October 27, 2010

A Math Success Story

Miriam and I experienced a little math miracle the other day. In that Miriam begged me to continue doing math after I'd told her she could stop.

I'm sure you remember that Miriam, with my help, learned to dislike math last year. I was too rigid. Taught too much out of the math book. Pushed when I should have eased up, and, in general, did whatever possible to kill all math love.

It was an accident. But still.

This year I've done a few things to try and rekindle in her a love for math. My most important strategy is to use children's picture books to teach the concepts and then only practice until she is proficient and then stop practicing. That sounds basic, but last year I got really hung up on doing all the problems on the page. Big mistake.

Back to the miraculous math day. A few weeks ago, I noticed that fractions were coming up in Miriam's math book. I immediately called my sister and begged to borrow this book:

It is pretty much one of the best math books ever written.

My dad gave it to my sister a few years ago, and it has been a favorite of her family (and me) ever since. I knew that Miriam would love the elves, the info about apples, and the adorable illustrations. It was a must going into fractions.

So the day of "intro to fractions," I told Cowen he was done with school for the day and then told Miriam it was time to start her math. Predictable whining started until she noticed that I was on the couch. With a book in my hand. Immediately, she and Cowen were rushing over to sit by me and see what the book was about. Math is so much more exciting on the couch than at the table.

We read the book together. It took a long time. We giggled over the pictures, counted up how many elves were purple vs. green (etc. etc), discussed the apple facts and our favorite kinds of apples, and also managed to discuss the fractions.

Then, just to keep the reading enthusiasm up, we read this other book my sister dropped off at the same time:

It is not as brilliant as Apple Fractions, but it is a great visual resource for fractions. I was going to completely skip the fractions and decimals, but Miriam liked reading the numbers, so she did.

After reading the books, I told Miriam she needed to do a page about fractions in her math book. Still intrigued by fractions, thanks to the books, she happily went to the table (while Cowen disappeared somewhere--that was good too). She did the page on fractions, then another page on fractions.

Then she saw a page about greater than/less than/equal to that she insisted I explain to her. I wasn't going to at first because I had wanted to get a book to introduce that, but really--how do you say no when your child is insisting you teach her something? You can't. You don't.

So, she learned another new concept. Thanks to the wonderful creators of Mathematical Reasoning from the Critical Thinking Co. all the pages of practice for the greater than/less than/equal to concept were really fun and Miriam loved them. For example, on one page there were pictures of animals. Each type of animal was assigned a number. Then you had to do things like figure out which animal subract two equalled another animal. The answers to the problems included things like: pigs plus three equals dogs. Miriam thought it was hilarious.

After two pages of that, I told Miriam it was time to stop for the day. Before putting the book away, Miriam started flipping through it and found two more pages about fractions. She begged to be allowed to do them.


Absolutely amazing.

I realize this was lengthier than necessary, but sometimes it feels good to be able to write about a true, blessed success--one where you figured out what you were doing wrong and found a few things that work better.

If nothing else, you now know about Apple Fractions and your life can only be better for it.

October 25, 2010


When I was a student at college, I always earned the best grades during summer semester and the worst grades during fall semester. The reason was obvious to me. During the summer, I hated being outside. MUCH TOO HOT. I liked the air conditioned buildings and the excuse to never leave them. During fall--my favorite time of year--the weather cooled off and I rejoiced that I had survived another miserable, hot, horrible summer. I went outside at every opportunity.

Not much has changed. If it feels like I disappeared from the homeschooling community over the past few weeks it is because the temp dropped and I gathered my brood and headed outdoors. For example, one week my hubby and I took the kids hiking on Monday and then that Thursday I went hiking with my sister, her kids, and my mother. That Saturday we spent the day outside at the Heritage Fall Festival in Logan, and riding horses at my parent's house. The other days we ran errands or played at the park.

The week before that the weather was so warm we spent one day swimming at the lake. There was almost no one else there. Perfect.

Last week I took the kids hiking on Monday and we had a glorious time. The leaves were amazing.

But this week. This week is rainy. I love the rain. I love all "weather"--in my lexicon "weather" is anything besides Utah's typical sunny days. But I can't take baby hiking in the rain.

At first I was a little bummed to be indoors, but then I remembered that I was a homeschool mom and decided to take advantage of the rainy days to actually teach something. Imagine.

Enter--Animal Classification 101. It is a science unit I've been thinking about doing for awhile. My children love animals and classifying is a useful skill. Besides, the whole unit is so simple to pull together that I didn't need a lot of prep time. Plus, in Utah, second grade science involves classifying rocks. Uh--I'm just not that excited about rocks. I thought I'd be half good and at least teach the classification part.

Step One: Force, ahem, ask your sweet hubby to make you a classification chart to hang on the wall. I hate making posters, displays, artwork, craftiness of any kind. But, my hubby is an artist, so he does it all for me. Hooray for my foresight and good planning in my choice of spouse!
There he is, being all fastidious and detail-oriented. Opposites attracting has so many positive benefits.
Step Two: Hang up the chart somewhere where your children will notice it and instantly want to do whatever it is that mom has planned that involves a large green chart.
Step Three: Have your children sit on the floor and figure out different ways they can group themselves based on a common characteristic. At first, Miriam grouped everyone by hair color, but that made Cowen feel bad because he was the only one at home without red hair. So then we grouped by gender, then who had on socks, who had on giraffe boots (Emeline), who was wearing blue, who was wearing purple, etc. They had lots of fun moving themselves into the different groupings.

Step Four: Fill a pillowcase with a random assortment of objects. To make it more fun, I forced myself to put things in without thinking about how it would work out in the end. That way we all had to work a little harder at grouping. In the end, it was easy to figure out commonalities. We had a metal vs. paper vs. plastic vs. wax classification (that one candle was always the odd ball). We had groups for things that could open and things that couldn't. Things that had to do with/or actually were money, and things that didn't/weren't. We spent about ten minutes grouping and regrouping and the kids loved it.

Step Five: Print off a picture of an animal that fits each category. Since my kids are little, I kept it simple and put six groups on the chart: invertebrate, mammal, bird, fish, amphibian, reptile. To make at least one grouping obvious, I picked an orange animal for all six groups. Yes, orange is my favorite color. So after the pillowcase exercise, I moved the children to the table. Then I handed Emeline the first animal and asked her to describe it. The animal was a tiger and she told us about the color and the tail and the four legs (with a little prompting). Then each of the children (including Eli, who was thrilled to be included and faithfully repeated everything I told him to say) described an animal. Then we grouped the six animals by different commonalities. The tiger and frog ended up together because they both had orange and black stripes. The fish was often a loner--poor gilled thing with no legs or tail. You can imagine how this went.

Step Six: Have the kids decide which animal should go into which column on the chart. I encouraged them to start with the obvious ones--so the little clownfish went into the fish column first. The bird was also obvious. Cowen, who cares a great deal about which animals lay eggs, explained to everyone that the tiger was a mammal because it "pushes its baby out instead of laying an egg." Excellent. Eventually, after some heated discussion about whether or not a frog is an amphibian, we got all the animals taped to the chart.

Step Seven: If your kids are like mine, they put the invertebrate up last as a process of elimination choice more than an informed choice. I used that to my advantage by asking them what an invertebrate was. Since they had no clue (and my understanding was vague at best), we retired to the couch to read two books on invertebrates. The children were puzzled and amazed that an octopus would be in the same category as a spider. We felt our bones, we bent our bodies to experience "backbone" and we looked at great pictures.

The end.

Well, the end of day one.

PS: The books used for day one came from the Davis County Library System. The Kingdoms of Life: Invertebrates by Dr. Alvin, Virginia, and Robert Silverstein. The book was too old for my kids but the pictures were helpful.

The other book we used, which we liked a lot more, has disappeared. Technically my children are not allowed to take library books out of the living room, but if they like one, they squirrel it away down in their rooms. Grr. When I find it, I'll post the title.

October 24, 2010

Math Resource

I've had a few people ask me about the reference book I have that lists all the math concepts and the picture books that teach those concepts, so today I took the time to find out if
you can get it online somewhere.

You can get it! The reference manual (not really a book) is called: Math
Literature: Picture Books that Teach Math Concepts compiled by Barbara Saylor.

The website is http://www.talesforteaching.com. The website even has pages
online for you to "sample" so you can get a good idea of how it is organized and
the info available.

Hope this helps!!

October 15, 2010

Making It Up As We Go by Becky

making it up as we go.

hello, i'm becky from hellofromhades.blogspot.com. don't be scared to head over there - it's not a devil worshiping site or anything - just describing where i live as accurately as possible. anyhoo, here's my latest installment about our first year of homeschool. here we go.

so, around here we've tried the formal regimented way of homeschooling,
the loosey goosey unschooling method,
and now the 15 minute method.
(which is of my own making)

and while i know the future health and development of my kids will require a little bit of all of these, the 15 minute method is what's working for me so far,
in that i have a 3 year old and a five year old.

first, i looked up the state standards for california
what a bunch of high falootin' hooty patootie.
it was a lot of fancy jargon that looks intimidating from a distance,
but up close - not so much.
2.4 Retell familiar stories.
"and then the guy went to his front door and he peed himself and then he rolled around on the grass!"
every single day that story is retold.
every single day.

but there's more,
1. Determine the relative locations of objects using the terms near/far, left/right, and behind/in front.
"but mom, you passed the store. i wanted a chocolate bar. it's back there - behind us. turn around mom - left, left, left! why are you turning right?! i know you're taking us home. our house is in front of us. i see our house! i wanted a chocolate bar! aaaaauuuuuugggghhhh!"

see, a whole bunch of the kindergarten standards are simply a part of every day life. so, it's best to think about your kids, figure out what they do and don't do in their lives and then figure out what you do need to work on.

for us, we need to work on social studies and geography a bit more...though, we'll be passing up the state standards pretty quickly. anyhoo, moving on.

now that i know what i have to teach, i plan my days around that. and the 15 minute method has saved my life. and since applying it, my son's understanding and grasp and application of the material has skyrocketed.

so here's how i do it.

this is my tub-o-wonders
(whatever, mostly flashcards)
(like my toes, we're going to work a pedicure internship into our curriculum. i should get something out of all of this, right?!)
anyhoo, here's what's inside the tub.
this is the "no tears handwriting" kit. a kindergarten teacher loaned me hers and it is amazing - and saved my $40.
it involves an instruction booklet full of lots and lots of teaching methods
and also includes lots of manipulates and a variety of teaching strategies. we like it.
(i have a bottom to top writer)
nature journals.
this is brand new to us and i'm not so pleased with the results.
we'll work on it.
mostly we try to get outside everyday and talk about the weather, clouds, plants, etc.
so nature walks through the neighborhood do the job well.
up until now we've kept weather journals that have lots of prompts and lots of "circle the answer" options.
we might be doing a bit of both in the future.
a pile of books related to one topic we might be interested in.
we've been talking a lot about bear hibernating and are building a diorama this week.
so, bear books.
i never knew there were so many variations of goldilocks and the three bears.
i'm a bit of a classicist now that i've read them all.
these are our tangrams and pattern cards.
mostly we just play with them and talk about shapes but soon we're going to practice our patterns with them.
this is our dry erase board
and our pencil case.
each kid has one of each.
charlie mostly draws monsters and luke mostly practices his sight words.
this seems to be working best for us so far.
i have a writing kit that i'll post about later, which we're going to try to work into the "tub".
but for now, this is meeting our daily writing requirement.
i have to be honest,
math, science, geography, music, art and all of that aside,
my main goal this year is to get luke reading and writing.
so, sight words are huge.
we learn six new words a week.
and review all of the sight words from the weeks before with these six new words.
it's making a huge difference now that we're nailing these down.
out of nowhere he's sounding out everything he can.
we do a little bit of addition and subtraction every day.
we have tons of "counters", but these little red rocks seem to be the most popular.
mostly i pick five or six cards from the stack and we do the fronts and back and move on.
random flashcards.
these change every week.
i'm a flashcard hussy.
love them.
and they help me throw in a little variety every now and then.
these space ones are our faves.
$1 at target and beautifully illustrated and great info on back.
one of our big goals is to count to a hundred by christmas.
i've got lots of methods for teaching this, but this is the most important part -
sight recognition of numbers.
and it's helping us understand the counting by tens.

okay, this is what is in the bucket this week.
and our goal is to only spend fifteen minutes, one to two times a day on the bucket.
i know, you're gasping.
that's not enough time! how can her poor demented children learn anything?!
well, this is our starting point.
we do the bucket one or two times
and sometimes the fifteen minutes will spread to thirty or forty-five minutes depending on their interest and attention spans.
and then i work review of taught material into our play for the rest of the day.
or sometime i just hold stuff hostage until someone gives me the review i want.
"if you want your screen time you have to count to forty!"
"whoever wants mac and cheese for lunch had better show me how to draw a perfect Q!"

okay, we'll there's loads more to tell you about what we do, how we do it and how we have no clue about what's going to work in the long run or now, but for now this will have to do.
active kids = short lessons and lots of reviews.
and the tub - we'll it's just to keep me focused.

good luck and have a great day.

October 12, 2010

Kitchen Science by Becky

why i love homeschooling:


i bribed the kids with a promise to make cookies
if they finished both all their lessons and all their carrots at lunch.
i'm a multi-tasking mama that way.
anyhoo, while we were cleaning up we started talking about how sugar dissolves in water
and before you know it,
we were having an impromptu science experiment
where we saw what and how different elements of our cookies dissolved.
and in the process made the kids talk about their "hypothesis" and make "predictions".
from flour to chocolate to oil and sugar, we tried it all,
even talking about how fats dissolve at higher temperatures.
further, luke came up with the bright idea of putting a whole clump of cookie dough in one of the glasses.
that was a fun one, because i was able to talk about how the sugar was dissolving, the chocolates sank to the bottom and the fat floated to the surface.
luke wants to a lot more of this same type of experiment tomorrow
which means i should go google furthers as fast as possible tonight.
and what i've learned about homeschooling,
that no matter where a learning lesson comes from or how unprepared i am,
there's always something to learn off the cuff.

October 10, 2010

Math Breakthrough

For some bizarre reason, I forgot that my oldest child will learn anything more happily if she's learning it from a story book.

That applies to math. And in fact, I have a resource book that lists all the children's books that teach a particular math concept, listed by math concept. So, when you know you're going to be doing double digit addition you can look that up and find out if your library has any of the sixty odd children's books that teach double digit addition.

It is a helpful resource.

In my attempt to make math more appealing and fun for my oldest, I gathered a variety of resources. However, the major breakthrough for me and her happened because of A Fair Bear Share. A Fair Bear Share is all about place value. I have struggled to help Miriam understand place value for two years now. Yes, they introduce the topic in kindergarten in all the math curriculum I've seen. Yes, I think that's outrageous. Back to the point--trying to teach Miriam the concept of place value has been like beating my head, and her head, against a brick wall. And yet, I never let up. No wonder she started to dislike math last year.

This year, however, I had already decided that we were going to skip over concepts she didn't get easily and revisit them when she was older. I believe firmly in brain development playing a large role in when children "get" concepts and I was bound and determined to not let a textbook decide when Miriam should or should not learn a concept.

So patterns and place value were totally out. I wasn't going near them with a ten foot pole.

But then I grabbed a bunch of math books from the library to glance through and see if I liked them and Miriam found them. When Miriam sees a book she reads a book. She was reading A Fair Bear Share when school was supposed to start so she begged me to read it to her rather than have to put it away until after school.

So I did. And place value all of sudden clicked for Miriam. By the end of the book.

It was amazing.

And it was language arts week so we weren't even going to do math that day.

After the book, when I could tell Miriam was getting the concept, I grabbed a bunch of cubes that come in sets of ten. I piled some in front of her and asked her what the most efficient way of counting them would be. I gave her hints and she carefully counted them into groups of tens and then one group of ones. Then I asked her to figure out how many there were. She immediately started counting them by ones over again. I stopped her and reminded her that she knew how to count by tens. So she counted the groups of ten by tens, and then counted the three or so in the group of ones. When she realized what she'd done and how fast she'd been able to count all those cubes--you should have seen her face. It was priceless.

We practiced that a few more times. Then I got her math book and we flipped through pages and did every single practice problem we could find that had to do with locating numbers in the tens place, or ones place, or hundreds place. We also did all the problems that used base ten squares to have her count things. She got it.

All because she can't help reading books with cute pictures of bears.

Really, it was a little miracle for both of us. A reminder to me that she can get it when she's developmentally ready and it is presented in the right way. A way that matches her and her strengths. And a reminder that there is no need to rush. She'll learn everything she needs to at the right time for her.

A reminder to her that she used to love math.
Here are our other favorite math books so far. One More Bunny has the cutest illustrations. More to the point, it is about adding one. All my children loved it. I had my four year old figure out how many bunnies there would be if you added one before I let the older two say the answer. They nearly burst waiting for Emeline--but it was good practice for all three. Can't emphasize enough how cute the pictures are. I put this on my list of must own just for the picture of the bunny in the swing. You'll know which bunny I mean when you see her.

Quack and Count is about grouping the number 7. So one page will have the duckies in a group of 5 and a group of 2. Another page will have the duckies in a group of 1 and a group of 6. As a little side benefit, there are three little ladybugs hidden on each spread. We had a lot of fun reading this book together and finding the ladybugs.

After we read it, I got out my counting cubes again and Cowen and I practiced making different groups that equaled five. He didn't really get it at first, but was starting to by the end. Miriam already knew this concept, but I drilled her for two days after we read the book on the addition so now she's a pro at 4+3 and 5+2 and 3+4 and 2+5.

Cute book.

Happy math reading.

Hope you are all having your own little learning miracles.

October 6, 2010


Poetry is serious business around our house, as you can see from my girls' intent expressions.

I love poetry. Love it. I've been reading poems to my children all their lives, but this year, with the release of the new Fancy Nancy book about poetry--I decided it was time for an "official" introduction.
This is the whole gang writing/illustrating poems.
This is my favorite collection of poems for children. I've owned it for about ten years and love the poetry. Perfect for kids. My children are big fans of the dog section. If you were ever to buy a collection of poems--I'd recommend this one. (Unless you're anti-Halloween or goblins or fairies--then don't get this one.)

We have a lot of Shel Silverstein, which my oldest daughter loves more than is perhaps healthy. We also have Caroline Kennedy's collection, A Family of Poems. It is pretty good.

But like I said, Piping Down the Valley's Wild, is definitely the best.

The above book, I Did It Because: How a Poem Happens by Loris Lesynski, is awesome. We checked it out from the library and fell in love. It has a poem about dawdling. My oldest is a dawdler. I made her act it out and then we laughed and laughed. Almost all the poems in this book are great for read aloud and acting out. The book also has great ideas for writing your own poems. We love this book. It was the backbone of our poetry unit.
The above is a collection of modern haiku selected by Paul B. Janeczko. The poems were lovely (I'm a fan of haiku), and the photographs were beautiful. My three older children were riveted the whole time I was reading it. I highly recommend this as an introduction to haiku or as a nice read-aloud.
There is something about Prelutsky that appeals to boys. These poems aren't my favorites, but my husband picks it up all the time and reads a few out loud to the kids. My husband is a very emotive reader so it leads to a lot of uncontrollable giggling from my children, and myself. A great poet--especially for those of the male persuasion.
The first time my hubby picked up this book, he read some of the poems out loud to my children and then he turned to me and said, "I love this book." It is chock-full of nonsense, and we all love it. I checked it out of the library, hoping it would be good because most of the limerick books I scanned while at the library were lame. Hate to say it, but while the library has sixteen gazillion poetry books for kids--not all are created equal.

This one is great. It has mostly limericks, but a few other nonsense poems as well. My four year old goes around chanting, "Cinderella, dressed in yella," etc. And my 7 year old can explain to you the rules of limericks. Overall, a great book of silly poetry for kids.

Fancy Nancy is a favorite at our house. I love the vocabulary the books introduce, I love the illustrations, and I love how much my children love the books. As soon as amazon "alerted" me that this book had become available (yes, amazon emails me regularly--and yes, it does increase their sales, darn it), I knew we had to have it. It is wonderfully done. Nancy's class at school is studying poetry, so the incomparable Ms. Glass (Nancy's teacher) introduces her students to all types of poems, including odes and couplets and free verse. It is a great way to introduce a poetry unit.

As for our actual unit. We spent one week and it was very laid-back. The first day, I gave my children their new poetry books: Fancy Nancy and New Kid on the Block. We spent a happy hour reading through those two books.

The second day, we read through the first half of I Did It Because and acted out a lot of the poems. We also clapped out the poems to practice rhythm. Again, it was very relaxed. We were mostly just enjoying the sound of poetry.

The third day, we read the section in I Did It Because concerning writing poems about yourself. Then we moved to the table to write poems about ourselves. Miriam did an acrostic poem with her name. For Emeline, I did a cloud poem--so I wrote her name in the center of the page, and then asked her questions about herself and wrote the answers in no particular pattern around her name. She ended up with words like ducky and yellow and meat floating around her name. After I helped her write the words, she happily illustrated her poem. Cowen wanted to draw his poem, so that's what he did. When everyone was done, we hung all the poems on the wall.

My kids laughed at my poem. I wrote my hubby's name down the side of the paper like I was going to write an acrostic poem about him, and then I wrote a poem about going to the market, but keeping his name's letters as the first letter in each line. My children thought that was soooo funny. I love how easily amused children are. So that was fun. I write terrible poetry, but I enjoy the process.

On the fourth day we read Pocketful of Nonsense and talked about the rules of limericks and how some poems have rules and some don't. Then we read Stone Bench in an Empty Park and talked about the rules of haiku. I pointed out that haiku is often effective because it uses descriptive words that are unexpected. For example, one of the haiku we read compared a giraffe to a crane (not the bird--the construction thingy). Once I pointed that out, my oldest spent the next half hour completely engaged in finding unexpected comparisons. It helped get the point across that poems are descriptive in a way stories are not. So that was a fun day.

On the fifth day we read a bunch of poems from Piping Down the Valleys Wild. I shared with my kids some of my favorites and talked about why they were favorites of mine. Then we talked about all the poems we had read and any favorites my children had.

Ever since the poetry unit, my children have insisted we read a few poems after devotional--before we jump into the rest of our day. I am more than happy to oblige.

Do you have any favorite poems, or collections of poems, I can share with my family?

October 3, 2010

The Contents of Miriam's Cubicle

One of my readers asked me what all was in Miriam's cubicle. I thought I'd answer that question today.

Notice the pink "math" binder. It is a compilation of three resource books. I take the pages out, put them in page protectors so I can reuse the resources with my other children, and mix them up so Miriam isn't doing the same types of math problems every single day.

This year, in her math binder, is A Beka Arithmetic 2. I used only A Beka last year and Miriam quickly became bored and unhappy with math. A Beka is very repetitious. Good practice, but boring. So, I am using A Beka again this year, but we don't try to do everything. We skip everything that Miriam already knows how to do and only do a few of the practice problems. That way, I have more practice available if Miriam needs it, but we aren't boring her adorable red head.

Later, I'll show you the other two resources. Sorry, ordering pictures in blogger is a skill that I can never seem to master.

A front picture of Miriam's math binder. We do all our math with dry erase markers.

Language Lessons for the Very Young is fantastic. I love it. My children love it. This year, however, I've noticed that Miriam needs a little bit more depth for some subjects. For example, Language Lessons introduced capital letters, but Miriam needed more practice. I printed off some worksheets from free sites on the internet, she filled them out, and we moved on. Sometimes I think Language Lessons gets in-depth enough for this stage, and other times I supplement. But we'll stick with this program for awhile because we all love the pictures and narration. If you want to read more about Language Lessons for the Very Young you can read my in-depth review.
My kids all have a "fancy" drawing book. We use it when we try to draw or paint "masterpieces" (meaning we try to copy a great work of art), or when we use watercolor pencils or anything like that. My children love it when I pull out the "fancy" art stuff.
Some people don't care about teaching their children how to take multiple choice tests. I think that is a severely problematic stance. Even if your student never takes a test inside a k-12 classroom, that student will still need to take the ACT or SAT. Once in college, students take countless tests of this nature. If they haven't learned all the best test-taking strategies, they will be at a disadvantage. It is best to teach test-taking. I like Spectrum. I'm sure there are a lot of other good programs.
My dad does a lot of textbook adoption reviews, so I get a lot of free stuff. This reading and writing practice book is one of those free items. I only pull it out every once in awhile. It has short stories/essays, followed by fill-in-the-blank comprehension questions. A little boring, but good practice.
Miriam hates to write. I think it is a combination of two things: 1) she likes to do everything perfectly, and she doesn't know how to spell all the words she knows; and 2) she can't write as fast as she can think. Whatever the reasons--her handwriting is atrocious and she avoids writing whenever possible. I'm thinking seriously of getting the Handwriting Without Tears series for her. For right now, I make her fill out one page of this Disney Diary every day. I bought the book at DI and it is out-of-print (I checked at amazon for you), but it has certainly come in handy at our house. Each page describes something about one of the princesses and then asks the reader to write about something similar. For example, Beauty lived in a cottage and then a castle. Where do you live? Miriam hasn't complained about it much because I save it for last and she knows as soon as she's done it is free time, and because it involves princesses.

The Reading for Information series I also got from my dad. I LOVE IT. Instead of asking a bunch of typical comprehension questions, it asks students to evaluate graphs and picture captions. It asks questions like: "why was __ in bold in the second paragraph?" It teaches children to dissect non-fiction text. Love it, love it.
This is Miriam's binder of best work. She has a "working on it" folder at the front to put unfinished work. There are also empty page protectors for anything that needs protected. And it has tabs for all the core subjects we cover. When she does excellent work, she can save it in the right section. Then, at the end of the school year, she displays this binder at the end-of-school party that her grandparents and great-grandparents attend. After the party, I take out all the best of the best work and put it in a padded envelope, label it, include a picture or two, and voila--her school day treasures are all stored for her.

Her "working on it" folder.

We LOVE Sequential Spelling!! Miriam lives for the days she passes off a whole list (we do it all verbally) and I put a little pencil "M" by the list.
One of Miriam's binders is missing in the top picture. It is her "LOGIC" binder. In it are two Critical Thinking Company products: Mind Benders and Math Analogies. We love both products. The pictures and examples I took from their website: http://www.criticalthinking.com/index.jsp. I bought all the products from timberdoodle.com.

Basically, Mind Benders is a series of logic puzzles. The grid helps the kids cross out wrong choices so they recognize when they know one of the correct answers. My children would do these all day. I limit them to two per day, despite loud and whiny protests. I really think these help teach kids to read carefully for information and to think logically.

Math Analogies are really fun, too. I like them because they make Miriam think in a totally unique way. It is brain stretching. Plus, they are fun and Miriam loves to do them.

Mathematical Reasoning is another resource that found its way into Miriam's Math binder this year. It is another Critical Thinking Company product and, so far, it has been awesome. Miriam was so tired of practicing the same old thing every day. Mathematical Reasoning focuses more on puzzles and problem solving than memorization. That makes Miriam a lot more excited about math. The above picture is an example of the types of problems in this math book. I took it from their website.

Building Thinking Skills is the third resource in Miriam's math book. It has problems that are completely unique from the other two math resources, so again, it makes math more fresh and interesting for her. She also likes that it has a lot of questions that require verbal skills (what she excels at). That makes sense as it isn't sold as a math resource, I just use it as one. The above picture comes from the book we use. Again, I got it from their website.

Of course, I put practically everything in page protectors so I can reuse with the younger siblings. My kids like that. When Mom says they didn't do their best work and makes them start over--it really isn't the end of the world. I tried taking pictures of all the resources myself, but page protectors make photography difficult. That's why I used so many images from the internet.

That's it. A brief run-down of Miriam's cubicle contents. For the most part, those are the resources I purchased. Almost everything else we do comes from the library.

Are your second graders (or other kids) using any resources that you absolutely love? I'd love to hear about them!!