitis in both Achilles tendons (a side-effect of the strong antibiotic I was on) we had started talking about getting a recumbent stationary bike. Then we saw it on sale… and well, Merry Christmas to us. I’m really, really out of shape now — especially because I spent three weeks in bed — well, or at least was in bed for 17-20 hours a day. My muscles have shriveled to nothing and my muscles are very tight.
Speaking of health and all that, I read a really great book that I enjoyed a lot called The Self Health Revolution. I loved the premise of the book which was your health is in your own hands and you should use common sense. Can’t deny that, right? It talks about fake foods, toxins (in our food supply and elsewhere) and the foods and drugs animals (cows, pigs and such) are given… and then talks about the common sense things to do (eat lots of fruits and vegies, water, exercise, etc.). I wasn’t looking for a diet book or a exercise training book; I just wanted an inspiring book about keeping healthy. This book struck a chord with me and I’d highly recommend it.
And since I’m talking about books and needing to work on my strength and flexibility again… I hauled out my favorite stretching book… 7 Minutes of Magic and have been stretching before I go to bed. Initially, I borrowed the book from the library but liked it so much that I bought it. The stretching routine actually takes me more like 15 minutes and I’ve had to add in some stretches for my calves, quads and hamstrings, but I like the routine. I flip through the book as I go from stretch to stretch. It works better for me than a DVD would.
This fall I have read a LOT of books. (Remember that 17 to 20 hours a day I was spending in bed?!!).
I read and loved Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants. It wasn’t as good as Pillars of the Earth, but I really loved it. If you like historical fiction though, you just HAVE to read The Bronze Horsemen by Paullina Simons. That’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!!
I’ve also been reading the Gone series. One day, everyone over the age of 14 disappears and a huge wall appears. Kids have to learn to survive on their own while at the same time developing weird powers. The series is sort of Lord of the Flies — in how the kids struggle to gain power and deal with one another. It’s certainly action packed… and I’ve been borrowing book after book (in the series) from my library. I guess that says something!
I also read Orange is the New Black. I had heard about it from a friend. It was pretty good and now I definitely don’t need to see the movie (or is it a TV show)? I also read Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, this fall. His books are definitely action packed… leave you gripping to the edge of your seat type books! I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I read the Happiness Project. I really loved that! It definitely made more mindful of appreciating my life, my family… and all that. It’s obviously not for everyone (some people had some pretty negative things to say in their review on Amazon), but I really enjoyed it for what it was. Oh–and one other book that’s worth a mention is The Time Keeper — a book which follows the creator of time, Dor. Dor (Father Time) is forced to hear everyone’s cries, “I don’t have time…” This was a neat, thought-provoking book!!
I definitely keep my local library busy, don’t I?!! If I had to recommend one to get started — I’d recommend the Bronze Horsemen. (I recommended it to my friend this fall — and she’s now on the third novel in the series!!) But if you don’t want to tackle a long book, then I’d recommend The Time Keeper just since it was so unique, was a quick read and really makes you think about how we all complain about time.
I’d better go! Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend! ~Liesl
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Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Yesterday, I mentioned that we’ve added a new portion to our math day. For much of the fall, the kids were simply doing math problems from their math book and they were complaining that math was B*O*R*I*N*G. What? Oh NO!! It was true, though, with everything else going on they were doing straight-forward stuff; you know fraction problems like this…
or long division… or a good meaty problem like 5789 x 673… but honestly I could understand the kids’ complaints. There’s so much more to math than the plain old arithmetic from their books! We really needed to make sure that math was relevant, engaging, challenging and even a bit fun!
As you probably know, the American students rank 25th in math among the 49 industrialized nations that were involved in the study. Here’s a question from the 4th grade test:
From: The Nation’s Report Card
This kind of question definitely goes beyond straight arithmetic, right?!!
As I started looking around, I read about something called Math Circles and saw collections of Math Circle problems. I was intrigued… just what was that? There’s a tradition in Russia of hosting math contests where students compete to answer various word problems. The contest itself was designed to get students intrigued and excited about mathematics. There’s something similar here in the US called the Math Olympiad.
I started looking into some of books on Amazon and decided this “math circle” approach really might be a good fit for our homeschool. The math riddles I shared just a couple of days ago are examples of the types of questions that get kids thinking. I’ll share the answers to the brain-teasers I asked:
The questions from the other day were… 1) Three matchsticks are laid out like in the picture below. Moving just two matchsticks, make six. 2) 8 matchsticks are laid out to look like a fish swimming to the left. Moving just three matchsticks, make the fish swim to the right:
Did you get the first solution for the first challenge (III)? My husband got it right away! And my 8 year old wondered if the solution was XI… That got my son thinking — and they figured out the answer (they said IV first, but when I told them that was 4 they quickly figured out VI is six).
For the fish puzzle, the picture on the left shows which match sticks to move, the picture on the right shows the final solution:
These are the types of questions you’ll find in Mathematical Circle Diaries. This is one of several books I bought recently and the kids absolutely LOVE the questions and challenges in this book!! It’s quite challenging for both my 8 year old and 10 year old, but they BEG for more math time!!! I love that!
I also searched the internet for some math puzzles and we’ve worked through this set of problems as well. My kids really enjoyed these — and maybe you can challenge your kids to answer these over the Thanksgiving break!! The answers are available if you click on the picture below.
Download and print the Math Riddles Page:
We’ve been using a couple other math books to add a new challenging, fun dimension to our homeschool, but I want to use them with the kids a bit more before talking about them here on the blog.
If you have any great suggestions of math resources that go beyond the traditional math book, I’d love to hear from you over on my Homeschool Den Facebook Page! The kids will be grateful too!!
You may be interested in reading the Harvard Study: Achievement Growth: International and State Trends in Student Growth which explains how math scores are improving in the US and internationally.
You might also be interested in the Nation’s Report Card: 2013 which shows the progress US 4th and 8th graders are making in Math and Reading.
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
I thought I would put a post together that helps give a flavor of what our daily homeschooling routine looks like. So many of my posts are compilations of our activities, but they don’t actually show what happens day-to-day. It’s about time to do that again (and I enjoy reading these posts later as the kids get older!)
We have finally gotten back to a relatively normal schedule. (If you follow my blog you’ll have read that I had ear surgery in mid-October. It’s been a long recovery – more about that at the end of this post.) I use the word ‘schedule’ lightly, though, because our day ebbs and flows. We are quick to delve into a subject and spend more time when there is interest. We definitely don’t have a strict time-line we follow. And actually, no day is truly “typical” in our homeschool but I’ll describe what “could” happen!
Getting Our Day Started:
Most mornings ED and I are the first ones up. Usually when I head out to the kitchen, ED hears me and joins me to get her breakfast. I used to always read to her while she ate, but lately I’ve been putting the dishes away, making my coffee and hopping onto the computer for 5 or 10 minutes while she eats. By the time I finish with that, I grab my coffee and we head into the homeschool room. I make a fire in the woodstove and then she reads me one of her phonics readers. We have been using the series from Primary Phonics and she is now on the last set of 10.
Meanwhile, DD and LD have woken up and they get their breakfast and do some independent reading. They both love to read and it’s hard to tear them away from their books! While I was recovering from surgery, I had the kids choose a Newbery novel to read. They both finished those in the past week or so. LD read Wringer and DD read Ramona (She then went on to read several other books in that same series.) Now they’re on to other books. Sometimes they are so into their books that they join us in the homeschool room in front of the wood stove:
On Monday mornings, I’m still having to drive (45 minutes each way) to see my ear doctor. We’ve been listening to Ella Enchanted and the kids (and I) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that book!! I highly recommend that if you have kids ages 5-12.
What Happens Next?
Honestly I have a mental list of all the things we could/should/would like to cover, but what we start with varies from day to day. And, we don’t always get to all of this, though that’s the goal.
Science and/or (usually OR) History — This is the most “hands-on” portion of our day. Sometimes we jump right in to activities. Sometimes I hold out the “exciting, hands-on stuff” until we get a few other things done. And sometimes, we just all jump onto the couch and simply do some reading together. We finished our science unit on Simple Machines about a week ago and we haven’t continued on to a science new unit. Instead, we spent most of last week finishing the Buddhism portion of our India unit. The kids loved the story books, we worked on the Asia map, and finished up the worksheet pack (which put Buddhism into the modern context. Where is Buddhism practiced today? How popular is it as a world religion, etc.). Sometimes we spend 15 or 20 minutes on science or history. Other times we’ll spend an hour or two or more (like when they really got into making pulleys!).
Language Arts — We spent a lot of time working on free writing (see the posts I wrote about Creating a Writing Workshop) and editing (Editor in Chief) at the beginning of the semester. The past few weeks, it was time to bring back in some spelling and grammar. For the past several years, we have been using All About Spelling. This program works extremely well for us. It focuses on various spelling rules and my son in particular like how logically it is laid out. ED demands to be a part of everything (I’ve written how she decided to join us in our writing workshop). She also said that she wanted to start doing spelling as well. I pulled out the first level and she is very happy with that. Here she is using the spelling tiles to create some short A words. She has been zipping through the first lessons of the book. I also brought out the grammar workbook that we use — called Write Source Skillsbook. It goes over the use of commas, apostrophes, etc. and I find the books a good match for our family. I also made some grammar sheets myself to really focus on some areas where they need work.
I forgot to mention that ED also is working on handwriting. She uses both Handwriting Without Tears and Power Practice Traditional Manuscript Handwriting.
Biography Project — While I was recovering from surgery, I wanted the kids to have a project that they could work on somewhat independently. My kids have not ever written a research paper. I wanted to start helping them learn how this is done.
I had them choose someone they wanted to learn more about and for the past three weeks they’ve been working on that project. They had to find their own books at the library and resources on the Internet. We went over proper bibliographic format and talked about how to do research and take notes, etc. I’ll share more about that in another post, but they’ve learned a lot about the writing process and their final project is due this Wednesday (before Thanksgiving). (They did only the research/writing project, not the poster or newspaper article projects.)
In the meantime, ED has been continuing to write in her writing workshop journal. Her entries are still mostly about cats or McKenna (an American Girl Doll), but she generally writes 3 or 4 sentences now.
Math — I’ve shared some of the fun stuff that ED has been doing (the Thanksgiving math and this post on Kindergarten Math). She enjoys playing various math games and will search through her math notebook for things to work on. Meanwhile, we’ve had some big changes in our math for my older two. LD and DD still do some daily work from their math books (fractions, long division and that sort of thing), but we’ve added in a new focus in our math day. We call it Math Circles after the Russian tradition of “showcasing the beauty of mathematics and its applications.” The kids absolutely love this portion of our day now. Those math brain-teaser riddles from yesterday on the blog and the other one over at my Facebook page are just a small snippet of why they love math circles! I need to write up another post — explaining what we’re doing — and sharing a number of the books we’re using. The kids BEG me to continue with math time now! Yes!! (Big fist waving in the air!) See this post on More Math Brain-Teasers (Free Printable) for a long explanation of how we’re trying to make math more engaging, challenging and fun.
Music and Art — Our plans for music and art were put on hold for the semester. In music, I really want the kids to have a better understanding of music theory and music notation (half-note, whole notes, quarter rests, knowing the notes on the staff, etc.). In art, I was excited by Meet the Masters… but it just hasn’t happened the past six weeks or so.
Rotations — The kids continue to work on several subjects (mostly) independently from me. We have a timer for each of them. They spend 10 minutes (or more if they want) on piano, German (listening to Bobo stories) and typing. (I sit down to work with the kids on new piano pieces or to go over new material for German, but not every day.) ED decided she should be doing this as well. She’s taken it upon herself to do most everything her older brother and sister do!
Sports and Extras — My kids have tried a bunch of different sports, but this fall we’ve settled into team gymnastics for my son, aerials and parkour for my daughter, DD. My youngest does a bit of gymnastics and parkour just once a week. The girls are both participating in Girl Scouts — as a Brownie and Daisy. They love their troops! That’s enough to keep us pretty busy!
My Ears — If you’ve been reading the blog this fall, you know that I’ve had big dramas with my ear surgery (which was Oct. 16). Pretty much any complication that could happen, has happened. I came out of the surgery rough and had to stay overnight. The ear hasn’t healed as it should and became infected (and was quite painful for a number of weeks). The strong antibiotic I was on has a side-effect of causing tendinitis in some people… I got Achilles tendinitis in both ankles. I got somethings called BPPV which causes incredibly bad dizziness/veritigo/nausea and I wasn’t able to drive for 10 days … Last week, I was finally feeling much better, but it wasn’t to last. The dizziness/nausea came back over the weekend. Plus, my ear doctor is unhappy with the way my skin graft is healing… and it’s looking like I’ll either need an in-office procedure (with the ear canal, etc. numbed) or will need to go back into the OR. I’m hoping, hoping it’s the former — so keep your fingers crossed for me!! Anyway, that’s why I’m still having to see the ear doctor once a week (as I was mentioning above).
Well — this is a HUGE long post, isn’t it? If you got to the end, thanks for reading!! ~Liesl
Other Related Posts:
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- What Is a Typical Homeschool Day is Like This Year (Sept. 2013)
- So How is Homeschool Life Going? (May 2013)
- What Do We Cover in our Homeschool Each Day? (Ages 9, 7, just-turned-5)
- The Day in the Life of a Homeschooler – Last Dec. 2012 (kids would have been 9, 7, 4)
- Our Week’s Round-up (8, 6, 4)
- The Realities of Homeschooling (8, 6, 4)
- Our General Homeschooling – a post about our general homeschool schedule/day. What things we cover aside from the units I so often post about. (Kids — ages 8, 6, 3 1/2)
- Starting Our New Routine – (8, almost 6, 3 1/2)
- Snippets of Our Week for our 7 Year Old
- Snippets of Our Week for our 2 1/2 Year Old
- Snippets of Our Week for our 5 Year Old
- Typical Day with tots and preschoolers (A Blog Entry From When the Kids Were 18 mo, 3 and 5)
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