Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grammar Books Arrive

When my oldest was in Grade 4 he started Grammar.
There were a few reasons for this.  OK there were 2. One was that I discovered a great grammar program called Growing With Grammar just before finalizing my curriculum plan for the year.  The other was because he was ready for it.

My youngest is in third grade this year. He's all boy.  School work is fine with him, but there's no eagerness to do it, unless it means finishing early to do something fun.

Over the Christmas break he asked me offhandedly when he would be starting to learn Grammar. The conversation went something like this:

"Mom, when will I start to do Grammar?"  note the incorrect verb usage "do Grammar."
"When you're in grade four."
"Oh, I would like to start to do Grammar this year."
"Really?  We'll see."  meaning,  'not likely.'

Two weeks later:
"Mom.  Did you get me a Grammar book yet?"
"Oh, no I didn't get one.  You have to order them."
"Can you order me one?"
"I suppose."  meaning  'he'll likely forget about this and he's not really ready for Grammar yet.

The next week.
"Did my Grammar book come yet?"
"Oh, I didn't order it yet."
"Oh, (sad face.)  Can you order it for me today?
"Not today (said in the middle of cleaning kitchen before heading to work.) But I will."  meaning 'when I think of it at a time when I can actually act on it.'

Later that week:
"Did you order my Grammar book yet?"
"No, not yet, but I'll order it soon."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes, I promise."  Which means 'looks like I'm actually going to have to order this boy a grammar book before grade 4.'

On Friday:
"Have you ordered my Grammar book yet?"
"No but, I did promise I would do it, and I will do it very soon."  meaning 'shoot!  I forgot to order the Grammar!'

On Monday I ordered the Grammar books.
"I ordered your Grammar books today."
"Yes!" big grin, fist pump.    seriously?

On Tuesday:
"Did my Grammar book get here yet?"
"No it's coming from New Brunswick."
"Do they speak English or French in New Brunswick?"
"Both, or either, but the people I'm dealing with speak English."
"Phew." big sigh.  "I was worried they'd send French ones!"

On Wednesday:
"I got a box in the mail today. Do you want to open it for me?"
"Sure."  shoulder shrug.
The look on his face when he opened it said it all.  I'd seen this face recently, but it was on Christmas Morning.  I've got photographic evidence of this so that someday, and it will come, when he complains about having to do his Grammar assignment I'll have some evidence that he was happy about it once.

He started Grammar as soon as the mail was taken in on Wednesday January 18th, in Grade 3.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


We're learning multiplication this year.  One of the things that works best by drill is learning the math facts.  There's a website called IXL that has tons of online educational resources for every grade level.  They have multiplication drills for every stage of learning.  The first one is writing multiplication sentences from a picture.  Check it out here.

Kids really do love technology and (at my house anyway) they think that it's a special treat if they can do their school work on a computer or tablet.

Here's the full table of contents of math drills available for multiplication.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Documentaries for Free

In our school we treat the core subjects as academic and the others as elective.  Let me clarify what that means.  For me it means we study math, reading, and writing on a daily basis using curriculum materials for the most part.  The other areas such as world studies (history and geography) and science are explored in a free fashion.

A large component of our elective studies are documentaries and lectures.  My eldest has a penchant for Astronomy and our family has purchased the Great Courses Lecture series  Understanding the Universe: An introduction to Astronomy taught by Professor Alex Filippenko from California Institute of Technology,    Berkeley.   Our 12 year old is on lecture 44 of  96  30 minute lectures  This is a pricey series.   Right now they have a 70% off special on many of their courses. 

There are also numerous high-quality documentaries available to view online for FREE.  Such as Planet Earth presented by the BBC.  We have started to catalogue documentaries of interest to us on our documenary blog.


This documentary, A World Without Water reminds us that water is something we as Canadians take for granted.  Let's remember that we are fortunate to have daily access to clean safe water.  Many countries around the world have very little water, and it is only available to the rich.  Corporations gain marketshare on fresh water and individuals are having to do without.

Let's keep water on our minds.  Let's advocated for the safekeeping of our water supply.  Let's not let industry abscond this essential resource.

Climate change is at the forefront of all of our minds these days.  Water should be as well.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cable TV Free

You might be wondering what we've been up to lately.

Life keeps us pretty busy, as I'm sure you're experiencing as well.  And because we're so busy we don't watch very much television.  But for some reason we still had cable TV.  It's a bit of a hard habit to break.

The TV keeps me company sometimes when I'm alone at night.  It's dynamic and mindless so I don't have to think.  Just hit the "on" button and then surf around until I find something that catches my attention.  So, the thought of a dead TV: one without a life line of network feeds from around the continent was a scary one.  One that I was not willing to embrace.

About a year ago I got up the willpower to cancel my cable subscription. But, the lovely supervisor of customer service convinced me that what I really needed was cheaper services.  So, they wooed me to stay on for another 12 months by offering me a 10% loyalty discount as well as discounts on the equipment I was renting from them: effectively reducing my bill by $30 a month.

Now finally, at the end of the year I found the gumption to pack up my DVR and my cable box and return them.  In the process saving myself  $55 a month over and above the $30 savings that I was on the verge of losing. So, effectively saving myself $85 a month.

I have been watching streaming videos on my computer for a while now.  The trouble is that in order to watch programming online you have to have an idea what you might like to watch.  It's not as easy as just browsing the listings and flipping to your channel of choice.  You need a place to start.

So, to help myself "surf" my favourite shows (and the favourites of other adults who use my TV like Grandmothers who child mind sometimes) I started a blog called Cable Free Lisa.   Many of the shows I like to watch are now visually displayed on my computer monitor for perusal.  I told a couple of friends about it and they wanted the link so they could surf shows easily.  Albeit, they are my favourites not necessarily theirs.

I've begun to build a page for the kids as well: you can find it at CableFreeKids.  I haven't got much up there yet, but I'm sure you'll see a few more shows there as time passes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back to the School Room

Several years ago we renovated our house to expand the usable area of the home to include the area above the garage.  It's on the upper level with the bedrooms.

We build lovely built-in book cases and put a nice hardwood floor down.  It was our School Room.

The "problem" was that our youngest was only 4 at the time and it was difficult for us to work in the room, since none of the kids (the oldest was 8) could be left in the room alone and expected to continue working at a task.  So, the room became the craft room/hobby room/ironing room /storage room.  And then of course we didn't use it for school work, it was just too cluttered.

Over the Christmas holiday we purged the room and prepped it for school use.  Our youngest is now 8 and the oldest 12.

Each child has their own workspace which they chose for themselves.  Their books are conveniently located on a shelf to the right.  At the start of the day I make a pile on their left (the inbox) for their academic subjects that follow a curriculum. As they work through the pile the completed work gets placed in the "please mark me" pile or returned to the book shelf on their right (the outbox).

We are loving the change.  It sure beats cleaning up school books in order to eat lunch off the kitchen table!