Mensa for Kids and next year’s Pi Day Plan (because we did nothing this year)

I sometimes wonder if I could have handled homeschooling pre-Internet. There are some seriously cool resources online. Free resources. So, so many, cool, free resources that it boggles the mind. So many things that are amazing, and yet I will never get around to using them, but I like having those resources in my pocket. I am sure you, like me, have a complicated bookmark list in your browser, attemting to organize all the wonderful things you have seen and want to use. Add Mensa for Kids.

You add Mensa for Kids under your bookmark list of fun online games. Their Games page has online educational games for math, science, geography, and English language arts. While you are there, sign up for the Bright Newsletter for Kids, which contains games as well.

Or you could file this site under English language arts for their Excellence in Reading program. Reading lists of superb books are grouped by grade range. Students can read or listen to the books, then date and rate each book when completed. When the list is completed, the student earns a t-shirt (and the brain growth of reading great literature). Also under ELA, you could bookmark their A Year of Living Poetically page. This list of twelve classics by famous poets is meant to be completed in a year, at a rate of one per month, of course. However, I would suggest checking the topics of the poems before handing them all to an early elementary student; some of the subject matter gets serious. Young children might benefit from memorizing their favorite Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, or Shel Silverstein poems before jumping into some of these.

And of course, this site has a whole section of lesson plans, so bookmark it for next year’s planning (or finishing out this year). Lessons cover science topics like ecosystems, weather, cells, etc. Math lessons cover topics like probability and shapes. ELA lessons include storytelling, writing, and media literacy. There are even lessons for geography, history and music. All the lessons are rated for elementary, middle or high school, but could probably be adapted up or down based on your need. And note these are not one day lessons. For example, the lesson on Classifying Animals, rated early and upper elementary, actually contains six lessons to take student through the process of observing differences and similarities in organisms to taxonomy/classification. I see this lesson plan being useful in middle school science as well.

There is also a page of Activity Plans. Check out the Pi Day Fun activity. Yeah, I planned nothing for today, we all have colds and barely got our regular school work done. I am making grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner, no pie. It’s that kind of Pi Day. But next year, oh the plans I have for next year’s Pi Day. To the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”:

Oh Number Pi
by LaVern Christianson

Oh, number Pi Oh, number Pi Your digits are unending, Oh, number Pi Oh, number Pi No pattern are you sending. You’re three point one four one five nine, And even more if we had time, Oh, number Pi Oh, number Pi For circle lengths unbending. Oh, number Pi Oh, number Pi You are a number very sweet, Oh, number Pi Oh, number Pi Your uses are so very neat. There’s 2 Pi r and Pi r squared, A half a circle and you’re there, Oh, number Pi Oh, number Pi We know that Pi’s a tasty treat.



Why and how we use Life of Fred books

When we first started homeschooling three years ago, I was not sure about anything. I was a high school science teacher teaching first and second grade to my own kids, with no experience with elementary teaching, just a deisre to offer my kids…more. I decided I could do it all on my own, come up with our curriculum in all the subjects with as a guide and a few free resources I found online. While I do not regret anything we did this year, I did learn that Charlotte Mason’s style of education, while sounding great, did not fit with my teaching style. I also learned that while the free math resources I found at Center for Innovation in Teaching Mathematics were thorough and challenging, it was not working for my middle child. By  middle of our second year, I decided this math resource was not a good fit for her and looked for alternative math options.

Life of Fred kept coming up. I saw Life of Fred everywhere. So in the middle of last year, I ordered a Life of Fred Book, the first book, Apples, to see what all the fuss was about. We read Life of Fred at bedtime. My girls loved it. We finished Apples. Then we read Butterflies. My girls still loved Fred and his doll Kingie, and their adventures. And then Life of Fred Cats. And then Life of Fred Dogs. And then Life of Fred Edgewood, and I finally decided that I would work Life of Fred into our regular math curriculum instead of just bedtime reading. Now, I do not know what our Friday mornings would be without him.

This year, we switched to Singapore Primary Mathematics as our base math curriculum, with Life of Fred on Fridays. My third grader worked through Life of Fred Goldfish during the fall, and is now on Life of Fred Honey. My fourth grader worked through Life of Fred Ice Cream, and is now in Life of Fred Jellybeans. They glide through Singapore Math Monday through Thursday, but come Friday, they are all about Fred. I find the great thing about Life of Fred is that it makes a great supplement to whichever math curriculum you may already be using. Some people swear by using it as a stand alone curriculum, however I find that it works better for us as a fun addition. Between Singapore Primary and Life of Fred, my third grader has a restored confidence in mathematics, and no more tears at math time.

Fred has helped my third grader with learning two and three digit multiplication and long division, long before it will show up in her Singapore books. Fred helped concrete her time telling, and encouraged her in learning her basic multiplication tables, something that frustrated her before.

I also consider our time spent with Fred to be a GT extension for my kiddos. Fred introduced sets, the union of sets, the intersection of sets, domain and codomain, and ordered pairs to my fourth grader with real life applications. These topics, not addressed in her regular math curriculum, flex her math/logical thinking skills and stretch her understanding of mathmematical applications.

My kinder kid has worked through Life of Fred Apples, and is now in Life of Fred butterflies. Fred has taught her to tell time, add and subtract, tricks about shapes such as making triangles versus rectangles and squares, circles vs. elipses, ordinal vs. cardinal numbers, etc. She loves Fred. I think we need to get a stuffed Fred for our classroom just so she can hug him.

What does it cost to check out Fred? The Life of Fred books are hard cover books that hold their value well. Books are about $16 each new from the publisher at Z-Twist Books. You might possibly find one for a little less used on ebay, but they hold their value. Meaning, if you buy Life of Fred and your kid does not love Fred’s adventures in math, then you can recoup your losses by selling it used for very close to what you paid for it.



Friday Game Day

On Fridays, we take a break from our regular curriculum in spelling and math. In spelling, we play Spelling City games at The website has free and paid-premium options, however we have always just used the free games.

It is easy to add lists. In fact, at the beginning of the year, I just went through the entire All About Spelling book and made lists for each step (chapter) of the curriculum. Then, each week, it is easy to log in, select the step we just completed that week, and allow the girls to play whichever free games they wish.

In math, we set aside our Singapore books to read a chapter from Life of Fred, and do the problems at the end of each chapter.

After Fred, my 3rd and 4th graders play Speed, a multiplication card game. For my kinder kid, today we are trying Qwirkle, my latest find at our favorite consignment shop here in town.

We forgo our regular unit studies on Friday for geography. Today, after we review the northeast states and learn their capitals, we will play a round or two of Scrambled States of America.

Playing games is a fun way to add gifted/talented differentiation to our homeschool planning, and also work on social-emotional skills with my autism kiddo, such as turn taking, manners, and graceful winning/losing.

School Day #137

IMG_5584Today is school day 137 of our first homeschool year. My pre-K daughter still has a little fever from the cold going through our house. My first grader is still coughing, but mainly over it. My poor second grader is coming down with it. And yet, we had school today.

We had calendar time and read about the history and traditions of St. Patrick’s Day, but took a break from practicing our Awana verses today, as there is no Awana this week due to spring break. We did our math assignment from Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching and spelling practice from Then, we took a break to paint our toenails green, read “That’s What Leprechauns Do” and make a leprechaun craft. We also played an estimation game with green jelly candies I found at Dollar General, that turned out to taste like toothpaste. This was the first day in history that all my children agreed with me to throw away the candy.

Today was our science day, so we finished our human body unit by reading about reproduction, growth and care of our bodies in DK’s “First Encyclopedia of the Human Body”. We colored, cut and pasted a uterus and ovaries from “My Body” onto our life sized body posters. Since we added a different body system every week, our posters are pretty impressive after all these weeks! We finished up playing a round of an older game I found used on ebay, the “Somebody Board Game”.

After lunch, my older girls wrote chapter two of their novels. We are using this great program I found for National Novel Writing November. It is taking longer than I thought it would though, so we are rushing to write the whole five chapters this week! The curriculum can be found here at NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is actually in November, but we started in January. I told you it took us longer than I expected…

We also did our grammar lesson from First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise, read poetry and a literature selection from Ambleside Online, and the girls did their read-aloud assignment.

Apart from the juicy coughing and growing pile of used tissues, it was a pretty average day for us. Next week is our week off for the month, part of our year round calendar schedule. This post includes a decent sampling of the types of curricula we use and the basic flow of our day, however as any homeschooler can tell you, every day is different!