Thursday, March 29, 2012

Calendars, Routines, Assessments - Oh My!

I finally have pocket charts - woohoo!  Whodathunkit?  Anyway, I'm a busy bee now trying to put it all together to my liking, but I wanted to share some great links for free printables, skill assessment sheets and more!

Here's the one for skill assessments (of course, I'm altering it and will eventually post that too) - (i like this one because i can edit it) (i like this one bc it seems like an 'official' guide that i can help gauge our progress vs what the masses are up to). But still, assessment rubrics are so great when homeschooling.  Here's another great source for a math one:

And here are a few for calendars and other pocket chart goodies - (i love the assessment pages and a few other items) (i love the chart idea and the template for the calendar pockets)

And what good would printouts be without a good ol' laminating (we've already have had a few casualties that weren't protected). I haven't yet tried it out, but I heard from the grapevine that this works well enough and is so much cheaper -  We'll find out soon enough! I plan on picking it up tomorrow.

Although it's not completely ready, Joey and Kaelie have both expressed interest, and Joey has even helped in putting the numbers in place (a few at least).  This will be so great for them when we start using more frequently! Can't wait :-)

Here are more links for counting and weather: from

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hands-On Chemistry

I've been scouring the web looking for a great way to present the periodic table to the kids, and although I'm still searching and will eventually update with my eventual find, for now, I wanted to make a quick post about a great place to eventually visit if you're in Minnesota (aside from the Mall of America) :-)

Here is the link:

Looking forward to eventually checking it out with the kiddos some day.

Also, here is a neat version of the table found here:

As well as other wonderful pdfs that we will be using (

Another great site for more links:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oliver Twist's Chapter Books into Joey's World

Thanks to several posts by DadDude, Larry Sanger, about reading 'advanced' books to his son, I was inspired to start reading chapter books to Joey before bed.  Prior to that, I felt like the majority of our reading time was spent with him having to 'work' at it, and didn't want him to lose the joy for reading.  I want(ed) to be sure he was inspired to want to advance his reading abilities.  So, I gave him the choice between Alice in Wonderland (that's not the title, but you know what I mean), and Oliver Twist.  Both books I had previously picked up in the dollar bin from Target, knowing that I eventually wanted the kids to know what these classics were.  I was pleasantly surprised by my son's interest!!  Each chapter is only a few (4 to 7 or so pages), so it doesn't take me long to get through it.  I was planning on stopping after the first chapter, until Joey begged me to continue. :-) It was late, so we only did a few chapters, but I was so surprised that he was genuinely interested and paying attention!  That was Saturday night.

Sunday night was hectic, so we didn't read from the chapter book.

Monday night was another wonderful surprise.  Again it was much later than expected, but Joey requested Oliver Twist before bedtime prayers, which is the last thing we do before he falls asleep.  So, I agreed, and since we skipped the night before, did a quick review of what we had read.  Each set of pages has one picture, so we just used those as guides to get us through to where we would start reading. One of the pages he stopped me on to say "help, help!"  I wasn't sure if this was because he read it on the page or if he recalled it, but I thought it was neat that he did it, still.  When I finished the first chapter of the night, he pleaded with me to do more, so I did.  And although he pleaded for more when that was done, I told him he had to wait until the next day.

This morning I shouldn't have been surprised, then, when Joey asked me for Oliver Twist!  I've noticed that if we tell him things at night, he ALWAYS seems to remember it the next day.  That's probably why I try to use story time to add or reinforce information that I'd like for him to retain.

FYI: Story time for us usually starts with "Once there was a boy name ... JOEY! ... " And is used to relay something of importance.  That's how he learned my telephone number, and how he's learning/reinforcing the continents/countries/states, etc, in addition to other tidbits.  I also use it to recap the day's events to help reinforce his memory of the day or the week or the month.  I love seeing where his imagination take it.  I learned this from another parent and am so grateful because prior to that it was just reading little books.  If you don't do it with your child, I definitely recommend it. :-)

PS: One of the reasons I liked chapter books in theory and now in practice is because it aids in memory while adding to Joey's vocabulary and ability to self-express.  I'm contemplating adding French and Spanish reading into our book time too.  We'll see.

Monday, March 5, 2012

We FINALLY start SoftMozart, Along with Synthesia & Kinderbach


Joey is 31 mo and Kaelie's enthusiastically pounding away at the keyboard at 9 months.  I won't consider here officially starting until she's trying to match notes or obviously trying to peck out a song.

The whole family is taking a stab at the piano - yay.  Dad joining in has been an unexpected, interesting, and welcomed addition.  I hope we all progress nicely!

So, our music BACKGROUND & interest:

KAELIE: randomly & joyfully banging away at the keyboard since christmas/new year's, which has just recently (this past month) been placed at a reachable distance, dramatically increasing her 'playing' time.

JOEY: when Joey was less than a year old, i knew that i wanted him to learn piano (and drums and violin and guitar - and/or any other instrument(s) so long as he shows interest, of course), but i had no clue that programs existed for young children. instead, while at the store with my mother, i came across this b.meowsic cat piano (  It was the best thing that i could find for a baby at the time, so we got it :-)  Of course, i didn't actually spend time 'teaching' him anything on it.  i just hoped that by playing with and around it, he'd establish a familiarity and natural joy for it.  and while he did initially love banging away on it, he QUICKLY learned to just push the buttons which even more quickly turned the 'joy' i had for it into 'painstaking' meow'ing of the most popular songs. lol.  it wasn't so bad, but if it were up to me, it would have NO buttons for beats, melodies, preprogrammed songs, or anything - just the volume and power buttons to allow him to truly build curiosity and interest along with an appreciation for 'making' his own music.  i was really hoping that he would figure things out on his own with this, but there was NO way for that with those wonderful buttons that so easily made music for him.  anyway, he did take great joy in 'singing' into the accompanying mic and has developed quite a joy for singing, grabbing anything and everything in sight to be used as a mic when the right song presents itself.  i'm sure it also helped that he spent some time with my mother watching a series that intro'd musicians singing on mics.  so that's that.  in addition to this, i also picked up a flexible keyboard ( for joey when he was 18 months old with the same goal in mind, and again, the same result lol yes, it too has an annoying song and joey happens to have made it his FAVORITE and loves to play it and dance around. is it even necessary to mention that YES, he's figured out how to get the demo songs up on the keyboard, as well as change the sounds away from grand piano? lol thankfully, he still enjoys playing these keys, too! more to come in the 'update' portion below.  oh, and we also have kinderbach (, which we ordered and received four/five weeks ago and have been diligently playing on avg one lesson/weekday, often more by request.  we started out playing during meal times, but i've found it best to play in the car when we're on our way somewhere, especially because now i don't chase him around to get his shoes on to leave.  instead, he comes to me and asks if he can go to the car and watch dodi lol! more about this too in our updates.

DADDY: daddy has no music background, but has interest in being able to play pieces and show off to his friends.  he is VERY competitive and announced his interest a couple weeks ago after returning from a friend's cook-out party where his friend played some 'impressive' piece that he had learned on his recently purchased 'impressive' piano.  whatever the inspiration, i'm rolling with it.  so, we've sat down a few times and i've shown him a few exercises and we started with a basic right hand only twinkle, twinkle that i plucked away by ear.  at the time, we had no programs, no books, no nothing, aside from the keyboard and our fingers. in the past week, while struggling with trying to get softmozart to work, [color=#ff0000]we downloaded synthesia ( and LOVE IT!!!! it is a MUST for anyone over, 8 or so!  It is free, and the full version, which you can demo with the free version, is only $25 FOREVER, including ALL future upgrades.  it is soooo good for us.[/color]  Daddy LOVES competing against Mommy.  it takes but a few minutes to download, i highly recommend :-)  (of course, i've only tried softmozart for a day, so *shrug* who knows).  i did ask Daddy to try softmozart today too, and his conclusion was the same as mine.  going off of initial observation alone, SM seems great for the kids, but we prefer synthesia's setup for us.

MOMMY: grew up with a daddy who played piano, guitar, harmonica and sang frequently, since he was often the life of the party. he couldn't read music, but could pick up just about any instrument, including human bagpipes, as was often the case when i was growing up ;-), and pluck out just about any song after a few tries, if not on the first go.  he wanted to be sure that i learned to read music, so when i was 6, they started me on lessons, where i DID learn the basics of playing and reading. times were a bit tough, though, and i wasn't encouraged enough to maintain a disciplined practice schedule, so, inevitably, lessons stopped, especially after my mother tried convincing me to play more by telling me how impressed my instructor was at my 'natural talent', especially because she knew (i would tell her) that i didn't practice except during my lesson. yes, i am one of those 'poor', 'gifted' 'children' who has all those issues that 'gifted' people have.  i am just now coming to this conclusion after finally researching it, thanks to the desire to teach my own children AND ensure that they don't fall into the same set of problems.  in college i tried to pick up lessons again, but didn't have the personal drive/discipline necessary to see it through. despite the 'desire' to incorporate routine practice back into my life for the past 10+ years, it hasn't happened until now, thanks to my kids. my hope is that through the perceived obligation of continuous postings here and the self-appointed responsibility of teach my kids until a professional will take them on, i'll be forced into keeping up my own practice. wish me luck!!

KAELIE: since placing the piano within reach, kaelie has been plucking away at the keyboard several times each day to her (and my!) heart's content :-) she loves it and doesn't hold back her bopping, bouncing, and singing.  she gets excited to join her brother (who doesn't share in her excitement and asks me to 'move kaelie, please, mommy! move kaelie!' as he pries her fingers away from the keys and shoves her to the side).  she is ever persistent, though, and i know will carry music deep and near to her heart.

JOEY: joey is on week 5 of kinderbach and can't get enough - yay!  there are a total of 6 discs and we've been playing one lesson each day on average, completing a disc each week, sometimes playing lessons more than once, at his request. we typically do this in the car, so today i put one of our mini keyboards in there to see if that would encourage him to play along with the disc.  i did this after playing it at home this weekend, only to have him jump out of his seat on several occasions to run to the keyboard and shriek where dodi lives.  i love that this program seems to be working so well for him and that he's really connecting with it!  i really feel that the free online trial does it little to no justice and was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of material covered in the discs, all the more because they really appeal to him.  joey was FINALLY able to try softmozart  yesterday for the first time.  there was so much build up for it that i was a bit disheartened when we tried it and while he seemed interested, was thrown off within the first couple minutes by the spiders.  yes, my fault because i told him 'oh no! we don't want the spiders!' and it seemed to startle him lol making him jump back from the keyboard each time stating something like, 'oh! the spiders are gonna get you/me!'.  this turned into me then having to convince him to continue to try by letting him use my fingers, or me put his fingers, etc.  the point is, it was a brief session and i felt a bit let down.  good news: my hope was rekindled today when he asked to play the spiders!!  "what? he WANTS to play with the spiders now?? whatever, let's do it!" i thought, and so we did!  YAY!  first we did ode to joy, and although he maxed the time out at 999 seconds+, since he kept getting up to give me hugs, high fives, grab some juice, chat a bit, etc, he DID get 16 flowers before his father finished the final two notes despite my protest because he wanted to play synthesia lol.  i did regain use of the keyboard again, though, at joey's request later on and this time remembered mandablus3's suggestion to try hot cross buns first. (i think i read a post by her to do this!).  i've only been doing right hand with joey, but was quite happy that he started and FINISHED hot cross buns in 164 seconds, in spite of his wanderings and pit stops lol, and had 11 flowers! i think i will try to update a google doc with this play stats info.  i'm debating about the practicality and functionality of such a doc. what say ye? is this already built into the program?? i am quite relieved that there are at least the 6 songs to choose from in the 'free trial' version, since that's all i have access to now that we've lost our usb key dangle :-(  i wound up cutting the solfegio key guides in half and only pasting the top halves of them to the keys - i didn't want the numbers throwing him off, nor did i want them to interfere with the lights, since i like to use them.  it was SO cute today listening to joey tell me things like, "carla goes through the door!" (carla the caterpillar is a kinderbach character), or "dodi's in the rain" (again, a kb character), or "felicity is at the farm, mommy!" (you guessed it - kb again).  i love how his mind just put this together on its own!  as i was putting the stickers on yesterday, i attempted to print out the kb characters, thinking that this would help him, but due to a printing glitch followed by a distraction, it never happened. it seems that i don't need to now, so that's great! i'm looking forward to this journey, even if it turns out that *sigh* we have to buy the program again!  as of now, we'll enjoy working our way through the six free songs :-)

DADDY: Daddy has quite a competitive streak coupled by a very persistent personality!  he likes to be the best! lol so synthesia (link above) is WONDERFUL for us.  even without the competitive nature, this is a fabulous program and i'm so glad we came across it! i can't think of another way to get j to sit and play for 30 minutes on the same piece! lol  granted, he hasn't yet committed a piece to memory, and considering that his schedule has only allowed him to sit in front of the piano a few times, for each time he's sat down, he's 'perfected' his playing and reached top scores for at least one song.  if he quits now, he's several songs ahead of where he was, so i'm happy with his interest thus far.

MOMMY: for the month of march i've set a goal for 2 new pieces each weekday, using weekends as catch-up.  being that thu was the 1st and i didn't have the goal done until this weekend, i'm guessing i'll be using my weekends! lol but i'm quite content with the progress i've made with synthesia so far.  we paid for the upgrade because it allows us to label all the keys on the screen, and we have ours set up to include the score, so that we get used to reading music while we play.  it comes with over 150 popular midis in a variety of levels and you can sort through them easily, as well as import any midi out there to learn to play.  today, i started incorporating softmozart into what i do too, and i love it for practicing singing, both with letters and solfegio.  i'm glad that i have both, and would not like to have to pick one over the other, especially considering that each of my favorite guys has their own favorite (okay, joey has no choice, but still lol).

so there you have it.  our first 'real' update.  sorry for it being so long.  i'm guessing from here on out they'll be more condensed, since they won't have the background info ;-)

thanks for reading!