Friday, March 28, 2014

Baseball Unit Study wrap up

I'm a total scardie cat. 

Worst athlete ever. 

A ball coming at me is not my idea of fun. 

The one year I did play a school sport, the volleyball coach would only put me in for the last two seconds of an already won or lost game and gave me the Sportsmanship award at the end of the season. I was that pitiful. 

I couldn't run a mile without stopping, even if a bear was chasing me. 

Still, I have this desire to love the sport of baseball as much as my husband and his family, so together we can share the all-American pastime with our kids. 

Despite my infant scapegoat (you know the line... "I can't because of the baby, but you go and have fun"), I decided to join in and try tossing and hitting the ball with the kids today for homeschool PE. 

I'm still lousy at it, but we did have fun! We worked up an appetite for a baseball-themed afternoon snack: Tyler Florence's caramel corn. Yum! 

With opening day fast-approaching, are you incorporating baseball in your homeschool? Please share with the Linkup below! 

The Ultimate Homeschool Blogroll

Baseball unit study: chalk pastels

I wish I could take credit for this one, but all the instructions came from Chalk Pastels through the Seasons.

A baseball unit study can touch all curriculum areas, including art!

I helped draw the outline for A3 but the big boys worked on their own. A3 decided to scribble red all over his art when he was done, and I just stood back and let him. It's his art, after all! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Handwriting app and song for wiggly little ones

Is it weird that I've been looking forward to the day when I can attend the Handwriting Without Tears workshop? For a few years now?
I just love the way this company has made handwriting pleasant and easy for the Wiggly Willy types (to borrow a term from Cathy Duffy). Until then (when our new baby is old enough to spend the day with his grandparents while I attend the workshop), here is what has been working for us. 

We've been singing and dancing with the Frog Jump Capitals song (the complete song is on this YouTube video above) and then practicing some capital letters as he wants on the Wet Dry Try app. He could go longer, but I keep this activity to 10-15 minutes while his big brothers do independent work.

Little A3 loves tracing and enjoys learning his letters, or I wouldn't do this now. There's certainly no need to torture a little one with lessons!

I first read about this app back in 2012 over at Passport Academy. It has improved since then with the addition of numbers and lowercase letters, and a feature to make it easier or harder based on your student's level of skill. You can use the HWT recommended order (like in the photo above, where it starts with Frog Jump Capitals and unlocks one letter at a time) or see a view if the alphabet and choose any letter to start with.

Have you tried Wet Dry Try or anything else from Handwriting Without Tears?

(No affiliate links here; I just am enjoying HWT so much that I wanted to share!)


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scoring a baseball game - Baseball Unit Study Link Up

The possibilities for math lessons based on baseball are infinite, but I wanted to start with learning how to score a baseball game in my homeschool baseball unit study. When I initially shared this idea with a friend, she confessed that she was the official scorekeeper for her high school's baseball team so she could watch and meet the cute boys on the field. Obviously she was far more clever than me. 

Cute boy watching aside, baseball scoring provides proof that math is everywhere, and comes in many forms. 

I didn't know the first thing about how to score a baseball game, but fortunately we live in the age of Google and resources are plentiful! Here's what helped me: 

Take a score sheet to a local high school, college or minor league baseball game, or try watching a game on TV and following along with your score sheet. 

Math class dismissed! 

Hip Homeschool Moms

Shopping at my first homeschool conference

I came home from my first ever homeschool convention road-trip with new friends made, ideas, to-do items and just a few purchases from the expo.

While it's entirely possible to homeschool for free or next to free, I just love buying curriculum. Some people have a shoe problem; I have a curriculum problem. If I won the MegaMillions jackpot, I would probably still drive my van with over 100,000 miles on it, but I would go on an enormous curriculum and school supply shopping spree. Then I'd need more storage shelves and cabinets. Then... Well... Maybe going overboard on school materials just isn't a good idea, regardless of funds.

Here's what I bought:

Math Detective A1 from The Critical Thinking Company
Though I didn't save much money buying it from the tradeshow booth, I did have a chance to meet a rep from The Critical Thinking Company who was extremely helpful. He recommended this series, and I'm excited to try it soon. We used Balance Math recently and even my husband and I worked out the problems. It might have gotten competitive...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Numbers from my first day of my first homeschool conference

Denim jumpers spotted: Zero 

Minutes A3 played quietly during the hour-long session he had to attend with me: 60 (Victory!!! Thank you "play foam," Kumon cutting workbook and lollipops!)

Dollars spent: Just $18, on a workbook from The Critical Thinking Company booth (10% off and, obviously, no shipping fees!)

Miles walked: Lots! I'm glad I wore comfortable shoes!

Nice families met: Tons! Everyone has been extremely polite and gracious. What a nice bunch to be around. 

Shots of espresso in my pre-convention Starbucks drink: 4

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What about math? Part 2

Rather than jumping right in to a math curriculum, I recommend to newbie homeschoolers that they first take a break to show their children that math can be fun and relevant. 

Then.... When you're ready..l have them take a no-pressure placement test like this one from Math-U-See or another program. 

When my should-have-been 7th graders took this test, it became loud and clear to me that they needed to go back to the 3rd grade level, Gamma, and catch up. Math is sequential and if you don't know the basics, like multiplication, life for mom and student is going to be very, very difficult. 

One of the good things about Math-U-See is that the levels are labeled with the Greek alphabet, so my 13-year-old struggling learners didn't have to see "3rd grade" on their books. Even if they had, I would have just explained that if they go back and review the lower levels, math in general will be much easier for them. Now we're in our 4th year of homeschooling and C16 has completed Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Pre-Algebra and more than half of Algebra. 

If you're worried about blowing the budget by purchasing so many levels, consider investing in a program with a strong resale value (like Math-U-See) or using a free curriculum like the Khan Academy

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wrapping up the week: Big brother activities

Each week the big boys are assigned a chore and learning activity of their choosing to do with little A3. This week, little A3 had his first "big brother activity" with our new baby. Oh he was so proud!

Since St Patrick's Day is approaching, the big boys each did a shamrock craft with A3. My favorite craft activities are the kind you can eat or send as cards to loved ones. We mailed two sets of shamrock cards this week. Grandparents - keep an eye out for your mail carrier!

C16 chose this toilet paper tube shamrock stamp activity. They made four hearts then taped them together. After it tried A3 cut out the shamrocks for cards. The idea came from this blog. I'm always grateful for ideas from other blogs!

The activity N16 chose came from our MathArt book. They made pop up cards which introduced symmetry, and involved cutting, folding and gluing. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SAT Prep Part 2 - Khan Academy & The College Board

I'm just starting to poke around the Internet for the best SAT and ACT prep resources for C16, a ninth grader. How excited I am to have stumbled upon this: Khan Academy has partnered with The College Board to offer FREE practice tests and other prep resources for SAT.

Have you tried Khan Academy yet?

Oh and don't forget, my SAT flash card giveaway is still open for entries!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Baseball-infused math lessons for all ages

If you made me declare a "type" for our homeschool style, I'd say eclectic. We use (and love!) Tapestry of Grace, which I guess is a combo of Classical and Unit Study. Then we take breaks here and there and use a Unit Study (like we did in February for the Olympics, and a few years ago for a two month focus on all things baseball.

This year N16 and C16 won't have time to divein to a baseball unit study completely, but we will infuse baseball in our homeschool here and there.

I'm trying something different with N16 this year instead of continuing his Math-U-See Pre Algebra studies, and piecing together my own practical math curriculum. Starting next week we will try these three free math lessons from The Baseball Hall of Fame:

Geometry: Circling The Bases
There's an elementary and a middle school version of this lesson, and we'll post about the middle school plan after we complete it.

Statistics: Batter Up
This one has a high school level, as well as elementary and middle school.

Economics: The Business of Baseball
Economics is a topic that I only enjoy teaching when it relates directly to something the boys are interested in, and here's a lesson for all school ages that we'll use soon.

We won't do the videoconferencing or a field trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, but their free curriculum still has great ideas for multiple-day lessons. Add a link to your baseball posts here!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Field Trip Picks for Baseball Unit Study

Back when A3's first birthday was approaching, my dad was sent on a business trip to Louisville. My mom, on summer break from teaching, was talked into going along. When she said she was heading to the Louisville Slugger Museum, I shared that I had been wishing to take the boys there someday and made a request. I asked her to get our littlest guy a keepsake personalized bat for his first birthday gift (because, really, how many toys does a baby need?). She loved the idea and on his first birthday, he got the gift I hope he will keep forever: a good ole American-made tee-ball-sized baseball bat, complete with his name engraved on the end.

He was playing with it yesterday, and this reminded me that opening day is fast approaching for baseball season.

Before the twins were adopted I researched our school options and gobbled up so many books about education, including a best-selling book by Rafe Esquith: Lighting Their Fires. Among many other inspiring things, the author explained how any why he teaches his students about baseball. His point of view was compelling, and I jumped in and created a unit study for my twins, age 13 at the time.

Our oldest boys are definitely not athletes. If you ask them what their favorite sport is, they'll say "fishing." All things sport were foreign to them, and I wanted them to share a bit of my husband's enthusiasm for the all American pastime.

Our unit study was beefy and thorough - from the physics of the game, to scoring, to Jackie Robinson, to the locations of each MLB team; we consumed all things baseball for about two months. My boys never were inspired to the point that they wanted to join a team, but they were absolutely captivated when we finally did make it to the Louisville Slugger Museum for ourselves. Today little A3 is curious about the sport, an interest I'll jump on through library books, attending a minor league game and playing tee-ball in the back yard. This month if his curiosity keeps up, I'll teach him "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" and do some themed crafts and snacks. When he's older and an official student, I'll pull out more of my notes and items from our 2011 unit study.

 If you're inspired to bring a bit baseball into your homeschool, I'll share some resources over the next few weeks.

 For now, here's a sampling of baseball-inspired field trip ideas:

The Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Kentucky
When we went in 2011 I spent most of my time chasing a toddler, but it definitely will be a trip to repeat.

The Shoeless Joe statue and Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina
What a great story, and a reminder that being a terrific athlete isn't about having the best gear or flashiest uniforms.

Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York
I need to plan a road trip for this one!

Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia
 Go for a game or just enjoy a guided stadium tour.

Field of Dreams in Dubuque County, Iowa
This one's on my wish list for a trip along the Mississippi River. BYO ball and bat.

If none of these are close by, just head to your local ball field next month and watch any given Little League game for free. Cheer on whoever is up to bat and encourage your kids to try and keep score.

 Have you studied baseball in your homeschool? I'd love to read your ideas! Leave a comment or join the LinkUp below.

  PS You can still enter to win a little SAT prep giveaway until the end of March!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rubix cube, Greek alphabet and more on YouTube

I can learn just about anything, and so can my boys, on YouTube.

 Just pre screen anything before showing your kids, and that's it! Easy!

The big boys wanted to know how to talk with a British accent before the 2012 Summer Olympics, and we were all saying "duty" after this one...


 What have you learned/taught using YouTube?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SAT prep part 1 (with a little GIVEAWAY!!!) (giveaway ended)

Until C16, my 9th grader, takes the PSAT in October, there isn't much that I feel is urgent to work on for SAT prep. He's continuing his math studies as usual, of course, and I did order just one thing... a few months ago I bought a box set of SAT vocabulary flash cards from Amazon (I buy everything but bananas there these days!).

For a visual learner like C16, these silly comics help him remember the vocabulary words, even if some of the graphics and sayings are a stretch. It's working for him! This week is a review week, so he's taking the 60 flash cards he has worked on so far and refreshing his memory. I'm so happy with how well he has retained the words and definitions, at a pace of 10 flash cards a week. 

This box is OnTheRoad-friendly, which is one of the features I enjoy the most. C16 usually keeps the box in the van door pocket so he can practice them when I'm driving. All in all, I enjoy this product and am glad I bought it. I think you'll like it too, if you have a student preparing for the PSAT or SAT...