Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are All Math Manipulatives Created Equal?

Most educators agree that small children learn math better when they have access to math manipulatives. But are all math manipulatives created equal? Personally, I don't think so. It's very easy to think that you are making math easier for your child by giving them some buttons or a stack of unifix cubes or colored counting bears while solving math problems. But, the fact is, many math manipulatives are only as helpful as the person using them is skilled at math.

When I was student teaching, I worked with a small group of 4th graders who were working at about a 1st grade level in math. We worked on simple addition and subtraction, and we used dried beans as counters. There were many (many) times when my students would get the problem wrong simply because they miscounted. Adding a bean here or there makes a big difference when you are looking for an exact answer. When we moved into double digit subtraction, the beans were even more inadequete. You should have seen my students trying to count out 50 beans and then taking away 23. With that many little beans flying around, it was very easy to miscount.

That's why I prefer the AL abacus for a math manipulative. The AL abacus isn't just any abacus. Each row contains ten beads, 5 yellow and 5 blue. Children are taught how to recognize quantities of 5 and 10, and then of multiples of ten (20, 30, 50, even 100) without counting. When using math counters, they are taught to organize them into groups of 10's, 5's, and 1's just as they do on the abacus, in order to see how many they have in just a glance. The margin of error is so much smaller when using a tool like the AL abacus.

When adding, a child can enter in each addend and easily and quickly see the sum without counting. Alternatively, when they are are using a simple manipulative like a dried bean or button, the child much individually count out each addend, put them together in one group and then recount them to see how many. In my view, this is far inferior to using something like the AL abacus.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Sorting is nothing new, but it is a great activity for preschoolers. Miss O got this colorful case of barrettes ages ago. One of the activities we love using it for (besides doing her hair of course!), is for sorting. Miss O likes to sort the barrettes based on color or style (animals, flowers, birds). She uses the little compartments to separate the barrettes. Later, we may use these for making patterns or as math counters.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kind of Exciting

I was browsing my feed reader this morning and saw that one of the blogs that I read had been chosen for The 2010--2011 Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. Since I had applied as well, I thought I'd check my email and see if there was anything waiting for me there. Sure enough, the email had gone to my spam folder. I pulled it out, and was delighted to find out that I too had been chosen to be a member of the Homeschool Crew! As a crew member, I will have the opportunity to try out lots of great homeschooling related products and post reviews for you. I'm excited to be a part of the crew this year!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Our Hideaways

So, I've said before that we are using Winter Promise Hideaways in History for our history this year. Little Bean is REALLY enjoying Story of the World, and the historical picture books that go with this program. And the really fun part is that for each people group we study, we make a hideaway to go along with it (all this is planned for you with WP). Mind you, I have been collecting boxes and milk jugs for a few months now, and my garage looks like a recycling center, lol, but we are having a blast doing these hideaways, and my neighbors are benefiting from me passing them along as we go! ;) We are on week 4, and have made:

A cave with cave paintings in an alcove closet in our house:
An igloo. Thank you to all who donated milk jugs--we used every last one of them!! :)
The Great Wall of China:
And an Egyptian pyramid:

Good times!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Easy Paper Lantern Craft

It's gloomy and rainy today, and I was in a crafty mood, so I quickly scoured the internet for a paper craft to do with the kiddos. I came across these paper lanterns (totally appropriate for Chinese New Year, lol, but still nice for Spring), and we whipped these up. The kids were way into this craft and made up about 9 or 10 lanterns in a 30 minute period or so. Once I ran out of paper, they started using scrap paper to make their own! Either this is a really great craft, or it's been too long since we've done something crafty together. You can visit here to find the full directions, or just look at my pics to get the gist of it:

Cut off a one inch (ish) strip from the top of the paper. Fold the paper in half and draw lines that go almost to the top:
Let the child cut the lines, cutting through two layers of paper at once:
Open the paper once it is cut and fold the ends together. You can also flip it "inside out" so that that pencil lines don't show on the outside. Staple the handle that you cut out earlier and staple the lantern closed:
Hang and enjoy: :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Just Out of Curiosity

Just out of curiosity I chose to have Little Bean take the CAT (California Achievement Test) for grade K recently. Many homeschooling moms are really against standardized testing, but for me, it was more of a personal thing; I just wanted to see where he was at, and I will not be reporting his score to anyone. Being that he is so young, I wanted to know if he had really mastered the concepts Kindergarten children are expected to know. And because we don't have to keep any records here in CA, I felt it was a good way to have "proof" of homeschooling should I ever need it. I will probably repeat this process every year, just for my own records.

He had a really good experience with the testing process, which homeschooling parents are allowed to do at home. We used Seton Testing Services. They send you the CAT exam booklet and do all the grading for you for only $25. Because Little Bean has never taken a test, it was a totally new experience for him. I just explained that it was like any other workbook page except that we would not be able to change his answer once he was finished, or go over the correct answers. I also told him it would tell me how much he knew compared to other Kindergarteners. He seemed to really like that idea!

I received his results today, and he did very well (which I could tell already from looking at his test answers)!

Here are his results:

(The percentile figure means that he scored as well as or better than that percentage of students, and the stanine indicates relative standing--1, 2, 3 below average, 4, 5 and 6, average, and 7, 8, 9 above average)

Visual Recognition: 86 percentile, stanine 7
Vocabulary: 83 percentile, stanine 7
Sound Recognition: 83 percentile, stanine 7
Comprehension: 87 percentile, stanine 7
Language Expression: 52 percentile, stanine 5
Concept and Application (this is the math portion): 96 percentile, stanine 9
Reading Total: 91 percentile, stanine 8

Giveaway Winners--Curriculum Clean Out Follow Up

A while back, I participated in The Curriculum Clean Out and gave away two historical picture books. I sent them out, and heard from one winner saying she received her copy. I never heard from the other winner, so if that's you, would please contact me and let me know that you got your book??

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Return of the Frogs

We returned the frogs to their pond today! Once the first few (out of 8) started spending most of their time on land, I began to worry about feeding them since they eat live insects, so we knew it was time to return them to their natural habitat. Out of 8, all of them grew back legs, and 6 grew front legs.

We did lose two of them with no explanation...we had seen them happily hopping only hours earlier and then found them dead that evening. :( Little Bean was quite upset when we found that two had passed away. We had a little funeral for them, and he started to cry. From what I have read, it's normal to lose some when they pass from tadpole to froglet, so perhaps that was just part of the deal. Either way, we know we did our best to take care of them.

Three were completely ready to be on land by the time we released them. As it happened, we ended up with two types of frogs--2 tree frogs, and 6 true frogs (living on land). We took the (semi) long drive up to the pond, and released them back into the pond where they were found. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the creek, and found quite a few other frogs that were the same size and type as ours, so we know they are among friends.

Here are our tadpoles on the day we caught them, a few weeks ago:
And with back legs:
And back and front legs:
And finally, on land. By the time we released them, they had barely any tail left:

My only regret is that I didn't record our observations very thoroughly. If I ever do this again, I'd love to record just how long it took from tadpole to frog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Little Bean's First Piano Duet

I just wanted to share a video Little Bean's first little duet with his piano teacher. He did so well and was SO cute at the piano bench! :) He has been taking lessons for only a month, and is really enjoying the lessons (but not the practice! lol).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Frog Lapbook

Our frog lapbook is done! I used mini books from Homeschool Share for this lapbook. I couldn't find all of the recommended books listed on the site, but it worked out fine just choosing some of the frog books from our library. Miss O and Little Bean each had several books to complete and we combined them to make one big frog lapbook:
Here is the inside: Miss O helped with the coloring and she also did the two mini books you see in the center area (F is for and -og words). The center area flips up for more room. Each lily pad has a question and answer underneath that Little Bean had to fill out.
Here we have a frog lifecycle wheel and a diagram of frog body parts:
Some more lapbook pieces:
And this is the back. The tongues slide in and out. Miss O made the top one and Little Bean the bottom one:

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Personal Pyramid

I'm starting to notice that my nav bar is woefully inadequate now that we've added so many content areas. I have no place to categorize our nature study or our history! I may have to remedy that soon because I don't want things to get all mixed up between categories!

Anyhow, we have been really enjoying our study of the ancient world with Winter Promise and Story of the World. If you remember, we are using Winter Promise Hideaways in History, and it uses Story of the World as its' spine. I have heard that the newer version of Hideaways doesn't use Story of the World, but I can't say whether the new option is better or worse, only that it's different. WP also uses parts of the The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, which is great for really visualizing how the world was like so long ago (wonderful pictures).

This week, we are focusing on Egypt, and the kids made these personal pyramids as part of the lesson one day. We made these by first cutting out four identical triangles out of stiff paper. I used file folders because I don't have any cardstock. The guide also says to cut out a square bottom, but we left ours open at the bottom.

The kids then colored the "walls" of their tombs with things from their every day lives. Little Bean's even had a yo-yo on it! ;) I'm sure whoever is buried in his pyramid will keep himself busy in the afterlife with that yo-yo!
The yo-yo and a house as well as a cluster of grapes and a man's head:
After they were done decorating the inside walls, we flipped them over and used a cut up sponge to make yellow bricks on the outside. You can see Little Bean is lining the bricks up in rows:
To finish, I taped the four sides together. The kids really enjoyed this, and are looking forward to making our pyramid hideaway at the end of the week!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our Tadpoles Are Growing Legs!

The title says it all--our tadpoles are growing legs! They get bigger each day, and 6 out of the 8 have little back legs growing! Strangely, the two who don't have legs yet are the two that appear to be a different type of tadpole. Makes me wonder if they are just younger, or if they take longer to grow than the others because they are a different type. My camera isn't the best, but hopefully you can see that they are indeed sprouting legs!

Our frog lapbook is going swimmingly! I'll be sure to post pictures of that once we are done as well. I'm already looking at doing a My Body lapbook that I found on Homeschool Share next, since "Health" is a required subject in 1st grade here. Little Bean has been asking a lot of questions about sea animals too, so we may have to do one on sharks or whales too! :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Easy Hat Craft

My husband took the kids to our local children's museum this past weekend, and they came home with these adorable hats that they had made. Since the hats were really simple to make, and turned out so cute, I thought I'd share. The pictures don't do this craft justice, but you get the idea!

To make one, all you need is a few sheets of tissue paper, some tape and things to decorate the hat with. Put the tissue paper on the child's head, and then wrap the tape around the tissue paper, forming the top of the hat. Then just take it off and crinkle the ends in! That's it, so easy! The kids used buttons and bits of yarn and lace to decorate their hats.
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