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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn Art Projects

Here are a couple of simple and fun fall art projects for your classroom.

First Idea: Colored Leaf Stained Glass

First, we went on a walk around town and picked a variety of beautiful leaves.

(In the interest of full disclosure, this, like all of my good ideas, was not my idea. It was from Brandi. Thanks for the idea!!)

Fold a section of regular wax paper in half and fill it with your favorite leaves.

Fold the paper over your leaves (you may have to rearrange the leaves a bit to keep them from folding or moving).

Put a towel over the wax paper and iron on HIGH heat.

The wax needs to fuse together between the leaves. Don't let the children do this part unless they are mature enough to handle a BURNING HOT IRON.

This one is obviously not ready for that responsibility.

Let the project cool and then trim around the leaves making sure you leave plenty of fused wax paper to hold it all together. Tape them in the window. They look like stained glass when the light comes through.

**Note: I ran out of wax paper before I ran out of crafters. We tried using plastic wrap. It was sooo much easier than wax paper because it clings to itself without ironing. Now, several days after hanging the leaves, the ones in the plastic are curling and browning. The ironing of the wax paper must have helped preserve the leaves because the projects in wax paper look the same today as they did the day we made them.

Second Idea: Leaf rubbing.

Choose leaves with prominent veins. Use a variety of leaf shapes from the round geranium to the pointy elm.

With autumn colored crayons, rub over the leaves. How easy is that?

You can color a border around the page if you want. I like the look of a collage of leaves and colors, but if you are more organized than that, you can draw a trunk and fill the boughs with rubbed leaves.

While the children are doing these projects, it can be a good time to memorize a poem or play rhyming games. Put some apple cider on the stove and enjoy your art time.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Mom and Me Journals

Though I would love to claim responsibility for this idea, it came from the marvelous Mrs. G. Here is our version of it, however.

I purchased a regular composition notebook and wrote our names and the date on the cover. Inside the first pages, I wrote something about my life that would interest my child. In my girls', I wrote about a friend I had when I was her age. In my sons', I wrote about when I got sick at the movie theater. At the end of the entry, I asked a question I wanted them to answer.

I put the journals on each child's bed (with a sharpened pencil) and left. I didn't say anything to them, I just waited. It didn't take long before my girl came to me and said, "There is something on your bed."She had answered my question, then asked a question she wanted me to answer. I answered it. I made sure to skip lines, spell correctly and write carefully. I didn't correct her spelling, grammar or critique her in any way. We were just communicating. I wrote another question for her.

Our writing goes in spurts. Sometimes we'll write several times a day, sometimes we'll skip several days before someone remembers that it is their turn to answer a question.

She is WRITING. Her spelling has improved, her answers are getting longer, her penmanship is easier to read.

My son and I have kept our journal, too, though there is less than with my girl.
It has been wonderful. We have a secret that is just between us; her other siblings are not invited to this club. Mostly, though, we are learning about each other.
We are writing an invaluable treasure.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Rummikub: A Number Puzzle Game

Let me introduce you to a fun numbers game that most of your family can play. This would be a great family Christmas gift.

Once the children can put numbers in order from 1 to 13, they can play this game (though I think the box says ages 8 and up). It can be played by just two players, but is much more fun with three or four (or combine two games and play with up to eight players!).

First, obtain the most beat up table you can find and spread out the tiles. Turn them all upside down.
Everyone draws fourteen tiles and arranges them in their tray in which ever way makes sense to them. Everyone does this differently. Once your child learns the game, don't mess with the way they arrange their tiles. My best player doesn't arrange her tiles at all, but then, she has always been way smarter than me.
Now it's time to play. Each player takes turns laying down as many tiles as she can. The first person to be out of tiles, wins. If you can't go, you must draw a tile from the pile.
You play by laying down a run (at least three consecutive numbers of the same color):
They can be any three consecutive numbers of any same color: Or, play a set (at least three tiles of the same number, but different colors):That's it. It is easy to learn, but the play becomes a great puzzle as more and more tiles are played. Runs can be as long as thirteen tiles (1 through 13) and sets can have one of each color (red, black, orange, and blue), but neither can have less than three tiles.

Sometimes you can rearrange the entire board, just to get rid of one tile.

It is always fun to see the synapses firing--and I'm referring to Mom and Dad, here.
Have fun with yet another way to play with numbers.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Family Read Aloud Novels

Since nursing my oldest to sleep quit being an option, I started reading my pods to sleep each night. The time they stop nursing is also about the time they move out of the crib, under my roof, so it makes for a comfortable cuddle-and-read. Until my oldest was five, we always read picture books. I, like you, have several memorized, such as:A super favorite of mine andbecause no one can beat Seuss for goofy made-up-words rhyming. Also

because I made up a tune for the I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always part which felt like a lullaby--and because it made me cry some nights.

When my son was five, something changed in our family. We decided to home school. The very first thing we implemented in our home school curriculum was the reading of classics as a family. I tucked in our three and five year old, turned out the bedroom light, turned on the hall light, sat in the door frame, and began reading,

Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

“Out to the hoghouse,” replied Mrs. Arable. “Some pigs were born last

“I don’t see why he needs an ax,” continued Fern, who was only eight.

“Well,” said her mother, “one of the pigs is a runt. It’s very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it.”

They were captivated; I was captivated. After several nights, I knew this would be an integral part of our home education.

In honor of October, dark evenings and cool temperatures (because it is hard to get any of us to settle down to listen to a book when it light and hot at 9:30 pm), I want to refer you to some of our favorites. But first, a few rules:

  1. Make sure everyone has done all of their evening routine such as brushing teeth, getting a drink, putting the bike in the garage and saying goodnight to the pet.
  2. Children have to stay laying down--if a head pops up, I stop reading. The commotion makes it hard for the others to hear and if they sit up, soon their feet are hanging down, and then they are on your lap or playing with toys.
  3. Read, don't talk too much. You know your children. You know whether they understood that last paragraph or word. If they didn't, give a brief explanation and get back to reading. DO NOT use this time to preach, teach or discuss. Preaching, teaching and discussion are necessary parts of active reading, but save that for the next day or the end of the chapter. In-depth philosophising detracts from the flow of the story.
  4. Choose carefully which questions you answer. Suspense is half of why books are better than their motion picture counterparts. Sometimes you have to wait ten whole pages to find out the answer to your question. Again, try not to stop the flow the author so carefully established.
  5. Make your reading time match the attention span of your listeners. If they can only listen for five minutes, don't force them to listen for ten. You don't want them to hate this. Don't worry if you don't read for long at the beginning. After so much listening practice, I'm usually the one to plead to stop because my voice starts to give out after an hour.
  6. If no one likes the book you chose, quit. It's okay if everyone else in the world loves it. There are too many wonderful books to spend your time on crappy ones. Having said this, make sure you give it a good chance. I have a fifty page rule; give the author at least fifty pages to warm up. You might just need to wait a few years and try again when your children are older.

Now, put on the flannel, turn down the light, dispense with last minute potty breaks and enjoy any of these family reads.

Charlotte's Web by EB White (Always, always start with this.)
Stuart Little by EB White
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder *series*
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis *series*
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen *series*
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg
Harry Potter by JK Rowling *series*
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O'Brien
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald *series*
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary *series*
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix *series*
Little Britches by Ralph Moody *series*
Holes by Louis Sachar
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
The Great Brain by John Dennis Fitzgerald *series*

This is by no means a complete list, but hopefully it will get you started or give you a few new ideas. There are many, many great books for this age that I think are too difficult to read aloud (The Secret Garden and Huckleberry Finn, for example).

Good luck and enjoy the quiet unity of reading the same story at the same time.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fun Multiplication Mastery Game

Mastery of the times tables is a vital math skill. You Your child will need it in every facet of math and it makes a big difference if they have the figures down cold.

Some people call this game "Salute" and it is a fun way to practice the times tables. You will need a deck of playing cards (Skip-bo or Phase 10 cards work also--just make sure they have the numbers 1-12).

If your child is just getting started with multiplication, play with only the ace (represents 1), 2's, 5's, and 10's (jack can be 10, queen = 11 and king = 12) and then add in higher numbers as they learn them. For example, my son knows his tables up to twelve, but my daughter hasn't yet learned the 7's, 8's, or 12's. We don't put those cards in the deck for our game.

Once you have selected the cards that will be played, deal the remaining deck into two piles, face down. Give each child a stack of cards, reminding them not to look!

The children sit across from one another at the table and a third person sits on the end. Each child picks up a card and holds it up to their forehead, like this. Then he makes a nice face at his sister.

I said a nice face. There, that's better. The third player, which is usually Mom or Dad, says, "The product of your cards is 66." The Boy cannot see his own card, but knows that his sister is holding a number 6. "I have an 11," he declares. The Girl cannot see her own card, but knows that her brother is holding a number 11. "I have a 6." That's it. They discard their cards, pick up a new one and Mom says, "The product of your cards is 15."

"I have a 5!"

"I have a 3!"

"YES, good job. Next card."

The game ends when they run out of cards. After a couple of times through, you may want to take out the ace, and 10's. After a few more times, remove the 2's and 11's. You can make it as easy or difficult as you want.

Once you know your child won't give an incorrect product, switch places. You hold a card to your forehead and let one of the kids give the answers.

My kids love this game and choose to play even when it isn't school time.


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