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Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Memory

Countessa Doget
May 1997-June 2009
Faithful friend, loving companion, and guardian
of our children and home for 12 years

Baby Countess and her litter-mate, CoCo, came home with my sister and I. Coco died at age two and after a series of events, Countess came to live with us. She had been with us ever since. The dogs' mother was a golden retriever and the father was a neighborhood black lab. This is a very good mix of dog breeds for their loyalty and protectiveness of children.

Nick and Adrian grew up with her.

She loved to roll in the yard and scratch her back on brisk mornings...she always looked she was dancing.

From pup to Momma Dog to Granny Dog, we watched her fur turn gray, her teeth fall out, and her eyesight begin to fail.

"Granny Dog's" last Christmas

Thursday, June 11, 2009

easy ways to keep little ones busy

As long as your preschooler is supervised properly or beyond the age of mouthing items, sorting Grandmother's button jar contents into an egg carton BY TWEEZER is a great math activity. This kept the Princess busy for quite some time. Older brother tried it for a mere minute or so, declared, "This is just annoying!" and went off to work a brain bender puzzle.
Window clings are great cheap manipulatives. My daughter likes to play with them on the glass coffee table as kind of a matching activity. This one was money.


photos of workbox system and chore charts

I have had a lot of free time on my hands this week thanks to our local youth group having a busy week and my two youngest going to soccer camp. I can't believe how much work can be done with all the kids out of the house for a mere 4 hours!

I was tempted to spend my free time cleaning baseboards or the fridge but then I realized....in a mom's life free time doesn't grow on trees. I decided to have a little ME time instead. After all, dishes and mopping will always be there.

I have gotten to tackle a stack of encouraging magazines I've been hoarding since last year, and made it through three in an evening.

I've also had time to work on some creative organizing for our upcoming school year (I am hoping since I am taking the time to make this year's system pretty, that alone will encourage me to stick with it longer than my record of two weeks). I am very organized on paper but in reality, well...we just won't go there. I'm on a euphoric high right now of being prepared for next year. I choose to remain on my cloud as long as I can.

Okay, now for some updates and pictures for those who may be trying one the variations of work boxes.

I am using the Sterilite clear boxes for my system, one per child. I just can't add in all the shoe boxes and racks needed for this system as the author wrote it. I am using this one-box method from Jessica's ideas at her blog, Color Me Orange. You'll find the link to it in another of my work box posts.

Each child used scrap booking papers and a grid I printed from the work box files to make their own chart. They enjoyed personalizing their charts and picking their papers.

This is kind of how the sheets will look when laminated and attached to the box front. I haven't gotten that far yet. The numbers on the grid will correspond to the numbers I will put on 12 different Manila envelopes using velcro. The grid will eventually have velcro on it too. As the child completes the work inside folder #1, she will take the no. off and place it on her grid. This way all the days work is contained in the box in small, manageable bits, and she can track her progress by seeing how many numbers are done. My son, very visual and easily distractable, will enjoy using it and I hope, will help him stay focused more.

For items too big to fit in an envelope to put in the box, the envelope will contain a note to "play Monopoly Jr. with sis" or a photo card of that item. Timers can even be added to the box. As long as kids know where the items are and have easy access to them so as to not interrupt the flow of the day asking where things are, I don't see why this can't work.

Let me make a correction on an earlier post: the author and developer of the workbox system, Sue Patrick, does not recommend variations on her method without first trying her method as it is written. Then make changes if needed. She is very adamant about using the shoe boxes/racks and filling each box with everything the child needs for the day, down to pencils and crayons. I believe this method works just as she says. But for a large family to buy separate shoe racks and 12 shoe boxes per child might not be feasible for the budget. Likewise, many have space restrictions. Rather than be discouraged because you feel you can't implement this wonderful system down to the "t", take what you can, tweak it, and go with it. If a family can pull just one idea from this that makes their lives and home school year go more smoothly, then in my opinion, what Sue has set out to do, which is to help families work better and more efficiently, has been successful).

My oldest son is pretty focused and self-sufficient, and won't be using the work box system unless we see he needs it.

Instead he'll have this work strip. It is a simple strip made from cardstock with a library card pocket at the bottom. The yellow and blue squares are just index cards cut in half. I plan to laminate the whole thing and use dry erase markers to write the day's schoolwork on the cards. Velcro dots on both the strip and the backs of the laminated cards will help them stay in place, until the work is completed. Then Nick will move them off, one by one, and place in the pocket.

Now, an updated photo of the homemade (revamped Dollar Tree) Antonyms matching games from yesterday. These are the ones that I plan on using the Bendaroos with, in place of drawing lines from card to card to match. For the photo, I've laid pieces of ribbon from card to card, just to give you a better image of what I am talking about:

Not pretty in its current state but I still think my kids will like it. One could tape ribbon or yarn down instead of Bendaroos or glue onto lighter paper, laminate, and use dry erase markers to draw connecting lines.

All this creating has been so much fun I decided to make pretty chore charts as well. I used Microsoft Works to create a table and insert clip art into each one. These too, will be laminated and small pieces of velcro will be added to each box.
I have made chore cards in the same manner, using Microsoft works tables and inserting clip art.

After cutting them out, laminating, and adding velcro, these cards can be affixed each day to the children's charts, rotating chores as needed. As the work is complete and the chore cards come off the grid, the child will see a checkmark, heart, etc, showing. This is an instant "good job!" visual praise. The cards that are completed will be placed in a box or baggie or envelope. Each morning I'll refill the charts according to the needs and schedules of the day.

Fun, games, outdoor play, and spiritual development are also worked into the cards.

W.I.L.D. cards, an idea from another blog, are good to add. W.I.L.D. stands for Walk in, look and do. So you tell the child to pick a room and "Go wild!"

I also added in Mystery Job cards.

This will go on our Do It Door, which I also borrowed from another blogging mom.

This chore system might be an item I eventually add for sale in my Etsy store, with the option to personalize names and change some of the chore cards. All components would come laminated and have velcro already applied. I have to check the clip art and make sure none of it is copyrighted first. :)


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Teaching Tree brand posters

The brand of educational items found at many Dollar tree stores is Teaching Tree. I enjoy these inexpensive aids to our schooling.

My favorite Teaching Tree item is probably the posters. They sometimes come two to a pack for only $1. What's so cool about them is on the back of these particular posters, you get 4 different reproducible worksheets! How awesome is that?!

I got my oldest son an elements poster pack. This is some of what the backs include:

At only .50 a poster with 4 worksheets too-- what a bargain!


revamping Dollar Tree educational items; uses for Benda-Roos/Wikki-Stix

I have been buying some educational items at my local Dollar Tree to use with my schooling this upcoming year and as "fun" activities for my work box system.

One item I bought about 6 of is little matching cards in topics such as analogies, synonyms, chemical elements, US History, etc. You can play matching games with the cards. I thought the cards look too flimsy to hold up for long and also, I wanted to make the game a little more inviting to play.

So I started by photo-copying the cards while they were still attached correctly together. These copies will become the self-checking answer keys.

Then, I went on to sorting the question cards from the answer cards and gluing them onto a piece of card stock. The questions are on one side, the answers down the other but in random order.

I will laminate these sheets and place them with the answer keys, into a pocket folder.

Here's what my kids will like about using them: I plan to add in either a packet of Benda-roos or Wikki-Stix to use to match up the correct cards. Or I may simply put 10 or so lengths of yarn or ribbon into the pocket to use for matching the items. Now you have a sturdy, reusable matching game that uses strings for matching instead of drawing lines.

My daughter has been begging for Benda-Roos, so I will definetely grab some to use for these types of games. Also, they are handy to use for "tracing" outlines of letters or pictures. I have lots of clip art/bulletin board books with large patterns. I can tear out a page (or copy it), place it in a sheet protector, and let her outline the shape with the Benda-Roos.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

What we did over the past two weeks

We had our very first Muffin Tin Monday (except it was Friday). :)
The kids thought it was neat to eat all these little portions from a Muffin Tin. This would be a neat thing to do with unit studies or with Daycare children.

Tree frogs have gotten into our pool and laid eggs. Now we have loads of tadpoles that must be saved before Dear Hubby puts in the chemicals and cranks up the filter.
We spend a few minutes each day scooping the little buggers out and placing them into our homemade pond habitat.
My sons have raised tadpoles before but this is a first for my daughter. Two already have legs and she loves to hold them in her hand.

We went fishing with our cousins at the pond at our old house.

Adrian caught a fish at last year's family fishing rodeo but a cousin let it go before I could snap the photo. I caught it this year.

Ashleigh learned to make her great-grandmother Kilgore's famous and delicious cabbage rolls.

And she tried her hand at pottery. She ended up with a little basket.

attention homeschoolers and educators: Dollar Tree ROCKS

I am on two Yahoo "work box" email lists where I have been hearing all these moms talk about the great educational finds at their local Dollar tree stores. For about 2 weeks now I have gone every couple of days and found a few things, but nothing like the treasures they found. Then bam, I went yesterday (Friday) afternoon and stumbled upon these jewels of education...what a sight! There were file folder games, little matching games, charts to use in binders or on min-offices, their usual assortment of posters, simple board games, flip charts, writing prompts, you name it. I was almost swooning in the school supplies aisle.

I spent WAY more than I probably should have, but with a little lamination, these products will be usable for years to come and can be resold one day. There will always be educators on a budget looking to buy used.

Here are some of the things I found:

These are math related money games, window clings, dice for adding/multiplying, etc.

Here we have reproducible workbooks in a variety of subjects. Each is 32 pages. I may use them inside page protectors with dry erase markers in some of my work boxes.

File folder game Heaven! I was getting ready to make a bunch of these.

I love the fact that they are full-color and on card stock.

These are flip charts, an Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? card game,

and 4 packs of little trivia games similar to Brain Quest decks.

Next you see grids in many subjects (where there are blanks under questions, a child inserts paper and writes in answers, then flips it over to check their work against answers on back), and lots of colorful reference charts ready to be put in a binder or on a mini-office.

These are packs of Writing Prompt picture cards with questions on back to encourage the child to investigate, think about, and write about the photo.

Last of all, I found these nifty little matching cards. I think I will glue them into file folders and laminate. Then attach different colors of yarn to the word on one side so the child can pull it across to match the correct word on the other side. The one with the glare is American History.
Have fun shopping!