Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Official

Confirmed on Saturday:

 Kylen is taller than me by about 1/8th of an inch.  Life will never be the same.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homeschooling: The Three R's

Kylen Reading Redwall, Age 8
Katrina - a blogging friend and fellow homeschooler - expressed interest in hearing more about our studies. Perhaps others are curious as well? While I LOVE talking homeschooling, interestingly enough I've been a little uncertain how to post about it. We are fairly eclectic (and becoming more so with each passing year). Much of what I consider "school" blurs with life until sometimes the two are hard to distinguish between. I will also admit that I'm not sure how to describe our son's strengths without sounding boastful or his weaknesses without sounding harsh. And how much detail to cover before losing my sparse readers to boredom? After one attempt at a post-turned-book, I thought I'd try breaking it up into a few specific areas. So here comes the big three: reading, writing, and arithmetic!

Math has probably been our number one constant (he he). We've used A Beka math workbooks since we began formal schooling in third grade - so for four years. Before that we had a very relaxed style that included a mish mash of cheap workbooks from Costco. Greg and I both developed strong math skills while at college for electrical engineering. Plus, his mother taught mathematics at a university, and his father teaches electrical engineering courses AND considers math to be beautiful. Yes, beautiful! So you might say Kylen didn't have a choice about whether he'd be good at math. But while he's proficient in this subject, he has little love for it. (Truth be told, neither do Greg or I. Shhh! Don't tell his parents, but we always viewed math more as a tool at best or . . . dare I say it? A necessary evil?)

Reading and writing are Kylen's greatest strengths. He was devouring series such as Narnia and Redwall by age 8 and continues to nourish a love for the written word. We've never used a spelling curriculum, because he never needed one. His writing will definitely surpass mine and probably already has in some ways. As such, I decided to skip English this year other than a quick review prior to testing. Sure enough, he scored perfect in almost every area, which gave me all the reassurance I needed that this was the right decision. It's been nice having a break from nouns and apostrophes! His English has consisted primarily of plays and stories he turns out for fun. When he gets in the mood, he fills a page or two in his journal.  If I had a single guess as to Kylen's future career, it would be a writer.

Here's a an excerpt from the first chapter of a book he's currently working on. Gotta love the reference to homescooling!

     “Good morning, Mark.” Trissa smiled at him from across the table. “How are you today?”
     “I’m good,” he replied. “Those pancakes smell great.”
     Trissa’s smile widened. “I hope they taste just as good as they smell then.”
     They did. Mark wolfed down five pancakes, then ate three more slowly.
     “You know,” His dad said thoughtfully, as Mark started on his ninth pancake. “You could stop any time.”
     It was an old family joke. Well, as old as when Mark had been eleven-and-a-half, anyway. This was his dad’s half of the joke.
     “Really? I can? I had no idea!” that was Mark’s half of the joke. He was contemplating whether or not to have a tenth pancake when his mom grabbed the plate off the table saying, “No more for you, young man. You’d eat all the food in the house if your stomach could hold it.
     Mark grinned at her, then washed his hands and brushed his teeth. He was home-schooled, so there was still another hour until he and his mom started school. Up in his room, Mark turned on the Imperial March from Star Wars and flopped onto his bed to listen. After laying there for a while, he became aware of a faint humming.
     “Dad? Do you hear something?”
     “Like what?” came the response.
     “Like a faint humming?” Silence for a while, then a “Nope. Must be in your head.” The noise grew steadily louder until it was a deafening roar, and before Mark had time to scream, he was sucked into… nothing. It was like being in a tornado, Mark supposed, though he had never tried it, and hoped he never would. He spun and twisted, and twirled, and just when he thought he couldn’t stand it any longer, it stopped.
     Mark looked around. It was obviously nighttime, as the sky was black and he could see stars. For a moment, he was entranced because of the sheer number of them. There were never so many stars in the city, at least, not that Mark could ever see. He was tempted to lie down on the nice, soft sand, and….

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thief -- Game

This is possibly the most fun group game I've ever played. My uncle's family introduced it to us several years ago, and we decided to play it at Kylen's birthday party. It takes lots of 'splainin' but is actually quite simple.

First, designate a responsible person to be the Leader, preferably an adult. This individual will make sure everything flows smoothly but will not be able to play. Borrow enough cards from a deck to give each player one. Choose cards such that all but one are alike in some respect. For example, with 10 players you could choose nine green UNO cards and one yellow. The Leader mixes them face down and gives each player one. They look at their card, taking care not to reveal it. The Leader then collects the cards and sets them aside until the next game. The Leader should either look at the cards as he hands them out or as he collects them so as to know who got the "different" card.

The lights are now turned out. Ideally, you want the house to be pitch black: ALL lights off (including outside lights if possible), blinds closed to shut out moonlight, etc. Make sure all paths are clear of obstacles. The Leader begins a loud countdown. 15 seconds worked well for us. All players quickly and silently scatter throughout the house. The more rooms and areas, the better.

Whoever got the "different" card is the Thief. Once the countdown is up, the Thief begins looking for people to take out. He does this by tapping them. The moment you are tapped, you are out and must lie down right there, remaining quiet and still until the game is over.

If a player thinks he knows who the Thief is, he shouts, "I know who the Thief is!" Another player must immediately back him up, shouting, "I do too!" If no one backs him up within a few seconds, the game continues as before. However, if someone does back him up, the Leader shouts out, "Everyone freeze!" All players freeze while the Leader has the first person who called out whisper in his ear who he thinks the Thief is. Next, the second person whispers in the Leader's ear. If their guesses do not agree or if they are wrong, they are immediately out and game continues as before with the leader shouting, "Continue playing!" However, if they agree and are correct, the game is over. They won. If the Thief is able to get all the other players out before being identified, the Thief wins.

One of the strategies for playing this game is for players who aren't the Thief to pretend to be. They can follow each other, etc. But they can't go so far as to actually tap anyone. After a few rounds, you can mix things up by changing the number of thieves. You simply replace one or more of the green cards with yellow. You can announce that from here on, there could be more than one thief. You can announce how many thieves there are at the beginning of each round, if desired. If one Thief taps another Thief, the one who is tapped can pretend to be out and get back up later. Or he can simply whisper, "I'm a Thief too!" For multiple Thieves, the game continues until all Thieves have been identified. Each time one is caught, he is out and must sit down in that spot quietly the rest of the game just like those who have been tapped.

A very cool trick the Leader can play on everyone is to make everyone a Thief without telling. It's hilarious!

The original name for this game was Murderer. I felt the whole concept seemed too scary/morbid for kids, so we renamed it Thief. Since it was a black light/glow-in-the-dark party, we came up with the idea of the players being robots. They all carried a glow stick which was their "power source." The Thief was going around "stealing" their power sources by tapping players with his own light stick. (The kids still kept their light sticks though.) The kids absolutely LOVED this game, and several adults got in on it as well. In fact, they enjoyed it so much, we played a few additional rounds at the end of the party. Highly recommended!

Cards and a Box

What can they be doing?

My brother, Greg, and Kylen are seeing who can toss the most cards into a cardboard box on the sofa.  It kept them occupied an amazingly long time.  I believe Kylen won every round.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Therapeutic Benefits of Perler Beads

After a long, hard day at work, there's nothing like . . .

sorting Perler beads! Greg plows through them so fast, it's a good thing he has a backup: LEGOs. Kylen thought it would be fun to take apart his entire collection and make a huge pile in his room. Then began the process of sorting. A typical evening at our house will find me reading aloud while the boys sort LEGOs or Perler beads.

You're wondering if we ever make anything? Yes, we created a ton of Perler bead favors for Kylen's Mario party a few years ago.  He's gone through a few prolific phases, and he still gets in the mood sometimes.  We certainly don't have a shortage of supplies!