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?)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Working for us Thursday - or is it Friday? Week in Review Too!

Ok - I'm late.  It has been a busy week, and I just am getting around to this entry.

So - what has been working for us?  Well, for quite a while, what has been working for us is CUBS and BEAVERS!

For those that might be confused - I'm not talking about animals.... I'm talking about Scouting.  And yes, in Canada - Scouting is Co-Ed!  This has worked out well, as Cubs and Beavers for our group meet at the same time, at the same place - so Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot are all at meetings at the same time.  Golf "hangs out" with Mike - we say she is in "Wanna-Bee's" because she "wants to be" a Beaver.  The more used term for this stage is being a "Bit" - a "Beaver in Training"....   And I'm not sure if I've mentioned it - but I'm a Cub leader (again!) with the group now too.

Back Row - Snowbird Technician;
Middle Row - Echo, Delta;
Front Row - Foxtrot, Golf
Delta is in his last year of Cubs.  He has earned so many badges, his arms are getting full.  I think the count is at about 42 - including Stars and Awards.  He only has a few Awards left to earn - and a few more badges on top of that.  He has also attended a Scout Activity and a Scout Camp, and will be invited to a few more Scout activities as the year goes on.  I suspect he will "Leap" up to Scouts in about April.

Echo is in her first year of Cubs, having completed 2 years of Beavers.  She is also enjoying the program, and has already earned 10 badges and 1 star.  She keeps eyeing Delta's badge chart as well as her own, deciding on what to work on next.

Foxtrot is in her first year of Beavers - being thrilled to no longer by a "Wanna-Bee".  She is enjoying fun activities, including making a Terrarium yesterday.

Me as a parent (in the red leader uniform) putting the neckerchief on Foxtrot at her Investiture as a Beaver

I suspect that Scouting will generally work for us - but will say up-front that it depends so much on the group.  Our first group was a big disappointment for us, and we had to switch the group.  But in a city there are usually a choice of groups.   If there isn't something that will work - there is also the possibility of doing things as a Lone.  It takes more motivation, but is definitely possible.

Just a few more points in the week -

  • Monday we went to the Remembrance Day Ceremonies. 
  • Tuesday was a regular school day - with the bonus of having the car.... so we used some audiobooks.  We didn't go anywhere too interesting though.
  • Wednesday - Mike wasn't feeling well so he worked from home.  We didn't do regular school - but we went swimming in the afternoon to allow a quiet house for Mike.
  • Thursday - Another regular schoolday - and of course, Cubs and Beavers!
  • Friday - Echo and Delta are off to cub camp this evening.   We had our regular Friday - which I'll save for another blog.

Monday, November 11, 2013


We Shall Remember Them

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's Working for us Thursday

Last week, a friend at "Our Busy Homeschool"    put out a challenge to blog each Thursday about something that is "working" for our family right at the moment.  It might not work in a day, or a week - or it might work long-term... who knows.  But for right now - it works.

Well, this week I'm going to share something that is "Sort-of" working - but not quite.  But it is working better than nothing.  And to be fair - I'm not doing the whole thing.

Years ago, I tried a program with Delta to get the Morning and Bedtime Routine going a little bit better.  It encourages the children to do each routine faster than the music provided.  If they beat the music, they got a point.  Points would add up for a "Date" with a parent.  I think if they got all the points for the day (or part of day?) they also got a Star.  It is called "Children's Miracle Music".

Well, I don't have the poster anymore, and I'm not sure where the CD's are - although I have a copy of "most" of the tracks as MP3's on the computer.  The "add up your points" songs are missing, and "Brush your Teeth" is missing in the morning - I think when I made the MP3's years ago, the filename was the same so I only have one.  At the moment I'm not tracking points or giving out stars....

I remember way back we stopped using it because Delta would dance to the music if he was done before the time was up.... but that quickly turned into dancing through the music instead of doing what he was supposed to.

Over the last couple of years I've tried a couple of programs to make various times easier - Accountable Kids, Chore Packs, and a couple of others.  They seem to work for a few days - maybe a week or two - and then it doesn't seem to work.  I'm sure it is my lack of consistancy with it all.... cards get lost, and everything seems to start being a hassle.

But recently I felt like I was spending all my time giving commands.  So one day, I threw the morning routine on.  And you know - it was better.  Not totally - but the kids are generally hustling to do the items.

A few drawbacks.... it is a set routine - no customization.  Also, I have 4 kids.... and sometimes they CAN'T do the same thing at the same time.  Definitely not helpful for things like "Use the Bathroom" (4 kids can't use 1 bathroom at the same time!)  So I do have to over-ride some of the directions so it works out better.  Another example is "Do Your Hair" - except I have to help each of the 3 girls do their hair.... so again, I have to modify the directions.   And of course, there is a set amount of time for each item - designed to be fair - but sometimes it doesn't work out.  For example "Make Your Bed" has plenty of time to make a basic bed - but if the sheet has come off, it takes my kids more time.

But, as I said - my kids are responding well to it - even without the "points".  (I could see "points" helping in the longer term)  I'm tempted to make my own version - recording the instructions with specific instructions for each child for the songs....  but then it sounds like a lot of work when I'm not sure how long it would work....

And as I'm typing this - I'm dreaming of Accountable Kids working like I wish it would....  Sigh

Also, just a note - the SkedTracker program is still working well for getting our Homeschooling working well.

P.S. - I know today isn't Thursday - I wanted the post ready to link it up tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A New Tool for our Homeschool

It seems that I am always trying to get things running a bit more smoothly here in our homeschool.  A Number of years ago we started using the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer (SCMO).  I have to say this is the best organizer for a Charlotte Mason type of education - as long as your main concern is to do the next thing and not keep too carefully to a schedule, and you use each resource or book at least once a week.  I also LOVE the reports.

But - there are a couple of things that haven't worked as well for us with SCMO.  When we first used it, I printed the Daily Plan (to-do list) each day.  But I didn't like the amount of paper and ink we were using - and as we get more kids, it is a bigger problem.  If we were doing a simple plan, I could let the kids mark things off on their own - but with us doing AO, not all books and resources are used each week.  And as the kids wanted to pick their own readings from a weekly list... well that meant I had pretty much everything scheduled every day of the week - which would mean a long list.  It wouldn't be clear on its own how much needed to be done each day.  And for the kids to mark things off online on their own, they would be logged into my account - so in theory they could mess things up.

Over the last couple of years we have used a few different paper planners, generally with 2 parts - basically a weekly list of AO readings (either as a list or in a chart), and the other part a daily to-do list - generally just listing "AO reading".   This has worked ok - except the kids generally don't write down what they did.  (I've entered things off as done in the SCMO to get my great reports.)

This year, we just have seemed to get further and further behind on our AO, and sometimes other things getting missed out too.  I decided that I'd had enough - and decided to use a free homeschooling scheduling tool....  Skedtrak.

I grouped the various AO items into courses.  So, for instance, there is a "AO2 World History" course with readings from Our Island Story, the Little Duke [and Joan of Arc] and Child's History of the World.   I went through and added all the readings from these books, with the week number in []'s at the start of the description.   Note that I could have done this in SCMO, but I like my reports to list the BOOKS we read, not a line just saying AO2 World History.  I determined which days of the week each course should be done to get things done.  With the "course" system - it doesn't guarantee that a particular book will be on a specific day - it can rotate around a bit.  But that can be handy with holidays!

SkedTrak allows each child to have a login, where they can see their to-do list and mark things off.  I do wish there was an extra comment field they could fill in if needed.  (I can set it so they can edit the description, but for most things I wouldn't them to change it.)   One thing that is nice is it will show me a week at a time, using the assumption that we complete all activities each day.  It won't be completely accurate, but does give me an idea of how things will look.   Another nice thing is I can set the order in which the items are supposed to be done.

The last 3 days have been our first trial with the new system.  The kids aren't entirely happy with less choice. But these last 3 days, we have completed everything on the lists!

They are to (at the moment) do things basically in order.... if it is something for which they need me (or another resource like the Kindle), they are to go on to the next item - then go back  This has allowed me to try to set the schedule up to alternate types of activities.

Now, there will be days that have items on their list that they aren't to do yet.  I have on the white-board which week each child is currently working on.  They are to do anything that has that week number or less.  They can optionally do an item that has the next higher week number as long as they have done all the lower numbered items first.  At the moment, I have Friday set as a catch up day - so it looks very long.  They will do 1 or 2 AO readings - the ones with the lowest week numbers.  After we are caught up, Friday will be lighter.

So, for instance here is a sample day...  The student is working on Week 5 (but a few week 4 things aren't complete)  For now I'm only expecting up to 2 AO readings a day for AO Year 2.

Discover the New Testament (1-3)    - Page 10
Scripture Mastery
Math Practice Sheet                           - 38-1
AO2 World History                           - [4] CHOW Chapter 49
RS Level C                                        - Lesson 117
MH2 Church History                         - [5] YFH Chapter 2
All About Spelling L1                         - Step 19 (several days)
AO2 Literature 2                                - [6] Parables of Nature - Light of Truth
AO2 Natural Science                          - [4] Burgess Animal Book Chapter 4

So - this student would do....

Discover the New Testament
Scripture Mastery
Math Practice Sheet
Read chapter 49 from CHOW  (as the week number was 4)
RS lesson 117
work on All About Spelling step 19
Read chapter 4 from Burgess Animal Book.
and that is it!

They know not to do the Parables of Nature reading as it isn't the current week - if the student wanted to do extra they could do the Parables of Nature reading as it is 1 week past the current week - but they would have to do the Church History reading first!

They know not to do the Church History reading because I only require 2 AO readings from this level right now.....  but they could choose to after the other items are done if they wish.

It really is simpler than it may look... lol!

Now - the problems with SkedTrak

  • well, first off I don't like the reports!  I much prefer the SCMO reports!  (so I am taking a minute to mark things off in SCMO - I do it when I "approve" the items in SkedTrak as properly completed.   
  • It also has a few things based on time - you need to enter the number of "required" days, and the number of "required" hours per day.  It then figures out the total number of "required" hours total.  It gives warnings if it figures you don't have enough time to finish the hours - or conversely cuts off the calendars etc if it figures you would finish the hours earlier than your year-end date.  I'd prefer it to calculate our projected year end based on the activities I've entered for the course - and show the calendar for the school year I defined.  It isn't a big deal - you can just adjust the number of hours required per day, or the number of required days etc. - but it is annoying if you could care less about the hours!
  • You have to remember to hit the save button before changing the screen, or you lose your changes!
Over-all though, I am happy with how it is going.  Hopefully it will make things smoother!

UPDATE: - You will want to have ad-blocker software on your browser!  Otherwise Ads will pop up on the side, and occasionally they are not something you want your kids to see.  (The creator has no control over the ad content.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Delta's Report

For Delta's "Canadian Healthy Living Award" in Cubs, he needed to do research and create a report on a Canadian outdoor or sports person that made a significant contribution to Canada or the World.

After considering some options, he chose Jacques Plante.  After reminding him about the 5W's, he wrote this report.


Jacques Plante was the first person to use a hockey mask in a game.

He did it because he was hurt by a slap shot to the face.

He wore it on November 1, 1959

The hockey game was at Madison Square Garden

This is a significant contribution because the game of hockey is a LOT safer.


After, he decided to recreate the scene in Lego...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

RightStart and our family!

Right Start Manipulatives

We are starting our 3rd year of using the RightStart Math program, and I thought I'd take a moment to share about our experiences with it so far.

I guess I should start by saying we are using Edition 1.  This is because - well - that was all that was available when we started!  I have liked the looks of the sample pages of Edition 2, and I do sort-of wish I could switch - but it doesn't make sense.  First Edition 2 isn't ready for the levels Delta and Echo are using - and at this point there is no way to switch editions past the start of Level B.  I would think at some point RightStart will need to create Edition 2 Transition lessons for people moving from a totally different program - but that is in the future.   And as we own the lessons for Edition 1, it wouldn't make sense to pay for Edition 2 lessons for the younger students.  Besides, edition 1 has been working well for us.

All that said - let's move on.  I think it makes sense to do this by level.

Level A
I have completed this level last year with Foxtrot.  (Delta and Echo moved from the MEP math program, and never did Level A.)

In Edition 1, Level A is designed so that each lesson is to be broken up between 2 days.  There is generally a couple of different topics.  However Foxtrot seemed to generally want to do the entire lesson. We didn't do it every day - and even so we completed this level before the end of the year, and started Level B.  Even though Foxtrot knows the regular way to deal with numbers > 10, she didn't object to the 5-ten way of describing numbers.  She seems to have a good grasp of numbers and basic addition.   We were able to skip about 15 of the lessons in Level B (the ones marked with an '*' in the Table of Contents), and even so, level B seemed to start out like a review.  [The change from Level A to Level B in the 2nd Edition seems to be handled so much better - in the sample it looks like the teacher/parent evaluates the student's skills from Level A to determine where to start in Level B.]

Foxtrot making 100 with tiles.  Golf playing with tiles.

Level B
I completed Level B with Delta and Echo 2 years ago, and am up to Lesson 40 with Foxtrot.   Delta and Echo have been taught together, as when we changed math programs, they were evaluated to start at the same level.

Delta and Echo finished Level B in a year with no great difficulties that I remember.  We didn't do the practice sheets - and it didn't seem to be a problem then.... but I think that ended up being a problem later in Level C.  Foxtrot is doing the practice sheets.   With doing Level B together, besides having 2 abacuses, I found it important to have 2 sets of base-10 cards (which we were lucky to have - we were even more lucky as we had been given one set that was older, so one set was printed with blue - and the other set was printed with black.)  I think you would also want 2 sets of place value cards.  We only had 1 set, and so I printed a paper-set for the other child (We alternated who had the real set and who had paper.)  The RightStart set was a LOT easier to work with!

I really like how things worked with RightStart.  Addition was taught with various strategies to help the child think about what everything means.  I think my kids have a pretty good concept of place-value up to the thousands.  I find that although the topics do switch every so often - that the topics do support each other.  For instance, (and I don't remember if this was level A or level B), that numbers up to 10 are worked with, focusing on grouping with 5's... and then the topic switches to money - learning pennies, nickels, and dimes - and all the work there reinforces working with numbers in groups of 5's and 10's.   In level B there is addition up to 4 digit of numbers - and then things move into calendars.  But one exercise I remember has the child adding up all the number of days in each month to determine the number of days in a year.  So this not only reinforced the information they learned about calendars, but also gave a problem that involved large numbers and a reason to add.   I also found the topic often switches right when my kids seem to need a break on the current topic.  I find it great how it works out.

In the 1st edition there is a "wall" around lesson 68 where students often find things suddenly a lot more difficult.  It is common to take time here to review and play games.  I do think Delta and Echo had a bit of "fun" at that point, but I don't remember a significant problem.  There is a post on the Yahoo group with some suggestions on how to break down the skills taught at about lesson 68 to reduce the wall.  I will see if they are needed when Foxtrot (and eventually Golf) get there.

Level C
I worked on Level C with Delta and Echo last year... up to about lesson 100ish.  We are continuing with the level this year.

It had seemed as last year progressed that we might be able to finish Level C in a year.  From being on the RightStart Yahoo group, I knew that it was very common for Level C to take from 1.5 years to 2 years to complete.  Well, it varies.   Some people take longer in Level B.  Some take longer in Level D.  But it seems quite common for Levels B, C, & D to take 4 years total... with the extra time being spent in some level or another.  (Note that Edition 2 now has an extra level - levels A-F instead of levels A-E as preparation for the Geometry program dubbed Level G).  As time went on - it became obvious that we would NOT complete level C in a year after all.  We hit another 'wall' at about lesson 90 with the subtraction.  Actually, Delta and Echo seemed to struggle right when the 4 digit subtraction was introduced, and things didn't improve.  We took a break to practice, and struggled through a few more lessons when I figured it was time to just take a break for a while and focus on games and practice sheets......

Because yes - we didn't do practice sheets all throughout.  And honestly we didn't play enough games.  And when we hit the "wall" - it suddenly seemed like everything they ever learned about math was leaking out of their head.  Suddenly they couldn't seem to get simple addition questions right!  And I think that not doing the daily practice sheet was a part of the problem.

So during the summer, we went back to basics.  I used the "Acitvities for the AlAbacus" book (which we already owned) to review addition strategies - and I used Level B, then Level C practice sheets to review and practice.  We also played math games many days - starting at the start of the Addition section (and start of the Number Sense section for Foxtrot) and working our way forward.  The idea was to do Addition during July and Subtraction during August - but we didn't do much in August due to my health.

So, this year we just started up where we left off in Level C - right where multiplication is really starting to take off.  I already knew that Level D reviews subtraction, so I figured that we would just keep working on, and not worrying too much about the subtraction.  I did quickly review the 4 digit subtraction with and without an abacus as each lesson has 1 problem with that for practice.  It seemed to come easier.  We just did lesson 110 today, which has a simple-subtraction fact practice...  Delta got all 50 right!  Echo got 47 right... 1 question she added, and 1 question she multiplied, and 1 she just got wrong.  So the issues with subtraction seem to have disappeared!

It looks like Combinations of items, and Area calculations are coming up - to the kids it looks like a change in topic... to me I see that it is going into different reasons to use multiplication.

Level D (and E)
I do already own the Level D teacher's manual (we don't have the worksheets yet) and it looks interesting.  It looks like there will be a lot of review - but I think it is to really cement the concepts learned in Level C.  I am not sure if there are daily practice sheets or not - if not, we will continue to use the ones from Level C for quite some time.  I am looking forward to the kids moving forward.  I expect we will start Level D about 1/2 the way through this year, and have it continue to next year.

Golf and math
I haven't started Golf in RightStart yet.  She is still only 3.  She does enjoy singing "Yellow is the Sun".

Multiple Kids in RightStart
Because RightStart math does require the parent to TEACH each lesson - it can be a bit teacher intensive when you have multiple kids.  I am lucky in one way that Delta and Echo are at the same point in math.  If at some point that isn't working for either one, I will separate them - but at this time it is working.  Because Level C does have 2 versions of each review lesson, I select a different one for each of them.  (When they were struggling and we did some practice and then did the review again - I just had them do whichever they had not yet done.  I dated them so we knew which was the 2nd attempt.)

One piece of advice that I've used (but not always) to limit the time I, as a teacher,  spend on math is to use a timer and a set amount of time for math.  For level C I use 30 minutes.  For level B - I use either 20 or 30 minutes (depending on the ability of my student to focus for that time.)  For level A I would use from 10-20 minutes based on student ability.

So - I set the timer as we start the lesson.  If the timer goes off and there is more than a minute or so left in the lesson - we pack it up for the day and continue where we left off the next day.  OR... if we finish the lesson and there is more than a minute or so left on the timer - we play a game or two to fill the time.     This, of course, is easier if you aren't in the mindset of having to finish a level each year....

Oh - and the practice sheets aren't done during "warm-up" time as suggested in the manual.... I have the kids do them on their own at a different time.

I think it is VERY important to use a timer in Level C on the review lessons....  and then do the suggested games if there is time left over.  And if there isn't any time left over, well - probably the next lesson should be a game day so they get more practice in to help speed them up!

I am trying to do a games day each Friday...  (Friday tends to be a bit different in each subject.)  But - it seems like something has happened most Friday's so far this year...

And my opinion after 2 whole years?  WE LOVE RIGHTSTART!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Month in Review

Golf, Foxtrot, Echo - and I believe Delta is behind Foxtrot in such a way you can't see him...

Ok - I have to say - September has been a hard month.  Because I was sick in August and the beginning of September, we started later than I planned.  We did a few days - and I sank into a depression so we stopped for another week.  (I'm out of the depression...)

The kids are doing pretty well at doing their schoolwork - but we aren't doing a day's work in a day.  Of course, with AO being so rich, it isn't necessarily a big problem, and we are plugging along - but I'm getting discouraged.  We aren't doing the AO Bible readings - but we haven't started the "Discovering the Scriptures" either.  Only Foxtrot is doing any copywork (she is learning letters.)  We haven't started poetry - nor have we started the science course by Dr. Wile.    Violin practice?  stopped again when I got sick, and hasn't restarted.

On the other hand, we are getting great things done.  The AO readings are going well - and are being enjoyed. Spelling is coming along.  Math and reading practice is going well.

I just hate feeling like we are doing so much - and missing out on extra time for projects etc.  Each of the kids still need a lot of my help (even with audio books).

I have been considering changing - to Easy Peasy Homeschool.  It is setup to be pretty independent once the child is reading fairly well.  It seems to take a bit less time - and people are reporting good results.  Mike said go ahead and try it.....

BUT - it is a total change in style.  It does use some really good books - but it also is a lot more "edutainment" - learning with games, cute videos, etc.  Also - I still want to do history chronologically, and need to replace US history with the Canadian.   Plus - I still like RightStart Math, All About Spelling, and Dr. Wile's science books.   And if the kids are liking most of their school books anyway - well I haven't tried changing.

I just need to figure out how to make this work this year.

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Day of School

This was NOT today.  Foxtrot read this book to me a couple of months ago...
But, it is close to the type of pictures I wanted for the First day....

You probably noticed I haven't posted much this summer.  I had a few posts in mind - 'return from camp', 'off to the zoo', and other great summer topics.

But the facts have been - I've been sick.  I spent most of August going for a Daily IV, and spending the day on not-quite bedrest (but close.)   Yup - I wasn't in the hospital this year - but I may as well have been.   The kids did do a lot of work to keep the house going - even making some simple suppers - but they aren't quite up to running a household, and I wasn't quite up to keeping habits going (or trying to get habits going is more like it) - so lets just say the house isn't in the best shape.  Mike has done a lot too, but was working long hours.  In the words of a good friend - "It is all good".

So - I'm not up to 100% health yet.... but things are improving.  We started school a week later tan I had hoped, and a few subjects aren't worked out yet...  I haven't got the poetry all ready, and Foreign Language is still a puzzle to me on what would work for us.   I also didn't setup the cute First Day of School pictures I had wanted to do.... I just couldn't get enthusiastic about getting all the school books for the year out for the pictures.... sigh - such a good idea....

We got a lot done today.  My kids have a planner/logbook with their independent work listed.  But of course the first day has some working through the details.  They did a lot of that work - there are a couple of things I need to setup so they can do it on their own.  I also discovered that somehow all the audiobook chapters of "Our Island Story" disappeared from my Year 3 weekly playlists... not sure how that happened!  Delta was able to make-do by using the TTS on the Kindle instead.  I have fixed it for the rest of the year - but am curious as to what happened, and worry that other books might have 'disappeared' too.  Guess we will find out!

I have more "daily" work to do with each child 1 on 1 than I have time/energy for each day.  So for that, I'm going to have to rotate though those and do what we can.

Sometimes I feel like a "No" mom....  I just had this exchange with Echo...

Echo: "Can I play Chess"
Me [thinking of the books on top of the chess board, the fact that pieces never get put away, etc]: "No, we aren't getting all that out..."

Echo: "Can I paint then?"
Me [ok, I should say yes as they actually do this fairly well on their own... but I don't think we have flyers to cover the table]:  "not today"

Echo: "Could I sew badges on my campfire blanket?"
Me [good activity - but I'll end up having to help a lot]: "No..."

Echo: "Could I work on my bag then?"
Me: [this is a cross-stitch project - requires a lot of my help... sigh] - "I need you to find something you can do without my help"

I just feel like I end up saying "no" to good activities because of MY energy levels....

Anyway - that was just an aside.  First Day went well.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Berry Picking

This was a couple of weeks ago (boy time flies) - but we got to go Strawberry Picking this year!  I would like to do it every year, but it seems like most years something ends up preventing us.

There is nothing like interacting directly with food to realize that it doesn't just come from stores.  And that it takes some work too.

Of course, Golf just ate - I don't think she put a single strawberry in the pail.

The other workers did some eating too - but mostly their berries went in the pails.

We left with 8 Litres of Strawberries (about 2 Gallons).  Many got eaten fresh, the rest were washed and frozen.  Mmmmm, they still taste wonderful!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nature Study - more than you'd think

A week ago Mike surprised me.  He had an errand to run for work that brought him and our van near our house.  So he picked us all up, and then I had the car for the afternoon!  So we took that opportunity to go somewhere for nature study.

I picked a little park just outside the city.  I'd driven to it before, but never really been in the park - so I thought it might be a nice little change.  As we pulled up, I was a bit worried, as it really didn't look like it would be much - it was just fields, a few patches of trees (of the no-underbrush variety), the river, and that looked like about it.

Boy, was I wrong!

Of course, I didn't get the pictures going early enough...   We went through a little patch of trees - and one of the kids noticed that the forest floor was different - so we looked at it closely (picking up a bit) - and they realized it was like really tiny wood-chips...  from trees long ago.  

We also looked at lichen and moss on the trees.

Then there was a nice hill to roll down, which they all enjoyed doing.

Delta rolling down a hill
 Then Echo noticed some clover and picked a couple of flowers.  She also noticed there was some Purple Flowers as well as White ones.

Echo with Clover
 Then everyone had to look at them
Clover Flowers!
Soon we were to a different area - and there were purple flowers.  I don't know what they are called.

Golf examining Flowers

Flower Closeup
 Then we made it to the river.  It wasn't flowing very fast, so it has a bunch of algae growing on the top.  It makes almost a rainbow effect.
Delta looking at River
 Walking along the river we found a tree stump with a lot of mushrooms growing nearby.  I made sure the kids didn't touch them.

Of course you HAVE to throw pebbles into a river
 Then we found some yellow flowers.  (Sorry, I don't know how to rotate the picture on here).  Delta noticed 2 flowers had 6 petals, while the rest have 5.  I suspect that it is similar to the number of leafs on clover?
Golf looking at yellow flowers
 Near the flowers we found a plant that I've always called Foxtails....

Echo and a foxtail
 Then we looked at the Beaver Dam built by the bridge...
Beaver Dam

Then we started the trek back to the car.  We found another area that had reeds and what I've always called Cats' Tails.  (Brown poofy top that turns white...) - [no picture].

I was amazed at the variety of nature we found when we looked, when at first it seemed there wouldn't really be a lot.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Fun

Well, just in case you are thinking our summer is all math practice sheets and spelling bees - here are some pictures of some of the fun we are having....
Foxtrot going through the "carwash"

Delta, Echo, Golf, and Mom!



Echo and Golf



Delta and Golf


Delta in one of "Dad's Trucks" (in top bunk)
I've also been spending time considering what we are going to do next year.  I thought I had everything all worked out, and now I'm looking at options trying to figure it all out.