Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up

Okay so this is, once again, a two week wrap-up.  But at least I have a little bit of an excuse this time – lots and lots of fun stuff going on.

First, Steph graduated from high school!  It’s unbelievable to me that I have a child that is a legal adult and a college student.   She finished up with a 3.6 gpa and proudly wore her National Honor Society cord with her cap and gown.  I am so proud of her.

Senior pic formal


Also in the past couple of weeks was Steph’s last ever dance recital.  She’ll continue performing as she minors in dance at college but the days of studio recitals and competitions are over.   Lots of pictures and even a video about that, can be seen here.

Now on to the usual stars of the blog.   We finished up our healthy foods unit for Cloverbuds with a field trip to Whole Foods.  More about that can be seen here.

I spent a lot of time with Vicki this week trying to see what kind of things work well for her, what she already knows and what she needs to work on.  The index card/fly swatter and foam puzzle piece activities are continuing to go well.   I decided to give Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading a try with her since I already have it.  Like Georgie, I did not sit down with her and the book but made it more interactive by using our mounted whiteboard, dry erase crayons and some extra letter tiles from AAS.  I have an entire set of tiles since I ordered another set when we lost a bunch, only to then find the lost ones.


She worked through Lessons 27, 28 and 29 without a problem, except the word “the” which she tried to sound out but couldn’t.  We will review lesson 29 and continue from there next week.

She also played quite a bit with her Word Whammer which now lives on the side of a metal bookcase along with Georgie’s magnetic words.


I’ve also decided to go ahead and start MEP Year 1 with her.  I already had it printed out so it was easy to jump right in.   Since we were already comfortably sitting on the floor at the white board, I pinned these up to the white board using some of our magnetic shapes and went though them that way.    We did Lessons 1, 2 and 3 and she found parts of them a little too easy. 


I was given a better idea of why MEP was a little easy for her while we driving to our field trip Wednesday.  She was counting in the back of the car - “18..19.. Mom what comes after 19?”  After each –9, she asked what comes next, some I gave her, some I asked her what she thought came next and she knew.  She counted all the way up to 100 this way. 

Then she told us “2+2=4 and 5+5=10 and 1+1=2”  She said she learned that playing Math Adventure on her laptop, which is a VTech Brilliant Creations Beginner Laptop toy.


So after doing MEP, I decided to check her recognition of higher numbers.  First I showed her what 11 through 23 looked like with a very brief explanation of place value.  I then wrote random numbers and asked her what they were.  She knew them all.


We also used our magnetic foam shapes this week.  First to do some patterns….


then to build the shapes on our tangram cards.  She was so excited when they matched.


The rest of the time she spent doing crafts.  Lots of glue, scissors, wiggly eye.  She set up her laptop to play “decorating music” while she crafted.


Now for Georgie.  He was a little….shall we say…reluctant to do school the past couple of weeks.   He’s been doing okay with his reading time, although it is still centered mainly on his Pokemon book.  While reading it this week, he took a pink pompom so he could experience what it would be like to be Gigglypuff.   Handwriting and math were the two subjects he was the worst about procrastinating on.   But perseverance (and the threat of no computer) had him completing most of his work each day.   When I kept pushing him to do his handwriting he asked me “why are you so obsessed with ONE LITTLE PAGE??” 

The subject that went best this week was Spelling.  We finished AAS 1 and will be moving right into Level 2 next week.   He also showed that he could spell beyond what we actually learned.  In the same conversation where Vicki was counting and doing addition, he told her there was nothing  called Math Adventure on her laptop.  After they argued discussed it for a while, he said “OH, I was saying LAUGH not MATH…L….A….U….G….H”.  Vicki replied “Oh.  No. It’s Math.  MMMMMMath.”   Since we haven’t covered au making the short /a/ sound or gh making the /f/ sound, he evidently picked that one up through his reading or computer activities.

I am trying to lighten things up a little since it’s summer and I want to be spending more time outside or doing activities.  Since it’s been very hot lately with high heat indexes and air quality warnings, we aren’t going out much during the middle of the day anyway.  Something I hope will change soon.

Now for this week(s) Pinterest activities.  We have some really straight and tall sticks that daddy cleared out of some of the more overgrown areas of our yard.  I was planning to use some of them to make outdoor easels.  When I started tying them together I realized they were long enough to make a teepee.  So, I did that instead.   I just finished setting it up (and realizing it might be better with a few more supporting sticks) when one of our late afternoon thunderstorms came rolling through and we had to run inside.

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I made more of those yummy strawberry banana muffins using Greek yogurt and oatmeal this week.  The recipe recommends using silicone cupcake liners since a flour-less muffin will stick.  When I pulled my liners out to make the next batch, I realized they hadn’t been as easy to clean as I thought.  There was residue stuck in the groves inside them.  I finally did find a way to get them nice and clean – turning them inside out and scrubbing with a toothbrush.

Next week is a holiday week so I don’t know how much school we will be doing.  We were thinking about a camping trip but I think some recent changes to daddy’s work schedule may have us staying home.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

4-H Cloverbuds – Healthy Foods

This months Cloverbud meeting topic was Health Foods.   The main activities at our library meeting were matching up pictures to the food groups according to the current My Plate recommendations…
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and doing a relay where they carried plastic foods with a spoon (or on their heads for the older kids) and dropped them into the proper bag.
Neither activity was a big hit.  Georgie’s behavior was pretty bad but the whole group was giggly and wiggly.   Our creative activity was the biggest hit, using play-doh and molds to make foods.
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The field trip for this month was a tour of our local Whole Foods.  This was an amazing field trip but probably not the best choice for a group of very active young children.  Whole Foods isn’t that local for me so while I was aware they existed, I hadn’t ever shopped there.  I think that may change (especially given the big packet of information and coupons we received at the end of the tour). 

Our tour guide started by talking about Whole Foods policies.  They feature foods that are free of artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.  Meats are anti-biotic free and free of added hormones.

Since we’ve been considering trying to eliminate some of the artificial ingredients from Georgie’s diet to see if it helps his behavior issues, this could certainly make shopping easier.

The tour began in the produce department with a discussion about why it’s beneficial to eat mainly local produce (less use of resources, better flavor, fresher food).  The blueberries were from South Jersey and we’ve probably passed the field a ton of times.  :-)


They has a wide variety of candies, grains, nuts, etc. that could be bought by the pound.  A terrific way to be able to try something without having to buy a full package.


They also had a station where you could prepare your own nut butters.


We visited the seafood department and meat departments and learned about the rating scale to buy the freshest, most unadulterated products.  They had a great prepared food/deli bar, a pizza bar, soup bar, a bakery and seating up front to sit down and eat (with composting areas in the garbage cans).


The kids enjoyed the stickers and snack bars they received in their goody bags.  What I found most interesting was the try-before-you-buy policy.   Any employee can open a package, peel a fruit and let you try it so you can decide if you want to purchase some.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Every End is a New Beginning

Steph had her last dance recital yesterday.  It’s been 14 years of friends and laughter and fun.  In some ways I’ll probably miss it almost as much as she does (although not the $$$$).  She’s made some wonderful friends and had some amazing teachers that were both mentors and confidantes.  It has helped keep her sane in a world that I’m sure often seemed crazy.   It has given her confidence and poise and helped her grow into the talented young woman she is now. 

I figured out that she has done 118 dance routines in that time – tap, jazz, lyrical, musical theatre, ballet, contemporary and even some acro.   This stage is over but a new one is beginning.  She is going on to college where she will be minoring in dance.

“Beginnings are usually scary and endings are always sad, but it’s everything in between that makes it all worth living for.”  Sandra Bullock

 dance pictures

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And here is one of my absolute favorite routines of the past 14 years.  It really shows how far she’s come.  It was choreographed by the amazingly talented Michelle Paradise-Rosolen and won top awards at all our competitions this year.  Sorry for the shaky video, this is Steph and Robert P. tapping to Mercy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up

I’m a little late with this weeks wrap-up because I spent the weekend rearranging, organizing and cleaning while the little guys went with daddy to visit Granny Franny.  

Steph and I did have some bonding time, going to see The Avengers (great movie!), eating chinese food, watching Thor on Netflix, and the original television series 21 Jumpstreet on DVD.  Yes, it was an evening for young, hot guys.

I’m always struggling with finding ways to get school done as efficiently as possible, have access to what we need to have access to while limiting access to those things I don’t want the kids to reach, while still remembering to use all the things we have.   Throw in a small space and active kids and it’s an ongoing challenge.  But, I think our current set-up may turn out to be a good one.

The first thing I did was move school back into the living room.  The kids have a long, folding table that their computers sit-on.   It already sits below their bulletin boards so I attached their mini-office boards to the bottom.  When we are doing school, the monitors sit on the floor next to the table leaving a nice open space.   It also keeps them from asking to play on the computer while we are doing school (mostly…..theoretically).


I may need to extend the divider part of the office boards to keep Georgie from showing too much interest in what Vicki is doing, especially if she’s on the computer when he’s not.
This part of our set-up has been in place for a couple of weeks and is working well.


Georgie’s binder, Vicki’s folder and all the books that are used on a daily basis are back in the pocket folder holder on the inside of my bedroom door (which opens into the living room).


Since one of my new bookcases is metal, I set up Georgie’s magnetic words and Vicki’s Word Whammer on the side.


I rehung our smaller white board to hold our new magnetic pattern blocks.  As soon as the kids walked in the house, they gravitated right over to check these out.  Georgie seems to prefer making his own designs over trying out the ones on the pattern cards I also bought.  The board is hung pretty low since it sits underneath a US map and a small built-in shelf.  I figured this was fine since the kids will just sit on the floor to play with it.


One of my goals for the summer is a more relaxed school with more field trips, more outside time and more crafts.   To help achieve the last, I pulled out a bunch of our craft supplies and put them into a hanging shoe holder.


Everything is in reused peanut butter, parmesan cheese and prescription bottles.  This is hanging on the wall of my bedroom, right next to the door with their school books, which holds white paper, construction paper, sticky boards and foam stars in the bottom few pockets.  This way I can limit access if I need to (by locking the door) or allow access just by opening the door.

I also finally set up a flip calendar to show the date.  It hangs from the fireplace mantel which is where I hang everything that changes frequently (maps, posters, exhibit boards).


As for actual school this week…..we didn’t do much.  Georgie was very whiney this week and had some definite behavior issues.  A lot of it may have been due to his being sick last week.   These guys are so rarely sick (knock on wood) that I could see it throwing them off for a while.

We did have a 4-H Cloverbud meeting this week where we did some activities for Healthy Foods, including matching up pictures to the food groups according to the current My Plate recommendations…

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doing a relay where they carried plastic foods with a spoon and dropped them into the proper bag.


Neither activity was a big hit.  Georgie’s behavior was pretty bad but the whole group was giggly and wiggly.   Our creative activity was the biggest hit, using play-doh and molds to make foods.

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Our neighborhood pool opened last weekend so hopefully we’ll be spending lots of time down there.

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A new feature for my weekly wrap-ups will be a brief mention of any of the ideas from my Pinterest boards that I finally give a try.   

The first thing I tried this week, this suggestion on folding plastic grocery bags for storage, worked out really well.  I ended up with two wipes sized containers of bags – one for the house and one for in the car.  Previously they were stored in a pillow case so this is much more compact.  Mine don’t look nearly as neat as the ones at this post but close enough for me.


I also tried out two recipes for healthier baked goods.  I like to bake but it’s not something I’ve done much in the past few years.  I’m not much of a cook in general so I like simple.
One recipe was for strawberry muffins made with oats and greek yogurt .  In addition to the strawberries I threw in a banana and they came out really tasty.  I made these to have for nice easy breakfasts since I’m definitely not a morning person and it’s getting too hot to have my usual instant oatmeal. 

And for my sweet tooth, I made these chocolate chunk muffins with greek yogurt, oats and applesauce.   I thought I had messed up since the recipe was very runny but they solidified up nicely and even Steph thought they were yummy.

One thing I learned from both those baking experiments was that it’s much better to blend the oats by themselves first and then add the rest of the ingredients. 

I'm hoping for a nice productive fun week coming up but with Steph's high school graduation and very last dance recital, things are going to be crazy once again.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up

I had great plans for this week. 

Last week was spent cleaning up from camping and getting over the cold Vicki decided to share with Georgie and I.   But by this week I was all ready to jump right back in to school.  I had even done some reorganizing (not completed yet so no pictures or post of that), had everything together to continue our rock & mineral study, had no outside-the-house plans, and was ready to start studying Spanish with the kids using First Step Espanol and The Complete Book of Spanish

You know what they say about “the best laid plans…”?  We managed to complete ALMOST one days worth of core subjects, no Spanish, no Science and very little else.

We did spend a bit of time outside and Daddy introduced the kids to one of our local residents.


I also, with a little help from Georgie, got my garden planted.   We set up a new raised-bed garden this year complete with fencing to keep out the deer.   Hopefully we’ll get a good harvest.  We planted tomatoes (beefsteak and cherry), cucumbers, yellow squash, green squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins, broccoli, carrots, sweet peppers, jalapenos and corn.


While Georgie and I worked on the garden, Vicki worked on using up the last of our bubbles…


which led to me implementing an idea from Pinterest.   I made some homemade bubble solution – dish soap, water and light corn syrup – and put it into a plastic pitcher with a spout.  This allows her to help herself without worrying about spilling the whole thing.


I did a few school activities with Vicki to continue getting an idea of what she knows and where we should be working.

First we went over the numbers from 1 to 10.  I knew she could count that high and was pretty sure she would recognize all the numbers but it was a place to start.  I pulled the ace through ten cards from a deck and had her name them and place them in order.  She had no problem with this at all.


We then used unifix cubes and a white board to go over the teen numbers.   When counting she often skips around with these but she was able to name each number that went with the quantity of unifix cubes when we did them one at a time.


Since she seems to need manipulatives much more than Georgie did, I went ahead and ordered some base 10 blocks and magnetic pattern blocks.  I’ll be adding them into her school day over the next few weeks (there I go making plans again).

I did introduce the –ad word family using the foam blocks like we did for the –at words. 


She did fine with the –ad words but when the were mixed up with some of the –at words, she had some trouble.  There wasn’t enough difference between the ending sounds and she was getting confused.  I'll see how it goes next week but may change the order if it continues to happen.  I’ve been looking through my copy of Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and trying to decide if I want to attempt that with her.  I never did it right out of the book with Georgie so I could probably do it with Vicki using the foam and her new favorite school tool – a purple and pink fly swatter.


We discovered that we had a great game for both kids and adults to play together.  I-Spy Eagle Eye involves comparing cards to play mats and finding what picture appears on both.  Vicki was able to win the first game (without anyone “helping” her).  


One thing that is working well is getting Georgie to read.   Going with his interests is definitely key.   In addition to his Ninjago books and rewarding him with Pokemon cards, I picked him up Pokemon Ultimate Handbook.   He’s been doing lots of independent reading, even outside of his assigned time.


I don’t have too much planning to do this weekend since next week we will just do what I had planned for this week but I’m hoping to finish my reorganization plans, which I’m hoping will lead to smoother school days.