Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Goodies~

I really hope everyone is having a very happy holiday season. We have been taking some time off to spend some family time together and we have been lucky where we have all been healthy so far.
We spent an afternoon making sugar cookies and decorating them. We can get a bit extravagent with our decorating, I think it is because we have so many artists in our family and if your not artistic, it doesnt matter you are once you leave our home~
Our mixing bowl ended up to be our palette and we just kind let loose and had a bunch of fun~ Here is the recipe for the Royal Icing I used on the cookies~
Royal Icing:
1 pound of powdered sugar
5 tablespoons meringue powder
2 tab. water ( I use more at times if I want to glaze the cookie first- and less for piping.)
food coloring...
Combine powdered sugar and meringue powder in mixing bowl beat on low speed. Add water drop by drop till desired consistency. Whip for a few minutes till it is the desired consistency to work with.
Makes approx 6 cups. (seems like much less when your glazing though)
For those who are wanting my Saltine Candy Recipe here you go:
( this is a real favorite in our house and family so many have asked me for it I decided to share it here with everyone) a real treat~
1 stack of saltine crackers
1 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
12 oz. pkg of milk choclate or semi sweet chips
Grease a medium size cookie sheet with Crisco.
Lay the Saltine Crackers out on the cookie sheet to cover it completely. At the end of each row I usually have to break a crack in half for it to fit the sheet. (dont use a jelly roll size cookie sheet those are too big).
In a saucepan add butter and brown sugar melt down and use your timer for it to boil for 2 minutes exactly mixing the WHOLE TIME.
Take off heat and pour immediately over saltines crackers and spread out evenly so all of them are covered.
Next bake in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove and immediately pour choclate chips over hot cookie sheet.
Let chips melt just a bit and spread with a knife all over toffee mixture completely.
Let cool outside or in fridge.
once cool, pop out over a wooden cutting board and crack up.
That's it.. delicious toffee like taste with a bit of a salty taste also~ Enjoy
I will try and post a few other recipes that others have asked me for this week. Hope all of you have a safe, healthy and happy New Year~

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A New Twist to our 5 a Day Math Practice~

I cannot take credit for this idea at all. It was entirely my 10 year olds idea. I had been taking an assessment of where he was at, in this point in time with his math understanding. He did very well and has mastered many new concepts so far this year.

Progress is becoming more and more rapid and I think his math is going to become more and more fun for him as he moves forward...

We were looking through pages of his old workbook we started and that he now had just about finished up~ I was getting ready to make up some more 5 a days for practice for him when he started looking through some pages we had skipped in his workbook.

He suggested we take some of the portions of the workbook cut them out all fancy and glue them to the five a day~

I could see there was definitely a few more things we could continue to work on so I carefully looked through and we both picked concepts and portions and cut and glued them together for his math practice.

They came out great! Saved me a bunch of work too~ and it was fun~ I just never know what these boys will come up with next.. but promise to keep you posted~!
Happy Math Practice~

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Planning during the Christmas and Holiday Season~

It isn't easy trying to teach our children at home, run a household, maintain our jobs at home or outside the home and plan our Christmas events, menus/baking, gift giving, entertaining etc... it can get really crazy this time of year can it not?

I am a bit late in doing this but around the first of December I have over the years taken time to create a calendar for the month. I print it out and place things I need to do on it as it pertains to the holiday season.

For me, it has been a real time saver and life saver both! I could never do what I do when I do it without planning ahead.

I try and look at the month and make plans as to who and when we will entertain family and friends. I plug these important dates in first and then move out from there with what I may need to do. Each day/week I try and fit something or several things in.

I bake ALOT around the holiday season, we tend to give homemade gifts like cakes, coffee cakes, cookie trays, candy and breads away to our friends, doctors and helpers who we see throughout the year. Because I do this I plan out usually to bake the whole week before Christmas while in the mornings going shopping for gifts.

I will also add in anything else I need/want to do... I will jot down when I want to do my Christmas cards and to whom I will send out first and last etc..any perfomances for Christmas, recitals or anything else that is planned that we wish to do all goes on this particular calendar. I also plan out our Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Menus, baking included ~ this is added to my Christmas Notebook which I will share about another time.
It is a great way to take everything I need to do and give it a "place". So it isnt floating around in my head all day and all night keeping me awake or making me forget about things.. I post it on my fridge and know where to go to see what I need to do for that day to keep things rolling and efficient. It really helps.

As I was searching for a printable calendar this year I came across this link from The Teachers Corner I noticed it was a bit better than other years I have printed my calendar because I could modify it any way I wanted. Look closely at the instructions~ you can modify the calendars cells and colors~ you can also add more events by looking at their own calendar they give. There is also a neat option for using it for writing prompts for journal writing.

I hope this helps your Christmas/Holiday planning as much as it does me~

Happy Planning~

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Great Internet Resource - IPL

I posted about this on AKOL this morning for our Saturday Spotlight~ and wanted to share about this great new resource I found here on my blog for others who are not members of AKOL.

I had been working hard this past week on building out my Life Science teaching binder ( which I will post more about a bit later on as it is more complete) and found this web resource that is really fantastic.

It is called The Internet Public Library.
It is categorized by subject and provides a plethora of links/websites, online texts, newspapers etc.. for teaching/learning about a particular topic. This site can be used for all ages through highschool.

There is also a cateogry set up called "KidSpace" and TeenSpace" which I really found great for our younger learners.

I found it definitely was a real "keeper" and one that made it to my desktop to be used weekly if not daily if we need it.

I hope you find it as helpful as I have so far. It really is a kind of website you will need to sit with a cup of coffee/tea and search through for quite a while~ I know I am still working through much of it~

Happy Saturday everyone~

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Math Learning~ Sequence Charts and Concept Charts the MOTL Way~

I wanted to share a bit more about our Math Program we use in our home learning~ the other day the subject came up about Concept Charts and Sequence Charts on the MOTL yahoo group I belong to.

I really think it was a good question, and wanted to write a bit more about this here since I consider MOTL an important part of our math learning at home and the reason why we have been so successful in math at home.

For those who have not heard about Math on the Level (MOTL) you can learn much more about it from the direct website found here.

For others who are using MOTL here are a few thoughts I have about this program regarding the sequence charts and concept charts from MOTL ~

When I was first looking at MOTL I knew this was something that could work for my boys who dreaded math. (5 problems or so a day practicing concepts that have already been taught, while slowly teaching a new concept as needed from the teaching books)

This is a math program like no other program I have seen to date, there are no workbooks, no drilling, unless you make up drilling sheets for your child.

My boys really hated math, so I needed to find some way to teach something they hated and actually help them understand that at some point math "can" be fun.

My two needs right away for our math was to find something that didn't do alot of boring drilling and also something that moved along once a learner knew the concept. I began using a program and a workbook and only did certain problems then we began skipping concepts in the book after I saw they mastered something... eventually I found that by doing this I was wasting time and wasting money that could be better spent in other places for their learning.

I searched all over for a scope and sequence for our math learning... once it was written up, I quickly found that my boys were all over the map with their abilities in math.. at all different grades and concepts that really did not fit many of the scope and sequences I was finding... while still considering MOTL I researched on-line various math sites and made up my own sequence chart according to topics and every once in a while comparing it to our state GLE's (grade level expectations).

This was a ton of work and I felt as though I was writing my own math program (which in fact I kind of was~ ). As I joined the MOTL yahoo group and learned more and more about this program I began to see this would be it for us~ or at the very least our math foundation.

I started out using the sequence chart that Carlita (MOTL author) has for new MOTL users- I was never so relieved to have gotten this "recommended" sequence chart. I supppose it gave me a starting place to where I needed my boys to be. I went through the chart and hi-lited everything they had already mastered and from there I knew what concepts to begin at.. I was also able to see some wholes so I could very easily incorporate those into the new concepts every week or so.

There is also the Concept Chart with I also filled out at the same time. This is quite different from the recommended sequence chart because the concept chart follows along with the teaching books according to each topic/concept.

I have found recently since we have been doing MOTL for over a year now that I no longer need to follow the sequence chart~ it helped me gain confidence in my math teaching and is a great guide but I now will use the concept chart since I allow my children to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their math knowledge while I am teaching new concepts.. if they and I both feel they can understand a further step in a problem or concept further into a particular topic we go there and this has inspired them and me with our math learning. Many times my youngest's eyes will light up at learning something new and being able to try his ability at something that, well might not have been tried, if we were following a program or a particular sequence chart.

It has completely changed my teaching style and has helped my boys become quite confident in their abilities as well~ while working on math we tend to work as a team~

When I get stuck my son comes to the rescue... when he gets stuck I come to the rescue.. etc... it works so well. I don't seem like the "knowing all" teacher they are used to and they even laugh at some of the things I forget! lol It also helps my sons because they feel a bit more confident in their abilities going ahead and "helping out" when needed... it is mostly how I teach many subjects. I guess they feel they are not being lectured at.. they hated that at school it is more "ok, lets see about working on this today"- perspectives have shifted and math seems more of a challenge or puzzle than a dreaded daily chore. Something I honestly never thought I would see. One other thing that MOTL has really taught me is how to "see" math both in books and in everyday life. It has given me a kind of awareness as to what to look for in math programs and even possibly other areas of learning that can benefit my boys.

We are eclectic in our math learning, while consistent with topics we now use a few different things for our math learning~ MOTL has taught me to do this- we had gone back to a workbook which the boys openly welcomed on days when we travel or just want to do fun puzzles for our math- they like Horizons it is very colorful and fun, but we do not do EVERY problem, those days are gone~ :) We also use math readers which each learner has assigned to read.. that is reading/age level appropriate. :)

Some more thoughts;
Even in math we need to remain "mindful" of our childrens learning styles and strengths. This can play a big part in how we choose programs for teaching our children, HOW we teach are children and also WHAT we teach our children and WHEN. Being boxed in by a particular program doesn't work for many learners and there are many signs of this in our schools and also in homeschooling as well.

Learners who say they are "bored" or how this is "stupid" or procrastinate with homework or lose worksheets are all signs that something really may not be working. Math anxiety can build to a point where a child cringes at even looking at a page of math problems. This will not help them later on in their adult life or will help them while attempting to learn now.

There was something I heard recently while watching a book interview on C-Span- it was talking about teachers and schools and their efforts and also included homeschoolers as well~ "all the effort in the world will not matter if the end results are not there". This really made such sense to me... we put SO much effort in all these particular programs in our schools and in our homeschooling but in the end the results are what matter - considering this makes me understand how our efforts can be unsuccessful unless we see things for what they are~ I started thinking, could this mean that it is better to open our minds and our hearts if something isnt quite working top place our efforts in other areas? only then may we start to see successful results.

Math where a child has to do problems over and over and over again IS overkill, in my opinion... many doctors and educators recommend that topics be repeated and the repetition is very helpful, which I also agree with, but the way I see it, one or two practice problems on a concept is much more efficient for the learner and creates a much greater "intensity" for focus on than 10 or 20 problems. I feel it is better to have two problems correct and the understanding there than to have 8 out of 20 problems correct, why? it all comes back to the learner and how they feel about their abilities, it is that simple~

Math learning has become just that for us in our home learning - simple.

Happy Math Learning in your own homes ~

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas and Winter Activities~

December is here already, I can hardly believe how fast the time has gone by~ I mean it seems we just finished up with Halloween doesnt it? Thanksgiving came and went already and now it is time to prepare and think about Winter and Advent (this past week was the first week of advent for us).

It made me begin thinking of how I could incorporate winter lessons into our studies, just to mix things up a bit - my boys enjoy routine but do not mind a few different things mixed in now and then.

Winter at our home is one of our favorite times, especially for my boys... I am not real "sure " about it, but they sure love it... they are constantly wanting to go outside and play and are in the snow all the time having snow ball wars, building forts, they even love the night sky etc.. so I thought~ hmm, I am sure there are many fun things to do and add to our home learning as it pertains to the Winter Season.

For starters, I needed to begin thinking about Advent and Christmas.~ We are only having school for two weeks this month due to so many other things going on, but they work very hard when we do have school so there are no worries as to falling behind and such. ~ I will not be able to add "too many" things but wanted to a few ideas to choose from and found some fun and interesting things here:

The Teachers Corner ( I really liked the idea of the bird feeders since we started a bird study which came from a recent nature walk- this will fit perfectly with what we already started. )there are also many more activities here, puzzles, crosswords, printables, science with snow etc.. much, much more.... for all ages and stages of learning development.

Education World- lots of activities with grades assigned for them also. I especially liked the snow, ice experiment, snowy painting..something fun and wacky to do and also the animals in winter - a favorite of my youngest~ :)

Winter Activities- all kinds of things pertaining to winter~ coloring pages, making snowflakes,even snowboarding stats for yours and my middle schooler..something for everyone here~

Winter Math Activities- snowflakes, and snowflake symmetry, penguins interactives, problem solving, literature connections etc..

Teaching Mom- online interactive advent calendar with readings,prayers, articles and literacy connections.

American Catholic- readings for Advent and other things as well~
Advent Prayer Box for our Advent wreath at home - our youngest will be making this~
Happy Winter fun~

IEW- Story Sequence Charts using Grasshopper on the Road

We had been reading Grasshopper on the Road by Arnold Lobel, a real favorite author of ours~
I had an idea of using this book for a writing resource for our IEW Writing Program.

We are currently working on Unit III which is writing short narrative stories using a "story sequence chart".

We finished this book this morning and are planning to use the short chapters- (which are very similiar to short little stories) that can be adaptable to writing up our story sequence chart and creating our own short story based on the chapter.

Another unique aspect in using a below reading level book to use as a resource for writing is that we will re-read the chapter for a purpose - (for writing) and this will help build fluency... I think I may consider doing this more and more with our reading books. I think reading and then writing about a reading as a writing resource can work quite nicely together.

This is such a fun book about a busy grasshopper and the many things he encounters and the insects he meets. A perfect resource for our writing program.

Happy Writing~

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