Friday, April 11, 2014

Duke of Edinburgh Award, Hug a Tree, Lots of Scouting, and more

Life has been SO busy recently - I'm sure you have all given up reading my blog because of the lack of new posts.

I've been really busy with Scouting Recently.  Besides the meetings and activities, I've been taking some training.  That has included working on the WoodBadge II training for Leaders.   I've already earned it years ago as a Scout Leader and a Rover Advisor - now I'm taking it as a Cub Leader.

Temperature for the Klondike Derby!
Delta and Echo were outside for about 5 hours that day...

Echo and Delta starting out on the Klondike Derby
One of those activities was the Klondike Derby - where Scout troops and Cub packs compete at 10 various 'towns' doing things like building bridges, starting fires, and riding a zip line.  Our pack usually has a 'dog sled' (pulled by the cubs) - but it was frozen in snow this year, so they used backpacks to carry their provisions.

Big Brown Beaver's Birthday Cake
Part of my Woodbadge II training was held at the same camp as the Area Winter Beaver Camp.  As this year is the 40th anniversary of Beavers in Canada, it was a Birthday Party theme.  This cake was too good not to share.... well at least the picture of it.

See the Beaver in the 3rd slot?  That is Foxtrot's Beaver Buggy

Foxtrot got to start a race!  (Cars are already down the track)

Golf got to start a Scout Trucks race!

Foxtrot, Echo, Delta, Golf with their Cub Cars.  (Golf has Delta's from last year)

We also had the Cub Car rally this month with the church,  Although the church doesn't sponsor Cubs, Foxtrot came in uniform with her beaver buggy, and she got to run her buggy with the Cub Cars.  There were also Scout Trucks running.

I have also felt it was a good idea to be trained as a mentor for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  This Award is available for youth ages 14-25 in various (if not all) Commonwealth Countries.  It is quite challenging, but works well with Scouting - and is often included with scouting in Venturer Companies and Rover Crews.   One thing that is cool is that my province has a semi-unofficial challenge for youth ages 11-13 which Delta will be able to start this fall.

As well as that, I also took training to be able to present the "Hug-a-tree" program.  I was actually trained years ago when it was run by the RCMP, but it is now run by a not-for-profit organization, and there have been a couple of updates to the program.   This program teaches youth ages 5-10ish how not to get lost in the woods, and what to do if they are.  (This program almost perfectly completes the Cub level 'Trailcraft' badge....)

Also, Canadian Scouting is going through a review and redevelopment.  They are just starting to pilot some of the changes now, and the pilot programs will continue through next year.  The new program will be implemented Fall 2015 if things go as planned.  I have been attending various meetings about the new program, and hope to become a Mentor for Cub Packs that are doing the pilot, and for the implementation of the new program in 2015.  There may be many interested people though, so not sure the likelihood of being selected.  It looks like it has a lot of potential (besides, it is better to be on board with change that is definitely coming rather than drag your heels...)  I hope that the program turns out to be great!

Here are some pictures from the last couple of months.
Foxtrot figuring out a problem involving hats and shoes - using Tiles

Foxtrot and the Geoboard - Finding all the lines of symetry I think...

One of those homeschooling moments
The Sword in the Stone being reenacted just because they wanted to

 Well, I hope to do better at keeping this blog up....  I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Working for me - Spelling Bees...

Ok, Mike has been teasing me about how easy it is to read my blog - with only a post or two a month.  It just seems like life is so busy now!

Anyway, I wanted to share another "Working for Me Thursday" (even though it is Friday) with everyone.

What is working is - Friday Spelling Bees.

We are using All About Spelling for our spelling program, which has been working well.  Most steps in the program have a list of words for extra practice.  I use these words each week to have a fun spelling practice by having an informal spelling bee.  I use ANKI (with the extra words in their own deck) set to bring the cards up randomly.  Each student gets cards from their own lists, so it is fair.

It gives a chance to see if they are internalizing the rules, and not just memorizing the main words.

Still Working For Us

SkedTracker - working great - more work is getting done each day since we started!
- All About Spelling - still works well!

Not Working For Us Anymore

Children's Miracle Music - well, I just use this now and then anyway.... it works as a once-in-a-while item.
Sassmannshaus Violin - I'm frustrated.  I just am tired of the fight to get kids to practice.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

January 2014 Review - Mom's a Proud Mom!

Ok - I admit it - Today's post is about things I'm proud of my children about - plain and simple...

Back Row -  Delta, Foxtrot, Echo.  Front Row - Golf  - See our new eReader!
As you know if you read my blog, our family is very active in Scouting.  A part of that involves doing fundraising.  This Fall we participated in selling Scout Popcorn - which we did as a family.  We were fortunate to have sold enough popcorn, not only to help fund our scouting program, but to be entered into some draws for awards.  Christmas Eve I received a phone call that Foxtrot had won a Kobo eReader - which is working out nicely for our little homeschool.  I was proud of all the hard work they had done, and happy that they got a little 'extra' out of it.

Then in January Echo was baptized.  It is so hard to think that another child is already 8!  I was quite proud that she had decided she wanted to be baptized.

Echo's Baptism Day

I had another proud moment one day when we were doing math.  Echo is working on Fractions, and as such is using the Fraction chart/puzzle.  Well, Golf was right there like white on rice....  and boy, she is good at puzzles... she was finding the right fractions and putting them in the right spots for Echo.  I suspect Golf will enjoy math... every school day she asks to do a "practice sheet" (for her, just drawing on the white board) - and to sing "Yellow is the sun"....    I was also proud with the patience Echo was showing on letting Golf do the puzzle with her.

Echo and Golf

And then this month with just a little 'poking' Delta finished up the requirements for a few more Awards in Cubs.  There are 10 Awards (when you include the World Conservation Award and Religion in Life Award) - and now Delta has earned all 10.  He earned his 6 star award last year (which has a plaque to recognize this accomplishment) - but each of the Cub Awards require a star, generally a few badges from that activity area, and a few more requirements.   There are a few more badges that Delta will probably earn (there are a couple he doesn't have planned for the pack to earn together yet) - but he is now eyeing the scout program.  He will officially move up to scouts in a couple of months - probably April - and can attend some of their meetings now as well.  

Delta in his Cub Uniform - all Awards

 This last month has been very busy - and a few things have been difficult - but it has been a month with my kids doing things that would make any mother proud!

Friday, December 6, 2013

What Works this Week - Dec 6th

So, what is working for us this week?  (Hm, seems like I'm just talking about different programs - but hey, they are working for me....)  This week - what is working is - All About Spelling, along with ANKI.

Yes, this isn't a Charlotte Mason method of learning.  In Charlotte Mason, spelling is learned through a progression of Copywork, Transcription, and then Studied Dictation.   Studied Dictation starts at about age 9 or 10, so often CM students seem behind in spelling when compared to students of other methods, including public school.  Many CM students just blossom in spelling when they start Studied Dictation - but a few don't.

When Delta turned 9 last year, we tried to start studied dictation.  I came to realize though that I had tried to skip the transcription step though, as Delta struggled with it - and of course the studied dictation was a disaster.  Even the simplest words seemed too hard.... we moved back to transcription but even that was too hard.

This took me into looking for alternatives.  I tried out a couple of different things, including some older public-domain texts.  But still, I saw no sense of spelling at all.  In doing research, I came to realize that Delta might have dyslexia, even though he was reading fairly well.  (He is struggling a bit with reading as well.)  It was actually the All About Spelling website that clued me in that poor spelling could be a sign of dyslexia.

I don't have any examples of Delta's early spelling mistakes - but they were right out there.... even with 3 letter words.  You couldn't see how he came up with them at all.  Here are some examples of dyslexic spelling from another website (longer words) just to give you an idea...

"... for example substance spelled 'sepedns', last spelled 'lenaka', about spelled 'chehat', may spelled 'mook', did spelled 'don', or to spelled 'anianiwe'.
Yes, although we were working on easier types of words - that was what I was seeing in Delta's spelling and attempts to write.

I might have put things off for another year, trying to move the copywork up to transcription - but Delta was aware of his inability to 'write' from other activities, and was frustrated and feeling badly.  He was asking me to teach him to write.   I decided to try All About Spelling.

We got All About Spelling, Level 1 last January or February.  I started both Delta and Echo (who had a few similar symptoms, although she was younger).   At first I used one method to track cards - I used a pencil and lightly wrote their initial when they started a card - and when it could be moved to mastered I put a small star sticker in their colour on it.  (Of course when they both had it mastered, it also moved into mastered.)  I did their lessons separately, so they could progress at their own rate.   This was working "ok", but I decided to use ANKI instead.

I've written a blog post about using ANKI previously, but briefly it is a smart flashcard program that tries to determine the optimum time to show you the flashcard to give you the best chance to remember it, while not showing it to you too often and wasting your time.  It provides for more review than All About Spelling, and I can have the same "cards" for the kids.  I can use my tablet, or the computer, or even use the internet on my phone - they all sync together.

The change has been remarkable.  Delta has finished level 1, and is a little way into level 2.  He gets the words he has learned through the program correct most of the time - but even better, he gets similar words correct too.

Generally how we do a lesson - I set a timer for 15 minutes... that is how long we do a day.   We start with the review words using ANKI and using tiles.  The number of review words can be as low as 3 or 4, in which case we move on, or could be larger like 20 or 30, such as on a Monday (reviews build up on the weekend) and/or when we have added new words after a 'step' (about 10 new ones for each step)   If there is a large number of reviews, we will do the reviews for 5-10 minutes, depending on the child's focus.

After doing the reviews, we proceed to working on the steps.  Generally we have some phrases (or sentences) to write - but we might just be up to writing the new words on paper.   If it is writing the words, then we do all of them, and that is generally the end of the lesson (we may do a few more reviews if there are still some.)  If we are up to writing phrases or sentences, then we will do from 3 to 6 of those.  If there is still time left, I may start teaching the concepts in the next step - leaving the rest of the phrases or sentences for the next day.

So in general, we do reviews, some writing, and some working on the next step.  When we get to the new words in a step, those are added to the reviews, and the 'review' portion of our lesson is a bit longer - until ANKI is showing those words as learned.  It generally works out that we are ready to start the writing portion of a step nicely after completing the writing portion of the previous step.

It sounds more complicated than it is - but it did take me a while to work out the working on the next step while doing the writing part of the previous step.

On Fridays we do a spelling bee with the "More Words" for each child (also added to ANKI).

And - how do I know it is working?  Delta is more likely to write things now - not long things - but stuff up on the white board, or in a drawing.  He sometimes asks me how to spell a word - and he does at times spell incorrectly - but he is willing to try.  He spells so much better than he did, and I think his reading has improved as well.  Echo is spelling better as well (she hasn't quite finished level 1).

I don't know if we will do ALL the levels of All About Spelling - but for now it is working great!

Still Working For Us

SkedTracker - working great - more work is getting done each day since we started!
- Sassmannshaus Violin - although they don't argue to do practices first anymore.... expect an update soon!

Not Working For Us Anymore

Children's Miracle Music - well, I just use this now and then anyway.... it works as a once-in-a-while item.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Timeline Binder Pictures

I have had a number of people ask me about the timeline pictures I have created.   If you are doing Ambleside Online, or a similar program, you may find mine useful.  But I feel it is best if you can create the ones your own student would like.

So, here is my process.

I use Avery Design Pro software to easily make all my timeline pictures the same size.  It is free, and I think they have it for various types of computer.

When I open it the first time, I chose to design the project from scratch.

Then I selected template 5214, as it makes a nice sized picture. (Each timeline picture is on a label.)

Then I use the buttons on the Left to add my text and images.  I find the information and pictures usually by doing a google search...  Leave the MASTER label blank, unless there is information you want on EVERY picture.

I often copy one label to another to make new timeline pictures.  This helps them be consistent.  I also rename the tab for the label (right click) and organize them in the order I will likely need them next year.  For an AO Year, I have them organized by week.  For Artists/Composers/Authors, I organize them alphabetically.  For other things my kids ask for, I organize them chronologically.  It works for me - but do whatever works for you.  (I also have things in separate files, as our original single file got too large to work with easily.)

For printing, I often need to note down the tab numbers of the specific pictures I wish to print.   Of course, sometimes I just one the current one.  Double check that you are not printing an entire sheet of the same label - and I usually do a Print Preview before doing the actual printing.

Finally, we print on regular paper and cut them out.  If you were doing a whole year ahead, you could actually buy the Avery Labels... but as I'm only printing out a handful at a time (and often from more than one file), that would be a large waste.  The scrap paper is used for protecting our timeline binders while gluing, or for colouring/drawing.

If I get people interested in my actual design-pro files (instead of the pdf's I've made available) let me know and I can look at adding it to the link above.  Otherwise - I hope that some people take the plunge to making their own!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Canadian Money Saving Tip

I thought I'd share a little money saving tip that many Canadians don't know about.

It is called the Canadian Scanner Price Volunteer Code.  I do believe it is voluntary for companies - but almost all the stores I shop at follow the code.  (The company does this on a national basis, not just each store.)

So what is this Code?   Basically - it is that if a product is scanned, and the price that comes up doesn't match the price on the price tag / store shelf price... you get the first one FREE!  Well, Free if it is less than $10 - or you get $10 off if it is more than $10.  If you were buying more than one, the rest are the correct price.   There is one little hitch - (I'm not sure if this is written in the code) - you have to tell the cashier.  (Occasionally you need to get them to call a manager - I have had cashiers that have never heard about it.)

So - for example - if you are buying an item that is $6.95 according to the shelf - but it scans at $6.97 - don't just shrug and say to yourself  "I won't worry about a couple of cents" - because if you bring it up, and say you are now supposed to get it free - you will get it free!  There is almost $7 savings!

Ok - it isn't a savings you can count on - but it is surprising (or maybe it isn't?) how often you find things that scan wrong if you either watch as it scans, or check the receipt right away.   Over the few years I've known about it, I'm sure I've saved at least $100!

Some examples I can think of.....
- A bag of Pears was supposed to be about $6 but scanned in around $8 - that was $6 saved (or $8 if we hadn't checked!)

- A block of cheese (about $9)

- A shirt ($10 off - it was supposed to be $14 and came up as $16)

- Lego ($7 small little kit)

- many, many items of food at around $1-$5 each.

Usually there is a posting somewhere near the cash register about the Scanning Code of Practice - (the picture above).  I think they need to have it, but I can't say I've always spotted it.   It can be handy to spot them in case you are talking to a cashier that is unaware of it.

Note that most of the stores will immediately fix the shelf price if you report a mis-scanned price.  I think they are supposed to.  I have had it once when I KNEW the price on the shelf was one amount, and the product scanned at another price - but the sale tag was gone as I went through the cash register.  Someone else had reported it just before me (verified by having them check the book they have to fill in.....) so they still gave me the one free.  That is pretty rare though.

So - which stores.

Well, I think pretty much every grocery store follows this code.  (All the ones I shop at have.)
Shoppers Drug Mart
Canadian Tire
Toys - R - Us
Home Depot

And I'm sure MANY more.

So - next time that price doesn't seem to match what the shelf or tags say..... don't shrug it off.  And don't just take the accepted price.  Get $10 off or the item free (as appropriate) - it is worth it.

That said - there has been the occasional time, when the item was only about $1 or so when I haven't bothered..... there has been the occasional time when the lineup is just too long behind me for me to make everyone "suffer" for me to save that loonie.  I haven't done that often - but occasionally....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Working for us Thursday - (or is it Wednesday?)

So - What is working for us right now - is Sassmannshaus Violin!  Of course, we just started this week - so it might be short term - but I'm hoping it will last long-term.

Those of you that know me as "SuzukiMom" are probably confused.  Yes, we did Suzuki Violin.  We did Suzuki Violin for a number of years.  But - that ended about a year and a half ago.  I tried continuing Suzuki violin with them without a teacher for a while - but ended up giving the kids a long break - almost a year long.

This spring, it was "time" for us to do more violin.  It wasn't an external time - it just felt like time.  Delta and Echo would practice obediently - but I knew, and they knew, that they had forgotten songs - it was very much backwards progress - even though Delta was conquering some bad habits.  It was disheartening for them, and for me.  Foxtrot was happy to do violin... but it just wasn't working.

We did have a surge of practice when I was able to get a used copy of Lego Rock Band for our Wii (and free "instruments" from Freecycle!).  I was telling people how much Lego Rock Band was improving their Violin.   In case you are wondering (like the people I told) how it would help their violin - easy.  They weren't allowed to play it unless they had practiced that day!  (If they have time to practice fake instruments they have time to practice real ones!)

This all screamed to a halt when I got sick this summer.  I haven't had the energy to require violin at all...  but those violins were sitting in the living area making me feel - guilty.  And I was discouraged at the thought of trying to work through Suzuki - knowing where we had been, where we would be restarting - I just couldn't.  I was ready to sell the violins.

But I love the violin, and the kids all have at some point or another.  The violin is very musical.  It is portable.  A great Solo instrument, also great for Duet's, Trio's, Quartets.  You can play Classical, Fiddle, Country, Folk, and even Rock music on it.   It is also one of the few instruments that can be played in Sacrament Meeting at church.  

I talked to Mike about it, and he said that we shouldn't quit - but should look at other resources... and that anything we did is better than doing nothing.  So I started looking.  One thing I wanted to check out was Sassmannshaus - as I had noticed it about 3 or 4 years ago at the Music Store.

With a lot of looking, I discovered that there is a related website, that has video's of various violin techniques that will be helpful  (and of course there are always other You-Tube videos out there - you just never know how experienced the "teacher" is on those...).  I liked the pages I could see (I did a bunch of searching on Google) - and I liked the switch of pace!

This series is designed for the young beginner.  Foxtrot is the perfect age.  It has note reading right from the start, and has many tunes that the young student will recognize... things like "Rain, Rain - Go Away", or "Hot Cross Buns".  The book has engaging pictures, and large music.

I started by giving Foxtrot a lesson on Monday.  She has continually been eager to do violin.  I showed her the book, showed her a few of the songs, and explained that she was going to learn to read music.  I gave her the short course, so to speak - and we started with the first couple of "Open String" songs.  She has already been doing Pre-Twinkle songs with Suzuki, so she already knows how to hold the violin and bow and play on the strings.   Boy was she delighted when I turned the page to the D String song.... she had never gotten to play on D String before!  And then the G String.... pure delight!

On Tuesday she was eager to practice first thing in the morning, and again today (Wednesday).  She was even upset because Echo had started to practice before her!  (I need to watch Foxtrot practice - but Echo can practice on her own.)


Tuesday had ended up being a hard school day - and I had given up on the idea of starting Echo on the violin that day... but near bedtime Echo asked if she could have her lesson.  I'm sure a part of it was to delay bed... but I decided to go for it.  Echo was also happy - as she was going to learn how to read music.  She hadn't learned at all officially in Suzuki, and had done just a very basic amount with me at home over a year ago.  A part of that may be from her wanting her Musician Badge in Cubs, which requires knowing the basics of reading music.  She also got an introduction to the Metronome to help her keep time... it is hard not to rush those half notes!

Today (Wednesday) she got out everything and started practicing on her own!


So Today (Wednesday) I did a lesson with Delta.  He had listened to all the theory stuff with Echo - and of course this is all very basic review for him.  He did learn to read music with his Suzuki teacher - although I don't think he was reading as well as she was thinking he was.... and of course these open string songs are nothing compared to the Minuets, or Happy Farmer, or the other songs he had been playing in Suzuki.  But - look at that straight left wrist!   I hope his confidence will go up.  I expect he will move very quickly through this first book.  If I'm not mistaken, the second book will have techniques new to him (and therefore me!)  There were no complaints.   I'll see if he practices on his own tomorrow or not.

This is a total change in teaching methodology - but we needed a change.  The program is supposed to be done with a teacher, but the videos on methods should help.  I wish I could find a bit more guidance though.  The book suggests a single finger tape (for the 2 finger) - our Suzuki teacher had 3 or 4 - depending on the number of fingers being used.  I'm not sure when some skills are introduced (and whether or not the book will say, or if it would be up to the teacher)  I don't know of any groups or forums to discuss the program.

That said - Right now, we are looking good, and I'm thrilled!

Still Working For Us

- SkedTracker - working great!
- Cubs/Beavers

Not Working For Us Anymore

- Children's Miracle Music - well, I just use this now and then anyway.... it works as a once-in-a-while item.

It is bedtime and Echo is doing another practice.  Foxtrot wants to do another one, but I'm too tired.  (Ok, bad mom.... who tells a kid that they can't practice the violin anyway?)