Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First Piano Lesson

Me Too's first "real" piano lesson with Mommy.  I was going to wait until September (start of first grade like his brother) but he insisted that "today was the day!"  I was just eyeballing that Bjorn stool thinking, "Do we still need this around the house?"  I'm glad I figured out that we do before it went to the thrift shop.

Monday, March 24, 2014

School Days

It has been three weeks since I posted about our "school days" with both boys.  Here are some glimpses of our work over those several weeks.

Geometry lesson on convergent, divergent, and parallel lines.

Grammar Lesson on conjunctions.  We once again used ninjas instead of the traditional flowers.  It was kind of fun tying up the ninjas with the pink ribbon.

I also introduced adverbs...


...and prepositions.  

...and interjections. Wow!

I find it very unsatisfying that our discount grammar symbol tray has an extra spot.  We have all of the parts of speech on the tray but it doesn't look like it.  I need ideas for something fun and useful to put in that extra spot.  We have finally completed our first pass through MRD Language Arts, Vol. 1. We are immediately starting back at the beginning and with an emphasis on command boxes this time through.  It will go faster from here on out because I actually have all the materials made in advance this time.

Kal-El has been working on the distributive property with the bead bars.  The addition symbols are not necessary, nor is a multiplication sign.  Kal-El thinks it's really neat that putting a number outside of the parenthesis, or two sets of parentheses next to one another, is a secret code for multiplying so we definitely eliminate the multiplication sign these days.  

Our math cabinet now has a drawer each for the parentheses, white number cards, grey number cards, coin envelopes, -/+, X/=.  My mom made a whole pile of parentheses out of black cardstock on her Cricut.  THANKS MOM!  If you need a fast way to make your own number and operations tiles you can access my file for free here.  You will probably want to make two sets of the number tiles in case you want to set up two equations side-by-side and need the same number twice.

However, we tend to use the addition symbol to emphasize that we are not multiplying those numbers.  Kal-El kept thinking that we were because they were next to each other with no operator.  The bead bars here (without the operation sign) are a small bead snake so the child should know that they are being added together.

Kal-El was working on the division bingo board until he realized he hadn't memorized all of the equations during the previous boards, had a meltdown, and refused to do the work anymore until he has memorized the equations.  There are about five different ways to deal with this (such as repeating a previous board, doing the bingo board twice using the fingerboard in conjunction the first time but not the second, etc.,) but he wouldn't hear any of it for at least a day. What we wound up doing was supplementing the sequence with a fun division game from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational:

He refuses to repeat any of the memorization boards, but he will happily work with them on the iPad.  He's been using the division bingo board on the iPad a lot in his free time.  The difference is that the program scaffolds the board by limiting the number of quotient tiles you have to choose from for each equation.

This made Me Too jealous that he didn't have a multiplication game to go along with his traditional boards.  So, I made him the Leprechaun's Luck game again from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational.  

They love both games.  I'll probably also make him the Pot O' Gold multiplication game because it uses the same materials.  He uses the fingerboards right along with the game (currently the half board as in the picture.

This year I remembered to do the "Needs of Plants" presentation while it was still cold outside.  We do most of our botany in the summer, but it is hard to find a location for the fourth plant that has "no warmth" but still has light.  We have to do it in the winter.  Right now a pan of sprouts is growing on the kitchen counter for the "Plants Grow Toward the Light" demonstration.

Me Too has been working on multiplication with the stamp game.  It took about two weeks for him to abstract, much longer than addition and subtraction.  He now does the multiplication equations in his stamp game notebook without using any stamps.

Dueling bead frames!  Me Too has been introduced to the small bead frame.  He loves to get it out and work on addition equations while Kal-El works with multiplication on the large bead frame.  Kal-El is multiplying by two- and three-digit multipliers now.

Our paper is from the Keys of the Universe course. It is perfect.  The free versions I tried to use previously didn't have enough rows per page.  This makes it difficult to fit even one equation on the page when you have two- and three-digit multipliers, especially at the beginning when you decompose the multiplicand an extra time.  On the KotU paper we have room to do two equations if we are adding the zeros right away.  I also like that there is a spot on this paper for placing a "check" next to each row of the decomposed multiplicands as you add them to the bead frame.  

I want to add here, that I was overwhelmed by the large bead frame multiplication work after reading multiple presentations in several different albums.   I would never be able to successfully present it.  When I read Jessica's presentation in the KotU album I realized that she provided a script and that if I just read the script I couldn't mess it up.  It worked brilliantly.  Phew!

Kal-El varies the types of maps he chooses very frequently.  Here he is enjoying the Waseca stencils while Me Too records spelling words that I am dictating.

Here he is working with the state quarters map.  The continent boxes have also been out more than usual.

Me Too is not very interested in big projects.  I don't think he is entirely in the second plane yet. Kal-El always has a big project simmering.  I think this is Kal-El's favorite impressionistic chart.  He is still interested in living "off the grid" in space.  He has been working hard learning how to build rockets.  There are some great videos on YouTube, although I must warn you that your child will leave you "things needed" lists that include sugar, potassium nitrate, and a hand mixer (to make rocket fuel).  The funny thing about that list was that he misspelled "sugar" but spelled "potassium nitrate" perfectly.  

Right now he has followed a rabbit hole into the study of electricity as he is trying to discover a way to ignite the rocket fuel without blowing himself up.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pinewood Derby: We Did It Again!

This year BOTH boys participated in the Pinewood Derby.  Last year Me Too wasn't old enough, but Kal-El competed and took first place in his den and third place overall.

Here Me Too is celebrating with his Dad after realizing he had won first place in his den.  Kal-El was just as excited as he was and is behind him with his and on his shoulder.  Kal-El car was fast, but not nearly as fast as last year's.  We aren't entirely sure what went wrong but have some ideas.  He is already planning next year's car.

My husband obviously helps them build the cars, but doesn't build it by himself.  The boys do most of the work with their own hands.  My husband has to do most of the physical work in the wheel alignment process, but the boys did a lot of coaching.  They spend a couple of hours per week on the cars for about two months leading up to the derby.

Me Too was mobbed by his den when his car took first place in some of the finals heats.  They were chanting his name during the heats!

The boys, their cars, and their trophies.

I said, "Hey champ!" to Me Too at breakfast today.  He said, "You can just call me by my regular name.  It's okay if you call me champ sometimes, but usually just call me 'Me Too'."

Friday, March 21, 2014


At first, my blogging minutes were eaten up by the time I spent cutting holes in our kitchen soffits (nine total).  Fun job, but hard on my arms.  Switched from the drywall saw to the Dremel (opened my husband Christmas present for him, "from me" "to him". It turns out it was "from me" "to me.") The Dremel wasn't any faster but it was easier on my arms.  

Then my blogging time was re-directed to standing on a stepstool, staring at mysterious pipes and wires, and hypothesizing about where they might go.  This was followed by some cutting of holes in rooms that were NOT the kitchen.  
Lately, my blogging minutes have been eaten up while a long string of potential sub-contractors file through the house.  It appears I will be the "general contractor" on this job.  It's tricky.  I got a few quotes from real general contractors and couldn't afford the markup.  I'll be hiring real plumbers, electricians and drywallers so I don't anticipate losing my savings by missing out on materials discounts.  If I hear, "It's hard to tell you how much it's going to cost...blah, blah, blah...time and materials" one more time I might blow!  I just keep repeating, "I totally understand that, but you have to understand that I need at least a range with a high and a low so that I know if I'm going to have enough money to pay people when we are done."  It's taken all this just to order the cabinets and they still aren't ordered. I have at least two more meetings ahead of me before that can happen. It looks like sometime in May I will no longer have 1970's-fabulous cabinets and drawers that fall out on your feet when you open them.

What hasn't suffered is our school time!  (Pats self on back.)  I have taken tons of pictures but haven't had time to do anything with them.  My husband uploaded pictures last night so I was able to grab these and write this post. Have to go finish feeding the kids breakfast so we can head to the second countertop quoting place and then to a coop fieldtrip.

Friday, March 7, 2014

School Days: Me Too

Today Me Too gets his own post.

With Dad as den leader, Me Too made his own kalimba in this week's den meeting.

He always has something serious to say that makes me laugh inside.  This week he pointed to the math cabinet and said, "When I move into my own house I would like to take this with me."  "The math cabinet?" I asked.  "Yes," he replied.  "Well, just these four drawers." He pointed to the four drawers full of the loose equations for the memorization sequence.  "I'm going to give them to my wife so she can teach the kids."

Me Too working on a set of Karen Tyler's division story problems.  This envelope happened to be missing the quotient, but for other envelopes he had to find for the dividend or divisor.  Here is a closer look:

He has been choosing story problems daily.  He really likes them.  This was his last packet in his story problem basket.  I'm bumped  Kal-El out of the Evan-Moor basket he was working on and up into the "second grade" basket so that Me Too can now have the "first grade" basket to himself.  Kal-El was so excited about the new basket he completed twenty story problems the first day.

Puzzling over the Adverb, Logical Agreement game.  The vocabulary for this was tough!

The Animal Stories packets are tough reading for Me Too.  He generally needs me with him mostly due to the vocabulary.   The cards are hard enough that even I don't always know which animals the description matches.  You can dig your way out of this with the control card or, even better, you can look up the animal in the encyclopedia to make your matches.  Kal-El is usually happy with the latter.  Me Too is usually already tired from reading the card and doesn't want to tackle an adult encyclopedia next.

This was the third packet of Animal Stories in our set.

He worked with several puzzle maps.

He likes working with Montessori geography apps on the iPad as well.

In the last couple weeks Me Too started and finished all of the exercises with the multiplication bead board.  Above he is working with the board and the tables charts.

Above he is working with loose equations.  Finally, but not pictured, he drew products and had to discover all the equations that fulfilled them.

One of his many word studies was a study of  "long-oo" versus "short-oo."

 He helped prepare the specimens for the "Needs of Plants" work.

He really likes the Albanesi command cards for geometry.  In the photo above he has taken every figure out of the geometric cabinet one at a time and categorized by name on a chart according to number of sides.

He's a busy little guy and only a small amount of his work is pictured.  He has been particularly busy with the stamp game.  He finished working through our whole drawer of dynamic subtraction equations.  He does the equations with the stamps until he understands how to do the carrying.  As soon as he reaches that point he prefers to do them just on paper.  He did two static multiplication equations with the stamps and worked through all of the static multiplication equations in the drawer abstractly on paper as well.  Next week I have to show him dynamic multiplication with the stamps.  I need to get him going on the small bead frame as well.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Messiah Mystery: Lent Activity

This year we are learning during Lent with the help of The Messiah Mystery.  I discovered this resource in February last year via Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations.  I was very excited because we love Truth in the Tinsel and I have been looking for something with a similar format.  Unfortunately, they sold out of kits very early last year.  This year I had my calendar marked and ordered on time.  The kit comes in a beautiful little box that the boys loved opening.  Inside are several well made and interesting items.  There was a lot of excitement when everything was unpacked.

the book

The boys love the feel of the cloth cover on the book.  Basically there is a Bible study provided for each of the six Wednesdays leading up to Easter beginning with Ash Wednesday.  The boys search for clues in the book using the very nice magnifying glass that came with the kit (much nicer than any we already owned).

 Me Too reading a clue

The kit came with two detectives notebooks for recording the clues.

 Me Too recording a clue

The clue notebooks are made out of really neat papers and chipboard with heavy metal rings.  They have a very "official" feel and the boys think they are super.

To help keep the study on your mind for all forty days leading up to Lent, there are 40 puzzle pieces that can be affixed to a poster.

You can place one puzzle piece each day or save them all up and do it at the end.  They can be formed into a paper chain but with a lot less work than Truth in the Tinsel.  The pieces have glue pre-applied so you just moisten and stick.  There are perforated ends on each piece so that you can lick and stick to make the paper chain.  That's a lot easier than printing, folding and cutting all of the "clues" for Truth in the Tinsel.  However, the boys don't want to bend the puzzle pieces to make the paper chain so we've decided to leave them flat in a stack.

We've only done one lesson so far, but I think we are going to like it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Currency Conversion

When I was pregnant with Kal-El, my husband and I took about a month-long trip to Costa Rica.  The change left in our pockets on the last day came home with us.  I never would have guessed that eight years later, Kal-El would take those colones out of the continent box, add them all up on his bead frame, look up the current exchange rate online (with my help), and divide (on the calculator, he starts racks and tubes next week) to find out the current U.S. value of the change we brought home.  It turns out we came home with about $12.50.