Refreshing Rose – Wordless Wednesday

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Here is a refreshing rose from my yard. Enjoy your Wednesday!

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Snowballs in Late Spring – Wordless Wednesday

Yes, we have snowballs in late spring.

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I refer to this as a snowball tree, but it’s technically called Viburnum Opulus.

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I look forward to seeing it blossom every spring. It only stays in bloom for a short time.

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Enjoy your Wednesday.

Nutrition Nudge


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As the warm spring wind blows away winter’s cold, I’ve decided to make some changes around here.

Throughout our day we usually have two snack sessions: the first at about 10 a.m., and the second around 3 p.m.  As you can imagine, we get our share of processed foods.  For example, we usually have granola bars, pretzels, and any number of crackers plentiful in the cupboard.  Though I have no problem with our eating of snacks, I do think we eat too many processed foods during these times.

My children do like fruit. But too often, in the rush of our busy days, crackers or pretzels are what they go for. And the lonely fruit sits and rots, forgotten in the deep dark fridge.

I’ve come up with a possible solution: I’ve decided to make our 10 a.m. morning snack be a fruit snack.  I’m not talking about fruit juice or items that contain fruit ingredients, I’m talking about eating actual fruit – bananas, oranges, grapes, apples, etc.  Just simple, refreshing real fruit.

How am I going to get my children to go along with it?  Well, not in a extreme, pushy way.

In addition to suggesting a morning fruit snack, my plan is to set out freshly washed fruit around 9:45 a.m. With shiny fruit smiling at them in a bright, colorful bowl, what’s to stop them?

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If that doesn’t work, then I’ll move on to plan B – which will be to tell them they have to eat a piece of fruit sometime before they go to bed.  They may just take the fruit early, and get it over with.

For us, I think this is a change worth making.  Imagine how much of a positive impact it could have on their growth and development if they add in another piece of fruit each day over time.  My goal is to gently and welcomingly develop better eating habits in them.  Morning snack time seems like a great time to make sure fruit is included in their day. If I’m lucky, they may even carry the habit into adulthood.

 And do you know what I’ve noticed?  They often watch me to see what I’m snacking on.  Yes, I’ll be joining them in the morning fruit snack.  No excuses for me, either.  😉

How do you encourage healthier eating habits in your family?

Paper Tie – Wordless Wednesday

What’s a child to do when he finishes his lessons early?  Perhaps design a tie by folding, coloring, and taping the paper art to his shirt?

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And the reverse must be a different pattern…

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Created by the now ‘Sharp Dressed Explorer’, 6.  😉

Wordless Wednesday – Hungry Hummingbird

I was fortunate to capture this image of a hummingbird last summer.  These tiny creatures are not that easy to photograph; they move quickly.  I took many photos in a row without pausing, hoping that one of them would turn out.  And one did.

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Hummingbird at Feeder

Mapping the World with Art Review

South America drawn by the Artist, 13.
South America drawn by the Artist, 13.

One of our favorite curricula that we’ve used during the past year has been Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the World with Art (MtWwA).  I’ve had several readers email me curious about how we use it.  This week we finished our lessons and are working on the final project.  Here is my overview of how we used it and thoughts on the curriculum.

Overview:

I originally purchased MtWwA for Geography only, but soon realized that it’s a combination of geography, cartography, art and even a little history.  It works best for middle school and up (though my 8 year old enjoyed it when he was able to go at his own pace).  The book is divided into four parts: 30 Readings, 30 Map Drawings, 23 Activities, and a Final Project where students create a world map.

The Readings section begins with history of the first maps and guides the reader in how they’ve been developed through time – with earlier maps being less complex than later ones. The reader is taken on a journey to a better understanding of how and why maps developed from necessity and exploration from ancient Greece through modern times.  My children and I appreciated the perspective it gave us.  For example, we were impressed when comparing a map that was made when the Pilgrims landed in America in 1650 with a modern map on our wall – realizing how much more we know now and that 1650 was not that long ago!  The section finishes with a discussion of how GPS satellites have revealed the entire surface of the Earth to us.  Interesting.

Next is the Map Drawing section intended for students to draw maps of countries and continents of the world.  In this portion each lesson shows detailed step-by-step instructions.  We purchased the optional DVD instructional video in which the author leads you through the map drawings.  It is interesting to hear the author’s take on each map.  At the beginning of each DVD lesson, the tools needed for that particular lesson are displayed on the screen so you know what to have available for that day.  (Tools needed throughout the course include a ruler, compass, protractor, pencil with eraser, large eraser, and a black waterproof pen.)

The third part is an optional Activities section which provides projects and reinforcement for the earlier topics.  Some of the activities include extra drawing practice, arts and crafts, games, and review worksheets.

Finally, there is a final project. It gives students the opportunity to put all the information they’ve learned together by creating a world map.  Templates are provided to photocopy to guide them along.

How we used it:

Like many people we don’t have unlimited time, so I chose Thursdays to cover only the parts of the program that I thought would work best for us.  We covered about one lesson per week consisting of the Readings and Map Drawing sections.   During our morning journal time, I’d cover the Readings.   This would often spark fascinating, meaningful discussions about both history and the level of understanding of the geography of the world for those who lived in earlier times.

In the afternoons we’d watch the DVD’s and follow along with the author whose knowledge on the subject was impressive.  The DVDs give you the option to pause to wait for everyone to have the time they need, and I’d also have the book open as an additional help if anyone wanted to see the drawings each step of the way.

We did not use the Activities section.

For the final project there are several options, and I chose the option of photocopying the 6 page templates to give the general idea how the continents and oceans fit together.  I thought this would best fit our goals and would keep frustrations to a minimum.  The final project is important to help students visualize how all the pieces they’ve drawn fit together as a whole.

When done in the time frame I used, some of the lessons may take multiple weeks to cover.  For example, Map Drawing 29 has parts A-G.  It took us 3 Thursdays to get through it.  Overall, it took us about 1.5 years to get through the entire book (with taking the summer months off.)

My thoughts:

We did not try to rush to get through this, and I considered it a fun elective.

Drawing the maps and thinking through the shape of the land helped them remember the information. In addition, we learned some more in depth drawing skills with compasses and protractors while sketching the continents and countries.  The final project drawing at the end helped cement the locations and gave us an important big picture view.  These factors combined with the fascinating history in the readings made for a positive educational experience.  For these reasons, I highly recommend Mapping the World with Art.

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Cape Horn, by the Artist.
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Do you see the ‘boot’ of Italy?
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Australia, by the Investigator, 11.
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Siberia, by the Investigator.
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Hawaiian Islands, by the Architect, 8.
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Papua, New Guinea, by the Architect.
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Scary Monster, by the Explorer, 5.

Notable November

November has been a busy month for the Artist, 13, with both a writing program (National Novel Writing Month Young Writer’s Program) and a math competition.

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She aspires to be a writer someday, and this is her first year participating in NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program.  I hope it will give her some experience and insight into what it’d really be like. We decided that rather than having me interview her, she would write a summary about how it’s going. Then she would be able to write her thoughts in her own words. Here is what she has to say about it so far:

“Hi, it’s the Artist. This year I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It takes place every November for aspiring writers of all ages, the goal being to reach your Word Count Goal by the end of the month (example: 50,000 words).

Of course, the deeper meaning is to write a novel. I was really pumped to sign up earlier in June. Being a think-ahead kinda girl, I spent the entire summer forming an idea of exactly how I wished my novel to be. Every time a scene would pop into my head, I would mentally apply it to the list of scenes I wanted in my book. I knew every detail about my characters: their personalities, their full name, exactly how they looked, the way they talked. I even went so far as to Google them all to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently named them after some celebrity I’d never heard of.

Then November came, and I went into a trance. Every free second I had would be spent hogging the upstairs computer, typing up a storm. At first it was easy. All I had to do was walk into the scene collection room of my brain and pluck one off the shelf. Then I would type it and edit it and move on. But gradually I ran into some problems.

Problem 1: The voice didn’t sound quite the way I had originally pictured it. But as time went on, I discovered that I was okay with that. My characters were just taking charge of the narration. Plus if I stuck a few instances of grammatical pedantry into my main character’s dialogue, that pretty much took care of the issue for me.

Problem 2: Somehow in all my planning, I had left about 200 pages in the center of the story to be adlibbed. This was a little harder to get around, and it gave me some concern as I was typing the beginning of my novel. Then a miracle occurred. For the first time in my life, I was saved by my bad habit of procrastination. See, being a natural procrastinator, I tend to look at deadlines as distant lands which I have plenty of time to reach. Since I hadn’t paid much attention to my NaNoWriMo deadline, it didn’t stress me out that much. Therefore no panic was in the way of me and any ideas I might have. Sure enough, I began coming up with scene ideas as I needed them for the main portion of my story.

As of today, I have written 31 pages and am 88.09% to my Word Count Goal. In other words, I’m on track to win. NaNoWriMo has been really fun for me, and I am happy I made the decision to sign up way back in June. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys writing.”

** Update:  She reached her word count goal on Sunday, November 24.  Finally, she’ll be able to rest. I’m thankful she’s finished NaNoWriMo before the Thanksgiving holiday!  **

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The Artist also competed in her first Math competition of the school year this week.  I am again her coach, but my role is minimal.  Now in our second year competing, we more fully understand how things work.  The previous experiences were helpful preparation.  We won’t know her results for a few weeks yet.  I am proud of her no matter what.  All my children inspire me.

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This has been an exciting, yet busy month with plenty of learning experiences.

I recommend these extra-curricular programs to parents whose children may have similar interests; I think the benefits are worth the effort. To learn more, check out: National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program or the American Mathematics Competitions.

Forming First Impressions: Kindergarten Math

The Explorer, 5, recently told me that his favorite subject is Math.  At this age he’s forming early impressions on the blank canvas that will become his Math Education.  Developing a strong base is important, but so is lighting a spark of interest.  Led partly by his fascination levels, I focus on three areas with my Kindergartener: math facts, new concepts, and problem solving.

1. Math facts

Mastery of the math facts will greatly reduce frustration for him down the road with things like muti-digit multiplication, long division, and many other areas.  It’s important that he learn the concept behind the idea.

I start him on skip-counting by introducing a hundred number chart.  After he’s learned to count to 100 (by ones), we learn the two’s, five’s and ten’s.  We then cover both odd and even numbers and what digits each type will end in.

We recently learned the three’s. For example:  I have him start at zero and count up three, and then cover the number with a rectangular counter stopping at 30 – for starters.  The idea is that he’ll begin to notice a pattern.  [He observed that the three’s have both odd and even numbers.]

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Hundred number chart, counting by 3’s starting at 0.

Then he removes the counter and writes down the numbers – beginning at zero then up to 30.  (If he gets frustrated writing the numbers down, I just have him read them while I write them for him.) What I like about this is that not only does he learn to count by three’s, but he also realizes that it starts at zero.  He reads them forward and backwards a few times.  Then we focus on memorizing.

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Recording the 3’s as he removes them

After he’s mastered the 3’s starting at zero, I then have him pick another starting number – say one.  We then count up by 3’s but notice that our numbers are now different depending on our starting point.

So far this year, we’ve covered the one’s (0 to 100); two’s (0 to 100); three’s (0 to 30); five’s (0 to 100); ten’s (0 to 100), the hundred’s (0 to 1000) and the odd numbers (1 to 21).  Next week we plan to start the four’s (0 to 40).  How many we’ll cover depends; I use his interest level to help guide me about how far to go.  It is not a race, though, and it’s far more important to me that he understands the idea.

2.  New Concepts

By this I refer mainly to the learning of the arithmetic operations:  addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  I often use a curriculum as my guide, and some of my favorites are Singapore Math, MEP Math, and Miquon Math.  However, I believe that any curriculum is a tool that should help and not hinder.  I often find myself filling in concepts that I think a curriculum should have spent more time on.  I use a Place Value Activity Kit to demonstrate all four operations.

We start by learning the plus and minus facts up to 10 (all the combinations), then we expand it up to 20.

Interestingly, we recently learned three different methods for subtraction. For example, consider:  15-8 = 7.

 Method 1: Start at 15 on our number line and count back 8 steps.  We stop at 7.

 Method 2: Think of 15 as a number bond of 10 and 5.  I ask my son if we can take 8 away from 5. (We’ve not learned negative numbers yet.)  He replies that we cannot, but we can take 8 away from 10.  So we calculate (10-8) and we still have our 5 from before so our answer is 2 + 5 = 7.

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Method 2 demonstrated with place value kit

 Method 3: Start at 15.  Think about where our nearest ten is when subtracting. Answer:10.  Think about how many units we would take away from 15 to get to our nearest 10.  Answer: 5.  Then subtract 5 from 15 and next subtract 3 more. (15-5-3=7)

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Method 3 explained.

Having learned three different methods hopefully causes him to analyze, compare, and develop a greater number sense regarding subtraction.

So far we’ve worked though the concepts of addition and subtraction mainly, and also a good start in multiplication.

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Multiplication demonstrated with place value kit, and noting that ‘x’ means ‘groups of’.
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More multiplication showing that multiplying can be thought of as repeated addition.

Having already introduced multiplication (with skip counting),  I then use examples like the one above with a place value kit to go into more depth by showing that multiplication is repeated addition and that ‘x’ can be thought of as ‘groups of’.  For division, I only introduce it with the place value kit and show how division is related to multiplication.

[As an aside: If a student is confused by a concept, I recommend trying another curriculum to explain it a different way.  Use the curricula that best helps your child understand OR simply explain it in your own words how you understand it.]

3.  Problem Solving

How I interpret it, problems solving means that a student has enough mastery of a concept that he can apply it to solve a problem.

Thus far for this type of activity, my favorite curricula are Singapore Math Intensive Practice and Challenging Word Problems workbooks.  What I like best about these are the way they encourage a child to visualize the problems in order to better understand and solve them.  Also, questions are asked from many different angles so that the child has to really think about what is being asked.

Recently we worked on a problem where he had to think about how a larger number can be made out of two smaller numbers to solve puzzle-like problems related to subtraction.  We pulled out our Cuisenaire rods to help visualize the combinations that make 10: (1,9); (9,1); (2,8); (8,2); (3,7); (7,3); (6,4); (4,6); and (5,5) – to remind us of our math facts. (Hopefully he sees the pattern that addition is commutative). Manipulatives can be a great addition when solving a complicated problem.

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Looking for a pattern and using C-rods to visualize.

Of course, problem solving can also bring feelings of frustration. During these trials of deep thought, he grows in knowledge and develops math endurance.  I’ve found that giving praise when he’s solved a problem works wonders, and it’ll likely light a fire and make him want to learn more.

Overall, our plan is that we cover math fact practice and new concepts daily.  Problem solving (puzzle-type questions) may only happen two or three days per week.  We touch on all three areas every week.

It’s my intention that Math time be fun for him at this age.  Demonstrating that problem solving can be both rewarding and enjoyable [hopefully] paints a positive first impression.