Friday, July 30, 2010

Games Instead...?

It's so funny because even though we homeschool, we look forward to Fridays just as much as the next person. A weekend is a weekend, right? As much as we love our weekends, we rarely seem to actually have any down time during them...something is always planned.  Ah well, such is life.

Throughout the year, Fridays are our play day, or finish up day.  Even though we don't follow a strict schedule or plan (they do have some school work to do), we like to make the end of the week a little more fun, while remaining "educational."

Any parent, whether they are a homeschooler or not, usually prefers their child to be interested in whatever they are working on.  This is especially true when you have a "school resistant" wee one like Braeden, lol.  Braeden does not like to sit and do schoolwork.  It gets done, but generally with a bribe.  Or threat. ;)

While Bailey is motivated enough on his own, both of the boys respond well when you say "game" rather than "lesson." So starts the mission of finding games that are fun to be played, yet can be disguised as learning. We have been lucky and have found several online games and activities for the boys.  Recently we found some new games (but from trusted websites we have used before) to throw into the mix.

Fun riddle games are good because they make Bailey think a little more, enhance his vocab words and work with rhyming. There's even some riddle/word games that are appropriate for Braeden's age, but Braeden prefers to play the educational animal games.  He loves the animals, and he says it feels less "schooly" to him, lol.

I am really glad for all of the online activities we have found to supplement with.  I can't imagine trying to get my kids to sit in front of a workbook for any length of time.  But then again, I wouldn't pick a workbook over a computer either...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Winding Down Summer and Looking Ahead...

I just found out that school starts here in like a week and a half.  Holy clap!  Where did the summer go? And how did I miss the back-to-school sales???? I have a...well, a thing...for glue and markers.  I don't know why, but every time these things go on sale in the summer, I stock up.  And by "stock up" I mean that I could probably provide these items to an entire school district.  *sheepish grin*  Oh well, at least they are things that we all use...

As much as I love my glue and marker bonanza, the back-to-school sales usually cause a teensy bit of anxiety.  When Bailey sees all of the school supply lists, lunch boxes, backpacks and other kids shopping for their new gear, I always wonder if this is going to be the year that he turns to me and says he wants to go back to public school.  

Fortunately, he is still very much on the homeschooling bandwagon.  I think it's a good thing that he went to public school, even if for only a short while.  He does have a few memories of things, and according to him, he doesn't miss a thing.  I guess it's hard to miss a 6am wake up call and being gone all day when he stumbles to his computer at 9-930am every morning, completes everything in a few hours, then has the rest of the day at his command, lol.

This upcoming school year, both of the boys are going to pass a pretty big milestone.  Braeden is going to work on 1st grade, which feels like a GIANT step up from Kindergarten.  I wouldn't call him excited, I would even go so far as to say he dreads it.  But it's a milestone nonetheless and I am looking forward to seeing how he will do, even if he isn't.   We will be using the same homeschool online program for him, Time4Learning, that we have used for Bailey over the last 4 grades. We started in the 2nd grade with Bailey, so the 1st grade program will be new to Braeden, as well as myself. Supplemented with handwriting and extra reading, I'm hoping we are good to go for the youngest wee one. :)

Bailey's milestone is pretty big...he's starting 6th grade.  Here, 6th grade is middle school and that's pretty impressive to my almost 11yo.  I wouldn't say I'm "Impressed-Mommy," as much as I would say I'm "curled-up-in-the-fetal-position-in-the-shower(cue Crying Game music)-wailing-about-where-my-baby-has-gone-Mommy." :D  He has done really well through 5th grade, so even though I am lamenting about how fast he is growing up, I am truly interested in what this year will bring us.  We will still continue with Time4Learning as our core curriculum.  I don't think we will supplement with too much...a handwriting and spelling program for sure, but that's about it.  Bailey does well with supplementing reading on his own, as well as science projects/activities and artsy stuffs.  I am considering signing him up for some homeschool writing classes, just to see how he will do.  But that will come after he starts the year, so I can see how things are going for him.

As far as what we will do the remainder of our summer?  We have the boys birthday party to plan, a wedding to attend and then... Dragon*Con!  Considering that I am sorely missing my brothers and sisters of dorkdom, Labor Day really can't get here fast enough!! Browncoats, Stormtroopers and Wookies, vampires (no, not the sparkly kind-the hot TrueBlood kind!) and Dark Hunters, my favorite authors, and more people-watching than I can handle...sounds like heaven, doesn't it?? ;)

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Little Camping Fun...

This past weekend, we went camping with our Scouts.  Even though I complained the whole time, (I always do...just not a big fan of camping in the summer, lol) everyone really enjoyed themselves.  Bailey and Braeden, along with most everyone else, spent hours swimming in the lake.

Bailey did a little fishing with everyone, as well as went Jug Fishing Friday night. No, I still don't know what that is.  He got on a boat, got off the boat in one piece and had a good time.  I suppose that's all the explanation I really need.

Saturday morning was spent working on the property that is to become their campground.  It's a pretty awesome piece of land, with a pond and "shelves" for setting up tents.  It's on Tracy and her dad's property.  In the near future, there will also be a pavilion and an outhouse.  For those of us (read: ME) that need potties, not grass to squat in.

Braeden with tree snipper thingys.  Initially I was worried about this...but he didn't lose a finger so it worked out alright.

Bailey, Zachary and some of the bigger boys hitching a ride on the tractor! 

After the "work" part of the morning was done, David decided to let the boys have a go on his bobcat.  Why this machine fascinates males of ALL ages is beyond me.

Saturday afternoon while our Master Chefs James and Melinda were making our fabulous dinner, everyone was trying their best to stay awake.  Notice below that Zachary and Braeden failed. :)  Having 4 1/2 hours of sleep the night before could do that...
All in all, it was a weekend well spent.  While we were most definitely glad that the boys had a good time, we (we, me...same diff, right?) were MOST definitely glad to be home in our beds when it was over!! 

Friday, July 16, 2010

How important is math, really??

I get that all the time from my oldest.  He does very well with homeschooling.  He is completing the 5th grade.  Reads at about an 8th grade level.  Enjoys all aspects of science and history.  Does well in language arts.  Hates math.  HATES math.  In his defense, he comes by it naturally.  The hubs also hated math, and still does.

Of course, I can point all the useful ways that math will be used in his life, both growing up and as an adult.  But that really doesn't make him like it any more, nor does it make it any easier for him.  Trying to find something, ANYTHING for him to do to reinforce certain areas in math can be a chore, for sure.  Since it's no secret that all of us prefer our reinforcement to come across our interwebs, rather than out of a book, we turn to websites and try to find an interactive math program to help us out.   

Flash cards are, and have always been, a great source of reinforcement, whether it's with math, language arts, or any other subject.  Surprisingly, it was easier than we thought to find some math flash cards online.  We don't have to go buy some, or make some with index cards (although that's not a bad idea...just...not computer-y enough for us, lol).

Hopefully all of the online help we find will help him improve his confidence. Not just in math, but in all of his subjects.  If his confidence improves and he starts breezing through his work, then that's just proof that I'm not failing.  Erm...I mean...that HE'S not failing...  ;)

Friday, July 9, 2010


Yes, we love homeschooling.  No, we can't imagine our lives being any different than what they are.  Yes, it's very rewarding.  No, it's not always easy.

Those are some of my most used responses to questions we get from those who don't homeschool.  The one most often used is "No, it's not always easy."  When you live in a rural community, homeschooling can be looked at in many ways. Sometimes people think we are religious zealots. Sometimes people think we are hippie freaks.  Sometimes...well sometimes, we're just labeled "diff'urnt" (yes I misspelled on purpose. You really gotta know the accent around here, lol).  I don't mind those assumptions, not really.  What really bugs me is when people assume that it's easier for my kids because they aren't in a "normal" school.  

We use Time4learning as our homeschool curriculum and we are very happy with it.  Even so, we struggle with certain subjects and concepts (just as many kids do in their school setting), and we need a little help making those concepts stick. It's even more aggravating when it's something that, as adults, we take for granted.  One of those concepts for us was contractions.

How many of you had to pause and think of the definition of a contraction? ;)

Bailey understands the definition of "don't" and "I'm" and "aren't" and the like.  But it can be difficult to teach contractions. While I just know how to make a contraction out of "you will" and "does not," the rules of where to put the apostrophe and which letters to omit have to be learned.  You can forget that when it's something you've known for a while. 

If I keep drumming something into his head by way of only writing it down or only reading about it, I think he rejects it out of spite, lol.  But, he has a weakness...he loves to play games.  More importantly he loves to WIN games!  If there is no "win" or "lose" option, then simply getting everything right suits him.  So one of things that helped reinforce what he was learning was playing contraction games. Even at an older age, playing a game didn't equate to "studying" something. When the concept finally clicked for him, it was funny to see him realize just how many contractions he used in his everyday vocabulary without consciously thinking about it!

Am I ashamed that I would take a weakness of my child's and exploit that weakness to suit my teaching needs?  NOPE. I got over stuff like that a long time ago, lol.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I needed to grab on to whatever worked, even if whatever worked for me wasn't what others would do!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy 4th of July!!

I know, I'm late with my well wishes.  But better late than never, yeah?

I hope everyone did enjoy their festivities with family and friends.  We had a great weekend.  Had dinner - yummy pizza buffet - and did the fireworks thing with the The B's and 2/3 of the O's Friday night.  Rather than go the lake where the celebration and fireworks show was being held, we went to a pasture BEHIND the lake to watch.  Do we know how to party or what?  I always love the sounds of the 4 boys enjoying themselves, and they really did that night.  I don't know if they had more fun watching the fireworks or playing with the glowy stick thingys that Tracy bought them...

Seriously.  Aren't they awesome? ;)

Trying to take pics of the fireworks with my iPhone.  I don't think they turned out horribly, considering...

I love this one.  You can see Zman exuberantly swinging his glow sticks. Wish you coulda heard all the "WOOOOO!!!'s" that he and the other boys were yelling, lol.

Sunday we went to see Toy Story 3 with the B's and an O.  The movie was fantastic!  Very surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  We laughed and we cried.  Then we laughed some more.  While I know the boys enjoyed the movie, I think the adults (if you dare to refer to us that way) had more fun than they did!!

                                                              Aren't the 3D glasses super-fly??

                                              This trailer looked SO funny...can't wait to see the movie!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shiny New Gadgets...

Ok, so those who know and love me know that I am a gadget junkie. Full on, "Hi my name is Kat and I'm addict" kinda junkie. We all have our own computers (youngest had his own before he could hold a crayon) and we even have a little netbook that floats around as well. I have a 160GB iPod that travels with me and is constantly loaded with music, audiobooks, podcasts and even movies. For Valentine's Day my wonderful hubby got me the Nook e-reader which right now has about 200 books on there (of which I'm usually in the middle of no less than 3 at a time) and also usually travels with me wherever I go. All 4 members of my family (and even my Grandma) received a new DSi XL when it was released this year. Blu-Ray players, WiFi enabled TVs (Instant watching of Netflix FTW!), an Xbox, 2 Wii systems and Nigel, our trusty GPS, all reside here in my little Dork-dom. If it's new tech-y type stuffs, you can be sure it's on a wish list.

As much as I love all of those things, there is the one gadget that I can't go without and that's my cell phone. If it's not with me, expect whimpering and anxiety attacks. This little electronic piece of joy has a special place in my heart. I can't imagine life before cell phones, nor would I like to return to the days of yore. There are those people who could care less about having one and generally only have one in case of emergencies. There are those who do chat quite a bit on them, but that's all they do on them. Then there are those who text like fiends but rarely have anything to actually SAY on them.

Then there's me. I am definitely of the "smartphone" persuasion. I have my calendar which I heavily rely on. All of my contact information (what do you mean they still make paper address books?) stays on there. Couldn't tell you a single phone number, but I know if hit "Tracy" then it's going to call Tracy, lol. I can never remember to carry a camera anywhere, but fortunately I can whip out my phone (which usually...there's never any "whipping out" involved as it's normally in my hand to begin with) and snap a photo if need be. Facebook and Twitter? I only check them about every 10 minutes. I surf the web, play games, check on the weather and even pay bills with my phone. All of this, and I still manage to find myself talking on the thing a few times a day!

I am always on the lookout for "the next big thing" in cell phones. I usually keep a phone about 9-10 months before I need (NEED!) a new one. My last BlackBerry lasted a year, but that was only because I had used all of the available upgrades on our family plan and was really waiting to see what was coming out. I wouldn't say that I have a brand preference, but there are those that I like more than others. Don't really dig the Windows phones. Really think BlackBerry is like an old reliable friend...if all else fails, BB is there to back me up. WebOS and Palm are pretty good (WebOS is easily one of THE best operating systems out there IMO) but seem to be struggling right now. Then there is Apple.

What do you say about Apple? I'm a PC girl myself, but I know and understand the popularity of Apple. You won't find me ensnared in the great Mac Vs. PC debate. They each have points in their favor. I greatly dislike the proprietary aspects of Apple and can think of several media players that I prefer over iTunes. But no one can argue the ingenuity that is the iPhone. I even had a first generation iPhone when they came out a few years ago. Sure, it was a new technology that was incredibly cool. But unfortunately, after about 8 months I couldn’t wait to get rid of the thing and go to my BlackBerry.

There were just so many things I thought were wrong about it. Many simple features that were standard on other smartphones were missing on the iPhone. Things like MMS messaging, copying and pasting, a camera flash and push email for users other than those who have a Yahoo email address (seriously, who doesn’t have a Gmail address and why isn’t Gmail push on the thing??). So, I got rid of it and said I would never go back to Apple. I’m not a gadget noob. Engadget and Gizmodo are bookmarked in my favorite sites and I check them daily. I do know that the iPhone has come a long way since the first gen device I had. But I held onto my complaints, justifying myself by saying that the phone really should have had all of the features at launch that were later implemented in subsequent releases. I never recommended the iPhone to friends and stayed firm to the fact that I said I would never go back to Apple for a cell phone. Well, three BlackBerries (an 8320, 8900 and 9000) and a Palm Pre Plus later, I’m eating those words.

The iPhone 4 has supposedly addressed all of the issues I had with the previous versions of the iPhone. Every complaint I had (with the exception of the whole proprietary thing, but that’s never gonna change) seems to have been addressed and improved upon. Even the low/poor ringer volume problem I had before is a lot better. There’s a snazzier camera – finally with a flash! HD video recording. Better email capabilities with the ability to add more Exchange accounts. Multitasking. That’s a biggie. So much so in fact, I’m going to list it again. Multitasking. Supposedly better batter life, super quick processor speed and better reception thanks to the metal band that surrounds the phone being the antennae.

It’s so shiny and pretty…I’ve had it a couple of days and I find myself having a hard time putting it down! I can’t really give an in depth review just yet (don’t worry, it will come!) because it’s going to take a little while to see how the phone actually works. Don’t really have a good idea yet about reception and battery life and the like, but once I have more of an opportunity to give the thing a good workout, I will post back! :)