Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Getting Organized: Dry Erase Boards and Floating Walls

During my homeschool nesting period, right before the new year begins, I pull out all of my resources and discover things that I didn't know I had - like two "How to Draw Manga" books.  I also pulled out the posters I have collected over the years wondering when I'd ever use them?  Then I got an idea.  Create some floating walls with panel board!

I first discovered this DIY hack while researching oversized dry erase boards and realized that the cost was way out of my budget.  Thrifty, creative homeschool moms on Pinterest came to the rescue.  I learned that you can purchase a 4 foot by 8 foot piece of panel board from Home Depot and slice it up to your liking for all under $13 bucks!  We'll be using the slice pictured above for writing and grammar.  This same exercise on a piece of paper is a chore, but on a white board, it's loads of fun.  I don't have the research on why it is so, I just see it happen all the time.  It's light and portable and we can work on the table or the floor because it's not affixed to the wall.

We already have a smaller magnetic dry erase board that we use for All About Spelling.  But if I need to use it for anything else, I have to remove all the tiles, then return them to the board.  That's a drag.  Besides, when I leave the board up and Lionheart happens to be sitting at his desk, he practices spelling words when "school" is not in session.

Back to the posters.  My sons benefit from visuals when we are introducing new concepts.  Since our classroom is in the dining room, there is only so much space. I had literally run out of walls until I decided to use the other pieces of the panel board as floating walls.  If multiplication, geometry and affixes are the topic of the day, I can pull out my posters, clip one at the top and tape another at the bottom.  Now right behind Lionheart's desk is a poster wall.  Perfect for my visual learner! (The maps are also on a floating wall/panel board and the sofa is on the other side.  The dry erase board is visible on the other side so we can use it while sitting on the couch if a creative streak hits).

When the lesson is over, I can easily store the white boards away in the closet.  My wall issues and dry erase board shortages have been solved!  Now I can rotate my posters and utilize a variety of visuals.

When the boards are put away, I can see the bookshelf again.

And the reversible classroom is now ready for dinner.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Marie's Words - SAT Vocabulary Study

"Some may wonder how I have the temerity to use such grandiloquence in my language.  But if you look closely, you will see that rich language is ubiquitous and does not happen in a fortuitous way.  If your words are tenuous don't take umbrage with me because I happen to be a superlative writer." What!?  If you have no idea what these words mean it's time for you to pick up a box of Marie's Words.  I am a word nerd so we are going to have so much fun with these cards.

Marie's Words was created by a high school junior who needed a visual way to study for the SAT.  Brilliant idea! There are 550 word cards chosen from literature and SAT word lists.  On the front of the card is a visual representation of the meaning and on the back is the word, the pronunciation, the definition, synonyms, antonyms and the word used in a sentence. The size of a small flashcard, there are so many fun ways to use these cards to study vocabulary.  I picked 5 random cards and came up with the above paragraph.  This is what KingMan came up with his 5 random word cards:

"Draymond Green flagrantly fouled Kevin Durant. But Durant's fidelity to his team was not fickle and no one can flout that fact. How do I know? Well, I love basketball so much I could write a tome about it."  This exercise was so much fun and required that KingMan understand the meaning of the word and be creative in its usage.  I absolutely love the illustration for the word tome.  That visual!

While I love Vocabulary Cartoons, after the exercise is complete, the only way to review is to go back through the workbook.  Who wants to do that? Marie's Words encourages review in a myriad of ways, which is essential for committing to memory and, more importantly, using new vocabulary. The cards come hole-punched so you can easily slip them on a ring and review the old-fashioned way.  But the 5 word card sentence game was so much fun I plan to use it as a morning warm-up in our homeschool.  We even made a game out of finding the most ridiculous substitute for a simple word like poor: "His entrepreneurial spirit is a safeguard against living a impecunious life."  Marie's Words makes vocabulary study fun!

Though aimed at the middle and high school crowd, Marie's Words could easily be used with a younger child.  I plan to pull out the words with super silly illustrations to study with LionHeart.  He is a right-brain learner and these cards will light up the right side of his brain with the hand-drawn illustrations on the front that attempt to convey the definition of the word and help you retain the meaning more efficiently.  The more creative and zany the drawing, the more it will stick.  LionHeart will get a kick out of the illustration for words like wrath, jocular and hiatus.  The gap in the teeth illustration for hiatus - get it? Funny! He'll never forget that one.

This is one of my favorites.  I'm sure LionHeart will get the meaning of this one right away.  Can you guess?

I also like that words within the words are highlighted whenever possible.  The illustration for tantamount highlighting the word amount is brilliant!  The illustrations for indigent and forbearance are equally clever. I've got all kinds of game ideas and incentives swirling around in my head using these cards.

Marie's Words includes instructions for two games: "Picture Word," and "Wordsmith."  But you can definitely make up your own.  We will play the vocabulary version of the popular card game "Concentration."  We'll start with the pictures face up.  The player will have to choose a card and correctly define it.  If the player is not able to do so, the card is set aside.  The cards that are set aside will be the ones that end up on the ring for further study. At the end of the week, we'll replay the game and put the missed cards back into play.

The only thing I didn't like, and this may be petty, but I'm anal - is that the box that holds the cards is not very sturdy.  It's quite flimsy and mine fell a part.  I'm sure a plastic recipe card hold will serve the purpose, but a Marie's Words box would have been nicer to store the cards.  I also would like to have seen a bit more diversity in the people represented in the illustrations. 

But I know this guy is happy that SAT vocabulary prep will bring loads of family fun.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bring the Magic School Bus Science Home

The Magic School Bus series was one of my favorite ways to introduce science lessons with both of my sons.  It was a science lesson and a real story line.  Unlike educational videos that often only provide information, the Magic School Bus was an adventure to get lost inside of exploring subjects such as decomposition, digestion and microbes, just to name a few.  Imagine bringing the science out of those episodes and books and into your home?

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  • Includes an adult section so that adults with no science background will find the kits easy to use
  • Materials and information necessary for a range of interactive experiments
  • Online Clubhouse for further exploration on each kit topic
  • Certificate of Completion

  • Kit Topics:

    Would your family have fun with this? If so, now’s a great time to sign up:

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    Enjoy your exploration alongside Ms. Frizzle!

    Monday, July 4, 2016

    Summer Reading Incentives

    Each summer we sign up for the summer reading program at our local library.  Our family has participated for more than a decade.  There are nice prizes and our libraries are the absolute best - high tech and high energy.  I still like to spice it up and offer even more incentives.

    $100 for 100 books

    This idea came straight from the Dollar Tree.  I picked up the poster and thought, what a motivator!  We take it light during the summer and video game usage is not restricted to "weekends only" as during the traditional school year.  Offering additional incentives to encourage self-motivated variation in the evening activities seemed liked a great idea! 

    Summer Reading Bingo

    I got this great idea from the Free Homeschool Deals blog.  Visiting the library is a part of what we do as a family.  Our libraries offer lots of fun activities, classes, programs and even chess. Most of the time I choose the books from the library. I will sit down on the floor and slowly go through each book on a shelf to find just the right treasure.  My sons may not go that far, but this activity will encourage them to explore the many genres in the library.  Scholastic also has a summer reading bingo printable that includes fun activities to do while reading.  Successful completion equals a $25 gift certificate to Game Stop from mom.

    The Read the World Summer Book Club

    Reading around the world is something we already do.  Joining a club of readers doing the same thing sounds like fun.  So we are joining the Read the World Summer Book Club with Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool.  Each week the club reading will focus on Africa, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world.  Membership includes free downloadable activity suggestions and a link up party at the end. I've also added a fun incentive.  We will choose a place to have dinner as a family that features the cuisine from one of the places we visit in our readings.

    Teen Summer Reading Incentives

    KingMan has lots of reading to do this summer that is not related to summer reading.  He is studying for his learner's permit, studying for his life guard certification and participating in a summer academic enrichment program.  Still, I want him to do some summer reading too. So I did a quick Google search on the "top" and "must read" list for teens and African American teens. What an exhausting and frustrating search! Slideshows are particularly annoying because you have to click through each one.  A nice list of books with links and descriptions, maybe grouped by categories such as leadership, coming of age, adventure, would have been nice!   So I searched the 50 Books Every Black Teen Should Read, the 15 Books That Should Be On Every Teen's Radar, and a host of other lists.  There were two titles that caught my interest:  Between the World and Me and The Outliers.  I have also created a Pinterest page for this book list. Please add your suggestions to my board. Incentives for teens are quite easy ... a fresh pair of sneakers, an iTunes card, PlayStation currency or a gift card to his favorite store.

    Set A Good Example

    This year our local library has a summer reading program for adults. I read widely and all the time, mostly for information.  I don't read as much for pleasure.  The last book I read for pleasure was No Woman No Cry-My Life With Bob Marley, by Rita Marley. I love biographies.  So my first summer reading choice is the biography of Grace Jones!

    Get creative with your rewards which can range from a trip to a favorite place, a night out at the movies, or a visit to a water parks.  Enjoy your summer reading!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2016

    Mixed by Me Thinking Putty

    I love old-fashioned, "back in the day" toys that have been given a modern day makeover. Think back to when you used to play with Silly Putty.  It was fun; but let's face it, the color was down right bland!  This new take on putty is educational and has a chemistry vibe.  The Mixed By Me Thinking Putty kit includes five tins of clear putty that you can creatively transform into a putty masterpiece.  When I was asked to review this product, I sought out a beautiful and talented vlogger, Sia Sunshine, who just so happens to be a homeschooled tween and my community niece. She and another homeschooled friend are going to show you in detail just how much fun Mixed by Me Thinking Putty can be.  Check it out:

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    Graffiti Art Lessons with Draw Tags

    Graffiti is said to be an American art form that was started by kids and has lasted more than 40 years with no sign of its popularity wavering.  Lionheart has been fascinated by the fat, colorful letters ever since he first began to draw.  When Draw Tags arrived in the mail, he couldn't wait to pop it open.

     I like instructions.  A nice little booklet that explained the materials with suggestions on how to best utilize them would have been nice.  Lionheart needed no such thing.  He opened it up and got right to work.

    I spent a great deal of time trying to peel off what I thought were stickers, but it turns out is a guide for how to color the blank graffiti letters that are in the smaller coloring book that is included.  It also includes 6 train car sheets to practice creating colorful bubble-letters and 3 blank truck sheets.

    Again, clearly my old-fashioned way of thinking about instructions didn't slow down LionHeart one bit. He understood right away that double-ended, felt-tip pens, included with the set and also labeled with numbers, were to be used to replicate the designs in the coloring book.

    Maybe leaving off intrusive instructions was intentional in order to preserve the "joy of creating."  When I visited the website of the makers of the product, I learned Djeco was a French-owned company started by the mother and later taken over by the son.  Their focus is importing unique toys from all over the world and creating those that don't exist.

    Besides, graffit artists don't really need instruction manuals, do they? As a child of the 80s, I understand how graffiti art and Hip Hop music are intertwined. However, when I think of graffiti, I think of New York City, certainly not France.  After a few Google searches, I learned that French were among the first to embrace Hip Hop music.  Who knew.

    It's no wonder that these cardboard versions of New York City storefronts are so authentic.  What I loved most about this Draw Tag kit were the extended learning opportunities and conversations it sparked.  We looked up famous graffiti artists and learned about Jean-Michel Basquiat.  We also re-read one of our favorite picture books about Hip Hop, When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of HipHop.

    Lionheart, a doughnut lover, chose a doughnut shop to decorate with doughnut graffiti art.  There's also a nail shop, a Chinese and an Indian storefront, accurately reflecting the international flavor of NYC.

    This Draw Tag Kit will surely provide many weeks of not only creating, but also studying graffiti.  We'll probably use this timeline as our guide as we tag our way through the history of this art form.

    One thing for sure we'll do is visit the famous Mural Arts Program in the city of Philadelphia, where LionHeart's father was born and raised.  The are more than 3,000 graffiti art murals around the city. You can also find a large concentration of graffiti art and programs in New York, Miami during their annual Basel festival, Los Angeles, Bogota, Colombia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, London, Paris, Montreal and even Berlin