Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our Homeschooling is Always Improving

I recently found and loved the guidelines set in The Well-Trained Mind. It goes along with TJED so well, but I needed a more rigid idea of what needs to be done for my kids but with the classical mentality that I love and feel strongly about. I've been ordering some of the books suggested.

In addition I have a friend, a mentor, who owns hundreds of Classic children's books I had NEVER even heard of! I thought I had at least a mediocre idea of children's literature. I found that I am but a babe, a child myself in this wide world of classical children's literature. I spent two separate days copying all of the book titles in her many bookshelves. I still have another day or two to go to finish. I have hundreds of books on my list to get. When I have some extra time I will be sharing this list. She then took me to the numerous used book stores and helped me pick out additional titles of children's classics to get, many for $1 or less.

Two of those books are from the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series of which there are four, I believe. We begun reading the first one aloud. I highly recommend this book! It is an easy to read aloud book meaning it is easy to imitate the characters and it is enjoyable. My five year old and up absolutely love this book and beg me to read just another chapter. Even my husband laughs with the kids during some of these funny adventures. We have read almost half of the book in three separate sittings, so it is also a quick read. I am so glad we found this series!

M, my almost eight year old daughter, is listening to the CD that is the audio companion to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. She loves it and the songs that go with it. I love hearing the younger children repeating all the alphabet sounds too.

Hope your homeschooling life is going as well!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Classical Music: Johann Strauss

Johann Strauss II (October 25, 1825 – June 3, 1899; German: Johann Baptist Strauß; Johann Straussalso known as Johann Baptist Strauss, Johann Strauss, Jr., or Johann Strauss the Younger) was an Austrian composer famous for having written over 500 waltzes, polkas, marches, and galops. He was the son of the composer Johann Strauss I, and brother of composers Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss. He is also the most famous member of the Strauss family. He was known in his lifetime as "The Waltz King", and was largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century. He revolutionized the waltz, elevating it from a lowly peasant dance to entertainment fit for the royal Habsburg court.

I recently purchased "Johann Strauss Jr Most Famous Waltzes". What a beautiful compilation of his works. It contains over and hour's worth of music that is invigorating and makes you want to dance.

We listened to it again last night while I was cooking dinner. The younger girls were so inspired that they all dressed up in their ballerina outfits, tutus and all and danced around the house. We love all of his music. Our absolute favorites are:

"Tales from the Vienna Woods"
"Roses from the South Op. 388"
"Fruehlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring)"

May I also say he was quite a LOOKER! ;)

Listen to it, I promise you'll love it!!! Johann Strauss was a genius of a musician!

*Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Strauss_II

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Library Subjects List

These suggestions came from the book "The Well Trained Mind". I loved them so much I decided to implement them in our homeschool library trips:

Each child picks out one book in each of the following subjects:

*One science book
*One history book
*One art or music appreciation book
*One practical book (i.e. hobby, craft or "how-to")
*One biography or autobiography book
*One classic novel
*An imaginative story book
*One book of poetry

The kids can pick out any title, but they have to have something in each category. Each child has a week to read each book before they go back again the next week.

Behavior Modifications and Sensory Diets

I'm intending for this post to be "educational" and hope to give you a good laugh at my expense.

Last week I reclaimed our school room. I scored some desks off of Freecycle, we had cleaned and decluttered and I was motivated to make our school room a fun, inviting place that the kids would WANT to be in. Bonus for me: all the desks match. Yay!

I've also been reading a lot lately on Autism and three things stood out to me. Behavior modification, sensory satisfaction and structure. So, armed with this grand new information and my imagination, I sat down to several projects last week. I'm passing them on for any of you to use if you think it might be helpful.

First up was our Behavior Modification. Who doesn't like a reward for good behavior or a job well done? I started a token economy. I used some pennies, an envelope decorated in stickers and a spinner. This is how we set ours up.

10 pennies for each kid
1 8 space spinner (you could make one out of cardstock and a brad, or I bought a pack of them for a dollar at Walmart)

The rules were that they had to earn 5 pennies for a break and 10 pennies for a big reward.

1 penny = assignment completed.
2 penny = if the assignment was completed inependently
5 penny = 10 minute break. Use the spinner.
7 penny = small treat (like M&M or animal crackers)
10 penny = 30 minutes computer time, outside play, art project (like painting, playdough)

For the spinner at the 5 penny mark (if needed, you can revert to the spinner if you need chores done, or more school work, or a big, unusual job).
1. 15 minutes educational game on computer
2. Sensory box (tell you about that in a minute)
3. Listen to MP3 player
4. Play a board or card game (Memory, Clotheline, Go Fish)
5. Coloring book
6. Free Play
7. Snack
8. Play outside or free play if inclimate weather

Tokens were paid for 5 and 10 penny activities. 1 token was also paid for crying, physical contact, and frustration violence (hitting table, tearing up paper, kicking furniture).

Now, for the Sensory Diet. Ugh. Ok, maybe this would have worked with some better quality balloons and may I suggest you allow this activity only with supervision like a hawk.

First, I made a sensory box. This is kind of like the I Spy bottles and pillows you see, only they get to use their hands to rake through the contents. I used a medium size plastic drawer, so when we were done, it goes up and away and the little kids actually do not know where I've hid it.

1 bag uncooked rice
1 bag uncooked each red beans, black beans and split peas
Small, blunt objects laying around the house. I used a marble, flat ended screw, coins, bottle nipple, erasers, paper clips, baby spoon, colored popscicle sticks, dice, small car. Anything you can think of to put in there and can be buried by the rice and beans.

I let them comb through it with their hands. I had to watchful of the 4 years and under set because they had a tendency to throw it up in the air and fill their pockets and try to bury their arms in the box.

Next on the list for the Sensory Diet were stress balls. I read this idea and thought WOW! What a great idea. Ok, not so much anymore. I know the purpose these should be for, but like I said, I think I needed better quality ballons.

Quality balloons (probably not something you would get from a Dollar Store)
Corn Syrup
Empty, dry soda bottle
A partner

1. Using your funnel, fill up your soda bottle with about a cup and a half of your desired ingredient.
2. Blow up your balloon. Have your partner pinch the base of the balloon to keep air in while you stretch the opening over the soda bottle's spout.
3. Pour the ingredients into the balloon. Some, like the corn syrup, will flow automatically, but you will have to tilt the bottle so you get some air flow/resistance that allows the ingredient to transfer to the balloon.
4. Remove the balloon carefully from the bottle.
5. Allow the air to slowly leave the balloon and tie it off.

Lessons learned:
First, do not think that funnel will somehow be a good idea using it just with the balloon. Things did not enter a deflated balloon easily, so when I thought I would blow it up and stick the funnel full of cornstarch into the balloon, I didn't account for air leaving the balloon and blowing corn starch all over my kitchen. Or the rice having to be prodded and pulled into the balloon 3 bits at a time. Or the corn syrup oozing out over the balloon because my funnel was cracked and the balloon didn't stretch out (did that 2 times before learning my lesson). Or that sugar is slightly heavier than the funnel it was in and made a huge mess when I fumbled the balloon and funnel together when my fingers and wrists cramped up and dumped sugar all over myself and the floor. Or that once I figured out the best way to get the stuff into the balloon was with the soda bottle and a partner, not to let the air out of the balloon too quickly, or once again, flour was blown all over the kitchen. Also, water and corn syrup do not mix. They separated in the balloon. I found this out after I thought that if I added water to the balloon, like you would if you were filling a water balloon, the cold water separated the syrup and it was heavy on the bottom and squishy on the top.

Lessons learned after the kids got a hold of the stress balls.
Do not let the kid that LOVES the bumpy texture of the rice ball sleep with it. He woke up in a pile of rice.
Do not let them leave the house with the corn syrup filled stress ball because one they throw it at someone or something, it will probably pop and make a huge, sticky mess.
Do not let them take their rice filled stress ball into the tub with them.
Do not let husbands play with the flour filled balloons because the balloons are too delicate for the kind of strength that a husband would use to release their stress with. Be prepared for flour to explode all over your dark green couch.
Teach your children what the balloons are for: they are NOT for target practice, dodge ball, catch, chewing on, or poking with pencils, scissors, nail clippers or toothpicks.

So, there you go. A fun filled day of stress balls, boxes filled with a potential recipe for disaster, and spinners to reward good behavior. Two of the things are working for us anyway, but I think I'm staying far away from the stress balls for now.