Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WFMW - How We Learn Spelling

I know most homeschool families don't do spelling as its own subject; spelling words are learned incidentally, as they come up in other subjects. But we here at the Purple Brick Road do a hybrid - public school Aug-May & homeschool June-Aug. Since we a have a child who doesn't learn best through public school methods, we spend our summers catching up on what was missed during the school year (and we also focus on subjects that public school doesn't really teach, such as faith/religion and patriotism).

Thus, some of our SHS (Summer [Home]School curriculum is dictated by the district's benchmarks. This is a long way of explaining that we have to focus on spelling as an individual subject because there are lists to be mastered.

With a multi-sensory learner, this means that we don't just copy, copy copy word after word onto a paper. We take a... well, a multi-sensory approach. Most of our strategies can be used for anything that needs to be memorized:

 On the first day of the week, Tyson copies the list (usually 12 words) onto the sliding glass doors with a dry erase marker. Did you know this wipes right off, like it would on a white-board? This puts it on a vertical plane, thus altering the visual perception.

On the second day of the week, he copies each word onto an old cookie sheet in shaving cream. After he has copied it, he reads the word, spells it out loud, and says it again ~ spelling bee style. This incorporates tactile and auditory learning.

On the third day, we build the words. Sometimes we use magnets (and those trusty cookie sheets or the metal front door). Other times we use these fun foam stickers (which I got at Target - 100piece packs in the $1 bins!). We will either stand at the table or put the letters on one counter & the cookie sheet (or cardboard/paper) on another, so he has to walk between them. This engages tactile & kinetic (movement) learning (and also gives him a break from the horrible, terrible handwriting part).

On the fourth day, we play a game where I call out the words, and he jumps, steps, hops, etc. from one letter to the next in order to spell the words. If he gets stuck, I help him sound out the word, or I will sometimes write it on the white board for him. This engages auditory, tactile and kinetic learning. It also acts as a practice test since he's no longer copying the words, and it helps with his working memory because the letters are out of order. He has to remember which letters he's already done.

The last day of the week is spelling test day. I read the words, give it in a sentence and he writes them on a white board. Paper and pencil is by far our least favorite tools for learning, so we use them only when necessary (like for journaling.)

Of course, his little brother gets to participate, too, so he's already learning some of his letters. But mostly, he just does it for the fun of it:

For more Works for Me Wednesday posts, visit WeAreThatFamily!

Knit-serverance Pays Off, I Hope...

I have been knitting the same "quick" project for what seems like for. ev. er.

It's a baby sweater for a friend. The baby was born a while ago and I am still knitting this sweater. In all fairness to the sweater, this particular version is not the first of it's kind here. This one is actually my third, third attempt.

The first time I cast on too many stitches. Okay, that was my fault for trying to cast on, watch TV, and prevent a cranky two-year-old from destroying the world as we know it  house, all at the same time.

The second time I cast on the right number of stitches, but I neglected to swatch. The dreadful thing was nearly 7 inches long before I realized that my gauge was horribly off, and that sweater would probably have fit a preschooler. I'm all for making baby knits that babies can grow into, but I like for that to happen before they start kindergarten.

I have finally finished the body...

It's a little wonky, I know... but it is knit beginning at the bottom of the front side, up, over the shoulders, and down the back side.

And I picked up the stitches for the sleeve:
This was no easy task, since even though I swatched and got gauge, it lied as gauge swatches tend to do because they are pointless and evil my gauge is off anyway. This sweater is still too big, which made the measurements for the picking up of the sleeve stitches way off.

Argh! I did a little knitmath (ugh...) and I think it's going to work. Of course, it did involve math, so there is a chance that this sweater will only fit a baby that is shaped like a bowling ball with pencils for arms. Whether it does or does not, I will finish this stupid precious sweater soon. I need to get this thing off the needles. Need.

In my frustration, and with a road trip coming up this weekend, I might have caught a small case of startitis. There is a chance that I might have sort of cast on a pair of socks...
This was another risky move. This particular yarn has been started into four other pairs of socks, and has been ripped back each and every time.
 The colorway is lovely, but the changes come up so quickly that I'm having a hard time finding a pattern to compliment it. So, the four failed attempts were really due to my own pickiness. That, or this yarn is cursed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bucket Fillers

Although I do not write about books very often, I read them a lot. I read all of kinds of books. Political, cultural, religious, mysteries, thrillers, humor, knitting books and occasionally, even a classic.

I also read to the boys a lot. Of course, Riley mostly gets read picture books (since he's two years old) but he does, on occasion, throw a complete and utter fit if his request for the Bahbo (Bible) are not met with the immediate fetching of this Book before bed. (I am convinced he will grow up to be a preacher.)

For Tyson (who is seven years old) I read mostly chapter books. We have read half of the FableHaven series, a couple of Judy Blume books, the first Percy Jackson book and we are currently reading "Do Hard Things."

Although the request from his school is that the children read 10 books over summer vacation, I feel this is a pathetic goal. As we are learning from "Do Hard Things," children will generally live up to our expectations, no matter how low they are. So, Tyson reads at least one book to me every day. (He had already filled the chart from the school on the 8th day of summer vacation.)

Last week, we read this book:
... and I have to say that it is an exceptional book.

I've seen it in the counselors' offices in several of the school buildings I work in. It's a slightly concrete way of teaching kids about how their actions affect others around them.

The basic idea is that everyone has an invisible bucket, and when it's full, people feel good about themselves. Kids can fill up other peoples' buckets by doing nice things, showing good manners to others, and just generally behaving in a thoughtful manner. When we do things that fill the buckets of others, our own bucket gets filled up too. That's being a bucket filler.

When we are mean or inconsiderate to others, we dip out of their buckets. As a result, we end up dipping the goodness out of our own buckets, too. This is called being a bucket dipper. It touches on situations such as sharing with others and bullying.

The illustrations are adorable, and, although Jesus is never mentioned in the book (of course, if he was you wouldn't find it within five miles of a public school) it's a huge lesson in loving thy neighbor.

You can check out more about the book and other bucket filling resources here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Inexpensive Entertainment

Summer is in full swing, and that means that I am constantly looking for fun things to do that get us out of the house... but don't cost so much we need a second mortgage on the house.

In our county, we have lots and lots of opportunities for cheap (and sometimes free!) entertainment. Our library hosts summer reading clubs for babies all the way up through adults. They have fun prizes for reading certain numbers of books, and they also have interesting speakers and workshops for families.

We also have one of the best public zoos in the country. Regular admission is free, although they do have some areas that require a small fee. If you ever visit St. Louis, you really should check it out.

Our county parks do a lot of fun things as well, and a couple of weeks we took advantage of one of my favorites. Our local Sculpture Park had music & movie Friday. This is where a local band comes and plays a set, and then after it gets dark, they show a family film on a giant inflatable screen. And the whole event is free.

Of course, they have snack vendors roaming around, some people bring fast food and some even bring fancy platters of fruit and cheese, and break open bottles of wine! But we here at The Purple Brick Road are on a budget, so we go a little more old fashioned. We pack a picnic dinner.

Everyone in the family loves a good picnic.
As the mom, I especially love the clean up. Just a few wet wipes and a shake of the blanket, and it's all done!

Okay, maybe it takes a little more than just a few wet wipes...

This event happens on one Friday evening each month of the summer. And on the other Fridays there are other things to do, like car shows, nature walks, etc.

What do you do for cheap entertainment during the summer months?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Giveaway Results!!!

Here are the answers to the KidSpeak Giveaway. There were some great answers from the couple of entries I got. (I especially liked Connie's poodle answer!)

~ Bed = bread (any kind)            
~ Bean beans = Green Beans (Who would have thought this kid would love green beans?)
~ Doodles = Noodles (Pretty much any kind... it's all doodles around here!)
~ Eye kee = Ice Cream (which is, I am sorry to say, it's own food group in our family.)
~ Kickle = Pickle
~ Kinckles = Sprinkles (which are often placed atop a bowl of eye kee.)

And, now for the winner.
Drum roll, please...

Connie from Smockity Frocks!

Since there were only two entries, I have decided to send you both a set of five cards. I really do appreciate that you took time to stop by, read and enter. And tweet and blog...

And also because I read both your blogs and I adore you!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

KidSpeak - and a Giveaway!

It's time, once again for another episode of KidSpeak. This is where I share with you some of the funny, quirky and just plain cute things my kids have said recently.

First up, Riley. He's 2 years old, so he's just beginning to put multiple words together. The results are sometimes confusing, but he always knows what he's saying.
~ "Windy fine." He is afraid of the wind. Wind usually comes with storms, so he is very concerned at the slightest breeze lately. I say, "Oh no. The wind is fine. It's just a little breeze..."

~ "Uh-oh. Ty-Ty trouble." Riley is quite familiar with being in trouble, so he's very interested when anyone else in the family seems in trouble.

~ "Ty-Ty done poop." He's also just beginning potty training, so he is very interested (and insists on accompanying everyone) whenever anyone goes into the bathroom. Ty-Ty is usually not amused by this running commentary.

~ "ah-ddada-bee-buh-dah-mee-bah." Your guess is as good as mine...

~ "Mawn, Daddy!Sit down! Pay." Translation: "Come on, Daddy. Sit down and pray," while waiting for his Dad to come to the table for dinner. I believe Riley could end up being a pastor.

~ [Crying] "No! Ree Bah-bo! Bah-bo! Mommy! Ree!" Translation: "No! Read the Bible! Bible! Mommy! Read!" after I told him that we could read another book because we finished reading the Bible. He did not stop until I got the Bible in 90 Days & started reading. More evidence that there is a future pastor among us.

Tyson has had some interesting thoughts to share lately.
~ "Mom, can you make Hot Dog Casserole? It's easy. You just cut up the hot dogs, then put the casserole part on top." Yes, darling, if only it were that easy...

~ "MOM!" [Oh my. Is he bleeding from the head?] "TODAY IS MAY 26. It is my HALF BIRTHDAY. I am seven AND A HALF today."

~ "There are two kinds of ninjas: Fire ninjas and regular ninjas. I'm going to be both kinds." Okay.

~ "Riley, NO BITING. That's inappropriate. And GROSS." Uh-oh. He's starting to sound like me...

~ [At the dinner table] "You know what's weird?" [breaks wind, loudly- grins HUGE] "Okay, not that. I was going to say something else..." Ugh. Life with boys. It bears mentioning that both his dad and his little brother had a good chuckle over this one.

~ "Dad, you really need to go easy on Riley. He's had a looooong day." When his dad was trying to get Riley to clean up his toys. Riley did, in fact, have a long day that included a couple of bumps on the head and a few trips to the time out rug.

And finally...
~ [Me] "Buddy. That's not necessary. I don't want to hear that. Save the drama for your Mama."
   [Tyson] "Well, you're my Mama, so I saved it all up for you!" Oy. What can I say to that?

And now for the giveaway. I have a set of five handmade cards (blank inside, with envelopes), and I want to send them to one of you.
 Here's how you can win them:

Riley has some interesting substitutions for common words. Most of them have to do with food items. Below I have listed six of his most common substitutions. Leave your best guess (in the comments section) as to what five foods he's talking about. I will randomly choose a commenter who has correctly guessed at least three of the six.

You can get additional entries by Tweeting this, by linking to this post in your blog and by following this blog (if you don't already). Just leave a comment to let me know what you did (include the link so I know if you Tweeted or blogged!)

Here are the KidSpeak versions of his favorite foods:

~ Bed             
~ Bean beans
~ Doodles
~ Eye kee
~ Kickle
~ Kinckles

Can you tell what they are?

I'll choose the winner and post the answers next Wednesday (June 16). Good luck!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Weedless Wednesday

Just a quick update on Our Garden 2010 (v 2.0).

I had started everything inside, then moved it all outside. This is a practice I must learn to stop. Ever since we got the bad soil in the bigger garden, the little sprouts die within moments of being moved into the concrete clay that is my garden.


I replanted everything. From seeds.

So far, the only thing that is really thriving are the potatoes:
They're doing really well because they are in a garbage can with lots of good soil. In fact, they are growing so well that they grew above the top of the trash can before I knew it! I hope I didn't wait too long to throw some more dirt in on top of them. Supposedly, if I keep throwing in more & more soil, I will have a garbage can full of potatoes by the end of the season. Although at this rate, I'm thinking it might be full by the end of the month...

Another veggie that's growing pretty well is the corn.
 We planted ruby and sweet yellow. I put them in closer rows than last year in the hope that we'll get more actual corn.

I planted peas in pots again. In years past I have had them on the front porch, and out in the yard. In past years we've been lucky to get one or two pea pods before they got baked in the St. Louis heat.
This year, they are on the deck, right next to the house. They'll get a bit of morning sun, but will spend the rest of the day in the shade. We also have chives, green onions, and the wheat grass Tyson planted at school in May. I like keeping the onions on the deck so that I can run out & pick what I need while cooking.

So far, the garden is looking pathetic overall. I took this photo before we had a bit of rain. It's much greener now, although most of the green are weeds. I have no idea where they got this soil, but it is infested with weeds. I mean, it's taking hours each week just to keep them at bay... right now it looks like a green carpet. Of weeds.

We did plant green beans, tomatoes, okra (only three plants this year), watermelons (in the front yard), bell peppers, lettuce and spinach. Everything but the lettuce & spinach have come up so far.

What about you? Do you have a vegetable garden? An herb garden? Advice on controlling weeds? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean...

Didn't there used to be more words in that jingle?

Anyway, I love my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

I have used it to clean an embarrassing buildup of grease on the back of my stove.

I have used it to clean smudges from my walls.

I have even used it to clean scuff marks off my kitchen floor.

I thought I had found every possible use for the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

And then, as is so typical for him, Riley discovered a new use for it. (He's very mischievous talented, you know.)

That is my sort of new laminate floor.

That is very permanent marker on my sort of new laminate floor.

I will spare you a photo of the wide eyed look of shock (yes, shock, I say) I had on my face when I saw this.

I initially wondered how on earth he got hold of a permanent marker. (He realized that he can open up a whole new world of possibilities for himself if he just moves the step stool over to the kitchen counter. Resourceful little chap, isn't he?)

Then I wondered how on earth I would get it off of my floor. Then I realized that I would probably never get it off my floor. (It was right in the middle of the walkway, too... no way to cover it with a rug or strategically placed plant stand.)

So, I pulled out the usual remedies.

I tried vinegar. Didn't work.
I tried 409. Nope.
I tried Windex. Nada.
I tried warm soapy water and a scrub brush. Oh dear.
I tried Woolite carpet cleaner. Hey, it's still a floor, right?
I tried hot, bitter tears of hopelessness.

I had pretty much given up when I saw that little sponge sitting quietly under the sink. I didn't think it would work. But I didn't think it would hurt, either.

Approximately 10 seconds later, my floor looked like this:
Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean...

Good. as. new.

And that, my friends, is why I LOVE my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

This is the part where I'm supposed to tell you that I have absolutely no relationship with Mr. Clean or the makers of his Magic Eraser.  My infatuation with him and his cleaning products is completely platonic and one-sided. I get no benefit from sharing the wonders of this product with you. I'm pretty sure that you, also, get no benefit from me sharing the wonders of this product with you. But kudos to you if you've read through this very boring and mostly pointless post to this point. Kudos to you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Crazy County

I love clipboards. I never met a clipboard I didn't have a use for. Or a binder, for that matter, but we'll get into that bit of crazy another day.

The truth is, I love office supplies. I'm almost as happy to be in an Office Max as I am to be in a yarn or craft store. (Almost. Nothing truly beats the smell of wool in a small, cramped yarn store...)

I'm not sure why, except to say that I love the potential that is found in almost every standard type of office supply. They all have the potential to organize. The bring order from chaos. And since most of the time my life (and my house) tend to lean more to the chaos side of the force, this bringing order thing appeals to me.

The clipboard thing started about 11 years ago when I was doing my music therapy clinical internship. It lasted 6 months, and my clinical training director was a very organized woman. She organized her life on a legal pad attached to a clipboard. She had her schedule, her to-do lists, important notes... all of it right there. I loved the idea and got my own clipboard.

Over the years, my system has gone through many transformations. There was the brief period of the Day Runner. There was the year or so that I used a 5x7 clipboard in an effort to save space. There were the two serious attempts to get rid of paper and keep every thing in my phone. There was the steno book phase that ended badly. But always I came back to the clipboard. I'm currently using a clipboard with a Daily Docket sheet (which I customized for my life).

Do try not to notice that this is Tuesday's list. I tend to only keep a docket for Mon-Fri. This week, I got a lot done on Tuesday so I took a picture of that day.

I might have gone a little crazy with the clipboards for summer school, too. We have four of them.

These are Tyson's. Riley has a set that are very similar. The small orange one is the token economy. Ty gets a sticker for every lesson he gets through without whining, arguing or refusing. (Motivation, attitude and work ethic are a big part of our summer this year.) After he fills up the chart, he gets to trade it in for a reinforcer. (Which could be an item from the prize box, a family trip to the ice cream shop, extra time to play video games, etc.)

This is the plan for what we will work on this week. (Obviously, there is a lot of trying to figure out what Ty picked up this year and what he didn't... so I know what he still needs to learn on.) I went ahead and filled in the full week, knowing that not all of it will get done exactly as it says. We'll go to the library one day, which will take the place of something on the list for Monday. We'll also probably go to the park one day. But this way I have a plan for each subject, and we'll just make up what we missed later in the week or next week. The items in yellow are the assignments Ty will need to complete mostly on his own. (Again, work ethic is a big focus this year.) I can't decide if I should make him finish every assignment each day, or make him finish all for the week by Friday...

I know. I'm trying so hard to be organized that I might be crossing a line & maybe setting a foot into the Land of Crazy with this. "Oh, no," you say, "It's good to have a plan. You're just being organized. God likes a little organization."

Really? Would you think it was just a little over the Crazy County line if I told you that Riley (the two year old) also has a full sized clipboard with tasks like "shape sorter," "sort colors," and "picture vocabulary" on it? With the same subject headings...

Welcome to Crazy County. Population 1.

Friday, June 4, 2010

On Your Mark...

I've been working all week to get things ready for the official start of our Summer {Home}School v2.0.

Here's a little peek into just a few of the things I did this week:

The schedule is done & posted:

Last year we did a "routine" that did not include times. I was worried that having times would stress me out because, although I definitely need a structure to my day, I can sort of become a slave to what the clock says. I know. It sounds strange, but I am a woman of extremes. I tend to hover either near the "parked on the couch in my pajamas all day" end of life... or at the "anal retentive, type A control freak" end of life. So this year I've added times, and I am taking them as a suggestion for myself. I understand that very few days will actually follow this schedule and that when things interfere it in no way means that I am an irresponsible mess. I know this. I do. Really.

You'll notice that all of the academic subjects are in white. That is so that they can be moved by Tyson. One of the things I taught him this year is how to "eat the frog." Some days he wants to get the worst stuff done first (i.e. eat the frog) and some days he prefers to put it off until later. Either way, it helps him to have a little control over his day.

I have a few spare subjects on the other side of the door:

Also, I reworked the chore lists. Riley now has a list of his own, and they are both posted on the fridge daily:
The lists are in top loading page protectors so that they can use dry erase markers to mark each task off the list when it's done.
This is an example of one of Riley's lists. (We have a different one for each day and I change them in the evenings.) I drew pictures to help him figure out what he's supposed to do. (I'm not sure why I put pictures on Tyson's list since he can read now. Maybe out of habit? Maybe to make it a little more fun? Or maybe out of some subconscious need for him to retain a little of his littleness...)

I also put together Tyson's summer reading folder. He has so many papers for this subject that this one needed its own folder. Since we won't be doing a lot of worksheets this summer, I don't think he'll have a folder for any other subject.
In this folder he has:
  • Summer Reading Club Log for our local public library
  • Our own summer reading log to track book titles, minutes, etc.
  • Summer Reading Log for school
  • Recommended books for summer reading (from school)
Tyson's school encourages reading over the summer. The thing I thought was funny is that they give the kids a prize if they read ten books over summer vacation (chapter books count for three). Summer vacation is 12 weeks long. It doesn't seem like they are setting the expectations very high. We read almost every day... at least 4-6 days a week. (Even when we are camping.) And that's just the days that Tyson reads to us! That doesn't count all the books I read aloud to him. Needless to say, I'm confident he's going to earn the prize from his second grade teacher.

So, do you read a lot in the summer? How do you encourage your kids to read?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

God big.

When the sky begins to darken...
...and the wind begins to blow...

...my Wild Thing looks at me, looks outside and with such serious concern says,

"Momma. Windy. Windy, Momma."

I pick him up and hold him close. I take him outside before the rain begins to fall. We go out to see the thing he fears, to feel it blowing our hair.

And then I hear myself say the words before I realize they're in my mind...

"Don't be scared. There's nothing to be afraid of...
"...God loves us.
He gives us rain to water our garden.
He gives us wind to cool our faces.
He gives us thunder to remind us that our God is big."

And I have no idea where the words came from. I wonder why I didn't just tell him the old standby about God rearranging the furniture in Heaven. And then I see it in his eyes, and I think he's beginning to understand. In that very basic way that a two year old understands anything. And in his toddler-speak he says,

"God big."