October 30, 2013

Favorite Online Resources

I am not a fan of online learning.  I know it works well for some people but I don't want my children spending any time in front of a screen.  That being said, I'm a real person with a real life and real children so periodically I stick my children in front of the computer to watch Dinosaur Train while I blissfully work sans children.

As for schooling, there are several online study enhancers that I really, really like.


In brief, xtramath is a free program for computation practice.  There are four courses (for lack of a better word): addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  You sign your child up for one of the courses and then that child takes a placement test.  Once a baseline has been set, your child can log on whenever and do his computation practice.  Each session lasts about 7 minutes.

I like xtramath for so many reasons, including the lack of bling.  This is not a free program funded by copious advertisements that wiggle and flash and otherwise distract.  It is free, but there are no ads.  I also love the email I get every week that updates me on how my kids are doing and what progress is being made.  I usually don't share that info with my kids, but now and again I'll say to one of them, "You haven't been improving in xtramath.  I expect you to improve by ____  points by the next report."  This helps prevent undue time wasting.

I've found that xtramath works best for my younger children if they sit on my lap and call out the answer and I input the answer.  Otherwise, the sheer joy of getting to be on the computer goes to their heads and they don't pay any attention to the math.  My oldest child is really motivated by the number of smiley faces she can get in a row so I haven't had similar distraction problems with her.

The best part of this program is that my children are really memorizing their math facts and not, like their mother, just faking their way through.  Miriam knows her multiplication tables better than I ever did.  (I would like to point out, however, that I am still faster than her on any and all multiplication problems that she doesn't have memorized because she doesn't have my fabulous coping strategies.)

Not to oversell xtramath because, obviously, it is only as effective as the child wants it to be, but the last thing I really like about it is that after a certain number of seconds the correct answer pops up.  This is a downside for kids who can't key in their answers quickly (another reason I input the younger kids' answers) but overall is a great idea as none of my children get frustrated.  Simple but significant.

Moving on to my second favorite online resource: musictheory.net

I have a feeling that music theory.net is way more awesome than I realize.  We use only its simplest function--a rote memorization aid for the notes.  As you can see in the picture above, you input which notes you want the student to practice, the notes appear and the student clicks on the correct names of the notes.  My children are required to get 25 notes correct every day.  Cowen and Emeline just practice one octave, but Miriam's up to two or three.  You can include accidentals but I don't bother.

The only downside to this website is that my children have figured out how to change what is being practiced and think it is hilarious to limit their practice to one note.  Ha ha, guys.  Despite some flaws, this is the best way I've found to drill notes online.  (No ads--no bling.)

We do other online learning.  My kids' computer teacher--through the Harmony Options Day program--uses typingweb.com for typing practice.  I haven't played with it much so I can't give you a real opinion on it.  My kids don't mind it and the oldest two practice typing for 10 minutes a day when I remember to remind them.

Our favorite online resource is Rosetta Stone.  Miriam is currently studying French and Spanish.  Next year she wants to study Chinese as well.  The program is ingenious in how it has you speaking in sentences so quickly.  We have a little thing called Friday Translation around here wherein Miriam has to translate one page of a children's story from Spanish to English.  She doesn't make the mistake of creating direct translations but instead creates sentences that we would actually say.  Part of that is talent (she loves languages) and part of that is Rosetta Stone getting you into conversational language so quickly.  I highly recommend their programs.

That's about it.  Like I said, I'm not such a huge fan of screen time but I think these programs are of high enough quality that they add rather than distract from real learning.

October 27, 2013

Farrier Field Trip

 This is my parent's place and my parent's horses and my parent's son (aka my brother Wyatt).  I'm editing a paper for him and he paid me in advance by giving a horse shoeing demonstration.
 We're studying the Middle Ages this year--I think I've mentioned that.  Around 900 AD iron horseshoes were introduced and had a profound impact on fighting.  Horseshoes allowed for a more viable cavalry.  Therefore, we needed a farrier demo.  Thanks again, Wyatt for shoeing a horse for me!!
 The kids were pretty excited.  None of the kids who attended, except mine, had ridden a horse.  The littles lost interest in the shoeing after a bit, but they came rushing back for the riding portion of the activity.  The older kids watched the whole shoeing demonstration and were also pretty thrilled to ride.
 The cats were also a big hit.

 I wish I had pictures of the riding but I was busy leading a horse and riders around the corral.  After the riding we all went on a hike up a canyon in the Wellsvilles by Mendon.  It was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, the younger kids were pretty tired and I packed Harriet almost the whole time.  She's no lightweight.  Still, it was beautiful and the weather was amazing and I was with good friends.  It was a lovely day.

October 21, 2013

Igneous Rocks--Yummy!

 I highly recommend that you all start studying magma and igneous rocks immediately as it is a delicious field of study.

We took a bag of chocolate chips and melted them to create magma/lava.  Then we let the magma cool on a plate to see how igneous rocks are formed.  We put the rest of the magma on ice cream to see what happened when magma cooled down faster.
 You know what happens when magma cools down quickly?  The experiment ends and you get to eat sooner.  It is awesome.

Oskar had fun too.  Cutie patootie.

October 19, 2013

Renaissance Faire that Wasn't

 We tried to go to a Renaissance Faire recently.  My sister, Kami, made us these fabulous Medieval Scottish costumes and we are studying the Middle Ages this year so it was only logical to go.
 It was freezing.  Literally.  It snowed.  We arrived, paid our money, watched the Bird of Prey show-- which was excellent--and then tried to tough it out until the jousting.
 See the cool costumes?
 Harriet at the Birds of Prey show.
 A jester.
 Some of the vendor tents.

While we were trying to tough it out until the jousting, it started to rain.  A downpour of epic proportions (for Utah).  I huddled in a jewelry tent with five of my children, the tent owners, and some very disturbing jewelry featuring skeletons, and waited for it to end.

We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited--while trying to keep Oskar and Harriet warm enough and the other kids from breaking anything.  Finally, when it started to rain/snow the King (that was his costume and he had knighted someone) came in and said that the jousting was cancelled because it was too dangerous for the horses.

That made the decision to leave really easy except that I had no idea where Miriam was.  This is a normal state of affairs, so I wasn't worried.  I had last seen her by some other tents so we headed into the freezing rain to try and find her in that general direction.  Three steps out a woman stopped me and asked me if I was missing a redheaded girl.  God gave me and Miriam both red hair as a natural tracking system.  He is perfectly wise.

I followed the woman to the tent for lost children, retrieved my daughter and headed to the van.  When we were all inside and the heater was revving up I said to Miriam, "I'm surprised you ended up in the tent for lost kids.  That isn't your style."

To which Miriam replied, "I know!  It surprised me too!"

The girl is hilarious.  Apparently some well-intentioned adult noticed Miriam was on her own, asked her where her Mom was, then hauled her off to the lost child tent because Miriam freezes under pressure and couldn't come up with a coherent answer like, "I've spent 99% of my life lost.  No worries."

The kids were all so disappointed, especially Cowen.  He was aching to see the jousting.  I felt bad so I stopped at Kents on the way home and bought some hot chocolate and whipped cream in a can.  My kids were amazed and overjoyed.  We had bean with bacon soup and a hot chocolate confection to warm us up.  Then I let the kids play with baking soda and vinegar.  I know we did another crafty thing after that but I can't remember what.  Then I popped popcorn and let the kids watch a movie.

Not a complete loss of a day, but a little disappointing nonetheless.

October 18, 2013

Middle Ages Mosaics

 With great sadness I have to admit that we've been doing a lot more science than history these days.  My kids are warped and weird and love science.  Argh!  I have managed to work history in here and there.  We skimmed through the book in the above pic on the Byzantine Empire and then we made mosaics.

I got a bunch of paint samples from Lowe's, let the kids envision their picture, pick a cardstock color, draw their pictures, choose their paint samples, cut the samples, and then glue the little pieces onto their picture.

That was a terribly long sentence.  I apologize.

When we were done for the day I tried to throw away the excess tiny pieces of paper and my children had a collective nervous breakdown.  They had more mosaics to make!  More creative energies to expend!

There is now a ziploc bag of cut up paint samples in our craft drawer.  Fair warning--this is not a tidy craft and it lingers.

 Cowen's wolf.
 Miriam's  . . . something.
 Harriet's artwork.
 Emeline's Cutie Thing.
Miriam's Flowers.

I also showed my children the incredible mosaic my sister made when she was in high school.  Here's the linky.  You should see it for the mosaic but also for the cut paper art around the edge.  Crazy awesome, Kami!


October 17, 2013

Mom, When Can I Have a Falcon?

 My friend Julie planned a fabulous field trip that took place last Friday.  We met at a park and the head of the Utah Falconry Association brought his two falcons and taught us about falcons, how you get them, how you hunt with them, and everything else falconry related.  It was awesome.

 Cowen lucked out and was chosen to be the assistant.  He was able to hold one of the falcons.  He's been asking for one of his own ever since.  (He missed the part where the presenter said that falcons make terrible pets.  They are loud and messy and bite.)


Not a falcon, but still pretty cool.  Yes, those are my sunglasses.  *sigh*

October 10, 2013

Man on a Buffalo!

Frolic and Farce Homeschool (that's what I call us for the Bookit Pizza certificates) has had a tremendously awesome week.  On Tuesday we paid homage to my favorite month by hitting the trails.  One trail, actually.  I call it the Bountiful Temple Trail because the trailhead is pretty close to the Bountiful Temple.  I don't know what it is actually called but you should all go hiking there!  It is one of my very favorite trails.  (If anyone is interested I'll have my hubby figure out what the trail is called.) 

We spent four hours roaming the hillsides, playing hide-n-seek, howling like wolves, singing about erosion, and enjoying each other.  The mountains are truly a balm for a troubled soul.  Not that I have a troubled soul, just a busy one, but sometimes it is beautiful to just breathe in the autumn air and glory in the changing leaves.  

 The next day my friend Marilyn emailed to let me know that she and her six lovely children would be at Antelope Island that afternoon to examine cool rock formations and did I want to join her.  There is nothing I like better than a last-minute-change-of-plans (that wasn't a joke, I really love spontaneity).  We packed ourselves into the van, grabbed some string cheese, and headed to the island.

Above photo: Emeline, Eli, and Malachi riding a buffalo.

 At the visitor's center.  Marilyn, Junie, Daisy, Miriam, with Sebastian and Abraham in the back. I was especially glad to hang out with Marilyn because she doesn't get lost (I always get lost) and she really tries to figure out this rock stuff and therefore succeeds.  Impressive.

We saw a cool sidewinder snake on the sidewalk outside the visitor's center.  We saw two snakes on the Bountiful trail.  In fact, Eli sat right next to one and it was so well camouflaged that we didn't see it until it moved a little bit.  It was a really funky green color--dark green on top with a limier underbelly.  Anyone know what it was?  Is limier a word?  Yes, because I am an English teacher and I just used it.

 Lazy buffalo.
 Kids crawling all over a bunch of gneiss rock.  Our first encounter with rock that we could be absolutely sure was metamorphic.  Thanks again, Marilyn, for knowing that.
 Children on rock.
 Gorgeous view.
 More kids on rocks with awesome clouds.
 Boys are happiest with tools--see exhibit A.
 Lady Harriet.  Aww.
 My favorite of the gneiss rocks.  I liked the black stripes.
 Eli likes to pose for the camera.  Marilyn with her baby, Marigold, in the background.  And Abraham (argh, I STILL get Abe and Seb mixed up.  I'm sorry Abe and Seb).  I'm pretty sure it is Abraham.
 This rock was cooler in person because the minerals around the edges were greener than the picture appears.

Cowen found this awesome chunk of mineral stuck in the gneiss rock.  Good eye, Cowen.

 Cake, anyone?
 Buffalo!  We were lucky enough to watch a bunch of buffalo cross the road right in front of us.  There were huge buffalo and cute little baby buffalo and we sang, "Guy on a buffalo," a lot.

Emeline watching the buffalo.  You can see the rain clouds in this picture.  It started to rain a little just as we stopped clambering over rocks and got in our vehicles.  It drizzled a little then rained a lot then drizzled some more.  Our pictures looked like this:

Now, for Marilyn's benefit because she couldn't figure out why I kept singing "Guy on a Buffalo," I'll leave you with a guy on a buffalo.

Because one video about a guy on a buffalo is never enough, here is another one:

Finally, here is another video.  My brother posted it on our family website and my sister commented, "The sophisticated cousin of guy on a buffalo!" Then I laughed really hard.

Happy October!  I hope you're able to get outside a little bit.  I'm watching the weather like a hawk and any rain-free days are hiking days!