Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Math center

I've been wanting to incorporate some "centers" into our day.  A place to do something fun and hands-on.  I thought it would be a fun break for the kids and also motivate me to use some of the things I've purchased and not gotten around to using.

We had a FIAR lesson last week on balance.  I thought this would be the perfect time to get out the balance scale we have.  I bought it along with a box full of math manipulatives at a consignment sale.  I haven't been good about figuring out how to use them though.

I wasn't feeling creative or inspired by this scale.  That may be obvious since I've owned it for several years.  LOL  I asked some friends on the FIAR board for ideas on how to use the scale.  Here were some of the suggestions.

*Just free play - figuring out the scale and how to balance things.  We did this the first day and they enjoyed it.  I had a bag of unifix cubes and counting bears (both were also in the math box I bought) for them to use.  I also added in some assorted other things - paper clips, small bear, beads, binder clip, etc.

*Compare the weights of items using a standard. For instance, how many centimeter cubes does an eraser weigh? How many paperclips equal the weight of a crayon, many paperclips equal a pair of scissors? How many grapes equal a banana?

* Compare weights. Looking at the objects, which do you *think* will be heavier… put them both on the balance and see if you were correct.

*Illustrate density by using a large marshmallow vs a stack of quarters for instance. They're the same "size" but clearly don't weigh the same! 

*Measure 1/2 cup (or whatever the scale would hold) of various items and compare the weight vs volume

*Play old-time store and weigh out various things and have the kids pay w "gold" (maybe spray paint some beans or rice?) Or make your own "shekels" type of thing and weigh the "coins" for payment

*Illustrate the not so nice practice of putting the thumb on the scale or "weighted" measures that are weighted against the consumer, but for the vendor.

*Addition problems.  This fun to do with the unifix cubes.  I will probably make up a sheet for them to figure out the problems and then record the answers.  You can attach the unifix cubes together.  I thought I'd put them in groups of 1, 2, 3, 4, etc already attached.  They would then work the problem.

2+3 = _____

You would then put the 2 set and the 3 set on one side of the scale.  Then add cubes to the other side to figure out the total. 

Well, this very simple center has been a big hit.  It was even fun in ways that I hadn't anticipated.  Yesterday afternoon, the boys were playing happily in our sunroom (where I'd set up the center).  At one point, my oldest tells me that I should go look.  Indeed, my boys have made the math manipulatives toys.

My youngest boy (4) had made his own creation.

What really made me laugh though was my boy creations.  Only a boy would turn unifix cubes ... into a cannon.  And the bears were sorted by colors ... into an army.

I had to laugh.  I hope you got a chuckle out of it too. 



Monday, April 27, 2009

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We have been enjoying this FUN book as part of our Before Five in a Row curriculum with Daniel.  He has loved reading the story and acting it out!  Over and over and over again.  He giggles wildly when we are being chased by the bear.  He also loves when we all flop into the big bed upstairs.  Eliana likes the part in the book where we "stumble, trip ... stumble trip" through the forest. 

One of the things that I love about Before FIAR is that is has gotten me to try things that I might not have otherwise.  I think we all have things we are comfortable doing and I appreciate being stretched to get out of my comfort zone to try some new things - which sometimes also end up being things that I enjoy.  One of these things was "drama".  Rebecca LOVED the drama activities from the time she was a little girl.  I wouldn't have thought of this on my own, but am so thankful that Jane (author of the curriculum and friend) suggested doing this.  Since doing it with Rebecca (and Christopher), I've since enjoyed it with all the rest of our children and made many fun memories too.

I wish I had some pictures of us acting out the story, but, I was busy acting.  LOL

We also enjoyed some activities in a box that my sweet friend Catherine made for me.  I thought I'd share a picture of some of them.

There are pictures of the different areas in the book as well as the printed words describing the areas.  I had Daniel put these in sequential order and then match up the words with the picture.  He doesn't read so we were just working on beginning letter sounds like "sssss" for snowstorm.

Next were some sensory items.  These were a huge hit with my boy with Sensory Integration issues.  We didn't use these in a "hunt" like the label says - I should figure out how to do that.  Instead we just played with them, talked about it and had fun.  I threw the cotton balls on him and we talked about snow.  He felt the swishy grass.  He really loved the little tube he could  put his fingers into.  You just never know what is going to be a hit some days. 

Last, but definitely not least, were the felts.  He loved acting out the story - with me - using the felts.  We did this many times.  We used it first for sequencing and talking about the order of the story.  We repeated the lines and concepts in the story line as we acted it out.

This is made using a scan and transfer paper.  You then iron it onto felt.  Isn't it cute?!  Here is most of it stretched across the floor.

Here are some close-ups.

If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it.  It is a lot of fun.  I hope these ideas are helpful to someone. 



Friday, April 24, 2009

Nature Studies

We are rowing Andy and the Circus this week and I wanted to find time to go to a pond to look for tadpoles.  This was spurred on by a comment Isaiah made when he told me he had never seen a tadpole.  Huh?  Really?  I thought we needed to change that!

So today we worked on our boxes, finishing most of them before lunch despite a late start.  Then we went to Chick-fil-a for a lunch treat.  :-)  We then went to a nearby lake to have a picnic and then look for tadpoles. 

It turned out to be a really, really warm afternoon (high 80s).  I'm not ready for the heat yet!  lol  We saw geese in the pond.

We also saw some mallards - Mr and Mrs and one of their ducklings.  Some of my children were trying to figure out "which one" it was - Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, etc.  (This is from Make Way for Ducklings which we recently read too.) 

As we were walking down a path, Isaiah stepped off of the path and found a hole that intrigued him.  He wanted us to look and we asked if there was anything in the hole.

To my surprise, there was something in that hole.  A tiny, little turtle.  He was about 1-1.5 inches in length. 

I had brought along clipboards and paper in case we found something we wanted to draw for our nature journals.  I really need to get/make some nature journals for the younger boys.  Thankfully the pencils were still tied on from our Moonjellies dinner because I did forget pencils.  LOL

After drawing and writing a bit about the turtle, we walked a little further down the path.  We found several spots that looked perfect for tadpoles, but only saw lots of small fish.   The kids tried to catch some with the cups from our lunch - but no luck.

Daniel was able to use his happy meal toy - a monocular  - for taking a closer look at things.  It worked really well too.  Chick-fil-a has the best toys!

We also saw some turtles.  You can see the one sunning himself on the log.  Can you also see two more with their heads popping up out of the water?

It was a nice afternoon.  We all agreed that we need to return again soon.  We left when the heat was too much and Eliana was more than ready for a nap.  I'm glad we are able to do things like this.  I love seeing God's handiwork all around us. 

Thanks for sharing our day.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Night of the Moonjellies Dinner

We've been studying Night of the Moonjellies.  What a fun book!!!  It is always so much fun.  We ended our study by having our own "diner" similar to the one in the book.

We tried to first pick a name.  It was hard.  Each boy was a little stuck on what he thought would be the best name - and not so willing to budge from his selection.  Rebecca tried to help and suggested that they each add just one word - one that they really liked - and we'd combine them to come up with a name.   I thought this was a great suggestion.  Daniel suggested "cafe".  Ok, this is going to work.  Isaiah's turn came.  He thought about it and instead of picking one of the words from the name he wanted, he picked "thorax".   Sigh.  Maybe this wasn't going to work.  Joshua finding this funny decides that his word is going to be "unthorax".  Never mind that it isn't even a word.  So, would you want to eat at the "Thorax Unthorax Cafe".  Me either.

Thankfully, they worked on it some more and came up with the Golden Grill Cafe.  Much better. 

We decided on a menu that was similar to the books.  Lots of good yummy choices there.  We made up menus and each boy had a clip boad of notes with which to take orders. 

Roger did all of the grilling - and did a great job! 

The weather was perfect for dining and playing outside.  It was really a lot of fun. I found myself thinking that we needed to do this more often!

We had ice cream for dessert - for those who were still hungry.

My friend Rebecca made realistic money for the boys to use.  They were thrilled with it!!!  They used it to tally up receipts and take payments. 

The cooler was enticing to everyone.  What is is about ice that makes it so much fun?

I just thought this was a sweet picture.  I love that my friends enjoy our children and are willing to hang out and spend time with them too. 

All in all, the diner was a big success.  I think we need to have another one.  Anyone want to come?



Wednesday, April 22, 2009


First a big thank you to my sweet dh!!!  He recovered all of the pictures that I had accidentally deleted.  I had taken a lot of just "regular" shots and was excited about them.  On Easter morning, I was took a bad shot and was trying to delete it.  Well, I accidentally deleted ALL of the photos on my camera from the entire week-end.  :-(  I was really bummed.  There was no quick fix.  I took no more photos that day in case that somehow would mess up the retrieval of the deleted pictures.

Roger worked with some software and was able to recover all of them.  Yippee!!!  I was very thankful to see them again.  These are some of the photos that have been restored.

We spent Easter week-end in Virginia with our friends.  We arrived on Friday and it was beautiful!  We spent most of the day outside.  The kids enjoyed hiking around a nearby lake. 

I love shots from behind - can you tell?  (I have more that I haven't posted too.  LOL)

We saw ducks and the older girls even found a duck's nest - with eggs in it!

It's a little fuzzy, but can you see the eggs?

We walked around to a little dock area and the kids had fun splashing in the water.  Isn't lovely?

Roger worked on fishing to the delight of several of the children.  They enjoyed finding worms even though they weren't able to get any fish (this time). 

This picture needs a story.  Christopher was laying on the floors and spinning around while Eliana rode on his back.  She loved this - as you can tell from her face!

A cute, little Easter craft/snack was a hit with everyone.  The nest is "rice krispy treats" made with cocoa puffs.  The chicks are twinkies.  Gummy candy and frosting completed the bird.  A simple craft - with little to clean up and nothing to display but a photo.  ;-) 

I just thought this was cute.  They both love riding on this toy and I love that they enjoy sharing it!

Saturday we attended an Easter Egg hunt which was a large outreach function for our friend's church.  The day loomed dark and threatening.  The rain held off - but it was COLD!  The wind played a factor, but we were all surprised at how cold we were.  The event was very nice.  They served food and snow cones.  I couldn't believe anyone wanted one!  lol

There were 10,000 eggs hidden in a field for the children to find.  Yes, 10,000.  It was covered!  Eliana was thrilled to be able to join in on the action this year!  The littlest ones were allowed to go our first.  Eliana is using my old Easter basket.  :-)

The surprise of the day wasn't how MANY eggs everyone got - a lot!  It was a drawing that was held at the end of the event.  We were surprised to hear "Daniel Nelsen" called and then to hear he had won a new bike!  It's a nice one too! 

I was embarrassed that he wasn't excited about it.  He really dislikes a lot of attention and this was very uncomfortable for him.  In addition to the bike, they fit him for a helmet too.  It is very nice and I know we'll get good use out of it. 

On Easter morning, we made resurrection rolls.  I love this tradtion - we've been doing it for at least 12 years that I remember.  I love being able to tell the Easter story as you make the rolls with each ingredient representing a part of the story.  I love the visual of the "tomb" being empty.  He is risen!  (We all love that they taste sooo yummy!)

That's it for my pictures from the week-end - in that they didn't go any further.  (Our friends have some though.)  I feel like I have shared a sampling of our week-end.  I hope you've enjoyed it.  :-)



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What do the workboxes look like in use at our house?

Well, we are often not all at the table at the same time.  It's a tight squeeze.  Typically we are alternating spending time with Eliana while others are working. 

Here's a shot of  4 working at the same time.

I know that some worry about the space and mess of the boxes.  Here's what we are doing with ours.  When the box is completed it is put on the floor.  The completed work goes in one stack and the empty boxes in another.

I thought I'd share a few of our fun things.  A poster activity that has been a "center" is this outline map of the United States.  We were studying the New England states and I asked the boys to go in and mark these states.  Later I went in and found x's on random states and they were all the states that my 7yo knew.  I can see that we will get a lot of use out of this poster.  I think having the write-on/wipe-off pen makes it all fun!  LOL

Another great resource has been this book of science activities.  Most are simple concepts using things you have around the house.  My younger boys are loving it! 

A little chocolate in the day never makes anyone unhappy.  It's a sweet break and neat way to do some math.  We have several of these chocolate math books to enjoy.

This is something I made to go with our Keepers of the Faith badge work.  This sheet is my 4yo's work to earn the badge for knots.  The older boys have much more to do.  I put this checklist in a box along with a piece of rope and he is ready to learn about knots. 

Just thought I'd share a few extra things.  We are still loving our boxes!



Monday, April 20, 2009

The Special Mother

Someone shared this with me and I thought others might enjoy it too.  :-) 

by Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures, and a couple by habit. This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger. 'Armstrong, Beth, son, patron saint Matthew. Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, patron saint Cecelia. Rudledge, Carrie, twins, patron saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity.'

Finally he passes a name to an angel and smiles, 'Give her a handicapped child.'

The angel is curious, 'Why this one, God? She's so happy.'
'Exactly,' says God. 'Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.'

'But has she patience?' asks the angel.
'I don't want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world. She has to make him live in her world, and that's not going to be easy.'

'But, Lord, I don't think that she even believes in you.'

God smiles, 'No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.'

The angel gasps, 'Selfishness? Is that a virtue?'

God nods, 'If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says Momma for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.'

'I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty, prejudice...and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.'

'And what about her patron saint?' asks the angel, pen poised in midair.

God smiles, 'A mirror will suffice.'

Sunday, April 19, 2009

At Home Therapy

Much of the therapy that we do with Eliana is incorporated into play.  Most of the skills that she needs to work on can be done in fun and interesting ways.  Not to say that it isn't ever a challenge - especially the feeding/oral skills - but mostly it's just a new way of looking at play. 

I've tried to incorporate the rest of the children into Eliana's play so that their time with her can also be helpful to her.  Since we are going to play, it might as well be done in a way that benefits her.

Rebecca has really taken this responsibility to heart.  She helps in many ways with Eliana.  I think her favorite thing to do is dress her.  It's like having a live baby doll.  LOL  Notice their outfits in the pictures below.

On Friday, when they went out to play, Rebecca decided to make an obstacle course for Eliana!  All on her own initiative she created a fun play area - that helped with her therapy goals!  Isn't that just the sweetest!

She started by pushing uphill on this little ride-on toy.

Then she walked across a balance beam while Rebecca held onto her arms.

Next came an inclined plane.  It tilted up until she reached the middle then shifted down as she finished the second half.

Then under a slanted board.

Love the look on Eliana's face. 

The next task was to put the balls into a box.

There was one more inclined plane before going up two steps to the finish line!

Great job girls!!!

Just a fun picture of my little boys.

We are all loving the beautiful spring weather and the time outside to play.