Seventeen years of Treehouse talk
Friday, August 31, 2007
As I posted previously, Crayons is going to be more-or-less following the Miquon First Grade Diary for the first few weeks/months of her grade One math. This past week has been a prep week for the Full Big School Day (and next week will be prep-and-a-half, if you like). One of the subjects we did cover every day was Crayons' math, and this is what we did. She's started calling it "math with Lore" (after Lore Rasmussen, the co-author of the First Grade Diary), since I often pull out the book and say, "This is what Lore did with her class."
So if you have the FGD and want to follow, go ahead.
First day: Lore's class did some free play with the rods. We skipped that. Then she did a demonstration of how her big demonstration Cuisenaire rods corresponded to the students' smaller sets. Obviously we skipped that, especially because (as Crayons demonstrated soon afterwards), she already knows her rods quite well. Lore had the children build "stairs" with the rods (like the picture here), and Crayons did that without any problem. [Oh, I forgot--at this point Crayons decided she also needed to spell her name and her sister's name with rods--which she did, quite well! I gave her a few minutes to do her own "free play" and then suggested we move on.]
Then we did the "half of" exercise that comes next in the book. I asked Crayons what would be wrong if I broke a cookie in "half" and gave her the "little half" and me the "bigger half." We went around with that for a couple of minutes and ended up with her explaining to me that both the halves should be the same size. Aha. So I asked her the book questions: find the rod that is "half of" the purple rod, "half of" the red rod, "half of" the orange rod.
And we examined one of the white rods, which are 1 cm cubes. Kids always like this: you press one face of it into your arm and it makes a square; you press an edge into your arm and it makes a line; you press a corner into your arm and it makes a dot. (Gently!) We figured out that cubes have six faces...that took a few minutes.
Second day: we reviewed what we knew about cubes. The FGD says, "A pile of geometric solids was placed on a table. The children sorted the solids into cubes and non-cubes. They observed that cube has square faces only, while other prisms have combinations of square and non-square faces." Right there we had a bucket of small building blocks, so we dumped them on the floor and Crayons sorted them out into cubes and non-cubes. We looked at the non-cubes and named the shapes of their non-square faces: circles, triangles, rectangles.
Lore then held up numeral cards and the children held up a corresponding number of fingers. That would be an insult for Crayons, so we did something close but harder. She had been given a set of Trend Numbers Match-Me Cards, which have groups of up to 25 objects on them, and either written number words or numerals on the backs. You could easily draw your own on index cards, but we had these handy so I used them. I just pulled them out, showed her some of the groups of objects, and had her count them as fast as she could (encouraging her to count by groups if she could). Then she turned them over to see the numerals or words and check if she was right.
Third Day: Lore played a dice game with her class, which seemed (in her version) like it wouldn't work quite as well with just the two of us. So we played two similar games that worked better for us. First I took two cups, two sets of twenty plastic cm cubes (any small objects like Cheerios would work), and a die. We took turns rolling the die and seeing who could fill up her cup first. Then, just for fun, we played a version of NIM with 21 of the cubes. You had to take turns removing either 1 or 2 cubes from the pile, and the object was to force the other person to take the last cube.
Lore's class also did some tower-building and measuring, but we didn't get around to that.
Fourth Day (Sept. 19 in the FGD): Lore's class played a game of Lotto, using page A-3 from the Orange workbook. Since I still had those Trend cards handy, we played with those instead, and one of the Squirreling siblings showed up and played along with us. There are 2 sets of 26 cards in the box, numbered from 0 to 25; one set has objects on the front and numerals on the back, the other has objects on the front and words on the back, as I explained on Day Two. I sorted them into their two sets and dealt nine cards (3x3), objects up, to each player to make a Bingo card (we say Bingo instead). The extras were put aside. I saved the set with the words on the back and read them out one by one; if you had the right number of objects, you put a counter on that card; three in a row won. We played several rounds, changing the "bingo cards" between rounds just for variety.
We also did Lore's "diagnostic chalkboard session" which she did with a few of her students who seemed to know more about arithmetic than the rest. I just wrote down her addition, subtraction and missing-number questions for Crayons and had her answer them--and she got them all right except that she's still sometimes not sure about what minus signs are.
So that was our math week!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Crayons and I made these last night for a surprise dessert. The idea was from Family Fun, and the impetus was a late-summer pint of strawberries from the farm stand (and the fact that we've had about as much shortcake as even we can eat for awhile). Check out these adorable micies, and use your imagination and whatever's on the shelf to improvise their faces and tails. We used chocolate chips for both the noses and eyes; bits of dried fruit (from a bag of trail mix) for ears; and pieces of chow mein noodle for tails. For fun, we arranged them on a plate around a wedge of cheese (with a "bite" taken out of the side).
We made about a dozen, and served a bowl of the extra berries and sliced-off bits on the side.
(Thanks, Ponytails, for the photos.)
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I took French through high school and into university, and even won a dictionary once in a competition. My grammar isn't bad, although it could use a good review; my accent isn't bad (I think I pronounce French better than a few politicians I've heard); but I'll be the first to admit I am nowhere near bilingual. I can browse through Lettres de mon moulin without looking up too many words (hey, I even figured out what a chèvre was just by thinking about cheese), but French commercials throw me completely.
Still, somehow The Apprentice managed--either under her own power or because of her marvellous French tutor, moi--not only to succeed in first-year high school French but to elicit a question from her teacher as to whether she'd been enrolled in French Immersion. (Choke, sputter.) So I guess whatever we did wasn't that bad.
Um--what did we do?
Well, starting from the end...she had been doing an older version of Powerglide, mostly on her own...we had gone through one beginning grammar textbook, although I was doubtful about whether she'd retained much...she had read some Snoopy cartoons and some of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in French...she memorized one of the Fables de la Fontaine...we had sung quite a few folk songs and church choruses, read quite a few French easy-reader books (I sometimes made up my own Ruth Beechick-style lessons to go with those)...we had gone through some of the old grade one Aux Yeux curriculum I have (which I'm still going to post about later, since Crayons will be using it this year)...used several little tape sets from the public library...read some of an online story about Christians in Romania...made a poster showing Arthur the aardvark and his different feelings (Arthur says J'ai mal (I feel sick), J'ai faim (I'm hungry) and so on)...used a couple of Usborne-type illustrated French/English word books...used an old workbook about learning French with a kangaroo...did some copywork...used some online fun French sites that aren't around anymore. Occasionally even watched T.V. Oh, and one year when she was six she did "J'étudie avec Mimi" with a group, although I don't think she learned a whole lot from that.
Mainly, I think, we just kept working at it...never too heavy on the grammar, she picked more of that up this year at school.
This past year with Ponytails, I mostly used one of two storybooks we have that were written in English and translated into French--100 contes familiers des bonnes soirées, and 100 contes familiers des jours heureux. Bedtime stories and happy-day stories. OK, they don't sound too challenging, but that's the whole idea: they're just one-or-two-page stories about this and that: birds who try to paint their feathers different colours, children who go to the zoo and get their lollipops eaten by a hungry elephant, a stuffed dog that gets lost, and so on. Not great literature, but great for vocabulary and hearing how sentences get put together. We're going to continue with the other book this year. What do we do with them? Sometimes I pre-teach a bit of vocabulary, especially if it's really important to the story. Then I read; sometimes I use toys or pictures to help show what's going on. I try not to translate into English if I can help it; I want her to understand the word in French, not just translate it.
I usually have Ponytails narrate, but not always in French. Usually I ask her to tell what happened in English but encourage her to use any French words she can remember.
Sometimes I'll make up a phonics lesson to go with the story; for example, if there are several words in the story that have the vowel sound used in "le" and "de," I'll list them and we'll practice reading them; then when I read the story again I'll point out those words or have her read them too. Sometimes, if we extend the story over a few days, I'll make up a worksheet--usually it's a page divided into about six empty boxes, each box with a word or phrase at the top, and she illustrates each box. I might also just give her the empty boxes and have her copy the words in herself before she draws the picture.
Sometimes I copy out some of the story, cut up the sentences, and we make new sentences.
Or I might ask her questions, have her point to things in the room or in an illustration. Where is...show me...touch something that is....
And we sing too. This year I'm figuring on one folk song and one Christian song per month. If we can find tapes or CDs to go with the songs, I like to use those because sometimes (even for me) the phrasing on a song is a little tricky, and we might as well learn to sing them "right." Even though, just as in English, there are many different versions of some songs--so the CD might not always match up with our book. But we've usually worked it out.
Oh--and the other thing I have to look into is the free-with-library-card version of Rosetta Stone. We have an old demo CD of Rosetta Stone, so I know how it works, but I would like to see how well the free version works. In my mind that would be a great program to alternate with the Mom-lessons.
I have the stories and songs figured out through March--not exactly what we're going to do with each one, but the general idea. After March I'm not sure, because early in April we have a local conference here and I might look at investing in a commercial program that I can use with both Crayons and Ponytails, starting in the spring. I like the sound of the one that Coffeemamma has been using. But until then we're going to do our "chez nous" version.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
And it all turned out just fine--I think stuffed shells are even tastier sometimes than lasagna. If I'd had some parsley (still out of that), it would have tasted even better mixed with the ricotta cheese; what I did add (to one batch of cheese) was some salt, Parmesan cheese, and a beaten egg; also a bit of store cottage cheese because I had gotten the ricotta a bit dry and I thought it needed a bit of moistening. I cooked the shells (20 shells served us along with a salad) until they were flexible but not mushy, stuffed them, and put them on top of a layer of sauce, in a greased casserole. I covered them with some shredded cheese (sharp, uncoloured Cheddar, but Mozzarella would have been fine if we'd had some) and most of the rest of the sauce recipe--it made a bit more sauce than I wanted for the pasta so I just kept the rest.
And I baked the whole thing with the lid on for about half an hour. I sprinkled a bit of Parmesan on when it came out of the oven.
Thank you, Miss Maggie--couldn't have done it without you!
I can't comment much on the third one, Discovering the Heavens--but I am very impressed with the other two: Discovering Spiders, Snails, and Other Creepy Crawlies; and Discovering Insects: Ants, Flies, Crickets... There's enough in each of these to keep elementary-age naturalists busy for quite a long time--if they can find samples of the required critters to do the experiments with. (Sample activity: snail race.) There's also quite a bit of vocabulary worked in fairly painlessly. I like the fact (although kids might not care) that the critters in question are divided up by groups: under Annelids, we get to study earthworms; under Molluscs, we look at slugs and snails; under Arthropods, we get Arachnids (spiders), Myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), and Crustaceans (sowbugs).
These look like a great resource, and they're also a good reminder that subjects for nature study can be as close as your own backyard.
(Update, December 2010: Thanks to Ann at A Holy Experience for continuing to post the nature calendars on her blog--and welcome to visitors coming from HE!]
For all the would-be Miss Stacys out there...
I bought a book this spring from someone in our local homeschool group, and it turned out to be such a treasure for anyone doing nature study that I have to tell you about it. The only problem might be getting a copy: there are only seven right now on Abebooks, so it seems a bit scarce. But once you know it's out there, you might find some other copies floating around, especially if you're in Canada.
The book is Natural Science Through the Seasons: 100 Teaching Units, by J.A. (James Arthur) Partridge. It was published by MacMillan in 1946 and 1955 as a year-long teacher's resource. Each month has a variety of activities that might be suited to what's growing or hatching during that time (at least in Ontario). Each month has a sample day-by-day calendar with natural things to look for that you can build up "on your blackboard" (or on a regular calendar, for homeschoolers). Each unit has suggested activities, divided into those that are especially suitable for younger and older grades. There are experiments, questions, little verses to learn (or maybe to use for copywork), charts for identifying evergreens, and more things to draw on the blackboard.
And then each one also has a reading list, including suitable pages from Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study; books such as Parker's Golden Treasury of Natural History and Dorothy Shuttlesworth's Exploring Nature with Your Child; and books by other authors whose books are still available: the D'Aulaires, Milicent Selsam, and Roger Tory Peterson. How cool is that?
Keep your eyes open! (The book has a green spine with red printing, it's 9 x 6 inches, and it's over 500 pages long.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
This is what we did with them. It's a recipe I clipped from Vegetarian Times a long time ago and adapted tonight to use what we had. (This is the adapted version.)
About 10 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste (and some cayenne pepper if you like; I don't)
1 tsp. each dried oregano and basil
(The original recipe called for frozen peas and a chopped green pepper in addition to the other vegetables, as well as fresh garlic. Since I had finished all the garlic, I used a bit of garlic powder with the other seasonings.)
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water, for about 8 minutes, depending on how small you cut them. Add in the chopped broccoli and cook for a couple minutes more, until the potatoes are done. Drain them well in a colander.
A few minutes before you're ready to eat, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the chopped pepper (and garlic, if using) and cook for a couple of minutes before adding all the other ingredients. (Pick out any stray bits of potato skin.) Cook for several minutes, stirring gently (you are not trying to mash the potatoes).
If you need to wait a few minutes for supper, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan until you're ready to eat.
I needed something to go along with this and didn't have any small protein-type things handy; but I did have a bag of pre-cooked wieners in the freezer (that is, the last wiener left in the pan, multiplied several times--we just store the leftover ones in a freezer bag for snacks or hot dog famines). I pulled them out, drizzled them with barbecue sauce, and baked them in a covered casserole for about half an hour. So much for our healthy dinner, I guess; but the flavour seemed to go well with the potato mixture.
Dessert was Fruit Crisp (yes! it was cool enough to use the big oven today!). We had bought--very rare occasion--some mixed frozen fruit when it was on sale at Price Chopper. I poured about half the bag of mixed berries into a small pan and added several stalks of chopped rhubarb. Actually I should have chopped the rhubarb smaller because it came out with a bit of crunch left, but we like it that way anyway. (One Squirreling did ask why I put celery in the dessert...)
Anyway--one other experiment here. In the Tightwad Gazette there's a mention of using baking soda in fruit crisps and other desserts so that you can cut back on the sugar. Well, a lot of times I don't add sugar anyway except in the crumble part, but I figured I should add some today because of the rhubarb. So I tried 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp. baking soda along with the fruit, and then added our regular crumble topping. I baked the dessert along with the wieners, and there were no complaints.
Check it out--lots of ideas!
Saturday, August 18, 2007
We had a fun Saturday morning shopping around.
First stop was an estate sale with a lot of vintage books; the late owner of the house had been a French teacher and her collection went way back, maybe to her own school days. I picked up a few books just for interest, mostly vintage school editions:
Corneille: Le Cid (Hachette's French Classics)
Beaumarchais: Le Barbier de Seville
Daudet: Lettres de mon Moulin (Siepmann's French Texts)
Les 100 Plus Belles Chansons (a school songbook from the 1940's)
Notre Histoire, by Brown, Harman, and Jeanneret, translated by Charles Bilodeau. This is a real treasure: a French translation of George Brown's Story of Canada, which is an out-of-print textbook that some Canadian CM homeschoolers like to use. (Ponytails will be using our copy this year.) I didn't know a French version existed (I can find no mention of it online), and I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with it. I know a couple of bilingual CM mammas who might like to have it.
There were some books in English, too:
The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott
An Everyman's Library book of Modern Plays
The Little Minister, by J.M. Barrie
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
Mr. Fixit took away a few records, too.
Second stop was a rent-a-table sale at the community centre. I found a small dolly for Crayons and a few somewhat tattered Scholastic paperbacks for a quarter apiece to add to our collection: Just Plain Maggie, Ghost Town Treasure, Snowbound in Hidden Valley, and Vicki and the Black Horse.
And a couple of the Squirrelings found earrings.
The community centre sale had a snacks table, but we weren't up for pop and hot dogs at 10:30 in the morning. So we all got back in the 2000 Rav4 (yeah, that's what we're driving right now) and drove to a cafe we had been wanting to try out that opens and closes at weird hours and keeps being closed every time we go there. This morning it was open. Grandpa Squirrel (that's Mr. Fixit's Dad Squirrel, not my map-collecting Dad Squirrel) was in the neighbourhood so he joined us for some coffee, juice and homemade strudel.
Last stop of the morning was Giant Tiger, which sounds like a funny place to pick up groceries, but we only needed bread, milk and a few boxes and cans, and we were planning a trip to the farm stand later to pick up the fresh stuff.
So...phew. That was our Saturday morning. How about yours?
Friday, August 17, 2007
Well, even my dad's boxes have gotten a little full from time to time, and he's often passed some of his treasures on to us. That would include a whole stack of National Geographic maps, the kind that come folded up inside the magazines. Only these are mostly from the 1950's.
Um--pretty useless, right? Unless you're actually studying the geography of the 1950's?
No! We've used that stack a lot and have plans to continue using them this school year. For instance, there's a map of the "United States, Washington to Boston" from the August 1962 issue. For our purposes, we don't care if new interstate highways have been built or some names of towns have changed: at least the states were still in the same places, last time I looked, and the rivers and the oceans were the same. We're not aiming to drive there, just wanting to get a look at where some of the places we're reading about are in relation to us.
Even better is "Historical United States" from June 1953. This one has little notes and symbols all over, showing where the battles took place, where "Benedict Arnold crossed from Kennebec to Chaudiere waters enroute to Quebec", and where "Henry Hudson ascended river to site of Albany." There's also "A Map of New England, with Descriptive Notes" (June 1955).
For Plutarch and mythology we have "Greece and the Aegean," December 1958. For Paddle-to-the-Sea we have a map of Ontario from December 1978. (The Great Lakes haven't moved either.) We also have "British Isles" from July 1958 and "Shakespeare's Britain" (May 1964).
The best thing about these maps? No, not that they were free; that they're big! You can unfold them all over the floor or stick them up on the wall. Occasionally (since we've had several maps of the U.S. given to us) we've even traced a route or marked places on them. (We used one to move a little paper Minn of the Missisippi all the way down the river.) This beats little Internet printouts hands down.
Now I don't know if you're going to be able to track down any of these maps, unless you have an absolute National Geographic fanatic around. (Hope for a forgotten closet with shelves threatening to collapse from the weight of gold-coloured covers.) The trouble is, even if you get your old NGs cheap at thrift shops, the maps are usually not with the magazines anymore. But SOMEBODY took them out, right? So maybe SOMEBODY hung on to them--just in case--and maybe SOMEBODY would let you at some of their stash, if you ask nicely.
Oh--and a postscript about old NG magazines. They're not just for cutting out pictures of Masai warriors anymore. If somebody offers you some, check carefully for offbeat and literary-type articles; and then store them somewhere where you'll remember to use them. Our copy of Timothy Severin's The Brendan Voyage shares the shelf with the NG from December 1977, which had an article promoting the book (including a two-page diagram of Severin's boat). (We also have another of his articles, "In the Wake of Sindbad," July 1982). We have "A Walk Across America," April 1977--stored with the book of the same name (and the photos in the magazine are way clearer than those in our paperback book). We have treasured articles about Dickens' England, life in Jerusalem, Willa Cather's country, and Viking ships--stored with books on those topics. Of course we can find those subjects online too--but why pass the real thing by?
Keep your eyes open--you might literally strike gold.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
So we settled for regular-sized doughnuts--since they were a bit low even on the regular ones, we had a couple of sour-cream and a couple of old-fashioned. Crayons took the one she was given, bit into it, and looked surprised. She said, "This kind tastes like a doughnut!"
Lack of comprehension on Mama Squirrel's part for a minute...then the light went on.
Crayons is six years old and she doesn't remember ever tasting any doughnuts other than little Timbits, since that's what we always get on Tim's stops (unless maybe it's muffins). She always thought those big round things with holes in the middle were fancy bagels.
Her appalling lack of junk food awareness has now been rectified.
Friday, August 03, 2007
1. To beat the heat, do you like to swim in the pool or run in the sprinkler, or go in the Jacuzzi?
2. To beat the heat, do you like to have ice cream or tea?
3. To beat the heat, do you like to take a nap, or do you like to run around all over on your bike?
4. To beat the heat, do you like to go to Mexico or to Antarctica?
5. To beat the heat, do you like to sit in the lawn chair and read a book, or do you like to sit in the lawn chair and eat a snack?
Please leave a comment if you would like to have another quiz by me. Moi.
The last week of August and the first week of September are going to be our prep-for-school weeks. We're going to get started with a few warmup things before the first term actually kicks in: practicing some easy sewing stitches before we start learning how to applique; reading an easy biography of Benjamin Franklin before sending Ponytails off to sink or swim with Poor Richard; getting used to the new copywork pages and Calculadder drills (something they've never done before); baking Alphabet Cookies and playing some spelling games. And we'll end it off by going to Marineland with our homeschool group. (I don't know if the Squirrelings will feel as happy about watching the trained whales jumping around, after watching both Free Willy and Free Willy II recently, but they still want to go.)
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Yesterday I made up a panful of meatloaf mixture--just a regular Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe that we like. (Ground beef, egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce, sage, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oatmeal for thickening.) Mr. Fixit added some cheese and barbecue sauce to the top, covered the loaf pan with foil, and let it wait in the fridge. Partway through the afternoon, the Apprentice lit the charcoal, and when Mr. Fixit got home soon afterwards he put the meatloaf on a small metal pan (we have several mini cookie sheets that came in now-defunct toaster ovens), and let it cook for an hour and a half over the indirect heat of the coals. He figures that our barbecue gives a steady heat of about 300 degrees, so a meatloaf that usually takes an hour at 350 degrees in the regular oven would take about an hour and a half.
To go with it, we had instant whole-wheat couscous--you put a cupful of grain in a serving bowl, cover with an equal amount of boiling water, and let it sit tightly covered for a few minutes. Fluff with a fork and there you go. (For those in Canada: President's Choice sells whole-wheat couscous.)
I also made a salad that was literally cleaning-out-the-crisper, because our lettuce (like Meredith's) has become uneatable, and we didn't have a whole lot of other fresh things left. So I mixed half a can of lentils (rinsed and drained), half a zucchini cut thin in semi-circles, and several stalks of sliced celery. I stirred the whole thing into our usual bean-salad dressing: 1/4 cup each of oil and vinegar, 2 teaspoons of honey, and some salt and pepper. We like this kind of salad best while the vegetables are still crisp, not limp from the dressing, but suit yourself.
Our dessert was kind of odds and ends: we had lots of clementines, which seemed to go well with the couscous-lentil Middle Eastern thing, and a package of wafer cookies. But anything cold would be good too! Or you could try the microwave cake that I sent to the recipe carnival last week.