Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Random memory trick

I needed a memory trick to help ds10 remember the number of feet in a mile (which I myself have never been able to remember either).  A simple Google search quickly got me exactly what I was looking for.  But I thought it was so creative and clever, I just had to share with you all!

Quoted from: http://www.frugal-cafe.com/homeschooling/articles/math-memory-tricks1.html

Here is a way to remember how many feet are in a mile. Say to yourself the phrase, "five tomatoes." There are 5,280 feet in a mile, and those numbers (5 - 2 - 8 - 0) sound very similarly to "five tomatoes." See the table below for a visual explanation.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Multiplication MadGabs

At this point, ds9 has memorized the majority of his multiplication tables fairly well. But there are several problems that he repeatedly gets stuck on, and they're the same ones than many other people get stuck on as well. The dreaded 6's, 7's, and 8's. I spent some time this evening trying to find effective chants, rhymes, tricks, or songs to help him thoroughly master these multiplication problems on the WWW. But for one reason or another, ds9 were both unsatisfied with all the options that we found. (Note that he can count up by these numbers just fine, he just needed help memorizing the actual problems.) So, I started playing around with some rhymes of my own. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, ds9 & I had written a series of "MadGab"s (after the board game) for all of his troublesome problems. AND THEY ARE...

4 x 4 = 16
Fort eyes for his hicks team.

6 x 3 = 18
Seek sty miss free his ate team.

7 x 6 = 42
Save a time sick, she’s for tea, too.
Save van thyme sick seas fort heat hue.

7 x 7 = 49
Say vent I’m save hen is far teen hind.

8 x 4 = 32
Hay times fort his there’d eat who.

8 x 7 = 56
Hate Heinz heaven knees fit tease hicks.

8 x 8
Ate I'm say tis hick Steve oar.

We had a blast making these up, and I know we're going to have a blast memorizing them too!! Feel free to steal, or make requests for more! :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Interactive History Adventure books

I discovered these books at my local library, and I'm so glad I did! They're a series of 35 "Interactive History Adventure" books (think "Choose Your Own Adventure") by Capstone Publishers. Most of the history topics covered pertain to American history, but there are quite a few from early World history as well. What a perfect way to get a child excited about learning history! And I can think of no better way to learn history than to experience it firsthand and discover for yourself what the consequences of various choices are - after all, isn't that why we study history in the first place? Ds9 loves them, and I highly recommend them! Note: I would estimate that these books would hold the interest of little boys and girls anywhere from 8-13.

UPDATE 8/30/2012:
There are now (39) books in this list, not counting the survival series.  Below are corrected, updated links.  There are 8 "Era" adventure books are for grades 3-7, covering  the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, colonial America, the Great Depression, and the Middle ages.  There are 26 "History" adventure books, also for grades 3-7, covering topics mainly having to do with battles, wars, exploration, immigration.  There are 5 books in the "Warriors" series, same grade level: Gladiator, Knight, Ninja, Samurai, Viking. There are also 8 books in the "Survival" series (think "Bear Grylls for kids").  :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Age of Empires

My husband bought the first Age of Empires game for my then 6 or 7 yr old son a few years ago. I trusted his word that it was an appropriate game, noted that it seemed to be a typical strategy-type RPG (think Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy), approved that it seemed to have a historical framework, but didn't give it much thought beyond that. My son proceeded to thoroughly play the game, and a few of of its successors or expansion packs, inside outside and backward for the next year or two, still without me giving the game much thought except in the rationing of his computer time (as I typically have no personal interest in RPGs).

Then we began some hard-core history lessons. And THAT'S when I realized what a TREASURE there was in this game! Lesson after lesson after lesson, I would introduce a new civilization, notable figure, vocabulary term, historical event, or cultural concept to my son, and almost every time I found out he was already familiar with the subject from the "firsthand" history lessons he'd experienced in his game. Years later, I'm still finding that there almost never a bit of history that I have to present to him that he doesn't already have some sort of basic understanding of - from cultural relationships and wars to climate, economics, and religion - this brilliantly written series of games covers it all! Every major event, every major historical figure, and every major civilization (and many many minor ones) are ALL covered to one degree or another. Of course, the lessons we do in our homeschooling are much more in depth, and as his teacher I am able to fill in all the gaps for him. But never am I presenting him with a completely foreign subject from scratch which he then has to not only retain but understand. The groundwork has already been laid for me! And I LOVE that!

I'll never forget the time that he made a trebuchet for us out of his K'Nex, and proudly presented it to us, through no teaching on our parts. When we asked him what it was, he eagerly announced that it was a "Tree Bucket". (There's not much audio in the game, and that was his best prounciation of the awkwardly-spelled French word, hehe.)

I can't tell you much more about the game, because I have not played it myself. But from talking with my husband and son, and watching a few tutorial videos online, I CAN tell you that it is MOSTLY exploration, strategy, and character interaction, low-definition army battle scenes with only tiny specks of blood stains as gore, and occasional high-def battle scenes with really no gore at all.

Lastly, I just want to reiterated how much my son LOVES THIS GAME! And the game has given him a passion an intrigue for history as well, making our lessons all the more exciting. I can't imagine how I would have muddled through homeschool history lessons without it.

Here are the games that I know of, and some of the civilizations that kids can play as or learn about in the course of the game.

Age of Empires I:
(pre-Rome civilizations)
Mycenaeans, Greeks, Minoans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Persians, Hittites, Shang, Choson, Yamato

Age of Empires - The Rise of Rome:
(Alexander through the fall of Rome)
Romans, Palmyrans, Macedonians, Carthaginians

Age of Empires II - The Age of Kings:
(the Middle Ages)
Britons, Byzantines, Celts, Goths, Teutons, Franks, Mongols, Chinese, Japanese, Persians, Saracens, Turks and the Vikings

Age of Empires II - The Conquerors:
(expansion pack)
Aztecs, Mayans, Spanish, Koreans, and Huns

Age of Empires III:
(age of colonial empires)
Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, German, Ottoman, Pirates, Circle of Ossus, Native Americans (12 tribes, including Inca and Maya)

Age of Empires III - The War Chiefs:
(expansion pack with mainly North American history)
Iroquois, Sioux, Aztec

Age of Empires III - The Asian Dynasties:
(expansion pack with mainly, you guessed it, Asian history)
Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Sufis, Shaolin, Zen, Udasi, Bhakti, Jesuits

Age of Empires - Online:
Greeks, Egyptians, Celtic, Persian

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Intelligent Design science videos

I love incorporating movies, documentaries, and fun educational videos into our homeschool lessons whenever possible. And usually there are great videos to be found on nearly any subject we teach. However, when it comes to the biology section of our science lessons, I've run into a limitation with just about all the science videos I've found. They all seem to be presented from a strong evolutionary viewpoint, some almost to the the point of feeling like a platform for evolution in the disguise of a children's video. This is a problem for us, since we teach "Intelligent Design" (a.k.a. creation science), and address evolution as only a theory, and a weak one at best. So in the past I've just left video watching OUT of our biology lessons. But what fun is that for the kids? So yesterday I went searching, and found a treasure trove of ID videos on the Answers in Genesis for kids website. They're not strictly biology, but they're mostly biology, and the rest can be shelved for later. And some of them may be a bit on the cheesy side, but what kids video isn't (hehe), and after all, they're better than nothing, so I'm happy. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recent finds

Best online dictionary for kids: WordCentral.com

Best all-inclusive Social Studies curriculum: Heritage Studies by BJU Press. This curriculum includes Geography, Economics, Government, American History, World History, and Culture, so you don't have to worry about finding a separate curriculum for each. Available for grades 1-12.

Best states & capitals games online:
  • SheppardSoftware.com - a range of difficulty levels and different styles of games. The most challenging states/capitals games here challenges you to choose the correct capital for a given state from the entire list of 50 displayed capitals - surprisingly very difficult. There are also many more geography-related games and resources on this website.
  • YourChildLearns.com - this states/capitals game gives you a capital which you must drag onto the correct unlabeled state - very challenging. This website also has many other geography puzzles and games, which can be found here.
  • KidsGeo.com - this is a nice multiple choice option which shows you a given state, and asks you to choose the correct capital from 4 options. Again, many more geography games and resources are on this website, and worth looking at.

Standardized Tests

If you've opted to give your homeschooler a yearly standardized achievement test to fulfill the government's requirement (as opposed to having your work reviewed monthly by a certified teacher), here are your most widely used options:

TestSubjects testedTotal test time (complete battery)Test difficultyReport
Cost Degree required to test
CAT/5® reading, language, spelling, math, science* and social studies* 2.5-3.5 hrsEasySimple$40No
ITBSreading, language (includes spelling), math, science*, social studies*, sources of information*, cognitive abilities*3-5 hrsMore difficultMore detailed$50-70BA/BS, OR teaching certificate, OR teach or taught in public school.
SATreading, math, language, spelling, science*, social studies*, listening*, thinking*3-6 hrsMost difficultVery detailed$50-70, +$20 app feeBachelor's, OR teaching certificate, OR teach or taught in public school.

These are just the basic considerations. There are other considerations out there, and a wide range of opinions about tests, if you go searching for them. But it helps to be able to see the "in a nutshell" info side by side, so there you have it. There are also other testing options, but they may or may not be approved for use in your state. These three are the most widely recognized, from what I've found.

The Cat5 test can be purchased here, and the ITBS and SAT tests can be purchased here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bill Nye resources

I don't need to tell you how useful Bill Nye's videos are in helping our kids get excited about science, and retain what they learn. The man needs no introduction. Instead, I'll just share with you a few useful links.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Automatic sentence diagrammer

Okay, this is just freaking cool. :) I stumbled upon this as a means to help ds9 better understand sentence structure. It's the Reed-Kellogg Diagrammer - a (free) tool that lets you type in your own sentence and then diagrams it for you, and lets you mouse over each section to see the word type and function in the sentence. I remember diagramming sentences as a kid, but I get the impression that this practice has been lost in most workbooks and classrooms since then. It's too bad - this little exploration was REALLY helpful to ds9 in understanding how a sentence is much like a skeleton, which "holds up" the other parts of the structure. And because this nifty little tool diagrams for you, ds9 can plug in sentence after sentence to see how the structure changes as he makes changes in the sentence. TOO COOL!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sylvan workbooks - vocab and spelling

I recently discovered Sylvan's line of workbooks, while looking for a new vocabulary workbook. The vocab workbook we had was super simple and streamlined - A Word A Day. I figured it would be easiest to cover vocab that way, since a) ds9 had a fairly good vocabulary to begin with, and b) we had so much else on our homeschool plate. But my theory backfired. Our vocab book was SO simple and SO streamlined, that ds9 found the new vocabulary words completely uninteresting, and thus had difficulty retaining what he had learned. Knowing my ds9, I should have known. :) Then I found Sylvan's vocabulary workbook. The word lessons are not only very well-organized by categories that obviously should be learned together, but the workbook is just CHOC FULL of games and puzzles and challenges that are interesting, exciting, and truly creative. Vocab has gone from one of ds9's best subjects, to one of his worst, to one of his most favorite subjects - and he no longer is having any trouble retaining the new words he's learning - AT ALL. And even though it's a regular workbook with pages for ds9 to complete, it's taking hardly any time out of our homeschool day - one page a day is all it takes (would only take a page every OTHER day had we started at the beginning of the year, even!), and he whips through them like they're CANDY. :D

This got me thinking... What ELSE does Sylvan have up its' sleeve? Turns out, they also have workbooks in their same very fun yet very logical approach, in the subjects of Math (K-5), Reading Skills for 2nd grade and below, Reading Comprehension for 3rd grade and up, and Spelling (1-4). While the math and reading books appear to be really neat, I think I'm still happier with the Math and English workbooks we're using by Bob Jones University Press. However, Sylvan's Spelling workbook has caught my eye, and I just might give that a try next year. It meets and masters all 3 of my criteria in a Spelling curriculum: 1) the words are sorted by similar spelling types or tactics - *check*, 2) there's emphasis on spelling rules and tips/tricks to make spelling easier - *check*, 3) there's fun (super fun!) games and puzzles and challenges to hold ds9's interest and aid in retention - *check*! I'm gonna have a hard time choosing between Sylvan's Spelling, BJU's Spelling, and Purposeful Design's Spelling next year. Ultimately, I'll probably let ds9 pick - whichever he thinks is "funnest" based on the sample pages. We'll see. :)