Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Learning Chess at 29, and 5. Who knew?

I never learned how to play chess. The rules seemed too complicated. What do you mean the knight moves like an L? And the bishop can shoot across the board in one move?! If my friends played, they didn't tell me about it. It just wasn't on my radar.

That changed last week.

I came across a blog post about using chess as part of your home school, and it was a little light bulb moment for me. Improved logic, you say? Better math and science understanding, you say? Ability to plan ahead, predict outcomes, practice good sportsmanship? Ok!

I think it's important for my own brain that I learn new things and challenge the remaining brain cells I have. I downloaded the free app, which has lessons, tactics training, game play vs. computer and vs. people, etc. (Parents, note that the app has a chat function) So far, I haven't won. I'm appreciating just how hard it is to win.

But that's not the point. I now understand the basic rules and movements, and it's on to learning more strategy with openings, middle moves and closing it down. It is so fun!

I grabbed some books at the library the other day and hopefully they can help.

Meanwhile, Johnny saw me playing a game and was curious. I handed him my phone and let him play the rest of the game vs. the computer. He wanted to learn more, so I found Kid Chess, which has some kid-level tutorials and a computer game called EZ Chess that will basically let the kid win. I don't plan to use that game too much, but I think it helps to cement how pieces can move. Plus, getting a checkmate is a confidence boost and perhaps it's enough to keep the interest going?


Anyway, I'm thrilled that Johnny is showing an interest and I plan to teach all of my children how to play chess. If any of you have advice for me on that front -- recommended books, websites, certain game boards, etc., lemme know. I want to find a set with distinctive pieces. Some I've seen, it's difficult to tell some of the pieces from each other. No good.

Meanwhile, I am on a mission to beat both my husband and my sister. At minimum. I'm ultra-competitive by nature, with absolutely nothing to back it up. Yikes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adding on some Math Mammoth

As I mentioned previously, our RightStart math program has been met with some resistance. I adjusted my approach, and decided not to push too hard since hi, early months of kindergarten.

Perhaps since lessons bounce around and use a variety of manipulatives, it's bothering my son? Maybe it feels too jumpy. Hard to say.

We've done a little more with RightStart, but last week, Johnny was doodling some addition. He wanted to know something like 13+13. I showed him how to work it and he thought it was pretty fun, so he made a few more problems for himself.

I printed some addition pages from Math Mammoth to see how he'd like it. It was love. I told him this was actually first grade work and he thought that was really cool that he could do it.

It's too soon to tell if Math Mammoth will replace RightStart for Johnny or if it'll be just a break. I think I should look at RS and maybe pull some concepts and do it without him seeing my teacher's manual. Maybe that's a trigger for him. No idea.

Then yesterday, I didn't do any math with him. We did some other things. He went to his desk in his room and made some math problems for himself. Ok!?

So he did things like 20+20; 1000+1; 100+10; 200+500 etc. He got all but 2 right.

Rather than put an X on the incorrect ones, I took my pencil and put a dot next to them. I said, "I'd like you to take another look at the ones with the dot by it," and he corrected them. I turned the dot into a check mark. He thought that was fun.

Personally, I still love what RightStart is trying to accomplish and I would like to use it for him in some capacity. I'll need to tweak my approach, though.

If you are interested in Math Mammoth, you can get it for superduper cheap. I bought the entire light blue series for grades 1-6 during a Homeschool Buyer's Co-Op sale. You can also opt to buy the pdfs by topic, in the "blue series." For example, the 1st grade level addition is $3.95. WHAT.

Topics in the blue series would be good for reinforcement or a different approach.

There are a LOT of pages in the program, so printer ink is a concern. I've just printed a few at a time, but I might have it printed by some copy shop.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Highlights from September

The end of September already? We had a good month. Here are some highlights and a progress report:

Field trips/classes:

  • An orchard for an apple tour
  • A physical fitness/martial arts class (just one session)
  • Trip to the zoo
  • Fire station tour
Other outings to the library and parks, and some visits with grandparents

Family trip:
  • Went on a quick getaway to French Lick, Ind., and also Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind. Visited Spring Mill State Park. Very nice park! It has a pioneer village, with buildings from nearly 200 years ago, and some history interpreters on site. Kind of like Conner Prairie. Worth a visit. Also, Holiday World was basically empty when we went. So fun.
Academically, Johnny is moving right along with All About Reading. He went from lesson #33 at the beginning of September, to part of #47 today (level 1 goes to 49 lessons), and so I expect he will finish this level later in the week. We will start up with level 2 immediately after.

He is becoming more confident with reading on his own, and I'm grabbing a variety of materials for him to read from the library. Besides some of the typical Dr. Seuss books he enjoys, I selected a few joke books and comic books for him to try. 

He's reading through a huge collection of Calvin and Hobbes and enjoying it. 

For our road trip, I borrowed a Magic Tree House audio book. It had 5 books in the collection. Ahead of our trip, I read the first story in the series to familiarize ourselves with the characters and gist of the series. Quick premise: Two kids discover a magic tree house which contains books. They can travel to the location in the book and learn more about that moment in history. We've heard about the Titanic sinking, something out in the West, and something to do with Australia, I think? I haven't been paying terribly close attention.

It's an ok series. Formulaic, as series like these tend to be. Enough info to get an idea of what might have happened. I don't think I'll get more audio books from this one unless the kids request it. I do think I'll suggest Johnny reads some on his own, when he gets more confident with chapter books. He did read some of one title on his own, it just took awhile. 

With My Father's World, we did the units on octopus (ocean life), insects and goats (farm animals). I bought an ant farm and it has been SO COOL watching the ants at work. 

Math was light this month. Lessons 18-24 in RightStart. Uh. Yeah. Light. I had better get back to it in October.

But, Johnny worked on some math things in his Rod & Staff workbooks. Really simple things, like handwriting practice for numbers, writing the quantities of items in a picture box, etc. 

I've had him do more handwriting things and practice with scissors. 

In his free time that I still consider perfectly educational, this month he's made marble runs, constructed various things with Lego, Lincoln Logs and wood blocks; read (and been read to) a stack of books; made plenty of pictures and little books.

His latest thing is to use a pen to draw some sort of scene, make a photocopy of it and invite his sister to color it with him. Haha!

There have been other little things that I recorded in my log, but overall it was a nice, lightish month. I have no complaints, as we are achieving the goals I set out for him here. Fun, a focus on reading, and a good number of field trips and time outside while the weather is nice.

Coming up for October:

We have several fun field trips on the calendar! Also looking to go to a show at Beef and Boards dinner theatre. We've never done a live performance and I'm hoping it goes well with the baby. Speaking of the baby, she turned 1! Oh, my heart.

More of the same -- moving forward with reading, lots of books together and independently, etc.

More handwriting practice, and I'd like to get back with RightStart and do more with it this month.

Adding All About Spelling. Probably will go slowly here, but we'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Combating a fussy attitude with a to-do list

The other day, I attempted to have Johnny switch gears from coloring a picture to doing our math lesson for the day. Instant resistance.

My motivation to do math at that moment: the baby was happily occupied playing with toys nearby and I thought ooh, we can do math now.

Johnny's motivation: he wanted to work on another drawing. He didn't want to switch gears. Hence, protest.

At the time, I didn't quite understand the issue since he wasn't communicating what he actually wanted to do. He was making it sound as if he didn't like math, period.

So...after a time-out for an attitude adjustment, some chatting with my husband to see if he had any insight, and the sort, we were able to sort it out. My husband even did the next math lesson with Johnny so he could see what he was learning and so we could both observe him doing the work. It went well. We saw that the math program is continuing to be age-appropriate, interesting and educational.

The problem was attitude.

I've been suspecting our days would go more smoothly if Johnny knew what was expected of him in terms of our school work. I recently made a morning to-do list for him, and he so enjoyed going through each item and checking it off.

So, I asked if he would like a checklist for his school work. He loved that idea, so I made one real quick the night before.

After bible and his reading lesson, I had on his list to do 10 jumping jacks. Next was his choice, and I listed a few options. He chose to make a drawing taken from the vantage point on the moon, American flag on it, looking out and seeing the sun, the Earth and a comet going by).

While he was doing this, I gave Vivienne some one-on-one time. I selected a Lauri puzzle, the one with kid shapes doing all sorts of different poses. I asked her to put the pieces in piles based on color; do an AB pattern with them; lay out 3 green pieces and then add 2 more and tell me what she had, etc. Next was I think her favorite: I asked her to stand in the pose of each piece before putting them back on the puzzle. Some poses were extra-fun (standing on her head, doing a squat, running, etc).

Next, Johnny told me it was math time. How 'bout that? So we did lesson #23 and it went really well. No complaining. Asking to do one task again for practice (!). Win.

Next was handwriting, then I had him do some practice with scissors, and his last task on the to-do list was do a headstand. Hah!

It went swimmingly.

I think I could do a similar thing with a workbox, but I think it will take me less time to do a to-do list for him. He seems to get satisfaction out of checking items off (don't we all)? and there's the added benefit of him reading what I wrote. He sees what his school day will include and he knows when he will be done.

We finished and they had some quiet time in their rooms while I prepared lunch. The weather is gross today, so they are inside and watching a video. Amelia is sleeping now (on me, of course...whatever).

When she wakes up, we will read some library books. This week, we are reading about insects and pioneers (separately, lol!). I'll have them choose some puzzles or something else from our educational toy/game selection. I'd like to keep afternoons a little more light. If we can do our 3Rs in the morning, I think that goes more smoothly for us.

It has taken us more than a month to find our rhythm with kindergarten stuff, but I think we are getting there. Yay!