Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Learning Styles

For help in determing your child's learning style click here

Sandpaper Letters-Help with Phonics

A great way to teach your children the phonetic letter sounds that addresses the different learning styles is by using sandpaper letters.  They can be purchased at Knowledge Tree or Mardels for around 15 dollars. 

For in depth instructions for how to use them visit here. Think you will find the montessori method of using the three period lesson applicable in other areas as well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Answers in Genesis for Kids

Anne Coletti (Comm. Central K5 teacher) directed me to Answersingenesis.org, where they have a colorful site for kids with all sorts of answers from Creationism on fossils, history, and more, complete with coloring and activity pages, videos, and even a weekly animal!


Volcano Erupts in Indonesia for Second Day

CBS reports on the second day of volcanic activity in Indonesia.  Pictures are here of Mount Sinabung erupting after 400 years of silence.


Math multiples idea

As you're probably picking up, my kids do a lot of their memorization through song, which seems to be even easier than poetry (we all remember the songs of our childhood!). Music seems to have so many benefits across the intellect, and it's a natural way to incorporate music training about rhythm, pitch, and more. Some of your budding musicians might be able to play these tunes on their instruments!

That said, we've been memorizing our math multiples to music these last two weeks. This week, we'll use the tune of B-I-N-G-O.

The multiples of four
to forty-eight
Are easy, can't you se-e?
4, 8, 12, 16
20, 24, 28
32, 36, 40
44, 48!


Memory work: songs and actions

Our history fact on Charlemagne this week can be sung to "The Wheels on the Bus" with a wee bit of finagling.

Our science fact can be sung to the first lines of "Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man" (it actually works with "Wheels on the Bus", too, but hey, let's not confuse the poor kids). Suggested actions:

1. "Sedimentary and igneous rocks": hit your fist on your palm to the beat.

2. "over time/may change form": hold your hands up, palms out, then flip them to show the backs of your hands

3. "add some heat and pressure": hold up imaginary salt and pepper shakers; shake one, then the other

4. "metamorphic they become": form a mountain with your hands, then make it rise with the imaginary underground heat and pressure


The rock cycle: Mt. St. Helens video

This doesn't explicitly speak of the rock cycle, but in light of what our kids are learning about igneous and metamorphic rock, this 4:14 video from The History Channel on the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 may provide some interesting conversation.


Charlemagne video

This is does a fair job of bringing history to life! It's a video from the History Channel on the war of the Lombards vs. Charlemagne, probably about five minutes long. It has some reenacted history with voice-over of some professors.

Please note: There are some battle shots with a few slices by the sword; however, there's no blood. The losing Lombardy king is shoved to the ground by Charlemagne.


Metamorphic Rock

Okay, this video on metamorphic rocks is just a little more exciting than actually watching a rock. But it is a video.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

You've got mail

My creative, active son seems to wilt under the routines of worksheets and other rote activities; the majority of my home education frustrations would be solved if I could simply master the art of motivating him, for the love of Pete. (This is a contentment and self-discipline issue on his part, too, as you can imagine.)

In fact, I've been motivated lately to pray for wisdom about his specific makeup, and how God would have me educate him according to the way God's created him, for the good works God's prepared in advance for my son. Plus, I want him to learn, not just achieve. Those are a couple of the reasons homeschooling is so worth it to me:

1) I can train my kids in their unique makeup, and
2) my active, creative kids can be engaged in true learning without sitting in a desk for the entire day. (This blog's been a good motivator for me!)
I still want to prepare him for the workforce--when he won't always get to do fun stuff--and train him not to be consumeristic, when everything is geared to his fancy! But I do want him to be a lifelong learner who enthusiastically embraces God's world and His story, growing in his love, enjoyment, and understanding of God while he learns.

That said, I started making lists of his likes, dislikes, and strengths. I try to alternate between his likes and dislikes or incorporate dislikes (like handwriting) in with likes (drawing)--we use a slightly less structured form of the workbox system, which makes this easier for me.

My son really likes computer games and videos. So last Friday--part of the reward for a week of good effort!--I got the idea of sending e-mail messages to his Gmail account (only family has his address) with links for him to follow to computer-based exercises, videos, or educational skill-boosting games. He acted like he'd just gotten something in the mail!

For preschoolers and kindergarteners, it's also fun to have a "letter of the day" in an envelope in their toy (or cardboard-box) mailbox.

  • My kids would open the envelope with their name on it, and after we identified it, I'd stamp it on their hand (you can write it in marker, too).

  • We would go on a hunt around the house (I've got boys), using an imaginary bow and arrow to shoot things that started with that letter.

  • Glue objects starting with that letter onto the letter written on construction paper. We might glue on wet spaghetti onto an S on a piece of construction paper or Tootsie Rolls over the letter T, and do a worksheet with that letter.

  • You can even cut their sandwiches with a letter cookie-cutter.

  • Every once in awhile we'd also do a silly yell whenever someone used a word with that letter: "Silly starts with S! AAAAH!" (Think of the old PeeWee's Playhouse screaming on the word of the day. ...Not that my mom let me watch that.)
I'd love your thoughts on more ideas to engage our kids!


Jumping Math

Janel has so many good ideas. I like that she gets her boys moving. Spring-boarding from her stair jumping activity idea, we used movement this week to learn our 3's to 36. Video below.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Volcano videos for kids!

My boys have been enthralled by volcanoes this week thanks to this week's science fact!

The first two videos here give some great pictures and volcanoes 101, courtesy of National Geographic. (No references to the age of the earth, BTW.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Bi-linguist, Lisa Murfin, tipped me to Howjsay.com  It will pronounce words like Hegira.

I tested the website's accuracy with the city in which I was born - Louisville, KY.  Very close for a computer.  :)


Research made simple for oral reports

Sometimes helping our children to find research simple enough for them to easily understand can be a challenge!

One tip that we've found easy: My son Googles the topic of choice, plus the words "for kids": Today, it was "Red Sea for kids". This brings up links that are written and decorated for kids' use in projects just like these. I usually select the link he'll use (mostly for safety, and to save him exasperation), and my interpretation is minimized by kid-friendly content.

Telling Time Games

photo source
Janel let me borrow her file folder game, "Whooo knows what time it is?"

My first grader has only worked on basic time telling. The file game was a bit frustrating for him.

When he played this time telling game on-line, he gained confidence and improved quickly.  The best part?  Mom wasn't correcting him.

Tomorrow we will play the file folder game again and I think he will be more proficient.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Memorization: Rocks!

This week's science fact could be sung to a few songs, I'm sure, but it worked well to the tune of Dinah (as in, "Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah...").

My kids added some actions, and presto! We've almost got it.

Some action ideas:

"An igneous rock is a fire rock..."=wiggle fingers to mimic fire, or rub hands together like warming them over a fire

"It's formed from melted rock..."=stir an imaginary pot, like you would melted chocolate

"As magma cools below the earth..."=put your hands down low

"And lava cools on top!"=make an explosive volcano as you raise your hands! (My kids like this part the best, of course.)

"A sedimentary rock is formed when sediments settle down..."=Settle your arms into an imaginary lazy boy, laying your head back

"Rock, sand, and dirt are pressed..."=smash your hands together!

"...and cemented in the ground!"=smash one fist into the other palm

So now you know how crazy our household gets. Beware--it's catching. (Note: No, that picture is not my family.)


Crazy enough, on Saturday one of my friends gave me two plantains.  You know the banana looking things that turn black in the produce section?  

Yesterday John Isaac came home from Comm. Central talking about watching a video in Spanish class about cooking plantains.  Ye 'ole Internet gave me a recipe similar to the one John Isaac described.   From what I read, if you want plantains to be sweet - buy them looking black.  If you're going to eat them savory, buy them green or yellow. 
The first recipe we used the yellow plantain for our "dessert."  We love desserts!  
Chop plantain in one inch sections and fry on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side.  I fried in lard but coconut oil would be yummy too.
Drain on paper towels (or napkins, if like us, you run out of paper towels.)  Then squish with a glass.
Soak in 2 cups hot water with 2 teaspoons of salt for one minute.
Fry again on both sides.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Very yummy, indeed!  John Isaac said they taste sort of like apples and I agreed.
To make plantains savory, slice as thin as possible.
Fry for a few minutes on each side.
Sprinkle with sea salt.

Yummy yummy YUMMY!  These are better than chips. 

When we lived in Phoenix, we would buy these from Trader Joe's in a bag.  I'm glad to know that I can make my own!

Tutoring in the Little Rock area

If you're looking for a tutor here in Little Rock, I wanted to offer a completely biased, shameless plug in the form of a personal recommendation. My energetic brother-in-law--fantastic with children--is finishing up his Master's degree in Education and currently teaches fourth grade at an inner-city school in the Little Rock School District. You can check out his website at http://upgradetutoring.blogspot.com/. The tagline: Engaging. Creative. Learning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Middle ages art project: Make a coat of arms and/or shield

I've discovered some great hands-on educational activities at http://www.education.com/. I've melded a couple of ideas for a medieval-themed art project this week:

1. Ideally, a coat of arms will express your child and the things that are important to him or her, so take a few minutes to brainstorm. Explain that a shield identified knights in battle. The lion was the first symbol to appear on a shield. (Got that from this link that I posted last week, with lots of other medieval activities.)

2. Have your child design his/her own coat of arms. Here's an online program that will help, and it's so easy to pick from all of their different symbols.

3. Grab a sheet of foil and wooden stylus to emboss the design onto a sheet of foil, like in this project. If you'd like, it can be pasted onto a cardboard shield.

Rocks and the rock cycle

This interactive diagram from BBC may be helpful as we study the three types of rock this week, and I found these animated videos even more interesting. Here's a diagram of the rock cycle (am I the only one who didn't know there was a rock cycle?) for those of you with older...or more interested...children. (As Julie once told me, all I ever needed to know I learned when I taught my son kindergarten.)

But these hands-on activities get points from me for being a) easy, b) doable with what I have at home, c) somewhat memorable, and d) involving chocolate (bet you'll click on it now!).

Here are a few pictures of how the rocks are used for all those visual learners out there.

And kudos to this three-part exercise that has some interesting photos and an online rock collection (my favorite kind). [Note: This text is copied from an Australian website.]

Types of rocks: Rocks are not all the same. (Part 1 of a Learning Object) Find out about rock types and see examples

Start your rock collection. (Part 2 of a Learning Object) Click on a rock in the landscape, learn about it and add it to your collection.

Identify rock types. (Part 3 of a Learning Object) See if you can recognize rock characteristics and types. You have 6 minutes to complete this activity.

Can't get enough of rocks? You might after you look at all these links!

Rock on.

Talking to our kids about Islam

Note: If you're a visitor to our blog, it's important to note that this post comes from a distinctly evangelical Christian point of view. We're seeking to raise our children according to what's taught in the Bible, which we believe is the infallible Word of God. In light of that, we seek to educate our children both in truth and with love for other people who He's created.

As noted earlier, we own Story of the World on audio CD, so my oldest son came to the CD about Mohammed last week--the subject of this week's history fact. This is a tough nut to crack: How do we talk to our kids about "visions" that other people have (uh, particularly the angel Gabriel) and how to respond to them?

Fortunately, my oldest was alone--this gave us a good time to talk about his questions, and I also wasn't broaching the subject with my children who might not be able to understand the answers.

You may have a different approach, but I decided to go right to Scripture, realizing that even my tone of voice would affect how he viewed Muslims, possibly for the rest of his life. Here are some that I brought up in our conversation:

  1. 1 John 4:1-6. Whatever we encounter, we compare it against the grid of all Scripture in its entirety, like the Bereans did. Mohammed's vision did not back up the truth of Scripture, so we know that it's not from God.
  2. Galatians 1:6-9. Mohammed's version of how we are saved is directly opposed to that which is taught in Scripture: that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. We also need to remember that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
  3. 1 Peter 3:15-16. Muslims and people of other religions are still created by God in His image, and we need to treat them that way--with gentleness and respect, the Bible says!--no matter what they believe. We need to be prepared with answers for the hope that we have, and we need to love them by praying for them, too: the flooding in Pakistan may be a great start.

This site may offer you some specific, well-articulated responses from a Christian vantage point.

Root Word Flash Cards

Janel had the fabulous idea of making flash cards and letting your child illustrate the word.

My son really enjoyed that activity.

I typed out the words and definitions (for the first semester) printed on card stock and will have them laminated.  If you'd like to download it, too - here's the front (root words) and here's the back (definitions).

Also for this week to download: The Lady of Shalott.  Print, then cut into four strips and staple together.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Found this "fossil kit" at the Dollar Tree in WLR.  The child digs through hard clay to find bones that he puts together like a 3D puzzle.
Random bargain tip: If you fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child - Michael's (next door to the Dollar Tree) has flip flops for $0.40.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DIY Handwriting

I love making my own handwriting worksheets in about ten seconds on this site.

I also just copied Julie's idea from below for our history fact this week, and like using this free handwriting font.

If your student has moved on to cursive handwriting, you might try this free font or this one, on dashed lines; this one comes with arrows.

Draw. Write. Now.

Veteran homeschooling mom, Lori Davidson, tipped me to this resource.

Draw Write Now, Book 1: On the Farm-Kids and Critters-Storybook Characters (Draw-Write-Now)

I. Love. It.

In conjunction with the Draw and Write Notebook from Handwriting Without Tears, 
he did this:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Middle Ages: castle life

Here's a link for a visual tour of an illustrated castle with a lot of fun facts for kids! Upon viewing the Great Tower, you can also dress a knight, which my boys especially enjoyed.

This site had a lot of fantastic Middle Ages links for kids. This term, because of the medieval emphasis and the fact that I have sons, I'm going to emphasize knighthood for its character benefits, and the site offers a printable kids' version of the Knight's Code--great for discussion:

* Be always ready with your armor on, except when you are taking your rest
at night.
* Defend the poor and help them that cannot defend themselves.
* Do nothing to hurt or offend anyone else.
* Be prepared to fight in the defense of your country.
* At whatever you are working, try to win honor and a name for
* Never break your promise.
* Maintain the honor of your country with your life. Rather die honestly
then live shamelessly.
* Chivalry requireth that youth should be trained to perform the most
laborious and humble offices with cheerfulness and grace; and do good unto

My son also had fun on this trebuchet game that touched on some light physics!

Roots: Getting it together

Not one of my most creative posts...but if you're not already doing this, maybe it will help!

My son makes "roots" flashcards and illustrates the English side, with the Latin/Greek on the back. Then we punch a hole and store them on a carabiner (a keychain might work).

Bonus: They're handy to clip on a keychain, purse, or backpack and review in the car.

Bonus #2: Anything involving illustration improves his small motor skills, in my mind, which equates to better handwriting.

Hundreds Board and Math Multiples

We have found lots of uses for the hundreds board we purchased at Mardel's- the reverse side is a blank chart that can be used for erasable markers.  Here you can see that we used transparent chips - also from Mardels- and no- this is not a plug for Mardels- the show the multiples of the number 2.  This was also be a good time to talk about even numbers ending in 2,4,6,8, and 0. 

Blank 100 charts are also available for free on the internet. Click here to print your own and get more ideas for 100 charts.  One of our favorite activities was cutting them into strips later on- sections.  Next, take the cut pieces and arrange them into the correct order.  We liked to use our glue sticks to place the cut pieces onto a piece of construction paper.  I am sure you will find other uses as well.

Science facts to music: Did you know?

Did you know that the majority of our science facts can be put to song? Their rhythm is fairly easily conformed to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell". This week's fact on fossils is a little more challenging, but it can be done. For my kids, music is even easier to remember than poetry!

Easy Calendar Time

For a little change-up in the calendar time routine (or simply to avoid investing in a massive calendar with unending pieces!), you might try www.starfall.com. My children love its online calendar time, and there are a lot of other great activities for early reading there!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fossils: Answering a few questions, having a little fun

For our study on fossils this week, your kids might enjoy these images.

And this video may be helpful for those of you seeking to address fossils in light of a "young earth" or "young Creationist" view (or if you want to contrast it with old-earth Creation).

This article gave some other Young Creationist perspectives, and here's one with pointers on old-earth Creationism, in the event that you want to discuss both views in your home.

This site also suggested an activity with plaster-of-paris allowing your kids to simulate making fossils!

St. Augustine of Hippo for kids

From Wikipedia.org, regarding the city of Hippo: "Hippo Regius is the ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, Algeria. Under this name, it was a major city in Roman Africa, hosting several early Christian councils, and was the home of the philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo.[1] In even earlier days, the city was a royal residence for Numidian kings.

"The climate is agreeable in winter, but humid in summer. The harbour serves as an export station for all of the rich inland country."

If you don't have Story of the World at your fingertips, this link—and this site—manage to put history in kid-friendly terms. (Note: If you do aim to purchase Story of the World [SOTW in our circles], I'd offer my recommendation for the audio book, which my kids have requested for bedtime tonight! It's great for them to be able to do something they enjoy while taking in their history…as many times as they would like. Jim Weiss, the reader, is a renowned storyteller.)

A picture is, of course, worth a thousand words, and here are about that many images of Augustine.

Glaciers: great videos

From the net: "Glaciers are rivers of ice that move very slowly. They can take a year to move as far as you can walk in a few minutes. When a piece of a glacier breaks off and floats in the water, it's called an iceberg."

And without further ado...the videos.


The Lady of Shalott: The active version

I have three boys, and sometimes with homeschooling, the testosterone levels can climb fairly rapidly around here. So we try to incorporate physical activity whenever we can, burning off some of the excess fuel.

Last week, we began practicing "The Lady of Shalott" in a couple of ways.
1) Stair-jumping. They start at the top or bottom, and attempt to jump one step with each accented syllable*: A bow-shot from her bower-eaves/he rode between the barley sheaves...

Bonus: This also teaches rhythm and basic syllables.

*This poem is in iambic tetrameter, for all your poetry junkies out there; most names are iambic, meaning the accent is on the first syllable: Pe-ter. Jim-my. Ra-chel. Mine is not, a rarity: Ja-nel. What about your childrens' names?

Tetra=four, and meter=measure, so there are four measures--poetic feet--in each line. Did they know that poetry have feet?! Shakespeare wrote in a lot of iambic pentameter, meaning there were five feet in each line.

Another version of the jumping game is great for reading and spelling.

2. Illustration. We used the poem for handwriting practice, then illustrated it so that we could form an illustrated book of the poem this semester. This link offers some paintings based on the poem. It's up to you as to whether you feel they'd enhance your child's imagination or take away from it!

Lady of Shalott

Here's a link to memory work for the Lady of Shalott for this week.

I described it in an earlier post.


My neighbor, Kristen Burdett, showed me her workbox system for homeschooling.  She bought them for $30 at Sam's.

It's working for us.  Really working for us.  My son is first-born, strong-willed, wants to be in charge and doesn't always want to "do school."  These workboxes have totally changed our school day.  He is super excited about starting the day, he can't wait to see what's in the next drawer.  He zooms through the work in no time!

I'd seen the idea on other blogs and was dragging my feet about doing it.  My hesitation to jump on the workbox bandwagon was because I thought it would take years to fill up the drawers.  I mistakenly thought it would take lots of time for planning.

But I can usually fill the drawers in 10-15 minutes.

That time is so worth it the next day when we're doing school.

What do I fill the drawers with?
Comm. Central stuff.  Sometimes disguised.

- I made a booklet by typing the first paragraph of his poem then copied it 2 times, each time removing more words.  The last "sheet" I typed: "recite from memory."  Cut the paper into 4 strips then staple together.

 - We are recording highs/lows of the weather (and eventually we'll chart them).  In the drawer, I've included a clip board and a pencil - because Kristen says that you want to have everything in the box needed for the activity so the child doesn't have an excuse to wander.

 - Chores (unload dishwasher, pick up toys in your room, play with sister)

 - Exercise (10 minutes outside, jumping jacks, sidwalk chalk, etc.)

 - Puzzles, coloring sheets

 - The sky is the limit!!

One of the great things about the boxes is that you can put something your child will enjoy just after something hard.  For example, my son does not enjoy handwriting.  But when he pulls out the handwriting box, he can see that next will be a game or something tactile, fun, or cool.

You want to keep them guessing as far as the order of activities, because after all, YOU are in charge - they are not. I don't let my son rummage through all the boxes.  He has to wait until he's finished each box completely before he's allowed to look in the next one.  And he has to put everything back in the box (clean up) before moving to the next activity.

Kristen, my neighbor, did a webinar to learn more about the ins-and-outs of the workbox system.  She highly recommended it.