Our new word game.

I’ve been having a little problem getting my son to work on reading. He can do it when he wants to, but he would prefer to have you read to him. In part, this is because he chooses – and likes – books that are beyond his reading ability. Partly it is because we gather on the couch and reading is a fun family activity. And partly because he doesn’t want to. When he really doesn’t want to do something, I have to find a work around.

So our new work around is the magnetic word set I found on Zulily. Zulily is a website that sells all kinds of things – home decor, clothing, costumes, and educational supplies – at a huge discount. I got our chalkboards here. I have gotten music cd’s, counting games, clothes, and shoes from here. But sometimes they have great educational retailers with their supplies on huge discounts. Our wall charts, placemats, word games, and art supplies all came from here.

Back to our word set…

He loves to play it. I lay out the endings to the words on the chart and he puts the magnetic words up in the right spot. I make him say what the word is before he puts it up in the spot. Then he goes through the stack of word magnets and finds the rhyming words. Once he’s gathered all the rhyming words, he moves onto another ending.

Why do I like this? It is working on his rhyming and reading skills. Yes, he’s learning common word endings and blends. Yes, he’s identifying rhyming words. Even better is I know he can do it. Sometimes I get caught in the “he can do it if he wants to but he never demonstrates it” trap. But with this word game I know that he can do it, and he demonstrates that he can do it.

We spend at least 10 minutes a day working on this. I have even discovered that you can print off stickers (the return address sized ones) from your computer with different words and endings on them to make more complex words. So the word set will be able to expand.

I really like this new addition to our routine.

CA Academy of Sciences.

I loved Homeschool Day at the CA Academy of Science. It was a lot of fun.

FIrst, we didn’t have to pay a lot – we got the group rate ($7.95/ticket). So even though I knew we weren’t spending the whole day, I knew it was going to be worth it. I didn’t mind spending the money for something that I know will be good.

Second, their website has a bunch of activities that you can do before you visit, during your visit, and after your visit. The teacher’s section of their website is enormous and has a bunch of great lesson plans. I went through and found a few “before your visit” activities and spread them out over the past few days so that Nicholas would have a basic grounding in what we were seeing.

Third, they have jellyfish. Who knew jellyfish would be the hit of the day?

Fourth, they have a kids play area. It is in the back and gated off by an employee (they only allow a certain amount of children there at a time). It is a great play area with things to play on and with. There is a puppet theater that the kids can put on a play in.

There were a bunch of things we didn’t get to see: The dinosaur movie, the planetarium (the kids are too young), the naturist lab, and much more. We spent a lot of time with the rocks, the fish, the earthquake simulations, and the pendulum. This is why we became members – so we can go back again and again.

To read more about our day, click on the link to our family blog here.

Rafts and floating.

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Today’s lesson was about floating. We have done versions of this lesson before, when Nicholas was younger. But this time I wanted to make it more about states of matter, density, and him doing things.

Our practice words for the day were : raft, float, density, and on.

We did our normal addition work sheets before we started.

Then I handed him a pair of scissors and asked him to cut the foam we were going to use into strips. Cutting is a skill that takes practice, just like writing. It always takes longer than you would think.

Then we measured how long the rafts might be and cut the duct tape to the length Nicholas wanted the rafts. Then we laid the foam onto the tape and finished the rafts by wrapping the tape around both sides. Abby even got to make her own raft by laying the foam strips onto the tape. You can also do this craft with glue and wood sticks.

Then we took the rafts to the pool outside. We wanted to see if they would float – they did. Then we practiced putting things on our raft to see if we could make the rafts sink.

Rocks, bark, twigs, leafs, grass, toy cars, a Barbie ….they all went onto the rafts. Some made the rafts sink – made them more dense than water- and some things didn’t make the raft sink.

We went back inside and defined density, using the correctness and volume words and concepts.

Then we went outside for some water fun. The fun part was just as great as the rafting lesson. While we were out, the outside chairs got turned over and the rafts were made to float down the river ( hose over the back of the chair = river). Almost everything in the backyard got floated – or tried – down the river. It was another good lesson for them to learn, and they did it all on their own.

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Using free online platforms for courses.

I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel. I use worksheets that I can print off other people’s sites, workbooks that have information that I need, and library books as textbooks. I also use college-level classes, that are free online, as basic backbones for information to teach.

Why the college classes? The professors are well known in their field and the information is free. When you try to get online textbooks for various classes – since I am not an expert in all information and need help from time to time – there are none. Or if they are out there, the books and information cost a lot of money.

I’m homeschooling. That doesn’t mean I am rich. I have to keep costs low enough that I can continue to homeschool. Unlike a public school, I don’t get an average daily amount per student to help run my school. I make due with what we already have.

Therefore, free information and worksheets are a great tool that helps me out a lot.

There are two online educations platforms that I really like – MIT’s Opencoursewear and Coursera.

Both of these platforms hold college level classes in a wide range of areas. Whether you want music, engineering, math, or humanities classes, you can find them here. And what is more – they give you all the tools you need. They have the books listed, but they also have all the articles they read, the syllabus, and some even have notes and tests. The courses are academically sound, rigorous, and provide an amazing amount of information.

What is more – they have courses that help me too. I recently did a music class through Coursera with my son and he was amazed to find that mommy had to learn things too. It was a great experience and we had a lot of fun.

Go visit the sites. They will amaze you.

Puzzles!

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Today’s lesson was about dinosaurs. Nicholas got to choose between Ancient Egypt, Knights and castles, or dinosaurs for this week. He chose dinosaurs.

Our words for the day were: dinosaur, tyrannosaurs, carnivore, herbivore, Jurassic, and paws. We practiced those words and then did our lesson.

We did a puzzle for our lesson. It was a 2 foot by 3 foot puzzle of dinosaurs. The point of the lesson was less about dinosaurs and more about puzzle-solving. We did talk about dinosaurs as we did the puzzle and named them, talks about what they ate, and their relative sizes. But really I wanted to focus on puzzle solving.

Puzzle solving is a skill kids have to learn. It involves thinking things through and reasoning.

First we separated the pieces into edge and not-edge pieces. It’s amazing to see how difficult this is at first. By the end of sorting there were no problems.

Then I had him choose a corner piece and put it where he thought it would go. He had to look at the box and decide what hi piece looks like. It took 2 tries before he laid it on the proper spot. Then he had to build from there.

It was hard to let him do it an not jump in. I wanted, many times, to stop him and say “Does that piece really look like it goes there?” He didn’t always make the best matching choices. But he did it. It took an hour, but he did it.

By the end he was better about finding matching colors to help guide him. He also started judging relative sizes better for what pieces fit where.

But the best thing was seeing him undo the puzzle and do it again because “I like doing this.”

Easy music lessons.

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Do you need an easy way to teach music to your children?

We learned the difference between half notes and quarter notes with an easy activity.

I drew a page full of half notes and quarter notes. He had to circle the quarter notes. Then I had him color in the half notes to make them quarter notes.

It was a fun and easy way to teach the difference between what they look like.

More rocks: Erosion.

Here they are, trying to erode rocks with water. It is a good thing sandstone erodes with water easily, otherwise the experiment wouldn’t have been as fun.

We continued our rock themed week with a lesson on erosion.

First we had to do some more “geologist work.” We still had some rocks to find in our rock dig, so Nicholas sat down at the table and went rock hunting in the rock. He found 2 more before he decided he was done for the day. I didn’t realize, when I got it, that the rock dig would occupy so many hours, but it was a really good investment. It is quite the project and he really likes it. If he was older, I would have him practice making a journal and recording his finds, like an archaeologist records their finds.

The we did our word practices for the day: mineral, erosion, wind, weather, rain, and water.

We did some reading in our favorite rock book about what causes erosion. The causes of erosion are weather (wind, rain, find dust rubbing), people, rubbing, and machines. We read about how weather can cause rocks to change their shape and break down.

In order to demonstrate this we headed outside. We took the big chunks of sandstone from the rock dig and used them as our rocks to erode.

First we wanted to see how wind eroded rocks. We blew on them, fanned them, and flew them through the air. Nothing made a noticeable change in the rock. So I explained how wind erosion works very slowly over time.

Second, we tried making some rubbing erosion. We rubbed the sandstone on various surfaces (concrete, the tree bark, the fence) and watched how they changed. Nicholas was also fascinated that sandstone erodes into sand particles.

Third, we did some water erosion. We turned on the hose and held it at different heights against the rocks to watch them change. We saw how the rocks “melted” into sand. It was really cool to see how he would race against his previous rock’s demolition time to see how fast he could “erode the rock into sand with the hose.”

Finally, we used our feet to show how people walking on rocks can erode them too. It turned into a stomping match between him and his sister. I do think the point got across.

When we went back inside, we read the rock book about the rock cycle and Nicholas had to guess what happens to the small rocks and sand after the erode. He correctly said that the rock cycle says they will turn back into rocks sometime. That’s all I expect from him.

It was fun to watch him erode the rocks. He was quite ingenious with finding surfaces to try and rub them on.

Kumon Simple Addition finished!

Nicholas’ certificate for finishing the book. It wasn’t quite as important as eating pancakes.

We finished the My Book Of Simple Addition book. It’s done.

We finished in about 4 weeks. It starts with simple 1+1 and 1+2. It moves through up to 28+2.  In each new section they have a number line that the kids help fill in and use to help them add. Then, towards the end, the number lines disappear and the problems are on the page.

One of the problems is that this book is incredibly repetitious. That si also a benefit for a lot of kids. For mine, not so much. It was too much repetition towards the end. But it did reinforce the math concepts and get him to memorize the math problems without having to do extra work. So in the end, I’m fairly happy.

We are getting the next book in the series – Addition – today and will start it tomorrow.

Toddler Tuesdays: Rocks.

Today’s Toddler Tuesday is a lesson on rocks. I try to keep my toddler lessons about the same material as my older kid. Then I only have one set of prep work to do.

Our lesson involved 3 things: arts and crafts, reading, and nature.

We first spent time reading the rock book. I read for 20 minutes. She stayed curled next to me for 10 minutes and played with dolls the second 10 minutes.

The we traced the work rock. I wrote it on a sheet of yellow paper and helped her trace it with a purple crayon. We said each letter as we traced it and then said Rick after we traced the while thing.

I printed out pictures of rocks and we glues them onto the paper after we were done tracing. Then she got to color the pictures. She likes to color.

Our backyard provided the setting for the next activity: a rock hunt. We hunted for rocks in our yard- and there were plenty. Once we collected them, and my older son also hunted, we arranged them from biggest to smallest and painted them.

It was a lot of fun and we had a blast.

Our rock dig.

He’s using the magnifying glass to see if he’s found any rocks yet.

We have been doing a lot of study of rocks on and off. So I decided to splurge on one of those rock dig kits. I used the Smithsonian one (There’s a link to it below).

Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig

We first reviewed our types of rocks, minerals, and ore. I used the Rock and Mineral (DK Eyewitness DVD) as our textbook. It has great pictures and explanations. It also came with a CD/DVD that has all the art from the book on it. We spent some time reading the book, and reviewing the different types of rocks.

Then we practiced writing some of our rock words: crystal, ore, mineral, rock, and dig. It gave him a variety of letters, and really helped him keep focused on the lesson.

I also cut the word “geologist” out and cut out each letter separately. I had Nicholas put the letters together to make the word “geologist.” Then we talked about what a geologist is, and what you would do to be a geologist.

Finally, I pulled out our rock dig. So far, it has been over an hour and we are still working on the dig. He’s having a blast doing the hammering. Less important to him is finding some of the rocks. More important seems to be getting the big block of stone to crack and making a big mess. But being able to use the hammer and chisel, just like a real geologist would, is a big thing for him. He’s been saying, “I’m a geologist on a rock hunt,” while hammering.

Pounding away with the hammer and chisel works on his hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

I’ve been labeled the “geologist’s helper,” who is in charge of brushing away the dust.

We have found a few rocks. Every time we find one, we have to run it through water to clean it, then dry it. We have our book open to the page that shows which rocks are which and classify it as a metamorphic rock, igneous rock, or sedimentary rock. Then we pull out the guide from the Smithsonian box and find out exactly what type of rock it is. The Smithsonian guide includes pictures and characteristics of each rock.

I ask questions like, “Is this rock hard or soft?” and “What colors is the rock?” Then we match everything up with the chart from the box and find out what type – exactly – it is.

This is a blast. I’m loving spending the time with Nicholas. He’s developing his knowledge of what rocks are which, whether they are minerals, crystals, ore, or just rocks. He’s also developing his motor skills with the pounding away. His curiosity is growing about rocks as he goes through finding each one, wondering which one is coming next.

Plus, we are doing this together. It is fabulous.

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