-Word of the Day
This is a good warm-up activity that the kids never seem to tire of. I pick a word or phrase for us to use as a topic - we each have a 1/4 sheet of paper and a pencil with a good eraser. The timer gets set for 15 minutes and we (even the youngest) see how many words we can come up with that have something to do with that word. When the timer goes off, we take turns, youngest to oldest, reading our words (or interpreting the youngest's pictures or invented spelling). We don't count off for spelling unless it is just too far out there. If two or more of us have the same word (plurals count as the same word), we mark it with a dot or a circle. We count how many words we each had total and how many uniques we each have after comparing our lists. The ratio of unique to total is written at the top of each of our pages and the older kids simplify the fraction - i.e.: 6/24 = 6 uniques out of 24 total words = 1/4.
An alternate version: We see how many words we can make from the letters in the topic word or phrase. Lately, we've been using The Daily Buzzword for this activity. If the word is too short, we use a modification of it - adding 'ly' or 'ing' or the like. Each letter can only be used once in the new word for every time it occurs in the original word. The same method of comparison is used.
I try to have 10 words per week that fit one of the Spelling Rules. They read the rule, define or make up a sentence using each of the words, and then we have a "spelling bee" (or two) each day untill they have them all. (while they are busy with this, I usually go prepare and print out some of the lessons for the next few days)
I have a Basic Cursive Handwriting Font that I use in my graphics program to set up daily practice sheets that I print out for all the kids (yes, even the youngest - at her request!). Early on, I just provide the alphabet, then add simple words, then simple sentences for them to copy directly underneath the example. As they get better, I give more complex, fun and personalized sentences, even paragraphs for them to copy. When they tire of this, I just give them the guideline sheets with the alphabet at the top and they can fill in all the lines as they please. Sometimes they write stories, copy poems, repeat words or make wish lists - as long as it is neat cursive, they can choose what to write. We are working on a paragraph writing focus that fills in a lot of these sheets right now. The two older children write a paragraph each day on any topic they choose.
This is about the time that the bellies start rumbling, and we get out crackers, cheese, fig bars, granola bars, or whatever ("junk" cereals are good for snacks) and have a glass of milk or juice while we work.
I use the Mathematics Worksheet Factory Deluxe to generate daily practice sheets. They have the option to do these as "beat the clock" challenges. I give them 15 minutes, and then they figure out how much time it took them to complete the page by subtracting the remaining time on the clock from their origninal 15 minutes. They like competing against themselves.
The 7 year-old gets 50 mixed addition and subtraction problems (1-20 + 1-20) and 50 mixed multication and division problems (1-12 X 1-5) daily.
The 11 and 14 year-olds get 100 mixed addition and subtraction problems (1-20 + 1-20) and 100 mixed multication and division problems (1-12 X 1-12) daily.
They all three get 1 or 2 pages of Secret Squares, Magic Squares or rounding practice. Whatever seems to be fun for them. We are initiating fractions practice again now.
(We are taking a break from the fractions and algebra workbooks, from Key Curriculum Press, that the two older ones have been working in.)
This varies, as it depends on whether everyone is having a good day or not. (Sometimes we are already finished by lunch time, and on some rare occaisions, we are still at it when Dad gets home at night.) Frequently, we watch science or literature videos during lunch.
We are currently using the Dorling Kindersley Science Encyclopedia to explore the world of science. It is large, beautiful, well laid out and fun to use. I have made work/review sheets and some related activities to go with the first section, "Matter". They seem to enjoy it (especially making the Rock Candy!). We use this every few days to daily, depending on the interest level.
Right now, we are using the Highlights For Children - Top Secret Adventures series for our world geography studies. They are fun, informative, and relatively inexpensive. We only do this every couple of weeks. (Highlights has come out with a series for U.S. geography too that we will probably try.)
14 yo - reads constantly - voraciously - everything
11 yo - reads a lot - finding larger, chapter type books most interesting now (sometimes even puts down the LEGO to pick up a book!!)
7 yo - reading more and more
We read together nightly. Each of the older children has a book that they are reading to the rest of us. The youngest is participating more and more - reads a book to us all - sometimes alternating pages with me. We have a large quantity of books of our own, and visit the library fairly regularly where all three children have active library cards. See some of our favorites below.
DH is reading "The Century - for Young People", by Petter Jennings and Todd Bradshaw to us all several nights a week. It covers from 1901-1999. It is enjoyable and informative, with many personal stories from people who were children at the time, making the events more real. The photos are excellent, and it is easy to relate the events and situations to people we know - even family members. It usually generates questions and a good bit of thoughtful discussion.
-Music and Art
We have many instruments available, and loads of art supplies. The 11 yearold gets on the piano every day, and the other two pick up instruments whenever Mom and Dad do. Though we are not doing formal lessons right now, we are introducing the concepts, and offering guidance.
There is not a day that goes by that there are not a host of new and ever more complex drawings produced by all three. Again, we are not doing any formal lessons, but Mom is a graphic artist, and there are many books available in our home library on drawing and art that get looked at pretty frequently. We use art sheets for fun and practice that are based on the book, "Drawing With Children". Plus, the house is full of art (when you can see it through the dust 8^}..).
They are encouraged to listen to all styles of music, and frequently choose the background music for the day.. from Rachmaninoff to They Might Be Giants...(though I do sometimes have to request the volume go down ...LOL.. so we can hear ourselves think!)
Mom speaks a little Spanish, and Dad speaks fair German, so we use some of this every day, and the kids pick it up readily. Again, no formal lessons, but exposure and availability of instructional software and books. We are slowly learning ASL (American Sign Language) too. In fact, the 7yo was teaching me signs in the car last week, and when we played Go Fish this evening, she counted the cards out in Spanish as she dealt them.
We have active kids, who have access to bicycles, a big swing set, about 30 acres, and 4 dogs. Believe me, "sedentary" is not a term you could use to describe my kids. We also have weekly Karate lessons, taught by Dad, and occaisional dance lessons, taught by Mom (ever heard of "clogging" or "buck dancing"? - now there's a work-out!)
We are fortunate that DH is a computer guy, and we have been able to provide computers for each of our children from spare, used and outdated parts. We have a vast collection of both educational and entertainment software. They are encouraged to partake of the educational stuff daily, and the sheer entertainment stuff is generally reserved for after all jobs, schooling, and other obligations have been fulfilled. It doesn't tend to be a problem, as most of the truly educational software is just as entertaining and fun to play as the fluff. They do spend a lot of time on them. (Lots of good educational software is available at fairly good prices on the auction sites, but you must be careful.) See some of our favorites below.
We also have a large collection of videos, both educational and good quality entertainment. Bill Nye, Magic School Bus and Star Trek tend to be the favorites. We take the opportunity to discuss the social situations and plots of the stories, and the historical accuracy of some movies. See some more of our favorites below.
Most of the TV we watch is the Public Brocasting System. It is freely available to the kids after the regular jobs and schoolwork are done. Arthur, Nature, Kratts Creatures, and Nova are favorites. Again, we use the shows as platforms for discussion.
For more information and links to web sites on any of these subjects, please see the link bars at the bottom of this page.
Some of Our Favorite Videos
Some of Our Favorite Books