Saturday, March 31, 2007

Reflections on Math

We've been talking about math programs over at JustMommies lately, specifically Math U See, which is the program that we started using about two months ago. I know I've waxed poetic about this program before, but I really can't say enough about it.

So, I decided that I'd post one of my quotes from the thread. Because, hey, if you're gonna quote someone, why not quote yourself? (ha ha ha!)

"As for it being fun, I would say it is. Is it "fun" in that they give you 50 different ideas of how to learn your +8 math facts and your child comes away from their math lesson feeling like they've been at the circus? No. But I told my husband today that it just feels like it's not work at all. We watch the lesson on the DVD and we use the blocks and we do problems for 15 or 20 minutes a day and - BOOM! Two weeks later I can ask Reilly "What's 8+5?" and she says "13!" And I feel like I didn't have to do anything. And I NEVER thought that teaching math would feel that way for me, so it's like heaven."

I'm amazed, constantly amazed at the strides Reilly has made with math since we started MUS. I know that there are many parts of Alpha that we will skip because this level teaches shapes and telling time, which she knows, so I imagine we'll move onto the next level pretty quickly. But I'm just excited that she's understanding it and enjoying it.

As for Declan, here's a story about him. We were sitting on my bed this morning and I had Troy's computer on my lap. Declan looked over my shoulder and started saying, "Look! There's a K! There's a T! There's a U!" I realized that he knows every letter. He learned them all in a week. He's like a little sponge, and it all started with his Kumon mazes book!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Social Studies and Home Ec

Well, today was unschooling at its best. I know, I know, you're all saying to yourselves, "Ummm, Lisa? You keep having days like that. What's up with you? Are your kids actually learning anything? Do I need to call the truant officer?"

My kids are learning that if Mommy is surrounded by filth day after day, she gets cranky and crabby and when Mommy is cranky and crabby, she gets snappish, which makes everyone else cranky and crabby and thus starts the vicious cycle that can lead to Mommy losing her mind and ending up in the corner, moaning and rocking and sucking her thumb.

No, just kidding.
What really happened was that this morning I woke up and realized that it had been an eternity since my house had been really cleaned with a majority of the rooms looking good all at one time. So I told The Kids that we were going to work as a team (school lesson: social studies and teamwork) and help each other as we cleaned the house (school lesson: home ec.). Declan and I helped Reilly pick up and dust her room, then Reilly and I helped Declan do the same in his room. Both of The Kids helped me dust in the livingroom and wash windows in the livingroom and their bedrooms. Then they watched "educational t.v." (read: "LeapFrog Letter Factory" again, "Reading Rainbow", and "Between the Lions") while I finished up vacumming and doing the kitchen, and our bedroom. I gotta tell you, we may not have done much reading, but my sense of relief at having a clean house is worth it.

Note for the truant officer: We did math fact review on the way to the tag office. So there!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Shout Out to My JM Friends

I know that, being the brilliant homeschooling mom that I am, I should be able to figure out EVERYTHING on my own. After all, I'm in my second year of doing this. I've taught my daughter to read, write, spell, blah blah blah...I can't even go on, I'm laughing so hard at myself!

I was a little freaked out when Declan started asking, day after day, to do schoolwork. See, I never did any official preschool with Reilly. She just learned as we did life. I honestly don't remember actually sitting down and teaching her the letters, at least not until kindergarten, when I realized that she knew the uppercase and not the lowercase letters. So I was a little but at a loss as to how to go about teaching Declan letters.

Well, I knew just where to turn - my friends over at the JustMommies homeschooling forum! The ladies over there rallied gave me tons of hints - websites for games and printouts, games that I can play, things like that. The best tip I got, however, was the video "Leapfrog Letter Factory" which is the worlds silliest cartoon movie that teaches each of the letters and the sounds that they make, using little mnemonics. The j's are jumping on trampolines, the h's are hot, the e's can't hear and say "Eeeeh?" Declan LOVES watching it and, as a result of seeing it several times this week, can now identify probably 10 letters and their sounds. Today I was doing a little bit of "reading" with him, just writing simple three-letter words on the white board and showing him how the sounds worked together.

It so much fun, watching him learn!

On a side note, Reilly loves the video just as much as he does! *snicker, snicker!*

Friday, March 23, 2007

Show and Tell - a.k.a. The Most Boring Entry Ever

Declan asked me this morning if we could do show and tell, so I obliged. I know it might seem weird, since it's really just The Kids, showing a toy that we've all seen before and each other. But they really like to do it, and it's been awhile since they've asked.

Declan chose his Playmobil pirate ship and he could have talked for hours about how he liked it because it was a Christmas present and how Mama and Papa know what he likes and picked it out for him and showing off all the "features" - the deck, the cannons, etc. Reilly chose her American Girl doll (Kirsten) and said she liked it because she had gotten it from her Nani and it was really fun to play with and look at. It was fun!

We didn't do anything spectacular in school today, but I did take some pictures, mainly because I've not taken any "regular school" pictures in awhile.

I had Declan practicing cutting. I love how intense he looks in the middle picture!
And then how proud he looks in the last picture.

Here's Reilly, practicing her +8 math facts. It's funny how much more fun it seems to her to write the answers on the white board than on regular paper!

I just thought this one looked pretty. She's doing a page in her Map Skills book.

Oh, and this was Supey while we were doing Show & Tell:

I'm sure he's thinking "My Peeps are so WEIRD!"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Trouble Concentrating

I think it has something to do with spring in the air, or maybe it's short-timers disease as we creep closer and closer to the end of the school year, but I'm really having trouble staying focused with school. I felt very frazzled today and unprepared, even though I had plenty of things for Reilly to do. I found myself really picking at her for silly things. For example, I've been having her use her spelling words in a sentence, and today I was really being critical of the length of her sentences, trying to get her to write longer sentences. And I should know that forcing her into things like that is only going to wind up in a fight.
Luckily, though, I did have the presence of mind to quit that exercise and move onto something else before it got too bad. I think the problem stemmed on her end from the fact that she heard me on the phone, inviting her friend Sophie over to play, and that got her all verklempt and excited and she couldn't concentrate. We moved onto math, but that wasn't going to well either, so we ditched everything and came back to it after Sophie left. Things were MUCH smoother later in the day...and I apologized to reilly for being such a bear. I don't know what my excuse is!

I did quite a few things with Declan today, too. He did some of his Kumon mazes and some other worksheets where he was following a path or a dotted line with his pencil. Then he did a page about red things and colored some things red. His favorite thing was making patterns with these colored linking cubes that we have. I've mainly been doing two-color patterns, just alternating between the colors. I get it started and then he builds on it. Today he was so funny because he was doing a red/yellow pattern and was showing it to me and realized that he'd left out a yellow at one point, so he had two reds in a row. Well, this just about gave him the biggest laugh of his life! THEN he started making patterns and leaving out blocks on purpose, just so he could show me and say, "OH, look at that! I left out one!" and then laugh and laugh. He's such a goof!

The week before last, since St. Patrick's Day was coming up, I got a CD of Irish kids songs from the library. I had also gotten a bunch of books about Ireland and St. Patrick's Day, so we read few of those. But it's amazed me how much Reilly loves the music! She asks for me to play it in the car, she'll play it in her room on the CD player in there, I find us singing some of the songs at random times during the day. It's so funny! I never though she'd be so taken by the music!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

When Allergies Attack

Poor Reilly! She seems to have inherited her Papa's allergies. This morning when she woke up, she could hardly breathe out of her nose, so I gave her some medicine called Simply Stuffy. About an hour later, she says to me, "Mama, I'm so tired!" and she was all droopy eyed and pitiful. Apparently whichever medicine I gave her has a very powerful drowsiness effect on her. So we plugged through some math work and I finally told her that we would go and run some errands and then finish up later. I'm very proud of her for because she was a real trooper, but I knew that if I tried to push things further, it was going to go downhill.

So we went and ran around a bit, picking up the title to The Pepper and making a trip to Barnes & Noble. Declan got a Kumon book of mazes from Troy's mom for his birthday and he's really been having a blast with it in school. It's great practice for fine motor writing skills and I got to looking at the back of that book and seeing all the other ones they have and thinking "OH, I need that one...and THAT one...and THAT one!" I could have gone nuts, but I managed to restrain myself. I kept thinking, "OK, is this something that I need this particular book for, or is it something that I can just do at home?" For example, one book was cutting and one was tracing and I was going to get them until I realized that these were things that I could make my own worksheets for at home. I really like their upper case letter writing book, though, and may go back and get it once we really get into learning the letters.

When we got home, Reilly was fine with continuing school, so we finished up our day. I've been using a spelling curriculum called Spelling Workout, so she wrote sentences with 4 of her spelling list words. I also have a great book called something like "Cut & Paste Language Arts" so she did an exercise in ABC order where she had to paste the words in order on the paper. She just thinks it's SO cool to do school like that! I swear I could teach that girl anything with a cut and paste book! I can see it now - "Cut & Paste Physics" or "Cut & Paste Organic Chemistry"!
Well, I'm falling asleep at the keyboard, so I'm signing off for now!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Sometimes Declan amazes me with how wise he is, beyond his years sometimes. He has asked to do schoolwork several times over the last few weeks, and I try to get something together so that he can feel a part of what Reilly and I are doing. Today, Troy asked him, "Why do you want to do school?" and Declan responded by saying, "Well, because I want to do Study Dog*. If I keep doing toy activies and not school activities, I won't be able to do Study Dog."

*Study Dog is a computer game that teaches reading skills. There are 3 levels and Deco wanted to play Level 1 by himself, but I told him that he really wouldn't be able to do that yet because he didn't know his letters.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Back From Vacation

We had a wonderful time at Silver Dollar City this past weekend! I think that the nicest thing about having been so many times in the past year is that the frantic pace is removed. We've seen everything many times and we know that we're going back soon and will see everything again, so we don't need to run about like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to cram everything into the weekend. We can just take it easy.

We almost always go and get taffy first thing off the bat. The Kids think it's SO COOL to get to pick their favorite flavors from the big buckets and have them packaged into their own personal bags. It's amazing how content they are with just 6 or 8 pieces of their very own! Then we just meander around and hit our favorite rides - namely, the Flooded Mine for Declan and the Thunderation roller coaster for Reilly. It was really nice being there for two of our three days during the week because the park wasn't crowded and waits were at a minimum. I love the Grand Exposition section of the park, as there are so many rides that The Kids love.

The weather was quite a bit cooler than the internet said it would be when I checked it before packing (Thanks, internet!) so we had to make a trip to the outlet mall to pick up jackets...the ONE thing that I forgot to pack! The Kids got cute ones from The Disney Store outlet - Ariel for Reilly, Buzz Lightyear for Deco.

We were staying in a nice hotel this time, courtesy of a bonus from Troy's job. (Thank you!) The hotel had an indoor pool and hot tub and the rooms had microwaves and fridges in them, and we had continental breakfast each morning. We decided that in order to save a little money, we'd eat lunch at SDC and then fix something in the microwave for dinner at night. We grilled hamburgers before we left home and took them in a ziploc bag, along with some chips and buns and cheese and some EasyMac for The Kids to have as a side dish. (We made sure to stock up on condiment packets when we got gas at QT, so I didn't have to pack bottles of those!) I also bought those single-serve microwave desserts that you can find by the cake mixes and they were FANTASTIC! The molten chocolate cake was our favorite! Reilly and Declan were super excited that I got Zoo Pals plates, bowls, and utensils to eat with, so it all turned out great. We stayed at the park until about 5:30 on Thursday and Friday and then came "home", had dinner, and went swimming. On Saturday we left the park at about 4:00, came "home", Troy and The Kids went swimming while I napped (aaaaah!), THEN we ate and went swimming again. We could hardly get enough of the pool, although there was enough chlorine in the hot tub that I left feeling a little pickled!
On the way out of town on Sunday we stopped by our favorite shoe outlet - I think it's a little scary that we have a "favorite shoe outlet" in Branson! - to see if they had any Merrells and the Carter's shop down the way was having a great sale! We got two pairs of pajamas for each of the kids for $3.99 a piece (regularly $28!!), each kid got two new summer shirts for $8 a piece and we got a skirt for Reilly for $6! I couldn't believe the bargians! I finally had to TEAR myself away before I bought the whole store because, lemme tell 'ya, they've got some CUTE stuff at those prices. (Not at the original prices, though. No kids pj's are cute enough to spend $28 on!)
It was a great and wonderful trip and I look forward to going again!
Oh, and rather than fill this post up with pictures which always seems to freak the computer out a little bit, I made an album at Here's the link:
so I really hope you'll go and look at them!

Supey was on vacation, too! See, he's got his Hawaiian shirt to prove it,

even though we weren't in Hawaii!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Slooooowy Returning to Normal

Poor Reilly! She's still not feeling herself. I thought that we were all better on Wednesday and we had a "normal" day and everything. Then, yesterday, after we got home from Bible study, she started running a fever again! (Sorry to all the other Bible study moms that had their kids in childcare with her! I've been praying that she didn't spread The Plague!) So I broke down and took her to the doctor last night and he did a strep test, but it came back negative, so it's just a really bad cold. She's just so pitiful because she doesn't have much of a voice at all, so she kind of squeaks when she talks, and she's kind of tired and puny acting. It's just such a change from her usual bouncy, energetic self.

But, better this week than next because TROY IS ON VACATION next week and we're going to Silver Dollar City! WHOOPEE! He's out there right now, putting the new luggage rack on top of The Pepper.


I didn't tell you about The Pepper?!?


The Pepper is a 2006 Saturn Vue and, I tell 'ya, if it was possible to be in love with a car, then I'm smitten! We're going to get a personalized tag that says somthing like "PEPPR" or "PEPRZ" or "PEPRS" (We can only have 5 letters, so we have to work with that restriction!)

Well, on to school stuff. Reilly has been such a trooper, even though she's not been up to par. We've moved from +9's to the next lesson, which is +8's and she's getting those really quickly. The best thing is that she really enjoys doing the lessons and last Saturday even pulled Troy into the schoolroom to show him how she does her math. It's fun to watch her grin when she gets an answer right!

Well, The Family is all outside, so I'm going to go and catch a quick nap. (Ha! You thought I was going to go out there with them, didn't you?)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I Am Amazed

Oh. My. Goodness.
Do you know what I witnessed today? I watched my daughter learn her +9 math facts in a matter of about....10 minutes. Now, you might think that I'm exaggerating here, but I am not at all.
Math-U-See teaches that 9 always wants to be 10, so he uses his vacuum hose (the round hole at the top of the 9!) to steal 1 from the number being added to him to make him 10. Therefore, 9+5 becomes 10+4, which is 14....well, that seems a little bit confusing as I write it, but it's less confusing when you're sitting there with the blocks in hand, saying it out loud and looking at the blocks. BUT, I looked at the blocks and said to Reilly, "Hey, here's an even easier way to think about it! You know you're going to make a teen number when you're adding to 9, right? (she nodded her head) Well, just look at the number you're adding, take away 1, and make it a teen!"
Just like that, she had it.
Have I said lately how much I love Math U See?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Unclean Unclean

I feel like we need to put up a sign in the yard that says "Keep Away!" because The Plague has entered our home! Or maybe I should just have Troy pace up and down on the front walk, ringing a bell and shouting "Unclean, unclean!" because we've all got a horrible cold. I got sick last Wednesday, Reilly got sick on Friday night and ran a fever pretty much straight through until this morning. She was at 99.6 this morning, so she's mending. Declan ran a fever for a little while yesterday (poor guy, and on his birthday, too!), and has a cough and runny nose, but his fever came down fast and hasn't gone back up. So we're all definitely getting better, but it's certainly not fun having us all sick at the same time! Poor Reilly had to miss Declan's birthday party on Sunday, but she was actually so sick that it didn't bother her too much. And I hated it that I wasn't feeling 100%, although Declan had a great time, so I guess that's what matters, right?
So yesterday was Movie Day at our house - we literally watched movies all day long! - and we all took a very long nap in the afternoon. Today we're still going to take it pretty easy, although I may try to do some math and reading later on this afternoon. I'm honestly looking forward to us all being back to normal!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Gosh, It's Been Too Long!

And I don't know WHAT'S happened to me, but I've not been on here, blogging like I should, keeping everyone up to date on all our homeschooling adventures!! And I'm sure that you've all just been on the edge of your seats, hitting the refresh button on your computer, longing for my next entry, right? Right? Hello? *sound of crickets chirping*
Well, this week hasn't been too spectacular, actually, in terms of doing fantastic fun things. We finished up our lesson on clouds by taking the book that we're using and going outside to identify the clouds that we could see in the sky. Reilly thought this whole unit was great fun and often looks up now and says, "Mom, look! There's a cumulus cloud!"
I've kind of abandoned the Scholastic "reading packets" that I was doing mainly because it's as though some sort of light bulb has been switched on in Reilly as far as her reading is going. She is so amazing! The other night at bedtime I was done reading, but she wanted to continue, so I let her...and she proceeded to read a page and a half of the story that we were reading out of Molly's Story Collection. She needed a little bit of help with some words like "rhumba", but that was IT! The rest of it she read smoothly, easily, and with expression. It really got me to thinking of how far she's come since the beginning of the year when she was still sounding out three letter words. Wow.
Well, I've started a sneezing fit, so I'm going to sign off before I blow the computer away!