Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hands On Grammar

I do realize that the picture would be misleading since the title refers to Hands On Grammar.  However, I have one child who struggles with grammar and needs any sort of different approach I can possibly conjure up.  I looked all around for something that I thought would be a sure-fire hit for her, at a reasonable price.  For me, that means almost free.  I had invested in various language programs through the years and have been reluctant to shell out much for something that I thought we likely might have already tried, in essence at least.   So, I decided to go it alone on this one.  I am still trudging through Easy Grammar this year.  It's going. Slowly. I felt the need to continue appealing to different senses with her on this and can see that all of my students benefit.  This is what I came up with.

As I mentioned in this post, I used sentences from literature that we had read aloud (or you could use something that the child is familiar with or reading through independantly).  We took a few simple sentences and (for the ten thousandth time) explained what a subject and predicate is.  Review never hurts and we go by the trickle-down effect for the younger ones since we basically have a one-room schoolhouse.  Using the very simple sentences that you see here, (and a few others before I erased them to write these) I had each child decipher the subject and predicate and just mentioned that we were going to have to divide these two parts because they are different and they do different things in the sentence.  That, in my opinion, is the beginning of sentence diagramming lessons.
(These are laminated pieces of regular white printer paper and I use dry erase markers on them with a clipboard)

Next, we "code" them.  This is done with our homemade code cards.  They take one word at a time and decide what part of speech it is and place the corresponding card in order, so that sentences look more like this:
This lesson is done as a group.  Anyone can (respectfully) dispute the answer that another gives.  The discussion facilitates learning AND teaching.  The ones who are sure of their answers inevitably teach the others the correct answer and even how they got it, and looove to prove it!!! 

If a child is unsure, they can reference the back of a card and find the definition and examples of what that shape represents and from there he can decide if he is choosing correctly. If a child, in coding his assigned sentence(s), runs into a word(s) that they are unsure of or have not yet learned, they can simply put a black card there and move on.  That word will be up for discussion when we all have completed their coding and we open it up for input.  Each child only had  two sentences to code on this day.   The solid black cards are KEY for them, in my opinion.  It keeps a struggling student from getting burned out and feeling stuck.   It's their "get out of jail free" card.  They are all laminated for durability.

 Got any other cool ideas for making Grammar more fun?  If so, please share :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sorting It Out in the Bathroom

I am sure that next to laundry, bathroom duty is my least favorite job.  But there is something therapeutic about getting down on your hands and knees in the place where all the cleaning takes place and actually cleaning that place, too.  I have high hopes for our bathrooms...I have paint colors chosen, just purchased a few more rugs for the kids' bathroom and already have a cute shower curtain.  Enter the four precious souls who share this zone and you have the epic nonsensenical battles of who put what where, who did the handprints, why someone misplaced someone else's toothbrush, no one knows how on earth the whole roll of TP got into the trash can and despite the fresh hand towel there is water slung onto every surface. 

I am getting to the bottom of it one step at a time.  The first step is the most important in the hygiene arena--the toothbrush problem.  This little gadget has become our best friend.  The toothpast rests nicely on top so there's no fumbling.  There are four perfect slots of toothbrushes and we just happen to have four precious children, so that works out nicely.  This keeps them off the countertop and out of easy reach of little ones.  The littlest one usually has a helper to assist with toothbrush time. 

You will also notice the container of wipes on the cabinet.  That is for the bathroom cleaner.  Each child has his/her own jurisdictions to attend to daily.

Next, the problem of  "I didn't throw it down there", when asked to pick up towels/washcloths.  I found (on clearance) these hooks that do not leave marks on the wall when removed.  They hold up to 3 lbs each, which is plenty for a towel and washcloth. My children thought it was great that they each got to choose their own color towels.  What a wonderful Mom I am!!  Yes, there is only one each.  They are to wash their towel when they wash their laundry on their day (more on that in another post).   My children are old enough to take responsibility for that.   I was sure to hang the hooks for the smaller children lower so that they can actually reach the level of the hook.

This method has eliminated the fussing back and forth about who didn't clean their towels up behind themselves and who put which towel where after bathtimes. I am soo thankful the Lord dropped this idea into my mind.  I may have even read it somewhere, but if so, the Lord brought it to my remembrance and it has been a blessing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Day in the Life of This Homeschooling Mom

Schooling By the Spirit

Today is one of those days.  But not one of those days.  I had a bare bones list of school iniatives jotted down.  How they actually played out is a totally different story.  This is one of those times when I am soo thankful for the little things the Lord drops into my mind at just the right time.  Without fail. 

We are having one of those "bare bones" type weeks.  I just have vague ideas of what we're covering.  Actually we've been having those for several weeks now.  We have just had a lot going on in our family and what with the construction zone that our family room has been, there's not much order to anything at the moment.  I am hoping next week will bring more, but I can't say for sure :) 

I know math and language arts are fairly remedied with the workbooks we have.  That will get us by.  Other than that, art is at free will and reading "inspired"  pieces will just suffice for history and science.

Here's what I mean:  I started with this list general list for today:

Newspaper articles-brainstorm, assign
Math - 1 pg in workbook and a game for the 1st grader
Reading-Nature Readers
Grammar/Language:  workbook page, 5th grader should make corrections
Finish reading our current read aloud
Key in spelling words for next week
Make a birthday card for Grandma
Check that 5th grader turned in assigned written narration on literature book.

This is what actually happened:
Finished reading our current read aloud, Lewis and Clark and Me  (love, loved it!)
Went on to map out some trails.
Used the map and scale to figure distance of the journey (5th grader has been doing this in math)
Discussed preparedness for such a journey
Discussed issues of survival, health,  and accomplishments of this journey
Discussed dogs, breeds, their functions
Used a few simple sentences from book to pick subjects/predicates/introduce diagramming.
Used my homemade code cards to code those sentences (will post separately on this)

Brainstormed ideas for Feb. family newsletter (thinking on posting this as a series)
Assigned articles and began writing notes for those
Played add/subtract bingo
Played mult/div bingo
Scratched handwriting
Realized that I need to make clue cards for conjunctions????? (How did I forget that??)

Plans for after lunch:
1 page in math
1 pg /corrections in Language
Reading from nature readers for one hour at room time.

Hoping I will get to the things that I made note of   :) 

I make plans and sometimes they come to fruition...most times, the Lord has better plans.  I'm OK with that.   I figured on checking off some boxes.  The Lord knew for sure, they'd love the inspiration from real learning instead.  It's been a beautiful homeschool day already!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. March 2nd is Dr. Seuss's birthday so I'm you like green eggs and ham? Okay-how about do you like your eggs? Or don't you?
I like my eggs DONE. I love salsa and sour cream on top, too.   Or I'd take an omelette.  I like the works in it!  Stuffed :)

2. Is March coming in like a lion or something less ferocious where you live?
Somewhat windy, a lot of sunshine, but I could stand some warmer temps :)  I'm spoiled, though.  I'm from GA.
3. Do you work better or worse under pressure.
Much better.  Some of my best work is under a great amount of pressure.  I don't know why that is??

4. March Madness-are you a fan? It's college basketball in case you're wondering. And if you're outside the USA tell us, is there any sort of 'madness' taking place during March in your part of the world?

I didn't even think of  it, honestly.  I am glad that basketball season is over, though, because our family needs a break from the numerous practices and games and all that entails.

5. Under what circumstances do you do your best thinking?
Under the influence of h2O.  The shower brings the best thoughts for me.  I always exit the bathroom with the phrase, " hey honey, this thought came to me while I was in the shower........".  His answer is always an excited, "yeah?.......okay.....what?"    LOL

6. What item of clothing from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Jeans.  Nearly every single day of my life.

7. Do you use sarcasm?
Do I have to confess???

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I am soo looking forward to more camping trips this summer.  We did a dry run summer before last.  Then, we went about 4 times last summer.  We are hoping for more great times and even a few hikes this summer.
Also, been thinking about my great aunt who is having some health challenges.  I've never known a time in my life when she wasn't around and I haven't seen her in almost a year.  She's around 90 and my heart is heavy.

Hop on over to From This Side of the Pond to join in Wednesday Hodgepodge.

Easy Meatball Recipe

My In-a-Hurry-Entirely-Too Easy Meatball and Gravy Recipe

I was in a hurry and didn't have a lot of time to start from scratch.  So here's what I did (with tons of rave reviews, I might add):

1 envelope onion mushroom soup
4 cubes beef boullion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 green bell pepper (diced)
1 package frozen homestyle meatballs
5 cups water

Put it all in the crockpot and let it go.  All day.  On low.  I served it over white (instant) rice.  I also served another vegetable side. 
You will get a juice, more than a gravy, but it worked the same way and everyone loved it!!!
We are simple folks.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math for Mom Part 2: Budgeting our Homeschool Space

Math is a most dreaded subject for many moms, and possibly moreso for homeschooling mothers.  Numbers are not my best area, for sure.  But this series is not for giving you pointers or hints for how to better teach your child math.  This is Math for Mom!
First in this series, it's the homeschool budget. Finances are different for each family. Sometimes, time=money or the opposite. You will have to make the best judgement on that for your family's needs. But I've given my points of consideration in this post.
When my children were younger than they are now and we first began homeschooling, it was my dream to have a school room. I wanted my own classroom, with charts on the wall, a great big chalkboard, little nooks for 'centers'……the works! The reality is, we live where we learn and we learn where we live.
Desks: I have found that each child likes to have his own desk, but no one is bound to it. Actually, the children seldom use desks during 'school' time. Each one has a desk in their room. More often than not, it is used for things like building, legos, setting up battles, writing notes to friends and other miscellaneous pursuits. Most of our written school work is done right here:

(Yes, that is a keyboard stand with no keyboard in the sideground.  It was moved out for the  work that was done in here.)

 Yep, you got it right….on the couch, at the coffee table, or even using a clipboard or lapdesk. It's what works. We even use the kitchen table / bar area when we decide to. We are not traditional in that way. J

Chalkboard / charts / manipulatives: We do have one white board in our dining room on the wall. We used to use our dining room only for schooling, but have migrated to the downstairs family room, so it's more of an occasional spot now. I have found that we still like having the white board there. It goes with our contemporary elementary theme! ;)

 I print charts, helps, make manipulatives and whatever else we end up needing along the way. I try to provide a home for each item , but I don't always get that right, as you can see in the pics here. I have given a half hearted effort at organizing my bookshelves by subject, but with a 4 yr old helping out, anything is subject to change! We do have maps and a globe (which is still alive but handicapped at the present moment) around for quick reference.

Storage:  I have three bookshelves, partially arranged by subject.  There is also space that is verbally designated to house library materials so that we are not also having to budget for library fees!  We also have a few plastic rolling carts that hold things that we have on hand but aren't necessarily pretty to look at.  Some of those items are: more math manipulatives, stacks of scratch paper , a place to throw pencils/paperclips/etc.  I hope to collect a few 'pretty' storage baskets over time so that it is a little more visually appealing. 

Common areas vs. personal space: This is just a note with my personal thoughts on this matter and no one who does things differently should feel judged. I believe that the Lord has given our family this home so that we can build ties together. I do appreciate the need of each person to have private space. I, myself, enjoy alone time that is private to recharge. It is not more important that we allot each person a great amount “me space” than it is for our family to have a warm, cozy home that provides togetherness for our family (as opposed to making one or more persons comfortable.) So, in the numbers, I’d say that our “all” space outranks our personal spaces. We could close in our garage and give every single person here their own room. That is not our priority. To some, it is not a “fair” situation. We are not in the business of making everything fair for our children. We are in the business of providing a loving, nurturing family home that will serve the purpose of bringing them up with Godly character. ( I also find that there is plenty of value in learning to live peacefully with others early in life! :)  )

Here’s the rest of the tour (please excuse the mess, we just redid parts of this room and there is still plenty of drywall dust to go around). Remember, this room multi-tasks as our family/game room—so go easy on me.  Also, there is paint on the walls now, but nothing else.  So sorry :) 

 This post is load-bearing so we cannot remove it, only live around it.

 This rocking chair was my grandmother's and she rocked me and many other babies in it. I recovered it myself last year.  It's still rocking.  I'm almost 36 now.  And the afghan, crocheted by my other a few years ago for Christmas makes a cozy spot for a budding reader.

 Desk area that will likely be the last to recuperate from the moving/drywall scenario, but is functional at least.
 Our growth chart that I refuse to paint over.  The memories--one day.
The upstairs couch might also be used for videos as it sits squarely in front of our new (to us) 52" TV.  (I am too cheap to buy something like that new--bought off of craigslist for a STEAL! when our other TV died) At the time of this picture, the 11 yr old princess you see here was thoroughly enjoying Little House on the Prairie--I love that they still love the simple things.

We definitely want our children to love our home--their home. Our goal is to meet the needs of ALL in providing an environment that will be conducive to strong relationships with the Lord and tying heartstrings among everyone who lives here.

Next up:  Budgeting Time