Wednesday, January 27, 2016

AFFILIATE – 8 Resources for Learning the Times Tables

Times Tables Resources

Multiplication: it's a math skill we ALL use in daily life. I point this out because there is actually math I do NOT use in my daily life. My teens have just started those word problems that say things like, "Plane A left the airport going this fast, and Plane B left at the same time going this fast. How long will it be before they are x number of miles apart?" Do we actually have to do that, ever? Maybe air traffic controllers need to know that kind of thing...

Anyway - I DO use multiplication! I use it when I'm cooking; I double recipes quite often. I use it when I'm shopping, and for "fast counting" when I have a certain number of people and need supplies, for example.

It's important for children to memorize their multiplication tables. It truly does make math work SO much faster for them! Are you an educator or parent with a frustrated child who is attempting to memorize the multiplication tables? Read on.

Hundreds of kids have learned their times tables in an hour using a very fun & easy to understand animated video. The Times Tales DVD is a two-part video series that uses stories to teach multiplication to kids. The videos use cute, simple stories that provide students with a "memory peg," allowing them to quickly recall otherwise abstract multiplication facts. As students progress through the video, they'll learn multiplication without even knowing it! It's that easy!

About the Times Tales DVD - What is included?

  • Animated video comes on a DVD
  • CD includes printable worksheets and flashcards

What Educents customers are saying about Times Tales:

"Fun and effective! Did in 2 weeks what other curriculum didn't do in a year!"

"My kids did NOT want to like this when I first opened it up, but they ended up liking it a LOT! They kept trying to "figure it out" so it took a while for my 2nd and 4th grader to just relax and watch the stories. We followed the recommended pace, and in 2 weeks this DVD solidified what other methods could not do for them in a year! Even my 3 yr old shouts out the answers to some of the quiz questions! Of course she doesn't understand what she's learning yet, but when her time comes, learning her multiplication facts will be painless and easy :) Definitely recommend this program to anyone who has stressed over drilling boring multiplication facts into their kids! You WILL Love it! :)" -ML
"I can’t even imagine how many less papers my 5th grade teacher would have had to grade if we had this in my elementary school! We did multiplication drills every single day during our 2nd semester! Using this DVD really beats that." - Celena J.

Times Tales Animated DVD & Printable Worksheets


Times Tales teaches kids the upper times tables without rote memorization. Students can simply follow along with the entertaining story. As they progress, they'll be guided into associating the stories they've learned with real math. You can always find the Times Tales DVD at a discount on!

More Activities to Practice Multiplication:

This hands-on activity uses legos to reinforce multiplication facts. Source: SchoolTimesSnippet

This hands-on activity uses legos to reinforce multiplication facts. 

Early Multiplication: Grouping with Legos by School Time Snippets - Kristina and her son practice multiplications using Legos!

Multiplication Rap DVD - Kids discover what multiplication is all about, learn facts through 12, and practice skip counting.

Superhero Flash Cards - A series of self-checking multiplication and division flash cards with a fun superhero theme.

Visual way to teach multiplication to your student. Source: Lemon Lime Adventures Visual way to teach multiplication to your student. 

Patterned Multiplication Circles by Lemon Lime Adventures - Dayna and her 7-year old use this visual way to learn multiplication. This math craftivity is fun for all ages!

Musical Math with Sue Dickson’s Songs that Teach - This program makes memorizing the facts easy, sure, and fun with catchy songs that allow students to master the facts in no time!

30 Multiplication Facts Printable Worksheets - This low-cost packet includes 30 printable worksheets, 143 flash cards, six vocabulary word cards, and a multiplication chart.

A+ Math Multiplication Unit - Build a strong foundation in math with A+ Interactive Math’s multiplication unit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016 Reading List

Do you make a reading list for yourself at the beginning of the new year? I have seen several people do this, and there are always reading challenges floating around in the blogosphere. Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy put up her 2016 Reading Challenge, which involves reading twelve different books in twelve different categories over twelve months. That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

My issue is this: I have a reading list aversion. If I make a reading list, I no longer want to read the books on it. It's fairly ridiculous, actually. I have no idea why this is.

This year, though. I've done it. I've made a list, and have hopefully left some room on it for books I haven't met yet. In fact, I've already gone on a rabbit trail and checked out five books from the library.

I was having a hard time deciding if I wanted to focus on C.S. Lewis or Shakespeare. Someone shared a challenge on Facebook to read all of Shakespeare's works in a year. I was tempted; I've been enjoying Shakespeare with my girls, but I haven't read lots of what he wrote. However - that's a LOT of Shakespeare. I'm not sure I'd have time to read much else. Honestly, I know myself. There is no way I would read only Shakespeare for an entire year.

I'm part of a Facebook group of passionate book people, and they have reading events all the time. This year, I signed up for four year-long events in which we will explore different authors, genres, or concepts.

The first group is a C.S. Lewis group. C.S. Lewis wrote so many more books than I ever knew! He wrote fantasy, science fiction, Christian books, scholarly books, poetry... it boggles the mind. In my group we are planning to read the following:
I'm also planning to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia, because it's been a while, and I love them.

The second group is a Shakespeare group. We will read the following:
As it turns out, I haven't read any of those yet. I'm excited to explore some new-to-me Shakespeare and not feel overwhelmed by the selections.

The third group is a survey of American Character. We were originally going to start with a biography of Abigail Adams (wife of John Adams, 2nd U.S. President), but it seems the group didn't like some of the assumptions made by the author. Instead, they decided to read John Adams by David McCullough. 

Have you seen that book? It is 752 pages long.


Do you know what my response has been to this book, every single time I've considered reading it? "Why? Why would someone write a book that long? And why would anyone want to read it?" Don't I sound scholarly and well-read? Ha.

It's actually on the Ambleside Online list for the year my girls are in, but I didn't assign it. They wouldn't have had time for much else, even had I broken it out over the whole year. It's supposed to be an excellent book. Here's hoping it is, because I will never finish it if it isn't a rip-roaring good read. 

Thanks for letting me get that out. 

The list of books for the American Character group is:
The last group is a Science Fiction/Fantasy group, and I'm most excited about this one. Fantasy is my favorite genre. I'm learning, thanks to Charlotte Mason, how important it is to read other things, but if I had my druthers, I'd read fantasy all the time. In this group, I'm only re-reading one book, which is pretty exciting to me. Here's our list:
I'm hoping to read both selections each time, since I haven't read any of them before (except A Wrinkle in Time).  Although I've read it more than once, it feels like a new experience in many ways, even as it feels like returning to an old friend.

I confess, I'm feeling a bit trepidatious about this reading list thing. I'm excited, though, because I'm reading most of the books on my list with other people. I love to talk to other people who love books like I do!

In addition to the books for the events in my Facebook group, I have been eyeballing books on the lists of last year's reading from a couple of my favorite people: Liz Cottrill at Living Books Library, and Nancy Kelly at Sage Parnassus. If you're looking for possible reading selections, check out their lists. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Winter Nature Study: Conifers

This post may contain affiliate links.

"Conifers" by They Might Be Giants

When we lived in North Carolina, my friend Sara led us through a nature study lesson on conifers (cone-bearing trees). To be honest, I thought of them all as "pine trees." Before I moved to the South, I called them evergreens, too. They are evergreens, but so are magnolias! I knew there were different kinds, of course; there were blue spruce trees, for example, because we had them as Christmas trees sometimes when I was growing up. I knew the Michigan state tree was the Eastern white pine, and that the loblolly pine is the state tree of North Carolina. I hadn't put much thought into the differences between different kinds of conifers, though. Between studying with Sara, and researching on my own, I learned a lot!

Because many of the conifers in North Carolina were the same ones I'd seen growing up in Michigan, I was familiar with them already and it wasn't too hard to determine their species. In Colorado, though, the trees are very different, and I'm still learning the specific kinds. As I was preparing for this post, I learned that there are TONS of kinds used in landscaping that aren't found in the wild, which means I won't necessarily be able to identify them with my tree books. Alas!

If you haven't done a general study of trees before, you might want to look into that a little bit as you begin looking at conifers. The Handbook of Nature Study has a great lesson on trees. I also have posts on the Year Round Homeschooling blog, about starting a tree study and studying trees in the winter time.

When we studied conifers specifically, we learned how to tell the difference between pine, spruce, and fir trees.

Pine trees are pretty simple: if the needles come off the branches in groups of 2 (red pines), 3 (yellow pines) or 5 (white pines), it is a pine tree. Spruce and fir trees have single needles that come directly off their branches.

 Pine trees tend to lose their lower branches, where firs and spruces keep them (unless they are pruned). When you look at a pine cone, its scales are tough and woody.

Telling the difference between spruces and firs takes a little more work. Here's a little cheat sheet: 

  • Needles are flat. If you pull one off and try to roll it between your fingers, it won't be easy to do. 
  • Fir needles grow directly onto the branch, so when they fall off, the branch is smooth.
  • Needles are four-sided, and will roll easily between your fingers.  
  • Needles are attached to small, woody projections on their branches, so the branches are bumpy. 
Spruce and fir cones have scales that are thin, almost papery.

Here are some pictures, so you can compare the branches:

I am not sure what kinds of pine trees I have there, but I believe the fir is a White Fir, because of the fissures left in the branch from the pitch pockets. The spruce branch is from a Colorado Blue Spruce that grows in my yard.

Look around and see what kinds of conifer trees you have nearby! Is there one you can study outside? If not, do you have a "real" Christmas tree in your house? If you do, it's probably a spruce or a fir tree. Can you tell which one it is? And, don't forget, you can easily make pine cone bird feeders to help out your feathered friends this winter!

The Handbook of Nature Study, my very favorite resource for nature study, has sections on the pine (recommending studying a white pine if possible), the Norway spruce, and the hemlock tree.

Over at Year Round Homeschooling today, I have a post about Christmas trees - a little history, some science ideas, and some craft ideas. Head over there and check it out! And, as my gift to you, please enjoy this free Conifer Copywork ebook. Put some of the quotes in your nature journal if you like.

Also, my friend Jennifer has a wonderful website called Advent Idea Box, with great information and resources for the Advent season.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall Nature Crafts and a Tutorial

Today over at Year Round Homeschooling, I've shared a roundup of some terribly cute crafts I found while searching the internet for what on earth to do with my son's immense collection of pinecones. We also can't seem to help picking up pretty fall leaves, and of course, I love finding different types of acorns. We end up with piles of each, which drives my poor husband a bit batty, and they tend to get pitched out into the yard. That's fine, but I was hoping to find something we could do with some of them, at least. My son LOVES to do crafts!

When you read my post over at YRH, you will see that one of the crafts involves making snowy owls from pine cones. I got the idea from this post at Open-Ended Art For Children, but she didn't give a lot of detail - the words "self-explanatory" are involved. I...don't really do self-explanatory. Heh. I also found these instructions, which are better, but not what I did (of course). When I started making them, I decided to share my own little tutorial, just in case you are craft-challenged like I am. If you're not, carry on! Nothing to see here!

These things are blessedly simple to make, really. You need a few basic things:

  • Pine cones (If you really want to make these and somehow don't have pine cones, you can find them at any craft store)
  • Cotton balls, shredded into bits of fluff (kids love to do this)
  • Pipe cleaners or felt
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue (regular white glue is fine)
For the beak and wings, I used pipe cleaners, so I'm sharing instructions for that. 

Wrap a half a brown pipe cleaner around your pine cone so that the extra ends are in front. (I cut my pipe cleaner with craft scissors. Any scissors will work, just don't use your fabric scissors.)

Twist the pipe cleaner together once so it will stay in place, and fold the ends in so they form the beak.

Next, wrap a full white pipe cleaner around the middle of the pine cone, starting at the front and going all the way around the back, so that the white ends stick out at the side. 

Fold the ends in to look like wings. The pine cone I used was a larger than I thought, so this owl's wings are a bit short. We will call him an owlet.

Now, add your fluff. It didn't take me very long to decide I wanted to use a pencil to push the fluff into the spaces. Pine cones are prickly. Make sure you put lots of cotton in the places where you'd like your eyes to go. That will give you a somewhat solid surface to glue them.

Once your owl is fluffed add the eyes. I put the glue directly onto the owl rather than trying to put it on the back of the little googly eyes.

Once your eyes are on, you're finished!

You can make your owls look however you like. We chose some different colors and styles of googly eyes, for example. Did you know that a group of owls is called a parliament? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

REVIEW: Popular Purple Pencil Sharpener

Don't you just love alliteration? I do. It's such fun. It has nothing to do with anything about this pencil sharpener, but I do love the name: Popular Purple.

I was recently sent one of these lovely things from Classroom Friendly Supplies, so that I could review it and share my honest opinion with you. I reviewed a similar, but red pencil sharpener last year. The red one works very well, but it is not my favorite color. The purple one works just as well, and has the added bonus of being PURPLE, which is one of my favorite colors. It has won a special place in my heart.

I have to believe every person knows the value of having a good pencil sharpener. I didn't give it nearly as much thought until I started homeschooling, though. It is not easy to find a good pencil sharpener these days. There are entire threads on homeschool message boards about which pencil sharpeners are best. I'm here to tell you, the ones from Classroom Friendly Supplies are what you've been seeking, even if you didn't know you needed one!

My kids love these sharpeners. They create what they call "pencils of death." What that means is, one gets an exceptionally sharpened pencil, which is a lovely way to start your math problems. It's almost as if you have a weapon in hand to conquer those algebra equations.

I do have one of the old-fashioned pencil sharpeners - the kind we used to have in school classrooms, with all the different-sized holes on a little disk you could spin around. The issue with that one is that it really needs to be screwed into a wall, and I never could decide where I wanted it to go. We managed to use it, but it could be frustrating. The Classroom Friendly pencil sharpener comes with a clamp, allowing you to attach it to a table or desk, but you can also just use it on its own. Once you have the pencil inserted for sharpening, there is no need to hold onto it, because the mechanism of the sharpener moves the pencil ahead for you. Once the pencil is perfectly sharpened, it stops sharpening. (If you happen to have a good place to affix your Popular Purple Pencil Sharpener, you can purchase a permanent mounting plate and put it there!)

I would like to note here that with my ebony pencil, which did fit into the sharpener but is a little bit thicker than a standard pencil, it kept on sharpening until I pulled it out. Also, we have some fun pencils with brightly colored cores that seem to be just a hint thicker than standard, probably because of the coating on the outside, and they didn't stop quite as well as plain ol' yellow pencils.

My only issue with this sharpener remains that it only works for standard-sized pencils. I have a little guy, and he enjoys using those fat pencils for little kids, you know? You can't sharpen those with the fabulous purple pencil sharpener. They do, however, have the amazing Large Hole Sharpener, which works on large AND standard size pencils.

Each pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies is $24.99, unless you get some friends together and order 3 or more, at which point you can receive quantity discounts. You can order replacement blades for them, too, as well as replacement shavings trays, in case yours gets broken or misplaced. The exception is the Car Pencil Sharpener, which is $19.99, and does not have replaceable blades.

I do love my CFS pencil sharpeners, and I hope you will check them out!

Connect with Classroom Friendly Supplies:

I received one purple pencil sharpener for the purpose of my review, and received no other compensation. All opinions are entirely my own.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Don Henley In Denver

Tuesday night, my husband and I went to see Don Henley at the Bellco Theater in Denver, CO. It was a bit of a fluke, actually. My daughter was looking at the paper last Friday, and saw a little ad for the concert. She looked up the ticketing site. I was on my way to the dentist, so I asked my husband to get the tickets, but he had some trouble with their system. I ended up booking them on my phone while my very patient dental assistant waited for me to complete the transaction. I did apologize to her for my rudeness, but she did understand when I told her the show was Tuesday.

In case you don't recognize the name, Don Henley of the founding members of the Eagles. He's the lead singer on songs like "Best of My Love," "Hotel California," and "Desperado." He's one of my all-time favorite singers, and when we discovered last week he was coming to Denver, I was so excited! We got the tickets and I downloaded Henley's new album, just released September 25th, Cass County. {aff link}

When Mr. Henley came out on stage, he said, "I'm in the Mile High City, and feeling every inch." I laughed in complete sympathy! Its a killer when you're not used to it. He commented a couple of times throughout the evening that he was struggling with the altitude, but it didn't affect his performance. He never sat down, even though the last time we saw the Eagles they sat for an acoustic set during the concert. His voice was top-notch - he hasn't lowered the keys of any of his tunes (trust me, I sing along with them all the time; I would have noticed), and he sounds as fabulous as ever.

Here's the playlist:

  • Seven Bridges Road (This was the only Eagles song. His entire band can SING, and they did a beautiful job.)
  • No, Thank You (this one makes me laugh, and I love it)
  • Heart of the Matter (probably my favorite song, ever)
  • Praying for Rain
  • That Old Flame
  • The End of the Innocence (written with Bruce Hornsby, which I didn't know until last night, but seems so obvious now that I do)
He said these next four were in honor of Halloween coming up at the end of the month:
  • She Sang Hymns Out of Tune
  • I Put A Spell On You (Originally by Jay Hawkins)
  • Burn Down the Cornfield (can't say as I'm glad to be acquainted with this song - it's creepy)
  • New York Minute

And then back to our regularly scheduled program:

  • Dirty Laundry (this was the favorite song of the woman sitting next to me, and it was her birthday)
  • Take A Picture of This (He said this is about the phases a marriage goes through, and it doesn't have a happy ending)
  • Words Can Break Your Heart
  • Last Worthless Evening
  • When I Stop Dreaming
  • The Cost of Living
  • Bramble Rose
  • It Don't Matter to the Sun
  • Too Much Pride
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World (never thought I'd hear him sing a Tears for Fears song, of all things, but he rocked it)
  • Train in the Distance
  • All She Wants to Do Is Dance
It was a fantastic evening. I thought I did a pretty good job of writing down the list of songs in the dark. I like to do that so I can put the songs into a playlist for my girls. They like Don Henley, too. 

The stage show was kept pretty simple: no pyrotechnics or crazy lights. There were several old radios hanging down from the ceiling, and before the show opened, a light would shine on one of them and a snippet of an old song would play. It was a snapshot of (popular) music history. It was fun to hear the crowd singing along with some of them when the music changed. The volume was at at a great level, too–loud enough so you couldn't hear anyone else singing, but not so loud that I couldn't hear when the show was over. I know, I know, "if it's too loud, I'm too old," but after years of sitting next to the drum line in my college marching band, and some rock concerts without ear plugs, I appreciate the hearing I have left, thanks.

There were three lovely young women singing backup, and they each performed one of the duets with him from the new album. They were amazing. I wish I could remember their names, because I'd tell you to listen for them on the music scene. I have to believe they have long careers ahead of them.

If anyone had asked my opinion before the concert began, I would have suggested they play more of his older stuff.  I'd have loved another Eagles song or two. However, he did sing "Heart of the Matter," which was really my only requirement (and it was all about ME - ha). Don showed, again, what a talented and versatile musician he is. He can do it all - country, rock, folk, blues, you name it.

A brief review of the album: this is a country record. It's much different than any of his previous solo work, but if you know much of the Eagles' music, there is a country feel to many of their songs. Don Henley grew up in Texas, and wanted to explore the musical history and culture there. There are many guest appearances, including Miranda Lambert, Mick Jagger (yes, you read that right), Merle Haggard, and others. I wasn't sure I liked the album at first, but it's growing on me. It helps that we saw the show, because now I have memories associated with most of the songs.

I'm so glad we got to go! I considered not posting this, because I thought, "this has nothing to do with homeschooling!" It does, though, because it reminds me that I have a life, and things I enjoy outside of my children. It's an important part of keeping myself sane. I do love to go to concerts. Do you? What's been your favorite show?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reviewsio: Great Opportunity for Bloggers!

I love Amazon. I love my Prime membership, and *love* that I can get most books I need in 2 days with that fabulous free shipping. As a homeschooler, that's been a lifesaver more than once. Also, as we live far away from family, it's the easiest way to send gifts. I am frequently surprised by what one can purchase from Amazon.

Now, they are launching a new review program: Reviewsio! Here's how it works: sellers know their business improves with positive reviews, their business improves. You browse the products available for review, and once you're approved for the review, you will receive a code that allows you to order the product from Amazon for a discount or FREE. In exchange for your review, you receive points which you can then redeem for Amazon gift cards.

I love writing reviews, and I love free stuff, so this sounds like a win-win to me. If you have a blog, I encourage you to check it out!

The link above is my affiliate link. I will receive Reviewsio points if you sign up through my link, but no other compensation.