Sunday, March 31, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 6

Little Guy practicing his letters in a pan of salt.
This week we learned more about the early American settlements, how they built their homes and what sorts of foods they ate.  We investigated yeast and made butter!

My kids are not unfamiliar with yeast since I bake bread every week, but I don't think I had ever let them really examine it or explained what exactly it does.  This week in science, we did an experiment to show that gas (carbon dioxide) is produced by growing yeast.

The kids worked together to mix yeast and sugar in warm water.  Then I carefully poured it into a glass pop bottle and stretched a balloon over the neck.

We set it aside in a warm place while we worked on some of our other lessons.  We checked in on it just in time to see the balloon "sproing!" straight up!

Both kids were so excited and really enjoyed the whole experiment.  Miss M recorded our procedure and observations on a lab sheet and added it to her Adventures notebook.

Our other notable activity this week was making butter.  We had read in our history texts about the Dutch pilgrims bringing cows, horses, and pigs over from the Old World and discussed how that would allow them to eat different foods than they had available before.

Each kid had a pint canning jar with two (clean!) marbles.  I filled each jar about halfway with whipping cream and let them shake them for 15-20 minutes.

They each got tired a couple times, but I pitched in to keep the shaking going while their arms rested.  Miss M seemed to find it necessary to shake her entire body, not just the jar.

It was a magical moment when the butter and buttermilk separated!  We added sea salt to taste and enjoyed it on some of my Country Buttermilk Bread.  Yummy!!!

Miss M thought I should make all our butter.  But I told her maybe just for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Miss M had a dictation from Primary Language Lessons on Thursday.  She complained about it being too long (5 sentences), but she did it and did it well.  We will be having dictation every Thursday.

We've been getting lots of postcards for our 50 States Postcard Exchange! It's so much fun to learn about all the states.  Both of the kids spend a lot of time looking at the map and counting the postcards.  And it's always fun when we get a chance to stop by our post office box at the post office!

In Bible this week, we are memorizing a new verse, John 6:35.  Miss M added it to our Jesus bulletin board.  We also read about Jesus feeding the 5000 and about why bread represented Jesus' body at the Last Supper.

We worked hard and finished up our lessons a bit early this week because my mom was coming to visit.  She always brings fun activities for the kids: this time they made Easter sugar cookies.  She went on a nature walk with Miss M to a nearby pond where they saw a Blue Heron!  

We're looking forward to another fun week of adventure!

Our adventures from previous weeks:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: We Choose Virtues

I've run into We Choose Virtues a time or two on my journeys through the blogosphere, but each time it goes something like this:
Oh wow, that looks great! We could really use something like that. 
--click on website-- 
Whoa, the Homeschool Kit is a hundred bucks! And the Family Kit is seventy.  Whew, it looks great, but...  Well, I'd really love to, but...  That's too bad, I would have really liked to use something like this. 
--close website--
So you can imagine my delight when I found out I was going to get to review some products from We Choose Virtues for free!  That delight has only grown...and grown...and grown!  Just when I think I've gotten a complete grasp of the Virtues program, I discover another delightful tidbit.  For example, did you know that each Virtue Kid has a name that corresponds with the beginning sound of that Virtue?  Hat Matt for Helpful, Oboe Joe for Obedient.  This makes it easy for readers and non-readers alike to learn the virtues!

The rules on the Three Rules Poster are easy to remember. The first rule is a one-word rule (Obey), the second rule is a two-word rule (Be Kind), and the third rule is a three-word rule (Be a Helper)!  AND the rules are listed in order or priority.  If a child is helping, but not obeying, he'll need to obey because Obey is the first rule. Simple, right? And, oh, so genius!

About We Choose Virtues

We Choose Virtues was started by Heather McMillan whose passion for seeing children reach their full potential led her to create a program that can be used to instill virtues in them that will empower them for a lifetime.  Virtues aren't just a list of rules of conduct; they aren't a system of morality imposed on you from the outside.  These virtues become a part of your character, a part of what makes you YOU.  This internalization of the attitudes behind the Virtues is what will inspire character that lasts!

How You Can Afford We Choose Virtues

Before I tell you how we've been using We Choose Virtues in our family, let me tell you how you can afford it!

Instead of the Parenting Cards ($34.99), which include the story of one of the Kids of Virtueville and helpful tips on how to introduce and demonstrate that virtue, buy the Virtue Flash Cards ($14.99) or Virtue Clues ($5.50) and the Kids of VirtueVille Color-My-Story Book ($9.99).  The Flash Cards and Clues cards don't have the Virtue Kids' stories (the stories tell why the kids have their names and are associated with that virtue), but you can read those in the coloring book.  Don't you think $16 is a lot more manageable?

Of course, you can add in some of the other fantastic products if you're able.
Heather was kind enough to share a 15% discount code for my dear readers, so on anything you order, be sure to enter VIRTUE15 during checkout! Or, if you decide to get the Homeschool Kit, use HOME20 to get 20% off during the month of April!

How We Use We Choose Virtues

I wanted to put together a "bulletin board" for our virtue of the week, but being short on space and having no extra cork boards around, I made do with the front of our school cabinet.

Miss M colored a "Virtue of the Week" poster I made. We laminated it and posted it above a sheet protector that I use to display the week's selected virtue and the Virtue Kid's story.  (Yes, I cut apart the Color-My-Story Book.) I'm loving having a virtue on display because the kids and I can refer to it easily.  I also frequently catch Miss M standing there reading the story or chatting with her brother about the Virtue Kid. The stories have a catchy cadence to them when read aloud that appeals strongly to both of my kids. They love to hear them read aloud again and again…so much so, in fact, that they have several of them memorized!

Each week we focus -- as a family -- on one virtue.  We sit down together and read the story; we recite the virtue catchphrase and antonyms ("I am Diligent! I start fast, work hard and finish strong. I am NOT…slow to get started or lazy and I don't quit early!") Then at opportune moments throughout the week, either when the kids need to be reminded of that virtue or conversely when they're "caught" being virtuous, we review the catchphrase and antonyms again.  It's a really fun and effective way of correcting bad behavior and encouraging good behavior without always making Mom have to be the Bad Guy!

One last thing: We Choose Virtues will soon be available in Spanish and a version for older kids is in the works!

Check out my honesty policy.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 5

We started our week with a bit of disciplinary action.  Do your kids do incomprehensible things such as wiping boogers on the wall?  I think having had to scrub them off, Little Guy has learned his lesson and won't be doing it again.  I hope!

We continued with Level E in Spelling Power.  Miss M seems to grasp spelling concepts very quickly and constantly surprises me with the words she can spell.

In history we learned about the Pilgrims and how Squanto taught them to plant corn and fish without hooks.  We read about how the Pilgrims built their homes and covered their windows with oiled parchment in the absence of glass.

We made some oiled paper by rubbing olive oil into regular printer paper with a paper towel.  Little Guy enjoyed joining in on this activity.  We held up oiled paper and regular paper to the window to see which lets through more light.

Oiled paper on the left, Regular paper on the right.
We also tested the oil paper to see how well it holds up to water versus regular paper.

The water ran right off the oiled paper and did not damage it at all.
Although I like the gentle approach of Primary Language Lessons, I decided to add some "recitations" from McGuffey's Second Eclectic Reader to our English lessons.  A few days a week, I'm having Miss M study a lesson and then read it out to me presentation-style.  

Eventually, I'd like her to memorize and recite some passages and poems, but for now she will be focusing on reading with expression and speaking with clarity and feeling.  Since she reads and spells so well for her age, I felt it was important to push her a little.  Everything comes to her so easily that I sometimes worry she will not learn any fortitude.

We had a science lesson from last week to catch up on.  It was a brief lesson on gravity.  We did a quick experiment demonstrating that gravity acts upon objects of varying mass in the same way so that they fall at the same rate.

Little Guy especially loved dropping the plastic bowls (over and over and over!) and watching them fall.  The two bowls were exactly the same size, but one had a square of paper towel in it and the other had a heavy wooden block.  They really did hit the floor at the same time!

The rest of the week our science focused on astronomy.  We learned that the Sun is our nearest star, about constellations, the North Star, and the Big Dipper.  It is really difficult to comprehend vast sizes.  Still, in an attempt to grasp the concept that our Sun is a small star I cut out a one-inch circle from yellow construction paper.

Then we measured 16 2/3 yards (equivalent to 600 inches) to show how big the star Betelgeuse is in comparison.  Betelgeuse is a giant star in the constellation Orion.  It can easily be seen without a telescope by people in the Northern Hemisphere.

Miss M did an amazing job narrating our activity to Hubby when he came home from work that night!  How well she tells him about our day often indicates to me whether or not she truly grasped the material.

Although Miss M has been using Rosetta Stone to learn Tagalog, we needed to set it aside this week and learn Spanish for a while instead.  I'll be reviewing this program soon.  Miss M was ecstatic to start studying Spanish!

Miss M practicing spelling her Spanish vocabulary words.
We stopped by the post office late in the week and had five postcards from our 50 States Postcard Exchange.  We've mailed out about 1/3 of ours.

One day Little Guy got it into his head that he wanted to finger paint, so I let Miss M join him for her art lesson that day.

We ended the week a trip to the ER via ambulance, a dead parakeet, and an unusually late March snow storm.

I blacked out at home from what turned out to be a kidney stone.
Not quite what we had in mind, but everyone is well now and thankfully the storm waited until we had made it back home.

The snow is beautiful when it falls! Miss M said the flakes looked like "dancing feathers."

Our adventures from previous weeks:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Jeggings and Legwarmers

Precocious little Miss M has been growing like a weed!  Several pairs of pants she could wear at the beginning of fall are now quite short on her.  You know what that means, right?  Time to sew!

I already had the Superstretch jeggings (Ottobre 4/2011 #3) in size 116 traced and some denim knit material on hand, so I whipped up a pair (over the course of two days) of new jeggings for her.  She's not quite ready for a size 116, but since she just keeps on growing, I'm not concerned.

I also made her a pair of legwarmers from some fun sport weight yarn my mom gave me.  I used an easy pattern from Tangled Happy.  Since the pattern was written to fit size 7/8, I sized down a little by making my initial chain 37 and continuing for a total of 35 rounds.  I also swapped out the pink satin ribbons shown here for some yellow grosgrain ribbon because it stays tied better.

Miss M loves them!  And they make a wonderful addition to her wardrobe for those awkward transitional weather days when it's cold in the morning, hot midday, and cold again in the evening.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: FamilyMint's Money Management Certification Program

As much as we love our parents, neither Hubby nor I grew up with particularly stellar financial management examples set before us.  Now our kids are still very young, but we have decided we want to teach them the proper way to view and manage money.  It's really important once we have identified a weak area in our own upbringing to seek out tools that will allow us to do better.

This is why programs like the Money Management Certification Program by FamilyMint were created.

The Lowdown on FamilyMint

FamilyMint was developed by two Michigan dads who saw the need for money management training in their own families, among their own children.  They worked together to create a program that would help instill financial habits in children that would last a lifetime.  They knew the program had to be something that would work long-term, because it takes time to develop information into behavior and behavior into habit.  They wanted something that could be used at home because kids mostly learn about how to use money from watching their parents.  They may learn to add and subtract dollars and cents at school, but it's not their teachers they tag along with at the mall.

What is the Money Management Certification Program?

The program, which was just launched last November, is twofold.  First, there's the workbook.  It is part of the certification program, but it is also a complete, self-contained program that does not require you to have a computer or internet access!
  • for 5th grade and up (ages 10+)
  • 60 pages including extra worksheets and answer key in the back
  • step-by-step guide to developing money management habits 
  • aligns to Jump$tart National Standards for K-12 Personal Finance Education
  • develops foundational money management habits
  • designed to run for at least two months, but allows you to set the pace
  • includes a certificate of completion to present your student at the end of the program
The certification program is available from FamilyMint for $29.99.  This is an introductory price that includes the workbook and a lifetime subscription to the FamilyMint Premium app and will be good through Summer 2013.

Workbook: Practice checks
About the Workbook

The workbook walks you step-by-step through four important chapters:

Tracking Your Money -- income, expenses, how to write checks and deposit slips
Goal Setting -- achieving goals using the S.M.A.R.T. system
Budgeting -- how to set up and use the envelope system
Interest - Growing $ -- simple and compound interest

Each chapter is laid out in a logical fashion with vocabulary terms highlighted along the side and fill-in-the-blanks to engage students along the way.  There are even fun facts about money on nearly every page!  It doesn't take too long to read through each chapter and complete the written exercises, what takes time, however, is establishing money management habits. For this reason, I would recommend not rushing through, but breaking it down into small chunks and then putting it into practice before moving on.

Workbook: Budgeting using the envelope method
About the App

The second part of the certification program is the FamilyMint Online Money Management application.  Just like the workbook, it can be used alone or in conjunction with the paper portion.  The app is a fun, easy-to-use, virtual banking simulation.  You, the parent, set up a virtual bank (you even get to name it!) and become the virtual banker.  The child gets an account at your "bank" where he can make deposits, set goals, and track his progress.  You can set up automated deposits for allowance or make matching deposits for certain goals you deem worthy.  And it's all accessible from any web browser; you don't need a smart phone to use the app!

Certificate of Achievement
You can use it in real-world situations to manage your child's real-life money. But you don't have to! You could choose to do it on an entirely academic basis using role-playing or theoretical scenarios if that works better for your family.  You don't need real money to teach the concepts! You could use it to track points as an incentive program for reading or chores or anything your little heart desires! 

How I Used It

My kids are still a little too young to benefit from this program, so I borrowed my friend's daughter Veronica and put her through the paces.  She was really excited for the opportunity to go through this money management program. Having that certificate will look great on any college or job applications she submits in the next few years. She said the workbook was easy to understand and did not take a lot of time to accomplish.  She's been able to set and achieve a few financial goals and said she plans to continue doing so in the future.  

Screen shot: my savings goals!
I personally think the FamilyMint online app is really fun! I've been using it to track the money I made sewing so I can save for a few special things I want: a digital SLR camera and a bicycle with a pull-behind trailer.  It's so much fun to pull an image of my goal off of Amazon and watch the meter creep toward completion as I save a little here and a little there.  And it's so much nicer to know exactly how much I have rather than just looking at a jumbled jar of change on the top of the refrigerator!

Miss M has been setting goals and saving too.  She doesn't quite get the concept of limited resources yet, so she keeps asking to set up one goal after another.  But if we keep plugging away, she'll get it eventually.  After all, she's only six!