Thursday, September 22, 2011


How can we sort these marbles? By shape? Nope, they are all spheres.

By size? Sure, there are a few big ones and a lot of small ones.

By color? Yup, we've got light blue swirls and black with speckles.

Let's classify them by color.

The light blue swirls go over here, no matter what size they are. The black with speckles go here, big and small.

Can we classify them further?

Sure! Let's separate the black speckled ones into smaller groups, classified by the color of the speckles. (It's hard to see, but there are blue, green, yellow, red and gray speckles.)

Can we classify them even more?

Yup! Here are two marbles with red speckles, but look--one is mostly black and one is mostly red.

This activity was part of our science unit study--we're learning about how and why scientists classify things. Today we read about the Linnaean Classification System and talked about why Latin is a good universal language for scientists.

In our Marble Kingdom, there are two Phyla: Blue Swirl and Black Speckle. The black-with-mostly-red, and the red-with-mostly-black are different Species in the same Genus.

More on our science unit study later...Hope you're having a great week!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homeschooling Questionnaire

Fuel for this homeschooling momma!

Melissa at Bugs, Knights, and Turkeys in the Yard tagged me for this homeschooling questionnaire--thanks for including me! Anyway, I'm very late posting my responses, so I'll just get right to it...

One homeschooling book you have enjoyed:

Do I have to name just one? Not possible.

The first book any new homeschooler should read is Take a Deep Breath--You Can Do This! by Terrie Lynn Bittner. I can't begin to express how much that book helped me when we were just starting out.

Once you have boosted your confidence and are ready for some inspiration, you must read Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon.

Other favorites: You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick, The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas edited by Linda Dobson, and What's Math Got to Do with It? by Jo Boaler.

One resource you wouldn't be without:

My laptop and an internet connection. Is that too obvious?

I could spend all day blog-hopping and collecting wonderful ideas from other homeschooling families. In fact, I did just that several times during the summer. I don't have that kind of time now, but I still frequently stay up waaaay too late and visit my blog buddies.

Oh, yeah, and so the kids can do research, too.

Kitten Laptop
This isn't actually my laptop, but how cute!

If that answer seems lame, I'll name something else: my local group. There is nothing like a group of supportive, friendly people to keep a homeschooling momma sane. We do field trips, co-op classes, game nights, playdates, teacher nights, you name it. Can't imagine homeschooling without them!

One resource you wish you'd never bought:

Hmm... Even when something isn't a good fit for us, I still usually manage to use it in at least some capacity, even if it's just for practice or getting ideas. Trying something out and finding that it doesn't work is always a learning experience, and it gets us that much closer to what does work.

That being said, we made a very expensive mistake last year. We decided to get a computer for the kids. It was going to be the school computer, and it would be just for the kids' stories, educational software and websites, and typing practice.

Now, I lovelovelove my Mac, but obviously, that's a bit of a budget stretch for a classroom computer. Instead, we bought a lower-end model from the brand that rhymes with mow-shee-bah.

Also not actually my laptop. But I've been tempted...

What a total waste of money. It's been to the Geek Squad twice now, and it still won't accept software. Or it pretends to download it, and the next time you try to use it, it's like you never loaded it. The screen is impossible to read at any angle, the battery holds a charge for about five minutes, the cheap plastic keyboard rattles every time you type on it, and it occasionally shuts down without warning and for no apparent reason.

Needless to say, the kids do all their computer searches, games, and typing practice on my computer. I practically have to make an appointment just to post on this blog!

One resource you enjoyed last year:

Last year was my first time to use I liked it a lot, especially for math practice games and worksheets. This year, I'm also using and

One resource you will use next year:

We'll be starting Latin in January, and we're planning to use Lively Latin. I'm looking forward to it! I'll let you know how it goes.

One homeschooling resource you would like to buy:

Pretty much everything from Beautiful Feet or Acorn Naturalists! Or maybe this...

I can think of sooooo many ways to use this organizer. I'm thinking: math games, country studies, animal-of-the-month, etc. The top bar is a little white board surface so you can label the files. Neato!

One resource you wish existed:

The perfect history curriculum. We're inventing one as we go. If it's good enough, we'll share!

One homeschool catalog you enjoy reading:

All of them.

One homeschool website you use regularly:

Enchanted Learning, abcteach, TeacherFileBox, At Home Science, wikipedia. And homeschooling blogs!

I'm supposed to tag some other bloggers out there, and to be honest, I always hate having to pick favorites! I have so many!

So...if you are reading this and would like to participate: Tag! You're It!

Back to Home School

Bad attitudes all around today (including me.) Maybe we feel icky because we got flu shots over the weekend?

Anyway, sometimes you just have to plod your way through the day...

Started with geography and the continuing adventures of Paddle-to-the-Sea. My kids love drawing, but not coloring, so our maps are still a bit drab.

Dude went a bit farther than just labeling the state of Wisconsin!

Practiced cursive in the salt trays.

German camping vocabulary seemed appropriate, since we just got home from a camping trip!

Reviewed equivalent fractions, did a couple of worksheets, and played this game from The Mailbox. Normally my kids love math games, but we were all cranky today.

Here is Dude's acrostic poem for September.

And Super's poem. It's almost like she has something on her mind...but I can't quite figure out what it is...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Yes, we had school today.


a) Because I'm a horrible, mean mother who thinks that the kids don't really need an extra day off since we just got started a couple of weeks ago.

b) Because we're only two weeks in and already a bit "behind."

c) Because we're taking Wednesday off to do some fun stuff with Dad.

d) All of the above.

So, here is how we spent our Labor Day:

A spelling test? Are you serious?!

Hey, if you want to move on from this unit that you claim is boring and waaaaay too easy, you need to show me that you're ready. And by the way, you need to take a second look at number 5.

I made the mistake of introducing some new cursive letters to Dude with just a practice worksheet. It didn't go well. So we backed up and did some tactile practice instead.

This works MUCH better for Dude. You'd think I would have learned by now.

Talked about some various ways to spell the /a/ sound. Since we already had the salt trays out, we practiced some spelling words, too. (Dude absent-mindedly licked his finger and had to run for a glass of water! Bleah!)

The kids have been working on a doubles multiplication facts poster for our classroom.

We read a wonderful book called The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. It's a fantastic book for illustrating prepositions (Philippe is on the wire, over the street, in the air, etc.) But it's also a way to gently bring up the events of 9/11, and point out that the World Trade Center towers had a history that began long before they were a terrorist target.

We watched this video about Philippe Petit and discussed why something like this would and should be illegal (he could get killed, his friends could have been hurt, he could have distracted drivers below and caused an accident, he might have hurt someone below if he fell, etc.)

Super remembered seeing a story about him on CBS Sunday Morning. What a memory! I'm pretty sure that episode was years ago!

In other news, Super continues to enjoy the Warriors series by Erin Hunter, although she gets frustrated as her favorite characters keep getting killed!

Dude brought me this pyramid, saying: "Mom! You know how you can use four triangles to make a pyramid? Well, if you make a point on the triangles, you can make a point on top of the pyramid!"

Gomez enjoyed hearing all about race cars. (He looks really enthusiastic, doesn't he?)

And the kids made some cool ZomeTool sculptures, both geometric and freestyle.

Now it's time for laundry, housework, yardwork, and cooking dinner!
No holiday for this family! :)

Hope you're having a great Labor Day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Catchy Song About Kinetic and Potential Energy

Dude, looking up from one of his (many) car books: "Mom, what does kinetic mean?"

Me, straining to remember my 6th grade science terms: "Let's see...kinetic is when energy is doing something, and potential is when it's waiting to do something."

Dude: "Huh?"

Me: "Watch this."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The History of Homeschooling

I saw this at Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Homeschooler, and had to share it. It's a very interesting look at homeschooling statistics prepared by


My comments, for what they're worth...

Does it seem a little silly to say that Alexander the Great is the first "known homeschooler?" What, did they eschew the local p.s. and send in an intent form? I don't know why, it just struck me as funny.

I've seen conflicting reports on test scores, including one study that found no measurable difference between the scores of homeschooled students and public school students.

This graphic includes "online education" under methodologies. In our state, students who use online schools are not technically counted as "homeschoolers" if the online school is public. So the numbers would be even higher if those students were included. (No matter how "schoolish" an online curriculum may be, those students are still getting a very different educational experience from students at brick-and-mortar schools!)

I really like the graphic showing why parents choose to homeschool. It's a good representation of what a complex decision it can be, and what a diverse group homeschooling families are.

Looking at the comparison section, I had to laugh. Not all schools can provide more resources than homeschoolers: there are plenty of schools out there who don't even have enough textbooks for their kids!

I'm completely confident that my kids have more resources than their public-schooled friends. Everything we have is used by two kids instead of a whole class. Our local school might have a more expensive microscope than ours, but ours works fine and it's available all the time. The same goes for our chemistry set, our computer, our binoculars, our math manipulatives, our art supplies, our book collection, and even the teacher! :) Plus, we can go to the library whenever we want, not just the first Monday of the month.

I can't say if our curriculum is richer than a public school's curriculum, because I don't know what the school kids are doing these days. But I can tell you that when my kids were in public school, they often seemed to touch briefly on a multitude of topics instead of studying anything in depth. My kids were vaguely familiar with historical events and scientific concepts, without having a real understanding of any of them. To me, a rich curriculum is measured in depth, not breadth.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this before, it's definitely worth a look!

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Never Saw a Purple Frog

So, this morning I came into the kitchen to find Super already using my laptop at the kitchen table. My kids are not supposed to use the computer before school, but before I could remind her of this, she said:

"Hey, Mom! Come look at this!"

"It's a purple frog! Did you even know there were purple frogs?"

Nope, I didn't! So how did she find out about purple frogs? From our Learning Calendar! This year's calendar looks like this:

It's published by Fat Brain Toys, and I think I paid about fifteen dollars for it back in January. Here's a sample:

Here is what the calendar looks like on the wall. Every date has an interesting bit of science, history or geography information, and each month has a craft or other activity.

We've never done the monthly activities, but we all enjoy reading the fascinating facts on the calendar. And this isn't the first time one of my kids has decided to do some research based on something they read on the calendar. I love it anytime something inspires them to seek out more information on their own.

Super now knows lots of facts about the purple frog! That's why The Learning Calendar is my...

Favorite Resource This Week

Whoa! It's September already?

How did that happen?

Anyway, here's what we've been up to this week...

A bit of cursive practice...

...some outdoor Roll-n-Multiply...

...geography study with Holling C. Holling's Paddle-to-the-Sea...

...some fun library books...

...talking about prepositions...

...and making some fun posters for the classroom...

...reading The Swiss Family Robinson and working on our map...

...and just a little bit of boring-but-necessary stuff... know, the usual insanity!

Have a super-awesome weekend!