Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What was your child for Halloween?

It is still Halloween as I post this, but my kids are out with their dad, so I have time to play with the pictures I took before they went out in the cold (and wind!) Here in Anthony, we have a "parade" downtown where the merchants hand candy out to the kids and it ends up at Municipal Hall where there is a costume contest. It is broken down into age groups, so thankfully my son and daughter were in two different groups.

My daughter's group was before my son's, and I stood on stage with her as the three "judges" discussed their favorite costumes. I saw them whispering about Anna and hoped for the best. I gave her one last whisper of, "remember if you don't win, be happy for the person who does..." just before they awarded the winner- a huge pink purse- which was really cute (of course, not as cute as my Anna!) but you could tell a lot of work went into it. Later, when we got into the van, Anna was just happy that people recognized that she was dressed as Pippi Longstocking! Apparently that was enough for her! (And it helped my ego when people kept asking how we got her hair to stay up. I couldn't believe they couldn't see the wire!)

Thomas went up with the first grade group, and we got into position so that we could see the action. We scoped out the competition. Anna wanted me to hoist her up so she could see, which made me think that the braids weren't such a good idea after all. I must have gotten poked in the eye three times! But when I saw the emcee walk towards Thomas with the "envelope" and announce, "the judges don't want to get arrested after the contest!" I forgot about my eyeball and beamed with pride. (Of course, I immediately worried about Anna feeling jilted, but she had just been handed a half-dollar for her contest so she didn't really notice.) Thomas stepped to the front of the stage where pictures were taken of the winner from each group. Of course, I didn't have my camera for some strange reason, but we took pictures later at home. Isn't he adorable?!
If you would like to share your child's Halloween pictures, please feel free and I'll post them on the blog.
Here are Lisa's children from Busy Buds

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stack and Stick Building Toys

If you haven't seen these building toys before, definitely check them out! We love building toys here and have numerous sets. One thing I never bought for some strange reason was "Lincoln Logs" and I never quite figured out why I didn't make that leap. Now I know! There is a much better product on the market that works in a similar way, but the Stack and Stick pieces actually STAY together.

During the recent controversy of lead in toys made in China, many parents have searched for non-toxic products made right here in the USA. Stack and Stick are made in the USA, and have NO toxic finish. You can learn more about Stack and Stick if you are interested, and learn about the other wooden toys we have at our internet store. Stack and Stick will definitely be under our Christmas tree this year, for both of our children! Hopefully it will be under yours, too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Socializing the Stay At Home Child

I love this topic, so I'm bound to repeat it (again). It has amazed me over the years that people still assume that homeschooled children grow up to be anti-social. As a matter of fact, I have noticed a lot of things that perhaps working parents are too busy to notice.
The first is that most schooled children do not meet my standards for a playmate for either of my children. They don't know how to behave, and they cannot relate to adults. As a matter of fact, we often witness them being rude and disrespectful to their parents. At a party recently, my son came to me in tears, which is somewhat expected considering the child he had been playing with. I took him aside and had a talk, to which he ended with this comment: "I wish (said child) went to OUR school so that she could learn how to behave!"
The second is that schooled students quickly learn their place in the order of things. They are either the bully, the bullied, or somewhere in between, depending on who else is in the room. This is "socialization." When homeschooled children play with schooled children, this is a foreign concept to them, and I've seen the interactions that take place, even on the playground. No matter where they go, schooled children look for their place in the "pecking order" so that they know where to fit in with other kids. How sad!
There have been plenty of articles written that I will post here for parents who might be considering homeschooling and are concerned about socialization. After reading these, I'm sure you will agree that children raised and taught at home have nothing to worry about when it comes to socialization!
Socialization: The "S" Word - A number of articles available here.

Penguins!

At our local zoo, they have recently put in a penguin exhibit. Penguins seem to be VERY popular these days, thanks to movies like March of the Penguins, and Happy Feet. Since we learn about a different animal every couple of weeks for science, I decided we should learn about penguins. It is absolutely my kids' favorite exhibit at the zoo. So I figured that it would be easy to get them into this lesson. And it was!
It's so easy to find information and children's worksheets on-line. It literally took me less than 20 minutes to find enough on penguins that was age appropriate for my kids. Here is a great penguin site. There is a link on that page for penguin activities that you can pick from. Our final "assignment" was to pick one type of penguin and learn more about it. Here are the questions. We took our questions to the zoo, and observed the penguins (again!) and read all the information provided by the zoo about their penguins, which are Humboldt penguins.

Here is some information we found online at the zoo website if you are interested (the picture is mine):

Humboldt penguins are only found along the pacific coast of Chile and Peru in South America. The total world population of Humboldt penguins currently stands at approximately 12,000 breeding pairs, with about 8,000 pairs in Chile and the remaining 4,000 pairs in Peru. The wild population has undergone a decline with the major causes stemming from human interference. These include guano collection (used in fertilizer production) in breeding areas, egg collection, hunting for food as well as competition for available fish.
Humboldt penguins have a black and white underside, with a black band along the chest. Their body is plumper in the middle because of a fat layer that protects them from the cold. These penguins weigh between 9-11 pounds with a body length of 26 inches. Like all birds, penguins have feathers, but their feathers are modified to help them “fly” through the water. These outer feathers also act like a diver’s wetsuit and keep the cold oceanic water away from the soft, fluffy down feathers that keep their body warm. Strong, stiff flippers help them swim up to 7.5 Kph (5 mph).

We had fun learning about penguins. We did not go overboard, and did just enough fact finding, coloring, and creating to keep both kids interested and engaged in learning. Isn't that the key?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fire Prevention in the Home

Fire prevention week was October 7-13, but we did not know this, as most of this stuff is brought up in school. We have, however, been working on our fire safety plan because it is one of the things we have to work on for Cub Scouts. I am very grateful because my eyes have been opened to so many things that we should be concerned about.
First, all of our bedrooms are on the second floor. Our stairway leads to the kitchen, where most fires start. (And even if it started downstairs at all, the smoke would come up the stairs). In any case, the stairs will not likely be an option for escape unless the fire happens to start upstairs. We did not have a smoke alarm upstairs until I realized this and ran out and bought one, along with a carbon monoxide detector. I got a great deal at our local True Value store for both of them.
The next problem is calling 911. Currently we have one phone upstairs, and it requires electricity. It is also a cordless, which sometimes doesn't get put back before we go to bed. So I decided that both of my children's rooms need telephones installed, just in case something should happen to me and they can't get out of their rooms.
The third problem: should we not be able to get down the stairs, how do we get out? First, we need to purchase at least one fire escape ladder. Then, we need to know which windows we can use the ladder on. More importantly, we need to make sure that the windows are operational, AND that my 4 and 6 year old children are able to open them by themselves.
Have you considered all of these things? Until I sat down with my children and considered all the possibilities (where a fire might start, whether I would be able to help, how they would call 911, where to meet outside, etc.) we had NO plan. There is no way to get down without a ladder. There are overhangs we can sit on to wait for the fire department, but they are too high to jump from.
Hopefully something I've said has sparked some thinking about your own fire escape plan. For fire prevention measures and more information to discuss with your children, a great site is http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/kids/flash.shtm .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Selling on eBay

eBay has opened the doors for many of us stay at home moms, whether we use it exclusively or used it as a starting point for creating our own internet store. Where would we be without eBay?! Here is a great article from guest writer, Suzanne Wells. She has some great ideas about involving our children in the eBay process as well as tips for the new eBay seller. Enjoy!

Selling in eBay – Where do I start?

As an eBay Consultant, one question I get from a lot of people is, "How do I even start on eBay?"
First of all, start small. Set up an eBay account and buy a few things to learn the process and get a feel for how eBay works. eBay and working at home is not for everyone. And it is ok if it isn’t right for you. Sell some of your own things before you invest any money in other products to sell. Understand that eBay is more than taking pictures and working on the computer – you need to be familiar with how to edit photos, shipping, customer service, and Paypal. Take your time and learn about these things before you jump in and go for it full-time.

You can look for items to sell at thrift stores, garage sales, off-price stores like TJ Maxx and Ross, member’s clubs like Sam’s and Costco, salvage stores, flea markets, and consignment stores. To find out what an item sells for on eBay, do an advanced search for completed items matching the key words of your item. You will get a list of all the listings that have ended with those key words in the last 30 days. You can use that information to make educated decisions about pricing or if you even want to pursue selling a particular item.

Once you are comfortable with the whole process, don’t be afraid to take a risk every now and then. I am often asked, “But what if you buy an item and it doesn’t sell?” Well, that’s ok. You can always relist it. You can mark it down and sell it for what you paid for it and move on. You don’t want to buy a truckload of 1,000 items without having tested them out first, but you do want to experiment with different products – you may find something profitable to sell on a regular basis.

Make small investments and try new products to test them out and see what kind of results you’ll get. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new products and try new things. eBay is constantly evolving and no trend will last forever. Experience is the best teacher.

Read blogs, article sites, and eBooks on eBay selling. Be careful not to get duped into buying "Get Rich on eBay" kits. As a power seller with over 4 years experience, and 13,000 sales, I am here to tell you that you aren't going to get rich selling on eBay, very few actually do. I will tell you that eBay selling is fun, profitable, and a convenient way to make money from home. eBay is just like any other entrepreneurial adventure - it takes time, patience, dedication, and hard work.

eBay can be a great family project. I love getting my kids involved. They help sort, package, and weigh the items for shipping. We keep a big world map on the wall in my office so that every time we ship to a new country, we find it on the map and have a little lesson about that country’s culture, history, and of course food! We talk about why people in other countries buy on eBay – many countries just don’t have the resources and abundance we have in the United States.

I involve my kids when I am shipping packages and let them key in the weight, print the label, and stick it on the package. They understand that this is what a post office employee does all day – it is a real job. They also help do some basic data entry using Excel and we study my inventory and profit reports so that they understand that running a business involves expenses as well as profit. We all get excited about a big sale and I usually say, “Well, that one will pay for us to go out to dinner!”

Children can learn a lot about being an entrepreneur by watching their parents work and understanding that having your own business is work, but there are also many rewards. My kids know that I work after they go to bed at night, but they also know that I can take Tuesday morning off without a hassle to come to their schools and watch a performance or a play. If they are home sick, I don’t have to make special arrangements with my boss to miss work. We are an example of a family where eBay works!

Suzanne Wells is an eBay Power Seller, author of "The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide to Successful eBay Selling," eBay Consultant, and mom of 2 in Atlanta, GA. You can visit her website at http://www.ebaysellingcoach.com/ for free eBay selling resources and tips, such as podcasts and eBooks, and discussion forum.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Teaching Time and Money

Two things that are barely touched on in so many curricula are teaching time and money. I found a WONDERFUL book for teaching both. Before I tell you about this book, I will admit I came across it on accident. I don't even remember where I got it. But when I started looking for another book for my daughter to use this year, I realized how lucky I got and how many horrible (and expensive) workbooks there are out there. So I ended up getting her the same book my son had used.

The book that I am using to teach my son and daughter about time and money is The Complete Book of Time & Money. The book is geared for grades K-3, and you can use it to teach the concepts, enrich school learning, improve concepts often misunderstood, and to "catch up" an older student who may have missed it the first time. I began using this book when my son was 5 for Kindergarten. He is still going through it, and my daughter has started her book at age 4 (almost 5). In addition to other math work, I usually give them one page about time and one page about money. The book starts out very basic, and gets harder gradually. My son has been able to grasp the concepts well, but I can tell that if we don't use the books for a few days or a week, he will start to have trouble with some concepts. For that reason, this book is a great book to do over the summer. It amazes me that parents think nothing about children taking off an entire summer. That is why so many math books start out with review for the first 3 chapters or so- because they know that most students have forgotten the concepts. Teaching time and money reinforces other math concepts, such as adding and subtracting, counting by fives, and fractions.


Another tool we use that has tremendous helpful qualities is the Talking Clever Clock by Learning Resources. My mom got this clock when my son was around 3 at a clearance sale. We don't really use all the doo-dads on it for school (though my son likes to fiddle with it after school) but we do use the hands and the digital timer on it. Here is the most helpful aspect of this clock: when the minute hand moves, the hour hand moves at the appropriate intervals. It works just like a clock, except that it can be manipulated by little hands. So when it says "10:45" the student can see that the hour hand is almost on the 11. This helps with the book mentioned above, because many of the activities require the child to draw the correct time on the clock. Most children will be inclined to draw the hour hand directly over the hour, even if it is half-past or even a quarter til the hour. This clock helps reinforce the correct position of the hour hand. It also helps solve problems such as, "Pick a time between a quarter past 3 and 4:30." Like most learning tools, a child can grow dependent on this clock, so it's important to make sure that doesn't happen.

We also love making up problems with money and selling things back and forth. During the summer, we spent a lot of time at the ball park watching baseball tournaments and softball games. Although I usually don't let my kids have much junk food, I did allow them to frequent the concession stand because it reinforced the concept of money. They had to make sure they had enough, they learned how much things cost, and they counted their change. Not bad lessons for 4 and 6 year-olds! They also grew the confidence required to step up and ask for the item they wanted. This is HUGE if you have experienced an older child (like my stepdaughter) who still is not able to do this. She is 15. While we can get her up to the counter, she mumbles and always has to repeat herself.

We do have a little store for our wooden kitchen that I've thought about using as a pretend store with prices and everything. But I never get around to working up the energy. Maybe when they get a little older they will think of this themselves!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Afternoons at Homeschool

I often wonder what other families do when they have finished "school" for the day. We learn all day long, but only do school "work" for about two hours. On this particular day, I had some errands to run. As a treat to my kids (and the 3 year old that we babysit) the end of our errands included a trip to McDonald's. (Honestly, this was also a way to keep from cleaning up dishes AGAIN!) Our town is less than a mile from one end to the other, so literally our errands only took 15 minutes. Each child got a happy meal, which included a car that you put stickers on. Waiting for my slow poke daughter to finish her meal, my son and Aiden (the three year old) vrrroooomed the cars all over the tables and chairs and that's when I got a good idea. I suggested we could set up a ramp on our front steps and see which car would go the fastest.

After Aiden's nap, I quickly found two boards that I had in my office. I laid them on the stairs and the kids had a blast! I pulled out some other cars and trucks that we had in our toybox and they had fun watching which cars went the farthest. The little girl from next door came over, since she is in half day school. This activity went on for a while. I did not explain gravity, friction, mass or velocity, but simply let them observe. This was not a lesson. It was merely their way of having fun and subconciously learning something that will become important down the road.

With all the bikes, scooters, and skateboards in our yard, I was surprised that no one had tried the ramp yet. So after I suggested it, my son worked up some bravery and tried the skateboard (sitting down). It was so much fun, they spent the rest of the afternoon seeing if they could go further and further down the sidewalk. Yes, it occurred to me that other kids were inside doing their homework. That's just another benefit to homeschooling. NO HOMEWORK!!

What do you do in the afternoons?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What will your child be for Halloween?

October is here and you know what that means? Yep, another "holiday" requiring more money leaving your pocket. I have considered pretending that Halloween doesn't exist. Or that it's against our religious beliefs. As a Christian, I have grappled with this on numerous occasions. But I decided that we could dress up in positive characters and leave the bloody, scary costumes to others.

Last year, my daughter Anna was Dorothy, and my son Thomas was an astronaut. We happened to already have these costumes, so no money came out of our pockets just for the sake of the holiday. They still play in these costumes, so we definitely got our money's worth! Thomas won the costume contest and got $5! That did not go over well with Anna, who wanted to win, too. But she was definitely the most beautiful Dorothy there. She was the "after" Dorothy- remember when they give her and the others a makeover in the movie? The year before that, they were Thing 1 and Thing 2 from the Cat in the Hat. We don't have pictures of that, but they were cute.

This year, my son chose to be a policeman between that, a doctor, and a pilot. We found a great place to shop for Halloween costumes in a new store that literally JUST opened up. I think you will LOVE this place:

GrowLearnPlay.com

When I shop for costumes, I don't like buying the cheap polyester ones that don't make it past the evening. To be honest, I usually shop after Halloween and buy costumes on clearance. And if they wear one for the next Halloween, great! And if not, they still play in them. Once our costume arrives, we will take pictures and share. Or you can click the banner above and see their wonderful selection of costumes. If your son is like mine and wants to be a policeman, definitely check it out! You will be supporting a work at home mom, which I always try to do.


I'm hoping that my daughter will want to be Pippi Longstocking. We need to go to the library and find a book or movie so that she can see who she is. Or maybe she will think about being "Annie." She also has a cute "Heidi" dress that she got for her birthday last year. It's not a real Heidi dress, but a dirndl that my mom got from Germany on eBay. Anna loves it! If I had complete control over my children :o) I would get my son some Lederhosen and dress them as Hansel and Gretel. Yes, I would be the witch! But, they do have their own minds, so I will settle for a police officer...and the five costumes Anna flips back and forth on between now and Halloween!

My son asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. I said, "Your mom." He looked at me funny, as if saying, "really?" He is old enough to wonder why they are dressing up, but Mommy is not. Gosh, I don't know WHAT I would be. All I know is that every year is a mystery as to how the weather will turn out, and it's really a pain trying to figure out costumes that won't kill them in 70 degree weather or freeze them out in 30 degree weather. So if I can get that much figured out, I will be content going as "Mom," carrying the flashlight, and making sure the candy is sorted at the end of the night. Oh, and don't get me started on the candy...YIKES!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fish "On the Fly"

Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, "What are we going to do for school today?"

Perhaps just considering that freaks you out. Maybe you are a planner. I would like to be, but the fact is, I'm just not. So many mornings I wake up with this question. And you know what? It always works out for the best!
I opened up my son's language arts book and remembered that he had just read a story called "Fun with Fish" which had beautiful underwater photographs of all kinds of fish. He also has been asking to get his own fish, so I thought it might be a good idea to use this theme. We found a few resources that we have on fish, and read the information together.

The next day, I took that same information and put it into a chart. This is a great learning tool for visual learners who like to see information they have gathered in an organized manner. I was also able to phrase the terms I used with age appropriate words even though some of the resources were for older learners. We went over the chart. We also included my daughter, who is 4. (My son is 6). That morning I had seen our pattern blocks still sitting out, so I got the idea to create our own fish out of the blocks, and we could make up a story about them. The kids had so much fun!

Here is my six year-old's story and fish:

The Little Fish Gets Eaten

One day there was a HUGE shark. His name was Sharky. He had a little friend named Zoie. He and Zoie went hunting for fish. They didn’t catch any. So Sharky was so hungry that he ate Zoie. Then, he met another friend who was also a shark. Those two were best friends forever.

The End

It is important to note that before writing his story, he asked his sister what her fish's name was. You guessed it: Zoie. This did not go over well with the drama queen, who quickly fell to pieces upon hearing the story. I knew it would be a problem. But I couldn't decide...freedom of expression, or protect your baby's feelings? Hmmmm. Clearly I made the wrong decision. But I explained to my daughter that she could write her story about Zoie going to heaven and seeing our dog Jessie that just passed away. Instead, she decided to make Zoie a bigger shark who eats Sharky. And she changed her name to Melissa. Go figure! Here is a picture of her fish/shark, and her story is still in her head!

Notice the embellishments? Yep, she's all girl.

Anyway, we had a fun time with it. It was a good break from the normal day to day lessons that we do. And none of it was planned, so that makes it even better. I have learned that God plans everything, even the little "coincidences" of stories and lessons that are about the same subject or time period that are easily tied together. Really, you can't plan this stuff!

Tom Woods