DIY: Math facts dice game

A very simple dice game to practice basic [addition or multiplication] facts. It is more fun than flash cards!

All you need is two blank 12-sided dice. On each one write numbers from 0 to 11.
If you want to add more action - add another die. I used a regular 6 sided die and wrote (+), (-), (x).

When you roll all three dice you get two numbers and an action. Solve the equation. Note that for subtraction, you always subtract the smaller number from the bigger one.

World Travelers Club

We started the Club of a sort for small kids (5-8yo) recently. It is slightly more than a themed playdate.
Here's how the last one went. It was about Russia and Maslenitsa - Russian end of winter holiday.

The kids came over, and were redirected from going straight to the playroom by having several activities set up on the table.

There was the Museum of Russian Crafts featuring birch bark containers, Zhostovo tray, Khohloma spoon, etc.

Here are some of the activities we had to chose from. Note that even the small kids were able to do them with minimal help.
The coins are clued onto the cardboard with double-sided tape.
The flags are labeled "Russia" on the back, which indicates top and bottom.
Colored dots on the front show which color to use where.
Russian coins to look at.
There were also Matryoshka dolls to play with, and a picture of Matryoshka dolls to color (in different sizes: 1/2 page for the youngest and 1/4 page for the older ones).

When everyone was here, I gathered the kids up to play "puppies and kittens". You start by asking the kids which sound the puppies and kittens make. Then you tell each child which animal he is going to be (I had foam shapes, so I just let the kids pick out one). They all disperse and start making the sound of their animal. The goal is for the kittens/puppies to find other kittens/puppies and gather together.
If there are more kids or to make the game more challenging you can use more animals, so instead of finding another 4 kids of the same kind, each kid has to find his pair. These games teach kids to listen carefully, and to distinguish sounds in the noisy room.

Next we played another game, which teaches kids to talk with their eyes. You start by sitting the kids in a circle. And tell them that it is possible to talk with just their eyes, but they have to be very quite. You need to look at another person till your eyes meet. When they do, you both should smile, stand up, shake hands and change your seats. It is more challenging than it sounds. But it works miracles in calming kids down.

And so I had them all sitting in a circle beside me ready to look and listen. I had my globe and an iPad with some pictures. It was a time for a short presentation about Russia. I showed them where Russia is, that it takes two continents. That the (bigger) Eastern or Asian part of Russia is called Siberia. I find it's easier to hold the attention of the small kids if I focus on only one thing. So for Russia I chose to talk about the Lake Baikal, the legend of Shaman Rock, nerpa seals and log houses.
a very visual way to show just how much bigger Russia is than USA
As soon as I noticed the kids getting wiggly, I moved on to the "How do you say this in Russian?" Q&A. The kids also got a paper with their name written in Russian. They used a talking alphabet toy to "type" and sound out their names. For some reason people find Cyrillic fascinating.

Next there was a play break while we cleaned the table and got snacks ready: home made blini with jam and fruit, sushki (Russian-style pretzels). The braver adults were offered to try Kvass, but not too many went for it.

After lunch activity was bookmark making. There were letter stencils (both Roman and Cyrillic), stickers. One side of the bookmark had a child's name in English, another - in Russian.

Everyone seemed to have a great time. I made a resources and ideas page to send home. It has a list of web resources to help find more information about Russia, book & movies recommendations, craft ideas and such.

Science swap

Did you ever take part in a Science swap? Oh, you've never heard of them. Neither did we until we began homeschooling. If you did, and came here looking for swap bag ideas - scroll down...

We just made our bags for the upcoming swap. The idea is that you prepare a science activity that kids can do with minimal help; you prepare the "ingredients", write instructions, experiment log, questions, etc. And put everything in a gallon plastic bag. The rest works just like any other swap: 15 people make 15 bags each (same ones), so you end up with 15 different projects to take home!

So, here's our swap project - Balloon Magic. There are actually two different experiments, both are entertaining and simple enough for small kids, and science-y enough for older ones.  

First experiment is "Screaming balloon", the second one is "Balloon Kebab" (see it here).

Bag assembly instructions:

- print out the label, experiment directions, log, answers (download)
- punch holes for binder (optional)
- put 2 balloons, 1 hex nut, 1 penny, 1 skewer (protect the tip with a piece of drinking straw) in a zipper bag
- put a copy of the printouts in the bag
- cut out a label, attach it to the front of the bag with wide scotch tape.

Bubble art and explosions

My dear husband brought home 20lb of dry ice... We spent the whole weekend doing every possible (yet safe) experiment.

Here's our favorite one - bubble art. 
You probably know that if you add dry ice to a bowl of soapy water, you'll get a lot of bubbles. Well, if you add food coloring to the soapy water - you'll get some colored bubbles. You've got an idea.

Here're more detailed instructions, just in case.
Put some dish soap in a cup, add warm water. Mix. Add a few drops of food coloring. Mix. Add some dry ice, stir a bit. Wait for the bubbles to form.

Take a piece of paper - press it onto the bubbles. Let dry, enjoy your "bubble" paper.

If your kids like explosions better than art, here are some safe ideas:
- film canister - the lid pops with a bang, it seldom flies off. (safe for home, just point away from people or breakable things)
- a plastic zipper bag - put it on the floor, watch it inflate and then pop. It's easier to handle than a balloon, but just as much fun.
- milk/juice tetra pak with a screw on cap (better to do outside as it may splash) - it makes a loud bang, the top seam breaks apart. No flying debris. 

Crochet Finger puppets: Girl and Cat

finger puppets

I've made these for my daughter's birthday. This is my own design, and I tried to write down the pattern as I was working on them, so I could make more puppets later. And so I could share with you, of course. :-)

Here's the pattern. I've never wrote a pattern before, so I hope it makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions. 
View the pattern

Hope you like them.
You can't post it, reproduce or sell the pattern without my permission; you can't use it to make toys for sale. Thank you.

homeschooling, the beginning.

We're homeschooling our daughter... This is the end of the first month. And I can say that I know more than I did just a few weeks ago. We decided to play it safe and signed up with a correspondence school - secular, reputable (the list of their alumni is quite impressive)... We spent some time deciding on placement and such, and at the end went with a standard curriculum, 2nd semester of the first grade. It fits her well. But I want to add a proper grammar book and art study in some form...

Here's what our "school" looks like.

We get up around 11am. She might wake up earlier, I never know. She reads in the bed or colors or plays something quietly till I wake up.

We have breakfast and talk over what we need to do that day. We usually do a lot of work on Monday. She has to do Phonics and Reading comprehension books which are way too easy for her, so she does those quickly while I clean up and set up some other school work. [she reads at 2-3 grade level. We use a couple of other books to teach advanced phonics, but they are not a part of the "school work"]

When I plan our study time, I try to divide the work among 4 days. If we can't finish it or have something urgent (or more fun) to do, we always have time to complete it on Friday. I use a Teacher's planner that I've got at Target dollar section. I write down what we should do each day, and mark it when it's done. I also record our trips and PE.
Speaking of PE. We found that there are many places offering classes for homeschooler at a discount rate. You just have to ask. Kiddo is taking swim lessons and gymnastics.

School work usually takes us a couple of hours. I don't make her sit longer. I can make her do math drills on iPod or computer or finish her paper at some point later. I know that she'll pick up a book to read by herself.

We have a science experiment or two weekly. If she feels like coloring - I get her some coloring pages that have something to do with what we study that week in Science, Health or Social studies. Coloring is a good exercise for the hand - it helps to build endurance.

In the afternoons/early evenings -if we need to- we go shopping, run other errands. It also is the time when we have classes or meetups. If we're home - it's a free play. I need to scan the work that's done and I find it easier to do so every other day, otherwise I might have to spend an hour or two scanning, prepping, sorting on Sat. And weekend time is precious. Weekends are Family time.

We joined a local homeschooling group. We learn about local events and classes for HS, and we have meetups... We did not join any Coops yet. Maybe for the spring session. We go to the library a lot: we check the books our, we take part in some after-school programs and come to the presentations.

We have plenty of time to play. Kiddo's allowed to play on computer whenever she wants (she does not abuse this, so yes - it's whenever she wants). I do have to pre-approve what sites she goes to though. (btw, check your local school's website, they might have a login for BrainPop or other educational sites for kids. You can use it, too and save on subscription!)

We make dinner around 8pm. Sometimes she helps me cook, but usually her "job" is to set up the table. Daddy comes home around 10pm. She does not always wait for him, she eats her dinner earlier if she's hungry, and just has tea & cookies with us. And then it's time to brush teeth and read in bed. It usually is "I read to you - you read to me". Sometimes we read a few pages from the phonics primer... She'll keep reading for a while after I kiss her good night... We're "night owls". But we don't have to be at school at 8am, so it works for us...

Calendar _September 2011

Here's the new fill-in calendar:
September 2011

Happy Back-to-school OR NOT-back-to-school, everyone.

We'll be homeschooling. Wish us luck! :-)

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