Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Me

Since Christmas, my girls and I have been learning about the human body, and things are going well.

The core book, or spine, that we use is the Kingfisher's First Encyclopedia of the Human Body. I actually rather like the book. Subjects are covered in two page spreads which are not overly crowded with photos or information. Pictures are simple, colorful, and fun. The text is also simple and straight forward, and the concepts are geared toward young children. More often then not, they also have small experiments that can be done to illustrate different concepts. (For example, when talking about how muscles work, they have the readers bent their arm, feeling both the triceps and biceps change shape.)

For lessons, I have clumped subjects together into about 16 groups. They are only four to six pages of text, or about 20 minutes reading. We read the pages, do any activities on those pages, and then color pictures about what we studied. While the girls are coloring, I ask them about whatever experiment we did and fill out an experiment page (What did we use? What did we do? What happened? What did we learn?). After (or before) that, I ask the girls to tell me about what they learned, and I write that down too. Simple, and it only takes 30 to 40 minutes.

I have not been able to find a simple enough coloring book, so for pictures to color, I have traced some of the drawings in the book, photo copied them, and let my girls color. (Copy paper is really useful here :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Yearly Plan

Planning time is here! At least for me it is. I enjoy planning, and what better excuse then a new school year to start. OK, so I'm a bit early. Our school year starts on June 1st, but I was already trying to figure out schedules because of a wedding, summer travel, and sporting events. So, I decided to do it all at once. Save time. And I like it.

Here's what I've done:

Last year, I made a one page master calendar using my Microsoft Word program. Three columns with four small graphs each (7x6 cells). I labeled each graph by month, starting with June, abbreviating the days of the week in the first row, then placing the days in the remaining cells in calendar form. Took a good long while, but this year, all I had to do was pull up the old calendar and change the dates (delete-1-tab, delete-2-tab, etc). Took about ten minutes, and I was set.

After printing it off, and saving (of course), I like to color code the days. I color the days of the week cells in each month red. Then, I color all of the important family dates, like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc. in blue. Next comes holidays, colored in green. (Federal holiday Dates can be found here. For other holidays, like Easter, you can go here.) This year, I added sporting events in purple. After all of that, I color in planned breaks (in other words-no school) in orange. Last of all, I color planned school days in yellow. The days that are left in white are fair game. If we get behind on school due to sickness or whatever, we can use those days to make it back up to speed.

A year round schedule works best for us. I like to plan school brakes around birthdays, holidays, etc. Aside of those, I like to have a pattern of three to four weeks on and one week off, more breaks clustered during the summer and winter when we would like them most. Colorado requires 172 days of school per year, so I plan 36 weeks, giving us 8 extra days to wiggle around in. Anyway, below is a picture so you can understand better what I'm talking about. Sorry it's so dark.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finger Stats

Recently, British scientists have discovered that people with a relatively long ring finger are more likely to succeed "in those high-stress financial arenas where fast thinking, good reflexes and good old-fashioned guts matter most".

No, really. They followed 300 stock traders over a 20 month period, tracking their success, then measured their fingers. What they found was that those with a longer ring finger, in comparison to their index finger, were more successful. Their curve was very similar to one comparing success to experience.

So, how is this possible? Apparently, in the womb, a higher exposure to the hormone testosterone causes a longer ring finger. It has also been linked with such traits as "extreme concentration, visual vigilance, strong motor-eye coordination and quick reaction time, alongside extreme confidence and a willingness to engage in substantial risk-taking."

Apparently, people with longer ring fingers will be at an advantage if the go into a profession requiring those traits.

So, how long is your finger?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Trip to the Zoo

My little family took a trip to the denver Zoo a few months ago on a free day. We got there two hours after opening, so it was REALLY crowded. We had to park half a mile away. Good thing I had both my stroller (where we put one kid in the seat and another in the lower basket) and my husband (who carried the third on his shoulders).

Once we got through the gate, we took a left, away from the largest crowds. Really, the hordes of people weren't as bad as I had expected. The kids were able to stand right up against most of the fences and glass, getting the best views possible. The girls were excited to see the giraffes, lions, tigers, camels, elephants, peacocks, and more. Blake, once he was out of the stroller, didn't want to get back in. He was literally climbing the walls to see the animals, and because I hadn't thought to bring his harness, one of us was constantly chasing after him, making sure we didn't loose him.We stopped for lunch and bough some reasonably priced hot dogs (because we had forgotten our lunch in the car), sat down under a tree (the tables were all taken), and watched a gazelle and toucan in the near by pen. Bailey decided that she had walked enough and settled herself in the stroller. Blake danced all over the place while eating his hot dog, and Sierra stared around her in contemplation.

By that time, we had only made it about half way through the Zoo, and we knew that our kids were starting to wind down and get tired. So, we decided to finish the loop that we were on (where we ran into some friends) and end over by the elephants. We didn't get to see the primates or penguins, but that's OK. We were able to make it back to the car before we were grumpy. Besides, it gives us a good reason to go back some time.

All in all, the free days weren't as bad as I had thought they would be. We had fun. We saw lots of stuff. And it only cost us thr price of a few hot dogs and gas to get there. Not too bad, says I.

2009 Free Days

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Sunday, January 11
Monday, February 2
Wednesday, March 18
Sunday, April 19
Sunday, May 31
Wednesday, June 10
Monday, July 13
Wednesday, August 12
Sunday, September 13
Sunday, October 4
Monday, November 2
Sunday, November 22

Free Days are for Colorado residents only. A fee still applies to IMAX films, and Planetarium shows.

Denver Zoo

January 10
January 19
February 14
February 24
October 7
October 25
November 8
November 11

Denver Art Museum

First Saturday of every month

Botanic Gardens

at Chatfield

Fri. January 2
Fri. February 6
Fri. March 6
Fri. April 3
Fri. May 1
Fri. June 5
Fri. August 7
Fri. November 6
Fri. December 4

at Denver

Mon. January 19
Mon. February 16
Mon. March 16
Mon. July 20
Thurs. Aug 20
Sat. September 19
Fri. October 23

Some Days . . .

My daughter and I had a lot of really rough days when we were starting out. Reading was the worst. She would put up mental blocks, telling herself that she couldn’t do the simplest task (such as reading G-E-T when she was already reading words like PLACE). I would get impatient with it, and the whole thing would spiral downwards into a yelling and crying episode (with a toss up as to who was doing which). Eventually, though sheer stubbornness on my side, we worked our way through it.

A year and a half later, Sierra is now reading at a second grade level, though her fluency is a little slow. Problems still occur, but things are much better. Typically, the days go smoothly, and when she does have a mental block, more often then not, we can quickly talk our way through it. Best of all, I can (usually) stay calm during them.

Unfortunately, we still have our days. Right now she’s throwing a tantrum because she refuses to try sounding out the word “feathers”. This isn’t the first time today either. “Years” was also a problem, though once she calmed down, she got it quickly. There was also math, where she mentally blocked the simple addition of 10 plus 15. (She rarely has any trouble adding two digit numbers together.) Right now, I’m writing this to try to keep from exploding. It’s working . . . marginally. To be honest, neither of us is feeling that great, and it doesn’t help that my youngest keeps fussing over little things here and there.

Hah! She just read “feathers” in less then thirty seconds, once she finished her ten minute scream fest. Sigh. To listen to us now, you wouldn’t know that anything happened. We’ll probably have another episode before school is done, but at least it’s calm for now.

Update, one day later: Success!!! No tantrums. No breakdowns. No scream fests. There was a touch of squawking, but that doesn't count, right? I love days like this.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sierra's Reading List

Thought I’d mention the books that my husband has read to Sierra over this past year. He reads to her almost every night after reading short picture books to my other two in preparations for bedtime. Anyway, here’s their list, in descending order, from Sierra’s favorite to least favorite. Enjoy.

Ramona the Brave
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Stewart Little
Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg
Tink, North of Never Land
The Hobbit
The Tales of Despereaux
The Princess and the Goblin
The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
The Trumpet of the Swan
The Book of Three