A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bring History to Life with Figures in Motion

These are so cool!  You may remember when we studied about Columbus, I found a printable "bendy guy" we could make.  Timberdoodle generously sent me three whole books of "bendy guys" (and gals!) to use in our homeschool.  We received Famous Figures of Ancient Times, Famous Figures of the Renaissance, and Famous Figures of the American Revolution for review purposes.  Each book comes with a full color, double sided bookmark.  We also received a hole punch and 3 packs of mini brads to make assembly a snap.

I was very excited when they arrived and I realized that each character comes both in outline and full color!  We could use these books as a review of what we've learned about history now, and still have a whole second set to use later, when we study these people again!  (Our history program is cyclical.)  This seems like an incredible value to me.

We decided to jump right in with some favorite characters.  Katie did Moses, who she knows from the Prince of Egypt movie; while Hannah did Qin Shi Huangdi; both from the Ancient Times book.  Jack did George Washington from the American Revolution book.

The kids really liked flipping through the books, asking, "Who's that?" or exclaiming, "Hey, I remember him!"  Fortunately, the front of the book has short bios of each character, so we can brush up on any figures we're not familiar with.

In assembling our figures, the kids had a little bit of a hard time with the tiny paper fasteners.  Jack broke a couple of them.  But eventually, all 3 managed to use them successfully.  My girls constantly amaze me with what they can do with their atypical hands.  Eli helped Katie with the mini brads when she did her Isabella of Spain figure.

Jack has been reading a book about the American Flag to Katie, and he asked if he could do the Betsy Ross figure.  He mentioned while working on her, "The only thing about these is all the cutting out."  I think he'd enjoy the project more if the pieces were finely perforated instead.

The first set of finished figures

After a few days of letting them play with their first set of "bendy guys," I had them glue them onto large sheets of construction paper.

We drew some lines underneath with a ruler, and the children wrote what they knew about the person, or paraphrased the summary from the book.  I thought they turned out nicely, so I put them up on the wall.  

Seems I should have planned my placement better, because soon Jack was telling me we should take down the white board to make room for more "people posters!"  I think we'll start putting them up in their bedrooms instead.  

Katie's Isabella I from the Renaissance book, before cutting

Although we're currently on summer break, the kids often ask me if they can make another bendy guy.  It's a great, low pressure way to review people we've already learned about, as well as introduce them to people they haven't studied yet.  

Something very cool happened while we were working on this review.  I've mentioned before that I've recently gotten into genealogy.  Well, I found an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War!  One of the things that thrilled me to no end is that Famous Figures of the American Revolution includes a generic Continental Army Soldier figure.

We personalized our "army guy" with some of the facts that we know about our ancestor.  This has really piqued Jack's interest in the Revolutionary War, and he's devouring every book he can get his hands on about the subject.  There are reading lists included in the Figures in Motion books, so we'll be on the lookout for books from the list next time we go to the library.

In addition to the 3 books we received, the history series also includes The Civil War and Medieval Times.  They have a Dinosaurs on the Move book that would be a huge hit with young paleontologists.  And there's Queen Esther in the new Footsteps of Faith series!  I can't wait to see what other Bible books they publish!  If you'd like to see a sample of these neat figures, go to Figures in Motion to download pages from their Medieval Times book.

Figures in Motion are available at Timberdoodle.  While you're at the Timberdoodle website, be sure to check out their curriculum kits.  This is the time of year when many of us are shopping for next school year, and you can check out their pre-assembled kits or make your own kit, selecting from their many incredible products, for a discounted price.  I see lots of items that we will be using next year, including Spelling You See, Math U See, and Daily Geography.  I'll be placing a big order soon.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Our VBS Week

We're enjoying our relaxed summertime schedule.  Eli has morning football practice 3 days a week and afternoon practice 2 days per week.  Sam works out with the other Marine recruits 2 mornings per week.  And then there's just life stuff, like this week's dentist appointment.  But it still feels "relaxed" because we're not homeschooling full time on top of it all.

That's not to say that we're not getting anything done in the school room.  Katie is still doing some math, handwriting, and spelling.  Not as much as I had hoped we'd get to, but some.

Our rice tray was getting low, so I added a batch of blue to it this week.  Every time I vacuum the school room, I suck up about half a cup of rice.  Surprisingly, it's not just the little kids that play in it.  A certain teenager spills quite a bit of it on my desk and chair while watching Netflix.

We tried Curlformers (affiliate link) in Brianna's hair this week!  We learned some things for next time, but overall, I'm pretty impressed with them.  I can't wait to try them on Hannah.

Next month, there's a "safety camp" put on by a local police department.  It's a 2 week, mornings only, experience, designed for incoming kindergartners (which Katie would be, if she were going to public school, as she misses the cutoff to have gone to K last school years by mere days).

Not only did I sign Katie up to attend, but I signed Brianna up as one of the teen helpers.  She had her interview on Thursday.  She'll be getting 40 hours of community service for participating.

After dropping the younger kids off at VBS in the evening, I was left with just teenagers.  Stir crazy, cabin fever, let's get out of the house, teenagers.  So we went to the park for a while.

Josiah got some major driving practice this week when we picked Zachary up from the airport.  Freeways, airport craziness, and accident induced stop and roll traffic on the way home.

Eli is learning a lot at football practice, as he hasn't done any organized sports since 2009.

He comes home nice and tired.

 What a good brother!  He's taking pictures of Brianna in the tree with her phone.

I seriously adore my teenagers.  Yeah, every kid has their moments, and I'm often exhausted at the end of the day from the volume and energy level around here, but these guys (and Sam) are great.  It's so fascinating to watch them slowly bloom into who they'll be as grown ups.

And they've proven they're not too old for the park yet.

Jack, Hannah, and Katie went to VBS this week.  That's Katie, in the green shorts.  She was wearing a dress when she got there, and the painted VBS shirt when I picked her up.  I guess I should be glad the girls always wear shorts under their dresses?  The shirts they made were spray painted with RIT dye, so now half my bras are blue from them going through the laundry together.  Probably TMI.  Sorry.

Terrible shot of Hannah, to the left of Tie Dye.

Another family that we met in China when we were adopting Katie and Luke was nearby (at Shriners) so we met up at the park to play for a bit.  I could have chatted on for hours.

I meant to take more pictures, but once they arrived, I was too busy talking.

Still plugging away at the family tree project.  I need to spend some time in the sewing room, though.  My family has requested various things that I need to work on.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LearnBop Online Math

Hannah zoomed through her entire 3rd grade math book last year, finishing a month before school was over, so I knew she'd be a great candidate to review an online math program.  Jack struggled a little more with his 6th grade math, and I felt the chance to practice math concepts in a different format would be beneficial to him, as well.

We received a 12 month subscription to LearnBop for Families. LearnBop offers a Single Student Plan or a Family Plan with access for up to 4 students, which costs $199.

I have to admit, I like the idea of online math programs.  I struggled with math in school, and I've often said, "Go ask your brother," or "Go ask your sister," when the older kids come to me with math questions.  Having it all online means I don't have to explain it.  When there was a concept Jack didn't understand, LearnBop broke it down and walked him through it.

The program is very easy to navigate.  There are different "roadmaps" and several units to each roadmap.  For instance, Jack's 6th grade roadmap has 11 units, such as rates and percents, decimals, variables, positive and negative numbers, graphing, etc.  Within a unit, there are "building blocks" a child must know before they can master the concepts in the unit.

Each building block has 3 videos the child can watch to help them understand how to do the work, then a series of "bops" or problems to solve.  The program adjusts to the needs of your child.  It's not going to ask him or her to do problem after problem of busy work after they demonstrate mastery.  But it will provide extra problems and help for students who are struggling with "getting it."

LearnBop keeps track of not only a child's progress, but also the amount of time they're spending on the program.

The program awards achievement stickers for various tasks, to help the child stay motivated.

Hannah and Jack like to work on the computer, as it makes a nice change from pencil and paper, but it's still math.  Jack got frustrated a couple of times because he was sure he was putting in the right answer, but the program said it was wrong.  Turns out, once he clicked to have it explained to him, he wasn't as right as he had thought he was!  A couple of times, Hannah had to work on and on and on in order to master a concept.  The computer is far more patient than I am!

In addition to the full year we received, LearnBop is also available month by month ($14.95 for a Single Student Plan, and $19.95 for a Family Plan with up to 4 students).  This would be a great way to help prevent the dreaded "summer slide" or loss of skills that most kids go through having 3 months off school.  LearnBop is also a good way to approach something from a different angle, if your child is struggling with a certain concept.  I know, personally, if I'm explaining something, and one of the kids is not getting it, sometimes it clicks for them when someone else explains it.

LearnBop for Families Review

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LearnBop for Families Review

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Jaded, Justified, Jilted

When I agreed to review Jilted, book 3 of the Mended Hearts series by Varina Denman, the publisher generously sent me books 1 and 2, as well.

I picked up Jaded at bedtime one evening, and finished it at 3:38 a.m.  I couldn't put it down.  Jaded highlights Ruthie's character, but really, all the characters have a surprising depth and complexity to them.  (Grady gets some of the best lines in the book.)  Boiled down to it's simplest, Jaded is a romance between Ruthie and Dodd, but it's so much more than that.  It's about hypocrisy in the church.  It's about lies and secrets.  It's about forgiveness.  To say I enjoyed Jaded would be an understatement.  In fact, it took me a couple days to pick up the next book in the series because I was still reflecting on the story in my head.

Book two, Justified, sees Fawn through the surprise pregnancy she discovers at the end of Jaded.  Tyler gets seriously creepy, and we see a lot more of Ruthie's lovable cousin, JohnScott.  We also find out some very old secrets.  In Justified, you begin to understand more about the older generation of characters in Jaded.

Although each book can be read on it's own, I'm really glad I read from the beginning.  Having the background made Jilted that much more poignant.  Jilted is so much more than the romance between Lynda and Clyde.  It's answers to the questions raised in Jaded.  It's healing for a broken family.  It's a non-critical look at mental illness.  Even though I could predict some of the events that occurred, it was well written enough that I enjoyed watching them unfold.

Can all things really work together for good, and can the joy of living be found once again? Don't miss one woman's story in book three, Jilted, of Varina Denman's Mended Hearts series. Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.

Celebrate the release of Varina's Jilted by entering to win a $50 gift card.


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Jilted to kick off a summer of reading
  • A $50 Kohl's gift card to make your summertime sweet
The giveaway ends on July 1st. The winner will be announced July 5th on Varina's website.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Our Week with Accidental Summer Learning

What is accidental summer learning?  Well, maybe unintentional might be a better word for it.  I like the relaxed atmosphere of summertime, when I'm not constantly structuring the kids' learning experiences.  But I do like to provide learning opportunities.  They just don't look like "school."

Family sent Sam an iPod touch as a graduation gift.  He was so excited.  I helped him get it set up, and it hasn't left his side since.

You can tell it's summertime because there's often someone playing on the Wii in the front room.

But it's not all vegging in front of screens.  This play money set was part of my sneaky plan to provide some summer learning.  When I opened it, I had Eli teach Katie the names of the coins.  Up till now, every coin is a "nickel" to her.

It was warm enough to have a water balloon fight.  Eli's been anxious to use these ever since he spied them in my sewing room a few months back.

They all came in soaked, but it was worth it listening to the happy shrieks out back.

Remember that money tray?  Jack counted every. single. piece. all on his own.  He'd come update me at the end of each denomination.  "Mom, we have 50 $1s!"  Altogether it's $4,000 something.  I'm pretty sure he has the exact amount in a notebook, since I saw him scratching out his calculations.  See what I mean about sneaky learning?  He also split it 3 ways and played games with Hannah and Katie with it.

This very blurry, distance shot was taken waiting for football practice to get out.  Now that Sam's graduated, Eli has joined the team.  And Brianna (seated) is one of the water girls.

I laughed when I saw this picture.  It looks like he's thinking, "Why am I in the school room?  It's summer."  He's actually watching a video.  We're working on an online art course, which I'll be telling you more about soon.

There's a happier face.  He asked if he could play with the puzzle blocks.  It's interesting to see all the educational things the kids do without realizing it.

We met up with friends at the park this week!  I brought a kite, and Jack got it up in the air.


Sam and I stopped at the fabric store "for one thing" after his workout with the Marines one day.  Well, that was sort of like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, because one thing led to another, and I ended up busting out the variegated wooly nylon to edge him a new blankie.

I may have been in the sewing room, but I don't feel like I can say, "I made Sam a blanket."  I just bought the fleece and used my serger to trim the edges off.

He seems happy enough with it.  Now he's waiting on me to make him a pillowcase from a Marines print cotton.

Friday, we went to Shriners to get the girls' legs adjusted.

 Hannah got 3/4" length added to her prosthetic, and Katie 1/4" and some adjustment to the foot position.

Brianna came with us because we pass by the Asian market on the way home, and she wanted to stop and get some treats.  The school only allows "natural hair colors" so she's taking advantage of summertime to have blue hair.  No decision yet whether she'll cut the blue off or dye over it come mid-August.

We had quite a wait while their prosthetics were being worked on, and the girls were playful.

When it got too crazy, we sat down to a nice game of Alphabet.  It was perfect, because Katie picked basic things, like Apple, Bat, Cat, while Hannah picked more complex things, like Walrus and Zebu.  Brianna did all animals, and I did all place names.  That made it a challenge to each of us, which is fun.

Hannah, checking out the buckets of turtles at the Asian market.  I haven't mentioned why they sell live turtles there.  I think she still thinks the fish and turtles are pets.

I've been working on our Family Tree, and I've made some interesting discoveries this week!  Immigrants from Ireland in one branch, and Quakers in another.

This coming week is VBS, which should be fun.  We're going to try to get to the pool, too.

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