Here Come the Peg People! {Week in Review-2/28/14}

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This week we discovered a new toy to create and have lots of fun with. What is it? Well, you might have guessed by the title…peg people! This all started from a review I am doing for a Waldorf-type math curriculum for younger children. The name of this book is The Gnomes’ Gemstones.  The numbers are introduced to the kids in fun stories using math gnomes. So we did some painting, cutting, gluing, and creating. We are having a lot of fun with it so far!

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We couldn’t just leave this poor gnomes without names either! So Moose came up with some interesting names for them. Pictured below is Dexter Divide, Timmy Times, Matthew Minus, and Parker Plus. King Equals is in the picture at the top of the post. The kids have spent so much time playing with these guys! Who knew math gnomes could be so fun!

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The gnomes have been right there helping with all of the school work this week, including Miquon lessons. Moose was working on lessons comparing addition equations with multiplication equations. He kept score to see which gnome won more problems. Timmy Times had a lot more than Parker Plus! Hey, whatever works…right?!

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The kids begged and begged to create their own peg people. As much as I don’t enjoy having paint out in the house (especially when it isn’t washable) I gave in. They actually did a really good job, and didn’t make too much of a mess either. These peg people are getting more play time than I ever imagined. Now that we have removed probably 75% of their toys, I am finding the kids are much more creative. Now if the weather could only warm up so we could go outside too!

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We have had a great time this week with an impromptu nature study sparked by two hawks that continually visit some trees in our back yard. I know it will probably be hard to see the hawk in the picture (it is right in the middle), but trust me, it is there. With Caspian’s wonderful binoculars we were all able to see these hawks up close and personal. We had some great conversations about beaks, feathers, and eating habits. I just love it when something so simple can spark the interests of the kids.

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This is our last weekend of Upward Basketball and Cheerleading. Definitely bittersweet. I look forward to having our Saturdays back and not being at the church five days a week, but the kids really do enjoy it. It seems like a long time before it will be warm enough for sports like tennis. Until then we will keep ourselves busy with more decluttering projects. This week alone we have taken two car loads for donation and thrown away three bags of junk. It feels great reclaiming the house!

Next week we will continue to work on the basement (which it typically the place we put anything that doesn’t have a place to go or isn’t really needed) and the kids’ clothes. I have some goals in mind to get rid of a lot of clothes, but we will see if my emotional attachment to the memories gets in the way.;-)

I have a few reviews coming up next week. One is for Motivated Moms (much of the reason behind all of the organizing going on in our house), and the other is for an app called Talking Shapes. Stay tuned to see what we thought of them and how we used them.

Have a great weekend!

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Time to Organize and Unplug! {Week in Review: 2/21/14}

Week in Review 2/21/14

Does anyone else have a severe case of spring fever?! We had our first day of temperatures above freezing this week…and the sun was shining! It is taking some time to melt the enormous amount of snow on the ground, but it gave me hope that spring may come eventually after all!

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There is grass under there after all!!!

The “warm” temperatures really got me in the mood to organize. I am getting rid of boxes and boxes of stuff that has no reason to stay in our house. We are downsizing in a major way…clothes, toys, decorations, everything. I have found that the only way I can keep up with cleaning is to keep down the clutter. So I am officially on “mission organization”!

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The “catch-all” closet before organization.

This week I am tackling the kitchen and the hallway closets. We have one closet in particular that has a tendency to be a place to shove things we don’t know where else to put.  That has now changed. I turned this closet into a place for the kids to keep their games and puzzles. When they were all stored in the basement, no one played with them unless I brought them up. But just this week the kids have spent hours playing the games that have been neglected for so long. Now they have something to occupy them until it gets warm outside.

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The “catch-all” closet after organization…now it actually has a purpose!

Now to another problem I am resolving this week…too many emails and too much time online. I am so tired of spending the day out with the kids and coming home to find 200 emails and too many notifications from things like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. So I have spent all week unsubscribing to as many emails as I possibly can and only leaving those things I am truly interested in. I have spent less time on social media and changed notifications for them so I am not bombarded with emails. Now I already feel like I have found more time in my day to do other things…like getting rid of clutter! 😉

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The kids enjoying some game time!

Last week I brought up a problem I was having with one of my kids and the subject of math. I am happy to say that things seem to be improving this week. We have gone back to doing some Khan Academy, which seems to help since it gives a more visual approach to learning new topics. I still have Teaching Textbooks in the back of my mind in case things go bad again. Sometimes I think it just takes a new week with a new perspective to make problems go away!

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Working on their Bible lesson (with the ABC’s for Godly Girls & Boys) and drawing pictures of the promises of Heaven.

Since we finished our KONOS unit on “love” last week, we are going back to “attentiveness” and learning about the senses. We have done some great experiments and learned about some famous people (like Louis Braille, which Caspian just so happens to be writing about in All Things Fun and Fascinating this week also!). Aurora has a new favorite activity with KONOS . She turns every Bible story into a play. The girl was evidently born to be on stage! But I do think the plays help them remember the Bible stories in a way that just reading them never would.

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The kids are finding out how the senses are connected to the brain.

Both Aurora and Caspian finished their first books with Language Lessons Through Literature . They are doing so well with this language arts curriculum and I am so pleased with all they are learning. In case you didn’t get a change to read it, I posted earlier this week about our experience with Language Lessons through Literature. If you like a Charlotte Mason approach to education, I highly recommend you check it out.

We have 2 reviews coming up next week…both Kinderbach and Science4Us.com. We have truly enjoyed both of them and plan to continue to use them even after the review is over. I have them scheduled to post on Monday (Kinderbach) and Wednesday (Science4Us). I would love to hear back what you think of them.

How was your week?

More Planning and Lots of Cuddles {Week in Review-2/14/14}

Week in Review More Planning and Lots of Cuddles

Happy Valentine’s Day! How are you celebrating? We had a fantastic opportunity to spend the morning with 23 other homeschooling families at an indoor field house. The kids had a great time running around and playing games with friends. And then there is me…the mom who always forgets the camera! Ugh! One of these days I will have more than a few pictures to share. But at the very least I think we will all sleep well tonight. 😉

This week I went full force into homeschool planning mode. I was finding my generic checklists of school subjects just weren’t working anymore. We were spending too much time having to go back and clarify which specific assignment needed to be done. So I spent some “free time” (ha, ha!) entering all of their lessons into the Homeschool Helper app. Now if we miss a day (like we did today) I can simply bump their assignments and have them ready for Monday. I typically email their assignments for the week to myself so I can print them off. I color code each day so they know exactly what needs to be done. And they can always work ahead if they feel like it (although, let’s be honest, that rarely happens). For me, it feels good to have everything planned out.

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A Weekly Lesson List from Homeschool Helper that has seen a lot of wear and tear! 🙂

Last week I mentioned we were going to start using the Pathways Language Lessons Through Literature with the little boys. I am so glad we started this reading program! We are having a great time cuddling and reading some great books. I have found the best time to read with them is in the evening after dinner. It has been a very effective way to help them wind down from the activities of the day. They love the stories enough that they want them read multiple times. I love how they are getting exposure to great literature and even some poetry, science, and history. This new addition of our routine is providing great memories and some much-needed cuddle time with my little boys before they get too big to cuddle!

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I just love this cuddle time and I will dearly miss it when it is gone!

Our KONOS studies continued with love this week. We read some Bible stories about love, acted out the Good Samaritan, learned about some famous humanitarians, and listened to some of our favorite love songs. We have had some great discussions about the type of love we receive from God as opposed to the type of love we receive from other people. We listened to the differences between hymns about God’s love and songs about being in love. For the final activity on this unit we are making a heart-shaped cake. Nothing like ending the week on a sweet note!

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Our Vanilla heart cake with Chocolate Ganache frosting…yum!

Now I need some advice from you all if you have any to give. I have one child who is struggling with math. This child is not typical excited about school work anyway, but math seems to be the worst. How do you decide if it is the curriculum, or if it is just an attitude problem? I hate to spend money on a new curriculum just to find out that wasn’t the problem, but having something like Teaching Textbooks that would take me out of the math equation sounds pretty good right now! Any advice you have to give would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

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Little Bear taking a much-needed nap while still standing up after dinner! He was up at 5:50 this day 😦

How was your week? We are anxiously awaiting some warmer weather around here. It finally got above freezing yesterday for the first time in several weeks, and it feels pretty warm! Can’t wait for the warm summer sunshine! I think we all need it. Have a great weekend!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Puppets, and Attitudes {Week in Review-2/7/14}

Week in review: Love, Puppets, and Attitudes

After much debate, I have decided to go back to writing “Week in Review” posts (at least as much as I can). I know it is always helpful to me when I see what other families are doing and how they do it, so I thought I would share what we have been up to this week.

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Our unit study this week for Konos is all about Love. This is a 2 week study that will end on Valentine’s Day. We are learning what the Bible says about love, what love really means, and how we can show love to others. The kids have had a great time matching up famous couples, listening to the story of Romeo and Juliet, spending a day smiling as many times as we could, and reading Bible passages about love. We even learned a little bit about the true story of St. Valentine and why certain symbols are associated with Valentine’s Day. We are looking forward to another week all about love. Here is a collage the kids made of the different descriptions of love in 1 Corinthians 13.Love collageAfter reading Simplicity Parenting I was really inspired to not only get rid of a TON of toys in our home, but also add in some toys that lend themselves to creativity. Sometimes this requires making some toys. This week I was inspired by Pinterest to make some felt hand puppets for the kids (by the way, I LOVE felt!!). I finally finished them all last night and the kids have had a great time creating their own puppet shows! Yay! My plan to spark creativity actually worked! 😉20140207-120138.jpg

We have struggled around here lately with negative attitudes, especially when it comes to doing school work. We have tried several different approaches to change this, but in the end what has worked is getting up early and getting the work done…first thing in the morning. No lying around for even an hour. The kids have discovered that we can be done with ALL of our school work by about noon when we start early. This has been a bit of an adjustment. I like my relaxing time in the morning while the kids play or watch a show on TV. But when it means free afternoons and not having to listen to complaining about school work, I’ll take it! They each have about an hour of schoolwork where I work directly with them (mostly math and language arts). Then they have a few independent things, and we all do KONOS together. It is so nice that we are finally falling into a routine that is working! It has taken a long time this year to do that, but we are finally there.

We have several reviews we are currently working on with the Schoolhouse Review Crew and I can’t wait to share them with you! The older 3 kids are using science4us.com and they all love it! We have to ration computer time because they would spend all day on the site. Moose is also using Kinderbach, and he is really enjoying that too! I think we may have a future piano player in that boy! He and Little Bear also have an app they are using called Talking Shapes. It is a cute way to introduce kids to letter sounds and shapes. And what do I get? I am reviewing Motivated Moms (and loving it!). It is such a great way to keep messes in the house from getting out of control. These reviews will be posting at the end of February and the beginning of March.20140207-115628.jpg

Next week I will be adding one more bit of “schoolwork” to our day. I hate to even call it that because it is really just snuggly time reading good books. Kathy Jo (author of our favorite “Language Lessons Through Literature“) has put together a FREE literature program for young children called Pathways. It is mostly just a reading schedule, but it incorporates poetry, science, history, and some great literature. Many of the books are public domain and the others should be easily found at your library. If you are looking for a great book list for your young children I highly recommend checking it out. I can’t wait to start it next week!

That just about sums up the highlights of our week! All in all, I would say it was a good week. How was your week?

 

 

What We Learned This Week: 3/4-3/8/13

OK, I guess the title should actually be “What We Learned the Past 3 Weeks”. I knew as soon as I posted how healthy the kids had been they would inevitably get sick…and they did. Three weeks ago they took turns passing around a 24 hour bug. Thankfully everyone made it through pretty easily but since they all had it on different days the week was a bust as far as school work is concerned. Two weeks ago we had a light school week (math and language arts only) since Daddy was off. So that brings us to the past week, and we were actually able to complete school work! Thank goodness we school year round:)

We had a pretty full week this week and started some new things too. The older 2 began using All Things Fun and Fascinating from Institute for Excellence in Writing. My intentions were to do our own thing for writing, but it wasn’t going as well as I hoped, mostly from my lack of confidence. Since they had done so well with IEW last year, we went back to what worked. I love their philosophy that you can’t help your child too much. Caspian remembers the Key Word Outlines from Primary Art of Language:Writing and is doing very well. The kids both love creating symbols for the words in their outlines. I think it will be a good thing for them to complete this program and take it further than they did with PAL.

We continued with Mystery of History this week and it is still going very well. We are getting ready to start Ancient Greece and I think the kids will be happy to stop hearing about pyramids for a while:) We started incorporating books from Yesterday’s Classics to our history reading. A few weeks ago we started reading The Golden Goblet but it wasn’t received very well. When I found the ePub books from Yesterday’s Classics we started reading Peeps at Many Lands: Ancient Egypt and the kids enjoyed that much, much more.

We had some science to catch up on after our break and finally had a chance to do some of the egg experiments to go with our week of studying eggs. Little Bear’s phrase for the week was “crack, crack, crack!”. We eat so many eggs around here that the kids are very familiar with them, although Aurora was a little disgusted to learn that a chicken could actually form from what was in the egg. They did have fun with the experiments, and that’s all that really matters!

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Caspian is trying to crack his egg with his bare hands…thankfully it was hard-boiled!

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Testing the buoyancy of an egg in plain water, salt water, and a mix of the two. I love it when experiments actually work!

We started some new activities for our after school time in the afternoon. The kids just can’t be left too long to play on their own or they are bound to get into trouble! Some days I feel like every second of their day has to be scheduled! Since the kids really enjoy listening to books we started using Five In a Row for the younger two and Beyond Five in a Row for the older two. Since it is just a supplement we don’t do all of the activities but the kids seem to really enjoy it. We read Mrs. Katz and Tush with FIAR and the The Boxcar Children with Beyond FIAR. If you ever want to supplement school with something fun having to do with books I would definitely recommend looking into FIAR.

Aurora and Moose draw pictures of what they see out of our window to compare with what Mrs. Katz sees out of her window.

Aurora and Moose draw pictures of what they see out of our window to compare with what Mrs. Katz sees out of her window.

The past few weeks I have been working on attempting to cut down on electronic time, especially for the little boys since it is so easy to turn to electronics in order to get school done with the older kids. But I could see they were having some bad side effects from too much. I am working on felt busy books from them, but until then we are using things like reading a lot of books, playing with playdough (and mats), sorting pom poms, and bringing out toys that are not normally played with. The little boys sleep much better at night when they don’t have as much screen time, so it is definitely worth the extra effort.

Little Bear loves his Blue's Clues books!

Little Bear loves his Blue’s Clues books!

Fun with Playdough mats!

Fun with Playdough mats!

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Moose started using Miquon, and he absolutely loves it! This boy loves anything having to do with math. He is almost finished with the counting part of the Orange Book. I decided to put all of the books in one big binder and separate them by their letter section. This way I just take out one page at a time for him to work on (we use a page protector and a dry erase marker so the pages can be reused) and he can continue on with a subject as long as he is comfortable with it. The other kids are still doing well with Math Mammoth. If anyone is interested in this Math Mammoth is on sale this month through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. It usually makes it up to 50% off by the end of the sale.

Look at that smile! He loves his math:)

Look at that smile! He loves his math:)

The only other change to our normal routine was adding in cursive for Moose. He was showing a lot of interest in handwriting and the older two formed some bad habits when they tried to write on their own.  So after a lot of research (dare I say too much!) I have decided to use cursive first for Moose. He is doing really well and knows “a”, “e”, and “i”. I am trying to hold off his other writing until he has officially learned the other letters. Time will tell if that will actually work! The cursive program I chose was Teach Me Joy: Cursive. It is a download so I can print off as many pages as I need and it comes with some cute flashcards that describe how to draw each letter. We are trying to use some other materials for added practice too.

Working hard on his cursive "a".

Working hard on his cursive “a”.

Moose loves to practice his letters with this bag full of colored hair gel. He was so happy to have orange- his favorite color!

Moose loves to practice his letters with this bag full of colored hair gel. He was so happy to have orange- his favorite color!

I am so grateful that we were able to make it through another week of productive school. And we survived February without burning out!!! Have a great rest of the weekend (what little is left of it)!

 

 

 

 

Week in Review: 2/11- 2/15/13

Better late than never, right? Where did the weekend go? I think I spend a little too much time doing some catch-up cleaning on Saturday and working on an Easter dress for Aurora on Sunday. Oh well. Here is a little glimpse into what we did last week.

Most of our school subjects remain status quo. We did finish “truthfulness” in our character quality study and are now working on “alertness”. I am amazed at how thorough characterjournal.com is, especially since it is free.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day we took a little break from regular school work to do some fun things. Caspian and Aurora worked on a color by number picture. Instead of our regular Bible and copywork, I had the kids copy some Bible verses about love onto cut out hearts. They wanted to give them to Grandma and Grandpa:) Then we did a little spelling quiz on some of the words they wrote in the Bible verses. Writing Road to Reading must be doing a great job. The kids actually think about how to spell words and sound it out instead of just guessing. Caspian even spelled the word “tongue”!

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As a special Valentine’s Day treat from Grandma (that did not involve candy!) she took all of us to a local Children’s Museum. The kids had a blast and I got some great gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas!

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Ready to go play!

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Inside the “Three Little Bear’s House”

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A mini one room school house- so cute!

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Aurora hard at work with her slate:)

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Moose as the Taxi driver- boys love cars!

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The water play station- every stayed relatively dry thankfully!

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Giant musical tubes!

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Moose- up in the treehouse

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Little Bear was a huge fan of the pretend grocery store…

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… so was Moose

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Hmm. A 2-year-old in charge of the money?!

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Fill that cart!

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Caspian and Aurora are “playing” veterinarian

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Moose loved the animals too!

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Grandma helps Moose get an animal out of the cages

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What is he concocting?

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The “Mad Scientist”

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Time for some dressing up!

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Caspian as a doctor, I think (not sure about the hat!)

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Little Bear did NOT want to take this Thomas hat off! The boy is crazy for Thomas!

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We never really figured out what this costume was supposed to be either. Maybe Indiana Jones?

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Order up at “McDonald’s”!

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Caspian balances a ping-pong ball in the air with a hair dryer

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Little Bear explores the bug room. Great time for us to be learning about spiders!

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I want this in our basement! The state names and capital names just velcro on.

We had a great week of some alternative learning. Now I just need to remember to get our week in review done before the weekend is over:) Have a great week!

Week In Review: 2/4-2/8/13

Another great week around here- and, knock on wood, everyone has stayed healthy! I am amazed at how healthy the kids have been despite going to church twice a week (and other various places where germs like to fly!). It has been since Thanksgiving that they had their last cold, and it has been since last spring for me. I have to attribute a lot of this to our diet which consists of very little sugar, very few grains, and very limited dairy. The kids also drink water kefir (probiotics) every day. So somethings is working, although I know just writing this will invite multitudes of germs:)

We started a new aspect of our Bible study. The kids still each do their own devotionals, Caspian works on Bible Quizzing, we work on the Character Qualities, and now we have added S.O.A.P. to our lineup. In case you aren’t familiar, S.O.A.P. is a way of studying scripture verse by verse. The abbreviations stand for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. We all do this together (including me!). The kids are learning that not everything has a wrong and right answer. So things are open to individual interpretation. This has been challenging since they are so used to me telling them if they are wrong, but now the “answers” are completely up to them. I love how they are being stretched to really understand scriptures and figure out how it applies to them. I see this doing great things for all of us! I will be adding just a simple notebooking page for doing S.O.A.P. since the kids prefer this paper to using a notebook, but I prefer to just use a notebook. Either way I would recommend looking into it- such a simple and powerful activity.

Our new and improved language arts lineup is going well enough that I thought I would share exactly what we are doing. So here is it!

MONDAY:

Spelling: Natural Speller for spelling (I am using common words the kids need to learn like colors, numbers, months, days, etc.)

Writing: Work on a writing project from Comprehensive Composition (this week we are working on outlining

Grammar: KISS grammar for Aurora and Blue Book of Grammar for Caspian

Reading: 30 minutes free reading and read aloud from McGuffey readers

TUESDAY: (our short day of school work because of piano lessons)

Spelling: Review phonograms from Writing Road to Reading, use Spelling City to work on list from Natural Speller

Writing: Copywork and editing from our current read aloud

Grammar: same as Monday

Reading: 30 minutes free reading and narration of a short story

WEDNESDAY:

Spelling: Work on spelling words from Writing Road to Reading; games on Spelling City

Writing: Read poetry together

Grammar: same as Monday

Reading: same as Monday

THURSDAY:

Spelling: same as Wednesday

Writing: use the passage from Tuesday as a dictation passage

Grammar: same as Monday

Reading: same as Tuesday

FRIDAY:

Spelling: test the words from Monday’s Natural Speller list

Writing: Free Writing (they both chose to write a poem today) and a lesson from Igniting Writing

Grammar: listen to a chapter of Grammarland and read a book by either Ruth Heller or Brian Cleary that pertains to what they listened to

Reading: 30 minutes of free reading

This seems to work well and we will continue to use it as long as it does.

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Aurora was first up to read some poems about winter for Poetry Wednesday. No, that is not her cup of coffee:)

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Moose enjoyed listening to poems and having a snack!

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Caspian’s turn to read! He does a great job reading poetry.

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We had a beautiful sunny day for poetry reading!

In math this week Aurora discovered exactly how useful an abacus can be. She was asking me why I didn’t introduce it to her sooner since it really helps her with her work. We watched a few videos from Education Unboxed and the kids continue to do well and learn new things! I think I am ready to just on the Miquon ship for Moose. He loves using the C-Rods and I can see Miquon being a good fit for him. Plus it will slow him down a bit in Math Mammoth. Right now he is enjoying playing math with things like the Brain Quest game he received for his birthday.

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Aurora + Abacus= easy math!

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Pick a number card!

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Brain Quest has some of the neatest games for kids, and the bonus is that they are educational

 

We studied bees in science this week. I still can’t believe how much the Magic School Bus captivates the kids. We also did an experiment with our sense of smell, since bees use smelling more than they do seeing. I blindfolded the kids and had them try to guess what they were smelling. The got most of them right, and then wanted to play “the smelling game” for the rest of the day.

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The kids are ready to start the “smelling game”.

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Since Aurora is my kitchen helper, she knew right away this was vanilla.

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Caspian figured it out too!

We are still in Ancient Egypt this week for history, specifically studying Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. I was worried that the kids would not have enough age-appropriate books to read, but I was wrong. A couple of their favorites from this week were Adventures in Ancient Egypt (the Good Times Travel Agency) and The 5000 Year Old Puzzle. I think we are going to start reading the Golden Goblet as our read aloud. I also started adding our books to the timeline so the kids can connect the books with where they belong in history.

Tonight for Friday movie night we are watching The Bee Movie since the kids are so fascinated with bees right now (we had to make sure we ate honey with breakfast too). So it is time to go get the house cleaned up for movie night! Have a great weekend!