Monday, August 29, 2011

Marble Mania

It has been Marble Madness week over here.  Merrick has been crazy about marbles for some time now. Since I gave him an extra bag of marbles for his first day of school,  I've had to come up with some ways to actually play with them.

This first project we got from Paris Bourke.  You can find the printable here.  I simply printed off the pattern, colored it with Merrick, then glued it to a shoebox.

This pic here says it all.  

The only problem with this game is that his little brother wanted to join in...and steal all the marbles.  

Here is a {homemade} worksheet we did during our "All About Me" week:

On each marble, there is a word or sentence describing why Merrick is special.  More on this when I post about our All About Me unit.

Merrick has gone on and on lately about wanting to have a funnel for his marble run.  Two days ago, it just hit me: cut off the top of the finished milk jug, and there you go!  Merrick was thrilled.  He was in awe.  He actually said to me, "Mommy, this is the best toy ever."  The top of a milk jug!

This last project was a fun one.  Merrick is saving his money to buy a real fancy marble run (he does chores or "work" around the house to make money).  In the meantime, I thought it would be nice to make a low budget version.  We got our inspiration here. 

Here's how you can make your own marble run:

- a piece of cardboard (I cut the side off a used box)
- hot glue gun and a few extra glue sticks

- jumbo craft sticks
Our Total Cost: $3 (for the craft sticks)

Cut the ends off some of the sticks.  I cut up about 3 - 4 of each color.

Begin to lay out the sticks and formulate a design.

This was a great lesson in critical and creative thinking.  Merrick couldn't just lay the craft sticks anywhere.  He had to think through where the marble would go and how he could best use the space.

After you finish your design, glue the sticks in place.  This is definitely an adult job as one can easily burn oneself with the glue gun (I may or may not be admitting to burning myself several times during this process).

This was our first finished project (below).  After a few test runs, we decided to add some stick borders so that the marbles wouldn't bounce off.  We also found it worked best if it was leaned against the wall a bit.  We also ended up adding a few gadgets, like toilet paper rolls with holes in them, to add some interest.

Here's a video of Merrick enjoying his homemade marble run.  If you watch it, stick through it til the end.  The last few seconds are the cutest.  :)

Let me know if you have any marble games you'd like to share.  We'd love to hear them!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Real Life Homeschooling + Puffy Paint Recipe

Today was a lesson in flexible homeschooling.

Last minute, we had to make a doctor's appointment for Scoutie Girl.  As this was only our third day homeschooling, I had no idea how this was going to work with our school schedule.  In order not to lose time, I loaded (and I mean loaded!) my purse with crayons and toys and worksheets and headed out the door.  

While we waited to be called in to see the doctor, I attempted to teach the children their Bible lesson.  Though the other lady in the waiting room probably learned something new about Cain and Abel, I'm not sure it was too effective with the children.  The distractions of the waiting room were just too tempting for the twins.  There was just too many new people to whom they needed to give knuckle bumps.

Like how Merrick just kicks off his shoes and makes himself at home in the waiting room?  :)

Once we got home, we finished our Bible lesson.  I really like this lesson.  By reading through the story of Cain and Abel, we were able to learn a lot about anger and how to deal with anger in a righteous and healthy way.  And, we got to make these cool little altars (below).  As always, we used the bible curriculum here.  

Later in the day, while the twins were still down for their nap, we attempted a new handwriting activity.  Handwriting has been the biggest challenge for Merrick.  Just last night, after doing some reading on, I realized that Merrick is approaching handwriting the same way he would drawing.  Instead, I need to teach him that every letter is made of of either a straight or curved line (a "stick" or "ball" letter).  

Since I don't want him to get bored with handwriting worksheet after handwriting worksheet, I'm trying to throw in different handwriting fun activities as well.  Today, we went with Puffy Paint.  Truthfully, this was kind of a bust in regards to actual handwriting practice.  However, it was fun for the kids.  Sweet Scout didn't want to stop!

Here's the recipe (repeat for each color):

1TBP self rising flour
1 TBP salt
few drops of food color

Just mix the ingredients together with enough water to either make a paste or paint consistency.  Use q-tips to "paint" on cardboard.  Afterward, zap the painting in the microwave for 10 - 30 seconds depending on how thick the design is.  Start off with 10 seconds, then zap it longer if needed.  We used an old stroller snack tray to keep the three colors separate.  

Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why I Homeschool - Reasons 19 & 20

Reason #19: Because a handwriting lesson turns into making funny play-doh faces.  

the double chin is made of play-doh too, just a different kind of dough...  :)

Do I look smarter with glasses?!?

Reason #20: I get to see my son make faces like this when he figures out the answer to 5 + 10.
(I asked him to reenact the face for the camera because it was just so cute.)

"Oh, yeah!!!"

And, on a side note, we started getting dressed for our first official homeschooling trip to the library when it became clear that the battery in my car was completely dead.  Bummer.  Though I was a bit disappointed to be stuck in the house, my good friend Jillian was there and came to the rescue (love you, Jill!).  I popped in the 30 Day Shred video I had just gotten in the mail and the kids were able to burn off some of that extra energy.  

The good thing about the video is that Jillian gives modifications to each exercise to help make it easier for beginners.  The unfortunate thing, however, is that there is no modification on how to do each exercise while a 34 pound toddler is attached to you and refuses to be detached.  I watched most of time (holding Sawyer) as Merrick completed the entire 20 minute workout.  After he finished Level One, Merrick insisted on moving on to Level Two.  Can you believe that craziness?!?  

It's been a great Day #2 of homeschooling.  We are definitely having challenges in the handwriting department, and that can be very frustrating for me.  It is easy for me to lose my patience with Merrick when he loses focus or doesn't complete a task the first time (or second or third) I ask him.  There is definitely some learning and growing to do for both of us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of Homeschool!

It's our first day of homeschool!  This is an incredibly big day for our family.  I began opening my heart to the idea of homeschooling when Merrick was 16 months old.  Now, here it is, more than three and a half years later...the FIRST OFFICIAL DAY!

I had to get Merrick a present.  Had to.  He got just a few, inexpensive, little things like marbles and army men.  I also put in the bag of Skittles that we would use for our math activity later in the day.

For breakfast, we fried up Paula Deen's biscuit donuts with cinnamon and sugar.  NOT a good idea, really.  But, I was in one of those "I will give you any thing you want to make today special" moods.  I didn't have a donut hole cutter, so I used my smallest heart cutter and we ended up with little donut hearts instead of holes.  So sweet.  ;)  And very worth the burn I sustained on my left wrist.

Then, of course, we had to get dressed and get outside for some crazy "first day" photos.  I'll spare you thousands of pictures of Merrick crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue.  That's a whole 'nutter post. 

Side note, I made little signs like this for Pre-school through 12th grade.  I'll post those soon.

Then, miracle of all miracles...all three of my children sat for 2 seconds in the same general area all facing the camera (couldn't get everyone looking, of course...that would be TOO good).

Had to take a pic with my new Kindergartener.  Again, I'll spare you all the pics of him licking my face, etc.  I'm so grateful I didn't have to say good-bye to him after taking this picture.  I would have totally been one of those loud, ugly sobbers standing in the classroom doorway in public school that the teacher had to beg to leave.

After I took about a hundred and fifty pics, we went upstairs to the school room for our first Bible lesson.    I was AMAZED when I pulled out the coloring sheets.  All three of them grabbed a chair and sat down to color.  I read through Genesis 1 - 2:2 while they colored.  I used the curriculum here.  

Even sweet Sawyer said, "co-wawls!" when he saw what we were doing.  I had no idea my little man liked coloring so much.  

Next, we went over to the "Circle Time" area to talk through the day, month, year, season, and daily schedule.  When I encouraged the kids to sit in a circle, Merrick was the only one who stopped coloring and sat down.  He was throughly confused at to why we were calling it a circle when there was only two of us.  We resolved to call it "Line Time" or call him a "Dot" instead.

At "Line Time,"  we started with a prayer.  Merrick's prayer just melted my heart.  I can't remember his exact words (though I was trying so hard to while he was praying...I sat there wishing for a tape recorder...or some fancy iPhone app), but he said something like, "Thank you God that Mommy is my teacher.  Thank you that I can color my picture for the Bible story later.  Thank you that Scout and Sawyer can be with us.  Help me to learn a lot."  Pure awesomeness.

After "Line Time," we layed on Merrick's bed and had a reading lesson from Teach Your Child to Read in 100EZ lessons.  Merrick is on lesson 82!  Then, we went back to the table and did about 10 minutes of phonics with Explode the Code.  Merrick worked on circling the correct answer counter-clockwise, which was a change for him.

After phonics, we broke out the play-doh!  Using Handwriting Without Tears and the Mat Man, we learned how to write the letter L from top to bottom and left to right.

Naturally, we had to play with the playdoh.  I used my tub to make an ancient Japanese T-Rex.  Merrick made the world.  Why do kids have to mix the colors?!?  Ugh...

Although this all may seem like a lot, it felt like it was going by really quickly.  Our last activity before lunch was handwriting practice.  Merrick did a full practice sheet of L's.  For every sheet he completes, he gets a sticker.  For every 10 stickers, he gets to grab a toy from the treasure box (very motivating!).  After the practice sheet, we worked on writing his name.

Wow.  I am just now noticing the Sawyer was drawing on the table as I was taking this picture (below)!

Here's what Merrick came up with for the name sheet:

I was pretty impressed with the picture he drew of himself.  It's him flexing his muscles.  The first muscle on the left that he drew was "too small."  He erased it and drew himself a bigger one.  :)  What a man.

This all took from about 9 - 11:15pmish.  Then, there was free time until lunch (yeah...that means free time for Mommy too!).

After lunch, the twins took a nap while Merrick and I finished our last activity: Skittle Math.  We opened his package of Skittles and (after eating a few, of course) sorted them according to their color.  I got the free printable here.  Then, we colored in the graph...which took toooooo long.  We ended up only answering 2 questions on the math sheet and left the rest for tomorrow.  Mommy was done for the day.

Soooo...what were the twins doing during all this school stuff you ask?  Well, Sawyer checked his email, they played together, did puzzles, made messes...  It was a challenge at times, but it was manageable.  Thank you, Lord!

And, doesn't my little Princess look so pretty today?  Even with her Mommy haircut?

What an incredible, special day.  I'll leave you now with a little video Merrick and I made to document our day:

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