Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making Butter

Samuel is reading Little House in the Big Woods and loving it. In one of the chapters, Laura details the butter churning chore. We made a simplified version:
  1. Fill a clean baby food jar half-way with heavy whipping cream.
  2. Shake, shake, shake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Obviously this step is better as a shared task. The cream goes to a whipped cream stage where you think shaking it isn't doing anything, and then all of a sudden the buttermilk starts to separate and the butter granules form. Just keep shaking.
  3. I then dumped the contents of the jar into a strainer over a glass. Buttermilk was considered a treat for Laura's family and Samuel really liked it, too.
  4. Here was my mistake...I used a spoon to try to get all the liquid out and some of the soft butter also went through the strainer. Next time, I'll be gentler.
  5. You can salt it, but we didn't. We spread it on saltine crackers so that's where our salt came from. Delicious.
  6. It only makes a couple tablespoons, but it was more than we wanted at the moment, so we put it in a small container covered in the fridge.
Honestly, I was a little intimidated by the idea of making butter. In fact, I bought the cream and waited until the best buy date before doing it. But Samuel kept pushing for it...he's such a crafty-minded boy. Too bad he got me for a mother :-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Spy Game?

My son has a play date today with a girl from his class. They created a "Spy Club" which seems to consist, in part, of hiding "spy gear" around the house. I'm not sure what this spy gear is though.

Then they sneak (very loudly) around hiding behind the sofa watching me type on the computer until they burst out laughing and run away. This has already happened a handful of times.

I wish I could remember how the seven-year-old mind thinks, because I'm sure this is a great game, but my adult brain just can't seem to figure it out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Afterschooling in the Second Grade

School started on the day after Labor Day. With only three school days, there is approximately 4 hours of homework a week, with the majority of it being done on Mondays and Fridays. That curriculum/work-at-home has little to no flexibility.

So how do I afterschool? I supplement what they are already doing, and add in a few other things that I think might be interesting and fun.

They are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble. We read a different pioneer story with a boy as the main character. It also dealt with the issue of slavery, as the family in question was moving to Kansas Territory before it became a state so that when it did become a state, they could help make it a free state.

Now we are reading A Cricket in Times Square, which is on several "lists".

They are studying cave art as the first unit in art. I have ordered some additional books from the library, but the book on Jackson Pollock came in first. We skimmed it and then Samuel made his own art inspired by Pollock, using crayons instead of paints.

They are not working on multiplying or dividing in math, but we have had a half dozen or so times over the last month where we need to divide by 2 or 3, and I have had him "help" me figure it out.

As Cub Scouts gets in full swing, it seems that there are many opportunities for him to learn something and get rewarded (with a patch, belt loop, or pin) at the same time.

And there are ALWAYS animals. This is his main passion, if an average 7-year old has a passion. Be the Creature with the Kratt brothers is a new series being recorded on our DVR. We also have a binder where he received animal cards in the mail every 2 months, as well as many zoo trips. He knows things about animals I never dreamed existed.

So, even though I don't teach him everything at home, I am still "in charge" of his education. Thank goodness for his wonderful school, with curriculum I would choose if I were homeschooling, and teachers who really care.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Second Grade!

Samuel has finished his first week of second grade. I thought it would all be review. Oh no. They started reading The Courage of Sarah Noble, learned five Latin words, and began the learning the 2,9,11 triplet. In first grade they learned the +/- facts by "fact houses"; this year they'll learn all the fact triplets up through 18, as well as multi-digits with carrying and borrowing. He's loving it all and very proud of himself for being a second grader.

I'm still dedicated to afterschooling to his interests (like animals), providing good literature as bed-time reading, and encouraging creative play during non-school hours.

Samuel's extra-curricular activities this year include Awana and Cub Scouts, and in mid-October he wants to pick up swimming again.

I never wanted an only child and I always wanted to homeschool, but I love my life the way it turned out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Math" Book Recommendation

This book is hilarious! I would link to amazon here so you can see it, but I can't get it to work right now.

The book is called "Math Curse" by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. The narrator is a student whose teacher puts a "math curse" on him/her with this statement, "You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem." So, of course, the narrator proceeds to have a full day of being driven crazy by thinking of everything as a math problem.

The part that cracked us up so much we had to take a break is from the the page where the narrator is describing how each non-math subject is turned into a math problem:
"English is a word problem: if mail + box = mailbox:
1. Does lipstick - stick + lip?
2. Does tunafish + tunafish + fournafish?"

Fournafish...I'm even chuckling as I type this. There are a few real problems in the first few pages, but more importantly to me, this book shows that math can be fun (or funny...whichever way you want to look at it). We've been struggling with this a little because school sent home a bridge/review math workbook that needs to be turned in to his second grade teacher when school starts.

And on a totally unrelated note, Samuel and I have been team playing Family Feud on Facebook (my account). A few days ago, one of the Fast Money questions was "What do people call the smartest kid in school?" Samuel blurted out "awesome". I love that his school has a culture where the smartest kids are admired and not called names, like nerd, which happened to be the #1 answer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Busy Summer

Summer is getting to be a little busier than I planned, but I seem helpless to slow it down.

The second week of June, we spent in Edisto Beach, SC, which is not a real touristy beach and I felt that we were just enjoying each other and the down time. Samuel and Chris loved playing in the waves together and finding shells to bring home. It was great that they got to spend so much time together every day. I did not bring Samuel's workbooks with us. We read together as a family each night and Samuel had a book he had brought to read for fun and finished a few chapters.

When we got back, it was to an e-mail from school that we were to pick up a Math workbook for the students to finish during the summer and turn in to their teachers. So, now we have Math every day, cursive 3 times a week, and a summer reading list to work on (complete with "book reports" - one page that is half filled with a drawing). All this to turn into the teacher at the beginning of the school year.

I am actually fine with this in theory, but I had planned on doing my own math and writing reviews with him in a more fun/less workbook-y way.

Then he has friends wanting play dates, swim lesson once a week, our family volunteer commitment once a week. VBS one week, zoo camp one week, fun day camp one week. I am working about 5 hours a day Monday through Thursday, and I am starting to feel like that old commercial "Calgon take me away!"

I really didn't realize I was "overprogramming" but that is exactly what happened. I have to find a way to slow things down, at least for Samuel, so that summer can be a more relaxed, fun time for him.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last Day of "Away" School

...equals first day of summer home school! We do some after-schooling during the school year, but summer is so much more fun. Samuel loves school and learning, and is actually excited that he has some summer assignments.

In addition to the summer reading list where he has to turn in simple book reports (consisting of the title, author, sentence about the book, and a drawing) at the beginning of the school year, this year, he also has a summer cursive practice book with 3 assignments per week scheduled. Each page has 2 exercises, out of
  1. practicing a particular letter,
  2. copying a verse, quote, or grammar rule, and
  3. listing certain things (like nouns that have a "b" in them, for example, or names of 4 of your friends).

His teacher also sent home a "bored bag" filled with little strips of paper with something to do written on each one. They can simply reach in, pull out a strip of paper, and follow the instruction. I'm planning to get him a special notebook to record the ones he chooses. Here are some of them:
  1. Begin at 34. Count as far as you can by 10's.
  2. Write words belonging to the _ig family. Read your list to someone. Write a story with those words.
  3. Write the vowels on a sheet of paper. Think of three words for each vowel sound.
  4. Go outside. Find out which direction is North, South, East, and West. Write what you see when you face each direction. Illustrate.
  5. Cut pictures of foods. Make 5 categories: Dairy Products, Meats, Furits & Vegetables, Breads & Cereals, and JUNK. Arrange the picutres in the right category.
  6. Plant something outside or help take care of a garden.
  7. Write all the number facts you can think of that have 12 as the answer. (they did not do these facts in the first grade)
  8. Use only the letters in your name to make as many new words as you can.
  9. Find an object in your house that begins with each letter of the alphabet.
  10. Fill the sink with water. Put a towel down on the floor. Gather objects that can get wet. Predict which ones will sink and which will float. Test your predictions.

And there are many many more. If I get any comments asking for more of these, I'll write them in another post.

For my part, I plan to

  1. Have him read for 20 minutes every day and write his book report on finishing a book.
  2. Do his cursive book 3 times per week.
  3. Choose from the bored bag 3 - 5 things per week.
  4. He will have swimming class once per week and 1-2 hours 2-3 times per week in the neighborhood pool.
  5. Read alouds according to interest. Right now we are reading from the Burgess Animal Book. We recently tried Twenty-one Balloons, but he wasn't ready for it, which disappointed me since I was really enjoying it. I have a list I work from, but only continue to read a particular book if he's interested. If he's not interested, that book gets moved to the bottom of the list. Usually by the time it comes around again, he's ready for it.
  6. We're going to learn to sing "In the Garden" for my father for his birthday in September, since that's his favorite hymn (he calls it "Andy Walks With Me").
  7. We'll continue to work on the States Song (Turkey in the Straw tune) and the Bible Book Bop (a Go Fish song), both of which we currently get lost in the middle :-)
  8. Playing Yahtzee is a great way for practicing addition, including regrouping and carrying (when we add up the final points), with some minor introduction to multiplication. We just started a new game tonight and it went so well, I told him we could play every night.
  9. We will continue our weekly service committment helping in a local collection ministry (they collect and sort donated items to send to area ministries, sometimes having a "drive" to meet a specific need).
  10. Other learning opportunities as they come up. We are always on the look-out for these opportunities.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crayon Logic

One of my favorite things about the internet is that you can find such great ideas from ordinary people just like you. Not like me, though. I am a great collector and user of other people's ideas :-)

One of these great ideas is using ordinary crayons in logic puzzles. I have seen wonderful logic books, mainly from Critical Thinking, but they are very expensive, and well, it's still a workbook. My child looks at all things workbook with suspicion. But I have great luck in using games to teach. And this looks suspiciously like a game to me, and for a very reasonable price.

I just purchased the Level 1 logic set. I plan to use it on summer days that are too hot or too rainy to be outside. I'll let you know in a future post how much I like it.

Check it out at Ginger snap shots.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Need a Laugh?

Oh my, I haven't laughed this hard in a long time...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review

A friend of mine recently recommended this book to me - The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. She was using this book in her decision to keep her daughter (who turns 5 in June) in preschool for the Fall and wait until the next year to start her in Kindergarten.

Now since my son turned 5 in July 2008 and started Kindergarten that same year, I guess I was feeling a little defensive. Also, I was a "young" first grader (they didn't have mandatory Kindergarten when I started the school system).

I don't really know where her child is in the "readiness", but it seemed in her e-mail that she was using this book to make her decision for her. She didn't mention her daughter at all in why she made her decision. Also, I don't normally "read" non-fiction. I don't know why I decided to read it.

I loved it! It's actually more about why certain people are successful and why others aren't. Only one example is given about age in starting Kindergarten being an unfair advantage to the older ones. All the stories though, were riveting, at least to me.

Actually, I kind of came away feeling that a home where the emphasis is on learning would be an advantage to any child, regardless of age. And it also gave me some things to be on the look-out for in helping Samuel be as "successful" as he wants to be, in whatever that might be.

So, I'm going to recommend it too, but for a totally different reason than my friend. And isn't that the mark of a really good book, anyway, that it can be different things to different people?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spelling Bee!

Samuel's school is out for "Spring Break". The reason for the quotation marks should be obvious as, not only is it not even officially Spring yet, it's extremely cold outside. Really, it should be called "Trimester" break, since the second trimester just ended. He's doing great in every area except timed math fact drills. He is fairly motion-oriented and that doesn't make for quick work.

Normally they have a spelling test every Tuesday, but since they would be gone for a whole week, his teacher decided to have a class spelling bee yesterday on their words for the week. Whenever we do "bee" type studying, he makes lots of mistakes while he dances around to the tune of "The Spelling Song" or whatever he hears in his head.

So, I'm trying to get him to act like a real bee, spelling the words while standing mistakes. I point this out to him and it's like a light bulb in his head. He actually won the class bee yesterday, and if you ask him, he is very surprised because he thought either Meg or Tristan were the best spellers in the class.

So, now I'm going to work on translating that to the timed math drills - 21 problems in 1 minute. And he thought he wasn't going to have any school next week!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Sweetness in Classic Literature

Samuel received a Hardy Boys mystery in his classroom's Christmas book exchange. However, it was #3 in the series and he is one of those people who has to read the books "in order" even if they don't really build on each other. So we checked out #1 "The Tower Treasure" from our church's children's library and began reading it.

Now I don't want you to think I am confusing this with "The Classics", but since this book was originally published in 1927 and people still want to read it today, it has shown the undurance of "good literature".

We still have 6 chapters to go, but I want to say that even though the main characters, Joe and Frank Hardy, are teenagers, I think this is a great book to read to a six-year old. You can't say that about some of the teen literature out today.

Here is a really cute example of what I mean by "sweetness":
"...Frank's face lighted up, for he had recognized Callie Shaw, who was in his class at Bayport High. Frank often dated Callie and liked her better than any girl he knew."

Now isn't this much better sounding than today's world where boys and girls are acting like they are in adult relationships at age 13 and up? Just something I'm thinking about after watching Lifetime's "Pregnancy Pact" last night.