Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Week 23, days 1 and 2

Monday: Language Arts. We've been singing "Low In the Grave He Lay" at the beginning of school for the past week or so - the words are fairly simple, and it's seasonally appropriate. Both kids really like this. I'm glad I've started working on hymns with them. Last week, I went over multiple-digit subtraction (no regrouping) with P, and she seemed to grasp it really easily, but on this week's 5-a-days she's really struggled. I've started making the week's worth of 5-a-days at once, so this week's worksheets all contain multiple-digit subtraction problems, but she still needs me to explain it to her with manipulatives each time. I'm happy to do this daily for the rest of the week, but I may put it aside thereafter and reintroduce it after a few weeks. We'll see if the daily manipulative work this week helps her make a great leap in understanding by Friday.

For language arts, we looked at the dictionary page for the letter we're doing this week (Uu). There were only two items pictured in the dictionary, and when we went on Starfall there were only a few more items, so we had to get creative searching for images to go on our letter sheet. Fortunately, I remembered that my sister-in-law had posted on her Facebook profile a photo of my brother-in-law doing a handstand near the bayou, so we put the picture on our letter sheet, labelled "Upside-down Uncle". We also included an umbrella, a unicorn, and some caves (underground). E really got a kick out of the upside-down uncle, and repeated the phrase throughout the day. P did a tidy job on her copywork and read the reader easily. She was to come up with a story inspired by a drawing of a boy watching a fish tank with a plastic diver climbing out of it, and I liked what she came up with: after a chase around the house, the cornered diver asked to go fishing in the bayou. The boy opened the door, and the diver came back carrying 3 fish, which the boy placed in the fish tank. The diver thereafter consented to live happily ever after in the fish tank with his captured fish. P was also supposed to finish a story wherein a boy goes grocery shopping with his mother. Asked to make the story more interesting, she had the boy ask his mother if he could buy a new tricycle, as his knees no longer fit under the handles of the old one. They instead buy a big kid bike at Target, and the shopping trip ends with the boy learning to ride his bike. I think P enjoyed both these "creative expression" activities.

Tuesday: Science. Today's theme at Titmouse Club was rabbits. It only occurred to me halfway through that this was probably because Sunday is Easter, and some people correlate rabbits with Easter. Anyway, that didn't come into the presentation, which featured paper cups with the bottoms cut out for the kids to put over their ears, to see how they amplified sound and gave them a better idea of the direction sound was coming from, and also featured a rabbit skeleton (in a glass case, which the kids didn't touch), a rabbit skin, and a real live pet rabbit. On our nature walk I learned that poison ivy produces berries that birds like to eat. I hadn't known it had any redeeming features.

Back home, we did all our review items, and then after lunch headed outside. The kids watched me plant seeds in a herb planter, and I finished making a cage for my square foot garden to keep the rabbits from eating my lettuce (this triggered more discussion of rabbits, their eating habits, and the strength of their teeth as compared to my chicken wire). We also weeded quite a bit, as the weeds that sprang up last summer on the borders of the square foot garden dumped myriad seeds into the garden. Later in the afternoon, the kids saw a rabbit bouncing away through the back yard into the woods near the creek that runs into the bayou. After dinner, we all went for a walk on the bayou and avoided poison ivy (I hope!). I saw a rabbit on the opposite bank, so it was a very rabbit-rich day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Week 22, day 5

Friday: Geography. Today, we studied Greece. After our review items, we located Greece on the Markable Map. E kept interrupting me in the middle of a sentence (multiple times, during multiple attempts at the same sentence) to describe his adventures with Friend Lion, so I snapped at him the 3rd or 4th time he did this. He quit. He doesn't dissolve into a heartbroken puddle of goo when snapped at the way P does, at least not all the time. For the rest of the day, a simple "E, you're interrupting" sufficed. We read "How the Turtle Got Its Shell" from Stories from Around the World, and discussed how the ancient Greeks believed in many gods who acted a lot like humans, but how the one true God is all-powerful and does not sin the way the Greek gods did. In the story, the turtle's shell is a punishment - it prefers staying home to going to Zeus' wedding, so it is cursed with carrying its home everywhere it goes. In reality, the turtle's shell is a useful part of its body that protects it from danger, and God gave it a shell to take care of it. I liked having the opportunity to contrast our perspective on how God works with that of the ancient Greeks. We also read "Arion and the Dolphin" from The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book. One of the books about Greece that I checked out from the library was appropriate for reading aloud at least to P, so we did that, and looked at the pictures in another library book about Greece. After lunch, P made a book about Greece. She wrote the title, coloured a flag and a map I drew (and drew her own version of the Greek map, including Crete and the mainland with Peloponnese off to the side), and drew pictures of the Parthenon, Mt. Olympus, a ferry, lots of islands, and olives. For dinner, I made spanakopita (I love spanakopita, but had never made them before - quite labour intensive, but if I do it again I'll do more of the work ahead of time, and working with fillo pastry won't be quite as scary the second time), and a Greek salad with just cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and olives. E liked the salad and the fillo pastry but not the spinach filling, and P complained bitterly at having to taste half an olive, but Ari and I enjoyed it a good deal! There are lots of leftover spanakopita, and now all the hard work is done - yippee.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Week 22, days 3 and 4

Wednesday: Math. Because my inlaws are out of town, I didn't go to Arabic Bible study, but did school with the kids in the morning. P and E started learning a new hymn ("Up From the Grave He Arose"), so we reviewed that and "Holy, Holy, Holy", our memory verse for the week (1 John 1:9, which both kids struggled with), and catechism question; we updated the calendar, P read her reader and did her math 5-a-day review sheet, and E traced the plastic-plate shapes from his "school" last week. I then introduced subtraction with multiple-digit numbers without regrouping. I think the only real challenge for P will be noticing whether there's a plus or a minus sign on the problem - she grasped the concept easily, but when I wrote the first problem on the board, she treated it like an addition problem. I then wrote 2 almost identical problems - the only difference being the sign (62+31 vs. 62-31) - and asked P the difference between the two. She saw the difference quickly. I hauled out the dimes and pennies - 6 dimes and 2 pennies, and asked her to remove 3 dimes and a penny. We worked another problem with coin manipulatives, and then one without, and she did great. I've put a multiple-digit subtraction problem on her Friday 5-a-day, so we'll see how she does with that. We looked again at the "Primary Grade Challenge Math" problem in which a girl is given 2 options for increasing her allowance - either an extra $4/week per year, or doubling the amount per week each year, starting with $2. I graphed it on graph paper, explaining each step, and the kids both watched attentively. I don't really expect them to grasp it in full at this stage, but it introduces the concept of graphing. I then took out the Think-It-Through tiles for P and the pegboard with rubber bands for E, and they played with those for a while. When we put away the pegboard, I set up "axes" of pegs. There are 25 (actually 24, since we lost one) in 5 colours and 5 shapes in each colour. So I set up a row of red shapes, with a circle at the end, and put the circles of all the other colours in the same column. I then showed them how to place each remaining peg by finding the correct row for the colour and column for the shape. By the end of putting them away, they were doing it by themselves.

In the afternoon, we went to a homeschool group that I just found, which I really enjoyed. It was their annual "project day", when kids brought in various projects they'd been working on. These ranged from memorized poems, to origami, to a fractal triangle poster made by a girl who didn't look much older than P, to a pair of boys, ages 10 and 15, who had participated in a LEGO robotics competition and brought their robots to demonstrate. This was really amazing and reminded me a lot of the ME72 competition at Caltech. If any of my kids is interested in robotics in a few years' time, this looks like such an amazing thing to do. The people in the group were friendly and easy to talk to, and P and E got along with the other kids once they warmed up, so I think we may end up sacrificing one Wednesday a month to be able to go to their monthly meetings.

Thursday: Bible and Music. Today in CBS the kids made "kazoos" decorated with green handprints to look like palm branches, and learned about Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We read the story of Palm Sunday in 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible, and went on to read about the Lord's Supper as well. I didn't introduce a new verse, because they were still struggling with the last one, but I did introduce the next catechism question. When I told P it was time for her piano lesson, she asked if we could do it upstairs in her room. "Sure, P. Why don't you just carry the piano upstairs?" Silly question, silly answer. However, she grasped the relationship between quarter notes and half notes instantly (it takes 2 quarters to make a half), which was fun. I like how this program teaches the kids to count out quarter ("play and") and half ("play and hold it") notes - it makes way, WAY more sense than the Bastien method which has kids say "quarter" in just one beat and "half note" in two beats (seriously - who takes twice as long to say "half note" as "quarter"?). The whole note will be "play and hold it even longer", and I imagine that the eighth note will just be "play" - this is a sensible way to attach words to the rhythms. P had fun drawing a quarter note over each of the notes in the "songs" she wrote last lesson, and practicing playing those songs saying "play and" with each note. Later in the afternoon, I found her on the stairs with E, teaching him to write the numbers from 1 to 20 by writing each one on a piece of paper and having him write it next to her sample. He did pretty well, too. Gee, I'll be out of a job before I know it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Week 22, day 2

Tuesday: Science. Today's theme at Titmouse Club was wildflowers. The kids heard about how a flower's job is to make seeds, and a little about how that happens. They read a book about how a sunflower grows from seed to tall flower to many seeds, and another really fun book about a small girl who protects a single wildflower from her father's lawnmower and the protected area expands with the flowers until her entire neighbourhood is a meadow. They made paper flowers, and then we went for a nature walk during which we saw two bullfrogs and a number of wildflowers, including some edible ones (I wasn't too excited about the taste) and some violets.

Back home, we got through our review and read two books. The first one was about a seed, by Eric Carle, which led to a discussion of why some flowers produce many, many seeds (because some seeds land in inappropriate places, or are eaten). The other was an Audubon Society field guide, and we only looked at the first section, which detailed plant parts (flower, stem, leaves, roots) and flower parts. After lunch I had a dentist appointment, so that was all the school we did today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Week 22, day 1

Monday: Language Arts. This morning, P and E industriously set about using E's birthday gift of 12 rolls of tape. By the time we had breakfast, there were 4 empty rolls sitting next to the table, and getting through the spider's web of tape crisscrossing the room was an athletic event. I gave P the choice of doing school right after breakfast and finishing before lunch, or of continuing to play while B and I went for a brisk walk and I took a shower, but needing to do some school after lunch. She chose the latter option. The walk put B to sleep, and he slept throughout the first part of school.

Our review was relatively uneventful. On P's math 5-a-day, I asked her to use coins to make a dollar, and we discussed again that quarters are called quarters because it takes 4 of them to make a dollar. I wrote on the board, "4/4 = 1".

We made a new letter sheet today, and the kids came up with a labour saving idea. I'd actually come up with the same idea weeks ago, but not suggested it because I thought they enjoyed cutting out the pictures and taping them to a new piece of paper. The idea was to put the large letter on the same page as the one on which we printed the corresponding pictures, and write the labels on directly. Because this hadn't been in my plans when I was printing out the pictures, I had to squeeze the labels somewhat, but it worked pretty well and I'll organize it better next week. This saved us a good 15-20 minutes, so we got a lot more done before lunch than I had expected to. P did her copywork neatly - on the part that she traced, I asked her to identify first which letters she had traced particularly well, and then which ones she had done sloppily. I asked her to pay careful attention to those when she copied the words onto the next line, and she did beautifully. She enjoyed the reader, as well. We played a geography game, in which we took turns naming a place (for example, Sweden) and the next player was to name a place starting with the ending sound of the previous word. This required the children to listen for ending sounds (not letters - Arkansas was legitimately followed by Austin). They struggled to come up with actual place names, so I had to help them once they'd figured out what sound the name needed to start with.

After lunch, I had P put words in alphabetical order. She doesn't know the alphabet well enough to start in the middle, so the first few words are put in place rapidly, but when she's left with words starting with P, R, and T, she has to go through the entire alphabet until she gets to P, then again all the way to Q (no, I don't have any of those), then R, etc. I'm waiting for her to figure out that there's a quicker way to do it, because if she figures it out herself it'll stick better. We also played a game like 20 questions, and I used tally marks to keep track of the score, discussing how you count by 5s and then by 1s. E wanted to think of things for me to guess, and after I almost stumped them with Jupiter, E had me guess an imaginary comet whose name he'd just come up with on the spur of the moment (when I realized that this was the case, I gave up and asked him to tell me the answer). We finished the school day with a game of letter sound Bingo, and each of us took a turn calling out the sounds. E got frustrated with trying to find the letters on his Bingo card, and couldn't remember most of the sounds, so I helped him - he'll pick them up this way too. P did pretty well with finding the letters on the cards, but really excelled when it was her turn to call out the letters. She knows all of them with confidence, by name and by sound.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 21, day 5

Friday: Geography We got started late because I was disorganized and also waited until B was napping before going for my walk/run. According to what I can figure out at mapmywalk.com, I walked about 1.4 miles and ran 0.8 miles. This felt great! My knee hardly even hurt afterward. Take that, pessimistic physical therapist! I feel so thankful that God has given me pretty much complete healing from both the accident 6 years ago and my re-injury 2 years ago.

We did all our review stuff before lunch, and the geography component afterward. This week, we looked at Italy. We marked it on the Markable Map, and looked at the atlas page. Then we read "Buried Treasure" from Stories from Around the World - a fun story about a lazy young man who is told that a field contains 50 pieces of gold. He pulls up the weeds in the field, digs it up (watering it to keep down the dust), puts manure on it to keep the local schoolchildren off it, and the fellow who told him about the 50 gold pieces then sows lettuce on it. At the end of the story, a merchant comes by and buys the resultant lettuce for 50 gold pieces. We discussed the virtues of hard work and how it's more likely to result in treasure than waiting for it to fall in your lap. We then looked at the pictures in a book about Italy. I told P that it was time to make a book about Italy, and she asked if she had to. When I told her she could do it today or tomorrow, she impressed me with her wisdom by saying, "I don't want to do it now, but I know that once I start I'll enjoy doing it." And she did! She wrote "Italy" on the front, drew a flag, coloured the map, and drew the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Venice, pizza, an aqueduct, and catacombs. For dinner, we made pizza.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Week 21, days 3 and 4

Wednesday: Math. It appears to be spring break for all the public schools, so while I was discovering that my Bible study half an hour's drive away was cancelled, P and E were discovering with their Oma that the indoor play place they usually frequent was completely packed. Once both they and I were back home, we did school. I forgot to record the weather on our calendar, but otherwise we went through our standard daily review. We then read 2 math books I checked out from the library: Earth Day - Hooray!, which deals with place value, and Math for All Seasons, which deals with counting objects in clever ways (beginning multiplication, basically). On Tuesday afternoon I had re-read the first part of Chapter 1 of Primary Grade Challenge Math with P, and we had talked about the difference between linear increase (add $4 to the allowance each year) and exponential increase (double the allowance each year). I graphed the 2 options in Excel, but P didn't seem to understand what I was doing - I think Excel is too much of a black box to her, and it'll be more helpful to use pencil and paper. We can do that next week. I had also spent some time on Tuesday looking through the first few chapters of the book and reworking Stupid Problems. This is a pet peeve of mine: math word problems that make no sense. For example, "Billy's pocket is leaking money. He starts with $100. After he walks 1 mile, he has $90, after 2 miles he has $80, etc. How much money does he have after 5 miles?" How in the real world could this conceivably happen? It teaches kids to dissociate math from the real world, when math is essential for understanding the real world. So I rewrote the problem to be, "A barrel with a hole in the bottom starts out containing 100 gallons. After 1 minute, it contains 90 gallons, after 2 minutes it contains 80 gallons. How much water does it contain after 5 minutes?" This problem requires identical math, but also refers to an actual situation you might encounter in this universe. Perhaps being forced to solve problems like the original one is part of why Ari's students struggled to see the ridiculousness of their answers when they'd made mistakes - if you generally have to give answers to ridiculous questions, you get used to ridiculous answers.

All right, that was enough ranting.

P had been told last week that this week would be spring break for her ballet lessons, but she didn't see the need to tell me that this was the case until she had tried the door to the studio and found it locked. Since I had planned on going to Target during her ballet lesson, I simply took her along in her ballet clothes. We returned a few baby gifts (everyone likes to give 0-3 month sizes, and my babies start out filling up the smallest size - if I used all the 0-3 month clothes we were given, we'd barely have time to put him in each outfit once before he outgrew them). Once we had free Target money, I went wild and bought running shoes and a watch strap for myself. P wanted a watch for herself, and in celebration of the fact that she can now tell time fairly well, I bought her one too. Given the choice between the plain pink one and the purple one with the flower, she chose the flower. I have asked her the time a few times and she helpfully gives me the correct answer after a minute or so of hard thinking. I'll stop putting time telling on her math 5-a-days so often, because with her own watch she's getting plenty of practice.

Thursday: Bible/Music. Today was E's 4th birthday. This caused school to be late and short. Ari and I gave him an ant farm, which was exciting (especially when the ants, which we'd placed in the refrigerator overnight to calm them, thawed out quicker than we'd expected and ended up in many non-ant-farm locations). This present was a definitive success, and by the time we started school the ants had already started excavating several tunnels.

Last night, Ari's uncle was (briefly) in town before leaving for a camping trip with Ari's dad this morning. In honour of Uncle Tom's visit, Ari's brother & his wife came up for dinner, so it was a big party. Since they weren't going to make 2 trips in 2 days, they gave E his present last night. It was 2 recorders, one for him and one for P, that my sister-in-law had bought at a music teachers' conference. The children are both able to make painful high-pitched squawks, and P is sometimes able to play 2 or 3 different notes. I had a recorder as a child (I miss it still!) and was hopelessly childish in begging P and E to loan me theirs so I could play. I did show P how to arrange her fingers on the holes, but keeping them in place so they fully cover the holes is going to take her a lot more practice.

Usually, Thursday is CBS day, but it was cancelled due to spring break (fortunately, they told me ahead of time, so no fruitless half-hour drive took place). This meant that there wasn't a CBS Bible story to review. We started, instead, with introducing a new memory verse and catechism question, and then read the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. I asked the kids why Jesus was able to do this, leading to a discussion on his deity - his power over death was one of the proofs that he is God.

For (very late) lunch, we went to the Aquarium Restaurant at E's request. There is a phenomenally large fish tank in the middle of the restaurant, containing stingrays, a small shark, 4 groupers about the size of E and P, a guitarfish (looks like a cross between a shark and a ray, so P called it a shray), at least 3 moray eels, and a variety of other fish. After we'd eaten, we rode the ferris wheel and got a good view of the city. Back home, we continued the celebration with a dragon cake (and costume, which my mother-in-law sewed) and the rest of the presents, including a play tent, a tetherball, snorkels, masks and flippers for both P and E, and a box containing 12 rolls of tape (now E's tape fetish won't leave the rest of us "stuck" without any).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Week 21, days 1 and 2

Monday: Language Arts. We got started later than usual, because I decided to start up exercising again. I went for a brisk walk with B strapped into the mei tai (carrier), and he fell asleep but promptly woke up when we got home. I'm hoping to transition into running a couple of times a week, but I haven't really run for a couple of years so I decided to ease into it by walking for a week or so first. I'm going to need to plan my mornings better (like I used to before B was born) so I can fit in exercise as well as school and meet my goal of finishing by lunchtime.

It seemed to take a long time to get through our daily review, but the kids were both happy to make a new letter sheet. I let them get distracted by Starfall, which ate up more of our time (but it's an excellent resource). By lunch time, we'd only gotten through Day 1 on the Language Arts schedule, where I was hoping to compress the entire week into a day (which has worked previous weeks). P traced her copywork upside down under the table again, but it turned out quite neatly. She copied it while sitting in the correct orientation, which I had stipulated before letting her get under the table.

After lunch, I read a chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh to both P and E, and had P summarize it. She did a good job of not getting bogged down in the details, but struggled to get the major points in the correct order. We all played "mynah bird", in which I said something and the kids had to repeat it. P did much better at this than E. Often they seem equally able to do things, but the 20 months between them does make a difference. I used tongue twisters and hymn lyrics, ending with "Betty Botter" (a favourite poem from my childhood). We finished the rest of the week's scheduled language arts activities, with the exception of the second copywork. I feel that P gets good enough at reading her reader by the end of the week that we can replace Thursday or Friday's reader with copywork, and then I won't have to argue with her about doing 2 copyworks in 1 day.

Tuesday: Science. I scheduled my morning better today, and got in 15 minutes on the exercise bike before having to leave for Titmouse Club. Today's theme was birdwatching, and they had several bird stuffed toys that sang with the distinctive song of that species of bird when squeezed. The docent discussed what makes birds different from other creatures (feathers, beaks, wings, laying eggs), and how there are many species of birds. She even gave a brief description of how one would use a field guide to identify birds. The kids made "binoculars" out of toilet paper tubes, and looked outside for birds. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty hard, so we could hear a few birds but not see any.

After Titmouse Club, we completed our review items. I had intended to do E's school today but not said anything about it to him, but when we were busy preparing lunch he announced that he wanted to do his school Right Now. I told him that he'd have to wait until after lunch, and as a result I will probably suffer from tinnitus when I'm older. I really don't have a good solution for his piercing temper tantrums. I generally try to ignore them for a few minutes, and if he's still going, I send him, shrieking, up to his room. I do not give in to his requests - if he has any sense of cause and effect, he isn't doing it because he thinks it'll get him what he wants. So he had to wait until after lunch for his school.

This week, E's school involved me cutting shapes (square, rectangle, circle, oval, triangle) from 5 paper plates (plastic, in this case, since that's what we had) and then having him name the shapes, and then close his eyes (or be blindfolded) and try to guess the shape by tracing it with his finger. Another time, we can have him trace the shapes onto paper with a crayon or marker and cut the paper shapes out. He wasn't able to identify the shapes blindfolded, but we talked about whether the edges were straight or curved as a clue he could use, and counting the number of sides and their relative sizes as another clue. He'll probably be happy to do this again tomorrow.

Once E's school was done, we read 2 library books about birds. The first one dealt with the various types of nests different bird species build, from penguins (no nest, just a flap of skin on the father's belly) to weaver birds and bower birds. The second one described hummingbirds, including the interesting tidbit that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (in Tucson) once cleaned out the hummingbirds' habitat too thoroughly and realized, when the hummingbirds' eggs fell out through their nests, that the hummingbirds needed spider webs to make their nests solid enough. Once we were done reading, we started an experiment involving growing an avocado pit in water and then we assembled a cup "telephone" (2 plastic cups connected by a string which, when taut, transmits sound). This toy was played with for the rest of the afternoon, except when the kids went outside to play in the puddle and amused themselves with scooping pollen into the water and with standing in front of the dryer vent.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 20, day 5

Friday: Geography. After doing all our daily review, we started studying Spain. We marked it on the Markable Map as well as reviewing the locations and names of some of the other countries we've covered so far. We then read 3 picture books: "The story of Ferdinand" from the 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, "The Four Brothers" from Stories from Around the World, and "The Contented Priest" from The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book. One of the library books I found this week on Spain was close to the kids' listening level (at least P's, E played quietly while I read), so we read that one and looked at the pictures in the other. After lunch, P made her book. She was reluctant to start, but quite happy once I made her choices clear: today, her aunt, uncle, and cousin weren't going to be around all day, whereas tomorrow they would, and she'd rather play with them than do today's schoolwork tomorrow. She wrote "Spain" on the cover, drew the major colours of the flag (I drew the central coat of arms), coloured a map I drew, and drew flamenco dancers, a bullfighter (we watched examples of both flamenco dancing and bullfighting on YouTube), a cork tree, olives, and Columbus asking Ferdinand and Isabella to fund his voyage.

In the late afternoon, my sister-in-law dropped off my nephew (15 months) for us to babysit while she sings in "Aida" and Ari's brother watches her. They'll come here late tonight, spend the night, and we'll all hang out together tomorrow. I was trying to cook a Spanish dish ("tortilla", but nothing like what I think of when I hear the word) with potatoes and eggs, but Ari wanted to do some astrophotography and I was running after all 4 kids and dinner started burning. E and my nephew got to watch as I moved the frying pan off the burner and oil that had spilled onto the burner caught dramatically on fire. I quickly hauled out a pot lid and clapped it on top of the fire, making practical use of the science principle I taught the kids on Tuesday. It's always good when this actually works, as it did this time, but I don't think it improved my nephew's opinion of my ability to care for him. Right now Ari is being a wonderful husband (isn't he always?) and cleaning up the kitchen for me - hooray! The non-burnt parts of the "tortilla" were delicious. I'll make it again, but perhaps not while babysitting and not using the evil burner (there are 2 good and 2 evil burners on this oven).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week 20, day 4

Thursday: Bible, Music. I'd just like to insert a whine about the badness of writing an entire blog post, previewing it, clicking a link in the preview, and losing the entire thing. Boo hiss.

We went to CBS this morning, where the kids heard the story of the feeding of the 5,000. It was a brunch day, so we all ate lunch at CBS. It made me think, if the boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fishes had had a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a cheese stick, and a mandarin orange in his lunch box instead, everyone else would have had that, too, instead of the loaves and fishes. God uses what we offer him. It's neat that what we offer him doesn't have to be rationally anywhere near what's needed to do the job.

Once we got home, we sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" and I introduced a new catechism and memory verse. It was warm, almost hot today (80s) - spring is definitely here. P started out reading her reader backwards: "dam si ssob siH". After sounding out that far, she announced, "That sounds like Arabic. I'm going to read it the right way around." She did so, very well. I wonder if an Arabic speaker would think Arabic read left to right sounded like English. P did her 5-a-day math review with ease.

We read the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in the children's Bible, as well as the story of the prodigal son. I tried to get the kids to act out the feeding of the 5,000, using the bag of loaves and fishes they made as a craft at CBS, but E in particular refused to play, and P was fairly reluctant. I'm surprised that it's so hard to get them interested in doing this.

I gave P another piano lesson. She is now able to reliably put her right thumb on C and fingers 2-5 on D-G, and press the appropriate key when she sees a number from C to 5 (yes, I know C isn't a number) written on a piece of paper. The free piano lessons we're using for now give the kid the option of writing their own 8-note "song", providing C _ _ _ / _ _ _ C. By starting and ending on C, whatever the kid writes sounds pretty good. P was thoroughly taken with the idea that she can write her own music, and happily wrote and played 3 "songs" of her own. I just need to be more diligent in suggesting that she practice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Week 20, day 3

Wednesday: Math. While I had my shower, I let the kids play with pattern blocks and the pegboard. Then we did all our review. I did this week's SSGMR activity with E, which involved doing a given activity a set number of times (clap your hands 3 times, hop on 2 feet 5 times, wiggle like a snake until I say "stop"). He loved this - I'll bear it in mind for when he's antsy. P struggled with the subtraction on her 5-a-day. I asked her to solve 16-9, and when she set it up she tried to solve 6-9 and instead solved 9-6, so I hauled out the manipulatives (pennies). I had her count out 16 pennies and remove 9 of them, so she saw that that was 7 pennies, and wrote 7 down as her answer, but then wanted to write a 1 in the tens place because 1-0=1. So I showed her how the 1 had already been used in getting the answer in the ones place: we started with 6 pennies, and I asked her to take 9 pennies away from those 6 pennies. She couldn't, of course, so I brought in a dime. I showed her that the dime was the 1 in the tens place, and the 6 pennies were the 6 in the ones place. We traded in the dime for 2 nickels, and I asked her to take away 9 cents from the 2 nickels and 6 pennies we had. She successfully removed a nickel and 4 pennies, leaving a nickel and 2 pennies: 7 cents. Using the dime first and transforming it into nickels and seeing it incorporated into the answer helped her see that it had been used up. I'm going to move subtraction onto more frequent review, since she struggled with it last time I asked her about it on her 5-a-day as well. I think I'll ask her to show the process with manipulatives, as well - she does fine when she can count on her fingers, but with numbers greater than 10 she runs into problems.

(Aside: here is a benefit of homeschooling! If she were in a class of 30 kids, and answered that 16-9 was 13, or 17, it would just be marked wrong, and the source of her confusion wouldn't be addressed, and like many people she might start to think math doesn't make sense or is too hard).

Another problem involved making 75 cents using the fewest possible coins. P has internalized that 2 quarters makes 50 cents, but not that 3 quarters makes 75 cents, so she started with 50 cents, added 2 dimes and a nickel, and traded the dimes and nickel in for a quarter. We then talked about how a dollar is made up of 100 cents, and half a dollar is 50 cents, and half of a half dollar is a quarter dollar, which is why the 25-cent coin is called a quarter. This turned out to be useful for the next activity.

I bought a book, Primary Grade Challenge Math, which just arrived from Amazon yesterday. It contains a variety of types of problems, each with a chapter of its own which gives an explanation and then contains 4 levels of problems. This means that, while P is ready for some of the Level 1 problems now, we'll be able to keep coming back to the book for the next several years at least. Today we looked at the first chapter, on sequences. It started with a story about a girl whose mother gave her the choice between having her $2 weekly allowance increase by $4 at each birthday or double at each birthday. Looking at just the first 3 numbers in each sequence ($2, $6, $10 vs. $2, $4, $8), the girl was about to choose the first option, but she made a chart of how the numbers increased over the next 8 years and discovered, of course, that exponential increase is awesome. Another example was given of a boy with 100 jelly beans in a jar, who decided to eat half of them every day. We took out coins and let them represent jelly beans - first, 100 cents in quarters, then half of that (2 quarters), then 1 quarter. When we needed to break it in half, P and E both laughed at my efforts to fold the quarter coin in two. I then showed them how to trade down to 2 dimes and 5 pennies. We divided them into a dime, 2 pennies, but I was still incapable of breaking the final penny in half (I really tried, and was deemed quite amusing by my offspring). I then had the idea of tracing the penny on a piece of paper with a crayon and cutting it in half, so we saw that half of 25 cents was 12 1/2 cents (so Jimmy, or whatever his name was, ate 12 and a half jelly beans). P was so entertained by this that we had to go on dividing, and she was able to figure out that the sequence was 6 1/4 and 3 1/8 jelly beans (I had to cut up the whole penny into 8ths, and have her count all of them, to get the final result). At that point, although P was still having a great time, I could foresee that 1 9/16 was going to be much too complicated to keep track of (all those tiny bits of paper!), so we moved on to the first problem in Level 1, which was continuing a sequence of even numbers. P was able to do it with a bit of help. I think she'll enjoy re-reading the chapter intro each week until we've done all the Level 1 problems for the chapter.

I also introduced the concept of adding 3 numbers together. Since P has a solid grasp of what addition is, it wasn't at all difficult for her. The key difficulty for her, I think, will be getting the numbers correctly lined up in vertical format. She was easily able to solve the problems I set up for her, so I'm going to start putting them on her 5-a-days.

This afternoon was my final midwife checkup (6 weeks postpartum) - everything is fine, and B is now 12 lb 6 oz (almost 3 pounds above his already large birth weight - he's gained an average of half a pound a week, which explains why I feel like he's always nursing). On the way home, we discussed the concept of exponential decay some more, but P didn't seem to have grasped it quite as well as I thought. It might be an idea to make it even more concrete with actual jelly beans. We might start with 32 or 16, though, so as not to have to deal with half jelly beans the first time. Also I don't think letting my kid eat 50 jelly beans in a day is a good plan. I did that for my glucose test when 28 weeks pregnant with B, and no longer like jelly beans. But my kids do, and they may as well have a solid grasp of the idea that math is delicious.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Week 20, day 2

Tuesday: Science. Today went much better than yesterday, thank God. Today's theme at Titmouse Club was "backyard gardening", which basically turned out to be what sorts of things you might find in your back yard. They had live bess beetles, stick insects, and millipedes for the kids to look at, and talked about how seeds grow into plants. The "craft" involved planting seeds in a cup of soil. We haven't watered them yet, so the seeds aren't likely to start growing until we do. Some of the seeds were milkweed, so we might transfer them outside if they get big enough and try to raise monarch butterflies. On the nature walk, there were 5 turtles sunning themselves - 4 in a straight line on one log, all looking in the same direction, and one on a separate log that found the approach of a dozen or so preschoolers intimidating and swam off with alacrity. Spring has decidedly arrived; the insects think so anyway.

Once home, we did all our review (P asked to learn the 2nd AND 3rd verses of "Holy, Holy, Holy") and it went smoothly. P's reader this week features Nat the "nightingale" (unrecognizable as such due to its cartoon nature) who lies down and naps on the job, to the chagrin of his porcupine boss. Recently, P has been attempting to get out of schoolwork by lying on the floor or under the table or on her bed and "napping". ("I can't put up 'Tuesday' on the calendar because I'm asleep.") After P had read, "Nat has a nap. Nat is bad.", I asked her whether napping during school time was any better. On the following page, in which "Nat's boss is mad", she decided it was a good thing I wasn't a porcupine, since she'd been doing the same thing as Nat had. I was amused. I think I was a porcupine yesterday, but today I was more of an owl (somewhat stern, with glasses, and mostly keeping my tone of voice to gentle hoots - maybe even wise, I hope).

My planned science experiment for today had involved planting seeds, and since the kids did that already at Titmouse Club, I decided to take us all to Space Center Houston instead (which I had planned on doing within the next 9 days while E is still 3 and thus gets in free). There is a 1:10,000,000,000 scale model of the solar system, with the sun the size of a grapefruit, and Earth slightly larger than a millimeter in diameter, with about 0.2 miles from the Sun to Neptune. We walked from the Sun to Saturn before going into the museum, but then both big kids had desperate potty needs so we went inside instead of continuing to Uranus and Neptune. We looked inside the Shuttle mockup and at the Space Shuttle Main Engine again, and I talked about how fuel needs oxygen to burn, but there isn't any oxygen in space so the Shuttle carries its own oxidizer. Once home after dinner, I performed a demo to show that fire needs oxygen, by lighting candles and then putting a glass over them so we could see the flames die down and go out once the oxygen was consumed. Most of the rest of the time at the Space Center the kids spent in the large, elaborate play structure getting lots of exercise. When they kicked us out at 5pm, we walked from Saturn to Pluto (they've relabeled it as "not a planet", but I'm sure the original display was made before Pluto's demotion). Seeing the scale of the orbits relative to the sizes of the planets is really amazing, as is considering that the Sun's gravity is strong enough from so far away to keep the planets orbiting it. I don't know if the kids understood the reason for my awe, but at least I communicated, "Mommy thinks science is really cool." Which is totally true (you'd hope so, since I spent 5 years earning a planetary science degree from Caltech).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week 20, day 1

Monday: Language Arts. One Of Those Days. Rain. Reluctance. Irritability. It's hard to get a kid to cooperate when she's hiding under the covers. It was partly my fault. The covers in question had been in a pile on the floor, and I told her to put them on her bed. She couldn't see them from where she was sitting, and I snapped at her when she didn't get up and look for them (really, a sheet on the floor is a hard thing to miss if you're trying to find it at all). This caused her to huddle under the sheet and weep once she got it onto her bed. I apologized for snapping at her, but she was still a whimpering pile of misery, so I decided to start our review and hope that having something else to think about would improve her mood. It kind of did, but she dragged on everything else we did the entire morning. By the time we finished all our reviews and started language arts, it was already 11am. We introduced a new letter, which made both kids happy. But the copywork took forever (and I had the audacity to suggest that an "o" that looked like a 6 was evidence that P wasn't being careful enough, which resulted in a fresh outburst of tears). I got better results by running downstairs to reboot the laundry and wondering out loud if she could finish before I did. She read her reader fairly happily, though we had a few points of frustration. I think my perfectionism and her perfectionism played against each other to upset both of us. Even the activities I thought would be fun turned out to be frustrating (blindfold the kids and make noises behind them so they can guess what made the noise, but the kids thought it was more fun to sneak peeks; have P look through a picture book to tell the story, but she dawdled at every page and claimed not to know what happened although she eventually proved she did). I thought of giving it up after that, but lunch wasn't ready (I'd baked bread, and it was still in the oven, wider and flatter than I expected - see, even the bread was conspiring against me). So I insisted on the final copywork, which she did slowly and somewhat messily (though I did again require that the "o" that looked like a 6 be redone). The afternoon was happier - all our academic activities being over, the kids played outside in a large puddle for over an hour, and then P finished a sewing project - her first, a picture frame, and it turned out beautifully. I need to keep asking God to help me not yell when frustrated; it's a bad habit I've been trying to kick for years, and it's what ruined the morning.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Week 19, day 5

Friday: Geography. For breakfast, I made omelettes, since we were studying France. I wouldn't have wanted a genuine French epicure to taste them, but my family thought they were pretty good. Over breakfast, we talked about Bastille Day and the French Revolution, and how the nobility's oppression of the poor came back to haunt them - it's better to help the poor than to steal from them...

We reviewed our hymn, catechism, and memory verses (last week's and the one I introduced on Thursday), updated the calendar, and had P read her reader and do her math 5-a-day. I was busy with the baby as she did her 5-a-day, and she did most of it well, but made some minor errors. Usually, I'm around and say as little as possible, but she talks the problem through even though I don't say much in return, which helps her avoid making mistakes. I'm not going to insist on her doing her 5-a-day without any input from me until she's reading fluently, since reading errors are a major part of her problem in working independently.

We started our geography study by outlining and labeling France on the Markable Map. We looked at the France page in the children's atlas. We also read "Madeline" and "Babar" from the 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, and "Puss in Boots" from Stories From Around the World. We then paged through a library book on France and looked at the pictures. P informed me that she did not want to make her own book about France, so I gave her the choice between doing it right away anyway or doing it on Saturday. She decided to do it on Saturday (today), and when I reminded her of her choice this morning she was happy to do it. She made a book with "France" on the cover, she drew the French flag, coloured a map I drew, and drew grapes (for wine), a beautiful old building, the Eiffel Tower, the TGV (high-speed train), and 2 people cycling in the Tour de France.

On Friday afternoon we headed over to Ari's aunt's house. Her house is the same size as Ari's parents' house (where we're living), but her house has 1 person living in it right now and ours has 7, so there's a good bit more space at her place, including a few empty rooms. So we had 3,000 books delivered to her house. These are more copies of the first book in the series, since we hope to sell a lot more of the first one in order to inspire people to buy the second through fourth once they're ready. While looking at the huge stack of boxes in Ari's cousin's otherwise empty former bedroom, I was struck by the idea that God has someone who will be blessed by each of those books, so I prayed that each one would find its target. I have a fun mental image of books flying one by one out the window of the room and landing in people's hands all over the USA and the world as the stacks of boxes of books in the room slowly shrink away.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Week 19, day 4

Thursday: Bible/Music. Today in CBS, the kids heard the story of Zacchaeus. Upon our return, I spent some time taking care of laundry and dishes and getting the baby to sleep, so we got started later than I really wanted to. We reviewed Proverbs 3:5-6, verse 1 of the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy", and the catechism question, and introduced a new catechism question and memory verse. Then we updated the calendar, and the kids found the storybook we'd read last Friday about the Berlin airlift, so they insisted that I reread that to them. Once that was finished, P read her reader and did her math 5-a-day. She asked to play a math game, and I let her do one of the Think-It-Through activities. Then we finally got around to reading the Bible storybook - we reviewed the story of Zacchaeus, and read about the parables of the lost sheep and the unforgiving servant. Then E and I acted out the story of Zacchaeus (this time, P didn't want to participate) - he was Zacchaeus, and climbed up the bunk bed to get a good view of me, until I told him he needed to come down and host me at his house, which turned out to be the bottom bunk. After that, the kids asked me to take them shopping - there was a doll in the toy store that P wanted to buy, and she was sure it couldn't cost more than the $6.12 she had in her piggy bank. I prepared her for the inevitable, and promised a trip to the library instead if it didn't pan out, so there wasn't too much dismay at the discovery that the doll cost a good deal more than that. We spent a while at the library - I was trying to find picture books having something to do with France, but the pickings were slim - the one book I found was pretty lame. We may read "Babar" from one of the children's book treasuries we have as part of our geography lesson tomorrow. I'd like to make crepes as well, and maybe omelettes for breakfast. By the time we got back from the library, there wasn't time for me to do any music with the kids (I'd hoped to give P the next piano lesson and to work on learning the second verse of "Holy, Holy, Holy", and perhaps play a rhythm game). We're unlikely to get to it tomorrow, either, since we'll be spending the afternoon at Ari's aunt's house helping with the delivery of 3,000 copies of Ari's book. We've run out of storage space at our house, so we'll store these boxes there, hoping that it won't be too long before we have to haul bunches of them over here to sell. If you haven't bought a copy yet, buy it! And tell your friends to, too. We'd hate for the number of copies we've ordered to be a vast overestimate. It's one of the best books I've read, and I'm not just saying that because the author is my hubby!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Week 19, day 3

Wednesday: Math. Wednesday mornings are "Oma Day", when my mother-in-law takes the kids out for breakfast and lunch, and generally comes up with something fun for them to do all morning. I use this time to go to Arabic Bible study. I know this blog is mainly about what the kids are learning, but I'm excited to see progress in what I'm learning. When I started attending the weekly Bible study at the Houston Arabic Church, I knew that my listening comprehension skills were miserable at best. I could usually, given loads of time, piece together what a written article meant, but read aloud at a native speaker's pace I had no chance. Now, after about 6 months, I can usually, just by hearing, tell what verse of the Bible is being read (it helps that I know the Bible really well), or what subject is being talked about. Each person was given a verse to read aloud today, and I participated with some trepidation. I understood that the subject of the study was Christian service, and that each verse addressed some aspect of Christian service. Looking at my verse, I could tell that it had to do with giving (I also vaguely remembered that 2 Corinthians 9 had to do with giving). As I listened to the leader, I could tell when my verse was coming up by the fact that she started talking about giving. I made it through both verses in my passage without stumbling over more than about 5 of the words - I've been practicing reading silently in Arabic on my own. It's so neat to see that my language skills are progressing. I now feel that I'm at about the level of Arabic that I was at in Danish after about 2 months in Denmark, and at that stage my language learning really took off. Of course, there I was completely immersed in the language every day, but if we end up in a place where people speak Arabic, I'm sure I'll be able to pick it up really quickly now.

Once we started school, we reviewed our hymn, memory verse, and catechism (P has all 3 down pretty easily, E knows most of the verse and can fill in when P hesitates). We updated our calendar, and P read her reader (about as fluently as I read my verse at Arabic Bible study) and did her math 5-a-day. Then we moved on to the activity I had planned, which combined math and science and dessert. We baked 4 cakes (tiny ones, each contained only 6 Tbs of flour, the main ingredient, and one egg sufficed for 3 cakes). The kids measured out the ingredients for the first cake mostly without help. The first cake was made to the exact recipe. We were in a hurry to finish before leaving for P's ballet lesson, so for the other 3 cakes I did the measuring and talked about what I was doing. We left out either the egg, the oil, or the baking powder in the cakes I measured for. After P's ballet lesson, we investigated the properties of the cakes. The "everything" cake and the "no oil" cake were fairly similar, though the "no oil" cake was tougher. The "no egg" cake was squishier (it stuck to its foil pan whereas the others didn't) and rose less, and the "no baking powder" cake hardly rose at all, and was by far the least appetizing. I cut the cakes in half, and one half of each into 4 pieces, and we each ate 1/8 of each cake, so we got to review fractions (which, by the way, P is nailing on her 5-a-days). Hooray for math being dessert!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Week 19, day 2

Tuesday: Science. Today's theme at Titmouse Club was dragonflies. The kids learned about the dragonfly life cycle: they start out as eggs, hatch into nymphs that live in the water and hunt water creatures like mosquito larvae and even small fish, and then, after a couple of years, crawl out of the water and molt a final skin, revealing the adult form of the dragonfly. Adult dragonflies also hunt critters, mainly insects - including mosquitoes. I always liked dragonflies; now that I know they're mosquitoes' predators, I like them even more. It's still too cold for adult dragonflies, but the docents had some dragonfly nymphs in pond water in viewers, so the kids could look and see the nymphs magnified and moving around. They made a dragonfly craft with a clothes peg, pipe cleaners for legs, and translucent wings.

After Titmouse Club, we needed to leave for an appointment downtown. B had a dimple on his spine that apparently can sometimes mean there's a problem with the spinal cord, so we had an ultrasound on his back to make sure that there was no problem (which turned out to be the case - thank God for a totally healthy baby). We spent 2 hours in the waiting room because they were really behind schedule, and we hadn't had lunch before we came because we thought we'd be done by 1:30 (it turned out to be 3:30 before we ate). The kids handled it well, though. We were able to explain to them some of the anatomy and the physics of the ultrasound machine (why they had to put gel on B's back, for example). We decided to run some errands on the way back, reasoning that if we'd already lost most of the day, another hour wouldn't make a huge difference.

Once home again, I had P read her reader and do her math 5-a-day, which she did smoothly and easily. It was almost 6pm by the time this was done (we only started at 5:30), so that was all the school that happened today. Real-life learning is good, too, though (in the waiting room, we had some scintillating discussions on the subject of physics in Tom and Jerry cartoons).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 19, day 1

Monday: Language Arts. Today, E woke up saying, "It's the beginning of March today!" He's thoroughly aware that his birthday is in March, so today marks another milestone in the approach of that significant day. I made a new calendar while P held the baby, who was hungry and let us all know, so the calendar looks a bit more slapdash than usual. Fortunately, much of the "review" part of school can be done from a sitting position, so I nursed B while we reviewed our memory verse and catechism, and updated the calendar. Unfortunately, E dumped out the folder containing all the names of days of the week, months of the year, weather conditions and numbers, twice. I lost my temper with him the second time. P did her math 5-a-day without too much trouble, and I had E do a "finish the sentence" activity while P finished that. I started a sentence, like "E likes..." and he filled in an appropriate ending. This was easy for him.

We got through the entire week's worth of Language Arts, including both copyworks. P was disappointed that this was another review week and we weren't doing a new letter, so I told her that we'd do one next week. I haven't looked at next week's schedule, but we'll do one whether it's scheduled or not (I'm pretty sure it will be). She read the reader fairly easily - her sight word repertoire is increasing rapidly. She's actually starting to be able to read a number of words in "real life". In church yesterday, she flipped open a pew Bible to 2 Kings 1, and read in verse 4, "So Elijah went." She found a few other individual words she could make out, as well. She also enjoys writing, and we can often figure out what she's written: "Let us lov one a nuthr fr luv cmr Gob." (still with the b/d reversal, though she often sees that she's reversed it after she's written it. This was her memory verse in CBS, and she wrote it completely from memory). This week's language arts had several games scheduled - making words by choosing 2 of 4 consonants that go with a given vowel, matching pairs of words that rhyme, and putting a stack of 10 word cards in alphabetical order. We also read the first few pages of "Tom Thumb" in a fairy tale book, and I had P describe how she thought it should end. Her guess was almost exactly correct, but the story went on to another crisis/climax, so I had her guess again, which this time was quite different from what the book said. She decided she liked the book's ending better. When P was done with the second of the 3 games, we headed outside to draw hopscotch squares with chalk on the patio. Both children enjoyed this, and each drew hopscotch squares of their own. P drew 3 different games, each with more numbers than the last - the final one had 18. E drew one as well, which turned around in a circle, and he tried to write numbers as well. We did the alphabetizing activity outside, despite the wind's attempt to blow the words out of order.

Tomorrow, I plan to start making a "worm box" for composting. We went to Target this afternoon and got a box the right size. This can be an ongoing science experience for the kids, in addition to shorter projects from the book I got on Friday.