Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bang! And other fun games for learning

    I wasn't even sure if we'd be doing any schoolwork today.  I woke with such a pounding headache-- you know the kind where you even have a headache in your dreams  before you wake up??  The kind that 3 Motrin doesn't even come close to touching or dulling??  The kind where you just want to pull the covers over your head and stay there ALL day?? That's the kind of headache I woke with. 

    But since I'm a mom I did get out of bed, and I did plan at least a few activities for the boys today in hopes of keeping them quiet (or at least quieter than they would have been playing on their own).  As the day progressed though, I was amazed that before I even knew it we had completed an entire day of activities covering all subjects! Sometimes my ability to persevere amazes me!! 

       I've been mulling over what to do next with the boys since yesterday when I announced that we were done with multiplication.  In talking it over with my husband last night I decided I had two really logical steps I could take-- teach them two and three digit multiplication or teach them division.  Yes, they still need to learn fractions and percents.  They still need to learn to read a clock, use a ruler (effectively!) and count money/ change too.  So really I could have gone on to any of those topics but I think that fractions and percent will go much quicker with a good understanding of multiplication and division and if I wait just a bit longer I can teach all three boys money, rulers and clocks at the same time.... at least that's my hope. 

      My husband and I decided to go with division.  And even though the boys already have a basic understanding of division I did start with a very simple activity.  I gave each of the boys a muffin pan and a pile of beads.  I gave them each thirty beads and asked them to divide them into one group, two groups, three groups, etc.  Until we had divided them into 12 groups and we ran out of muffin tin spots.  We talked about remainders, equal groups, and relating our findings to multiplication problems that they already knew (like 30 divided by 5 equals 6 since 5x6 equals 30).   They pointed out that the more groups we broke the items into the fewer pieces each group had.  It was a great lesson with just enough challenge that the boys had to think pretty hard but not so challenging that anyone broke down into tears.  While I'm talking about math here I just had to say I was pretty impressed with the boys; they both started a new multiplication minute today and got more than half of their answers right.  I could definitely tell that they've been practicing on their own!!
two equal groups of 15

With 7 groups we can only have 4 in each tin with
2 left over


  Evan has been doing really well with his addition facts and so we went on to some more subtraction practice.  We started subtraction a few weeks ago when we were playing with the plastic cups and Nerf guns.  For today's lesson I pulled out the same cups and gave him a ball.  We played subtraction bowling.  I set up the cups in a triangle shape like at the bowling alley and had him roll the ball at them.  He then told me how many cups he knocked down and how many he had left.  I helped him say his equation as a subtraction sentence.  After the first example he just took off on his own and I noticed that he wasn't even counting the remaining cups after just a few rolls.  He'd tell me that he knocked down three and has 7 left or that he knocked down 2 and had 8 left.   I'm amazed at how fast his number sense is developing.

The ball mostly moved then around and didn't knock that many over

Finally managed to knock down 4 cups with 6 left standing

      We watched a Bill Nye the Science Guy movie today for science and learned about genes.  I picked this particular movie since there has been a lot of talk about genes in our house lately.  I can't remember exactly how it came about but the boys have started asking questions about genetics and I hoped that this movie would make it all a bit clearer.  They talked about where they got their blues eyes from, who can roll their tongues and why.  We related the move back to the strand of DNA we watched being extracted from the strawberry at our last science fair.  It was great.  I never thought they'd be interested in or really even understand such complex science ideas.

      Evan and I played a sight word game called Bang.  Using the sight word flash cards I had printed off for our memory game and a few additional yellow cards that just say BANG on them we started our game.  It's very simple to play; just put all the cards into a container (not see through) and then  take turns pulling out a card.  If you can read the word keep it and start a pile, if not put it back in the container. If you pull out a BANG card all of your cards have to go back into the container.  The one with the most cards left at the end of the game wins.  I've seen this game all over Pinterest using anything from number and letter recognition to sight words to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.   I plan to have the older boys play division Bang tomorrow (I'll write up the facts on Popsicle sticks instead of flash cards just to change it up a bit).   Evan has such a ball with this game and asked me to save it again so we can play again another day. He didn't even mind that he got Bang! three times in a row; of course it probably helped that he ended with 8 cards and I got a bang!

His third Bang! in a row!

His pile is growing; look at all the words he knows now!

   While Evan and I played Bang I had the older two boys working on some mad libs with one another.  We have many mad libs books and the boys just love how silly the stories come out.  I love that they're learning part of speech in such a fun way that they don't mind or complain.  They also practice a lot of spelling and reading skills wen using Mad Libs.  Evan wanted the boys to let us know when the stories were ready to be read so we could hear them too.  Evan wanted a turn to play too so we took a Mad Lib pad into his room and filled out a few stories too.  All in all I think we read/worked on at least 5 different Mad Lib stories.  I think my favorite was the story of the pirate Purple Beard who had a parrot that sat on his eye and jumped.  The boys were shrieking with laughter.  It was wonderful.  They continued to play long after I left their rooms. 

    At any time during the day if someone was waiting for me to finish up helping one of their brothers I had them work on our family puzzle we set up or else play with our Q-Ba marble maze.  I'm trying to pick a few different things each day to have set up around the house that they can play with in between our subjects.  I try to pick toys that I know the boys enjoy but never think to play with.  They had so much fun playing with the marble maze that they all played together for large portions of time.  I did have to go over once and settle an argument.  Evan and Ian were working together and Alec was working by himself and they were arguing over who had the most pieces.  We put real life division into action.  I read from the box how many total pieces there were of each shape and the boys decided it was most fair to divide them into two equal groups.   Some of the answers were easy; like 20 balls into two groups were 10 each but they really had to work hard to figure out 36 into two equal groups!  Once they had them all divided Alec asked me to go to Q-Ba's website and print off some plans for some marble mazes.  They continued working quietly and nicely and Alec made his butterfly.  As long as no one was fighting I let them be and watched them work together, problem solve, and just have a ball. 
Evan and Ian's small maze

Alec's Butterfly maze (boy! were those instructions hard to understand!)


     We played a new geography game today called GeoDice.  We LOVED this game!  Evan was even able to play with me acting as his writer.  There are two sides to the game board and you can play with learning the names of the countries, the names of the capitals, or both-- since there are five rounds in a game we used both sides of the board.  Alec went first and rolled all 7 dice.  Once he rolls everyone starts to play.  There are two continent dice and 5 letter dice.  With the two continents rolled and the 5 letters showing everyone writes down all the countries (or capitals; depending on what side of the board you are using) that they can find that starts with the letters showing on the dice on the continents depicted.  For example Alec rolled a W, M, S, P, and G and he rolled Europe and North & South America (for some reason these two continents are on the same die).  So we wrote down capitals like Warsaw, Mexico City, Prague, etc. since those were the capitals shown in Europe and the Americas that start with the letters W, M, S, P and G.  It's a timed game and you have to write pretty fast so we didn't count spelling.  Evan is a pretty slow writer so that's why I helped him play. He pointed out the countries he saw and I'd write them down.  At the end of each round we took turns reading off the names we wrote down and then we count up one point for each country or capital we each wrote down.  The one with the most points at the end of the game wins.  The game is supposed to go for 5 rounds but we only ended up played three (so they each had equal turns rolling the die).  We also took advantage of a slight variation of the game and turned the timer twice for each round.  By the end of three rounds (1 on countries and 2 on capitals) we had a very close scoring game.  I made each boy add up his own score.  Evan was able to help me add using fingers/ counters but before we even added he knew he had won since he had been one point behind Alec and he ended up getting two more than Alec in the final round.  I am just so amazed at his understanding of basic math! 

Hard at work during the game searching for names
our final scores-- pretty close game!

The outside of the game box
       It was actually a pretty relaxing day and we all dropped what we were doing when we saw a family of deer crossing the ice.  We always see something; yesterday we had to stop and watch the snowmobiler, the other day we watched the ice fishermen drilling holes in the ice.  The boys hypothesized today that if a snowmobiler can go on the ice and the deer can cross the ice than that must mean the ice is safe enough for us to go on it.  We didn't test out their theory though since it is once again bitter cold and unbelievably windy out.  I won't complain though since we were supposed to get a few more inches of snow today that, so far, seemed to have passed us by.  They went outside anyway, but they know not to go on the ice without an adult around. 

    I love the freedom we have in homeschooling.  To take breaks and watch nature, play with "toys" like blocks, the Q- Ba maze and even to watch a bit of TV or play a few rounds of video games while getting some schoolwork done is really freeing.  Most of the time we have a nice laid back and relaxed kind of day.  Learning happens in fits and spurts and they get to take breaks frequently.  Somehow the boys managed to watch the movie UP!, watch several TV shows, and accomplish all the other schoolwork listed on the blog today.  They're getting really good at multi- tasking too.  They ate snack while working on math, they watched movies and TV while building elaborate mazes and buildings out of blocks, and they worked on coloring while filling out Mad Libs. 

Evan hard at work

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