Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Celebrating 100!

The kids and I had a great time today celebrating our first 100 days of home school.  100 days or 98 days, it didn't matter.  'Shroom and Lolli were just excited to have a day "off" from spelling tests, grammar lessons, and math problem sets.  While I did try to incorporate some learning in the day, somehow the two made it through the day without putting a single pencil to a single sheet of paper.

Some of our "learning tools" of the day involved sugary sweet things -- in the form of gumdrops

(exactly 100 of these paired with exactly 100 toothpicks),
random, loose, tiny objects found around the house (exactly 100 of these items, all of which should fit in a small can, incidentally),
some colored beads (I'll give you one guess as to how many EXACTLY....),

and a huge map of the world so we can list "a few" countries.
In addition to making art with 100 Perler beads (with glue and a pair of tweezers), naming 100 different countries, listing 100 things for which we're thankful, documenting 100 interesting adjectives, we also committed ourselves as a family to participate in at least 100 Xbox Kinect events during this week (we are all sore and tired now).  One of the activities involved a "treasure hunt" of some sort.  They were each given a small can and fifteen minutes to fill the can with exactly 100 items.  They had to find at least ten different items so they couldn't simply fill the can up with Cheerios or paperclips.  Here's what they collected:
Can you tell which stuent collected which menagerie of treasures?

(Yes, how did you know we own the games Othello, Bananagrams and Sumoku?)  Despite providing them with extra time, I was surprised that neither one of them collected exactly 100 items.  'Shroom collected 101 items and Lolli had a collection of 110 items.  We did work in some math when we added a long list of numbers.

The most time consuming part of the day (besides the Xbox challenge which will take the rest of the week), was building a gumdrop structure.  There were two rules to this activity:
1)  use all 100 gumdrops and all 100 toothpicks
2)  all items must be connected
Lolli and 'Shroom had a fifteen minute start into this activity before I had to take Lolli to her weekly piano lesson.  'Shroom was into his structure so I figured he would be fine during the 45 minutes we would be gone.  Air Boss even took a peek at his progress during his lunch break so I figured he was fine.  Well . . . when we returned, 'Shroom was done!  And . . . he didn't heed either of the two rules!  He had built a house and had shoved some people inside (in the form of loose--unattached--gumdrops) and had leftover toothpicks.  Uggh!  I guess I should have written the rules down ('Shroom still struggles with multi-step instructions).

Anyway, we "reworked" his structure to adhere to the rules which make the activity a bit more challenging.  Okay...I confess, I ended up getting way more involved than I should have but I did keep to his original plan of building a house.
Look, we even made an apple tree (a pretty sad-looking one).

Well, all in all, it was a fun day.  The kids wish every day could be a 100th day celebration!

(uhhh...on closer inspection, I think my Perler handiwork does not meet the 100-bead requirement...
yeeesh....now WHO has trouble following directions?!?)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Books read in 2011

2011 has been a interesting year in my reading.  For my whole life, my reading has been dominated 10:1 by fiction over non-fiction.  Last year was the first year the trend was reversed.  While it wasn't a complete dominance of non-fiction, I did read three more non-fiction books than fiction.  Another interesting trend for 2011 was that I read more children's books than non-fiction and fiction books COMBINED.  Most of the children's books I've read have been read aloud to 'Shroom and Lolli and the remaning few I read on my own to "pre-screen" for future reference.

So, here is what I've read this past year with the photo of the most memorable book in each category.

1.  Always the Baker, Never the Bride (Sandra Bricker)
2.  The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
3.  The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards)
4.  Cold Fire (Dean Koontz)
5.  The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford)
6.  Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
7.  Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri)
8.  Little Bee (Chris Cleave)
9.  Eden Close (Anita Shreve)

1.  A Praying Life:  Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Paul Miller)
2.  The Successful Home Business Guide (Wil Limkemann)
3.  Soul Cravings:  An Exploration o fthe Human Spirit (Erwin McManus)
4.  The Teachable Moments:  Seizing the Instants When Children Learn (Rebecca Branstetter)
5.  The Color of Water:  A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother (James McBride)
6.  Nothing to Envy:  Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Barbara Demick)
7.  Saving Gracie:  How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills (Carol Bradley)
8.  Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Todd Burpo)
9.  The Homeschooling Option (Lisa Rivero)
10.  The Homeschooling Book of Answers (Linda Dobson)
11.  A Different Kind of Teacher (John Taylor Gatto)
12.  What the Dog Saw (Malcolm Gladwell)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan:
     1.  The Lightening Thief
     2.  The Sea of Monsters
     3.  The Titan's Curse
     4.  The Battle of the Labyrinth
     5.  The Last Olympian
Books by Roald Dahl
     6.  The Witches
     7.  Matilda
     8.  James and the Giant Peach
     9.  Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
10.  The Lost Hero (Rick Riordan - Book 1: The Heros of Olympians)
11.  The Maze of Bones (Rick Riordan - Book 1: The 39 Clues)
12.  One False Note (Gordon Korman - Book 2:  The 39 Clues)
13.  Eragon (Christopher Paolini - Book 1:  The Inheritance Cycle)
14.  Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Eleanor Coerr)
15.  The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart - Book 1: The Mysterious Benedict Society Collection)
16.  Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O'Brien)
17.  The Penderwicks (Jeane Birdsall)
18.  The Penderwicks on Gardem Street (Jeane Birdsall)
19.  The Island of Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell)
20.  Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)
21.  Thomas and the Dragon Queen (Shutta Crum)
22.  The Whipping Boy (Sid Fleischman)
23.  The Pot of Wisdom:  Ananse Stories (Adwoa Badoc)
24.  Little Lord Fauntleroy (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
25.  The Beginning of the Armadillos (Rudyard Kipling)
26.  A Cricket in Times Square (George Selden)
27.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
28.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)

Well, there you go.  Do you have any great reads you would like to share?  Let me know!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A penny for my thoughts

     If I received a penny for every thought or journal entry I've made in these past dozen or so years, I would be a very rich woman.  I feel as though my blog here is a very small--an extremely tiny--window to my life.  In some way, this porthole of a blog and the images seen through its cloudy glass are somewhat distorted.

     I've created this blog with the hopes of sharing some of my life experiences in a somewhat entertaining, if not amusing, manner.  Deep down inside, however, I've also hoped that some of my more honest struggles as a mom, wife, woman, or whatever I represent to you, would somehow resonate with you in a way that enriches your life.  Ha ha.  I don't believe I am kidding anyone.

     My more honest struggles and darkest moments inadequacy and hopeless are saved for my handwritten journal.  The long lapses of silence on my blog are filled with pages and pages of handwritten thoughts.  I don't know why I'm so afraid to share these thoughts with you.  Well, now, actually I can think of several reasons off the top of my head:
  • some of you know me and my family personally so sharing these struggles aren't so anonymous or so innocuous,
  • many of my moments of despair involve other people in my life so to share about these things would involve extreme tactfulness and sensitivity (neither of which I have on a consistent basis),
  • writing for a larger audience than "just myself" is very daunting and intimidating; I liken this why so many of us our shower singers rather than American Idol contestants,
and perhaps the biggest reason why my blog entries are more sporadic and infrequent than my journal entries is,
  • well, I just don't want to feel judged 
     Anyway, I don't even know why I'm writing all this.  It's not like I'm promising to be more transparent about the things I write about, nor am I promising to blog more frequently.  I guess I just wanted to say that in the things I do write, I'll try to make my writing more representative of my life in the hopes that it would be an encouragement to some of you out there who may be experiencing similar things.

     Thanks for listening and reading.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Helpful Math Website

My sister knows how much I struggle to teach my children math and forwarded to me this math website.  While I haven't spent much time looking through the links, I did read the "about" section about this blogger.  He's a dad who's helping his two daughters learn math and has created over 7,000 worksheets for them (and all of us!) to use.

At a quick glance, I knew enough to bookmark this page for future reference and use.  I thought I would post it here and share it all with you since it looks like such a helpful site.  Feel free to leave a comment for "dad" on his website if it's a helpful resource to you.  It's all free!

Thanks sis for passing along this website and thanks dad for spending the time creating it and sharing with us all.  'Shroom and Lolli will thank you for it (and if they don't, my thanks alone will make up for it)!

The direct link is posted above but the actual website address is:  www.dadsworksheets.com

1/30/12 update:
I just came across another helpful math website with 11,000 different types of math drills.  The range is from simple addition to probability.  A great summer time resource to keep up the math skills!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Sale Craziness

I've just returned from our local library's semi-annual paperback booksale.  While it wasn't my first time participating in one of their book sale events, it was my first time participating in one as a homeschooler.  In the past, I have gone to these periodic book sales looking for math textbooks (study guides for myself), fiction books (for the kids to read on their own and for me to read aloud to them), and various non-fiction books to add to my collection.

Before I go further, I have to say that walking into a book sale for me is like a recovering alcoholic walking into a bar during happy hour.  While my analogy may be a bit exaggerated, I do love books and I may probably have in my genetic make-up the tendency to hoard and to HOARD BOOKS specifically.  Details won't be provided but needless to say, armed with this knowledge, I tread very cautiously into any used book sale of any sort.  More often than not, I come out empty-handed.

Today, I was proud of myself.  I spent a whopping $3.50 on books for my homeschooled kids - all but two* books were reading comprehension books which I knew was lacking in our curriculum this year.  Score!  So glad for those purchases.  I even picked up a copy of "Johnny Tremain" which we'll be reading much later when we get to American history.

Photo source:  TimeRecordNews/Newspapers in Education
Anyway, my browsing and shopping experience today opened my eyes a bit to those who are serious used book sale shoppers.  More specifically, homeschool shoppers.  I am embarrassed to be a part of the group of people known as "Homeschool Moms" because I saw one woman, whom I'm suspecting was a "Homeschool Mom" because she was looking for books very similar to mine.
As you can see from the photo, the books are arranged on tables and roughly sorted into big categories like fiction, non-fiction, romance (TONS of books in this section), oversized books, and children's.  The children's table had all fiction, non-fiction, readers, picture books and such smushed together so much patience was required to sift through the boxes of books.

Unlike the photo above, the book sale was quite crowded but I found a box of books on the children's table that no one was looking through.  I sandwiched myself between two people and started looking through the books.  As I finished one box, I made my way to the next box on my right.  Eventually the person on my left disappeared so it was this other woman and me going side-by-side down the table.  Eventually other people filled in on my left.  I didn't want to go against the flow so I continued down the table on my right.

As I sifted through a couple of boxes, I could see that boxes contained similar type books and there were boxes that I felt I didn't need to look through (picture books, Sweet Valley High romance teen books, early chapter readers, Star Wars movie books and so on).  I skipped over those boxes and ended to this woman's right.  There were several boxes between us so I didn't think anything of it as people where jumping in and out at various points.

What really surprised me was when this woman began looking in the SAME box as me and pulling books out as I'M TOUCHING THEM.  I don't know what books she wanted as she apparently wanted a whole lot of everything.  She had one of those collapsible crates on wheels and it was packed already.  She acted as if I was stealing books from her stash the way she was grabbing at the books out of the box I was looking in.  Yeeesh!  For some reason, I didn't think she was a teacher looking to restock her classroom books.  She struck me as a homeschooling mom and her rude attitude just rubbed me the wrong way.

Anyway, I quickly left the children's area entirely and began looking at non-fiction books.  While I love a great deal on books and I would love to cut expenses in this area, I hope I never become someone like this.  Wow.  I may have lost out on some great finds but heck, if I have to be rude like this woman was, it's not worth it to me.  Well, I hope she found what she was looking for and is content with what she has.

I'm excited for my finds and hope the kids have fun reading and learning about all the different topics.  And yeah, I have to learn to not take things so personally.  Even though this other woman was Asian.  And looked just like me.

*Okay, in the spirit of full-disclosure, the other non-reading comprehension book was a "Calvin and Hobbes" comic book which Air Boss loves to read . . . and me, too!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

747 New Laws for Twenty Twelve

I've been hearing about the 747 new laws now in effect in the year 2012 for the state of California. CA state residents (and visitors) take note; the rest of you's, laugh away.

While not all laws are laugh-worthy, the sheer number of new laws and the difficulty in finding them all spelled out in one website location has made this a frustrating transition.

Some of the laws I've heard through word of mouth include:

- putting on lipstick while operating a vehicle can get you a ticket (I wonder if applying mascara is okay?)

- eating a hamburger while driving can also get you in trouble with the law (I can't seem to find documentation of this either but I wonder if it is inclusive of cheeseburgers, bunless burgers, or simply applies to just Carl's Jr. burgers since they are hands down the messiest burgers of all)

Actual verified new automobile/traffic laws include:
- Children under the age of 8 OR under the height of 4'9" (whew! I barely made it!) are required to be in a car seat or booster seat. Should you decide to "chance it," first offense can get you a ticket of at least $446 and a second offense can get you a ticket of over $1,000. My quick math calculations show it may be "slightly" cheaper to just shell out for a booster seat.

- Beginning in July 1, 2012, vehicle registration fees will rise from $31 to $43 a year.

- One cannot cross double solid white parallel lines while driving. (Hmm....I thought this was already the case...? or did the old law apply only to double solid YELLOW parallel lines?) I hope this law stops those carpool lane jumpers from careening into fast-moving traffic the moment they see red tail-light action!

For more new traffic laws, you can check out CHP's press release. Still couldn't find the hamburger and lipstick law though . . . .

By the way, in case you were going to drink (soup) and drive, it is now illegal to sell and consume shark fin products. No more shark fin soup for you Chinese food aficionados!

Perhaps you're more resourceful than I or know of a better place to find these new 2012 laws. Feel free to comment and post a link and help us all be law abiding citizens! Thanks!