Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

A is for Apples (“Life of Fred: Apples”, that is) March 18, 2013

Filed under: Books,Math — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:11 pm

Last year I spent a few months doing the weekly “Blogging through the Alphabet” challenge at Ben and Me.  I didn’t quite make it through all the letters, but it was a lot of fun.  I wasn’t quite ready to start all over again right away…but now that I have sat out the last 26 weeks, I am ready to start again with Round 3 of Blogging Through the Alphabet!

My “A” is for “Apples”…but not just any kind of apples.  A great math book called Life of Fred: Apples.

Life of Fred is a unique series of math textbooks.  While previous books in the Life of Fred series were for late elementary school or middle school and up, the Life of Fred elementary series (beginning with Apples, of course) starts out at a level even most Kindergarteners can understand.

Life of Fred is a very unique series of math books — they tell a story!  Each book tells a little Life of Fred Applesmore of the story of Fred, a very unusual college math professor who happens to only be five years old.  Basic math concepts are interwoven throughout the humorous story about Fred’s day.

In Life of Fred: Apples, readers learn about addition facts that equal seven, calendar and time concepts and some basic instruction about sets, among other things.  At the end of each chapter a short “Your Turn to Play” section gives readers a chance to practice the topic in the chapter with just a few (generally about 3 to 5) questions.

As I mentioned, many of the concepts in Apples are fairly simple.  Even Mr. E is “beyond” several of these concepts in his regular math book.  But since Life of Fred is a series of story books, it makes sense to begin at the beginning.  All three older kids (Miss M–8, Mr. E–almost 6, and Mr. K–4),  really enjoyed listening to Apples, and were eager to begin the second book, Butterflies, right away after we finished it.

Is Life of Fred a replacement for a regular math curriculum?  At the elementary level it is a bit hard to imagine that this would suffice as enough explanation and practice for most students.  A motivated parent might be able to fill in the gaps and provide other means of practice to go along with Fred.   Or they might make a nice “break” for a student who is struggling or burned out on their regular curriculum.

At our house, we are considering Fred to be “math dessert.”    We still do our regular math programs every day (or almost every day, anyway!).  Then Life of Fred is a “treat” to read a couple times per week.   Each chapter only takes a few minutes to read, so we often read after or during lunch or snack.   We could easily go through the books at a faster pace since the kids like them so much.  But at $16 each, I don’t want to buy too many this year.  🙂  We’ll stretch them out, and enjoy Fred slowly over the next couple years (and perhaps over, and over again after that as the kids re-read them!)

To see what other bloggers are writing about for the letter ‘A”, visit this week’s link-up at Ben and Me!

Blogging Through the Alphabet


Collage Friday: Halloween, a Birthday (and a bit of school too)! November 2, 2012

Filed under: Math,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:50 pm
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We were probably a bit less productive than usual in terms of schoolwork this week.  Monday Miss M had an eye exam in the middle of the day, plus we had other errands.  Tuesday we celebrated Baby J turning one year old!

We had a few neighbor families over for cupcakes after dinner on Tuesday night.  Between cleaning the house for the party, making cupcakes, gymnastics class, and another appointment Tuesday afternoon…Tuesday was almost a wash as far as school was concerned.  🙂

Then Wednesday was, of course, Halloween.  While we had nothing special going on during the day, the kids had just a bit of trouble focusing on schoolwork.  But hey, it’s math if we calculate the number of hours from any given time to the time for trick-or-treating, right?

Miss M dressed as Raggedy Ann and went out some of her best friends (and their dads) to trick-or-treat.  Tony, dressed as Abraham Lincoln, took our two “Junior Avengers” (Mr. E as Hawkeye and and Mr. K as Captain America) — another neighbor friend was Iron Man, so we had quite a few of the Avengers represented.  Baby J got to wear the same Frog costume Mr. K wore as a baby.  Such is the life of a 4th child.   Baby J stayed home with me to help hand out candy.  He was bummed that I wouldn’t give any to him!

Thursday was a pretty normal day (other than being tired from staying up late the night before.  Today (Friday) we had a regular school morning followed by two public school friends who had a day off today spending the afternoon at our house.

Despite our exciting week, we did make some educational progress: 🙂

Spelling:  It was a review week for Miss M (age 8, 3rd grade) in Logic of English Essentials (lesson 15).  I finally had her make spelling word cards for review and practice of words she decided she needed more practice on.  I’m not sure why we didn’t do that on the other review weeks!  We tried to do a spelling word Pictionary of sorts, as well as a “guess the word from a description of that word” type of game, with Mr. E (age 5.5, grade K) having a stack of Miss M’s words, and Miss M having a stack of words that Mr. E should know.   The spelling part of these games were fine, but it took forever for the kids to guess the word they were supposed to be spelling.  Neither one was able to draw or describe very well in a way the other could understand.  It was pretty funny.

Mr. E also finished the spelling words in Lesson #4 of LOE-E, (though he still needs more practice on the phonograms from that lesson), did a couple pages of Explode the Code 3, and practiced reading each day.

Preschool:  I don’t write very often about what Mr K (age 3.5, preschool) is doing.  To be honest, I am not doing a lot of stuff specifically with him.  He spends a TON of time listening and watching what Mr. E is doing for school, and plenty of time doing what 3.5 year olds are typically doing – listening to stories, playing, coloring, etc.  Most weeks, he gets a special more focused time with me for an hour during the big kids’ gymnastics class.  Sometimes we talk about basic math concept, sometimes we talk about letters, sometimes we just read.   This week he picked out an activity book with mazes, stickers and dot to dots.

He also got very upset that he couldn’t play the spelling game with us.  So he took the dry erase board after the game, and started asking me how to spell cat, dog, and a few other short words.  He actually managed to sort of write a few of the words I told him how to spell!  I was pretty impressed, considering I haven’t taught him any writing.  He is just learning by proximity, I guess! 😉

Math for Mr. E:  We worked on place value and traditional names for the 10s and teens with lessons 41-44 of RightStart B, as well as doing a few pages of Singapore 1-A and starting Lesson 45 of RS-B on adding numbers with answers in the teens.  The “stations game” to practice traditional names for the tens is pictured.

Math for Miss M:  We started Level D of RightStart this week.  I knew there was some review at the beginning of Level D, but once I took a really good look at it, I was really shocked by just how much there is!  I gave Miss M the 1st quarter test, and, except for one section on liquid measurement, she could complete the entire test!  I actually pondered ditching RightStart D altogether for something else, but when I broached that subject with Miss M (who really is not one to like change!), she said she really, really wanted to stick with RightStart.

So after stewing on it for a couple days, I think I came up with a plan that will work for us.  I went through the lessons and identified 22 of the first 86 lessons that will actually need me to teach Miss M a new concept (after lesson 86, it’s pretty much all new concepts).  There’s no need to rush, so we probably won’t do one of these brand new lessons every day.   We only need to average 3.35 lessons per week to finish D by the end of the school year, so we’ll feel free to take some extra days to play games (or just not have a “together” time for math — a “day off” of math for me!)

I think Miss M still could use review and practice (especially practice to develop speed) on some of the concepts in those other lessons we won’t do together, so I’ll be assigning her the workbook pages corresponding to those lessons she already understands as independent work.   I’ll also be assigning her pages of multiplication practice so she doesn’t forget all those multiplication facts she started learning at the end of level C.

This week, besides that 1st Quarter test, we did a couple lessons with “calendar math problems” from the beginning of the level, plus two lessons on liquid measurement.  We drew a nifty diagram to help remember Quarts, Gallons, Pints and so on…but I seem to have missed using the picture of it.  I’ll have to share that later.  🙂

History: We continued Ben and Me as our all-together fiction read-aloud, and also started If You Were There in 1776 as a non-fiction read-aloud all together.  Miss M finished Felicity’s World, and read several short historical fiction chapter books (including 4 of the 6 “Felicity” American Girl books).

Science (not pictured):  It’s really a good thing I bought Sassafras Science Zoology for Miss M, because the last few weeks that been pretty much our only science other than co-op.  While I feel more confident than ever in teaching BFSU lessons, with having to prepare lessons for my co-op class (which none of my kids happen to be in),  I haven’t been as motivated to prepare separate BFSU lessons for my kids.  And all my kids (especially Miss M) still remember the materials in the lessons I am preparing for co-op.  Note to self…go order those rock samples so we can actually do the Rock and Minerals lessons from BFSU sometime soon!  😉

We are looking forward to a weekend without too many plans, and another busy week next week with all the kids having well-child check-ups, election day and co-op day!

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up.

Homegrown Learners

Collage Saturday: C is for Completion Celebration October 27, 2012

Filed under: Math,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:20 am

This week I’ll start out with a big highlight:  Miss M finished RightStart Math Level C.  Yea!!!  This level of RightStart Math is pretty long, and  from what I’ve heard many students take over a year to finish it.  It took us 12 “school months” to finish (aka 15 months on the calendar, but we took nearly three months off from new lessons this summer and just did review!).

Since this was so long in coming for both teacher and student, we decided to celebrate.  We headed to the mall last night for some ice cream and window shopping:

Overall this was another “mathy” week as we worked to complete Level C:

Several of Miss M’s final 6  lessons of Right Start C this week focused on Tangrams.   She completed an easier Tangram book when she was much younger, so she thought these would be a breeze.  She was surprised by how tricky a few of the questions were, but in the end said the Tangram lessons were some of her favorite all year!  For her final activity of RightStart C, Miss M and I played a game of Negative Corners on Friday (scores in the below-zero range and moving lower).  Level D is ready and waiting, so we start that on Monday!

I worked through 4 lessons of RightStart B with Mr. E.  This was the section with the infamous “Cotter Fractal” involving potentially cutting out either 100 or 1000 tiny triangles and gluing them on bigger triangles in a nifty pattern.  Mr. E kept saying he wanted to do all 1000…but after doing just one “10 Triangle” he’d had enough!  I was more than happy to skip the rest of that activity (I skipped it the last time through with Miss M as well — I think it would be more fun with a group!).

Mr. E really enjoyed adding big numbers with the base-10 picture cards, and then also with side 2 of the abacus.  I love how RightStart emphasizes place value early on.  Mr. E wanted to play games on Friday as well since Miss M got to do that with me, so we pulled out Speed and played games of 2, 3 and 5 speed.   I don’t think I have mentioned it in any blog posts, but we got this game a month or so ago and really enjoy it.  It’s a fun way to practice or learn multiples/skip counting.   Mr. E and Miss M both love this game!

Other learning accomplishments this week:

  • Spelling: Miss M did all but the assessment for lesson 14 of Logic of English Essentials, while Mr. E finished lesson 3 and started lesson 4.   I’m pretty much only doing phonograms and one round of spelling dictation with him — I am guessing I’ll go through another round of LOE-E with Mr. E when he is older.
  • History:  I finished one bedtime-read aloud with Miss M (A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia) and nearly finished another (Toliver’s Secret).  We also started another “all together” read aloud (Ben and Me).   Miss M read several books from our history book basket as well and we watched another episode of Liberty’s Kids.
  • Science: Miss M finished Chapter 8 of Sassafras Science Adventures, the kids watched several “Happy Scientist” videos and we reviewed a few lesson on Air and Solid/Liquid/Gas from BFSU as I prepared to teach my co-op class for Thursday afternoon.
  • Mr. E’s Reading: Mr. E read several BOB books from Set #4 as well as a few other easy readers.
  • Co-op: The kids did “recitation” at co-op this week.  All kids K and up pick something to memorize and recite.  Miss M recited two short poems while Mr. E picked a Bible verse to recite.

Fun stuff this week:

Upper Left: Annual Pumpkin Carving Night!

Upper Middle/Right:  Miss M and Mr. E are taking a weekly homeschool gymnastics class.  We’ve done it for seven weeks with five more to go.   Baby J really enjoys watching the kids.  🙂 This week Grandma Karen was visiting for a couple hours on gymnastics day, so she came along to watch (and read to Mr. K, who is just a bit too young for the class, unfortunately!).  This week the gym was decorated for Halloween (Notice Miss M on the “witch swing”!).

Bottom row: We went on a spontaneous park outing on Wednesday afternoon, despite some drizzly weather.  Everyone came home pretty soaked when all was said and done, so much of the rest of the afternoon was taken up with hot baths, hot cocoa and time to snuggle and read.  🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!  We have a busy weekend ahead with a number of things planned…then next week we are looking forward to Baby J’s birthday and Trick or Treating!

I’m linking up with:

Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up!

Homegrown Learners

Fraction Fun Day! October 19, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,Math — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:24 pm

Miss M (3rd grade) is nearing the end of RightStart Math Level C.  While fractions were introduced earlier in the book, here near the end there are about 8 lessons (nearly in a row) covering various aspects of fractions.  Given that Mr. E (Kindergarten) is also very interested in Fractions, I decided to call a “Fraction Fun Day” this week and do lots of fun fraction-related activities with the kids:

After giving Miss M a light list of independent work to complete and having Mr. E practice reading, we dived right into our fun math topic for the day.

We had already been working on Fractions for a couple days before Fraction Fun Day (the picture shows Mr. E putting together the RightStart fraction chart on Monday), so our first activity was fraction art — the kids made kites from 1 inch graph paper I printed out, and we figured out what fraction of their kites were comprised by each color.   They also made “fraction ice cream Sundaes” and we decided what fraction of the ice cream was represented by each flavor (free template here).

After the art work I treated the kids to a fraction-related snack — Hershey chocolate bars! We worked through the Hershey Fractions Book together and the kids made the various fractions found in the book (and other fun designs).  After reading just a bit about the ingredients of a chocolate bar in the book, we just had to learn more about chocolate making! This video and this video from youtube were very informative! We also discussed ways we use fractions in everyday life: cooking, time money, etc (baby J thought the measuring cups were great fun to play with!).

RightStart’s card games set comes with a deck of fraction cards.  We used the cards to play a game called “One” (the object of the game was to make rows of fractions, and be the player to lay down the card that will cause the row to equal one).  We also played Fraction War.

Finally, a fraction fun day would not be complete without using fractions for some fun cooking! I suggested cookies, but between the fact I was missing ingredients for a recipe I really wanted to try, and the fact that Miss M had her heart set on using a recipe from one of her cookbooks, we decided to go with making candy critters instead.  This was fun activity that kept the kids busy for quite a while in the afternoon of our Fraction Fun Day!

Credit for inspiration for some of these activities goes to this post from Mary @ Homegrown Learners and some of the fraction-related posts @ Step Into 2nd Grade.