## Thursday, December 30, 2010

### Math Planning

I'm sure many of you all, like us, have taken this week off from homeschooling. We started our break last Monday and it will continue through to this coming Monday. We have also traveled to see our families so we are in full vacation mode. I'm hoping we'll be ready to begin with a fresh start after a two week break!

I'm also working on some math plans for our fresh start. I need to plan some new math adventures for us as a family. We have been working through some concepts on measurement so I'd like to plan more activities with those concepts using various resources.

 Our kids love pattern blocks- this was something R10 and J5 worked on together.
E12 will be starting Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology very soon and I've been reading ahead in that book. I'm anxious to do some good old fashioned biology with him at the same time and how I'll work out that life science focus in the rest of our unit study homeschooling environment. I'm also excited to use the advanced tile set with him for our Equate game. We'll see how that goes...equations with exponents!

I8 will be memorizing multiplication facts and R10 will be working on improving her speed in regard to computations. I8 also received the younger student Math Dice so we can work on more mental math with him without the sums going so high.

I'd like to do some Family Math activities from the various level books I have and to redo my Math on the Level excel chart which somehow I did not save correctly. This gem of a form schedules out the 5-a-Days for my kids based on what concepts I mark they need to review. Very handy!

When I finish some of these thoughts, I'll report in again- I brought a stack of math books and resources with me and I'm hopeful I can etch out some planning time. Until then we are still vacationing which does not afford me much blogging time. I hope you all have been enjoying your families as well!

## Monday, December 27, 2010

### Math Games

My new article is up over at Heart of the Matter. This month it's about Math Games. Here's an intro:

As much of a living math person as I prefer to be in our homeschool, sometimes kids just have to muscle out the math facts. We all know how much of a drudge that can be when your student doesn’t want to play along. So, as most thoughtful teachers will do, I try to think of ways I can sneak those extra practice moments in without making it super dull or super obvious.

 Ball toss math practice

Enter games! Yes, there are plenty of math games out there on the market, but you might be surprised at the number of games you can play with your kids that are not specifically known for being math games yet math is pretty central to the game play. I’ll list a few. Read More....

## Sunday, December 26, 2010

### Christmas Tree Art

We finally took a moment and traded out our dining room frame projects. This one was a really fun textile art project that I modified from another idea. Thanks goes to Betsy for the fabric scraps!
 Materials: cardstock (two pieces), scissors, pencils, fabric, red paper, eraser, and tape
 You'll need some fabric that has different patterns and colors in a monochromatic theme- in this case we chose green for Christmas trees.
 First, we made the templates by drawing trees and cutting them out. Then we traced the templates onto a new piece of cardstock. I cut out the tree shapes with an exacto knife and the kids chose fabric to fill the windows. They cut it and taped it to the backside of the paper and we glued the whole sheet to the red sulphite paper.

 I really like the textures in this project- you could see it even more without framing it.
 Don't these look terrific? From left to right- R10, I8, J5, and E12. I just love how the different patterns make a great design. So much fun!

We had a great time on this project. Personally, my favorite part was working with the fabrics. The original project was from a Christmas card idea at Art Projects for Kids. I think this might make a great winter project with blue fabrics and snowflake windows.

## Wednesday, December 22, 2010

### Happy Anniversary 2010!

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary! That's right...fifteen years ago today we rocked everybody's world with a wedding just two days before Christmas. December 23, 1995...just a week shy of the anniversary of our first date. Which we celebrated on our honeymoon!

 The photographer (a fellow science teacher) snapped this one as we were leaving at the end of the ceremony. We recessed to "Joy to the World". I can still hear us all singing the hymn together. Look at us! Just 25 years old back then! Hey...you guys already know we turned 40 this year...big year for us all around.

Fun Stats for You:
• We met at a wedding of two friends on December 30, 1994- he was the best man and I was the maid of honor (hi Ken & Cherylin!)
• Dan asked me out for our first date on New Year's Eve 1994- which was also our first kiss (it was New Years after all)
• February 12, 1995 I meet Dan's parents formally when he tells them, "Mom/Dad- this is the woman I'm going to marry!"
• May 27, 1995- we get engaged. After five months of dating, living 6 hours apart.
• December 23, 1995- we have a lovely evening wedding just on the edge of Baltimore City in a little Episcopal Church. I wore my mother's wedding gown- right down to the veil and garter!
• December 24, 1995- we head to Blackwater Falls State Park in WV for a week long snowy honeymoon!
 Tradition states that whenever we pull an "Our First Year Together" ornament (and there are many...) while we decorate the tree, we kiss! The kids always take a picture of us together too. This ornament is one of our wedding favors.

Dan I love you! One of the reasons I get to experience joy daily is because you are in my life!

### Jump Start 3D World: A Review

Ages ago now Jumpstart by Knowledge Adventure contacted me about doing a review for their 3D World for kids. I agreed to do it, but since I was still finishing up my experience on the TOS Crew, I knew it would need to wait.

 A screen shot of a winter neighborhood.
I am ready to tell the world about our experience with JumpStart! They've been playing it on and off for about 6 months. Designed for ages 3-12, jumpstart.com is a virtual world where kids can explore lost islands, play games and train dragons.
• My 5yo loves the scavenger hunts which are knew every month.
• They all love the way the world has changes along with the seasons- they can find surprises like decorations and special things to do.
• My 10yo enjoys changing her avatar to her liking.
• It's pretty easily navigated and the kids can easily explore- unlike some of the other "worlds" we tested out.
When you become a member, you have complete access to jumpstart.com as well as some downloadable games. There are three payment options for the membership. You can be billed monthly for \$7.99, yearly for \$64.99 (currently), or you can have a lifetime membership for \$109.99 which is the current sale price.

The site is designed so that kids cannot share any personal information which makes is a safe way to interact with the things and activities in the virtual world.

My thoughts?

I think it's a great site. I did not give my kids any directions with it just to play around and see what they enjoyed the most. Although there are some learning experiences in the world, I would not say they are the primary focus so my kids did a lot of just playing. According to my kids, the learning activities are there, but they only offer a marginal number of points to your overall play so they aren't "worth" doing- spoken like clever homeschoolers... If you are looking for a safe place online for your children to play, then give it try! Seeing as we've had this complimentary membership (for reviewing purposes) for 6 months or more, I can say that the excitement has fallen away. At first, it was their first choice for screen time and now it isn't so much. The only one of my kids who still plays now and then is my 5yo.

Keep in mind that my kids get 30 min of free screen time a day so if they had more, they might choose Jumpstart more often.

### Homonyms...or is it Homophone?

I8 was working with some homonyms the other day. That name might be old school, but I'm sticking with it. I used the matching game from Homeschool Share to print out these cards. The pizzas give the kids a clue as to how many words they need to look for.

After the break (we are taking two weeks of from school- though I'll still be catching up on my blogging during this time), we will try out some things from the All About Homophones book I received from All About Spelling.

In my mind, not mastering the homophones at some level, is a spelling deal-breaker. So, we do these with some regularity around here in our grammar work.

## Tuesday, December 21, 2010

### Crafting Success!

R10's little debut at the sewing co-op craft fair this past weekend was a success! I am certain she will be blogging all about it, but I can't just stop reporting on her sewing adventures here on Blog, She Wrote. Last year she made mouse sets for a MOPS Christmas brunch, but at 9yrs old it was too much for her I think. This was just right and she enjoyed it immensely! The good news is that she sold all three needle books and all but on of the colored pencil rolls. She's super proud and it's given her a real boost. Congratulations R10!

 materials for the colored pencil roll- she picked a great color for little boys

 pinning all the pieces together- with the ribbon that will be the tie

 How cute is this pattern? R10 made all of her things from repurposed fabric and stuff we just had on hand.

 Here she is in my Secret Lair working at my sewing machine. It's a Bernette which is a Bernina machine.

Currently, she is working on a set of beanbags for a former teacher co-worker of mine who has a little music school. We'll be sure to share pictures of the end result of that. We get to investigate different sounds made my various fillers!

Way to go R10!

## Sunday, December 19, 2010

### Little Ninos Pizzeria- Art Focus

J5 and I8 have been doing a FIAR study of Little Ninos Pizzeria. We are taking a break for the Christmas holiday for the next two weeks, but I will report on what we've done so far. The illustrations in the book are reminiscent of the artist Henry Matisse so we took a look at some more of his work.

 This Usborne Art Treasury has a lot of fun projects inside based on the work of various art masters. In fact, J5 already knew about Henry Matisse from his Art with the Masters class at co-op.

 We learned that Matisse was a painter who began to collage with bright colors as he became ill and could not see well. When we start up again in January, we'll do the project associated with Matisse.
 We also have the Usborne Book of Art to use as a reference. Sure enough we found another famous collage called The Snail.

## Friday, December 17, 2010

### Craft Fair

R10 was invited to put a few things in her sewing co-op's craft fair tomorrow. So, she's been working on a couple of projects. First, a needle book from the Klutz book Simple Sewing and a colored pencil roll we threw together. She's been doing a great job. I'm so proud of her!

 These are the needle book insides. She picked some cute color schemes!

 The outside- she sewed the ribbon to one felt piece first and then hand stitched them together.

 She's been working on some rolls for colored pencils as well. We didn't have felt on a roll so she improvised with regular felt squares. She did a great job measuring out the slats for the pencils and stitching all those seams.
 She started Miss Bliss last summer when a Klutz fashion book told about making your own fashion label. Miss Bliss was born complete with a graphic.

I asked her to make a new little label on paper and this is what she created. So, I scanned it in and duplicated them small with her own little email on the back. We attached them this evening with prices on the back when we set up at the sale this evening.

As a result of all this work and the completion of her graphic design of Miss Bliss, I thought it would be fun to put a button up on this blog linking to a page about her work, but then it seemed like more fun to let her begin her own blog. So, hop on over to Miss Bliss to see her latest designs and tutorials.

## Wednesday, December 15, 2010

### Christmas Crafting

I've been working on a few crafty items this season. One of them is this garland. I first found this idea at The Homespun Heart. Every year I also make our Christmas cards which are shaping up. The kids have been helping with some watercolor painting.

 The garland features the names of Jesus.
 We packaged it for gift giving using a fun little canister.

 You can adjust where the names are on the garland.

R10 has also been working on some Christmas crafting. She was invited to sell a few things at a local craft fair being sponsored by her sewing co-op. She's preparing just a few things, but it has produced some Miss Bliss tags complete with an email and I even created a little blog for her to share what she is making. Stay tuned for more on that once we go over some guidelines. While I was setting that up for her, I inadvertently changed my own profile so I had to make a new one. Check out the updated me!

Happy Christmas Crafting!

## Tuesday, December 14, 2010

### Monday Math Moments

We've been working through some measurement and geometry recently during math. I8 has been working reading quarter inches in the ruler. Today he worked on adding fractional parts to determine the length he was measuring. I pulled out the fraction disks because he was having a bit of trouble with 1/2 and 1/4 making 3/4 inches. This paper is from Math Mammoth Measuring 1(the blue series) which I reviewed last year as part of the crew.

 Understanding fractional parts

 Monopoly Jr is a great early math game- J5 did some super Kindergarten math yesterday adding his money to give to other players and requesting rent for touring his fossils.

We've also been playing some math games. I played Monopoly Jr last night with J5 and I8 and was promptly eliminated. Monopoly Jr is great for emerging math skills but low on strategy! So, if the dice rolls do not go your way, your game can be over fairly quickly. This edition is a Digging Dinos version where you are a paleontologist and collect fossils. This is from E12's earlier days when he was head over heels in love with all things dinosaur! It made me laugh to think how much each child is different. Having three boys, I thought sure one of them would love dinosaurs as much. But no...I also have a collection of super hero stuff, knights and castles... the list goes on.

## Sunday, December 12, 2010

### Got Dominoes?

J5 wants to share this video with you...I took a bunch of things to the consignment shop the other day and made a bit of cash. When he heard me say I took the Dino Dominoes, he was concerned. He wanted to know if I'd gotten rid of all the Dominoes. Wanna see why?

My kids make a giant mess with dominoes often. They are getting pretty good!

## Saturday, December 11, 2010

### The Jump Start

I'm still going through and answering the questions Jenn asked when I posted my daily routine. She asked about our Jump Start to our day- what the history of the day is and about our geography drill.

First, the name Jump Start comes from my classroom teacher days. I named my warm ups Jump Start. When the kids walked in the room they had to take out paper and answer a few question to get their brains thinking science.

At home, I use the time after our read aloud to arrive down in our school space to get some written work started. We are learning all the time (such a homeschool cliche but oh so true) so the Jump Start isn't really about starting school. It's about changing gears a bit and getting our written work started for the day. Essentially, four items make up our Jump Start with the fourth sometimes being part of math.

1. History of the Day- every morning we start with This Day in History from History.com. E12 usually reads the headlines to us and if we want to hear or learn more we take a little time to check things out and/or to discuss them.
2. Geography Drill- the geography drills come from our studies with the Trail Guide to US and World Geography. The manual has a format which includes a drill four days a week. There are two questions per level and I usually have I8 do the primary level, R10 do the primary and intermediate, and E12 does both of those and the secondary level.
3. The Daily Quest- this is when the quest for the day is revealed for the kids. They can choose to work on it right then or finish it later on, but it's due by dinner time.
4. Math 5-a-Day- these are the five math practice problems the kids do each day. Some days we save these until after our math adventure/lesson for the day.
The Jump Start is just a way for us to gather together at our school table and to begin to focus on the written work for the day.

What are some ways your family begins school for the day?

## Friday, December 10, 2010

### Gratitude

I wanted to make sure and share our gratitude tree before showing off the Christmas decor! Our pencil tree is here year round and I make some efforts to change its decorations to match the seasons. Each of us made a list of the things we are thankful for to reflect on at Thanksgiving time. This year we were at home and had the pleasure of some local company for dinner.
 The pencil tree- a year round friend

 Our turkey friend made by R10 at her sewing co-op class. She reports he was fun to make!

The tree's lights are on, though I'd love to add another strand, and we are about to put up our Jesse Tree ornaments there in addition to the FIAR ornaments. Stay tuned.

I hope each of you had a lovely Thanksgiving and I hope you are enjoying this season of Advent as you await the coming of Christ!

## Thursday, December 9, 2010

### Leaves in Oil Pastel and Ink: The Product

This was a great project for the kids. In some of them you can see lots of lines and others not so much. J5's on the upper right shows all kinds of meticulousness!

 Clockwise from the upper left: R10, J5, I8, and E12

 This is the wall in our dining room- uh of those five frogs only three are left and the little one needs to watch his back. Ahem.

I am looking forward to what we can replace these with during the Advent and Christmas seasons. I hope to find something to work on for tomorrow. These floating frames have worked out great. I was tired of cutting art paper to frame sizes and now I can accommodate the larger paper.

## Wednesday, December 8, 2010

### Leaves in Oil Pastel and Ink

During Thanksgiving week I had the kids make these great leaf collages by overlapping a leaf template and tracing around it with black marker. The project idea came from Art Projects for Kids. I love Kathy's work and her blog is one of my favorites from which to get ideas. They got to blend warm colors with oil pastels on the leaves. After the leaves were done, they used cool color pastels to color and blend in the background. The results were pretty striking and made for a great display in our frames.

 Love to see our leftie at work!

 We started by making some templates and then the kids traced in pencil followed by black marker. Hey...how come markers aren't magic anymore?

 Our pastel of choice this evening- we do have some others, but Crayolas are nice and smooth

 Not bad for a five year old!

 We started this project just about at bed time- I have little idea why! But J5 gave meticulous a whole new meaning during this process! He actually had the best coverage and blending of all the kids. Next post I'll show you. As a result of this project, J5 now knows what meticulous means and wields this word impressively.

My kids love to do art with the possible exception of E12 who is quite left brained and finds art very effort-ful. We press on with him though and his results with this project were quite good.

Now I'm thinking ahead to what Christmas themed art we can put in the frames. I have a few ideas!

### Science and Art

J5 took two co-op classes as well. He enjoyed Art with the Masters and Magic School Bus science. He had a grand time in both classes. He loves science and is always figuring things out. This boy is an engineer in his soul. Nothing is safe around him because he always wants to figure out how something works and we live with the idea that he wants to take things apart to find out if he's right!

 Art with the Masters was based on the Usborne Art Treasury book

 This is on of J5's creations. Every Monday he would tell us at dinner about his art class and he would tell us what he did, but he couldn't remember the artist's name. He would describe the art and based on his description, I'd guess the artist. Then he'd go, "Yes!" I guess I know my art.

 In Magic School Bus Science the kids got to explore science with the kids on the bus and Ms. Frizzle. For the record, I have a number of Ms. Frizzle outfits- particularly for when we dissected frogs in the classroom! When they did germs, they grew some things on a petri dish. Boy when he saw more growth at home, he took off running to put the dish under the microscope! What a great kid!

Both classes were perfect for him. All the kids had a great time. This post concludes my reporting on this semester's co-op. We start up again in February and go through May. It's nice to have the time off, but all of us will look forward to a bit of company come February!

### One Small Square Co-op Class

I8 took a co-op class called One Small Square. The class was based on the book series One Small Square which gives kids a detailed look at all the living creatures within a "small" square of land. The books are wonderfully illustrated and show details of the habitats one layer at a time. What a great idea for a co-op class!

 Each student kept a nature journal and they even had some homework to observe things in their own backyard for six days.

 They shared samples of the things they'd found around the church during co-op class time.

 The teacher even shared a white moth that we come across often and learned that we shouldn't touch them! I know J5 has given this caterpillar a ride on many occasions. Thankfully, he did not rub his eyes afterward...that could have been a problem!
I8 really enjoyed this class and the teacher was excellent! They went outdoors every week and once even took a hike in the snow in late October/early November. They collected sample and studied the nature right around them.

## Tuesday, December 7, 2010

### More Co-op Classes

I thought it would be fun to show off some of the other classes at Co-op this semester that my kids did not take. There was Cake Decorating, Tee Party, Beading along with some others. Here are a few of the displays from Co-op Night.

The Tee Party class refashioned tshirts into many different things and even held a fashion show on Co-op Night to show off their creations.
 The Tee Party class also made a tee shirt quilt. They each made a square. So cool!
 A friend of mine taught the beading class. Hi Lisa!

 Cake Decorating was very popular and they all looked so good!

I have just a few more classes that my kids took left to share with you all. Our co-op really specializes in the extra curricular realm and is only two hours for ten Mondays each semester. Our kids love it and actually I find it pretty enjoyable too!