September 22, 2011

Good Books for Paleontology

Sorry I disappeared. I am not dead. Just busy. Very, very busy.

Well, there is also the fact that I haven't been homeschooling much what with one thing or another. A little math here. Some Spanish there. And every once in awhile I have Miriam spell something.

But between the time we officially started school and now we have been studying paleontology, and while I have enjoyed it and my children have LOVED it, in the future I am going to avoid dragging units out. If possible, that is.

With that lengthy intro--here are our favorite books from paleontology.

Mysteries of the Fossil Dig: How Paleontologists Learn About Dinosaurs by Pamela Rushby. This is one of the very best of the best. National Geographic usually lives up to its reputation, and it certainly did in this case. The pics are awesome and the text is informative without being too lengthy.

Sabertooth Cat by Janet Riehecky. I didn't think any of the sabertooth cat books we found in our Davis County library system or Weber County library system are that great. However, the idea of sabertooth cats is riveting to children--boys especially--so the kids loved the books despite the books' many flaws.
The Dinosaur Bone Battle Between O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope by Brooke Hartzog. Another great story of selfishness and greed leading men down unpleasant paths. Moral to the story--plus good dino information. Winner.

Cave Detectives: Unraveling the Mystery of An Ice Age Cave by David L. Harrison. GOLD STAR BOOK. This was by far the best book we read. I was riveted, my children were riveted. Miriam changed her mind, after reading this book, about being an animal rescuer when she grows up. Now she wants to be an animal rescuer and scientist, so she can go explore the cave. Just plain amazing. Read it--even if you have no good reason to do so.
Fossils Tell of Long Ago by Aliki. I still haven't found a perfect fossil book, but this one isn't bad. My children liked it and the explanations were helpful. It was definitely better than many that I read and returned to the library without reading them to the kids.

Kaleidoscope: Fossils by Roy Gallant. This book is old but it falls into the "oldie but goodie" category.

Geology Rocks! Fossils by Rebecca Faulkner. This book has the best fossil pictures and the best glossary. Miriam used the glossary to find definitions to write on our vocab chart on the wall. Plus, I read it to the children and they all liked it and sat through it.

Trapped in Tar: Fossils From the Ice Age by Caroline Arnold. I kept this book, instead of returning it to the library, because there is a picture of sabertooth cat fossils and I thought Cowen would like to see it. I wasn't real impressed by the rest of the book. The book is ancient, the pictures are terrible (quality--not content), and there is too much text per page for my children's ages. I pulled it out to show my kids a few pictures, and they made me read the whole thing. Sometimes my children surprise me. They loved the idea of the animals getting sucked down to death. Gruesome--but they loved the book, so there you go.

Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries by Don Brown. There are several Mary Anning books out there and most of them are JUNK. If you are studying Mary Anning (and you should, you really should!) stick to this children's book biography or a biography written for adults/YA. Maybe that sounds harsh to the other books but I read four or five and they were all HISTORICALLY INACCURATE. The historian in me cringed. You don't need to dress up/mess up a story like Mary Anning's. As to this book's quality--aside from it being the most historically correct--it is great. The illustrations aren't my style, but my children loved it and started playing "dino explorer" after reading it. Awesome.
Ice Age Sabertooth: The Most Ferocious Cat That Ever Lived by Barbara Hehner. Another okay sabertooth cat book.

So there you have it. We read a ton more and both library districts in our neck of the woods are chock-full of paleontology books, but these are the ones we liked best. I can't reiterate enough that you should immediately switch to your library homepage and reserve a copy of Cave Detectives. It is that good.

August 29, 2011


I have a hard time with scheduling for the traditional reason: so many GREAT IDEAS and so little time. This year I wanted to start Spanish and even without that, our days feel packed. Maybe it is because my children have resisted getting back into a routine after our 6 month Harriet hiatus. Or maybe it is because it suddenly turned hot enough to fry our brains.

Regardless, scheduling is hard. Always.

I had an epiphany over the past few weeks. I don't have to do as much as I do. I know, I know, basics that I can never quite grasp. This time the point was driven home though for several reasons.

Reason 1: Harvest season.

Reason 2: Being the RS pres is busy. Very, very busy.

Reason 3: My house is a disaster and I don't have time at night to catch up (see reason 2).

Reason 4: I want to enjoy this year at least a little bit.

SOLUTION: Here is the good part. I scheduled in half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate harvesting and bottling, and I love it. Love it. Instead of having science/history/music in the mornings we just have devotional and jump right into our normal afternoon subjects--math, spelling, handwriting, English. That way, we are still doing school but I get an afternoon to catch up. Two actually. It is wonderful.

So our schedule (right now) works like this:

Monday/Wednesday--devotional, music/dancing, science/history then lunch and quiet time during which Miriam and I read our scriptures and Miriam reads silently for 20 minutes. After quiet time we do math, spelling, handwriting, English.

Tuesday/Thursday--devotional, core subjects, lunch, quiet time, free time.

Friday--devotional, core subjects, lunch, quiet time, art.

I might end up switching the days around to accommodate Miriam's Liberty Girls and Book Group, but the plan will stay the same.

Now, my next challenge is figuring out when Miriam should do her Rosetta Stone and piano flashcards. I sit down with her every morning to facilitate her piano practice (translation into real mom speak: make sure she counts) while Cowen does the dishes, but I haven't managed to work in flashcards yet. She's still relying too much on learning by ear instead of mastering the notes.

Also, I've been super good about making sure Cowen reads, but I need to make sure Emeline gets her 15 minutes of reading also.

Sometimes it feels like I have a lot of kids!

How are your schedules working out? Gotten all the bugs out yet?

August 23, 2011

This Year's Theme

It took me a long time to decide what to organize our homeschool around this year. I usually do history and the children like that, but last year I did science and the children loved that--but I like history more than science and if the teacher ain't happy . . .. I wanted to combine history and science but wasn't sure exactly how to do it.

Then it hit me--careers. Not necessarily careers I want my children to pursue, but just interesting careers in general. Think about it--all careers have a history, interesting people who started doing whatever it is, and almost all careers have some science aspects to them. Plus, a career is easy to research and organize into one month (or two-week) segments.

This month we are studying paleontology. My children are thrilled. They found some library books hidden in my room a few weeks ago and have been talking dinosaurs non-stop since. Little Eli went outside a few days before school and on his way out said, "Mom, I'm going shoot dinosaur bones." Yep, a lot of excitement can be generated by not allowing children to read certain books until school starts.

The first day of school we had devotional. Then we read two books about fossils. My children were fascinated. Our new wall chart has two sections, one for people and another for vocabulary. We added a bunch of words to the vocabulary section, and had fun looking through the books to remind ourselves of what trilobites and ammonites look like.

Then a beautiful thing happened. My daughter read the definition for "mineral replacement" but couldn't explain it because she didn't know what dissolve meant. I pulled out a bowl, warmed up some water in the microwave, and had my kids stir some salt into the water. They quickly understood dissolve when they watched the salt disappear but could still taste it in the water. Then we put the bowl outside and by the time Dad came home from work, the water was gone, but the salt was back. I love accidental lessons so much more than planned ones. It just feels so much like kismet or serendipity or whatever you want to call it. Makes me happy.

After the lesson on dissolving we had lunch and I put the four younger kids to bed or in their rooms for quiet time. Miriam pulled out her scriptures and scripture study binder (I'm using the Discover the Scriptures/Discover the Book of Mormon program). The scriptures are brand new--a baptism present--and Miriam has been anxious to use them. She was a little flustered by the difficult vocabulary in the Joseph Smith history, so I read the whole thing to her. It was pretty amazing to read it out loud and chat with Miriam about parts of it. At one point Joseph writes about receiving the priesthood so I went and got out our Book of Remembrance and showed Miriam her dad's priesthood line of authority document. If you don't have one of these for the priesthood leader in your home, you should get one. It starts with the person holding the priesthood--so my husband--and then says who ordained him, and who ordained the person who ordained that person, and who ordained that person, back to Joseph and Oliver, and then to the Savior through Peter, James, and John. Miriam was impressed. We had a great discussion about proper authority.

After quiet time, the kids pulled out their new math books and handwriting books. They loved it. I'm always amazed at how much my children enjoy worksheet type learning. Miriam started her new spelling program (Rod and Staff--I'll tell you what I think of it after we've used it for awhile), and Emeline played with her new maze book--proud as punch that the other kids were falling all over themselves to please her so she'd share with them.

My children were so excited to have school again. Thrilled.

I had designated this morning to go to the lake, but I needed to finish canning some beans (33 quarts from my garden, yeah!), so we worked in the morning and just did our afternoon school. All morning my kids whined, "Why aren't we doing school, Mom?"

And I wondered to myself--is this worth it? All the prep time and the follow-through efforts, and the whining, and the wanting to pull my hair out, and the working all other activities around homeschool. Is it worth it for the reasons that I love homeschooling? Yes, my children have fantastic relationships with each other. Yes, I get to *enjoy* their company all day. Yes, I get to move at their pace so they always feel successful and love learning. Yes, my children get to move around and not sit all day. Yes, my children get to have the gospel incorporated into their school all the time. Yes, I learn a ton.

But it is hard, so I still wonder sometimes if it is worth it all. Maybe it isn't--I really don't know. I do know, though, that watching my daughter pore over the priesthood line of authority sheet while reading Joseph Smith's own words describing his experiences was pretty amazing. My kids' yells of excitement when they saw the bowl of salt without the water were pretty cool too.

Worth it? I can't say. I just know that I keep doing it--and can't imagine stopping.

August 22, 2011

First Day of School . . . Bliss??

Sorry for the "graphic" images but I'm in an honest mood.

This is how I usually feel.

This is how I felt today.
I think a period of adjustment is upon us because my children did not respond well to the imposition of routine and order on their day.

Yes, today was our first day of school. I was up and ready to go with my happy face on. We got bogged down after breakfast when Cowen dawdled doing the dishes (unusual for him) and Miriam sobbed through her piano practice (unusual for her).

We finally made it to the couch where I introduced our new devotional theme--characteristics of Christ that we need to develop, beginning with the one with which I need the most help, patience. We worked on the scripture we're going to memorize, we discussed the definition of patience I put together that we're going to memorize, it was all going so well.

Then I pulled out the book about Jackie Robinson that we are reading--he's my person for patience. That is when things fell apart. Yes, it has been months since I read to my children. Thank you for pointing that out. I quickly remembered why I put Timothy in charge of bedtime stories. The whining. THE WHINING. "I can't see." "I want to sit by Mom." "I don't want to read this book." "She just kicked me."

Then there is the two year old who is on and off my lap fifty bajillion times in the course of three minutes. Why, Eli, why???

We struggled through patience (ha) and then I pulled out two science books about fossils. The room quieted, interest was immediately secured, I had them in the palm of my hand. I love science.

But putting the vocabulary on our new wall chart was a fiasco. Cowen was mad because he couldn't read the definitions in the glossary. Emeline wanted me to write her made up definitions on the wall, while Miriam tried to yell over Cowen and Emeline with the actual definitions. There were tears, hysterics, anger. (And then something cool happened, but I'll tell you about that in my next post.)

Watching a movie on fossils went great--watching movies is, after all, what we've been practicing the past few weeks as I've tried to put school together and get a handle on this RS pres calling. Lunch was fine.

During quiet time, Cowen threw a toy through the girls' bedroom window. Grr.

After quiet time, we pulled out the new math books and maze books and handwriting books and spelling book. The kids loved it. It was only later I realized Eli had found a dry-erase marker and wrote all over baby Harriet's head. Sigh.

The children loved it, but I felt like I was being pulled in fifty different directions simultaneously. Mom, check off my handwriting. Mom, how do you do this math problem? Mom, Emeline won't let me use her maze book.

And they all ask for my attention at such loud volumes!! Where did they learn that?? (Ahem.)

And so another school year has started.

Give us a week and if we have survived, I'll check back in. Otherwise, you can find me hiding under my bed, overdosed on choco-covered raisins.

August 14, 2011

Library Finds!

Every once in awhile I let my kids just grab books off the library shelf. Not often, though. My reasoning is that my kids make a huge mess in the library if I take all five by myself, and also that very few of the books in the kids section of the library are any good.

The last time we did a grab and go library trip my children came home with two treasures.

Patience Wright: America's First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deilz Shea is about, obviously, an American woman who was a talented artist and also a Patriot. I had never heard of this woman before and her story is fascinating. She was clearly a feminist and forward thinker and I quite liked her by the end of the book. If you are studying Colonial history, or feminism, or just like to make sure your children study heroes of both genders, give this book a try.
Yellowstone Moran: Painting the American West by Lita Judge is another clear winner. The book is entertaining but also great history. Since we live fairly close to Yellowstone, my children have heard a lot about it so they were eager to learn more. Great book.

August 8, 2011

Head on Over

Head on over to Latter-day Homeschooling to see a wrap-up post about Baptism Prep.

Also, for those of you wondering where I disappeared to this summer, I was called as RS president and I've been trying to figure out how to do that calling!! Busy, busy.

I'm excited for school to start, though, as I need to get my children back into a routine before our whole family degenerates into a yelling/crying mob. We like our routines around here!

June 8, 2011

Thank You!!

Thank you to everyone who looked over my blog lately and participated in the giveaway. I hope the five winners enjoy their units.

Now that summer time has rolled around the content updates will be slimmer here on Frolic and Farce. However, over the summertime I am instituting a new category: My Bookshelves, where I highlight one of my favorite books from my own bookshelves. That way, even though we won't be reading as much (there are mountains to be hiked!!!) you can still find some quality reading material suggestions.

I'll also be posting a little bit about the curriculum I'm putting together for next year and any last follow-ups we do from the last year. Also, I'll be wrapping up Baptism Prep as Miriam will be baptized in July.

I hope you keep checking in and have a great summer!

May 31, 2011

Giveaway on Simple As That

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to give you a heads up that there is a giveaway for Frolic and Farce on Rebecca Cooper's blog: Simple As That.

Click over and enter!!!

May 23, 2011

Good Books for the 7-10 year old Crowd

Several months ago, I started thinking about how important it is for children to learn how to discuss what they read. I learned how to "book talk" around the dinner table. My parents are both avid readers and my Dad would periodically hand us a book that he thought was particularly excellent (like Mrs. Mike), we would all read it, and then we'd discuss it around the table. (Mrs. Mike is particularly excellent.)

Miriam is the oldest, so she is reading a lot of books that the other children aren't. She doesn't like to discuss books with me. These discussions go like this:

Me: "How did you like _______ ?"

Miriam: "I loved it!"

Me: "What did you love about it?"

Miriam: "Well, I liked that . . . [realization dawns that explaining takes awhile] . . . just read it yourself."

To better facilitate "book talk," I created a book club for girls age 7-10 and invited Miriam to join. So far we've met three times. Today was the first time I hosted and was able to listen to the actual book discussion. It was wonderful! The girls had so many funny things to say! I couldn't believe how much Miriam contributed. Yeah!

I think all the books picked for our monthly meetings are excellent (yes, I picked them) so I thought I would share them with you. Any of them would make great summer reading. These books, although geared toward the younger crowd, are good enough to be read by readers of all ages.

I'm not writing a synopsis of the books so I linked the titles to amazon so you can easily find out more if a book interests you. No, I do not get a kick-back from amazon.

The Wish-Giver by Bill Brittain is a classic tale of wish-making gone awry.

Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh. This book has a series of short entries about different inventions created by women. Awesome.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Vivacious redhead--what's not to love? :)
Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille by Russell Freedman. Freedman is the man when it comes to nonfiction for this age group. Loved this book.
The Horse-Tamer by Walter Farley. If the author sounds familiar it is because he wrote all the Black Stallion books. I like those, but this is my favorite Farley.
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. This is a great medieval historical fiction about the plague. No head-banging monks. Sorry.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. This is the book the kids read for this month and listening to them talk about it was hilarious. They loved the idea of running away, bathing in a fountain, and sleeping in dusty beds. For our activity we carved Ivory soap with butter knives. Michelangelo we aren't, but we had fun.
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. This is the first book of the Prydain Chronicles, which include The Black Cauldron--which all of you know because you read my blog. This is, of course, my favorite writer for middle readers. Alexander is the king of fantasy for youngsters. Love, love, love this book and this series.

Gentle Ben by Walt Morey. One of my favorite animal books--right up there with Popper's Penguins (although My Friend Flicka is still the best animal book ever. Ever. Read it, you'll see what I mean.) Apparently there are two books called Gentle Ben about a boy and a bear (I just learned this searching for a cover image). I haven't read the other one. When you search at your library, check the author.

And that is it. I realize I've posted a lot of book recommendations lately, but hey--everyone needs a good book to read!

PS A little heads up--there is going to be a giveaway for my units on another blog. I'll announce it here on the day of. Stay tuned!

May 16, 2011

Two More Good Books to Read

I always find myself admitting to terrible personal deficiencies on this blog. I'm going to do it again, right now. I haven't read all of Jane Austen's novels. Don't start throwing things at me! I love Austen. I fell in love with Austen the summer after grade 6 when my father handed me a copy of Pride and Prejudice and said, "You'll like this." My desire to please my father was such that I read it immediately. And loved it. Mr. Darcy was one of my first character crushes (then I met Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights soon after and fell in looovvveee).

Later, in grade 10, I read Sense and Sensibility. Loved it, although not quite as much as Pride and Prejudice.

When I was an undergrad, I read Persuasion. It hovers just under P&P in transcendence.

Until last week, I just never got around to reading the other three. Like I have a tendency to do, whenever I had a spare minute and felt like an Austen I pulled out my tried and true favorites--either P&P or Persuasion. I don't read as much as I'd like to anymore so when I can sit down and read, I almost never read something new. Sad, I realize. I just don't want to waste time on an inferior book.

But last week I read Northanger Abbey and I loved it. Not as good as my two favorites, but excellent, nonetheless. What I liked is that you could tell it was a young, inexperienced Austen writing. She was more obvious in her put-downs and she "told" instead of "showed" some of the time. However, it was still worlds better than ordinary authors and helped you appreciate the growth Austen experienced as a writer. The main character was charming, the love interest wry and witty, the General perfectly believable in his tiresome arrogance. Ah, it is always good to read Austen--she helps you appreciate people and all their little quirks and foolishness.

If you haven't read an Austen lately, do so. They are good for you.

And if you have a daughter about 11 years old on up (depending on reading level), hand her an Austen. She'll thank you.

PS Are there any good movie versions of Northanger Abbey?

Smith by Leon Garfield is one of those library finds that make you wonder why you haven't heard of a book before because it is so amazingly awesome. Now, my sister just told me that I killed The Penderwicks for her by overstating its goodness, leaving her feeling let-down upon its completion.

There is no way that can happen with this book no matter how I rave about it. The plot centers on a murder of a British gentleman farmer. A murder witnessed by a 12 year old pickpocket called Smith, who happened to steal minutes before what the murderers killed to get--a letter. The rest of the book is high adventure as Smith tries to avoid getting killed (someone saw him pick the pocket) while trying to learn how to read (so he can understand the letter's importance).

If you have a boy or girl age 8 on up (depending on reading level--it is aimed for the 12 on up crowd but could easily be read by someone younger) who likes adventure stories, this one is superb.

Happy reading!

May 10, 2011

A Great Library Find: Audio Book

I have to admit something a little embarrassing: I didn't know the Disney movies about mice rescuing people were based on books. When I was at the library scanning for a new audio book, I saw The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. Completely surprised that such a book existed, I had to check it out and listen.

We loved it. Loved it.

It was written in the 50s and some people on amazon said they didn't like it because Miss Bianca is too--sheltered or feminine or dainty--or something ridiculous like that. She is hilarious in her, "How do poor people manage?" cluelessness. I was charmed.

The book would be a great read, but if you can manage it, I would listen to it. I know, I know, I've been saying that a lot lately. The reader, a Davina Porter, was magnificent. She had perfect timing so none of the jokes were lost.

Plus, I was checking on amazon and this sweet book was out of print!!! but is coming back in print in a few months. You can preorder the lovely hardcover pictured above for $10. I'm sorely tempted. I really enjoyed the book. So did my three oldest children.

Some Days He's Smart . . .

and some days he's not.

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon with your children?

I'm talking about how your child knows something one day and the next day acts like he's never heard of the concept before.

An example. My son is obsessed with the Ranger's Apprentice series even though he can't read them yet. I've told him about the books and he loves the covers, so often I find him studying the covers very carefully. The other day Cowen came to me and said, "Mom, do we have all the Ranger Apprentice books?"

Me: "No, there are 8 in the series."

Cowen--without the slightest hesitation: "We have five. That means we need three more. But if we buy one, we'll only need two more. And if we buy one more after that we'll only need one more. And if we buy one more after that, we'll have them all."

Me: "Great job figuring that out, buddy."

The next day. Me: "Cowen, what is eight subtract five?"

Cowen: "I don't know."

Me: "Okay, what is five plus three?"

Cowen--long pause while he counts on his fingers: "Eight."


Another example.

Cowen has gotten tired of reading practice. He is tired of his reading books. He is tired of me asking him how to spell things. With a burst of inspiration, for reading time today I handed him the computer. He was flabbergasted. I never hand him the computer.

After Miriam outgrew it, I forgot all about it. Until today.

I let Cowen play around on it for a good 30 minutes then I joined him on the couch and had him read Zac the Rat to me. It is the first book under the "Learn to Read" section. He read it perfectly, except "the", the first time through, including words he'd never seen before. Not hard words, but new words.

And yet, he tells me that reading is too hard and he can't do it.

So how much can he read? I HAVE NO IDEA.

Like I said, some days he's smart, and other days, not so much.

May 2, 2011

why i love homeschooling, reason #2,469...

Three Great Library Finds

Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way by Peter Golenbock is a great book--especially if you have a sports loving boy. I thought the author did a great job of highlighting the difficulties Aaron had in getting into the majors because of his race as well as his deep ties to his family without getting bogged down in other, messier, issues that are best saved for an older audience. The book was inspiring (I cried--but then, I am post partum) and I loved it.
Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfmann is wonderful. I didn't like the illustrations but the story is fantastic and written in such a way to keep even my youngsters interested. (We checked out the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. version of the Robert Smalls story at the same time and it didn't have the same kind of kid appeal.) I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of Robert Smalls before! History written well for the young crowd. Bravo.
Anansi Goes Fishing by Eric A. Kimmel is hilarious. It tells the story of how spiders learned how to spin webs. My children made me read it to them several times a day and when I finally started refusing they ganged up on Daddy. I'm sure most of you have heard of Anansi stories, but if you haven't--try this one!

April 27, 2011

Fly Swatter as Educational Tool

My son Cowen is a kinesthetic learner. In plain English that means Cowen is a boy and therefore CANNOT HOLD STILL TO SAVE HIS LIFE.

I have such fond memories of Miriam curled next to my side, soaking in the reading lessons, happy to be with Mom and more than willing to actually look at the words on the page.

Not so with my son. He cannot hold still long enough to look at more than one letter of a word, and so he makes wild guesses at what a word says based on the first letter. Or, if glancing at the word is too much trouble, he just guesses without referring to the text at all. While the guessing and glancing is going on, he's also busy sliding off the couch, turning upside down, making strange noises, and flailing his limbs about in boy abandon.

I've reduced reading time to three measly pages a day. It is all I can handle.

However, a university student of mine told me about a great idea she got from watching a kindergarten teacher that I now use with my son (did you follow that?). The kindergarten teacher gave her students fly swatters and had the students hit things.


Imagine my son's utter happiness when I handed him a fly swatter and told him to whack the letter that makes a "sssssss" sound.

He gives himself extra points if he makes any letters fly off the table from whacking so hard.

We've used the fly swatter idea for a variety of activities. We started with hitting the correct lower-case letter (he is a lot stronger with upper-case than lower-case). He's also whacked the letters that make certain sounds. It can also be used for sight words.
He loves it.

Don't imagine that he actually stays standing on that one chair. No, no. He stands on one chair, hits something with the swatter, jumps to the next chair, crawls around to the bench, jumps to the ground to get the letters that have flown to the floor, does a few kicks and scrambles around, and then winds up on the first chair again.

It drives my hubby bananas to watch it.

Most days I think Cowen is hilarious.

Other days, I wish he'd snuggle next to me and hold still for a few minutes.

But mostly I think he his hilarious.

PS--Another good trick for kinesthetic learners is to focus on writing. My son enjoys writing because it involves movement. He loves to make up sentences that he thinks are funny, like: "My Dad sat on a cactus." If you put that sentence on a paper and tried to get him to read it he'd act like it was written in Chinese. However, he has no problem writing it.

Another good idea is have your kinesthetic learner spell out words with letters spread over a table or the floor. The more he/she has to move to get to the letters the better. So spread out the letters and then say, "Write the sentence: Mom is fun." The learner finds the letters he/she needs and puts together the sentence. Works like a charm because there is no holding still involved.

If you have a kinesthetic learner at home--good luck!! We need it. :)

April 25, 2011

Units For Sale

You might have noticed the snazzy new link at the top of the page announcing Units for Sale. I had a friend request an easier way to access all the info for a unit. I wondered at that. I thought I had organized the blog sufficiently well that finding all the posts for one unit would be easy.

Then I looked through my blog with the eyes of a new visitor.

Then I realized I had a reasonable organization system, but there was a lot to sift through.

So then, again due to a friend's recommendation, I put together the units in a word document--using cut and paste mostly--and my sweet hubby spent many hours figuring out how to make them available on my blog.

And now they are available!!

The units for sale are pretty much exactly the same as what I've posted on my blog. I made a few changes. For example, I'm putting together my reptile stuff right now and added more ideas and more websites. On my blog, I wrote about my failed turtle craft. I thought 4 craft ideas that looked great would be more helpful than a long description of one that was useless. So in that way some of the units were "perked up" a little. But only a little.

For those people who want to look through my ideas for free--feel free. Everything is still here. For those of you who like the idea of having everything together and easily accessible, the units might be for you.

In the future I'll be adding more units as I put them together for my children. I'll also be adding some free stuff. I want to start putting together some good book lists (another recommendation from a friend) and those will definitely be free. After all, one of my main purposes in starting this blog was to encourage more reading! Also, anything I do by way of devotionals or gospel study will be posted for free. Once Miriam turns 8 and finishes Baptism Prep, I'll put that together in a nice, organized unit form and post that as well.

Hopefully you will all continue to find this blog useful to you and if you have any more suggestions (hopefully suggestions that won't take as much work as putting the units together!!!) I would love to hear them!

April 13, 2011

April 8, 2011

First Hike of the Season--Bonneville Shoreline Trail

During the two days of sun, we managed to get in a hike.

It lifted my spirits like you wouldn't believe.

Usually I love winter and hate to see it end, but this has been a very long winter.

Rain, rain go away. Don't come back. For a very long time.

April 7, 2011

Audio Books

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Provo with my kiddos to hang with my sister and her kiddos. It is a good 90 minute drive or more. When thinking about the drive, I realized that I would go bonkers if I had to listen to 50 Silly Songs for Kids one more time. Usually I don't mind, but lately, man it has been annoying. We'll blame it on hormones. (If they would only choose Newsies every once in awhile, or our Disney collection--or anything but "the smile was on the crocodile" etc.)

Then I had a brain-wave. The reason my children were listening to silly songs instead of the classical station is because my hubby gave me a new cd player for the van. We could now participate in one of my favorite activities--listening to an audio book.

So I went to the library and got one of my favorite books, hoping the reader would do a good job. He did!!! He really, really did. Graeme Malcolm, whoever you are, you ROCK at reading books.

Those of you who listen to audio books know that a reader can make or break the book.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (a GOLD STAR book for sure) was read brilliantly. The drive was over before my children realized they should be annoyed by the length of it. When we returned home, my children insisted we take the cds inside so they could finish the story immediately. They loved it.

So will you. If you don't have time to listen to it (I don't listen to books on tape much now that I don't commute), please read it. Great book for ages 4 on up (at least, my four year old loved it).

While we are on the subject of audio books, I must HIGHLY RECOMMEND my very favorite audio books.

The Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman.

These are available in written form, but if at all possible, do not read these books. Listen to them. The reader, a Barbara Rosenblat, is without a doubt the best reader I've ever heard--and I listened to A LOT of books on tape during my year commuting.

My very favorite of the series is the second one, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. Mrs. Pollifax, if you've never heard of her, is an elderly widow who is bored with life. She feels useless. Her two children are raised and gone and all Mrs. Pollifax does is grow flowers and meet with her garden club. So, one day, she decides to go to the headquarters of the CIA and offer her assistance.

Because of a few odd circumstances, she winds up with a job. One that is supposed to be easy and danger-free and is, of course, quite the opposite.

The second book covers her second assignment and it is hilarious and wonderful. A small disclaimer, one of the characters in the second book says, "What the hell," all the time. So if you are opposed to that, you might want to skip the second book. There is no language in any of the other books that I can remember. Normally I don't approve of swearing, but something about the Hungarian accent made it really, really funny to me. Sorry if your opinion of me has now diminished. ;)

If you assign these books to your children (I would say 10 and up would enjoy them although they are aimed at adults), use them for fun or in conjunction with geography. Each book has Mrs. Pollifax flying off to another exotic location for another "non-dangerous" mission that becomes very dangerous very quickly. Off the top of my head I remember a book set in South America, the Middle East, Hungary, China, Africa. Okay, that was vague, but it was off the top of my head.

And if you have a trip to go on in the near future, please, please, please get the first or second Pollifax book on tape. You will be highly entertained and will not regret it.

March 25, 2011

Curriculum Thoughts

I have found it pretty impossible to do school these days. The baby's schedule and my exhaustion combined with post-partum fuzzy brain has necessitated a small hiatus.

I expected that.

What I didn't expect was my obsession with picking curriculum for next year. I think it is because I can pick curriculum sitting down, it allows me to feel like I'm being a little productive, and it is fun. Fun, fun, fun.

So far I have almost every subject decided. I'm still investigating a few options for art and adding/subtracting from my "wish list."

Here are my thoughts on my choices. First, I really like A Beka math for its frustrating amount of review problems--now that I've gotten past the "do every problem" mentality. It really is a great program when you pick and choose the problems based on your child's competence.

However, I like A Beka a LOT MORE when combined with The Thinking Company's math reasoning books. The Math Reasoning books are fantastic for critical thinking/problem solving and terrible for reviewing basic concepts. I've found that a mix of problem solving (what my children like best) and practicing the basics of computation (what A Beka does best) has proven a real winner for us.

Math Program: A Beka math with The Thinking Co.'s Mathematical Reasoning books.

Miriam is turning 8 this June and in my head that means she has to start "real school." Before 8, I just can't take it all that seriously. Example: language arts. We haven't done much by way of real gung-ho grammar in the past. This year, however, I feel strongly that it is time to start. Due to my recent discovery of The Well-Trained Mind (I'll be sharing my thoughts on that book in another post) I discovered the Rod and Staff Publishing Co. When I looked through their third grade language arts program I found--miracle of miracles--that it requires diagramming sentences. WAHOO!! When I taught English in a public school I found sentence diagramming to be the number one best way to learn/teach grammar. Really. And it isn't even awful--it is actually pretty fun. It's like a game or puzzle. Sold.

Picking a spelling program has proven extremely time consuming. Every program has its advocates and denigrators. Every expert has an opinion. It always comes down to the needs of your child. We've been using Sequential Speller and loving it. My daughter spells the words out loud and feels very proud that she can spell such long words. However, Miriam is also a reluctant writer because she hates misspelling words. Unlike me, Miriam does not pick up spelling from reading. I need a program that lays things out for her--so more phonics based--that she can do independently and will hopefully help jumpstart her writing because the words she's learning to spell are words she's comfortable using in her writing (unlike most words in Sequential Speller). With all those many requirements, I finally decided on the Rod and Staff spelling program. She can do it independently, it groups words in a way that makes sense, and I think it will appeal to Miriam. Plus, we can keep using Sequential Speller for fun.

Language Arts Program: Rod and Staff for Miriam and for Cowen Language Lessons for the Very Young. Rod and Staff Spelling for Miriam and my own made-up spelling curriculum for Cowen. McGuffey's Eclectic Readers for Miriam (thank you Dad for the best Christmas present!!) for reading. Cowen and Emeline (yes, she's ready) will be using the Little Books: Set One and Set Two for reading. (I have a whole new plan for teaching reading--I'll tell you all about it in anther post.)

As you all know, I make up my own science and history.

For handwriting we will continue to use Handwriting Without Tears. We love that program. It has worked miracles in our homeschool.

The jury is still out on art. I am currently investigating a book called Storybook Art that has art projects drawn from children's books. The premise is that the author of the art book found 100 "greatest" children's books. Then she studied how the illustrators illustrated the books and created art projects that helps children do what the illustrator did in the children's book. I love the premise. I just got the book from the library so I'll be looking through it thoroughly in the next week or so. If you've used this book or any of its projects, let me know what you think.

There you have it. I haven't bought any of the new stuff yet because I don't want to be hasty and make mistakes. I'm prone to doing that. However, I am very pleased with how far along I am in the process and pleased with my plans for schooling this summer.

If you have used any of these materials and have thoughts on them--PLEASE SHARE. Also, if you have found a product you think is fantastic--PLEASE SHARE. Picking curriculum is good fun, but it is also a long, nerve-wracking process. I hate spending money only to find out that the curriculum didn't match the child. It happens.

Still, in the end, there is just something very elemental and soul-satisfying about setting all the new books on the table and really going to town planning for the new school year. I love it. Love it, love it.

March 12, 2011

Cooking the South African Way

My children really enjoyed Festivals of the World: South Africa. It had a list of all the festivals in the area, and it sure seemed like all people do in South Africa is party. The kids and I decided we wanted to move there!

After reading the book we watched a few youtube videos--some about the game of cricket as that came up in the book and my kids had no clue there was a sport named after an insect. :) We also listened to both of South Africa's national anthems. After that I couldn't resist playing them the most beautiful national anthem in the world--O Canada. Yes, I am Canadian. Why do you ask?

After all the youtube videos, we were hungry, so I told the kids they could make pumpkin fritters from the recipe found in this book: Cooking the Southern African Way by Kari Cornell. Since I had to nurse Harriet right after I told them they could cook, they proceeded without me. It actually, surprisingly, worked better that way. It is hard to be too uptight when you don't see most of the mess until clean up time.

Besides, they did an awesome job.

Miriam's reading the cookbook that it sitting on the chair. After Cowen opened the can of pumpkin and orange stuff started flying, I ordered the library book moved to a more secure location.

I did the frying for safety reasons. I used more oil than necessary as I realized early on that the smaller the fritter, the better. Pumpkin doesn't set up like we're used to with more flour heavy projects. Therefore, to get the best crispy outside to mushy inside ratio, we made the fritters pretty small.

Nothing like a little cinnamon and sugar to help the pumpkin go down.
We all really liked them, and I'm not a huge pumpkin fan. The mushyish center threw us off at first--very different from a corn fritter or scone--but it really was tasty and you could tell it was cooked properly, just a different texture than we were used to.
The next morning I used the remaining pumpkin in my pancakes. You can't taste the pumpkin very much and it is an extra veggie. Brilliant. Besides, kids like it because the pancakes are orange.
If you're feeling like a South African treat--a pumpkin fritter is a pretty good option.

PS--I've joined the throng of "spinach smoothie" weirdos. You really can't taste the spinach. I never would have believed it if I hadn't tried it. I make my own yogurt for our smoothies to cut down on sugar (then I add 4 TBLS back in--go figure), add some frozen berries, a bunch of spinach, and voila--a lovely addition to lunch or a nice snack. Homemade yogurt is yummy and super easy and way cheaper. You should try it.