Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Club fun!

A favourite game at our place is 'libraries' ... the children set up a borrowing desk, library cards and book displays.  After buying over a hundred new books yesterday, I was not at all surprised when a book club sprang up this morning!

Bookclub Guide (according to Elijah, 9)
-  Entry costs 5 cents, or buy a 132 day season pass for $1.00 ... bargain!
-  Customers receive a membership card showing their first name, ID number and a tally of attendance.
-  Ages 5 plus are welcome ... children under 5 can come but must be accompanied by someone over 5.
-  You can bring books to read or share.
-  The shop is open when the music is playing (currently playing Jack Johnson Curious George soundtrack)
-  Pram parking and comfortable seating is available.

A hundred books for a hundred dollars!

We always look forward to the local University used book sale.  This year we went twice.  Here is what we came home with (so far ... it continues all week):

First we took our children and their friend.  They spent an hour searching the children's book tables while I was at the teacher resources table next to them.  We each found a bag full of books, and still had change to use in the other resources room (treasures found there included some springy chains for my gadget boy, maps, CDs and posters).  None of the children exceeded their $5 budget ... though I would have let them!  My husband found a few reference books which he will enjoy reading.

After a quick break at home I went back alone.  Again I gravitated towards the children's books, and added five more bulging shopping bags to the morning's purchases.

At the last minute I found some fiction (not shown) and other inspiring books for myself.

Here's a clearer view of some of our purchases:

Stories I have seen in the Sonlight catalogue or other booklists.  I would probably have them bought online ... today they cost 20 to 50 cents each.

A packet of terrific posters relevant to our current interests (solar system, times tables, Bible times, world map, human body) and ancient world maps of what people thought the world looked like.

A stack of books by Cynthia Voigt, one of my favourite authors as a teen.

Books which will be useful once in a while ... including a huge new book of poems for our Poetry Teatimes!

How Things Work, World History books and Did You Know ... books which have Elijah telling us interesting facts day and night (he's always like that, these are just extra ammunition)

A terrific joke book which Jasmine read to us last night ... the jokes were actually funny.

I also bought 4 books in the Think-Matics series, a Star Wars picture book, Far Side calendar (one day we'll have fun making up our own captions for the pictures), 3 CDs, a Roman Times activity book and Solar System activity book, and a two volume big-book children's medical encyclopaedia.  I am impressed with the quality ... many of these books are in excellent condition, and the ex-library ones are pretty clean and undamaged with only a few signs of age.

Can anyone guess what we'll be doing for the rest of today (aside from buying a new bookshelf and finding a place for it)?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

iPad apps for 8 and 9 year olds

We have an iPad and an iPad mini ... when the children started saving a couple of years ago they both intended to buy laptop computers.  We agreed to pay half.   After months of counting and calculating, the time came and both chose iPads.  We are really glad they did!

Our Favourite Apps

We learn plenty through games, and we have fun playing with education tools.  The lines between learning and fun are delightfully blurry!
These are all pretty good apps, but those marked * are frequently used and ** are current favourites

-  Squeebles Maths (KeyStageFun)     **
-  Dress Up Princess (Hooda Math)
-  Targeting Maths 3 and 5 (Blake)    *
-  Fun Soccer Math (Nghi Lee)   **
-  Tell the Time (Playerthree)
-  Math Drills (Instant Interactive)   *

-  PopMath Maths (AppBlit)   *
-  Ken Ken Classic (maths logic game)     **
-  Conceptis Hashi (Conceptis Ltd)
-  Speed!  (Jeffrey Norkoli)      **
-  Maths Trainer (Shalk)
-  Maths Songs Times Tables (1x-6x and 7x-12x)

-  Spelling 1-2 (School Zone)   **
-  Spellosaur   *
-  This Week's Words (Simulant)
-  Word Jigsaw (Megafauna software)
-  Phonics Genius      **
-  SpeakEasy French (Pocketglow)
-  Kids Apps (13 in 1)

-  Where in the World (UConnect)   **
-  Bridge Construction (Headup Games)   *
-  Bright Puzzles HD (Bright Idea Software)   *
-  Learn the World (Merge Mobile)   **

-  JamPad Plus (H2indie)   *
-  Sketchbook Pro (Autodesk)
-  iLuv Drawing People (MyVijan)
-  Drawing Pad

-  Read and Listen Now Bible KJV HD (Handech)   **
-  SimpleMind+ (xpt)
-  Notability (GingerLabs)

IF you want role play games, my children vote for:

-  My Horse (Natural Motion) ... they get a pet horse without the mess!    **
-  Survival Craft     **
-  Townsmen
-  Tiny Sheep  

Other favourite games include:

-  Harbor Master HD (Imangi)
-  Flow Free (Big Duck)   **
-  Banana Kong (FDG)
-  Angry Birds HD
-  Motorbike HD (baKno Games)   **
-  Mahjong (Byterun)   *
-  Mouse Maze
-  Montezuma Puzzle (ECO Pawel)
-  Square-Off Game (SchoolZone)
-  Memory (Irena Schens)   **
-  Cut the Rope
-  Jump Birdy Jump (Ovogame)

New arrivals, untested:

-  Star Walk HD (Vito) - astronomy
-  Planets (Q Continuum) - astronomy
-  Strip Designer (Vivid)  - cartoon making
-  BrainPOP

I haven't had to set limits for use ... except for myself!  We don't have a TV (only DVD and online viewing) so screen time isn't too much of an issue, and we have too many other interests to spend too much time staring at little screens.  We usually leave the WiFi turned OFF, but sometimes connect to use our Weebly site (a collection of all our online tools), for which I have created a desktop bookmark for easy access.

I would like a better writing app than our current Notes app ... preferably one with formatting options and somehow easy to share with the desktop computer.  If you have a suggestion please leave me a comment.

These cute little tablets have paid for themselves educationally and they add to the family fun!


A little extra waffle in case anyone is deciding what to buy, or wonders
why we choose iPads ...

*  I already share my lovely iMac and little ASUS netbook.
*  Lightweight, handheld tablets are easy to use anywhere (usually on the lounge).
*  The iPad combines loads of functionality in a tiny machine ... games, writing, art, movies, music, camera and video.  Games for fun and education were a priority.
*  It's super easy and inexpensive (often free) to add new apps.
*  Both children are keen writers.  For portable word processing the onscreen keyboards are fine.  Keyboard cases create a virtual laptop when desired.
*  We were slightly concerned about the smaller screen size of the mini for games and movies, but I changed my mind after trying it in the shop.
*  It's easy to turn WiFi on and off to control internet access.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brave Writer

Brave Writer has helped me see the big picture when it comes to Language Arts.  
The Writer's Jungle taught me how to understand the real stages children go through as writers and introduced me to a gentle, living and wonderful way to mentor my young writers.  I knew it would suit me as soon as I read free online extracts like this ... 

"It’s my hope that you’ll come to love your young writer and his particular jungle in a whole new way. By traveling together, I want to point out the irises you’ve been missing. There’s a world of insight, creativity and passion in your children that writing is meant to capture. By taking some new trails, I hope to lead you to that secret place."  (See more)  

The Brave Writer blog and emails are full of ideas for nurturing writers, developing skills and showing how this writing philosophy translates into reality.  Brave Writer is a flexible resource which complements our eclectic, relaxed, book-loving, individualised approach to home ed.  

I want to write all about how our BraveWriter lifestyle works, what resources we use and what my brave young writers actually do, but it could take a while (I really like what we do but I worry about sounding like an infomercial!)  

This week I wrote a little article about our Poetry Teatimes for the Brave Writer blog.  

Fortunately I took photos before we sat down together ... hence the momentarily tidy table! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Everything to do with dough and goo!

My toddlers loved playdough.  We had two types ... homemade and bought.  We also baked bread, mostly in the name of edible art, and used air-drying clay, Fimo and plasticine.  That was a lifetime ago, before our world exploded with ideas on blogs and facebook and pinterest (a lot has changed in 5 years!)

My children may not be toddlers anymore but we love to play (and share the experience with young friends ... who may just decide to bathe in oobleck ... luckily they were outside and the baby was asleep!)  We have thoroughly enjoyed finding recipes for many types of dough and goo ... enjoy!

Let's get messy!
Here are some types of dough and goo we have made or will make:

Oobleck ... Seuss Oobleck is a fun version!
Kool-Aid microwave dough (what's the Aussie version of Kool-Aid?)

Want more?  
On THIS blog you'll find out how to make an ivory soap explosion & homemade bouncing balls.
Here is a HUGE collection of incredible ideas like icecream dough, cake dough, DIY foam, rainbow slime, silly sludge, black cloud dough, moon sand, soap fluff, borax-free Gak and sidewalk goo paint.

When you've exhausted all the options for slime, goo and dough, it would be fun to revisit the original, home-made playdough which can be used with all kinds of other materials for colourful, sweet-smelling creative play.

We accidentally bought something like this at a Sensory shop, and I would NOT recommend it ... the children loved it of course!  (it was incredibly hard to clean up ... sprinkling generously with salt helped a little)

Who needs a reason to delight in dough and goo?!  But if you must have an excuse to explore goo with 8-9 year olds, consider:  fine motor skills, chemistry, physics, measurement, vocabulary, inspiration for writing and pure FUN!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Organising online resources with Weebly

Do your links get lost in the land of many bookmarks?  

We can sift through 50 bookmark folders to find the link we need, but that's not so quick or easy for young children ... and with so many online educational resources available, the bookmarks tab soon overflows.  To rescue our links I created a Weebly website ... it's a fun way to round up the numerous online resources my children have access to. 

Here's what I did:
*  Named our Weebly site.
*  Chose a basic layout, background picture and style from the free options.
*  Organised our online resources by subject, using drop-down menus and hyperlinks.  
*  Added a text box with ideas of fun things to do and other reminders, easily updated.
*  Made the final menu (on the dashboard) a list without links ... just text to remind us of other apps we use on the computer.  
 *  Made a card for the children with usernames and passwords for sites which require special access.

The initial setup took me a few hours, but it now saves us time and allows the children to use the computer more independently.  

Easy to access:
I made our Weebly page super-easy to find by creating a shortcut tab on my Safari browser bar ... simply clicking the word 'KIDS'  takes us straight to our Weebly page.  One happy customer said, "I love it!  You can easily get to links you'd otherwise have to research and you could accidentally get to a website where you buy something!"

Keeping the page up to date:
I created a bookmark folder labelled "Add to Weebly".  Any time I see something worth adding, I save a bookmark in that folder, then once a month or so (or as needed) I edit our Weebly site to add new links, write ideas and reminders.  I gave myself a shortcut tab to access the Weebly editing page so I'd have no reason to avoid this task (if you have sharp eyes you may see it in my grey bookmarks bar, 'Weebly V')!

Your turn:
If you'd like to create a Weebly website for your children, check out Suji's excellent how-to guide which inspired me to do this last year.  Let your own Weebly adventure begin.

Have fun and let me know how it goes!