Up for a Challenge?

I was thinking the other day about all of the challenges our family used to take part in as homeschoolers.  There was the Unplug Your Kids challenge, which issued a different word or theme each week as inspiration (such as purple or bug).  There was the Think! challenge.  I know there were many more, and we took part in some of them regularly.

The idea was that there would be a new theme each week, and families would do some sort of activity in the spirit of that theme and then blog about it and report back with the link.  People were encouraged to see what other families had done and it was also a fun way to find other like-minded blogs to visit.

We came up with the purple cabbage pH experiment for the purple theme.

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For the “fruit” theme, we made watermelon playdough.

watermelonplaydough

For the “smooth” theme we did sensory handwriting in flour, lotion and other materials.

write

We did crayon shirt transfers for the “wax” theme.

crayonshirt

And so on (check out all of the projects we did for Unplug Your Kids challenges here).

Of course, back then we homeschool bloggers were a different sort.  We blogged to share ideas and resources, record our days, and support each other.  It was informal and personal.  There weren’t always pictures and there certainly weren’t SEO words or Pinterest-worthy title pics.  It wasn’t for money or hits, it was just what we quietly did in some of our spare time to connect with each other, help other homeschoolers and log a part of our lives.  I’m not sure how many bloggers of that sort even exist any more, which is probably a big part of why challenges have mostly died off (on the other hand, I know there must be lots of you out there so please holler if you are!).

But in the spirit of “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I thought maybe I could start a weekly challenge if anybody wants to take part.

Each Monday, I’ll issue a theme for the week.  If you want to take part, do some sort of project or activity with your kiddo(s) and blog about it over that week (I think Instagram posts and public Facebook posts could count, too, if you don’t have a blog).  Come back by the next Monday and leave a link to what you did, and check out what others did.

Anybody interested?  Leave a note if you’d like to take part and if there is any interest then I’ll start this month.  🙂

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Back From Nebraska Again

We’re back from a short week at the fabulous home of Tiffany and company again.  Most of us went this time (me, Fiona, Alex, Toria and her boyfriend Gabe this time!), leaving Daryl home with Jack and Rhia.

We only went for 5 days and bunked in different spots around the house, but we had a fabulous time.

It is so fun to have kids so well matched.

When we visited for the very first time (10 years ago!), I was pregnant with Alex.  Tiffany had Jessie and Jack, and I had Victoria, Annalee (who now goes by Rhia) and Jack.  Her daughter was right smack in the middle of the ages of my daughters, and our Jacks were just about the same age (her Jack has Downs Syndrome and is a year older, but they were really wonderfully matched).

Tiffany and Jack, 2009

Tiffany and Jack, 2009

Our kids were stair-steps in ages, but Tiffany lost baby Jacob the year before I had baby Alex, and that was such a terrible loss.  It left a gap in our families, in every way.

When I got pregnant with Fiona years later, she was very much an “oops!” baby, and then a year later, a wonderful “oops!” miracle happened for Tiffany too– Millie.  She was born a year after Fiona and we were back in stair-step.  🙂

Jessica and Fiona, 2011

Jessica and Fiona, 2011

Millie, 2012

Millie, 2012

Now, after all of these years of friendship, our kids are still so well matched up:

Victoria (18)

Jessie (17)

Rhiannon (16)

Jack (theirs) (14)

Jack (ours) (13)

(Jacob would be 10)

Alex (9)

Fiona (5)

Millie (4)

Their Jack and our Alex are now good friends too, and happily play Minecraft and bounce on the trampoline and have all kinds of wonderful fun.

It is surreal and special to see these two new little girls of ours, starting their homeschool adventures in our bonded families.  They have really grown up with each other as family, which means so much to me.  My kids couldn’t ask for better homeschool cousins, so to speak.

It’s a pretty magical homeschool.

Now if we could just get back to more science lessons….

(Excuse the absence of any current photos!  My devices were all dead and I always happily abandon them all when I get there.  I planned on swiping photos from someone else’s Facebook or Instagram to blog, and there are none to swipe!)

 

 

Pre-reading Fun

Fiona has asked me to help her learn to read and since she’ll be turning 5 in the fall, I know that it will all start clicking for her in the next year or so.  We don’t use a formal reading curriculum to teach the kids to read.  With all of the older four, we just did lots of reading readiness in the form of reading together, playing letter games, having fun with phonics, doing early writing, and so on.

I found a fish puppet in the broom closet the other day as I was trying to reorganize.  Of course, there was a fish puppet in our broom closet!  🙂  I had also picked up a bag of assorted decks of kids’ games at a thrift store that week, and there happened to be a deck of letter cards in there.  Voila!  A pre-reading game came together!

I posted a pic online and on the Magical Homeschool page, if you want to peek.

Today's reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

Today’s reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

I explained:

Here’s how we play games to help learn reading. This particular one involved a puppet I happened to find in a closet as I was cleaning. I had some letter flash cards so I made a game with Fiona where the fish puppet would ask in a silly voice for her to feed him things that started with each letter. She’d have to find the letter and then he’d gobble it. Then we moved on to spelling words for him, such as HI. She ran and got her colored pencils and paper and wanted to copy the words, so she wrote simple words such as HI, MOON and CAT that we “fed” to the fish. We also used the cards to change words, such as changing MOON to SOON by moving one letter.

I was going to post more, but my noisy crowd (well, those who aren’t off at the ocean) just got back from pageant rehearsal and mayhem has once again ensued.

I have promised Fiona that we will continue to do some sort of reading fun together just about every day.  I’ll keep updating here with a peek at what we do.

 

 

5 Nontraditional ways we’ve learned math this week

I just found this post in a window of my computer, unfinished, from last week.  Since I wrote this we’ve been to Cincinnati and back, and have done all sorts of other learning.  That’s another post, though!  🙂 

darts_

You know we’re never very traditional, and that includes math.  The kids do some math through more conventional means like Khan Academy, Prodigy (a free site that uses Pokemon-style games to teach math concepts) and worksheets, but they also do it in all kinds of not-so-typical ways.  Here are a few that we’ve done this week:

  1. Playing darts:  We got an electronic dart board at a thrift store a couple of months ago and it’s been a great source of fun.  We typically play 301.  You take turns tossing three darts at a time trying to get down to 0 from 301 points.  Once you get near zero, if you go over, you bust and your turn is over.  You can hit any number between 1 and 20, bulls eye (25) or double bulls eye (50), plus you can get doubles or triples of 1-20.  The kids are constantly figuring out what numbers they (or we) need to get exactly the points they have left.  For instance, if they are down to 51, they’ll call out “Triple 17!”.  Then if someone hits another number instead, they’ll figure out what combinations of darts they can use to still get zero that round from the new number.  They’re good at figuring out if there are doubles or triples of anything to get a necessary number, and also of recognizing prime numbers that mean it’s impossible to get to zero that round.
  2. Mad scientist math:  We’ve been doing this for years and did it again in the car yesterday on the way to Mankato.  Daryl and I took turns asking the kids weird mad scientist questions (If a mad scientist made cats that had 5 legs and 3 tails each, how many more tails and legs would 3 of his cats have compared to regular cats?) and other oddball questions.  Daryl asked Jack a tricky question about battling a hydra — if every time you cut off one of its heads it grows two back, how many heads will it have after x many times you’ve chopped its heads off?  We also did lots of Vikings football player volume ones (how many can you fit in a swimming pool and such, like these at Magical Homeschool).  The kids love them and they really get them thinking about complex math.
  3. Foraging:  You know we do a lot of foraging as a family and math even comes into play there.  Daryl and the kids gather asparagus just about every day in May and they always weigh it (along with everything else we forage) to keep a running total of our harvests on the fridge.  The kids tend to hold the bag and estimate the weight before weighing it on the kitchen scale.  They’re getting very good at estimating weights.  Then they add that total on to the last tally.  (In case you’re curious, we’re at just over 25 pounds now and here’s how we find wild asparagus in different seasons).  Also foraged so far in May — morels, pheasant back mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, violets (violet liqueur is steeping now), waterleaf, ramps and probably a few I’ve forgotten.
  4. Walking math:  When I go on walks with Alex, I make up math questions as we go along.  For instance, I’ll ask him what 1/4 of 300 is, or ask him how much a shirt would cost if it was 90% off and it was originally $18.  I also ask him spelling questions, and do the same thing with Jack while I’m driving with him. There is also a lot of time we just spend chatting, but it’s a nice way to sneak in some homeschool.  Yes, I am that homeschool mom.  😉
  5. Helping the neighbor:  We have a new neighbor next door to us and she was trimming her trees the other day.  Alex, Jack and Fiona gathered to help her trim and haul the branches, and she thanked them for all their work.  After they were done, she got out a big coffee can of change the last owners had left and divided it among them.  Fiona got mostly pennies but still had over $3, and Jack had over $7 and she told him he owed her an hour of work sometime for the extra (Alex didn’t tell me his total).  The older kids helped Fiona count her change, and they all started making plans for how much they would spend on what. The boys are constantly torn about spending their money or saving it up for better things.  Jack has been wanting to save up for a Wii U but it’s a daunting amount of money.  Alex wants to buy a 3D printer and I told him that I’d chip in $100 if he and any of his siblings could gather the rest.  He gets $15 a month allowance and Jack gets $30, so he was figuring out how long it would take them with my contribution if he was the only one saving, if Jack helped, and so on…

 

Snow Days

bootswinter

We’ve been snowed in for two days with a winter blizzard that’s led to closed highways and canceled plans.  While I’ll be awfully tired of this business in a month or two, I kind of like this part of Minnesota winters for now.

We’re forced to slow down, stay home and do cozy things like read, play games and bake.  I take long baths and browse seed catalogs to plan my spring and summer gardens.  I use up apples, pears, berries and pumpkin puree that we put up last summer and fall in homemade muffins and gluten free mix and match snack cakes.  We watch silly British math shows.  The kids have tickle fights and show each other funny videos.

We picked up this geography game for 99 cents at a thrift store and finally got around to playing it yesterday. It was quite old and exceptionally well made, and luckily every piece was still there. It led to quite a lot of great learning about geography and history for Jack,  Victoria and even me.

nationalgeographicgame

This morning, I set the little ones up with a giant bin of snow and ice cube trays of colored water.  They had so much fun mixing colors and experimenting with making tunnels with water.

snowday

Later, Victoria did marshmallow homeschool with Jack, Fiona and Alex while they warmed up with hot cocoa after shoveling the driveway.  She asked them questions related to math, social studies and spelling for them to earn marshmallows (examples for Jack: What’s the difference between a slave and an indentured servant?  If 4x + 4 = 20, what is x?).  She googled questions for various grades in order to come up with good questions.  My kids always love doing marshmallow or chocolate chip homeschool.  Afterwards, Jack asked me to do more algebra with him (no treats involved).

marshmallow

Hopefully, we’ll be able to dig our way out in the next day or so.  If not, I can live with a longer break from the outside world.  We have plenty of groceries, a warm house and a nearly endless supply of games, books, shows, Pinterest crafts and other goodies that I’ve been meaning to get to for far too long now (which led to last February’s Use it Up challenge).  🙂

Stay warm!

Beanie Baby Biology Class

Beany Baby Science

Here’s a fun way to learn about animals in all kinds of ways.

We’ve started a collection of animal beanie babies for the younger kids and it’s turned into such a fun and educational collection.

We get them at thrift stores for about .50 each on average. They make just about every species you can think of.

We have a robin, moose, fox, beetle, rhino, loon, starfish, zebra, aardvark, dragonfly, squirrel, goldfish, seal, lobster, elephant, butterfly, gecko, snake, blue jay, flamingo, giraffe, poodle, ladybug, fox, wolf, black bear, raccoon, koala , octopus and lots more.

We keep them in a large basket in the living room and just about every day we find a new way to make an educational game out of them.

For instance, I’ve asked the little ones if they can sort by whether they live on land or water, the ones who lay eggs from the ones who give birth, by birds and bugs and mammals and so on.

Or sort by how many legs they have, whether they have scales or fur or feathers, whether they hibernate, whether they’re carnivores or omnivores or herbivores, or whether they can be found in our part of the world……

There are so many ways to use them.  I’m thinking we could even work language arts and such in (sort by syllables in their names or whether they start with vowels) and social studies (sort by continents).  You get the idea!

Fiona (four) loves to line them up and make up her own games with them too. And since they are pretty small, they don’t take up much room.

They also work for bean bag games and are fun to toss back into the basket to clean up.  🙂

All five of the kids now look at every thrift store we visit to see if there are any new ones to add to our collection.  Even I have fun looking for fun new species to add!

 

Toilet Paper Roll Crafts!

I’m loving this Pinterest board of nothing but toilet paper roll crafts.  With a family as big as ours, we can accumulate a lot of those tubes pretty quickly, and I’ve started to stockpile them so we can have fun making some of these.  🙂

Fun toilet paper roll crafts

I’ve started my own board of recycled crafts with my favorite of these and other craft projects that use things otherwise destined for the trash or recycling bin.

Because of all of the things that I need to catch up on, spending more time on Pinterest is at the top of the list?  🙂  Ah well!  It’s fun with the kids!