Monday, April 27, 2009



Remember those? I know they've been around forever... and are still going...

Well, I hadn't thought much about them, but we've worked with some basics of grammar this year in our schooling. In one of the multiple activity books we have, Gabi stumbled across something that she didn't understand... it was, in short, a mad lib, though by another name. She and Beth really liked it and went in search of others in the same book.

So I got to thinking... it's fun, it reinforces the parts of the sentences we've already gone over, and easy for on the go or "I'm bored" time. In looking for Mad Libs (which there are so many in every topic) I noticed there are also MAD LIB JRs... the difference... well, the book is a bit bigger with bigger print to start with. The major difference, however, is that instead of having the kid think up the noun, adjective, etc all by themselves, there is a word bank for each category (a different set of word banks for each story). This helps the kids to begin to identify which words are what. It also only has three categories - Noun, Adjective, Verb and MISC - which simplifies things.

I got the Jr version for Beth not knowing exactly what it was. It's perfect... though she's probably somewhere between that and the original version for skill level. What she does is use the word bank, but if she thinks of a word that she wants to use, then she double checks with me as to which word bank to add it to. I think that's great because it helps her process different words herself.

Anyway - we love them... they'll be around for a long time...

Maine Wildlife Park

So the Planetarium wasn't a big hit, but the Wildlife Park was! They loved it. We spent 3 hours there and only left because it was dinner time and the kids wanted to eat. They've all asked to go back again - we'll be going again when Bob's folks come to visit. It's not huge, but it was interesting enough that the kids really watched the animals and asked questions. Gabi wanted to take time to draw them all - the boys wouldn't wait that long though.

It was set up kind of like a zoo - all animals who aren't able to be in the wild. I'm not sure if the ones we were able to see were all ones who will never be able to be back in the wild, or just not at that point. But the place works with animals that need rehab so they can be released back into the wild as well. Unlike a zoo, though, the animals are all native to Maine - so, sorry, no elephants or Lions or Monkeys or the like...

I'd say it's certainly worth going to!

The Planetarium in Portland

Okay, so we went... to Portland, Maine... to the Planetarium. Not what I was expecting. Not bad either, just not something I'd take young kids to. The "show" turned out to be a slide show of information - I had thought it would have been a "movie". My kids (7, 5, nearly 4, and 2) did really well.... okay, so the 2 year old fell asleep, the nearly 4 year old decided 45 minutes into it that is was just too boring, the 5 year old was also "done" about 10 minutes to the end. The 7 year old, though it was her favorite topic (or one of them), said we didn't need to stay and see the other show. Partly because she was afraid it might be scary (the topic was Black Holes), but also, so she told me, because it wasn't as fun as she thought it would be.

So... I'd say 3rd grade age and up would be fine. Anything less than that, make other plans.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Of Interest - and a Meteor Shower

Okay, Okay... so we've not been around much. If would certainly seem that we've all been busy doing all the wonderful things (and maybe not so wonderful) that stream into our lives over the last few months... I'm here, though, because I wanted to share some more gems of interest.

My family is into stars - the children received a telescope from Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas (which hasn't had a lot of use yet because it was always sooooo crazy cold on good clear nights). With that in mind, we're planning a bit of a field trip and the logical place would have been the planetarium in Boston... but wait, I found one closer.

Actually, I seem now to have found two closer. One in Fairfield and one at USM. The links can be found below. The one in Fairfield, best I can tell, is a traveling one. Sounds pretty neat... and it'll be at the Kingfield days for anyone interested. The one at USM has all sorts of shows and workshops. Go ahead and check them out.

Northern Stars Planetarium
Southworth Planetarium

I also thought you'd be interested to know there is to be a meteor shower tomorrow morning before dawn. (Not sure we'll be able to see through the clouds for it, but it would be neat to see if the clouds break).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Explode The Code

Okay, so I typically baulk at programs suggested for me by other people... at least initially, though I do usually check them out myself. Well, since I had two children reading in the early "pre-school" years, I didn't really give a good look at Explode the Code. Yeah, I'll admit it, I'm good at assuming everything is wrong, and then having to admit that I'm wrong instead!

I have been using notebooks to do reading comprehension (I read the book, or chapters, and write down questions, she answers them) and then also for writing prompts (I either start the sentence and she completes the "story" or I suggest an idea and she has to write around that). I really like this method because it forces her to come up with her own ideas and thoughts!

However, my mother works with younger children learning to read. She mentioned that children who learn to read young, and who read at very advanced levels, will suddenly stop comprehending the material because they can read words that they don't understand and they have never had to "work out" what something means. PROBLEM. RED FLAG. Not that we were at that point yet, but I didn't want to get there either.

Since she had also given me many of the Explode the Code books that were left over from last year, I decided to try them out. I was not too impressed.... they seemed overly simplified. Almost belittling to my "smart" child. But as I thought more about it, I realized that the program forces children to "slow down" and "study out what they've read" by using sentences that make sense with the picture, but would not make sense in real life along with normal real life ones. It also uses tremendous repetition.

I started my oldest two (ages 6 and 4) on these books, at different levels. They love them. So I let them continue. I know that I started Gabi lower than her level, but I wanted her to get the handle on the program without the frustration. She's already half way through her second book and we only started this last month.

She has added new words to her vocabulary (our family seems to know more big words then little... at least our children). She's learned to "speak up" and ask what something means. (She's also learned how to look up the word in a dictionary) And I've seen this spill over in our daily conversations as well. Big words that she was using correctly, she'll actually ask for the definition of, and then either admit that she'd done it right, or correct her own sentences. And she's going back and re-reading books that she loved before and coming back with more information.

My third child also wants to get started... since he's 3 and has just started to read, I'll get him the "Get Ready for the Code" books to start with. They will help him to get his writing skills down, and be better at reading so he's not frustrated with the Explode the Codes when he gets there.

Glad To Know You're Still Checking In!

A quick apology to anyone who reads this - or tries to - on a regular basis... it's that time of year when we're all in the middle of the schooling process, and now it's the holidays too. Anyway, we're glad that you're still reading and hopefully we'll have more useful information for you all to use.

You can check out our individual blogs as well, as many of us publish our "daily" adventures there which might give more information or ideas to you. We tend to use this one more for passing on information that we know is helpful in other people's decision making in curriculum, teaching, and to ask and help try to answer questions we might have.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Affordable, Hands-On Math

I've done a lot of research in regards to math programs. I knew I wanted something very hands on, but I wanted to know that my children would be learning what they needed to. I also did not want to spend a bunch of money on the program (say $1000.00 just for a math program every single individual year!). So, with my husband and my mother working in different school systems, I was able to gather a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, I kept coming back to the price. I figured, for that price, I could get the manipulatives and create my own curriculum. My biggest fear was that I might miss a critical step some where that wouldn't be noticed until later on - when it was truly needed!

Anyway, I really liked what I had seen about the Bridges Program and even some of what I saw from the Investigations programs. Both programs are designed for classroom use - thereby, they are very expensive. And then I stumbled upon this program:

RightStart Mathematics. It's affordable (one years lessons, worksheets, and necessary manipulatives is no more than $180.00 with add on kits less then that - or the whole set (5 years of lessons, worksheets, and necessary manipulatives ) for $500. The do have a geometry set (2 years) that is less than $200.

Anyway, I chose this program because it's hands on, it's affordable, it has great reviews, and it works with the idea of quantifying and not just counting. If this is the kind of program you're looking for, then check it out. The customer service was wonderful and pleasant too!

Monday, September 15, 2008

What we are doing this year

I am glad you posted (KS) what you ordered. It is nice to see what others find useful, as well as seeing how others go about teaching for the year.
So for this year for liliana this is what we are doing. She is 3 1/2 so it is still mostly 'free' time

Alright so I bought the following book:
"Honey for a child's heart"- It has loads of wonderful time tested suggestions for books/media for various age groups that are available in most libraries. I picked up a similar book (also wonderful), called, "Best of the Best for children", between both of these books, each week I go through them and pick out books/media that I would like to check out that week to use for both my girls. What has been amazing to me (we are on week 3 now) is liliana's response.
So without her knowing it I go around the library and pick a few of these 'treasures' as well as random books i see that look good. Most of the 'treasure' books are old, or classics.
Within 24 hrs of having her new stash she has picked out her favorites for the week and it is always the treasure books that i selected from both of the books i purchased.
Her favorites right now are the Beatrix Potter books. She just loves picking two new ones out each week and will hardly let them out of her sight. Mr. Jeremy Fisher even goes to bed with her (some nights when she is having a hard time sleeping, we give her a wind up flashlight and a few favorite books and she reads in her bed for a bit).
So if anyone knows where I can get the peter rabbit books (complete set) please let me know. Online it is like 80-100$!!!
If any of you ever go into Twice Told tales, if you see it and it is 50$ or cheaper I will pay you to get it for me. We would like to give the set to our girls for Christmas.
Anyway, I am getting off topic. KInd of. I mean. I love that she loves these books that I keep picking out and enjoy a resource like that.
There are a few things we may order from Rainbow and I have been narrowing down some selections. We are still working on a workbook set I bought a few mts ago and we do that 3 days a week, at her request. It includes a bible story/coloring. As well as 5 other skill workbooks. She is really into the whole cutting/pasting, beadmaking or necklace making. She has also started to want to spell everything, in sound and writing. So we do alot of either actual writing (whatever words she chooses) or we use magnet letters to spell words out.
She also started her very first dance class last week. We are fortunate to have a studio here that is cheap enough to afford. Only $15/month for a 30min class once a week. If I told them I could not afford even that she would still be allowed to dance for free. So she really enjoyed that first class.
We meet every friday (right now at a park) with a homeschooling group that we have become close with. We do little field trips with them, like we are going apple picking in a few weeks. We have been to the dairy farm, will be going to the fire station. So that is another resource.
She is still watching her signing time and now enjoys helping Mattie learn how to sign.
We also go by UNE's library once a week, they have some wonderful educational DVD/Video's to check out. LIke right now she watches, The Blue Planet and mostly likes that.
Before I know it the week is full. This is how things are going for us right now.