Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Homeschool Den Has Moved!




I am so excited to have joined the Parents team and have so many new posts to share with you all. I will posting almost every day as I talk about our latest homeschooling adventures.

I have a new series on Wednesdays which features interviews with homeschoolers from across the country. I will be spotlighting homeschoolers with different styles to see how they got started homeschooling and what homeschooling looks like in their families. I hope you'll stop by for a visit.


I won't be updating this site so be sure to visit us at the new site

http://www.parents.com/blogs/homeschool-den/

Want to keep connected?  Visit me at
Twitter @HomeschoolDen for the latest updates.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Freebies over at Parents

You'll find my most recent freebies over at my new location at Parents.com.  Just go to "Categories" in the right side-bar and select "freebies." That'll take you to a list of the latest things I've made to share with everyone. Here are a few freebies you'll find over there:


Click here to go to the new location for the Homeschool Den.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cute Writing Paper

I've been printing out our own customized writing paper for DD when she does her spelling and narration work.  She loves this paper and you can choose from all kinds of themes (animals, holidays, seasons, cartoon characters and more). You can also choose the size of the writing paper (from larger lines for beginner writers to standard rule for more seasoned writers).  Anyway, since we get SO much use out of this website I thought it was worth a mention! You can find the writing paper at DLTK-cards.

Our Move: The move to Parents is almost complete (sorry it took longer to move than we thought). My next post will probably be over there. I'll be posting about our latest geography activities, our next Think Challenge, a couple of our latest science experiments. several math posts, our American West activities and more. In fact, once the move is complete I'll be posting almost daily there. Hope you'll stop in to visit!



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preschool Board Games

ED turned four a couple of weeks ago. I always ask the kids what kind of cake they want.  ED wanted a Beyblade cake (the spinning top that you see down to the right of the cake).  Funny, huh?! I'm no major cake maker but the kids love helping to make their own birthday cake. So here was ED's cake tah-dah!

ED got a couple of new cooperative board games from Grandma and Grandpa. ED and DD really love them. They're really terrific so I thought I'd give them a mention here in case you have birthdays coming up for your 3-5 year old.

The first game is called Hoot Owl Hoot. The object is for the players to get all the owls home before the sun comes up. (The sun is at the top and moves across as players come across a sun card.)  This is a game like Candy Land which only requires that the kids recognize their colors. They have to fly the owls around the game board from color to color back to their nest before the sun comes up.
The other game we've been playing a lot is called Lost Puppies. Again, it's a cooperative game where all the players work together to get the puppies home.

Each player takes a turn flipping over a card. If the player flips over a night (star) card it has to be placed on the corresponding number on the gameboard.  Players use a flashlight card to remove the night/star card from the board.  To take the puppy home there has to be a clear path (with no night cards in the way).

These games are wonderful because they are not competitive--no winner or loser.  And with the age of my girls (4 and 6) they can play them happily together independently.  Still, I can easily recommend these games to the younger crowd as well (say 2 1/2 and up).

As long as I'm on the topic of gift recommendations I also must add Perler Beads to the list.  ED has done dozens of these and everybody (even LD) continues to make them from time to time.  These are wonderful for developing fine motor skills.  Kids will be into these at different ages.  ED was just over 3 when she started doing these independently, but LD didn't really enjoy doing them until he was 5.

By the way, we've been doing lots of school things here and I have about ten posts already to go (plus more to write up), but every day I keep thinking we'll be switching the blog over to Parents any moment and have been holding off. So once the transition is made bear that in mind as you see post after post of our school projects and games!  :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Think Challenge -1

When the kids were much younger (2009 or so) I heard great things about a website called Kids Who Think. Each week she put up new challenges and lots of people got in on the act.  Recently Ami over at Walking By the Way put together a class syllabus based on those challenges.  My kids are just about the right age to do participate in these challenges now. We did the first our first one last Friday.

The Goal: Build the tallest tower you can with silverware.  Surprisingly, ED was the first to assemble something that stood upright.  After that LD took the lead.  These challenges are supposed to get kids to work together, but in this particular challenge the kids and I all worked on our own towers.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Great Article Links

Tsh over at Simple Mom had some links to some really good articles.  I especially liked the list (written by a public school teacher) of the 12 compelling reasons to homeschool your child.  I had a few quick thoughts about the list.  Homeschooling is not for everyone or every family, but if it suits you and your family there sure are a lot of wonderful benefits. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it is completely different for every family. Some people start early, others start late.  Some have a loose structure, others are quite regimented. Some people unschool, some people have one set curriculum they follow, others join co-ops. People choose from hundreds of different curriculums and find (or strive to find!) the best fit for their children.  Our style (a fairly hands-on, messy, relaxed style) is completely different from my good friend who use an online-based homeschooling currriculum and lots of you-tube videos (and avoid arts-and-crafts and messy things), but the amazing thing is that our kids are thriving.

Do you have any thoughts about the list?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Antarctica

I can't say we did an entire unit on Antarctica, but we revisited it briefly this past week and a half as we read Mr. Popper's Penguins aloud together. The kids really loved the book and it was a relatively quick read (about 4 or 5 days for us).

I wanted to touch on Antarctica again partly for ED since we've been going over the seven continents for her and partly because we're going to be learning a bit about the arctic next in her preschool trek through the various biomes this year.  (We covered the ocean, desert, and deciduous forest earlier this year.) I really wanted to drive home the fact that there are no penguins in the Arctic and no polar bears in Antarctica.

Most of the time the kids are working on something else while I read aloud. One afternoon I brought out the pictures that Grandma and Grandpa took on their trip to Antarctica a few years ago. The slideshow played while I read a few chapters from the book. Here are a few of Grandpa's pictures:
Magellanic Penguins (spelled incorrectly up above, but I'm too tired right now to re-edit the photo)
Sea lion and King Cormorant

 

 Last year we talked a lot about penguins.  We revisited a lot of those same activities this past week -- here's last year's blog post.

The kids all loved playing the March of the Penguins game called Save the Egg  at the National Geographic site. I can't say it's that 'educational' but they were thrilled when they managed to keep the egg from being knocked off their penguin's feet.

 
This year we also talked a lot about the scientific research and work that happens at the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica.  We watched excerpts from Encounters at the End of the World on Netflix.

The kids roared in laughter as the new arrivals at McMurdo stumbled around with buckets on their heads -- an exercise in dealing with the white out conditions that happen frequently in Antarctica. The team had to try to find a lost member while stumbling along nearly blind and hardly able to hear. The buckets had hilarious faces drawn on them which tickled the kids' funny bone!  My brother-in-law's sister worked down there a number of years ago. I'll have to ask Uncle T if his sister had to do that same exercise!

The kids were also intrigued by the ocean research and were amazed that in that one dive three new species were discovered.  There were some pretty cool looking ocean creatures featured.  We sure liked the film (or the parts we saw) here.

I wrote to Uncle T to get the real scoop about C's experiences is Antarctica. As I mentioned above my brother-in-law's sister did research (she's a geologist) in Antarctica. I wanted the real scoop "Did C have to walk around Antarctica with a smiley bucket on her head?"   Here's the conversation as it went:

T: > So did you?

C: > Thankfully no!  :)
> I did have to go through Snow School though. (C later explained to me -- "Snow school is a two-three day training school for using the survival equipment. We dug either holes in the snow or igloos in which to sleep. We learned how to use the stoves and military radio as well as set up the 4 season tents. The instructors slept in the tents, and we slept in the igloos/snow holes.")

T: So they did not let you play in all the reindeer games?

C: I was doing research in the Dry Valleys, where there are very few white out conditions, if ever.  If I was going to the South Pole or staying longer, then I'd probably get to play that game too!

T: So that's the reason why she did not become a bucket-head....

-----

P.S. We truly are in the final stages of moving to Parents! I've even seen the Homeschool Den over at the staging site. It won't be long until we go live, but as I've said we'll redirect you there from here once the process is complete.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day! A Day to Remember our Family


Today instead of doing our normal collection (group time when we do history, geography, science and/or German), I decided it was the perfect day to spend time on some family history.  Both our family lines have a rich, well documented history. We have family stories, photos and family objects that date back to well before the Civil War (In fact, we can trace some lines back to the 1600s and beyond). It's my dream to put this knowledge into a book that can be passed down (and around) to our relatives.
We went through old photos and I told the kids story of their relatives who
  • mostly came from Europe (Scandinavia,  Germany, France and Ireland)
  • was a French trapper and traded with Native Americans in the late 1600s
  • were forced to join the crew of a Swedish ship and jumped ship in Washington, USA
  • fought in the Union Army during the Civil War
  • yet another side of the family owned slaves in Virginia and Mississippi
  • came over from Finland and started farming in Minnesota
  • owned a tugboat on the Erie Canal and had to pull the barge with a rope that was under his arms
  • rode their bikes through a giant tree (photo above)
  • started the first TB clinic in the Oklahoma territory and traded his medical services for chickens and quilts during the Great Depression
  • became missionaries in Brazil
  • was too skinny to join the US army in WWII and instead worked as a carpenter on an army base
  • and on and on... (til the kids cried out NO MORE!)
 Then I pulled out some of the family "stuff" we have
  • a tool for making bullets (top left pic below)
  • hat pins
  • barber's equipment
  • tax coins
  • wooden coin
  • tool for buttoning up women's gloves
  • a toy from 1891 (right) that "walks" down a surface
  • my Grandfather's christening outfit
  •   a dress from around 1900 (from my side, but I don't know the significance or why it was still around)
  • and lots of hand made doilies (from my great grandmother and great-great grandmother)
Flylady is probably crying to see all the stuff we have tucked away, but I sure love sharing the memories and stories with the kids!

Happy Valentine's Day to you and your loved ones!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stay Tuned!

We are working out some last minute details behind the scenes and will be transferring the Homeschool Den over from this site to Parents any time now!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Outdoor Time and Other Activities

I really try to make sure the kids spend time outdoors. We don't have a playground, but they manage to find things to entertain themselves.  It's been a funny winter here with lots of mild days and only a bit of snow now and then.
A couple days ago the kids decided they wanted to do some "hard work." (I kind of wonder if that is because of all the books we've been reading together about life in the American West.) They all got saws and spent well over an hour cutting off branches.  Since we had just talked about first aid, I asked them what they would do if they cut themselves badly on the saw. We talked about putting pressure on the wound and getting help from Mom immediately.  A little while later they all came tramping in and demanded band-aids and other first aid gear to take out with them. Since then, they've been carrying around their own make-shift first aid kits whenever they go outside! 

My sister and brother-in-law sent a really great gift to the kids for Christmas. It's called a Gibbon Slackline. Since the weather has been so mild we put it up between two trees in our backyard.  It is a essentially a balance beam made of webbing that you attach between two trees. LD has made it across numerous times, but DD and I have only made it about half-way. ED makes it across, but holds my hand for balance.  Anyway we have all had lots and lots of fun with this!

Naturally we've had to re-read Mirette on the High Wire (a Caldecott winner and a terrific book) to go along with our new-found outdoor fun!

The kids are still pretty involved in other activities besides the homeschooling life which I talk so often about here on the blog. They play with each other lots and lots.   ED is now old enough that even she and LD play together well. Beyblades, stuffed animals, the Littlest Pet Shop and the PlasmaCar are the current toys of choice.  All three kids still love gymnastics. LD has become impressively strong. He also really enjoys singing in the children's choir. DD started Irish dance lessons and loves, loves, loves it!  She's also doing a Girl Scout sampler (6 weeks of Girl Scouts). In addition to gymnastics, ED has a music class with friends (much like Kindermusik).
The kids put on a gymnastics show for Grandma and Grandpa last weekend when they were here for a visit!

Our Move: On another note, next week, the week of Valentine's Day, our blog will be joining the Parent's team over at Parents.com/blog.  I'll have a link from this address to get you there.  I hope you'll check in on us there!  We've done some great experiments and will be sharing more about our geography, history and preschool activities in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

American West Unit: Geography and the Louisiana Purchase

Our next topic was the Louisiana Purchase. Prior to 1803, the United States territory went only as far as the Mississippi River. Napoleon Bonaparte, the ruler of France, needed money for his wars in Europe and sold the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. for $15 million (3 cents an acre!).  This nearly doubled the size of the United States.
We've been using a map that shows the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark's expedition route to learn move about American geography. In addition to learning the Fifty States song we've been learning the five Great Lakes (the Great Lakes have their H*O*M*E*S* in Canada and the United States... Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior), a few of the major rivers, and the mountain ranges.

We have been using a pin map to help us learn some of these locations.

While we've used pin maps for a long time, I saw this wonderful idea of using a cork board and taping the map on top over at We Don't Need No Education. It was quick and easy to set this activity up!


If you want to make your own pin map work to go along with your studies of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark you can download the labels I made here. I used the National Geographic map of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Our Move: On another note, next week, the week of Valentine's Day, our blog will be joining the Parent's team over at Parents.com/blog.  I'll have a link from this address to get you there.  I hope you'll check in on us there!  We've done some great experiments and will be sharing more about our geography, history and preschool activities in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day Word Hunt Game

I came across a Valentine's Boggle Game at Teacher's Pay Teachers. I printed it out and much to my surprise both LD and DD loved it.  They did it both yesterday and today and then complained that it was too easy the second time.


I promised the kids I'd make a new word hunt for them and just finished it this evening. My version is not as cute as the one at TPT, but I'll share it with you anyway. You can download my version of the Valentine's Day Word Hunt here. On the second page I'm hoping they find lots of -ow and -ou words.

Facebook Too!

So yesterday I managed to get my Twitter account sorted out. I'm so excited to see 15 people following me already!  This evening I managed to sort out my new Facebook account too, though I'm not quite sure how to add the like button in. I'm so excited to start chatting there! I even posted my first question for y'all... do you manage to get time to yourself during your busy day? Pop on over and leave me a comment if you'd like!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Face Behind the Blog!

Hi! Nice to meet you!

As you may know, we will be joining the Parent's blog team pretty soon.  Our family decided we'd like to share a couple of photos of the family behind this blog.  Here's my photo for what it's worth! (Ugh... don't mind the fly-away hair!) When we transfer over we'll have a photo of me and the kids to share with you as well.

Do you know how we all blog about the things that have gone well, but leave out other things (like what we don't accomplish, the things that flop, the messes that don't get cleaned up, the laundry that piles up)?  Well, one thing I know practically nothing about Twitter and Facebook. But in anticipation of the move I created a Facebook and Twitter account. I've had to stay up late... really late... (trying) to figure these things out.  So for what it's worth I've created a Twitter button. Hope I don't do it "all wrong." There's a part of me that's nervous to start something I don't know much about. I guess I'll learn by doing, right?!

Oh--and on that same theme of things that don't go so well... yesterday when the kids and I were all playing a game together, a game that involved hopping, jumping and things like that , ED got upset (throwing herself on the ground, crying, but desperately not wanting to quit the game) not once, not twice but three times. Do you have those days? At that point it was time to send the kids to work quietly by themselves followed by some good quality outdoor time!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day Math Games: Division and Subtraction Cards and other games


I made a Valentine's Day set of division cards to use with LD over the next week or so. We use these cards to play a game called Fast Track -- an idea we got from Peggy Kaye's Games for Math.
To make the board you need a large piece of butcher paper or poster board. There are three win spaces, three start spaces and various directions on the other spaces such as stay put, move ahead three, double move, triple move, go back 1 space, lose a turn and so forth. Each player takes a turn turning over a card and solving the problem. He/she moves ahead that many spaces and follows the directions on the space. For example, if he moves ahead 10 and lands on a double move space, then he gets to take another card and go again. The first player to land on a "win" space wins the game.
You can download a set of the Valentine's Day Division Cards here if you are interested.
Here's another glimpse at the game board I made over a year ago.


DD also loves playing this board came so I made a set of subtraction cards for her.  You can down load the
Valentine's Day Subtraction Cards here. We all played the game together with LD using his division cards and DD using her subtraction cards.

Since DD is still working on these subtraction problems and doesn't know them by heart, she uses her abacus (pictured below) to help her work through the problem. We still use many of the wonderful ideas and manipulatives from the Right Start Math curriculum, though we use it as an extra rather than our core math.

Last year when we played this game, DD was working on sums of 10 through 17.  I made a set of cards for her and you can download the Addition Cards here.

The other game we've been playing is just a simple eraser toss game.  ED has trouble remembering her numbers consistently by sight so she simply has to tell us the number she landed on.  DD has to double the number she lands on while LD has to square the number. It's a quick game that all three kids enjoyed.

In the photo below is a skip-counting maze I printed out for DD.  You can find it and other skip counting sheets (1s,2s,3s,4s,5s)  at Print Activities.


Our Move: On another note, next week, the week of Valentine's Day, our blog will be joining the Parent's team over at Parents.com/blog.  I'll have a link from this address to get you there.  I hope you'll check in on us there!  We've done some great experiments and will be sharing more about our geography, history and preschool activities in the next couple of weeks. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Preschool: Free Valentine's Day Word Matching Game

ED has been working a lot on letter sounds and simple -at and -an words. I made this Valentine's themed word matching activity for her to work on over the next couple of weeks. She has to attach the clothes peg to the matching word on the wheel. It took some cutting pasting to put it together, but if you'd like to make your own you can download the pages I made here--Valentine's Day Word Match.

On Tuesday, I'll be sharing another Valentine freebie (math) that I made for my 8 year old.

Other Valentine's Day themed activities:

Heart dot-to-dot (1 to 30 found here) (1 to 16 found here). There's also a Valentine candy counting maze at 2 Teaching Mommies.

Math Grid: We'll play lots of grid games where you roll the die and cover that many spaces until someone's board is completely filled. The one we're using is no longer available but you can find a cute Valentine bear grid game over at PreKinders.

Counting Cards: I have some activities that are no longer available, but there's a similar count and clip activity at 2 Teaching Mommies called Cupid Clip Cards. Nicole at Tired Needs Sleep has very cute heart counting cards. You can find a Valentine's number match up at Confessions of a Homeschooler.

Jill over at Enchanted Homeschooling Mom has a very cute set of 1-12 number cards with Valentine owls.
Storage: Here's how I stored some of the loose bits in ED's workbox. I just stapled two heart together and glued another small heart to the front. Simple, but it helps contain the mess!
Other Letter V and Valentine Ideas: This letter hunt is by Erica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has lots of other great ideas in this post. I really love the dry erase activity center that ED got for Christmas because you can slip other sheets (like Erica's printable) inside as well as the ones it came with. (I see it is currently $14.78 at Amazon.)






Valentine Crafts: There's lots of good craft ideas at Activity Village and at the Crafty Crow.   DD made the penguin and tissue paper heart card to the left for an elderly family friend who is quite ill.

Our Move: On another note, next week, the week of Valentine's Day, our blog will be joining the Parent's team over at Parents.com/blog.  I'll have a link from this address to get you there.  I hope you'll check in on us there!  We've done some great science experiments and will be sharing more about our geography and history activities in the next couple of weeks.