Monday, November 30, 2009

Please Excuse My Absence of Late...

We've had a wonderful holiday weekend, despite some mishaps which have caused me to take a short leave of absence from the blog:

1. Thanksgiving Day my dh got sick, and was miserable until Saturday, when he decided to see a doctor. Turns out he may have strep throat, which is really no surprise because he gets it every winter.

2. Saturday evening Miss O came down with a stuffy/runny nose.

3. Sunday evening our guinea pig, Dandilion (formerly known as "the brown one"), fell ill. She began tilting her head to one side and was off balance, and just in general didn't look well. The vet was closed, so we decided to take her in Monday (today) for a check up.

4. Little Bean had an appointment this morning with a pediatric opthamoligist so that he could check and make sure his eyes are clear of JXG. Only--I realized when we drove into the parking lot that his appointment is actually tomorrow, not today. All was not lost however, because we were in the area of our vet, so we dropped in to see if he could see Dandi today. Lucky for us, he had an opening only 30 minutes later.

5. It would be a rush, but we thought we could make it back in time. Obviously, Dandi wasn't with us, so we had to rush home and get her and then head back to the vet. We weren't counting on Miss O getting carsick on the way home however. She drenched herself and her car seat with throw up before I could get her a bag from the glove compartment. Of course we had to pull over and clean her up, which meant we would miss the vet appointment.

6. I called and rescheduled (luckily still for this morning), and we drove home to pick up the guinea pig. Of course, when we drove up to the house there was an unleashed stray dog hanging out on our lawn. Both Miss O and Little Bean are terrified of dogs, espescially the unleashed variety. It was the perfect ending to a perfectly crazy holiday weekend.

Let's hope this week goes a little more smoothly. How was YOUR holiday weekend?? :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's Next for Miss O

Miss O has only about two more weeks worth of work in her Handwriting Without Tears Pre K book, and about 5 to 6 weeks before she finishes off the Explode the Code Primers (A and B are already finished, and C is part way finished). I was at Borders the other day, and decided on the following two workbooks for use after she finishes what she is working on now.

For use after the Explode the Code Primers, I am going to use this very large workbook called Get Ready for Pre K. Right now Little Bean is about halfway through Book 1 of the ETC series, which is the next step up from the primers that Miss O is finishing now. I just think that there is a big jump between Book C and Book 1, and Miss O isn't ready to move to Book 1 any time soon (which requires some decoding skills). The workbook I've chosen will provide her with several months of material to work through, and I'm hoping that by the time we finish this one, Miss O will have her letter sounds down pat. At that time I am thinking about using Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading with her on the recommendation of a friend, or I may just go with 100 Lessons, since that is what I am using with Little Bean. This workbook teaches the alphabet sounds, numbers, shapes, colors, writing, counting, basic concepts like same and different, matching, and practical life things like matching the correct clothing to the correct seasons. Many of these concepts are included in the ETC Primers, but some of them are bonus material that I think will be really fun for her. It is bright and cheery, and very well laid out.
Here is a sample of some tracing activities in the workbook:
Practicing letter sounds and formation:
Matching the clothes to the appropriate seasons:
For handwriting, I decided on a Kumon workbook--My First Book of Uppercase Letters. The font is different than what she has gotten used to in Handwriting Without Tears, but it's not so different that I think it'll make a difference to her. What I liked about the Kumon workbook is that it is mostly tracing. Miss O is not quite ready to write letters on her own, so tracing is ideal for her. I'll use this book to reinforce the sounds of the alphabet as well as continue practicing letter formation. When we are done with this one and the other book above, I'm hoping that she will be ready for the Handwriting Without Tears K book, which doesn't rely on tracing, but on actual formation of the letters. Another good thing about the Kumon book is that the letter practice is ordered intentionally. Rather that just a simple writing workbook that goes in alphabetical order, Kumon introduces the letters based on their level of difficulty, and groups similar letters together, to be learned simultaneously, much like the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum does. I plan to follow the Kumon workbook's order of letter introduction when using the Get Ready for Pre K book as well, so that Miss O is working on the same letter in both books simultaneously.
Here's a sample page from the uppercase Kumon book. Notice how the tracing gets progressively more difficult as the child gets more practice with the particular letter:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Homemade Snowman Puzzle

Is it too early for a Christmas themed craft? I adapted this craft from an idea I saw on this blog. The woman on Foursquare Schoolhouse actually purchased a craft kit similar to what we made here, and then glued it all together. I thought, well, I already have all the materials to make this, why not make it into a little puzzle as well?

To make this snowman puzzle, you'll need:
--6 to 7 large tongue depressors

--black and white paint
--a bit of orange paper or craft foam
--googly eyes
Start by taping all but one of your Popsicle sticks together with masking or clear tape. Turn the sticks over to the front side, and draw a line with marker about 2/3 of the way up. The area above the line will be painted black, and the area below, white.
Cut out a small triangle nose from craft foam or construction paper. Paint your snowman, also paint the extra stick black. This is the rim of his top hat. Glue on the eyes and nose after the paint is dry. Draw a smile with a red marker.
Lastly, remove the tape from the back, separate the pieces, and then presto, you have a little puzzle to put together! The kids both had these in their workboxes last week. Good times! You could also glue the sticks together and stick on some ribbon for a door hanger or an ornament.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

You've seen this book in our workbox posts countless times. I was thinking today and realized I've never really shown you what this book is all about. I'm going to do that in this post.

I was turned on to this book through a recommendation made by a veteran homeschooler. All FIVE of her kids had learned to read with this program. Since I didn't have any idea what else to go with at the time, I went with this curriculum. Little Bean and I struggled through several weeks of lessons before I finally realized that he just wasn't ready to learn to read. We packed the book away for a while, and then, when I was ready to begin him on formal K work, I pulled it out again, and we started over from the beginning.
100 Lessons uses the Distar reading system and is primarily phonics based. The system uses special characters that represent every sound the child needs to learn to read, thus sight words are eliminated (pretty much). There are a few that I feel are so farfetched that I just teach them as sight words, but the point of the book is to limit sight words to the bare minimum. The pronunciation guide below is located at the front of the book, and shows the symbols used for each sound and their pronunciation. This is a chart primarily for the parent to familiarize herself with the symbols and sounds.

As you can see, many of the symbols are just like regular letters. But for letters that have more than one sound(the vowels for instance), or for sounds that have more than one letter (ar, th, ch, sh, etc), the book uses special symbols so that the child doesn't get confused about which sound to use when reading. As the book progresses, the child is gently weaned off of the symbols. Little Bean is experiencing some of that weaning right now (we are on Lesson 58), though he doesn't even realize it. The book doesn't wean the child off of a special symbol until it's been read so many times that the child can read the word without decoding much. The book also uses symbols to represent breaks in words and voiced and unvoiced sounds.
Here's a page in a recent lesson. Each lesson follows the same format--reviewing old and sometimes a new sound, reviewing old words, and sometimes a few new words, sounds again, and then finally a story. After the child reads the story once, they get to see a corresponding picture, and are asked simple questions about the picture and about what happened in the story. I usually have Little Bean read the story twice, just because I want to make sure he really knows the words before moving on to a new and harder lesson the next day. The final part of the lesson is a short writing exercise. Little Bean has other curriculum for writing, so I don't use this portion of the book. Each lesson takes us about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on if Little Bean is dawdling or not. Usually he complains some, but we don't have meltdowns like we used to have. I'll be honest, I don't love this curriculum because Little Bean doesn't love it. BUT, I can see that it IS working. He is reading now, and being that we are so far into it, I'm sticking with it. He may not love his reading lessons, but he will love the end result--the ability to read! Something mysterious about the special characters--Little Bean has a really hard time with differentiating between d, b and p in other reading materials, but because of the font in this book, he never confuses them! In the pic below, you can see an example of the b (just regular), and a d in duck below--notice it's a bit of a unique font.
Here is a sample of what Little Bean read today in his lesson. Since you probably can't see it in the picture, I'll type it out for you. You'll notice that there are no capital letters. The book hasn't introduced them yet.
Here's his story from today:
a girl and a man
a girl was on the road to a farm. she met a man. she said to the man, "go with me to the farm, then we will pet a pig."
the man said, "I pet ducks and I pet chicks. I do not pet pigs."
the girl said, "it is fun to pet pigs. pigs are fat."

the man said, "I will not pet them. I will go to the park and pet a duck."

so the man went to the park and pet a duck. then the girl went to the farm and pet a pig.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekly Workboxes

Just featuring Little Bean's boxes this time--for some reason the pictures were not uploading correctly, so this is all I could do.

Here is Bean's reading lesson. We are close to Lesson 60 now.
Here is Bean's Right Start Math box. We do this 4 times a week, and generally speaking, Little Bean enjoys and understand the material. This time we played a little counting game and worked with place value.
Here is a little stamping activity I prepared for him. Little Bean was supposed to stamp the word based on the picture I drew. He did okay with this one. He was unsure of the spelling of some of the words, but I encouraged him to use his knowledge of sounding out to help him.
Here is his Explode the Code Book 1. He is over half way through this one, and does 2 worksheets twice a week in a work alone box.
All About Spelling--Little Bean had a "spelling test". All the words are CVC, so it was no problem for him at all. Obviously there is no need for me to grade him, but essentially that is what this exercise was--writing words from dictation.
Here he is working alone on review of center starting capital letters:
This is a snowman craft. I will post about it later in the week:
Miss O had the following in her boxes:
Snowman craft
Handwriting Without Tears PK--working on numbers
Go for the Code, Book C
My Itsy Bitsy Letter Book--W
Magnetic and Non Magnetic
Felt Stories
Dog Matching Game
Do you use workboxes? Link up below!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Alphabet Mini Books

Have you seen these Itsy Bitsy Books? Nicole, over at The Activity Mom made a post about these quite some time back. When I ran across her post in the archives, I fell in love with these books! I'm totally enchanted by their size! ;) Each book is printable and can be folded into an alphabet mini book that requires no tape or staples. The site doesn't include all the letters (they left out the vowels!?!), but the ones they have made available sure are cute! Each book focuses on one letter and has tiny pictures to color and letters to trace. I have already printed them and have a few folded for Miss O! I plan to use them in conjunction with our Go For The Code Primer, and have her color one picture per day in the corresponding letter book. Go check out Nicole's post here to hear how she uses them with her little one!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Miss O absolutely loves to trace. And she loves dry erase pens. Several months ago I printed and laminated a set of letters from a Tot Pack made by Carisa. When Miss O started getting interested in tracing, I remembered the letters, and realized that they are just about perfect for tracing.

Each letter has a little monkey on it, and it helps Miss O know that the letter is faced in the right direction because if it isn't, then the monkey will not be facing right side up. I don't know if Carisa planned them this way, but I love the self correcting feature of these cards. Because the font is more of an outline, Miss O traces straight down the middle, using the outlines to guide her. Usually I put a little dot where she is supposed to start the letter too, so that she learns to write them with good form as well.

I purchased the wall chart at the dollar spot (can you believe it? These same charts are around $15 at the teacher supply!), and I add letter cards to it as we go through the letters in her Go For the Code Primer. About once a week, I take them down and put them in a workbox with a dry erase pen. Miss O LOVES this activity, and this is only one use for these very versatile cards!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

School for a Three Year Old

My 3 year old is about as active and rambunctious as they come. She loves to run and play, to make hideouts, play pretend games, and she does somersaults at whim. Some people may wonder how I "get her" to "do school" 4 days a week, for 1 to 2 hours at a time. It's a valid thing to wonder.

Here are a few things that have helped me get her interested in "school time":

1) Follow her interests. This wasn't always an easy thing to do. Those first few weeks of trying out the workboxes were a bit difficult. I wasn't skilled at choosing activities that would be fun and engaging for her yet. But, with practice, I've come to know her likes and dislikes, and I can gear the workbox activities to suit her.

2) Don't force, but do encourage. Let's face it, Miss O is only 3 years old, and she doesn't really need to be "doing school" at all. BUT, I have a Kindergartener who does need that time and intellectual stimulation, so I have to make it work for them both, and for myself. There are times when Miss O just doesn't want to do something, and she will whine and complain. I don't force her to do an activity, but usually, with a little encouragement, and some guidance, I can finish an activity with her. Then, I make a mental note NOT to put that activity back in the workbox for a while, since she clearly wasn't interested. Sometimes, she just doesn't want to do something, and for me, that's okay. I don't make it a big deal, I just let it go.

3) Make it fun. I only have one "academic" box for Miss O each day. Usually that is her favorite box too, just because she likes working with pencils and workbooks, and it's a time when I focus soley on her. Her other boxes are always FUN items, things I know she really likes--stringing, sorting colorful beads, practicing cutting with bright pink paper, felt or magnetic stories, stamps, simple crafts. The preschool age group is so great because there are so many skills that they are still learning that can be taught in a fun and hands-on fashion.

4) Last, make her feel proud of her work. Not a day goes by that Miss O doesn't ask to keep some activity out because she has to show Daddy later on. She even brings her crafts and workbooks to Gymboree to show her teachers! Sometimes it means not cleaning up the workbox mess until after bedtime, but I allow that because I can see how indulging her in this area has really motivated her to want to do school with us each day.

So those are some of the ways I've tried to incorporate my 3 year old into our school times.

What do you do to help your little one enjoy "school time"?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yup, I really couldn't wait any longer...

As I said the other day, I've been working on a new layout for a blogging friend, and working on hers has prompted me to re-do mine as well. I still have some kinks to work out on my friend's blog, but was dying to show off some of the things I've been working on, so I decided to go ahead and change my layout now.

You'll notice I have two navigation bars. I hope it isn't too much, but it was something I felt would add a bit more organization to the blog. The navbar above my header includes all the obligatory information--about me, contact info, our curriculum, etc. The navbar below the header includes links to various types of posts on topics that are central to my blog--arts and crafts, language arts, math and science, creative play, etc. If you are interested in sifting through all the posts I've written on a particular topic, just click one of the links that pertains to that topic.

I've got a new button, so if you are interested in grabbing one for your site, you can pick it up in the side bar. A workbox button is in the makings, and will be available soon.

I hope you like the new look! I certainly liked making it! I am just learning as I go, so it's been a long process. I'm finding that learning about designing layouts has been quite an enjoyable experience for me, so if you like what you see and need some help with your blog, please let me know. I'd be more than happy to have the opportunity to help you and to learn more about designing layouts in the process!

Monday, November 16, 2009

You May Have Noticed...

Some of my regular readers may have noticed that I haven't been posting as often lately! I've been a little busy designing a new layout for a blogging friend, which in turn has prompted me to redesign my own layout, so that's been taking up a lot of my free time lately! While I still try to post regularly, I'm excited about the layout projects I've been working on, and can't wait to finish working on them and get them up and running.

In the mean time, I'd like to hear from you: What are some of the things you like and don't like when you go to a new homeschooling/craft blog? What features do you really appreciate? What are those things that kind of bug you or that you wish a blog would include?

I'd love to hear what YOU like from a homeschooling/craft blog (both in content and layout)!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baby Legs--Make Your Own

Have you heard of Baby Legs? Baby Legs are arm and leg warmers for (mostly) children that are made in fun and festive prints and colors. Baby legs cost about $12 dollars a pair.

BUT--surprise! You can make your own baby legs for a fraction of the cost. I made this pair (and SEVERAL others) just the other day, and it was so easy!

Here's how:

To make a pretty close copy cat to Baby Legs, simply purchase a pair of adult knee socks in a fun print. I purchased the pair pictured above at the thrift store for a whopping .25 cents! Even if you buy brand new though, you could make about 6 pairs for the cost of one name brand pair.

Cut off the knee sock in a straight line across the ankle area of the sock, first measuring it to the child's arm to make sure the length is right.

Fold the frayed end in, creating a smooth edge, and then just make a straight stitch around the tube using a machine, or even by hand.

That's it! So easy! All the kidlets on my Christmas list are getting a pair of these this Christmas!

Weekly Workboxes

Here is our workbox post!

Little Bean and Miss O both participated in this science lesson on measuring with a non-standard unit.
Little Bean practiced his grammar and handwriting with our Sentence School curriculum:
We have finished all the numbers and capital letters in Handwriting Without Tears. So we are doing some review for the next week or so. Here Little Bean was practicing his numbers.
This was a rocket craft. I'll post more about this later.
Our reading curriculum--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons:
And math. This week we worked more on addition and some on place value.
Here is a work alone box for Bean. He was to match upper and lower case letters using these printable from 1+1+1=1.
Here are Miss O's preschool boxes.
First, she did these 3 part puzzles. She did really great at these this time, and finished about 20 of the 26 puzzles!
She had some free play with these magnetic play scenes. We purchased this at Walmart probably about a year ago.
Here is her work with mom box. We are working on numbers in the handwriting book, and the letter G in Go for the Code.
Miss O did the rocket craft as well.
And here is that Woodkin's Dress Up doll I posted about earlier this week.
Lastly, Miss O spent some time playing with the dry erase board. She loves this toy!

I'd love to hear what you've been up to this week! Link up with the McLinky below!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Woodkin's Dress Up Dolls

I've been meaning to do a post about this toy for ages, but have just now gotten around to it. The kids and I found this little game that the thrift store for about $1.50. It was a comeplete set, so I was so excited when I found it.

What is it, you ask? It's a Woodkins Dress Up Doll. Our set includes one Woodkin wooden dress up doll, 4 magnetic interchangable faces, and 8 pieces of "clothing".
Here she is with a few of her outfits:
And here is how you play with her--open up the flap and lay a small square of cloth over her. You can also lay a smaller cloth down for shoes and socks, or even a head band. You can do dresses, shorts and tees, long or short sleeves, whatever you can think of you can try.
Lower the flap and see how cute she looks in her new outfit!
Both of the kids really like this toy. It would be a great Christmas gift for a special little girl in your life too. Check out some more sets on Amazon here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Homeschool Tracker

I was over at Foursquare Schoolhouse and happened upon a post she had written about Homeschool Tracker. I hopped on over to their website, and let me tell you, I am in LOVE with this downloadable program! Thus far I've been doing all of my planning by hand, using printable grids from Sue Patrick's site. The grids are okay, but making copies for them each week and then storing them in a binder can be time consuming and a pain. I'm really excited to try doing my planning on my computer, and hope it will speed the process up and help me keep better track of all the little things that I want to keep track of.

With Homeschool Tracker Basic Edition, I can keep track of all their assignments, attendence, field trips, and more--all for FREE! They have other packages you can upgrade to for a small fee, which have more features as well. I may have to look into that, but for now the Basic Edition is a welcome surprise for me! I've already entered in our attendence and the subject areas for both kids; next is entering in all our old assignments (which I have recorded in paper version) so that I have everything stored in one place.

In California, Kindergarten isn't mandatory, and I don't have to report anything to the state until Little Bean is 6 years old. However, for my own records, I think Homeschool Tracker will be really easy for me to use, and when the time comes, it will serve as a wonderful way to present evidence that they are being schooled if I am ever asked to do so.

If you are looking for something to help you plan, try Homeschool Tracker. Hopefully it will be as helpful to you as it is for me!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly Workboxes

We are moving right along with our Kinder and Preschool work! I calculated today that we have done 53 days of "school" so far this year! Here are somethings we have been up to this week:

Little Bean worked on grammar and handwriting with our Sentence School curriculum. This follows the same format each day. We draw two word cards from a box, either verbs, nouns or adjectives. We then read the words and write sentences about them.
Here is our science workbox, which this day was about comparing natural and man-made objects. Both Miss O and Little Bean enjoyed this, but Miss O didn't quite "get" it. She enjoyed exploring the various objects I had collected, however.
This is a worksheet Little Bean did on his own to assess whether or not he understood the science lesson on natural and man-made. He did great with this!
This a work alone box for Bean--stencils and crayon rubbings.
We only got through two lessons in this book this week because I decided to repeat them both twice. Little Bean read all the words in the stories okay, but it was hard work, and I wanted him to have a little more practice before moving on to the next lesson.
Here is our math workbox, and on this day we were working on the part-whole concept. Using a graph with one big circle at the top connected to two smaller circles below, we worked on the different ways to split 5 into two groups.
This is a work with mom box, and we worked on addition using snap cubes. I purchased this book, which is full of activities and ideas for use with the snap cubes, a long time ago, but have never really cracked it open. This week I decided to pull it out and give it a try. Some of the activities look fun, but I have yet to decide whether or not I like this book.
Miss O is moving right along in her Explode the Code Primer (Book C). We worked on "l" this week. And in handwriting, she finished up her capital letter practice, and is moving on to numbers next week. We are almost to the end of this book...not sure what she will do for handwriting after this, because she is not quite ready to graduate from tracing to actually forming the letters on her own.
This a work with mom box that just contains foam numbers and corresponding shapes. First we sorted the shapes and then counted how many of each shape. Then we matched the groups with the correct numeral. I was surprised Miss O actually recognized a couple of the numerals!
This is a stamping activity where I gave Miss O some pictures and she was supposed to match them to the initial sound. She usually does fine with these kinds of activities.
Here, Miss O is to work on cutting skills using playdough. Pink of course!! ;)
And lastly, Miss O had some tangrams to complete. She was tired by this time, and didn't complete them all.
If you would like to share what your little ones are doing with the workbox system this week, please use the MckLinky below and link up to the exact post where you've talked about your workboxes!

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