Friday, February 24, 2012

Cleaning Pennies for President's Day

For the past few years Olivia has had a little obsession with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Such odd things for a little girl, but it was sparked with our trip to Mount Rushmore.

She was very excited when I told her it was President's Day and naturally she insisted that we decorate the house.  Not typically a holiday that I decorate for but I did have two cutouts of  Washington and Lincoln that the girls gladly hung on our livingroom wall for the day.  (The same cutouts that my two girls went and kissed goodnight before naps! And later insisted that we sing Happy Birthday to them!)

We read several books about Washington and Lincoln and decided to look at their portraits on our coins.  While examining the coins, Olivia notices how some of the pennies were tarnished and others were bright.  We then decided to do an experiment to see how we could remove the tarnish off the older coins.

Getting the pennies ready for our experiment.  

First mixture was 1/2 c vinegar with 2 tsp salt.  

Second we tried lemon juice and third a foil lined bowl with dishwasher detergent.
It was fun to see how the different 'chemicals' reacted with the copper.  We found that the vinegar and salt actually did the best job at removing the tarnish.  The pennies did not look brand new, but it did remove many years from them.  

Dinosaur Outing

Last week we visited a tiny paleontology museum on a university campus.  It was the perfect size for my little children who don't have a huge attention span.

Posing in front of the dinosaur mural.  Love that Olivia is literally posing and yes she dressed herself that day!
I was particularly amazed by the triceratops 9 foot long skull that was on display.  I had always imagined triceratops to be smaller for some reason.  This picture does not do the size justice!  The brow horns would have been 3 feet long!  (See the description below)

To try to bring in the learning that we've been doing at home I made sure to ask Olivia questions like: "Do you think that dinosaurs are vertebrates or invertebrates?"  "And are dinosaurs mammals, reptiles, or amphibians?" "How about the flying dinosaurs, were they reptiles too or birds?"  She did very well at answering and as a little confused by the flying dinosaur but naturally any 4 year old would be.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Children at the Opera

Let me state here that I LOVE OPERA!  For many Americans, Opera tends to be something that you either love or hate.  Most, not all, Americans are not raised with it and first experience it as adults.  At least that was my case.  The first Opera that I saw was 'Don Giovanni' and have seen many since.  I remember when I took Ed to see his first Opera, 'The Barber of Seville', and he quickly fell in love with it.

I want to expose my children to as many good things as I can.  Today in the mail we received a new CD which Olivia was ecstatic about.
The Classical Child at the Opera

Olivia has been asking for sometime to go see an Opera.  Honestly she is only saying this because Ed and I went to the Opera recently and she wanted to go.  But now she talks of going to Opera when she turns 6.  The next season at the Opera includes 'The Magic Flute' which would be fun for her to see.  This CD gives her a chance to become familiar with a few of it's songs and many more.  


I truly hate admitting this but I am struggling find time to read to my children. We do many different educational activities throughout the day but by the days end I realize that we didn't sit down to read (guided or read alouds). 

Coming from someone who loves to read, this is horrible for me! 

I certainly get some reading in like we read the scriptures as a family every night and I read to the girls from the children's scripture reader during the day, I read poetry to Olivia at bedtime, we listen to an audiobook at least once a day, and Olivia does get reading instruction on Rusty & Rosy (which by the way she is reading!!).

But I feel that I need to have a time where I sit down and do a formal read aloud and guided reading with them.

I asked for some advice from friends to find out how they do it with their children and one said that she reads to them during breakfast and lunch.  This then sparked a memory of a blog post that I read once years ago when Olivia was a baby about how that mom read to her children over breakfast.  Something that I am going to try and hopefully my energetic girls respond well to.

Let me ask you, how do you fit in educational activities, house cleaning and all our other demands as parents and still find time to read with your children? 

My children's current obsession--listening to Magic Tree House!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Draw Write Now

This past week I received a much anticipated order in the mail.  I heard some good things about the Draw Write Now series (found new on eBay for $5) and thought it would be fun to change up Olivia's writing time.  Up to this point she writes out a page of 4 letters and 2 numbers a day.  I can tell that she is starting to get bored with it.  Practice with handwriting is important but I want her to also enjoy it.

Olivia was beyond excited to learn to draw a chicken today.  Okay, so you might be asking why drawing with a writing curriculum.  The thought is that as they draw, their fine motor skills will improve thus improving the letter formation.  There is a section for the child to write out with each drawing which in itself is great practice.

A view of Olivia's (age 4.5) first day at Draw Write Now.  

Easy examples of drawing which helps build fine motor skills. 

Sentences to write out with each drawing.  

I didn't want to order paper for this program so I found a great website with various writing papers that I could print from home.  They had a PERFECT one with a drawing space on top and four lines on the bottom for writing.

After we wrote the sentences, drew the hen and colored, Olivia immediately asked to do the next lesson.  I'm glad she is so excited about this writing program!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Creativity as a Family

Tonight after dinner we sat down to paint as a family.  Not a typical activity to do as a whole family but one of our most successful activities to date!

Painting as a family

The finished pieces up to dry





The girls truly love to paint and frequently ask to do so.  I want them to explore art by looking at paintings (in art books and at museums) and by making art.  I feel this is just as important as learning academically and will have a great affect on their futures.  (Not saying that they will grow up to be famous artist, but if they have a talent for it (like a few in my family --my sister and mother!) then why not expose them to it and see if they have a talent for it.)

Besides, the time that we spent together doing this as a family is probably the most important factor!  

School: Week 4

February 6 to February 10

This week I think I got a better daily schedule down.  Schedules, I believe has been difficult; trying to figure out how to fit everything in that I want to teach (I could probably take up the ENTIRE day if Olivia permitted me to), giving my girls plenty of free time to play and explore, clean house and still find time for myself.

My daily outline is as follows:

Breakfast:  listen to primary music and do our morning message.  If I forget to do the morning message, I'm sure to hear about it from the 2 year old!

Schedules:  After breakfast is when we get cleaned up for the day, girls showered, beds made, curtains opened up etc.  I want them to build good life habits and this is the time to do it while they are still young.

Gospel study:  We read the scriptures, draw pictures or watch a video related to the story that we are learning about that week.  We've been staying on the same story all week.  For some thing might drive them crazy to repeat the same story, but I want to make sure that my girls know the stories before we move on.  Funny thing is that I've found that as I'm doing this, I frequently will find them acting the stories out.

Writing and Math:  I turn on an audiobook, we've been listening to The Magic Tree House books, and the girls write for 15 minutes or so then followed with a few math problems.  Olivia does 15 minutes of math instruction with Rusty and Rosy (Upstart) so I use this time to see where she is needing some extra help.

Spanish:  This past week I came across a new Spanish Instruction show that my girls have fondly named Spanish TV.  We watched the 1st episode multiple times this week.

Reading:  This is more or less spread through out the day where we do independent reading, guided reading and read alouds.

After lunch Lucy heads down for a nap and Olivia does her more formal studies with Upstart.

We're not doing 'school' all morning, but this has given me a guide to follow that has been working well.

In the afternoon I try to sneak in some memorization which has happened to work out great while Olivia is dancing around the kitchen.   A few days ago I told her that we needed to do some memorization and she headed right to the kitchen and started to dance.  Perhaps the movement helps her remember what she is memorizing.

I also sneak in piano practice and try to play an educational game with them while making dinner.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spanish School

Last week I went and looked at another charter school for Olivia.  We won't find out the results of her gifted test until May and won't know if she was accepted at that school (which is a 50/50 Spanish Immersion school- meaning they speak Spanish 50% of the time and English for 50%) until May.  Knowing that most schools have enrollment this month I decided to check out a few others.

The charter school that I looked at was not one I even wanted to consider.  The test scores are low and not located in the best area.  At the gifted test, one of the other moms told me that this charter school has changed principles and has shown improvement in the test scores.  I thought that I might as well check it out.

I felt fine driving to the school and the staff was very friendly while I filled out the application for the lottery (I've decided that I'm really not liking the idea of raffling off spots in a school).  I felt a little out of place; being very white in a school that was filled with Hispanics.  I felt less 'foreign' when Olivia started to tell the receptionist about her bisabuela in Venezuela.  This gave me a chance to ask questions about the school.

When I got home later that night  I thought more about this Spanish Immersion school.  Some things about it really attracted me like that this is a 90/10 school.  In grades K and 1 they speak Spanish 90% and English 10%.  I REALLY want Olivia to pick up more Spanish so she can speak to her Abuelos (grandparents).  Then in grade 2 it goes to a 80/20, grade 3 70/30, grade 4 60/40 and finally in grade 5 50/50.  Since total immersion is the best way to learn a foreign language this is the best route.

I also liked that Olivia would be around other Hispanics.  She is technically half Hispanic and I want her to learn about another culture besides the one that we live in.  We live in a dominate white area.

The test scores still worry me.  The scores are low because many of the children there are immigrants with Spanish being their native language.  The tests are administered in English so they don't do nearly as well.  I think that I could look pass this if I continue schooling Olivia (doing afterschool) at home.  She is already working on first grade work at home, I basically want her to learn the language.  Would you send your child to a school like this if you were in my situation?

I did ask that even though my Spanish is very small could I still come and volunteer in the classroom.  They encouraged me to come!  Is it wrong that I feel that possibly I could help these kids?

I haven't fully made up my mind yet.  There is a parent meeting at the end of the month which I will make Ed attend with me.  I have a feeling that the meeting might mostly be in Spanish and I need someone who understands the language.

Where is my magic ball that tells me which school is the absolute best option?

School: Week 3

January 30 to February 3

School went very well this week.  We kept on schedule and covered many things; although at times I feel like I am repeating myself everyday.  I don't want to move on from some things until they fully understood and other things like handwriting are repetitive in nature.

Writing:  Since we are still working on the same things, I thought I would show what I am doing.  With the Rusty and Rosy Learn with Me I have access to tons of worksheets.  I printed off all of the letter practice sheets and slipped them into page protectors.  Can I tell you how much I love page protectors and dry erase markers!!  This allows Olivia to practice her letters and numbers several times and I don't have to throw away the paper.  She does about 4 uppercase, 4 lowercase letters, 2 numbers and a few random sheets with her first name, last name, birthdate and my phone number each day.

Olivia writing in the letter practice book that I printed for her.  I have noticed a huge different in her handwriting since her started back in September!

Lucia naturally wants to sit down and do writing just like her big sister.

I have Lucy sit on my lap and I write on each letter while I am saying the letter.  She knows all of her letters and starting to work on the letter sounds.  Here she is trying to trace each letter.  She actually has good fine motor skills!

I also trace over her name several times while spelling it out.  She recognizes her name and gets very excited when she sees it in print.
Math:  We are still doing the website and seeing an improvement daily.  I made up some dry erase worksheets for her to do some basic math skills.  This week we started with the 3's which is proving to be a little harder than the previous numbers.  But she is understanding it and doing very well!

Social Studies:  Since we live in a very rural area, we usually drive through at least one if not 5 other small cities before we reach our destination.  Olivia loves to call out what city we currently in.  My problem has been that she refers to them as countries rather than cities.  So to help her tell the difference we made up this little project that I found on pintrest.

We talk about the earth which is very large and our continent is a smaller part of that earth.  From there we talk about how our country is a smaller part of the continent and so on until we are to our house.  Olivia really enjoyed putting this together.

This also opened up the discussion of continents.  I found some printable flashcards online to help her visualize this.  Since Olivia has been to 4 countries in her short 4 years, it was fun to point out where those countries would be on the continents.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Selling Our House

It's official!  We have placed our house for sale.  Ed has decided to go back to the university for a graduate program and doesn't want to drive over an hour each way to increase his education.  So we made the difficult decision to place our beautiful house for sale and move back to the big city.  I'm looking forward to this for a few small reasons namely to have a decent library, grocery stores nearer (currently I drive 9 miles to the nearest store) and tons of places for my children to enjoy.

Last week we went and looked at the student family housing near campus and left feeling disappointed. I know it will all work out and thankfully it's only going to be for 2 years.  I have owned a house for the past 10 years and it will be hard going to a space that isn't fully my own.  But this will open doors for our family!

Ed took the GRE last week and did pretty good.  He won't have the official results for a few weeks.  In two weeks he will be taking the FSOT once again (Foreign Service Officer Test).  He passed it last year but didn't move on pass the personal narrative questions.  I am still hopeful that this is something for our family!

My first look at the campus housing.  There are worse things in life and it will only be for 2 years.  I can do this!

School: Week 2

January 23 to 27-

This was a harder school week since Ed was off work all week.  I did manage to sneak some educational things when we weren't busy doing things as a family.  Olivia also was tested for the ELP or gifted program for the local school district.  We won't find out if she has been accepted in the program until May!  It's killing me not being able to plan!  The school that I have chosen has all day Kindergarten (5 days a week) and is a Spanish Immersion class.  This is my first choice mainly because of the gifted part of it.  I have been afraid that Olivia will be bored in a typical Kindergarten setting.

Memorization: Olivia has pretty much mastered the first 3 Articles of Faith.  I am thoroughly impressed with her memorization skills.

We stopped at our local library (can I say here that I can't wait to have access to a fabulous library again after our move!) and picked up some easy readers for Olivia to do guided reading each day.  This is certainly helping her improve her reading skills.

Field Trip:  After Olivia's test for the gifted program and looking at student family housing on the university's campus we stopped at the Church History Museum and spent some time in the children's section.  The girls had a blast!