Sunday, July 27, 2008

Using that vocab-game 2, week 4

Who's up for another round?

In case we've got any new players, the rules can be found here.

This week's words:
























Good luck, everyone!

Friday, July 25, 2008

a few more kid stuff reviews

Mr. Duey Class Dis-Missed CD.

I'm willing to bet that nearly all of my fellow 40-ish crowd remembers Schoolhouse Rock, right? Those fun educational snippets stuck in between Saturday morning cartoons. (Because much to my children's horror, that's the only time during the week that cartoons were available.) Anyway, I, for one, absolutely loved Schoolhouse Rock, and I definitely learned from the catchy little songs as well. I can still to this day recite the Preamble to the Constitution thanks to good old Schoolhouse Rock.

But why am I talking about Schoolhouse Rock when I'm supposed to be reviewing Mr. Duey Class Dis-Missed? It's just that I simply can't help but think back to good old Schoolhouse Rock, when I listen to this CD...the similarities are obvious. But then again, they are two very different creatures. Mr. Duey Class Dis-Missed is an educational CD aimed generally at the upper elementary and possibly even at the middle school set. It contains 17 songs, covering a wide range of subjects...everything from integers to adjectives to atoms to the branches of government.

Our family has listened to this CD a few times now. In general, the reviews are positive. The kids seem to enjoy it a great deal more than Rich and I do. But that's both understandable (as the musical genre is rap, a type of music neither Rich nor I enjoy) and okay (as the CD isn't aimed at adults, but at kids). And despite the fact that Rich and I don't particularly enjoy listening to it, we both definitely see its educational value. In fact, Rich even plans to play a number titled "Cells" to his non-majors biology class both for fun and because they may actually pick up something from it.

Bottom line, while this CD may not be for everyone, we definitely see its potential as a fun, educational tool, both at home and at school. Which for some of us is all the same thing. :)


The Rabbit and the Snowman by Sally O. Lee.

The boys (aged 5 and 7, as most of you know) and I have some differences of opinion on this one. Gray and Max both really enjoyed this story. I, on the other hand, found it lacking that special charm I want to experience with a picture book.

It is a story of a snowman built in the woods by a bunch of children one snowy day. But the children go home at the end of the day, and never come back. The snowman can't help but wonder what is wrong with him that all his friends would desert him. Then he meets a rabbit, and the two of them become friends and enjoy one another's companionship until spring. Then, of course, the snowman melts. And the rabbit is left wondering what is wrong with him that his friend would desert him. When winter rolls around again, the snowman reappears, and he and the rabbit pick up where they left off.

This may sound a stupid thing to say, but I couldn't help but feel that this story either needed more words or fewer. There were passages that I really enjoyed, like this one:

They talked about how the snow made a crunchy sound when it was a few days old. And how the sun trickled through the trees to make streams of light.

They talked about how the birds made their nest high in the trees so that no one could find them.

They talked about how the stars lit up the sky when it was dark.

But much of the book felt quite choppy to me. It also didn't "feel right" to me how the snowman just reappeared the next winter. When I asked the boys if this bothered them, Gray replied, "Mom, haven't you ever heard of magic?!!" Guess he put me in my place, huh?

So, here we've got a story that I found lacking, but the boys enjoyed. But this isn't where our differences of opinion ended. Because I thoroughly enjoyed much of the artwork, and the boys didn't like it at all! In fact, I had to bribe Max just to get him to hold up the book so I could take this photo:

This is an example of the art that I love so much...I wish I had a print of this one to frame and hang in the boys' room. Though they don't like it, so I guess that idea's a bust anyway. :)

Bottom line, the boys (target audience) loved the story but didn't like the art. Mom not impressed with the story, but found much of the art perfectly delightful.


Cat by Mike Dumbleton.

And finally, in one of those last but definitely not least situations, we have this wonderful picture book. I ordered this one on Becky's suggestion. This book was perfect for Max in so many ways, not the least of which, of course, was because it featured a cat!
The story was simple, but very cute! And it was written at the perfect level for Max to read. He hasn't picked up reading nearly as easily as his older brother and sister did, but he enjoys it very much. It's always gratifying to find a book that challenges him without frustrating him. And in addition to all that, the artwork by Craig Smith is positively wonderful!

Bottom line, this was our favorite of all three of these kid offerings! Max and I were in complete agreement that this book is a definite winner!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

more points to award

Trying to get this published before we head off to Annie's soccer party, so forgive me (or secretly cheer!) for my brevity here. This week's winning sentences:

Eremite that I am, my doormat says "LEAVE" rather than "WELCOME." (Jean)

As Carmine ushered Chloe back out into the rain he yelled, “You’re not wanted here, sachet on home to your maw!” (Carl)

Parents around the world screamed for joy when one of the Jonas Brothers left the band to become an eremite and the group split up. (Rich)

To win the gold medal, the lissome high jumper practised and practised (and then fed her opponent rancid cheese before their competition.) (RaiderGirl3)

The vedette's horse shied as the dragon swooped down, but without fear the sentry faced the monster's toothy maw, trusting in the acuity of his pike. (Medbie)

Good job, everyone! And some of you used more than one word in your winning sentences, so we've got lots of points to award. In addition, this week's "secret" word was nepenthe, which several participants used. (Jean, Carl, Awesome, Medbie)

Thanks to everyone for playing! Hope you'll all be back next week!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Using that vocab-game 2, week 3

Everybody ready to write some fabulous sentences? Actually, if you wouldn't mind, try not to be quite so fabulous this week, okay? Last week's judging was rough on Miss Annie!

Anyone new to the game, you can check out the rules here.




















Good luck everyone!

Homeschool happenings--week(ish)2

Here's what Miss Annie's been up to this past week...

Math: Finally hitting the very beginnings of actual algebra. Lots of terms introduced. Properties of real numbers. That sort of stuff.

Also finished up the first section in real-word math (working with schedules).

Couple more math puzzles.

English: Another round of judging on the vocabulary game. Another aced vocabulary test. Plus her weekly sentences and vocabulary story, of course. And another 3,000 grains of rice donated.

Getting 15 hours of writing class in last week, has left us ahead of schedule there. Annie, of course, still works on stories on her own though. I don't think she could stop writing any more than she could stop reading.

Literature: Still reading poetry. Talked about odes, narrative poems, and sonnets this week. Learned some new terms, like meter and feet and iambs and trochees. Among Annie's favorite poems this week were "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Bad Weather" by Ralph Fletcher.

Science: Annie continued work on her insect defenses database. She watched Eyewitness Insects video. And did a bit more field work...1. another field trip to Mendon Ponds Park for butterfly and dragonfly identification work and 2. building and placing "nests" in hopes of attracting parasitoid wasps.

Social Studies: We watched more of Ken Burn's The Civil War. (Along with more highlights discussion, note-taking, and quote collecting.) Annie has also begun reading companion book (The Civil War by Geoffrey C. Ward). Annie also read Alexander Stephens Cornerstone speech, and did an associated writing assignment.

For the geography portion, we watched an episode of Principles of Geography titled "Maps and Globes: A Thorough Understanding". Lecture and note taking. Map scale exercise. Latitude and longitude exercise.

For the government portion, Annie took a quiz on the article she'd read last week, did a writing assignment about what it might be like if every state had their own currency, and watched a program titled "A Little Rebellion: Prologue to the U.S. Constitution".

For the document based questions portion, she finished up packet one with an essay based on the provided documents, along with her prior knowledge.

Music: Still fluting away.

Art: Still clicking away. Obsessively. My personal favorite of the week...

Phys Ed: Two more soccer games.

Health: Annie completed another two pages in Health Science. She also played another round of Trivia Showdown against Rich. This time it was about infectious diseases, and she got her butt kicked.

She also completed 4 pages in Get Smart About Drugs.

Practical Arts: We discussed healthy menu planning. We came up with a number of strategies for easily making meals healthier.

Library Skills: Annie completed an Atlas Scavenger Hunt and an introductory assignment about almanacs.

And that's it for all the required subjects. In addition, we watched "Understanding How Stuff Works: Computers" and Annie took a short quiz. Some basic terminology discussed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

round two's point winners

Damn, you all are so talented! But come on guys, you really have to stop writing such great sentences! I'm had Annie rolling with laughter, complete and total giggle fit! And she had the hardest time yet weeding them down to five sentences. With great effort, she got them weeded down to nine sentences and then just totally got stuck. It took almost an hour to determine the point winners this week! But we've got lots of points to award. I found it somewhat surprising that none of the winner sentences had more than a single word in them, as so many of this week's entries used two, or even three, words apiece.

O.K., I'll finally shut up and post the five winning sentences:

While in his study one evening, Lord Rithven died quietly from an amorphous, and hopefully untraceable, poisonous gas. (Medbie)

Having finished his kill, the wolf settled comfortably into a state of post-prandial lassitude. (Jean)

I made the mistake of teaching my students the meaning of the word suctorial, not realizing that they would use it to describe me. (Rich)

After I quit college, my Dad launched into a discursive lecture that finally ended hours later on the subject of growing healthy tomatoes. (Rich)

And every time a fart came trumpeting out of his bum people considered it their death knell! (Jean Pierre)

Plus, many of you used this week's secret bonus word, which was suctorial. (RaiderGirl3, Jean, Rich, and Awesome)

By the way, the point tallies are over in the sidebar, if you're interested. Definitely anybody's game at this point.

I truly wish I could award another bonus point to RaiderGirl3, but of course, that wouldn't be fair, as I'm not the judge...but I just LOVED her "suctorial" sentence, and think that forever more I shall be calling straws suctorial devices!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

a book review for the elementary years

Becoming a Superhero by William D. Smith.

I have to admit that when I read "William D. Smith tells the story of young Billy, a boy who wants to grow up to be a superhero" in the info on this book, I figured it could go either way. Of course, that's true of any book, but I really thought this one had the potential to be a real winner or a real loser. And I'm now happy to report that it definitely falls in the winner category.

It really is a delightful little book, one that both the boys and I enjoyed. Those recommended ages they slap onto books said it was for kids 8-12, but it was quite suitable for my 5- and 7-year-olds. Max wouldn't have been able to read it to himself, but it was perfect for our read-aloud.

The story is a semi-autobiographical telling of the author's life as a boy in a Pennsylvania coal town in the mid-1940s. Billy comes from a somewhat dysfunctional family, but is still surrounded by love. His constant sidekick, and oft-time nemesis, is William, his shadow.

It's a very family friendly book, and yet Billy isn't always an angelic little boy. What kid is, right? William does his darnedest to keep Billy out of trouble, but isn't terribly successful. In chapter after chapter, we get to read about the episodes that make up this 10-year-old boy's life, everything from the soapbox derby to his attempts at flying to "funeral vacations" to his first job as a paperboy to flushing his harmonica down the toilet.

As an added bonus, we get to see a slice of life during the last year of WWII. From a kid's perspective. Billy talks about how he had to save his allowance to buy war bonds, and how he collected scrap metal to help the war effort, and how he loved collecting war trophies, including his prize German army helmet.

And throughout the book, through all the stories, runs this theme of heroes. Billy wants badly to be a superhero. Hence his attempts at flying. He spends a lot of time trying to figure out how one attains superhero status. But as he grows, he learns a lot about who the real heroes are in life. And in one very scary incident, he even proves that he himself is a hero, though that was the last thing on his mind at the time.

Okay, now I have one small complaint to make. The cover really bugged me. The book is about a 10-year-old, and is supposedly aimed at readers aged 8-12. So why does the little boy on the cover appear to be about 3-years-old?!! And don't think this fact escaped Max and Gray either...they were not thrilled about the fact that I was going to read them this book "for babies". I know, I know, the whole judging a book by its cover thing. But why look for trouble, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Using that vocab-game 2, week 2

First of all, let me say again how sorry I am about the confusion last week. Hope everyone is clear now on the directions. By the way, the tallies for Game 2 are posted in the's a very tight game so far, and there's plenty of time to catch up even if you didn't play last week.

A quick review of the rules:

1. Write as many sentences as you wish, but use no more than 10 of the vocabulary words.

2. You may use less than 10 words.

3. Annie will choose her five favorite sentences. Each vocabulary word in these sentences earns a point.

4. A "secret" bonus word will yield everyone would happens to use that word an extra point.

5. Sentences must be posted in the comments by late Thursday afternoon (EST), as judging will take place Thursday evening.

--Still not clear? Just ask.

This week's words:
























Good luck everyone!

Homeschool happenings--week(ish) 1

Ahhh, the start of a new year. Just something exciting about starting in on new subjects and projects and experimenting with new ways of doing things.

So what have we been up to so far?

Math: Our main focus for this year is algebra. (Which I have to learn all over again...been 30ish years since I had it.) So far, we've just been reviewing things like working with integers, fractions, decimals, absolute values, etc. Should be hitting some new stuff this coming week. Annie's also doing a bit of work with "real world math" and doing math puzzles each week.

English: Annie thoroughly enjoying the World-Building class she took this week at Writers and Books. Like there was ever any doubt she would; after all, this is creative writing we're talking about here. :)

Vocabulary also falls under this heading. Annie judged the first round of the Vocabulary Game, and she had her first vocab test. And we moved on to List 2 this morning by holding our Vocabulary Klatch. Some interesting new words. (I will try to get them posted for this week's game later today.)

Literature: This quarter's focus is poetry. While each week, I give a short lecture about various aspects of poetry, for the most part, the time is spent reading, reading, reading. Annie fills in a sort of poetry log about all the poems she reads, and at the end of the week, she types up her favorites. At the end of the quarter, she'll print these out and we'll bind them into a little anthology. Among her favorites this week were "Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer" by Ogden Nash and "Milkweed" by Michael Teig. We also each choose a favorite or two each week to read aloud to one another.

Science: Rich is handling the first quarter here. He and Annie are doing an entomology unit. She's started an ongoing database on insect defenses using Thomas Eisner's For Love of Insects. They went on a field trip to Tinker Nature Park and got to talk to the beekeeper and witness swarming (the forming of a new colony). The also went on the first of what I suspect will be many field trips to Mendon Ponds Park to do some bug-watching, where Annie started keeping a field journal. She also made some Venn diagrams comparing/contrasting insects with spiders and insects with earthworms.

Social Studies: For the U.S. History portion, we are studying the Civil War. We watched the movie Gettysburg, in preparation for are trip to Gettysburg (which fell through for the time being). And we began watching Ken Burn's The Civil War. (After each section of this, we discuss the highlights and Annie takes notes.) She's also making a collection of famous quotes.

For history through literature, Annie read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

For the geography portion, we're starting with principles of geography. This week we watched an episode of Principles of Geography titled "Themes of Geography". Lecture and note taking. And she began work on an assignment about language and location.

For the government portion, she read a short little intro book titled What Is a Constitution? and completed a worksheet.

For the document based questions portion, she began work on a packet about Native Americans. This particular packet includes six documents, and Annie completed the short answer section of the packet.

Music: Annie continues to work on her flute using Smart Music and tackling new songs from a variety of books. We'd like to find her a new flute teacher one of these days, but for now she's doing quite well with Smart Music.

Art: Annie is taking a nature photography for kids class at Tinker Nature Park. The first of two class periods was yesterday. Each kid was given a disposable camera, which we have to get developed before the next class. Annie is so excited about all she learned that she begged us to take her to Tinker Nature Park last night so she could practice. We've decided to let her use our old digital camera...and she is loving it! Below the photo of her are a few of the photos she herself took last night.

Phys Ed: Still no wins, but plenty of effort on the soccer field. Hours upon hours of swimming at Grandmother's house, too.

Health: Annie completed the first two pages in Health Science. She also played a round of Trivia Showdown against Rich. She lost, but did fairly well considering she was playing against a biologist. She probably would have beaten me. :) Maybe next time I should let Rich be the moderator, while I play against her.

Practical Arts: Annie learned about woodworking yesterday...planning, measuring, basic use of she helped Rich build a bookcase to house all our homeschool books.

Library Skills: Annie completed an introduction to the atlas worksheet, and we watched The Animated Atlas.

And that's it for all the required subjects. In addition, we've began a unit on critical thinking using a book simply titled Critical Thinking.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

this week's winning sentences

First of all, let me say a HUGE THANK YOU to all the players! So glad you joined in Raidergirl3! And welcome back to Jean, Awesome McAwesome, and Rich! And Jean Pierre and Medbie, I'm so sorry you didn't play this week...I hope it wasn't because of the my less-than-clear instructions. We all hope you'll come back and get in on next week's's definitely not too late to join in!

Okay, let's get on with it, huh? This week's winning sentences:

Debi was so upset with the commotion, she had to steep a tisane to calm her nerves. (Raidergirl3)

As doyen, the grey wolf bore responsibility for ensuring the pack’s survival through the hard winter. (Jean)

The first mate grabbed the binnacle for support as the waves whipped the boat from side to side. (Jean)

The cat burglar's well-honed skill made his larcenous incursions nearly undetectable. (Awesome McAwesome)

I was astonished as he reached into his kitbag and pulled out an African rock python that he let out into the grass to play. (Rich)

And this week's bonus word was palaver. Awesome is the only one to receive a bonus point this week. (By the way, all the sentences are now posted in the comments if you'd like to read them.)

If week one is any indication, we're going to have a very tight race! Hope to see everyone back next week! And feel free to invite others to I said, it's definitely not too late to join in. I'll try to get next week's words up as early as possible Monday, or maybe even Sunday night.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Using that vocab-game 2, week 1

On to Game 2...where some things will be the same, but some things have changed. Yes, there will still be a $10 Amazon gift card for the person with the most points at the end of eight weeks of competition. But the actual rules have changed slightly, because we're handling our vocabulary lists a bit differently this year. Rich, Annie, and I are now meeting on a regular basis for "vocabulary klatches" where we share all the new words we've run across in our reading during the past week (or so). Annie will now be responsible for learning these along with her regular vocabulary list.

As far as the game goes, each contestant can choose up to ten of these words to use in sentences. Please do not use more. But you may use fewer. Which ten words you choose to use is up to you. Five points will now be awarded each week by Annie, according to her favorite sentences. In case you're new to the game (and I do hope we get some new players!), playing to Annie's interests is definitely in your best interest! She loves fantasy, animals (especially wolves and ravens and domestic cats and dogs), and books. Humor is generally a good tool to employ as well. Anyway, you may use more than one word in a sentence, just so you don't exceed ten vocabulary words total. If Annie should choose a sentence with more than one word in it, that contestant will receive points equaling the amount of words used. In addition, each week one of the words will be chosen beforehand as the "bonus" word, and anyone who happens to use that word in a sentence will receive a point. These are in addition to the five points (If that didn't make sense, please feel free to ask for clarification.)

Words for Week 1:





















*deus ex machina

















You have until Thursday morning to post your sentences in the comments. (I tried to enable comment moderation so no one would be able to read anyone else's sentences until after the judging, but I don't think it worked.) Good luck everyone!

And so begins a new year...

I guess technically our new school year began a week ago, but we took last week off. Mostly, anyway.

So, what kinds of things do we have on slate for the coming quarter? Algebra. Poetry. A creative writing class at Writers and Books. The Civil War. History through literature. Entomology. Flute. Soccer. Vocabulary klatches, games, and free rice. The U.S. Constitution. Current events. Lives of artists. Critical thinking. A nature photography class. And probably more that I'm just not thinking of at the moment.

Should be a fun quarter!