Jul 29, 2011

Movie Review - Pilgrims Progress: Journey to Heaven

I'm not a big fan of letting my kids watch movies or television, but I have to recommend this movie.  Pilgrims Progress: Journey to Heaven is a movie based on the book by John Bunyan called Pilgrims Progress.  It is about a man named Christian who literally has to walk a narrow path to the Eternal City while carrying a heavy burden on his back.  Many times Christian is tempted to get off his path by things that look good or easy, and he does decided to get off the path a few times.  Each time he gets off the path, he has to face the consequences and then find his way back to the path.  We started watching this with Luke when he was six.  Now there are some scary parts that we skipped past when he was that young.  I though the whole story would go right over his head, but it didn't!  This is one of his favorite movies, and he has watched it over and over again.  What excites me is the conversations he starts about the movie.  He asks deep questions and we are able to discuss Bible verses and complicated issues with Luke.

Just last week in the car, he asked me why there is so much evil in the world today.  In his mind, it's so easy to follow Christ, he doesn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to follow Him.  I referred to the movie, Pilgrims Progress, as we talked.  I reminded him of how Christian had to walk the straight and narrow path to get to Christ.  It was so easy for him to get distracted and get off his path by things that look good at the time.  It's the same way with evil in the world.  The other path is wide and tempting.  It looks fun and easy.  Many want to travel that path instead of the narrow path.  That was all the explanation Luke needed. He said, "Oh, that makes sense.  Thanks."

Jul 28, 2011

Back to School Price Matching Deals

I'm having trouble getting to Staples in time to get some of their really good Back to School deals.  They sell out very quickly!  So I decided to try price matching at Walmart today.  I took my note cards and clipboard to the checkout, told the cashier how much they were, and checked out with no problems.  I was able to get a clipboard for $0.50 and note cards for $0.01 each.  Total=$0.52

At Walmart you don't even need the ad to price match.  I just tell the cashier how much the item cost.  They usually don't even ask what store you are price matching.  One time I even had a cashier write down all my items and prices so she could shop later!

Do you have any Back to School deals to share?

Jul 26, 2011

Finding a Cure for Dumping Toys on the Floor

My toddler is going through a phase of dumping everything out on the floor.  He doesn't really play with anything, but he loves scattering wooden blocks, mega blocks, and magnetic alphabet letters all over the kitchen and living room.  Yesterday he got out his magnetic letters and asked me to open them.  As I did, I spied an empty ice cream bucket on the shelf.  I showed him how to dump his letters into the bucket, rather than on the floor.  He thought that was a great game!  Today we are going to work on moving his blocks from one container to another rather than dumping and scattering them.  Hopefully this game will last a few weeks until he's back to actually playing with the toys again!

Do you have any ideas for controlling toy messes?

Jul 25, 2011

All About Me! Beginning of the Year Activity

This is a great activity for public, private, or homeschoolers.  I used this as part of a student portfolio in public school.  Now I use this as a beginning of the year activity as a homeschooler.  Each year I find or make a slightly different version of this.  You can download and print this activity by clicking below. 
All About Me

Each year that I taught fourth grade, I made each student a book or portfolio.  I didn't tell them that I was making a book but kept it a secret for the last days of school.  I used the All About Me activity as the first two pages of the book.  I had the students fill this out as they came in on the first day of school.  Then about three weeks before school let out in the spring, I asked them to fill it out again.  I did not mention that we had already done this activity earlier in the year, because I didn't want students trying to remember what they had previously written on the paper.  Then I included both copies in their individual student books.  They were then able to compare their likes/dislikes from the beginning of the year to the end.  I also included many work samples, two autograph pages, two scrapbooking pages, and a class picture in each book.  I took pictures of the students frequently and hung the photos on a rotating photo bulletin board.  At the end of the year, I would collect all the photos I had taken throughout the year, and let each student choose 8-10 pictures to add to their scrapbook pages.  It was a great end-of-the year activity, and the students had a nice portfolio and memory book to keep.

Do you have any beginning of the year activities to share?

This post was featured in the Homeschool Showcase #78 at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Jul 23, 2011

Favorite Websites We Use For Homeschooling

We incorporate the Internet into our homeschooling in several different ways.  I use the Internet to search for resources and lesson ideas.  We also allow Luke to use it to reinforce skills he is currently working on or struggling with.  Here are just a few of our favorite websites:

1.  Homeschool Freebie of the Day - This site allows you to download some kind of ebook, PDF document, audio drama, etc. everyday.  If you join their mailing list, you also get subscriber exclusive links.  We have found many great resources and other fun stuff through this site. 

2.  Homeschool Radio Shows - Do your children enjoy listening to radio dramas?  Luke can listen to these for hours if we let him!  This site contains living books for the ears.  We have downloaded many just for fun audio books and other historical audio books from this wonderful site.

3.  Kids Answers - This website is part of the Answers in Genesis site.  Last year we watched many videos from their website, including videos about pyramids and dinosaurs.  These always lead to great discussions at our house. Kids can also read articles from current or pass Kids Answers Magazine, read short articles about a variety of animals, watch a ton of different Bible based videos, or print one of their many different activities.  I feel very comfortable allowing Luke to explore anything on this website. 

4.  Fun 4 the Brain - I have not explored everything on this website, but we used this a lot for math facts review.  Luke really liked the subtraction and multiplication games.  He would beg to be allowed to play on this site. 

5.  National Library of Virtual Manipulatives - Are you lacking a manipulative to model a specific math skill?  Then this site is for you!  I used these virtual manipulatives many times when teaching math in public school.  Now we use it in our homeschool.  I found this especially helpful when dealing with positives and negative numbers in algebra.  They also have many mind bending puzzles for a variety of topic and skill levels. 

6.  Spelling City - This site offers a variety of spelling practice activities, quizzes, and tests all centered around your own spelling lists.  We only used the free portion of this site, but you can join to get more options.  Luke enjoyed playing games with his spelling words, and when I was very pressed for time, he even took his spelling test on the site.  This also allowed him to work on his typing skills.

Please share your favorite websites with us. 

Jul 22, 2011

Training Toddlers To Do Chores

I didn't put much effort in training my oldest son how to do chores at an early age.  Now, at age eight, it is a chore to get him to do chores!  When he was little, I was working full time and working on my graduate degree, and I just didn't feel like I had time to get him involved in chores.  Now that I am a part-time stay at home mom, I've decided to do things differently with our one-year-old.  Can you train one-year-olds to do chores?  Sure!  They can help out in so  many areas.  Here is a list of what he helps me do:

1.  Wipe off his high chair tray.
2.  Wipe water spills on the floor. 
3.  Put wet laundry in the dryer.
4.  Push laundry baskets across the floor to the appropriate room.
5.  Help big brother put away his shoes.
6.  Pick up his own toys.
7.  Help push the vacuum cleaner.
8.  Use the dust buster on small spills.
9.  Sweep the floor with his little broom while I sweep with the big broom.
10.  Empty and fill the dishwasher.
11.  Throws diapers in trash, and then takes the trash bag out to the garage.

Now I could do all these chores a lot faster, and a lot better, if I didn't have a one-year old helping, but he is so excited about helping.  Not only is he learning about being a valuable part of our family, he is working on his gross and fine motor skills with these chores.  Since he is constantly at my side helping me, we are also working on language and social skills.  I see chores as a learning experience in so many areas!

Do you have any hints for getting kids to do chores? 

Jul 20, 2011

Getting Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

Do your kids turn up their nose to veggies?  Up until now, I haven't had much of a problem with this.  Our oldest son, Luke, always been a very good eater, including vegetables.  Our toddler, on the other hand, has started pushing away most veggies.  I sneak veggies into many things though! 

The other day I made a big pot of chili.  While cooking the chili in the crock pot, I cooked a bag of carrots on the stove.  When the carrots were very soft, I put them in the blender and pureed them.  Then I just mixed them into the chili, and no one even knew there was a pound of carrots in the chili.  I also make my own pasta sauce in big batches at a time.  I add purred veggies to this too!  Then I use the pasta sauce for a variety of meals including, spaghetti, ravioli, pasta casserole, and homemade pizza. 

Do you have any secrets for getting kids to eat their veggies?

Jul 19, 2011

Multiplication War Game

Wow! I just read about this game yesterday at Let's Play Math, and I knew we had to try it. It's called The Game That is Worth 1,000 Worksheets. To play, you will need a regular deck of playing cards.  Everything is based on the card game of War. (Click on the website above for instructions on how to play War.) Instead of using the regular rules that the highest number wins, we turned over two cards at a time and found the product of the two cards.  We took out the Joker and King, and assigned the following values to the other face cards: Ace =1, Jack = 11, and Queen = 12.  If we master twelves, we might stick the King back in as a thirteen.  What a great way to practice multiplication facts (or addition/subtraction facts)!! This game will be played a lot at our house! Read about all kinds of math variations of the game War over at Let's Play Math.

Do have any favorite math games that your family plays?  Please share them!

Jul 17, 2011

Math Monday Blog Hop

I linked up with Math Monday Blog Hop today.  Check out all the great math ideas others are sharing.

Jul 16, 2011

Reading Aloud

Throughout my teacher education classes, I heard it repeated many times, read aloud to your students.  Now as a parent, I keep hearing about the importance of reading aloud to my own children.  We take time to do this everyday, and I wanted to share the many benefits I've seen from this simple activity.

1.  My number one favorite thing about reading aloud is snuggle time!  Your child will want to sit on your lap or as close to you as possible, even after the pictures have disappeared!

2.  You will be increasing your child's vocabulary without worksheets.  When you come across a difficult word, stop and ask your child what he/she thinks it means.  Give clues from the sentence or picture.  Then discuss the meaning.  Before you know it, your child will be using that word in his/her everyday conversations!

3. Reading comprehension will soar.  Last year when Luke was in second grade, when read the entire set of The Chronicles of Narnia.  Now he could not have read them independently, but his comprehension was amazing.  He would stop me and discuss connections between the characters and their interactions with one another.  He actually quoted Bible verses to me, and told me how those verses related to events in the books.  This was all without my prompting or questioning.  If your child does not ask questions, stop and discuss the book often.  Ask them about events, character traits, what he/she would have done in the same situations, etc. 

4.  Since we have read aloud to our children since birth, they love reading, and they love learning.  Reading is not an assigned activity at our house, but it is something the kids enjoy and choose to do.  Visiting the library is exciting for us, and buying new books is a treat!

In the past year we have been reading more chapter books to Luke.  We have covered the Chronicles of Narnia, some of the Little House on the Prairie books, and now we are reading several Beverly Cleary books.  We also read hundreds of pictures books.  Don't stop reading picture books as your child gets older.  Many picture books are actually written for the upper elementary through middle school audience.  These books can be read quickly and then discussed.  Some of our favorites include Max Lucado's children's books such as If I Only Had a Green Nose.  Don't forget the nonfiction and poetry books too.  Follow your child's interest in selecting these. 

Do you have any tips for reading aloud to your children or students?

Jul 15, 2011

Toddler Balloon Fun

This activity provided hours of fun when Luke was a toddler, and it  is so easy to put together.  All you need is a paint stirring stick, a sturdy paper plate (tape two together if you have flimsy plates), a balloon, tape and crayons.

First, have your child decorate the paper plate.  Any design will work.

Next tape the paint stirring stick to the paper plate.  I think masking tape would work best, but I only had scotch tape. 

Use the stick as a handle, and show your toddler how to hit the balloon with the paddle.  We made two so our kids could paddle the balloon back and forth.

This activity would be easy and fun for a play date, preschool class, or Sunday School Class.

Do you have any quick, easy toddler activities to share?

Jul 13, 2011

Sorting, Matching, and Pattern Fun

Do you have a bag of these foam shapes somewhere around your home?  I picked up these on clearance at a craft store years ago.  Since then I have found so many uses for them. 

They were designed to use for crafting projects, so of course, that's what I used them for.  I covered the edges of an old bulletin board for my oldest son's sports room.  We also decorated a sign for his door and made picture frames with the shapes.

Then I had the huge bag of foam shapes sitting around.  I starting to think about what else I could use them for.  I got them out one day when Luke was a preschooler, and we starting matching shapes and colors. 

Later, we started sorting them.  We sorted by color.

We also sorted by the type of sports ball.

We also did patterns.  This could be a little tricky, because kids will need to think about color and shape at the same time.  It's a good hands-on early math lesson!

Now I think we could use them to help illustrate multiplication and division problems.  We might get a few more years out of these old foam shapes!

Apparently they are also fun to roll around on them!  As I finished typing this, my toddler dumped out the entire bag and started to roll in them. 

Do you have any other good ideas?

Jul 12, 2011

Sign Language for Babies

Have you ever been frustrated when your baby or toddler could not tell you what they wanted?  Try teaching him sign language.  I taught both of my babies sign language from the very beginning, and it paid off. 

When we were teaching our older son sign language, I was concerned that he would be delayed in his language skills.  The opposite was true.  He spoke very early, and was speaking in sentences before expected. 

Now we are working with sign language with our younger son.  He is not speaking yet, but we can understand his needs through sign language!  I can't imagine the frustration I would have at eighteen months, if I could not communicate with him.  He signs more, all done, again, milk, please, thank you, bye, up, yes, no and down.  The only words we hear on a regular basis are mama and nana (means food - we're not sure why).  I am currently introducing new signs everyday.  We found a couple of board books at the library about using signs for foods and using signs for animals.  Those are his favorite books.  He sits in my lap and shows me that he wants to read them over and over.   

If you have a baby, I would suggest starting sign language now.  As you say a word, use the sign.  We always start with more, all done, milk, thank you, and please.  Baby Sign Language is a good website to help you get started.  If your child is already a toddler you can still teach him sign language.  I stopped teaching my oldest son sign language when he started speaking clearly.  Then his kindergarten teacher taught him the alphabet and the colors in sign language.  He picked it right up and used the signs at home.  Now I plan to continue teaching my toddler even after he starts speaking. 

Do you have a sign language success story?

Jul 11, 2011

Homeschool Showcase

Check out the Homeschool Showcase at Weird, Unsocialized, Homeschoolers.  Many great homeschool ideas have been contributed including my post about sensory boxes.  You can also read about how to make a puzzle sandwich or what to do on a rainy day.  Swing by and check it out!

Jul 9, 2011

Fostering a Love of Learning

As a public school teacher, sometimes it seemed so hard to show kids how to love to learn.  There were so many pressures for good state test scores, data, benchmark test scores, meeting state curriculum guidelines, etc.  I saw so many kids who were just there, doing the work, because they had no other choice.  Now as a homeschooling teacher, I pray that I will teach my sons to love to learn.

Yesterday as we visited the Creation Museum of the Ozarks, I saw the spark of learning in my oldest son's eyes.  He listened to our tour guide, answered, and asked questions.  When asked if he would like to view a video, he was very excited.  All of the videos were documentaries, geared more for adults.  After each video, he asked questions and asked to see another.  I love to see him enjoying learning.  He's not even realizing that he's learning!

I just want to encourage everyone, whether your kids go to public or private school or you homeschool.  Find out what your child is interested in, and then follow that interest until his/her interest changes.  Right now Luke is interested in science, dinosaurs, and the military.  We try to find books and websites to read on these topics.  He's now started a blog where he writes mostly about nature.  We try to take several nature walks a week, and we visit every science center and conservation center that we can find.  Whatever you child is interested in, follow his/her lead, and he/she will learn more than you can imagine!

How do you foster a love of learning in your child?

Jul 8, 2011

Creation Museum of the Ozarks

Does anyone know where Branson, Missouri is?  The Creation Museum of the Ozarks has a vision to build a Creation Museum in Branson.  We visited the Creation Museum in Strafford, Missouri today for a field trip.  My older son and his friend loved it.  (Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures because I was too busy running after a one-year-old.)  Anyway, we had an awesome time!

First we visited the hands-on corner.  The kids played with a bunch of different dinosaurs and puppets, looked at books, and put together puzzles.  Then we were given a guided tour of the museum.  The tour was wonderful.  Our tour guide explained how dinosaurs lived at the same time as man.  She showed the kids Bible verses, fossils, paintings, and many artifacts to support Creationism.  After the tour, we went to a back room where we watched a couple of videos.  We saw what it may have been like when God flooded the earth in Noah's time, how canyons are made, and how small our planet really is compared to the rest of the universe.  I am so excited about their vision for a new museum in Branson!

Have you visited a great, educational place with your family?

Jul 7, 2011

Family Movie Night

Are you planning on having a Family Movie Night anytime soon?  Check out Plugged In Online before you rent your next movie.  This website is run by Focus on the Family.  You can find honest, unbiased reviews of movies, videos, music, TV shows, and games before you buy or rent them.  There is a even a page for suggestions and frequently asked questions about Family Movie Nights.  I love this website, and I find myself checking it often before we watch movies. 

Today's Shopping Deals

I've been working on finding deals and using coupons for over a year now.  I feel like I'm just now starting to get the hang of this.  Here's what I found today:

Target: 6 rolls of scotch tape, one write on/wipe off board, 3 paperback novels, 2 sets of pens, and a bottle of baby soap =  $4.92. 

Staples:  25 sheets of Premium HP Photo paper, and 12 clasp envelopes = $6.00 (Regular price for both = $23.98)

Walgreen's:  6 cans of tuna and 1 dozen eggs = $4.30 - $3.00 in register rewards = $1.30 out of pocket cost

Jul 6, 2011

Reading Corner

Who doesn't want to curl up in a comfortable chair and read a good book.  I think it is so important to create reading spots in your home for your children.  When I taught fourth grade in the public school I always had several comfy reading spots around the room for the children.  (I wish I would have taken a picture!)  Now that we are homeschooling, I figured my own children needed their own reading spots.  We don't have a lot of extra room, but I squeezed an old beanbag chair and oversized pillow between the couch and one of our bookshelves. 
Our books are spread throughout the living room and hallway, all on low, easily accessible bookshelves. This created a problem for a few months as our toddler emptied them all daily. He's better about it now though.

If you have made a special reading spot for your child, please share it with us.

Carnival of Homeschooling

This post is part of the July 13th edition of the Carnival f Homeschooling.  Check out all of the great posts there. 

Jul 5, 2011

Freezer Cooking - Taco Casserole

I'm not a huge menu or freezer cooking planner, but I do like to get meals in the freezer when I have the opportunity.  Instead of planning out a big freezer cooking day, I just try to make huge amounts of whatever I'm cooking for dinner that evening.  I always fry my ground meat ahead of time and store it in one pound amounts in the freezer.  That way I can just grab a bag and heat it up.  Lately I've been combining ground chuck with ground turkey.  So yesterday afternoon I decided to make taco casserole (Luke's favorite).  It probably only took five minutes longer to make two casseroles instead of one.  Each casserole, when served with sides, feeds us two meals, so we got four meals out of one cooking session.  Yeah, less cooking for me! (I baked the first casserole, and I froze the second casserole, unbaked.)

Taco Casserole

12 taco shells, coarsely broken
1.5 lb ground meat
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 c. Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 lg. tomato, cut in wedges (optional)
6 stuffed green olives, sliced (optional)
taco sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place half of the shells into a lightly greased 6-cup baking dish.  Brown meat and drain.  Add taco seasoning, onions, and water.  Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.  Stir in tomato sauce.  Spoon meat mixture over taco shells.  Sprinkle with 1.5 cups of cheese.  Sprinkle remaining taco shells over cheese, and then the remaining cheese over the shells.  Arrange tomato wedges and olives on top.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve with taco sauce. 

Jul 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July to America!

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here."
- Patrick Henry

Math Monday Blog Hop

I linked up with Math Monday Blog Hop today.  Check out all the great math ideas others are sharing.

Jul 2, 2011

Lesson Learned from Kitchen Mistakes

Today I thought I would get up early and make Fourth of July treats for our Sunday School classes and for the party we are going to attend tomorrow.  My idea was to make star shaped crispy cereal treats with sprinkles and chocolate chip cookie cakes.  Here's a picture story of my morning. 

The cereal treats did not come out as expected.  They were too sticky, and I learned that you should cool them more than a few minutes before using cookie cutters on them. 

The first batch of cookie cakes were too thick and did not get done in the middle.  Yuck!

I tried to make the cookie cakes thinner, and they stuck to the pan!

Then I gave up and thought I would just make cookies.  As my oldest son, Luke, was pouring the dry ingredients in the cookie mixture, my youngest son scared him.  Luke dropped the flour mixture all over the floor.  Notice his footprint in it too!

I finally got a tray of semi-okay cookies for the party tomorrow.  We'll see how they taste.  Now I have pizza dough mixing in the bread machine.  Who knows what will happen with that!

So besides the obvious cooking lessons I learned today, I found a life lesson in my morning.  Sometimes as Luke gets frustrated with his math or spelling mistakes, he just wants to give up.  I was getting frustrated and grouchy in the kitchen this morning, and I wanted to give up.  Luke and I talked it over and decided it was not okay for me to be grouchy about my mistakes, but to learn from them.  We discussed how he has to learn from his spelling mistakes, and now I have to learn from my cooking mistakes.  

Jul 1, 2011

Free T-shirts

My boys received a package in the mail yesterday, and they were excited!  We completed their H.E Buddy Reading program and received the rewards yesterday.  Each of them received a new T-shirt, pencil, bookmark, and reading certificate.