Friday, November 28, 2014

Book of the Moment: a Wilberforce biography

My son and I just finished The Freedom Fighter, a kids' biography of William Wilberforce by Derick Bingham (we read it separately but around the same time).  It was good and I heartily recommend it to other families.

If you're not familiar with Wilberforce, he was a British Member of Parliament in the early 1800s who fought for decades for the abolition of the slave trade and then of slavery.  He was awesome.  God used him mightily.  I've read a couple of adult biographies of Wilberforce in years past (one written to people with more familiarity of the details of British history than I have, and then one written for the rest of us called Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas).  We also own the movie of Amazing Grace.

This biography was written for kids, so it certainly lost a sense of what a fight it was to convince the British Empire to abandon (and then pay to abandon) something that was so lucrative for it and that, honestly, very people even gave a second thought about.  Because this book is simplified, and because kids don't know what kind of machines governments, industries, and ingrained ideas can be, they won't catch HOW improbable Wilberforce's victory was.  But they'll get a glimpse of it!  And they'll get a glimpse of both how God equips and positions people for certain tasks and then simultaneously requires them to struggle to accomplish those tasks.  

Good book!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rosetta Stone flashcards/Quizlet

Hi!  Our oldest son has been doing Rosetta Stone Spanish for a couple of years now, and our younger son began about a month ago.  There's a lot I like about the program, but it's definitely not perfect.  

For instance, yesterday our son was supposed to be working with the phrases "duerme" and "no duerme."  I asked him what they meant, and he said, "He's sick, or he's not sick."  The word actually means "sleep," but I could see why he thought that--you couldn't tell from the picture.  It could have been either.  And Rosetta Stone will never correct you.

So I looked online a bit.  Turns out there's a website called Quizlet that has lots of different flashcard options.  (Billions of) other people have already entered the vocabulary from Rosetta Stone Spanish into Quizlet, so you can pick the levels you're working on and boom! you've got vocabulary games, tests, flashcards, etc., for the vocabulary you need!  Sometimes people have grouped them into really large groups of vocabulary, which isn't perfect, buy hey, at least they did it!

My kids have just begun using this as a supplement to Rosetta Stone.  Yay!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fat Brain Toys

The Christmas-gift-buying season is upon us, and I thought I'd point out Fat Brain Toys.  It's just an online toy store with toys that can found be found elsewhere, but it's a great place to look when you're running low on ideas (other than the endless stream of Pixar movies that my kids always want...).  

Some of our very favorite things, such as Perplexus, the Scrambled States of America Game, Inchimals, and the Squishy Human Body are available.  And I'm sure the kids would love many of the other million things listed.

I am all for those "30 Non-Toy Gift Ideas" lists on Pinterest--it is very often preferable to give tickets to a play or for lessons--but when you're looking for toy ideas, this is a great place!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Landmarks! And printable landmark flashcards!

Lately my kids and I have been flipping through some landmark flashcards that I bought at Target a few years ago for a buck.  They look like this:

That's wonderful, but I wanted more!  The Great Wall of China isn't even on there.  ???!?

I looked around to find other good options for learning landmarks.  Obviously we could begin to travel more.  :)  And we could buy every calendar known to man.

There are cool kits like Lego Architecture and Ravensburger 3-D puzzles

There are regular puzzles like THIS, and online puzzles on our beloved Sheppard Software, little figurines as seen HERE, and there are other sites to help you learn landmarks.

Lakeshore Learning offers (interesting but expensive) flashcards, but it doesn't cover many landmarks.   

Really, I just wanted flashcards, lots and lots of flashcards.

So I made them.  And if I'm going to spend that much time making them, I might as well share them.  

**But get this--I could not for the life of me figure out how to attach the file to Blogger, either in Word or as a PDF--without messing up the formatting.  So if you want them, let me know and I will e-mail them to you.**  

They are NOT perfectly centered.  Not even close.  I like things straight and nice, but the extra finagling I would have had to do to get things formatted perfectly was simply too much.  

But all you have to do is print these sheets on cardstock (two-sided) and them cut them into quarters with a paper cutter.  

(If you happen to own the Target landmark cards pictured above, you don't need to print pages 43-60.)

If anyone finds an error within these cards, please let me know!

And now my kids have a lot more locations to look up on Google Earth!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scripture Typer

A friend recently told me about Scripture Typer, and I'm glad she did!

The idea is that you pick verses or passages that you'll type out, gradually working towards memorization (the site begins dropping words and you have to supply them yourself), and it keeps up with the verses you learn and when you need to review them.

I should probably be doing it myself, but so far I've just had my boys do it.  They don't do it super frequently--just once or twice a week--so I know we're not receiving the full benefit of memorization, but it's a start!

In addition to the most important thing (hiding God's word in their hearts), they're also working on typing (which they had originally learned through BBC's Dance Mat typing), spelling, punctuation, etc.  In other words, it's addressing a lot of the very things we need to be working on now. You can adjust your preferences for punctuation, and you can also edit the verse (if you don't want things like "Selah" included, for instance).  And of course you can pick which translation you use.

There are two options for how it "grades" your typing of the Scripture: speed or accuracy.  I 100% think accuracy is the better option for my kids, and it's working well.

One of my kids likes Scripture Typer, one doesn't...oh, well.  It's good for them.

I did have to create e-mail addresses for each of my kids so that they could each have their own account.  That's okay--we won't use the e-mail addresses for anything else.  

That's it!  


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Slugs & Bugs!

Two of our favorite albums have long been:

Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies


Slugs & Bugs: Under Where?

The first one got us most of the way to D.C. and back a couple of years ago.  Helpful!  

The albums are great.  The two men who made them are both Christians and some of the songs are about God, and then lots of the songs are just about goofy things--pirates, or hippos, or a song where one of them tricks the other into saying "underwear" over and over.  

They are very imaginative.  One of the songwriters/singers is also the author of The Wingfeather Saga, which I haven't read but I've heard from many places is wonderful.  The guy is a word-smith.  And that makes for fun listening with these kids' albums.

And several months back, we got the new album:

Which is awesome.  And we keep listening to it.  And you might like it too!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Books of the Moment: Sam the Minuteman, Paul Revere's Ride, and Jean Fritz books

We are in the thick of American history here at our house, or at least as in-the-thick-of-it as you can be when your school kids are only eight and six.  Our six-year-old gave a presentation about George Washington this week at our Classical Conversations community, and he told me four out of the six kids in his class presented about George Washington.  :)  

We've been reading from Story of the World, and we've picked up other books, too.  There are obviously billions of good books about American history, but I'll mention a few we've really liked.

Sam the Minuteman--Written by Nathaniel Benchley and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, the same man who wrote and illustrated the Frog and Toad series.  Like Frog and Toad, it is written on a lower level and has frequent pictures.  It's about an older boy who is caught up in the Battle of Lexington and Concord.  Pretty perfect for the first-grade crowd or so (it is about a battle, though, so of course is it not light like Frog and Toad).

Paul Revere's Ride--The poem written by Longfellow and illustrated by Ted Rand--My boys are memorizing part of the famous poem and will have to recite it as one of the presentations this year at CC.

Jean Fritz books, such as Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? and others--I will not act like my children love these books.  They are fairly long and are aimed at the nine and up crowd, I suspect.  However, for what they are--text-heavy history books with lots and lots of information (as opposed to comic-book style history books that are also available)--I think they're pretty fantastically done.  Fritz writes engagingly.  She makes things funny.  And she handles the history well.  We haven't read all of her many books, but they will be on our library list for years to come. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

&Punctuation fun (?!?)**

I made a fun way to check how well my sons understand punctuation.  

HERE is the file.

My boys have never had an explicit lesson on punctuation; instead, I've just explained things as we've read or written together.  I thought I'd better double-check to see what we might have missed! 

I simply had them read these "sentences" aloud to me, which they found amusing.  

These two anchor charts might come in handy at some point, too:

(The idea for this wasn't my own; I heard about it in teacher training once; but I couldn't find documents for it online.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Books of the Moment: Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers

We've got a number of good books around our house about God and the Christian life.  There's a set of four little ones that I honestly didn't expect our kids to care about much, but they do:

the Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers series.

Each of the four books just shares lots of true statements about the topic it's covering.  There is no plot or storyline; they are not fiction.  They are just page after page of statements.  

But our kids like them!

I think it's largely because of the illustrations.  Every page has an engaging picture.  And the size probably doesn't hurt, either; they are small, hardback books that are easy to tote around.

Sometimes our kids tell us things they've read in these books.  I think they've been helpful.

Who would've thought!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pre-K Lite

Back when each of our boys were about the age our daughter is now, we did a fun Pre-K with friends.  Now that we live far away and are just getting to know people, there was no one to do a Pre-K with for Olivia.

Obviously I could enroll her in a preschool or Mother's Day Out somewhere, but that might or might not accomplish what I would want to be accomplished.  I have a few very concrete things I want her to learn (how a calendar works, the months, a certain set of songs that teach her great things in fun ways).  Obviously plenty of Pre-K's would do that for her, and many would exceed my expectations and teach her much more, but since I don't know which ones those are here, and since I already own all of the exact things I most want her to be exposed to, it just makes sense to do it myself.

As for other perks of preschool programs, she can get the playtime that I want her to get at the CC nursery and in the childwatch at the Y.  

**The problem is that it's not much fun to sing those songs and do the motions by yourself (or just with your mom).

So I've recruited her two big brothers to "do" Pre-K with her.

(Yes, they are getting too old for it.  They think it's quite a lot of fun now but I suspect it will wear thin in a few months.  This Pre-K Lite may only last about six months or so.)

About once a week, we're doing the same calendar time that we did at our Pre-K co-op. And that's it.  We're not doing any of the fun projects that we did with Pre-K for the boys. I'm sure she would have loved that, but on the other hand, her life is more fun than the boys' were at the same age in many ways.  And she really wanted a Book of Centuries and also the science lab book I made for the boys, so I just went ahead and made her one of each.  Hers do not contain the same pages on the inside, though.  Whenever we read about a historical topic or do a science project that she listens in on, I'll just print her the same kind of journal pages we used back in the Pre-K, something like this:

(Just gray Comic Sans letters in all caps at the top for her to trace.)

Anyway, that's it.  That's our fancy Pre-K Lite.  She also asks (begs) to do "schoolwork" while the boys do, so I print out dot-to-dots for her, and I am finally using up gobs of coloring pages and handwriting workbooks I still have from my public school teaching days, and I will buy her a Pre-K math book the next time we go to Wal-Mart.

But as far as our Pre-K co-op we did with the boys, Olivia is just getting the vestiges.  Somehow I think she's still having lots of fun, though!