Monday, February 29, 2016

It's good to have a sister

Yesterday Genevieve kept her little brothers entertained all afternoon - she picked out a series at the library she thought they would enjoy (short chapter books!) and has been reading it out loud to them.  She made them a picnic lunch and took them outside to enjoy it.  I should hire her.  :)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lego Builders Event

Every so often Toys R Us has a builders event for lego fans, and when the planets align the kids and an adult (Opa or Daddy) make it over. This past weekend Lincoln & Evan were the lucky ones who were available, and they went to their first little builders event! They persuaded both Daddy AND Opa to go with them, and had a great time.

Unfortunately for Bentley and  Jake, they were at karate during the workshop hours. However, Opa asked if he could have two kits to take home to them and the Toys R Us employee gave him two sets!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Words from the Little Guys

Tonight I made ginger molasses cookies because I know Evan loves them.  He ate one, he ate another, and then he asked for a third.  I said:

"Don't you think that two cookies is enough?"

He said:

"No!  I'm three, so I need three cookies."

Sound logic.  Obviously persuasive.

Evan does not have a market on the cuteness.  Lincoln has a great fondness for the word love.  And he uses it with great enthusiasm.  He looooooooves sour patch kids.  He looooooooves raspberries.  He loooooooooves his race cars.  And he also thinks everything is "so cool."  :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grandma the Gamer

Lincoln and Evan have been on a gaming binge this past month. Sometimes they show up in my bedroom before I'm up with a couple of games looking for someone to play with them. Lincoln likes games, but I have to say Evan likes to play games even more.

The game I am most often asked to play with them is Rat-A-Tat-Cat, but Sherlock is also frequently requested. Two weeks ago the top game was memory tiles. We have more than three different sets of memory tiles. After playing vehicle memory, they pull out a second set and sometimes even the third set.

This week I introduced them to Gopher It because I need more variety! Last week I tried Moose in the House, but they didn't understand the many rules to that game. (Honestly, I don't get some of the rules!) Sometimes we play Blink or Junior SET (Evan doesn't like this game).  Occasionally I agree to a game of Sequence for Kids. When I play games with Lincoln and Evan we almost always play two or three or even four different games. They are insatiable when it comes to games. 

I am not the only one who plays games with them, but I am definitely the one who plays the most games with them. Matt is a good sport about playing games with them, but he's not home all day and he travels so he's not home a lot of evenings. Kara only plays under duress--she knows I will play games with the kids, so she doesn't. Opa plays games only if I tell him he has to. Sometimes the older children join in a game, but often they are doing schoolwork so they aren't free to play with us. Once in a great while the children rope Great-grandma into playing a game with them.

Do I love playing memory tiles and Rat-A-Tat-Cat and Sherlock? It doesn't matter if I like those games or not, as a grandma it's not about me. My grandchildren love to play games and I love to indulge them, so I'm a Grandma Gamer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pumpkins, Portraits, and Watercolors!

We've been in an art groove lately!

We did pumpkins with our art program, I think they turned out well.




This month we have been focusing on proportions in portrait drawing.




And lastly, watercolors!  Lincoln & Viva are going to Hawaii next month with Matt and so they have Hawaii on the mind.  Viva painted a beach, and Jake painted the volcano on the big island.  :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Harry Potter 5 Movie Night!

Matt has been reading the Harry Potter series out loud to the kids for a number of years - they read one a year, normally in the fall.  They finished up #5 this past month and then we watched the movie with our buddy Marjory.  Between kid activities,  Matt's travel, and Marjory's work schedule we had a bit of a hard time scheduling movie night, but it worked out eventually - and we had a great time.  :)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hand Me Downs

When you have older brothers, you get some mighty fine hand me downs. The other day I took this photo of Lincoln wearing his "new" t-shirt (a hand me down from Bentley) and his "new" pair of cowboy boots (also previously Bentley's). His neon Mickey Mouse hat he inherited from his Opa a couple of weeks ago.

Evan, meanwhile, was sporting a sweatshirt and boots courtesy of Lincoln. (Not sure how far back these two items go. Maybe only to Lincoln!)

Spirograph Fun

Bentley received a spirograph set for his birthday, and the kids have all been really enjoying it.  I'm all for quiet activities that produce lovely results, so I'm also a big fan.  :)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weather Blues

The weather continues to disappoint. It has been so lousy that yesterday we tied the 58 year old record for consecutive days without significant snowfall (at least .1 inch). The record was 36 days. This is our second super lousy winter in a row. However, a UAF climatologist assures us this not because of El Nino or global warming. It's just the weather being fickle. (Anchorage's official weather records only date back to 1952. The winter before that unofficially reported 78 days with snow. In the 1930s there were four years with long periods without snow.)

The kids do what they can to entertain themselves outdoors. This week they worked hard to remove ice from the driveway. The fact that the driveway is in the shade for most of the day keeps the ice from melting. It was hard work. Evan went out for maybe ten minutes, but Lincoln was out there until his mom pulled him inside over his protests. As Kara posted about earlier this week, the two little ones were sick for weeks. They aren't back up to full health, but they are much, much better than last week and the week before that and the week before that...

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Giant Talking Head

We tried facetime with Matt last week on the TV screen.  His giant floating head in the school room was a bit disconcerting, but I think it entertained Lincoln and Evan.... we're lucky to live in this age of great tools to aid in communication.  It is a different world than it it was 20 (or even 10) years ago for connectedness!  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mindfulness Time

Lately I keep running across research as to the benefits of meditation/mindfulness.  I'm not sure the kids are completely on board, but I am dragging them along for the ride.  We all need better health/self control/more gray matter in our brains, right?!  We've done circle time/quiet time in the past, but it never really stuck.  I'm hoping to find a few things that work for us and make our mindfulness time a more permanent fixture of the school day.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sickos Update

The little guys are having trouble shaking their colds.  The fever is gone, at least, but the coughs and the grumpiness is still here x10!  I will be happy when they are completely healthy again.  Even if if is kind of cute when Evan falls asleep in the middle of the living room after laying down for just a moment: 


And even if they provide me super cute pictures like this one:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Genealogy with Daddy

Matt has been looking through piles of genealogy papers lately, and he's been trying to drum up some enthusiasm from the kids/enlist them in the cause.  He hasn't managed to snare the boys, but he found a fan in Genevieve - she has started a list of all the kings that are in the family tree.  Way back.  :)

The 10 Year Old!

Random notes about my awesome ten year old (who I can't believe is already into his double digits... !)

Bentley has:

1. An amazing memory.  Way better than mine! 
2.  A good sense of humor. 
3.  A great work ethic.
4.  A very analytical mind.
5.  A bit of a bossy streak.  But that's okay, so do I.  We're both oldest children.  :)

Bentley loves:

Making breadsticks and cookies.
Eating steak and peppers.
Playing table tennis, air hockey, and golf.
Karate, karate, and more karate.
To spend a day reading.
Rocks - collecting and reading about them.
Board games and card games of all sorts.

Bentley is:

Patient and kind to his little brothers.  He humors them, helps them, and plays with them.  They're lucky to have him!
Very determined and committed to whatever he decides to do it, be it piano, karate, cello....
 A great reading buddy.  He often asks me if I want to read with him, or if I sit down with a book he shows up and joins me.  I love it.
A morning bird.  He's like his father in that respect!
One of my favorite people.

Getting so old.... !  But he's still my baby.  :)

Double Birthdays!

A few (very belated) pictures from Bentley's 10th and Great-Grandma's 86th birthday day!

The birthday boy!  He opted for plain chocolate cupcakes this year.

The birthday boy AND the birthday girl:

She opted for a brown sugar cake with a white frosting.  The cupcakes were lovely, if I do say so myself!

With Daddy!

Eating cake.  :)

Great-Grandma had a helper to open her presents.

Star Wars and Legos were definitely the theme of the day!

Happy Happy Birthday to my Bentley!  We had a small celebration at home with festivities (the movies and the trampoline house) planned for the following week.  Bentley requested steak on our raclette grill, baby peppers, breadsticks (made by him), and shell noodles for his birthday meal.  :) Great-grandma had beef stew for her birthday meal.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Birthday Festivities

For Bentley's birthday celebration this year he wanted to go see Kung Fu Panda 3 with his siblings (and parents and Opa), and he wanted to go back to Get Air with Jake & Viva.  I give myself an A+ rating for accomplishing both of these missions within two weeks of his birthday.  I don't always have a good track record as far as timelines and birthday adventuring goes... :)

The movie was enjoyed by all (as was the Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2 "prescreening" review we did over the weekend before going.... !)

On the way to the theater (I don't think it was all in my head that people look twice at my gaggle of children.... LOL):

Lincoln got tired halfway there, but luckily he has a big brother to help him out when that happens:

And a picture from our Get Air adventure where the kids jumped and jumped and jumped some more.  I wish I had 10% of the energy that they do!

Logic of English - 2nd Edition!

I've had the chance, for the past couple of months, to go through a new edition of Logic of English's Essentials program that has just come out.  I was contacted by the company and asked if I'd be interested in trying it out in exchange for my review.  I am, as you may know, a curriculum junkie.  So of course I said yes!  A couple of years back we had the chance to try out the first edition of the program, you can find my review of that here.

When I tried the Logic of English program a few years back I found it to be very solid and well thought out.  However, it ended up being too time intensive for me because the kids were all at different places in the program.  With three kids to manage we've bounced through many programs since then.  My philosophy is that the very best curriculum resources are the one that you can actually find the time to do consistently!  All about Spelling, Wordly Wise, Vocab Smarts, Hake Grammar, Growing with Grammar, Soaring with Spelling, the Spelling Zoo... and I could keep going.  There are so many programs out there to cover language arts.  We have tried many of them.  It can be hard to find the right fit!

I was intrigued when I heard that the new version of Logic of English makes it easier to teach to different levels at the same time, and that the lessons are now scripted out at a daily instead of just a weekly level.  I tend to prefer (heavily favor!) programs that are very scripted for the parent - it makes the likelihood of them getting done that much the greater.  I've had the chance to work with and look through this new edition, and I do think that it is MUCH better with regards to information on pacing and structure for the parent.  It does a great job of holding your hand and giving you a framework if you want one.

The first version featured one impressively sized teacher's manual and the new version features two volumes (that are both larger than the original.... !)  The new version also has a more comprehensive coverage of vocabulary and a new level.  You can use it for all of your language arts needs covering grades 1-7.  The spine of the program is this impressively sized teacher's manual.  It also serves as a great language reference that deserves a spot on your bookshelf next to a great big dictionary.

It is a bit intimidating to get started with but it's a very solid program if you have the time to put into understanding it.  There is definitely a learning curve on the front side but once you get the hang of it it is mostly smooth easy sailing.  The Logic of English is a phonetics based approach to reading, writing, and spelling.  This is, in my opinion, the best way to learn.  I could be biased because it's how I was taught and how my kids were taught but I'm pretty sure the research backs this statement up too!

What I like:

Each lesson has a main portion that you can do with your students that are at different levels.  Then there are different pieces that "break out" for each level.

You could use this as a summer review course for a child at level C - it probably wouldn't take more than 3-4 months, and it packs a lot of solid information in it so you can ensure your child has a great foundation in language arts.

The amount of writing is reasonable.  Some kids don't love to do tons of handwriting, and programs that require that can be an immediate turn off to them.

The focus on spelling.  The material moves at a nice clip (I'd say it is better for grades 3 and up), and covers all of the rules of spelling.

I think the spelling workbook that the kids fill out, as they go through the program, is a great tool.  The book is divided out into areas:

The child fills it out as they go through the program and learn how to apply different rules.

The program is mostly open and go.  If you have a whiteboard and purchased the flashcards you can be up and running in short order.

The app that goes with the program.  Visually appealing and easy to use, it is a great review tool for phonogram sounds.  Available for i based systems and android.

The use of dictation.  I think dictation is a great skill for kids to learn and I appreciate that this program comes with dictation already incorporated.

The AWESOME phonogram and spelling rule quick guide.  It is a laminated 3 page spread that is a great reference tool.  I love these kind of things.  If you buy nothing else, this one is awesome to keep on the school room shelf for the kids.

The student workbook, although very big, includes all three levels in one book.  Your child can hang on to it/use it as they work their way through the program three times.  Even at level C it is not an intimidating book for kids.  Nice white space, font size, and not way too much on a page to intimidate:

Other notes:

Daily lessons are needed with this program, and it is teacher intensive.  It will require around 30-45 minutes of your time on a daily basis.  It seems, however, that with subjects like spelling and grammar repetition and drill is the key to long term success.  There's just no getting around that!

The company's website has an excellent overview of the program, that gives you a great look at exactly how the manual is written.  You can check out a peek inside the book here.  Speaking of the website, it has helpful freebie gems all over it.  Handwriting sheets, spelling lists, video lessons, and more.  If you are the type (like me) who likes to over research before buying - this is definitely a website that will let you do that.

You can buy the components of the program separately but if you are fairly certain you're going to love it you will get a discount by selecting one of their packages.  The program is meant to be used three times if you start with a child at level A.  You can go through it at Level A, then again with Levels B and Levels C.  When you consider that fact the price becomes more reasonable.  I know, from experience, that you can easily spend more than that when searching out separate components to build your own perfect language arts program.

If your children aren't ready for the "meat" of the essentials program, the Logic of English group also produces a program for younger children called Foundations.  The lessons are shorter and more colorful, and better suited to the younger age bracket.

In summary?  The Logic of English program is a solid approach to the language arts that uses a phonics based system and can cover all your language arts.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cello Envy

Continuing on with the musical theme currently running on the blog, I bring to you Evan and the mini cello:

One of the benefits (and curses?) of having older brothers is that you want to do everything they do.  Sooner.  Evan is convinced he needs a mini cello (and a mini bow too, he tells me) - because he's so cute, when he asks, I have been toying with the idea.  Bentley's cello teacher has been looking around to see what's available in small sizes.  Unfortunately the 1/8 size cello is still too big - if we can find a 1/10 it might be just right.

Will I pursue it?  I just might... he is awfully cute.  :)  Stay tuned!

Of course, he is also awfully cute with his toy guitar.  He strums it with some real attitude.

So cute, in fact, that Opa and I have been researching mini electric bases.  I think we're obsessed with musical instruments in our home.  There could be worse things though!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Another week, Another Concert!


I love the quality selfie of two of my favorite people.... :)

This past Thursday Jake and Opa went to check out a brass trio that is part of the Anchorage Symphony.  They had a free performance at a church downtown, and since it isn't too often that you get to hear the trumpet being featured we figured it was a chance not to miss.  Opa was a good sport and went with Jake!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Jake Shimabukuro!

Bentley and Jake had the chance to check out a show from Jake Shimabukuro (a ukulele player) this past weekend with Opa at the Performing Arts Center downtown.

They report that it was a great show from an amazing performer!  They are already hoping that he will return to Anchorage again so they can take in another one of his performances.  :)