Thursday, April 26, 2012

Art Today, Health Tomorrow

We all are so excited about our art lesson today.  We got a library book called, Arty Facts: Our Bodies & Art Activities.  Since we are studying the human body in health class, I thought this was appropriate.

An example of how the book is laid out.  

Tomorrow we will learn about our lungs so today we made working bellows.  We didn't have the exact materials but we had a pizza box for cardboard, paint, paintbrushes, glitter glue, fabric and a hot glue gun with glue sticks.  I won't go tutorial here because I don't want to commit plagiarism, but there are some pics from my phone I will share.
Tomorrow we will have a health lesson on lungs so we'll be able to use our own bellows' to enhance the lesson.  I don't always take the opportunity to do these projects, but it is projects like these that the kids will remember.
My daughter has so much glitter glue on her bellows pieces that it may be tomorrow before I can put it together.  We've been playing with the camouflage one and it is really cool!

Getting Started.  She wanted pink and purple.  He wanted camouflage.
Adding a little more detail.
His finished product.

Her finished product.
Here they are together.  This is so far one of our favorites!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit Collage

This morning in devotions we learned about the Fruit of the Spirit.  It was art day today and I had planned to do something with this stack of magazines that keeps growing.  At the last minute I decided to make collages for the Fruit of the Spirit.  Both kids know the God Rocks' Fruit of the Spirit song, so this just was more of a thought provoking lesson.
I asked them to think about what each of the fruit meant and to find a picture for that fruit.  I typed up each "fruit" word in a different font.  Copy and paste so each word is on the paper 2 times.  Print!


I gave each child a piece of orange card stock.  It is what I have on hand.  They took their scissors, the regular copy paper with these words, magazines and a glue stick and this is what they created.  I actually don't have a lot of magazines, but I get tons of Oriental Trading catalogs and I started hanging on to them for projects like these.  We also get farming catalogs and I've started to save them as well. 

My son's version
My daughter's version

It was a fun project.  My first grader lost her focus and needed to be redirected a couple of times.  All in all, it was good and took about 30-45 minutes to complete.

Friday, April 20, 2012

4 weeks left

We have 4 weeks left of school for the semester.  We are going to make it!  We've all decided that we love Home Schooling and want to continue next year.  Our new format has really improved our outlook and we've had very easy-going days.
I think we're starting to get cabin fever a bit.  When the sun is shining through the windows and the kids go outside with me in the morning to water the garden or do other chores or recess, they really want to get back outside.  I don't blame them. Our attention spans, yes "our," are shorter than normal, but things are still going fairly smoothly.
We finished the Chronicles of Narnia series today.  We had 4 chapters left so I told the kids that if they got their seatwork done by 11, then we would read the rest of the book.  Success!  Nothing like a little motivation.  Now I need to find something else to read to them for the next 4 weeks.  I have "Little House on the Prairie" and "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingles Wilder.  I think we might just do those. My kids love to be read to.  They also like to read out loud to me and I like that too. It is a rush in the mornings to decide who gets to read our Bible verses before each devotional in the mornings.
There are several new concepts that my son is supposed to learn in Math and I just don't feel like doing them.  We are switching curriculum for Math next year and these things aren't even covered until 5th grade in the new curriculum, and he's going into 4th.  There are a few things that were taught in 3rd grade that we didn't cover, though, so I'm doing supplemental pages to cover them, like reducing fractions and simple addition and subtraction of fractions.  He likes his math lessons.
Most of the concepts for My first graders are just reinforced now and she says, "I have to do this again!  I'm bored with it!"  Dropping the e to add a suffix or doubling the end consonant before adding suffix.  I know it bores her, but she doesn't always get them right when the rule is not spelled out in the directions, so we plug along.  I think her only real "new" concept is contractions, but she caught on quickly.  I don't know the true rule or a cute rhyme with it since I don't have the teacher book, so I just tell her to put the apostrophe where the letter(s) are missing and shove the 2 words together.  She is noticing contractions in her free reading time too.  I love this discovery time for both kids.
Oh ... the unexpected lesson of the week was last Saturday evening.  The kids wanted to watch the sunset, so we went for a drive.  There is some land South of town that has been in my husbands family for about 100 years and his aunt owns it now, but its abandoned.  We drove there to watch the stormy sky and the sunset. We wandered around the old farmstead and Daddy told us where the house use to sit and the grainery still had grain in it.  We were learning a lot.  We walked up to a barn and heard a mysterious noise. My daughter yells, "Dad, that's a snake."  You bet it was!  He immediately jumped back and found that He had been between 1 and 2 feet from a rattlesnake.  It was thicker than a 50 cent piece and  2-3 feet long, but coiled.  We all stepped back and kept our distance.  Daddy took a long stick and disturbed the boards in the barn so we could hear it rattle again.  We all now know how to identify the sound and appearance of rattlesnakes.  When we got home we watched a few videos online about rattlesnake and discussed how to deal with encounters and attacks by rattlesnakes.  First Aid was a little different than I thought even.  You don't cut where the bite is, but can try to suck out the venom through the bite itself.  We definitely counted that as school and it is useful information to have when you live where we do.

The Rattlesnake

Friday, April 13, 2012

Art class

We had been so bogged down by lack of organization that we often left out a favorite class.  ART!  I hate to skip this because I love art.  With our new schedule format I scheduled art weekly and today is a reward for all of us.
I am finishing off this year with the misc projects I had bought for the kids but never found time to work on.  In the mean time I'm saving butter tubs syrup bottles, egg cartons and such so we have a good supply for cheap projects.  Pinterest has many great ideas but I dispose of all our waste.  I hate junk lying around.
As we start upcycling projects, I will post them with links to instructions.  In the rare occasion I come up with my own project, I'll try to do a tutorial.  I'm excited about that!
Today, I have plaster-like horses and craft paint for them to use in red, yellow, blue and white.  The horses were in a kit from a dollar-type store but the paints were all dried out.  Kids are having a great time!

Getting Started!
He's doing a nice job with the details.
"I made pink!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Best Day Ever!

My daughter has a habit of saying, "This is the best day ever!"  Sometimes she also says, "This is the worst day ever!"  I like that she continues to call a day the best because that means improvement/progress.  The worst days are usually when she just doesn't obey from the start.  I don't like those days either.  Coming off the holiday weekend, we did have a bit of a rocky start this morning, but things quickly turned around and in the end I told my kids that this was the best day ever at LSA.
What made this happen?  I've previously written about finding our pattern and it has been hard to do.  Now with 6 weeks remaining, I think I'm finding a good groove.  I've discovered this in Sunday School and Children's church teaching as well: When the teacher is well-prepared, the class runs more smoothly.  Today at LSA, the teacher was well prepared.  I've been looking over the many different teacher planning pages and most require lots of paper and ink for printing and others require a purchase of a book that only half has what I want.  Then from within me I hear, "Use what you've got."  OK, what do I have.  I looked at my phone apps computer programs and realized that I had been using Outlook's calendar for my planning when I was working as a director of nursing.  I have outlook on my computer and haven't used it since my primary email account is now web-based.  I opened it up and planned this week out by half-hour segments on my Outlook Calendar.  I know they offer similar calendars through gmail and yahoo and other sites.  I just have never used one to its full potential.
I might not stick to this in detail, but it gives me a more organized look at my day.  I really do better if things are more concretely organized and I found today that when I am organized concretely, my kids feed off of that and we all have a better experience.  Each home school parent must find a system that works for him or her or the end of each day will seem to have a feel of defeat.  Outlook calendars may not work for everyone, but since I've been to workshops on how to make Outlook work for me, I feel very comfortable with it.  I'm glad to use it in this setting too.
Now that I've given a lot of credit to my new system of organizing, I really need to rewind a bit too.  I went thrift store shopping to prepare for our family Seder meal. One local store is owned by a great Christian family and in it I found a devotional book.  One Year Book of Devotions For Kids book 3.  I've been reading  each day from this book since last Friday and this morning we started our school day with this and prayer.  I have not been consistent with time to start or praying before we begin and really feel that doing this will turn the direction of our school days.
The portion of the teacher being prepared for each school day is not made irrelevant by the devotional to start the day, but it actually is validated by this.  If I am spiritually prepared for my school day with my kids, it makes a huge difference as well.  We haven't arrived at "Home School Family of the Year" by any means, but we're getting better at what we do and that is a good thing!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Holidays, Weekends and Time Off

This was Resurrection Weekend and Passover week.  Many also celebrate Easter. Why do I differentiate?  Well, many people celebrate eggs and bunnies while others celebrate Resurrection and others Passover and others all 3 or 2 of 3.  That is not the point of this post, so I'll spare you our convictions.
Time off from school is a wonderful thing and sometimes a detrimental thing for us. As we go back to school after time off, our routine is all messed up.  Our drive is decreased and attention spans as well.  Part of me wants to just go to school 5 days a week no matter what.  Actually we can because school can be just as much a celebration as a work day.
As I have said in previous posts, we have patterned our school schedule after our previous Christian school and they got a 4 day weekend this weekend and so do we. We did family celebrations for the holidays on Friday and Saturday, so we had a school field trip on Sunday.  We ended up with 8 hours of school over the weekend which is fantastic!  We're behind on hours and so catching up on a few was necessary.
I find that if we turn a moment into a teachable moment, we can count it as school. I just log what we did in the activity section of our grade book.
One thing I learned from being a nurse is that if it is not documented, it was not done.  HAHAHA!  Well I did a lot of things that didn't get documented because when you shave a comatose woman's legs just because you know she'd appreciate it, and it took your documentation time, you only chart what the government thinks is important like medicines, bath or no bath, and vital signs.  I see a parallel in home school.  If we are audited, they want to see the paper portion of our school days. They want to see our hours spent on school and an activity log to account for those hours.  They don't need to see lesson plans or that you spent 30 minutes cuddling with your son who cried because the new math concept seems too hard.
So while we don't have official school on the "days off" I still log that we went to Sunday School and children's church and library time and I am actually thinking about logging today's lesson in the activity log as well.  On Mondays we haul the laundry hampers from all over the house down to the laundry room and sort lights and darks.  Just because it wasn't a school day doesn't mean chores cease.  Well today's tasks took longer than normal because my daughter has made my son feel insecure of his sorting skills and today it was his turn.  We had a lesson on sorting and folding and what to do with laundry.  It is a life skill that 1st and  3rd graders in normal school often don't learn.  Well it is not in the curriculum and if other parents are like me, they feel guilty about all of the school hours the kids are gone and don't give them "big" chores because they need a break in the evenings.
While I may seem like a task master by my lessons today, I will also confess that I've allowed the kids to spend several hours playing video games today.  That is a special treat for them.  They helped in the garden and the kitchen and in the laundry, but they've been very cooperative and I can't complain.  I love my kids!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Division My Way

My son is expected to do word problems where division is required, but his math book doesn't cover division in 3rd grade.  I don't like him using a calculator in math, but the division is more difficult than 12  :  3 = 4.
I started to teach him to do division problems and then looked for tutorials and could not find the method that I made up for him.  I wanted what he was doing to make sense so I explained it this way.  It turns out to be about the same amount of work as some of the other methods I've found, but it made sense to us.  I just thought I'd share it in case someone struggling with long division wants to try it this way too.

75  :  3 = ? We start with the problem and then rewrite it as 2 equations.  The 10's of the dividend on top and the 1's of the dividend on bottom.  The divisor stays the same.
7   :  3 = 2 R 1  then bring the remainder down and put it in front of the number from the 1's place
1 :  3 = 5  For the solution, put the top answer (minus remainder) back in the 10's place and the bottom answer in the 1's place and we know that 75  :  3 = 25

Another example without explanation:

54  :  2 = ?

 5  :  2 =                   ----->     5  :  2 = 2 R 1
 4  :  2 =                   ----->   14  :  2 = 7
so 54  :  2 = 27

If the first digit of the dividend is smaller than the divisor, we then just skip the first equation and keep the first 2 numbers together in our first equation.

121  :  11 = ?

12  :  11 = 1 R 1
11  :  11 = 1
so 121  :  11 = 11

rather than saying 1 :  11 = 0 R 1  in the first line and so on we just skipped this step.


104  :  8 = ?

10  :  8 = 1 R 2
24  :  8 = 3
so 104  :  8 = 13

This method is not for everyone.  My son thought it was super easy to learn, but my husband just glanced at it and said, "That is not how you do division!"  My discriptions may be hard to follow, but I think if you look at the last few problems closely, you can figure out our method.  It works for bigger problems as well and the end answer can still have a remainder.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The Bible tells us that God disciplines the ones He loves.  I love my students, my precious children, and know that discipline is an element of school that needs to be mastered.  Since this is the beginning of this blog and the beginning of our school, I'm sure this post will be outdated in short time.  We have not yet figured out what method of discipline works best for us.
We began with the disciplining that has been a staple for our family as a 3-hours-together-a-day family.  Well things get a little more sticky the more time one spends with another, especially with family.  When I turn my back to the children, they quit working.  We have a built in desk in the corner of our office/den/classroom area and I stay in the room and do computer things while they do seat work.  I get so irritated to turn around and the same blank paper sits in front of my daughter for 30 minutes.  I've resorted to screaming, swatting, talking, cuddling, pleading, throwing fits (yes, me, the mom), and calling off school until the next day.  I've seen little reward systems and demerit systems and just haven't fallen into one that is just right for us.
Since our children were both in structured classrooms of a Christian school, my husband and I have both told the kids that their behavior would not have been accepted at CCS and it is not acceptable here.  That is so true, but the other thing that is true is that this is not CCS and the structure of our class time now is completely different.  We like the different!  We like the hard work being done by noon!  We had a serious talk with the kids one night and came to the conclusion that our kids do not realize how many times a day they question my decisions, talk back, fight with each other, and/or need to have instructions repeated multiple times before obedience.
Through collaboration, my husband and I decided to place their deeds in front of them.  So far this has worked the best for the kids when I am consistent.  Every time the kids misbehave they get a check mark on their sheet by the day of the week.  My daughter got about 15 check marks the first day.  We had not decided what that would mean when we made the sheet, though.  At the end of the day, she was shocked at the amount of times she disobeyed.  My son got at least 5, but he is older and caught on more quickly.  I didn't know how much of an impact this technique would have and we decided that each check mark meant 1 minute earlier of bedtime.  The second day Jess got at least 10 check marks and had to go to bed earlier than her brother who had received 1 or 2.  By the end of the first week both kids were getting 2 or less check marks.  The bed time thing was a little silly at that point.
The check marks were minimal, but seemed to have less and less impact and my husband came up with the plan to have the kids make their own check mark so they would be active in their punishment.  Also if there are more than 10 checks on a day, the child with the checks will get punished by Daddy when he gets home from work.  I have become more tolerant of their behavior too and we have cycles of how bad the kids need to be to deserve a check mark.
If I post a definition of which actions deserve check marks, then the kids will be giving each other check marks and that won't do.  I've seen the clothespins on a rainbow sheet where they go up for good behavior and down for bad behavior, but my husband didn't like it because it may show the kids that good things will cancel out bad things and I agree that is not the mindset I want to instill in the kids.  For now we get check marks for bad and I just need to be more consistent.  We do have really good days and we also have really bad days.
I added the heart to the behavior sheets.  If I spy the kids doing something kind beyond expectation, I give them a heart.  Jonathan started his school day without complaint or being told while I was trying to hurry Jess on to just eat breakfast.  He got a heart for that.
Our behavior sheets are in the classroom at the back of the house where company may pass through, but not linger.  I do not want my children's downfalls to be broadcast to each person who enters our home and the point is not for all to see their issues, but to keep them before each child.  Like I said at the start, our discipline system will likely change as we learn about each other and become more established as a school, but here's how we've started.