Friday, July 31, 2015

Unschooling Summer Week #9

We had such a busy week again this week!  Our calendar didn't look very full at the onset of the week but the days quickly filled up and morphed into one another.  I felt like it went by in a blur.  We did so much and yet we felt pretty relaxed and happy.

Socialization-- I felt like we spent the bulk of our week with a house full of friends and family.  We had my college girlfriend and her family over so we had 7 kids running around playing in the lake enjoying the boat, jet ski, and each other.  They swam, laughed, ran, jumped off the bridge into the water and had fun visiting with everyone.  Alec had a friend sleep over one night and so we had an "extra" kid for 24 hours.  The boys had a blast playing with him and their new Wii game Lego Jurassic World.  Ian went to play at a friend's house one day this week and when he got back home we offered to watch said friend and his younger brother while their mother went shopping.  We took them tubing and boating and the boys spent some time "fishing" off the dock with nets catching small minnows and catfish. The boys had a blast using the remote control jet ski and boat every time we had people over; all the kids that were left without the remote control took turns making waves and trying to sink them.  It was great fun for all.  We also had some of our homeschool friends over during the week.  Our schedule hadn't meshed with theirs since we went surf casting together and the boys were missing their friends so much.  It was wonderful to see them.  Evan and I got to meet some of the new doctors and workers at our new doctors office when we visited them this week.  He charmed them all in no time with his straight forward answers and his talk of the summer and winter solstices.  The boys and I also stopped by the library and I took them with me to the hair dressers and on lots of errands.  They enjoy chatting with everyone everywhere we went.  We spent a couple of days this week with my great grandmother playing with her organ, playing croquet, and shopping.

Physical Education-- We were on the go a lot this week.  Having lots of friends over our house meant we had lots of fun swimming, tubing, kayaking, and paddle boating.  The boys played croquet at my grandmother's house and made it through a good 75% of the game before they started fighting.  Alec has re-discovered our monkey bars and has spent a bit of time every day this week trying to see how many times he can make it back and forth until he just can't make it any further.  Evan and Ian gave them a try too but decided to leave the monkey bars to Alec for now.  The boys and I spent one morning kayaking around the lake enjoying the peace and quiet and looking for wildlife.  It's such a peaceful way to start our day.

Evan's lucky enough to get towed around the lake! 

Music--  I don't often think to cover music as part of our homeschooling but I realize that they often cover this topic on their own.  They all enjoy listening to music and have a variety of tastes.  They have their own MP3 players and their play lists.  They all asked for new headphones this week and that found them all using their MP3 players a lot.  They sing along to many songs on the radio too, but I miss the days when they were interested in making music.  It was great to see the boys playing the organ at my grandmother's house and talking about their old piano and guitar lessons, reading music, and some of the things they learned.  They remember them fondly but still say they don't want to take lessons.  Perhaps one day they'll change their mind but in the meantime I'm glad they enjoy playing around with lyrics, beats, and making their own sounds.

Art-- Ian decided to pull out some paper one day this week and draw.  He spent a good hour drawing boats and jet ski's.  Sometimes he tried to draw them on a trailer other times he drew them in the water.  He did a pretty good job too! Alec got a new art kit called Qixels.  He spent some time playing with them and putting them together.  We also tried to figure out the science behind them and why wetting them down had them all sticking together.

Reading-- We were so busy this week we hardly had any time to read!  We did squeeze in a bit of reading here and there though.  Evan read Swing Otto Swing!, Scaredy- Pants; A Halloween Story, & More Snacks!: a Thanksgiving Play.   He was really struggling with the stories this week and I could see he was getting frustrated so I suggested he should take some of his old favorite books home from the library and just re-read stories he's already read.  We'll work on fluency and expression and just enjoy reading again.  To try and help him we reviewed his sight word stacking cups and he had a great time building a nice tall tower with them. We must have checked out 6 Elephant and Piggie books for next week.  Alec read a lot; as usual.  He finished up his Warriors books and read I Choose YouDino- Boarding, Wild About Us!, The Sea, The Storm and the Mangrove Tangle , and started reading Tombquest 2: The Amulet Keepers.   Ian and I read another few chapters in Mockingjay and he told me we can't skip any days because we're at the good part!  We all listened to a bit more of Inkspell in the car while running errands and we finally managed to read one more chapter in The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

Science-- In playing Terraria, Evan has been learning about gems and asked me to look up pictures for him on the internet.  We searched for pictures of topaz and amethyst crystals and jewelry.  We talked about birth stones and which months have which ones.  There has been so much talk of gems around here!  We tried making exploding sidewalk chalk baggies one day.  We filled Ziploc sandwich bags half way with vinegar, corn starch & liquid watercolors.  We added small packets of baking soda wrapped in tissue and watched the bags fill and burst for a colorful (if somewhat lackluster) "explosion."  We spent plenty of time outdoors looking at birds, turtles, fish, butterflies and flowers.  We watched a wild turkey family crossing the road, saw a family of geese on the lake, fed the family of ducks, and followed the peregrine falcon's flight into the trees.  The boys watched a few episodes of Wild Kratts and Evan and I read a book about reptiles at the doctor's office.  Alec was overjoyed to find a finch at his bird feeder; twice in one week!

A gold finch! 
There the baggies go filling up with air... 

our driveway is quite colorful now! 

See the turtle on the tire? 


Math/Technology-- The boys worked on their summer review sheets this week a few times and each ended up getting some of their best times so far this summer!  The boys watched several episodes of Cyberchase too reviewing money, adding, subtracting, and fractions.  They have played TONS of new video games; Lego Jurassic World (where they're learning about types of dinosaurs too), Wave Blazer, Jet Ski Racing, I fishing lite 1and 2 (salt water), Hero Factory Invasion of the Brains, and probably a few more.  They're enjoying learning how to play each game and looked up questions about the various games on Google or YouTube.  Ian set up his own account on Trivia Crack and him and Alec have been having a ball playing back and forth (honing up on all sorts of wonderful science, geography, history, and art facts!).  The boys went shopping several times this week and compared prices, added up totals, figured out change, etc. applying math in real life.  The boys got a few new Lego sets and spent a night putting them together.

Life Skills-- The boys cooked for themselves a few times this week.  They helped clean the house and prepare food for all of our company.  The younger boys took care of their grandmother's cats and earned a bit of pocket money.  Ian went to do his mowing job.  I was also impressed by how helpful Ian was when we took my grandmother out for the day.  He escorted her into the bank by himself; asking me to stay in the car and let him handle it.  He never lost his patience with her or got flustered (even though they were in the bank for over 20 minutes and we went to check on them).  All three boys held open doors for her too.

Weekly Wrap Up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. 

Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Say Yes! More Often

I'm making a concerted effort to say "Yes!" to my kids more often.

I find that usually I'm just saying no out of habit or convenience but saying yes has opened up opportunities for us to connect as a family, for my boys to grow and show me what they're capable of, for me to embrace my children's passions and interests.

Allowing them to do more and to see that their wants, needs and desires matter helps them feel confident, important and more grown up.

I know the teen years are fast approaching and I'm determined not to get pulled into all the angst that we assume is normal and necessary in those teen years.  I'm learning from lots of homeschooling moms of older kids that their teenage years were not nearly as bad as the teenage struggles I hear from public school kid parents.  I have no idea why that is but partly I think it's that homeschool kids have more freedom and less things to rebel against.

With that in mind I'm trying to get myself used to saying "sure"  instead of "no!"

 Here are some of the things I said yes to this week:
  • "Can we go shopping with great gram?"  I love my grandmother but spending time in a store with three kids and a 90 year old woman with Alzheimer's is not my idea of fun so I often say no.  Usually I have a major headache by the end of the trip but this week I realized it was worth it if it means my kids and my grandmother have more time together.  And you know what?  We had a wonderful time.  Sure it was a bit stressful but it was a great way for us all to connect. 
  • "Want to play MarioKart with me?"  I don't hate video games but I'm certainly don't love them either.  I usually have the boys play together and then I'm free to do my own thing but this week I said sure and we had a great afternoon laughing and giggling over how awful mom is at keeping her car on the track.
  • "Can we have a sleepover?" This is one I've been saying yes to a lot more often and it's led to wonderful times for all three of the boys.  Obviously they have friends sleepover at times too but usually they're asking to sleep in each other's room.  I love that my boys are starting to treat each other as friends first and brothers second. 
  • "Will you buy me..."  For obvious reasons this is one question I have to say no to often or else I'd go broke!  But this week I decided to say yes (within reason) and indulge them a little.  New Lego sets, video games, or toys that help foster their love of discovery as an occasional treat is not going to spoil my boys rotten or put us in the poor house.  When I don't have the money for it I remind them they can buy it or they can earn money so I'm still not saying no.  
  • "Can I eat...."  I've stopped the food wars in this house.  I pretty much let my kids eat what they want when they want (with in reason).  I do remind them what healthy food is, what proper nutrition looks like, and suggest good food I know they like.  That said I'm not saying no to the occasional treat like soda or ice cream.  I remind them that everything should be eaten in moderation but find that easing up on restrictions has actually led to them all eating a little less this week.  
  • "Can we say up late?"  My kids still have a bedtime most days.  I like having a routine and we've found that our kids do not sleep any later if they stay up later.  They get cranky and ornery the next day.  They usually only want to stay up to play video games or watch TV; something I often think they do plenty of during the day anyway.  But more and more this week I've allowed them to stay up late.  It's not the end of the world if I have cranky kids the next day.  I find they're much more likely to admit to being tired and willingly go to bed earlier the next night when we relax about bedtime rules and let them self- regulate.  
  • "Can I play Video Games? (Or watch TV/ movie)" I try pretty hard to limit the amount of screen time that my kids engage in every week.  They're content to play video games for hours on end and it drives me nuts.  This week I relaxed about it all.  I think I said yes just about every time they asked to play and sure they played a lot more than usual but again, it's summer!  This is their time off and we spent plenty of time out of doors, swimming, running, hiking, and just doing things that a bit of extra "screen time" isn't going to hurt them.  It has led to them linking up and playing cooperatively, my two older boys fiercely competing on Trivia Crack and learning all sorts of new facts, and lots of new vocabulary.  

Linking Up With: Together on Tuesdays

Smart Mom Smart Ideas

Big Family Frugal

Strawberry Butterscotch


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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

20 of the Best Movies for Boys That are Quasi-Educational

 We watch a lot of movies in our house.

Sometimes we watch them as part of schooling, sometimes we watch popular movies, and, as the boys get older, my husband and I often look for old favorite movies we watched as kids.

The boys all have their own ideas about what makes a movie great but for the purpose of this list it had to be something that all three of them enjoyed watching and, since I'm mainly a homeschooling blogger, they had to have some sort of educational value too.

There were many more movies we could have added to this list but here are 20 of our favorite family movies:

1. Big Hero 6-- a great science based movie.  We loved the message behind the movie too and it was fun for the whole family to watch.  I found my boys were interested in all things robotic for a while after watching it too.
Big Hero 6  (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
2. Rio & Rio 2-- We all enjoy this movie and it's so cute and colorful.  I loved it even more because it really set off my middle son's passion for learning all about Rio & Brazil.  

Rio 1+2 Df

3. Night at the Museum Series-- All three movies were lots of fun and with them taking place inside the Smithsonian museums we were introduced to characters like Teddy Roosevelt & Amelia Earhart.  It was a great jumping off point for many history lessons. 

Night Museum 1-3 Bundle-az
4. Harry Potter series-- As a follow up to reading the book series we loved these movies.  A bit dark at times and potentially scary for younger kids my boys just loved these movies and made endless comparisons to the books.  
Harry Potter - The Complete 8-Film Collection [Blu-ray] [2011][Region Free]

5. Mr. Peabody & Sherman-- While lots of fun this movie was great for introducing various times in history and historical figures.  My kids actually asked to learn about the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette afterwards. 
Mr. Peabody And Sherman

6. Lego Movie-- We enjoyed the Lego Movie so much we often watch it whenever we're eating taco's; especially if it's on a Tuesday!  I do consider the movie somewhat educational since it peaked the boys interest in stop motion animation and gave them lots of ideas for Lego builds combining sets and pieces. 
The LEGO Movie (DVD)

7. Mr. Popper's Penguins-- Another movie we enjoyed comparing the book!  
Mr. Popper's Penguins
8. Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2-- Based on the true story of Winter these movies were inspirational.  It didn't hurt that we followed them up with a "field trip" to Clearwater Aquarium! 
Dolphin Tale / Dolphin Tale 2 Bundle
9. Flubber-- A wonderfully fun and silly science movie it's great to watch the movie and then follow up by making flubber! 

10. Hugo-- Another movie we enjoyed watching after reading the book.  


11. We Bought A Zoo--  I was surprised by how much my boys enjoyed this movie because I thought it might be a bit slow for them at times but they've watched it over and over.  I love the heartwarming story and the lesson of never giving up even in the face of adversity. 

We Bought A Zoo

12. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs series--  Another movie based on a book that we just loved to watch over and over.  
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs / Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 - Vol

13. Wall-E-- a wonderful way to introduce the importance of taking care of our planet, my boys just loved the movie Wall-E. 
Wall-E (Single-Disc Edition)

14. Lorax-- Another great movie about the importance of taking care of our planet.  It's one of my boys' favorite Dr. Seuss stories and we just had to watch this movie more than once.  

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

15. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure-- While mostly silly Bill and Ted do travel back in time collecting important historical figures for their history report.  Another great jumping off point for history lessons. 
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

16. Goonies-- While it might be a stretch to call Goonies educational my boys couldn't help but marvel at all of Dana's gadgets.  We also enjoyed the fact that they never gave up, worked together and find a lost treasure.  
The Goonies

17. Mulan-- Based on the real story of Mulan my boys loved learning about this Chinese historical figure.  
Mulan (Two-Disc Special Edition)

18. Cool Runnings-- The true story of the Jamaican bobsled team the boys just loved this movie.  

Cool Runnings

18. Percy Jackson-- Comparing the books to the movies we just loved the Percy Jackson movies.  It was a great way to follow up our Greek God study! 

Percy Jackson/lightning Thief

19. DisneyNature films-- We've watched many of these documentaries and we've enjoyed them tremendously.  
Disneynature: African Cats (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo in DVD Packaging)

20. Kung Fu Panda Trilogy-- We've watched them all and have learned a lot about ancient traditions and kung fu.  They're fun and the kind of movies my boys enjoy watching over and over again. 

Kung Fu Panda Three-Disc DVD Boxed Set (Kung Fu Panda / Kung Fu Panda 2 / Secrets of the Masters)
Linking Up With-- 
Small Victories Sunday Linkup

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 Math Card and Dice Games

In three years of homeschooling I've learned that with a deck of cards and a handful of dice you can teach most anything!

We just love putting away our books and using card games and dice for a fun math lesson.  

We have so much fun playing card and dice games that I've invested in fraction dice, 9 sided dice, and we now have a whole list of games to play with them.  We're always on the look out for some new ideas and figured I would share ones we've tried and enjoyed:

1.  War-- we've played regular war games when the kids were young enough to need to know greater than/ less than.  We've played war games where we flip over two cards (after removing face cards) and adding them or multiplying them.  We've used a few decks put together and flipped over three or more cards building the largest 3 or 4 digit number we could and then warring.  We've flipped two cards over putting the smaller number on top of the larger number and making fractions to compare.

2.  Flip 10-- Using just the number cards (or an Uno deck) we play Flip 10.  It's just like memory but with a fun math twist.  We turn over two cards; see if they add to 10.  If they do we get to keep the cards and go again but if they do not make 10 they get turned back over and it's the next person's turn.

3.  Zap It!--   For Zap it! the players take turns rolling two die; they either add or multiply them.  If the player gets the answer right they get to take a counter (bead, chip, grain of rice, etc) and it's the next player's turn.  If doubles are rolled they've been Zapped and all counters go back to the middle.  The one with the  most counters at the end of the game wins. We usually just set a timer to keep it fair and when the timer goes off the game is done.  Most of the time we play several rounds!

4.  Double Down-- This is a great game for learning near doubles (you could adapt this to subtraction or multiplication too).  Players take turns rolling two dice.  They only add them up and total the score if they roll NEAR doubles; 3+4, 5+6, etc.  Call out Double down and figure out the sum of the dice.  The sum of all the near doubles rolled for each player is their score.  The player with the highest total at the end of the game wins.

5.  5 Cards Make 10-- Each child receives 5 cards and tries to find all the ways they can make 10 using any combination of cards or operations.  The one who can find the most ways to make 10 wins that round.  We found this game in the Games for Math book by Peggy Kane and just loved it; it was challenging but fun.

6.  500 Shakedown-- Each player starts with 500 points and then take turns rolling a pair of dice.  Each player makes a two digit number and subtracts that from their points.  The object is to be the first player to get rid of all 500 points.  We found this game in Games for Learning by Peggy Kayne (her books are awesome!).

7. RMM-- Range, Median, Mode.  Deal 5 (or 7) cards to each player.  Have them figure out the range, median and mode for each hand.  They score 1 point for having the highest range, highest median, and highest mode for a total possible score of 3 points per round.  Play until one player reaches 25.

8.  Boxed Numbers--  For adding three digit numbers (though you can easily modify it for more or less).  Each player starts with a blank sheet of paper and draws 6 boxes; 3 on top and 3 right underneath them.  Take turns flipping over number cards and filling in your sheet to make two three digit numbers then add them up.  The one with the largest sums wins.

9.  Target Multiplication-- Using three sheets of paper you draw some targets and assign a multiplication fact family to each sheet (x3, x5, and x10-- or whichever facts you are working on).  Set the targets on the floor and take turns flipping number cards onto the targets.  Whichever target your card lands on you multiply them together and add up the score.  The player with the largest score after 10 rounds wins.

10. Place Value Game--  Each player gets 10 cards and sets them up in a pyramid without looking at them; 1 on the top row, 2 on the second row, etc.  Players then flip over their top row and the one with the largest number gets 1 point.  Players flip over their second row and the one with the largest two digit number gets 2 points, the one with the largest third row gets 3 points and the one with the largest 4th row gets 4 points.  Play continues until one player reaches 25.

Linking up with: Top 10 Tuesday, Together on Tuesdays,

Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Sidewalk Chalk Learning Games & Activities

We have lots of sidewalk chalk hanging around the house and while my kids enjoy drawing and playing with it they really don't use it all that much.

I have found a few fun ways to use sidewalk chalk in our schooling and have several ideas for more fun learning games that I'm hoping to try over the next month.

Most of the games we use are for math and reading/ language arts since those are the two subjects we focus on the most.

But most of the games can be adopted to any learning stage-- think bomb the color, shape jumping, vocabulary hopscotch, shoot the capital (have all 50 state capitals written out and when you call out the state they blast the capital with a water gun).

 I just came up with that idea as I was typing this up and now we HAVE to try that!   Once you start thinking creatively I'm sure you can come up with some great fun ways to teach using sidewalk chalk too.

In the meantime here are some of my ideas:

1. Sight Word hopscotch:  Drawing a traditional hopscotch board on our driveway, I filled in all the boxes with sight words and had them read the sight words to me as they landed on each box.  A simple, fun way to practice sight words.

2. Jump on the letter:  When Evan was in preschool and just starting to use his letters I used to write a variety of them around the driveway.  I'd call out a letter and he'd run over to it, call it out again, and them jump on it.  I modified this activity to include my older boys by having them run around jumping on letters in order to spell out spelling words.

3. Shoot the sight word:  I wrote a variety of sight words in different colors around the driveway and gave my son a bucket filled with water and a water gun/shooter.  He walked around reading the sights words and then blasted them off the pavement using the water.  

4. What makes the sound?:  With Evan still learning how to read this is a game I'd like to re-visit.  I would write letters or pairs of letters (think th- wh- sh-, etc.) and call out a sound.  He'd have to tell me which consonant blend made that sound by running to it, jumping on it, landing a Lego spaceship on it, etc.

5. Target Practice:  We've drawn targets on the ground with sidewalk chalk, thrown wet sponges at them and added up our scores for some fun summer math reviews.

6. Number Line:  Draw a number line on the driveway and have them practice addition and subtraction moving up and down the number line.  Or if you're real ambitious draw out a hundreds chart and practice counting by 2, 5, 10, adding, subtracting, etc.

7. Exploding sidewalk chalk baggies:  while this does not technically use sidewalk chalk it comes out looking just like sidewalk chalk and it's a lot of fun!  We used a mixture of vinegar, corn starch and liquid watercolors to make a paste in a baggie.  We tried to fill them up a good 1/3 of the way and left them on the watery side.  We made a variety of colors and then brought out some napkin/ baking soda packets with us.  As we were ready to set each bag off we put a baking soda packet into each bag, made sure it was sealed tight, and then shook it up.  We watched the bags swell until they popped leaving colorful explosions in their wake.  

8. Boggle:  For some spelling fun draw a large chart of numbers and using the rules of Boggle see who can spell the most words walking (or jumping) from letter to letter.
9. Counting by 2's, 5's 10's, etc.: I've written numbers across our driveway with skip counting and have had the boys jump from one to the other or call them out as they're riding their bikes around.  It's great practice for skip counting and they can "cheat" by looking at the ground as they go around and around.  This would work great for multiplication facts; put the answers to just the 8 times tables and have them say them in order over and over and over again.  It's a fun way to get that repetition in!

10. Bomb the Math Fact:  I divided our driveway into three sections.  Wrote math facts inside small ovals using sidewalk chalk and gave each of the boys a bucket of water balloons.  They called out the math fact, told me the answer, and bombed it away using the water balloons.

Linking Up With:

Thinking Outside The Pot

Literacy-Musing-Mondays- Family-Friendly linkup where we celebrate reading!

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

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