Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fun With Shapes, Mirrors & Microphones!

I had to referee a fight that broke out in the library, read on and I'll tell you why. We recently did a lesson on shapes, and while the girls have had their shapes down for quite awhile, this lesson offered them something different because we compared and contrasted shapes, as well as discussed their properties in detail. 

In order to keep little hands and minds busy so I could organize myself and make some photocopies in peace at the Library, I pulled out a bag of shapes I made in secret and gave it to the girls. They loved it! In fact, they loved it so much, they started- yes, fighting. Once we got the evenly shapes divided between them, everyone was somewhat happy and creative play peacefully ensued.
Keep a bag of these in your purse or car! Shapes I used: Hearts, Circles, Ovals, Rectangles, Trapezoids, Rhombuses, Diamonds, Stars and Triangles, all different sizes and colors, cut out from construction paper and laminated with contact paper.
They created their own little story boards using the shapes to create characters doing fun things, like animals, birds, and they even gave the shapes names like "Little Heart" and she had her own personality. They used a rectangle for a blanket when they put Little Heart to bed, they made a wagon for the characters to ride in and told me a story to go along with what they were doing. I love this sort of open-ended imaginary play, it really gives you a glimpse into their little minds and you get see just what they've learned. 

The best ever: When you hear them impersonating you, acting like little mirrors and microphones and showing you everything you do. All you can hope for is that they picked a snapshot of you on a day when you put your best foot forward;^)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Storyville Fun!

This place is unreal and I totally wish I had this when I was little. Under the recommendation of a friend, we finally visited Storyville in Woodlawn for the first time this fall. It's 100% free since it's part of the library and there's tons of fun and educational stuff for the kiddies to do.

They can grocery shop in a market that has mussels (MUSSELS!!), fish, lean cuts of steak, all kinds of fruits and veggies, life-sized laminated money, bread, milk, eggs, and a scale for weighing your produce.

They can dress up as a postal worker and sort and deliver mail and pacakages to each of the buildings/houses in Storyville because each has its own numbered mailbox (left, in picture).They can sell tickets at a ticket window to a play or puppet show they can put on in the Theater House.

They can pretend to be engineers, architects, designers and mathmeticians in the building zone.

They can drive a trolley car and spell words on street signs with huge foam magnetic letters.

They can cook and clean and care for infants and pets in the house, which has a life-size staircase to a second level where there's a doll house and reading room.

There's a log they can crawl through and a treehouse to climb up into that also has some nice private reading nooks.

And all the while they can browse and select picture books on display throughout the whole town, then check themselves (for real) out in the Storyville Library. They haven't forgotten the babies, though, because there's a gated area where babies can safely play.

Techie Moms, you'll be glad to know that the place has free Wi-Fi for your smartphone since it's connected to the Woodlawn Library building, and older kids (6 and up) can color, do puzzles, read, and play with magnetic shapes and letters, etc., in the play area just inside the library doors while little ones enjoy Storyville, provided you have someone with you to help supervise them. There's also a huge coat room as you come in with a rocking chair, cubbies, and a table with sidewalk chalk to keep them entertained while you wait for a friend, nurse or change the baby, or just take a breather. The bathrooms are also located near the entrance, they're kid-and-family-friendly and are always sweet-smelling and clean! Can't ask for more.

They have a variety of coloring pages at the check-in desk that are best to grab on your way out to soften the blow of having to leave before your child/ren are ready, which will be NEVER, unless Spiderman himself is outside waiting.

My only disappointment: They only allow 5 and unders inside, so in another 6-8 months, we may have to find a new spot (most likely Great Kids Village in Columbia), but please believe that we're gonna milk the next half-a-year we have for what it's worth!

There's another branch not too far from Woodlawn in Rosedale, fyi. If you visit, please remember to come back and leave a comment to let us know if you loved it as much as we do. Happy playing!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What a Novel idea!

I went to a small private grade school on the water and was afforded a great education similar to that that a typical  homeschooler might receive. My 7th & 8th grade teacher was adamant about exposing us to things like public speaking and current events- we each had to do an oral report on any current even topic of our choice from a reputable magazine once a week and then discuss it as a class, and then we did an annual speech contest through which she introduced famous quotes to us.

One other thing she did, that was wonderful and has been my recent inspiration for novel-reading to my kids is to choose classics, books most people have heard of but probably never read, and read them with us, page by page, explaining the nuances and helping us analyze what was going on in the story. We'd take turns reading a few paragraphs each. We'd also take notes in the margins and highlight key phrases, paragraphs or quotes. I still have my copy of those books and they are like gold to me. I fully intend to do the same with my girls when they are old enough and mature enough to handle the subject matter in these books.

Here's my book list; some are also from high school:

The Pearl
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
White Fang
Call of the Wild
Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
The Crucible
On The Beach by Neville Shute
1984 *I read this on my own as an adult*

I began with Charlotte's Web for my girls and plan to compile a book list for young pre-/readers as well. Be sure to check back for that!

Monday, December 20, 2010

PlayAway View at Your Local Library

I was visiting our new favorite place, Storyville in Woodlawn, and as I was checking in at the desk, I noticed someone had left some kind of digital device behind and it was still playing a kid's video. I inquired about it, hoping the person hadn't yet left the library and the librarian informed me that it actually belonged to the library. 'Yeah, right', I said...No, really, it did. *sheepish grin*.

See, this is why I love the library, all kinds of free, good stuff if you just look!

What I saw was a demo of the new Playaway View digital video media player that the library now allows you to check out. It's so cool, and with no DVDs or CDs to fool around with, it's a mother's dream. A Playaway audio also exists for checking out audiobooks but I haven't yet seen it at any of our local libraries. Be on the lookout for it and the View at yours!

Official Playaway View website
All about Playaway View- Collier Libary Site

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Charlotte's Web: Our newest book adventure

I remember watching the movie when I was a child, but I was never quite fond of Charlotte's Web by EB White.  So what in the world made me pick it up at the library last week?? Familiarity, perhaps. I was browsing the shelves because I decided it was time to begin my reading of novels to the kids, who are only 3 & 5, but I figured we'd test the waters to see how they liked it and they generally have no problem sitting still and listening to a story.

Well, happy to say that I'm over the moon about this experience because I feel like we're really connecting when we sit down to read a little more of our new book every night. I take it along with us in case we have any periods of waiting while we're out and about so we can read then, too. My husband isn't that fond of reading novels so I'm trying my darndest to get them on my side and am working to brainwash them into loving books the way I do.

There's nothing like a good book, the places it takes you, the things you learn and experience. Charlotte's Web is a great teaching tool for morals, life lessons and even vocabulary because the way it's written, the author explains big words and other things in a way a child even as young as 5 will understand. If I didn't know any better, I'd think this must be where the author of the "Fancy Nancy" books got her start!

We're a little more than halfway through the book and the girls seem to get really absorbed into the story, so much that they end up with an intense, thoughtful look on their faces as their minds work to visualize what I'm reading and explaining, and they always ask for more. We do about 1-3 chapters a night depending on how tired we are and how long each is. It really is a good story that I couldn't appreciate the first time around and I'm so glad I picked it up. I'll be on the lookout for more stories after we're done with this one for sure! If you can suggest any, that'd be great!

*By the way, I plan to follow up with a DVD of the movie once we're done reading.*

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2's, 5's & 10's: Tooth-brushing by Numbers

I recently began teaching the girls to count by 2's, 5's & 10's using a method I fully and happily exploited in grad school: the more senses you can employ when learning something new makes the material "stick" a lot better than just one-dimensional learning from a book or a chart, which is part of the reason aromatherapy works when it comes to memory.

I started by combining their PE lesson with math by doing a series of literal exercises with them and counting in this new pattern as we went along; we did sets of jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. Then we followed up with some good 'ol book learnin' using drawing and manipulatives (hands-on objects they could physically count with)- we used some little wooden alphabet building blocks I happened to find weeks prior at the Thrift store, but beads and buttons work just as well.

For the drawing portion of our learning, we took two exercises from the book I always rave about (Learn-At-Home,1st grade) where, for counting by 2's I had my 5-year-old draw 5 stick people with two arms in the air and count/add up their arms, writing the corresponding number above their heads (2, 4, 6, 8, 10), then for 5's I had her trace her hand ten times on a large sheet of construction paper and then counting/adding up the fingers, write the corresponding number on the "palm" of the hand (5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50).

My 3-year-old was great with getting her teeth brushed up until just a few months ago, when all of a sudden it became dreaded and unbearable (for the both of us!) for some mysterious reason! So, after a few days of what felt like pulling teeth instead of just brushing them, it occurred to me that I should try the counting we'd been learning to get and keep her attention so we could get through the teeth-brushing sans missed spots, cavities and tears. I was allowed to brush hassle-free and the deal was I'd let her spit once we got to our top number (10, 20, 100), so at least she knew exactly when it'd be all over and that seemed to make her more willing to wait and listen to the counting. Let me say, it worked beautifully!

Now, every time I brush her teeth, I count by 2's to 20 (nowadays it's up to 50 so she can get a true sense of the pattern), by 5's to 100, or by 10's to 100, I usually mix it up daily. It's even carried over to my 5-year-old- she enjoys hearing me count, too and it's great because now I've got a great, functional way to reinforce the numbers and patterns without it being boring or grueling to them. Where would I be without these flashes of inspiration?!?!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Dec. 20th-21st

I received the email below regarding the upcoming full lunar eclipse and I'm so excited because I always, ALWAYS miss this kind of stuff and don't usually find out about it until it's over. I'm not sure if I'll get the kids up for it being that it's so early/late but if I can see it myself, I'll try.

"There's a full lunar eclipse on Dec 21st at 3:17am Eastern Time (12:17am Pacific) which is visible from all of North America! If you have no idea what a lunar (as opposed to solar) eclipse is, check out this new JPL information video: http://www.jpl.

For those of you more experienced with eclipses, here's the exact data you need: 
http://eclipse. gsfc.nasa. gov/OH/OH2010.html#LE2010Dec21 T

Bottom line: Go outside on the evening of Dec 20th and look up. You'll see the copper color of the moon as the day swings to the 21st. This is the first one since Feb 2008. Enjoy!

Clear skies!

Even if you can't get up to see it, it's still a great teaching topic for when you ARE awake. It's also a good segue into stars and planets, which always fascinate me, and the girls seem to have taken a great interest in them too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Okay That Leap Frog -Taught My Kids Phonics...Really It Is!

Once upon a time I really believed that I was a failure as a mom (one of many times) for having the audacity to buy my girls mostly educational toys and allowing them to learn things from them. Sounds crazy and totally backwards, doesn't it? Well, when I woke up from my SuperMom nightmare, I finally realized that as long as they're learning it, where they get it or how they get it is irrelevant AND as a home schooler, every single thing my kids know or learn does not have to come from me.

Common sense, probably, to the average adult, but I think as moms, homeschooling moms, we put a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations on ourselves that doesn't need to be there. Well, I'm now at a healthier place and I can say THANK YOU LEAP FROG and keep up the good work!

So that you can cut yourself a break, too, and diversify your children's learning, I would like to share some discounts and coupon codes from LeapFrog, as they are always having great sales or promotions on their site. Look out for weekly deals from them on my blog in addition to this post!
LFFAMILY- Save 20% on your order, FREE shipping on orders of $50 or more, expires 11/23
SAVEONTAG- Save $5 on Tag Reading System, online or in the store (must print coupon for store purchase), expires 11/18

Now, to get the discussion rolling, what are some creative or unconventional methods you have used to teach your children? Home schoolers, I know you're full of them, so share, share, share!

***NOTE: I'm not receiving anything from them to pass on this info, I'm just really into saving while shopping and I've been happy with their products so far, so I wanted to pass the savings along.***

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Tasty Little Myth

My 5yo was eating Rita's today and she commented on how she tasted sourness on the tip of her tongue. I was about to use this teaching moment to go into a spiel on the mapping of the tongue and taste buds when for some unexplained reason, I stopped mid-sentence and Googled instead. What I found was very interesting to say the least. It was an article disproving the myth that the taste buds on your tongue are divided into four distinct sections (sour, sweet, salty and bitter). Have a quick read if you find a minute to spare:

Image: stock.xchange

Instead, as it turns out, they are spread out evenly across the tongue. Like the author, I remember being frustrated and perplexed as a child doing experiments trying to prove this tongue "map" was accurate and utterly failing because I tasted sugar all over, not just in the supposed "zone". I remember thinking my tongue was deficient. I'm so glad I looked this up first, before imparting this false knowledge to my daughter. As a friend and I used to joke, "I almost made her ignorant!"

Have you, as an adult, discovered something that all along you thought was true but are now finding no longer works for you, or is just plain false? What about something as simple as the pronunciation of a word you never understood as a child, and are just now as an adult getting it right? Please share your comments as I'd love to hear your stories! The more entertaining, the better.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Fun Arabic Letter Craft!

We just did a learning craft (aren't they all?) about an hour ago using the following "decorations" for the six arabic letters my girls are learning this week:

bulgur (pasta grains)
tissue paper cut into squares and cinched in the middle to make "flowers" (2 colors)
cotton balls cut up into small pieces
fillini pasta
Re-used crinkly paper from a gift basket I received

I started with large sheets of construction paper, one for each child, creased into six equal "parts" or squares; I think the sheets measure 11x14. Using a Sharpie, I wrote the six letters- dal through sheen- each in one square.


I then put each decorative item into a re-used clear, plastic egg carton tray (I have 2 girls, 6 decorations per side for each of the 6 letters), gave them glue and a Q-tip and let them go to work. They had a ton of fun and it was messy *cringe* but they enjoyed it, so I'm okay with that;^) I was impressed at how well they did and can't wait till they dry to hang them up on our "Look What I Did" wall.

Although we used this craft to learn Arabic letters, it can be used as a fun way to help kids learn just about anything- the English alphabet, shapes, numbers, etc. Be creative! Also, colored craft sand is a great but messy alternative to decorate your paper.
If you have some great ideas for other fun decorative materials to use, or would like to share how you reworked this craft to fit your family, please share in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Secret Weapons: Great books for Homeschooling

I've posted recently about this book, but I must, must share again! I found a book at the library and I immediately took it back because I was so in love with it for homeschooling that I ordered it from Amazon right away. I've shared it with other moms and they had the same excited, frantic reaction, Funny! I'm not really into any particular "curriculum"- at least not yet- and this book is great and full of great information. It lays out weekly lesson plans and gives a LOT of info and suggestions for other enrichment activities and crafts. I love how it interrelates subjects for reinforcement and de-compartmentalizes learning in the true spirit of homeschooling.

Anyway, it's called "Learn At Home" from American Education Publishing. I'm using Grade 1 for my 5 year-old but they have Pre-K on up. I've read that for Pre-K, it may not be worth the expense (about $20, give or take a few) since you can easily get workbooks that are great from the dollar store for this age.

Speaking of which, my other gem is Mead's Preschool Workbook ($5 at Wal-Mart, also sold at Target) that I use for both my advanced-for-her-age-2-year-old (I say that humbly and with total awe) and my 5 year-old. Since I really can only use a select few of the activities for my 5 year-old, I'm xeroxing the pages for her to use so that I can have the orginals for my 3 year-old when she's old enough. Mead overall has a great assortment of teaching resources and they're all very affordable.

*Pictures of Mead Products soon to follow*

If you think they might work for you, try them out and let me know what you think- please remember to come back and comment!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The USA Science & Engineering Festival

After a busier than usual Sunday morning, and kissing the grandma's good-bye, the kids and I were off to the Science & Engineering Festival in DC. Me being a total science geek, I was tense with anticipation during the ride there- and in fear of my life and safety due to my husband's video-game-like driving- because I just wanted to GET THERE and enjoy whatever they had to offer in whatever time we had left of the day's event.

This same Festival was apparently hugely successful in California, so they decided to try the East Coast crowd. Let me say, it didn't disappoint! The kids loved it and I was in science heaven with all the information, hands-on demonstrations and science-based swag coming at us. I was so glad I brought the small Graco along because the crowds were unbelievably huge and at times it was hard to get at the individual booths due to crowding around the favorites.

We just waited patiently and were greatly rewarded when the crowds suddenly thinned out and we not only got to do the hands-on crafts/demos, but got a TON of free stuff to take home- yay Graco! Anyone who's hosted or frequented events where promotional materials are distributed knows that those employees don't want to take that stuff home, so when they see there's a danger of having to lug anything back with them, they graciously shower it upon you.

We stopped at the Seismology booth to create an earthquake, which my 2yo slept through but my 5yo LOVED, and of course, I thought it was sooo cool. We made ships and sailed them across a huge kiddie pool with the help of a very nice man in uniform with a little green (but official!) fan. We marveled at a Geiger counter noisiliy ticking away as it sat atop a Uranium-colored (I know-orange) dinner plate that was made and commonly used in the '20's. We watched the miracle of super-absorbent polymer expand and turn in to fake snow with just a little H2O. And we topped it all off with a much too short trip to Barnes & Noble at Metro Center before heading home. My only regret is that we didn't get to make use of the time to see the museums, but hey....there's always next week;-)

A Special Thanks to my husband and best friend for planning the day and braving the DC streets to deliver us directly there instead of us losing time to riding Metro. Love ya babe!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Circle Time: The Spice of Life!

I finally came to the realization the other day that my Homeschool is kinda, well...boring. I think my natural creativity and desire to mix unschooling with traditional schooling  has been temporarily impaired by all the book learnin' and research I've been doing into how to do this all, exactly. So, I prayed and prayed and finally the answer came-  to liven things up a bit and really make it feel like "school", I need to incorporate Circle Time!

Here's my thoughts on what I'll do; for those who are not religious, or follow a religion other than Islam, please feel free to edit and incorporate what's most fitting to you and your family if you find this info generally helpful and would like to use it:

Qur'an recitation (alternate 3 Kuls & Ayat ul Kursi)
Dua'a (prayer) for the appropriate time of day
Allow the kids to pray or express gratitude for something of their choosing (I'd like to do leaves to write on everyday and hang them on a large 1-D tree on the wall, but that's later *laughing*)

Alhamdullilah Song (If you're interested, let me know and I'll post on this later)
Ring Around the Rosie (2-3x's)
London Bridge
I'm a Little Teapot

Read a few poems or nursery rhymes from "What Your First Grader Needs To Know"

Do some stretching, then get to work!

I'm trying this out for the first time today so stand by to find out how it went. I'll also edit if I think of anything else worthy enough to become part of our routine. Here goes...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Best Book in the World....well, for today:^)

In my search through the plethora of Homeschooling Materials, I just found Learn At Home Grade 1 from American Education Publishing about a month ago and I LOVE it!! It not only takes the guesswork out of what I should be doing for my 5yo at this age, but it provides total weekly lesson plans, then elaborates with more ideas for fun learning exercises and opportunities with my 5yo.

I initially checked it out from the libary but quickly returned it and ordered it from Amazon. We got started the day it came in. I shared it with a friend just yesterday and her reaction was the same. Now she's on a hunt to get it- and fast! I recommended Learn At Home Grade K for her, by the way, but she'll probably get both.

If you have it or have thought about using it, tell me what you think about it and if you don't already, let me know if you end up using it. Please comment, follow and refer!!