Thursday, April 29, 2010

Having fun with language arts

This has been a good week in our homeschool. I decided to start slowing down because of the beautiful Spring weather and to concentrate on one subject a week. We do some of the others but not every day and only as the mood takes us. I find that Spring is the hardest season in which to do school, so we take it easy every Spring. We enjoy the warm weather before it becomes too hot and humid.

This week we concentrated on Language Arts. I dislike that term. Why Language Arts? Why not just grammar, literature, creative writing etc.? Anyway, be that it may, we did a lot of work with Shurley English. The kids were really enjoying the grammar part of Shurley this week. We ended up doing 3 chapters instead of the single one we normally do each week.

This was the week we wrote poetry. I have never heard so much giggling as I did while the children were writing their poems.
Archie
Larger than Hershey and looks funny,
Very short ears and large tummy.
Likes running, playing and walks,
Balls and sometimes sock.
He likes balls but not crates,
and has been neutered so he has no mates.
~ Ben, age 9

We spent hours reading poetry. Jack Prelutsky had us rolling on the floor.

I think they read Poetry Speaks to Children so may times that they know it by heart.

Shurley English had an exercise where the children had to write a personality poem based on a particular outline. These are some of the ones the kids wrote:

Shira,
Temperamental, funny.
Very tall, long hair,
Reading, riding, writing, sleeping ,walking,
Congenial.
~ Ben, age 9

Shira
Brainy, careful,
Grey eyes, tall figure.
Horses, watermelon, friends, family, peace and quiet.
Lovable.
~ Shira, age 9

Mom
Demanding, brainy,
Tall figure, stern grey eyes.
Teaching, reading, Facebook, e-mail, mothering.
Kind
~ Shira age 9

Dad
Cheerful, clever.
Brown eyes, charcoal hair.
Parenting, reading, technology, astronomy, Wagner.
Lovable.
~ Shira, age 9

Notice how differently Ben sees Shira from the way she sees herself?

They wrote a lot of limericks. I think the worse they were, the more the kids laughed. This is the only one that survived in print.

There once was a king of Parcheesi,
He always forgot his sneezy.
Snot few wild
and hit a child,
He said it was very easy.
~ Ben, age 9

Much to Shira's delight, we worked through a bunch of exercises in Prufrock Press's reading comprehension program, Jacob's Ladder. I'll write more about this program in another post. Suffice to say that it is streets ahead of any other comprehension program I've seen. It's not a check the box program. It has the children thinking beyond the story.

One of our favorite online stores is Mindware. The kids love their building toys and adore their puzzle books. This week they were having fun with Word Winks. Each book contains over 300 visual verbal puzzles.

I'm embarrassed to admit that my children are better at these puzzles than I am.

I was tickled pink when Ben made one for "No one left behind".

No 1 left behind

Children, Charity and Geography

The children have recently started earning wages. They start each week off with 500 pennies. They can increase this money be doing any number of activities that we're trying to get the children to do. Currently these are things like personal hygiene (why is this so difficult for children?), kindness to others, not being bossy in certain situations, putting dishes into the dishwasher, feeding the dogs and taking out the trash.

They can also lose pennies by not doing something that is part of what they are expected to do to earn their 500 pennies. Currently these are things like switching off lights, keeping their bedrooms tidy, not leaving shoes and coats everywhere. Sometimes we provide incentives for things they should be doing but aren't doing as this works so much better than taking things away from them. As the activity becomes habitual, I start reducing the size of the incentive and then let it drop and make it part of the set wages.

At the end of every week they divvy up their wages. Twenty percent goes to long term savings, 10% to charity and they get to keep the rest.

The children have opted to use their charity money in an interesting way. Instead of just handing it over to a charity, they are using it to provide micro loans to business people in developing countries. They use Kiva.org to do this.

I am a huge fan of Kiva's. I like how they empower people to earn better livings and how they do not do handouts. Every person who receives a micro loan is expected to repay it over a set time that is agreed upon, loan by loan.

What this means is that the money you lend out is repaid and you can lend it out again. This way you make a difference in many more people's lives than if you just gave handouts.

Kiva personalizes the site by listing all the people who are asking for loans. You know what country they are in, who the local lending partner is (and their track record), why they want the loan, a little bit of history about the person and their track record in repaying loans if they have had any loans before.

The loans are also sorted by sector, so you can choose to make loans in agriculture, manufacturing, retail etc.


Born in 1957, Mrs. Hanu AWOUDJA is married and mother to five children. Her income-generating activity is the production and sale of cassava flour. She is requesting this loan in order to stock up on cassava from farmers in her town, so that she can increase her production capacity, income and profits.



Delgertuya is 39 years old and a widow who lives with her two children in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. She and her family live together in a ger, the traditional Mongolian nomadic tent. She operates a grocery store in her yard. Delgertuya has been operating this business since 2006 and has built a stable operation over the past four years.

However, her husband passed away and she was left to raise her two children. At that time it was hard for her to continue her work, but she has since worked diligently to grow her business to its current successful position. Her grocery store is in a good location and her business is stable. Delgertuya has been planning to purchase large amounts of products for her store to increase her sales. She is a very hard-working person and says, “I would like to expand my grocery store and to open a supermarket in future.” She is requesting a loan to increase her inventory.

Important Information About This Loan
About Credit Mongol:
Credit Mongol’s mission is to contribute to the prosperity of Mongols by providing diversified financial services to micro-loan and small and medium enterprise (SME) clients and to become the best-performing company in micro-loan and SME financing in Mongolia.


Ben and Shira spend hours going through all the loan requests before they decide on who they want to lend money to. The beauty of Kiva is that you can make loans as small as $25. If a person requests a loan of say $800, they might receive funding from 32 different people.

Kiva sends out updates from the field so throughout the loan period you hear about how the people who received your loans are doing, how the country is faring and what factors are influencing the loan holder's business.

It's amazing what the process of choosing who to lend to and reading the follow up emails does for the children's geography. They have been looking the countries up in maps and on the globe and are starting to realize what charmed lives they lead.

If you are looking for a charity to support, I highly recommend Kiva.org.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Neat idea for Mother's Day

I'm no fan of fabricated events. Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, etc. make me shake my head. Such a performance is made over a single day. Heaven forbid someone forgets to send cards or flowers. All of a sudden, this lack means that you aren't loved. I read Facebook and email lists on these days and wonder how a single Hallmark holiday can take on such importance. To me, it's the day-to-day living that shows love and respect. We shouldn't need a special day to show this, especially if our year-round actions don't say this.

That said, StoryCorps has launched a book, Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps, in time for Mother's Day that really appeals to me.
In Mom, Dave Isay, StoryCorps founder and editor of the bestselling book, Listening Is an Act of Love, presents a celebration of American mothers from all walks of life and experiences. Selected from StoryCorps’ extensive archive of interviews, Mom presents the wisdom that has been passed from mothers to their children in StoryCorps’ recording booths across the country.




This book doesn't harp on the actions of a single day, instead it shows how mothers throughout the country and decades have inspired their children through their longterm acts of love.

You can read interviews such as this one between Jerry Johnson and his mother Carrie Conley who raised 6 children as a single mother.

StoryCorps is offering a a free gift card to add to the book (if you buy it, that is) to truly give the gift of listening. The card entitles you to record an interview between you and your mother, inspired by the StoryCorps interviews in the book. The simple act of interviewing a loved one is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give and a wonderful way to show someone you care.

I think this is a really neat Mother's Day gift.

I'm fascinated by StoryCorps.
StoryCorps is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, over 50,000 everyday people have interviewed family and friends through StoryCorps. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages. The heart of StoryCorps is the conversation between two people who are important to each other: a son asking his mother about her childhood, an immigrant telling his friend about coming to America, or a couple reminiscing on their 50th wedding anniversary. By helping people to connect, and to talk about the questions that matter, the StoryCorps experience is powerful and sometimes even life-changing.


I love the idea of setting Ben and Shira a project to interview family members for posterity. I tried to have them do this two years ago but they were still too young. I think now is the time to float this idea again. They have such diverse stories in their heritage, ones that deserve to be remembered.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Arts Bash winners

I want to dedicate this post to homeschool parents. You are giving your children the most incredible gift. The gift of having the time to follow their passions. The entries in the Book Arts Bash were "knock your socks off" good. I doubt that children who are rushed to within an inch of their lives could have written novels of this calibre. It makes me so proud to be part of this creative and incredible community.

Kindergarten and First Grade:

Winner:
A Big Problem by Brianna T.
Runners up:
Adventures of Big D and BMC by Emma W.
Zoo With A Strange Zookeeper by Vivian L.

Second and Third Grade:

Winner:
The Adventures of Blue Flame the Heroic Giant Squid-Fighting Hero by Sage M.
Runners Up:
Ruby, A Twisting Tale by Emilie M.
Mittens the Cat by Melea von T.

Fourth and Fifth Grade:

Winner:
1 by Nicci M.
Runners up:
One Girl Revolution by Sadie Z.
Blaze by Alexandra S.

Sixth Grade:

Winner:
The Princess by Lena G.
Runners up:
Becoming Callie by Lena G.
Trixie by Lydia A.

Seventh Grade:

Winner:
Happy Ending is a Place by Mandy H.
Runners up:
Violet Fire by Bryn B.
Kite by Hannah S.

Eighth Grade:

Winner:
Hollin by Garrett R.
Runners up:
Common Animals by Thomas B.
Little Angel by Adayla S.

Ninth Grade:

Winner:
Why I Missed the Second Set by Rose C.
Runners up:
Untitled by Larissa S.
Tales of the Humbats: The Seventh Piece by Raven M.

Tenth Grade:

Winner:
Children of the Stars by Holden M.
Runners up:
Shattering Darkness by Vienna H.
The Scouser Cap by Emily V.

Eleventh Grade:

Winner:
Cadence by Scout G.
Runners up:
Vengeance: 25 cents by Kathleen M.
Don't Look Down by Tanya S

Twelfth Grade:

Winner:
If Pearls Could Sing by Pamela C.
Runners up:
Broken Things by Emily D.
Falling Night by Anna W.


Big thank you to our generous sponsors:

Dreambox: Visit Dreambox for an incredible interactive math curriculum for kids from preschool through third grade. For kindergarten math, Dreambox is unparalleled in fun and pedagogical value. Check out the free trial and see what you think!

Shurley Grammar: A grammar curriculum that takes your child from first through seventh grade, using drills and jingles to teach writing skills (and also reading skills!) along the way. A trusted name in home education, Shurley will not steer you wrong.

Classical Academic Press: If you're contemplating teaching Latin or Greek in your homeschool, you definitely need this system. With audio, video, fun activities, and online Latin games, as well as standard workbooks and quizzes, anyone can teach Latin.

Prufrock Press: Parents of gifted children often have difficulty finding work that will challenge their kids' abilities while still being fun. Prufrock's gifted education materials are a godsend. Kids see them as a treat!

Explode the Code: Many of us have used Explode the Code workbooks with our kids and enjoyed the progressive phonics curriculum. Now Explode the Code has launched an online version, taking their reading education to a whole new level.

Can you help us by republishing the results and sponsor links on your blog, supporting homeschooled writers and this novel-writing contest? Please email us or leave a comment to let us know you can help. We need twenty blogs to participate. Would you donate a post on yours?

You can use this text file to copy and paste into your blog editing software. Right click to download.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Son of a gun!

Ben obviously misheard this urban legend:
An urban legend sometimes states that a story reported in the October 7, 1864 The American Medical Weekly about a woman impregnated by a bullet that went through a soldier's scrotum and into her abdomen was the origin of the term "son of a gun." The story about the woman was a joke written by Dr. Legrand G. Capers; some people who read the weekly failed to realize that the story was a joke and reported it as true.

In Ben's retelling, the bullet ricochets off the soldier's knee and then enters the woman's abdomen, making her pregnant.

Ben was full of outrage that anyone could believe anything so ludicrous as any fool knows that there is no way a bullet can ricochet off a knee.

Oh, to be young, earnest and innocent again.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bite-Size Physics

I am pleased to announce that my search for an upper elementary school/middle school physics program is over. The winner of this long and frustrating competition is Science Jim's program, Bite-Size Physics.



He's taken high school physics and made is accessible to elementary aged children. Some of the lessons contain math, but those are optional. Leaving the math lessons out does not detract from the program.

So why am I in love with this program?

Each lesson is written up in a friendly, easy to use format. I don't have to search through the net and the library for supporting information. What you see, is what you need. Each concept is backed up by easy to do, fool proof, experiments. You don't need specialized equipment.

As an example, in the first chapter, he explains what the scientific method is and then he has the children do experiments to practice the essential five steps of the scientific method. My kids think his mnemonic is hilarious - "Orange Hippos Take Classes Regularly". The first experiment is titled, "The Diabolical Diaper Dilemma". You need a disposable diaper, water, a large bowl or sink, a measuring cup and two people, to carry out this experiment. He carefully walks the students through the entire process.

His script has the children doubled over with laughter. I love that. Laughter and learning go well together. For me, the best part is that I can use the script without having to decipher it into plain English.

The second experiment is called, "Drops on a penny (A.K.A. Underwater Presidents). The goal of this experiment is to work out how many drops of water a penny can hold by using the scientific method.

After a third, fun and interesting experiment, he recaps the essential points and then there is a quiz.

Many of the experiments are supported by videos featuring Science Jim doing the experiment.

The program covers: The scientific method, mechanics, friction, energy, sound, atoms, static electricity and thermal energy.

I'll keep you updated but for right now, I am as happy as a clam. This is a plug and play program that is funny, academically rigorous, and very easy to use.