Review: Stanford’s Gifted and Talented math program.

play quote1I know it’s Tuesday, and in the past we have done Toddler Tuesday, but I don’t have a toddler anymore. She’s more of a child now. That’s not to say we don’t play a lot – because we do. Play is the work of children. It shouldn’t be their break from work, it is their work. But it does mean that Toddler Tuesdays are no more. Instead, I will just post her lessons here too. A lot of them are the same as Nicholas did when he was her age.

Yes, she likes art best. But that doesn’t mean I’m not making sure she gets her full share of math and science. I certainly don’t want to be accused of pigeon holing her so young. So she gets exposed to a bunch of things. But art and play are important.

As I know, my son likes math. The harder the better – even though he whines about it. If it is too easy he simply refuses to do it because he’s already done it and already knows it. Therefore, we make sure his math is hard. Or I try to make sure his math is hard.

We use Stanford’s Gifted and Talented program for math. I generally like it. Except that it can get repetitive. He’s done – according to the program – 54 sections on addition with carrying. That gets a bit tedious. Although the program makes sure that there are only about 10 questions in a section, and mixes them up with different math concepts.

For instance, today he did a section of 10 questions on lines of symmetry, one section of plotting information on a graph, an addition with carrying, a word problems (set 13), more addition with carrying, and fractions.

I’m generally happy with the program. It’s got small introductory videos when they are working on a new concept. It never introduces too much at once  -everything is broken down into these little lessons.

The only thing I’m unhappy with it how it progresses. It doesn’t let him master something and move on. It simply moves him through the progression they have on the computer. If he screws up too many problems in a set – generally because he’s not paying attention – it makes him redo the set. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is when there’s more addition with carrying. He’s done enough, let’s move on. Except that isn’t the way the program works.

They have a new Redbird course out that I’m thinking of trying out for the next semester. That course is supposed to be more adaptive to the child – which would be nice.

But what is really nice is that I don’t have to do the teaching. The computer does it. And he listens to the computer better than he listens to me.


Newton’s Three Laws.

nlmWe’ve been focusing a lot on Physics these past few months. Nicholas just wants to keep learning more and more, so we do more and more. I’m big into child-directed learning (as you probably know), and like to follow his lead. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything else, but we do a lot of things that he likes.

I’ve liked the whole “lapbooking” thing for a while. But what I don’t like is that so many lapbooks are cut and paste – they don’t have room for the kids to write or draw. So when I use someone else’s lapbook, I tend to add things into them.

In this case, we used this small window book of Newton’s Laws from Jimmie’s Collage. I simply printed out the file and then cut everything out. We also didn’t make a real window book, I simply stapled the sides of the paper together. But instead of having it be a cut and paste activity, I added things in.

First, we cut out the picture of Newton and put it on a cover page and Nicholas had to write “Newton’s Laws” on the front page. Second, he cut out the boxes that titled each law (the ones that say Newton’s First Law, etc) and glued them to a page. he then had to copy what each law says under the pasted on box. He wanted to use markers, so I let him. He still doesn’t write really well, which is fine, so sometimes it took two pages to write the law.

Then we stapled it all together and he got to make a book. He was really proud of the book – which is a good thing because I like it when he’s proud of the work he does.

After we completed the book, we went online to view some images of Newton’s Laws. This site has an amazing series of little GIFs about the laws that was really helpful for Nicholas to see.

Lastly, we pulled out his toy cars. Toy cars? Yes. Toy cars. After seeing the GIFs and writing the laws, I wanted to see how much he really understood about them. What better way than a practical exam?

So I would say a law and he would have to demonstrate it with his toy cars, and use the correct words. Nothing in our house can go “fast,” it has to “accelerate,” have “constant speed” or be “in motion.” It’s important to use the correct words from the start. When he decided he was confused, he could refer to the book he made.

Surprisingly, he did quite well. He wanted to play at this quiz a lot longer than I did. We spent about an hour with me saying things like, “First,” and  “Second” and having him use his cars (and crash them together) to demonstrate the laws of motion.

So that was our study of Newton’s Laws.

We’ve been away, but we are back……

I would like to say that we’ve been away, but the truth is I’ve just not had the energy to do all our homeschooling and do everything else – which includes the blog. But I’ve since rediscovered why I liked blogging, and am getting back to it. So expect more posts from us as the weeks go on.

Some of the Civics lessons are updated!!!

Civics lesson help students understand the government and our relationship to the government. Since we all live here, these are important lessons to learn.

Civics lesson help students understand the government and our relationship to the government. Since we all live here, these are important lessons to learn.

I know some people have been asking, and so here’s the links to the Civics lessons that have been updated. The lessons are in an outline form. Everything that is linked to is free. The age of these lessons is for about 13 years old and up – they need to be a pretty proficient reader or some of these will take longer than others.

As the whole list gets completed, I wanted to remind you that it meets the requirements for the CA Civics graduation requirements. If you need to study for the AP Government/Civics exam, or you want to know the exact standards that each lesson meets – I have a list that I can send you. All you have to do is email me.

When more lesson are completed, I’ll be sure to update you and let you know. Three are up now.

Once all these are up, I’ll post the ones for the younger age groups – I have those as well. Kids who are about 5 years old through 13 should use the younger aged lessons. They require less independent reading, and are more interactive.

Here’s the lessons that are all up:

The Constitution and Its Amendments

What is a Country

The Theory Behind American Government

As always, if you see some error, don’t hesitate to contact me. If you need something that I didn’t provide, please feel free to get in touch as well.




Metals lesson.


There are a lot of metals in the world. What makes something a metal? What makes them all unique?

There are a lot of metals in the world. What makes something a metal? What makes them all unique?

I used the free lapbook/notebook that can be found here as my basis for the lesson. I also added some stuff in. We aren’t a big lapbooking family. But I love it when people have the lapbooks put together because I can generally use some of the ideas to make our own lessons.

Here’s the link for the metals lapbook/notebook.

Preparation –

I simply printed out the lapbooking materials. I love looking through them and picking and choosing what I want to use.  I decided that for our quick lesson today we would use page 12 – it’s the introduction page.

First we sat down at the desks and I asked the kids what are some metals they know.

Answers: Gold, silver, bronze, copper, tin, lead, titanium, steel, and zinc.

Then I asked the kids what those items all share (Please compare them). I got some silly answers (We can find them all in a car), to some more serious ones  – they are all found in rocks or the ground; we can make them all take shapes, and they all conduct electricity.

Metals can be found everywhere. We found metals all over our neighborhood. Where can you find metals?

Metals can be found everywhere. We found metals all over our neighborhood. Where can you find metals?

Then Nicholas had to read the paper (page 12). He highlighted the words he didn’t know. We looked up the words on Google (he simply Googled “definition of…..”).

Next we pulled out our Periodic Table of Elements. On the back of the paper Nicholas had to write the elements that are also metals. It was fun to see his excitement at writing down all the metals – and their atomic number (that was his add to the program).

Finally, we went on a metal hunt. The kids took their videocamera and made a video of them going around the neighborhood finding metals. I thought that was fun. I gave them 20 minutes to find as many metals as they could. They really enjoyed running around and finding metals.

Free German Resources.

We are working on more German this year. I'm hoping that we can all speak pretty well at the end of the year.

We are working on more German this year. I’m hoping that we can all speak pretty well at the end of the year.

I have found many free resources on the Internet for German this year. Last year we started with Powerglide German, and a German tutor. This year we are continuing with Powerglide (sometimes) – but we are also using new resources.

BBC has a great German learning program with videos. It’s a lot of fun. We are watching one video per day, although sometimes we watch the same video many times in a row if my kids  – and I – haven’t learned the lesson yet. It just depends on how we learn the lesson on wether we watch the video.

Here’s the link: BBC German program.

I’ve also found a bunch of free worksheets on the web. This means I can print out worksheets and we can do them as a family – me included! We often have fun coloring them in, writing the words, and doing the worksheets together. My husband then gets the grade the worksheets. The kids find it pretty amusing that they get better grades than Mom. It’s also a way for my husband to be a part of our homeschooling experience, since he sometimes feels left out.

Free German worksheets 1

Free German worksheets 2

Free German worksheets 3

Free German worksheets 4

Lastly, we speak German. I have some phrases that I will only say in German – “It’s time to go home” and “Stop” – are always done in German. But we also have time at night or in the morning. My husband likes to speak German with them over breakfast in the morning. We also have found a great German restaurant in town. When we go there we only speak in German. We go at least once a month. It is fun to watch the kids constantly have to repeat their English words in German.

I think we are only able to do this because my husband speaks German fluently. I’m not sure I’d have the incentive to learn another language at this time and speak it with the kids if it wasn’t for my husband constantly challenging us. And to make it even more challenging – my kids are picking it up so fast! I feel so slow compared to how quickly they are picking up German!

Prep School – Abby’s new work!!!!

Since she’s getting older I’m changing “Toddler Tuesdays” to “Prep School.” Prep for what? Well, for other things. She’s “preparing” to do more math and drawing. She’s “preparing” to discover he own interests and not always be involved in her brother’s. As a side note, I’m going to hate the day when they both won’t do the same lessons anymore. Right now she loves to mimic her brother, so we can do lessons all at the same time. But later, I’m sure that’s not going to work out so well.

Therefore, we needed to change the name. She decided on “Prep School.” She actually wanted it to be called “Princess Prep School,” but I declined on the princess thing. We’ve got enough princess stuff in the house as it is.

This week we’ve been working on the letter F for her.

I decided that we would make “books” for her, since she likes to make sets of things. The “Letter F” book contains the following:

1. A sheet of paper with all the words that being with F that she can think of.

2. A dot-to-dot marker F page.

3. A fairy ballerina, a flower fairy, and a flying unicorn to color.

4. The number five to put stickers on.

5. Pentagons (five sides) to put groups of five stickers in.

Here’s how it went:

We started on Monday by making a list of “F” words – she came up with the following:

Food, fairy, frankfurter (yes, we learn German), foot, feet, fine, flute, flying, fancy, four, ,float, and fin. So those are the words we wrote down on the paper.

Next, we did a dot-to-dot F. She got the dot-to-dot markers out and she colored in her F.

For the next few “lessons” she got to color in things that begin with F. She didn’t have much trouble deciding what she wanted to start with – the Ballerina Fairy! She also has a Flying Unicorn and a Flower Fairy to color for her book.

Lastly, there’s the number five – that starts with F too. So I wrote the number five on a sheet of construction paper and gave her stickers. She placed the stickers over the lines of the number five. For her second five activity I drew pentagons – because those have five sides – on a paper. Abby had to put five stickers into each pentagon.

Then she got to staple her book together and show it to her father – who was properly excited. Next we are mailing it to her grandmother, because Abby wants to send a book to her grandmother.


What will your verse be?

Robin Williams died yesterday. I really loved most of his work. He was first introduced to me in “Dead Poets Society” and then I became a fan. I’ve watched Mork and Mindy, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, and a ton of other movies because he was in the movie. In honor of his death, we are spending today’s lesson reading poetry and talking about it. In fact, we have made our own “Dead Poet’s Society” in our house.

We built a fort.

Then we watched this fabulous clip where Robin Williams is asking the students what heir verse will be.

Now we are reading poetry and talking about it.

Here are the poems we are reading today:

Walt Whitman: Oh Me! Oh Life!

Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken 

Rudyard Kipling: If

We then talked about which poem was our favorite. Each of us got to draw a picture representing our favorite poem, then tell everyone else about the picture.

Was there talking and reading in this lesson? Yes. Was there presentations and public speaking? Yes. Did each of us have to decide on a favorite and articulate a reason why? Yes. We practiced all these skills in a simple poetry lesson. And we also got to have a lot of fun huddling in a fort and doing class in a place that wasn’t a table, classroom, or desk.

More play?

There has been a lot of interesting research done on children and learning. And the bulk of it comes down to this: Kids need more play. Kids learn through play, so they need more play.

I totally believe in play. People might not think so, since I’m always posting lessons and experiments. But we do a lot of play at the house. Some of it is organized play (board games, Lego building contests, block building contests, science experiments…….) and some of it is unstructured play (as in I tell them to go play).

We also have unstructured play in nature. We head to the beach and I let my kids play all they want there. We go hiking, and we always stop for “snack” in a convenient location that lets them play around. We also head to museums that have play areas and I let them play. Or playgrounds…..or the front yard……..

I think you catch the drift.

Kids can get over-scheduled. When that happens they lose their time for play. It’s important to have enrichment activities, and equally important to have play activities. So how do you balance them?

It’s a very personal decision. Sometimes it means we do bare minimum work and have a play day. Sometimes it means we do equal play and work in a day – it just depends. I can tell when the kids aren’t getting enough play because I start to feel it too. But when they are getting enough play, it’s more fun! First of all, they don’t like coming in from play. But if they are getting enough play, I can use it as a bribe in order to get other things done. “Finish your writing work and we can go play,” is very commonly heard around my house. It’s fun to play, the kids want to do it, so they do their work before hand and then we go play. If we aren’t getting enough play, then we don’t have an easy time doing work.

Here’s the links to two articles I really like on the need for play.

Article 1

Article 2



Adding to our German resources.

We’ve been studying German for a year. We have had a German tutor, a German program (which was fun, but we didn’t do religiously), and my husband speaking German with us. So now what do we do? I don’t think the kids are ready to move onto the higher level German courses, but we need a way to still practice.

Browsing on Amazon I found the following resources –
The Everything Learning German Book: Speak, write, and understand basic German in no time

German for Children with Two Audio CDs, Third Edition

Lightning-Fast German for Kids and Families: Learn German, Speak German, Teach Kids German – Quick As A Flash, Even If You Don’t Speak A Word Now! (German Edition)

I haven’t gotten the books yet, but I hope they come in soon. This way, I have extras to add to my German course. I am also having the kids watch German cartoons on YouTube. The words go really fast, but it gets them used to the cadence of the language. Nicholas was so excited yesterday when he could pick out some of the words in German. Since the kids have to work at watching them, I generally pick the German shorts. Even better, I get to delegate this task to the husband. He gets to do it, and send me links.

Delegating it to the husband has a bunch of benefits, not the least of which is that he feels involved. But the kids also like watching something that daddy has picked out for them – they watch it with very little fuss. It’s been amazing having him so involved in German. If only he could get more involved with a lot of other things too.

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