Friday, 26 August 2011

moving day

Tomorrow is moving day... I'm both tired and excited!  It seems like we've been living in this temporary place forever and I'm SO happy to be moving forward and getting on with life.  This place hubby chose was nice, it is very spacious for London standards, and is in a nice location.  We've been taking advantage of the easy access to the museums and the playgrounds.  It's been nice to watch my children's leg muscles strengthen and fatten up a bit with all the walking and scotting they've been doing on the streets here.  Little lady can no longer wear the "skinny" slim jeans!  :)  they're to tight for her to get over her muscular legs!

We'll have no internet connection for perhaps two weeks, so there will be no blogging for me unless I can type something up on my phone... which I don't think I'll be doing.  In the new house, I've got to spend some untold amount of time sewing the name tapes into the children's school uniforms and getting ready for school that starts on the 7th of September.  Our sea shipment arrives on tuesday, so it'll unpacking heaven for a while, and there's my dreams of planing a vegetable garden....  

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Our Uno cards

Heritage makers has helped me to make our own playing cards...  Now while this process is expensive... (very expensive!) it was fun and does create a unique deck of cards that I believe is worth while.

In order to create these cards, you have to sign up at Heritage makers... the basic membership is free, but to use the Uno template (you don't have to - you could create your own from scratch) you have to have premier membership which is a minimum of $20.00  then you have to pay for the printing for the deck of Uno cards.. this amounted to 58 and some change.. then you pay another 8 or 9 for shipping.... (You can join HM at the lowest level (for 30) and that will give you 40 points (I think each point is worth $1.00) and then purchase the rest, or you can join now and purchase 100 points for 50 bucks....  (note: joning HM requires a minimum 3 month commitment)

Anyway...  I was happy with the results, even though I don't plan on making playing cards in the future!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Fun DIY placemats

A project that I completed some time ago, but thought that I'd share with you .  I like place mats, the idea of them, and the look. However, sometimes, you need to entertain your kids at the dinner table...  If your like us, that means keeping cards, a few small games, bananagrams, or even your choice of tablets (such as the Ipad or the Galaxy) nearby.  There are times though, that playing these games isn't practical.  It was with this in mind that I created these tablemats.  I plan on using them in my classroom eventually when I invite groups of students in to eat lunch in my classroom and play games, however, for now, they are in my house entertaining my kids.

The first side is a copy of the the new food plate that Michelle Obama has helped create.  I have modified the picture slightly to include the portion sizes, as I believe that knowing the portions is important.  The other side is a mix of paper games such as tic-tac-toe, boxes, and hangman.  I like the idea of bringing these on vacation with us so that the kids can be entertained and only having to carry a dry erase marker in my purse.  I printed these and then laminated them.  I roll them up and carry them around with a rubber band attached so that they are portable and packable.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Playing cards for math concepts

As always, I'm constantly figuring out ways to do educational things with the kids...  Following a link from my friend's website to Big Picture Classes, I decided to look at some of the projects there.  I decided to sign up for a few of the free classes to see how it works and got caught with the idea of creating an UNO deck with my kids faces on it.  I bought the class from Randi Brunt (Family deck of cards)...  while I go about figuring that out, I decided to make a set of math cards for my kids (a freebie on the site, Math Basics) gave me the idea..  I've seen these before on the internet, but have never attempted to do it before.  For those of you who would like professional looking cards, visit the Heritage Makers website, sign up for a free account, and search for playing cards in the template section.  Find one you like and then pay to have them printed and sent to you; (edited with your photos and commentary, of course!)  The uno cards and a set of playing cards that I'm planning on giving my parents for Christmas will come from there (Mom - you didn't read that!)

The math basics cards are a great idea, but I wanted something I could change.  This is why I made my own... I plan to print out the blank cards, cut and laminate them, and use them to give my kids their math problems via flash card style.  The laminate will ensure that I can erase and use them again and again.  

I am including my blank templates, and the pictures of my completed card back so that you can see what I have done.  

 Open the blank card back into an image editing program..  I added the text, cropped an image of little man and little lady's faces close then buttonized them, then added a speech bubble ontop.  Save the images and use this as the back of your card.

I then asked my printer to print out a sheet of these images on one side and the appropriate card face on the other.  (wallet size is good!)

Once printed, write in your equation on the face and write the answer in the speech bubble on the back.  The kids can then self check their work!

The above cards, I made with my editing software on my computer...The below ones I made using the Heritage Makers website - all rights reserved. (shown here to show off what you can do with this great software!)

kinaesthetic spelling

How to make spelling fun for little ones?  Boys?  Little man won't write anything he can't spell, so I have to come up with some amazingly creative ways to get him to spell his sight words and to write them down.

When my shipment arrives from the US, I have a bananagrams and apples tiles, I also have alphabet unifix cubes that he can use to create his words.  In the meantime, I found this great free resource of Hi-Res wooden scrabble tiles as an image.  I've printed them out (twice) and cut them into pieces for the little man to play with.  I'm starting with Dolce's first 100 words with him, and encouraging little lady to play along so that she can cement her knowledge and challenge the little man a bit.  Lets see how it goes!

I'm starting the Draw! Write! Now! series with the little man to see if he takes to it.  It's a brilliant series devoted to getting the kids to draw (thereby improving hand/eye coordination) and then writing about what they draw.   Little lady, who loves drawing, keeps peeking over his shoulder and drawing what she can see.  Little man, aka Mr. Patient, takes his good old time and draws one picture for each of her 4 or 5.  He's so precise though - maybe I ought to get him ruler and protractor so he can measure the distances and draw from there! :)

Other ideas for spelling with hands include filling a sealed ziploc bag with shaving cream, chalk and chalkboard, dry erase & board, bead letters, magnetic letters, and stamp (letters).   There are also the colored crayons, markers, glitter pens, etc that can make it more interesting and fun.  Many teachers try this route on their spelling homework.  Many of you will have seen the homework come home with instructions like "write this word five times in glitter pens, with the vowels in a different color" and such.  

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Gearing up for school supplementing

As a mom, I am constantly struggling with keeping my kids up to date and supplementing their education at home to make sure that they are 1) not bored, 2) getting the in depth education that they deserve, and 3) getting the repetition and practice that (especially in math) that they need to succeed.  Math and reading are the two areas that I'm following up on this year.  I now have a first and a third grader... wowee!  Time flies, doesn't it?

To that end, I have taken the idea from 'Extra Special Teaching" blog and incorporated it into my home.  When I eventually get my own classroom you can bet I'll use it there too.  I printed out her progress chart for each of my kiddoes and we have started doing the Dad's worksheets math facts with 1 minute A's.

I love that this is free, and easy to do at home.  I use my Iphone's stopwatch function and sit them down on the kitchen table every day.  Following her rules, I make sure that they don't level up until they can do it within the allotted time and not make more than 3 mistakes.

Reading....  this is tougher, as both of my children (knock on wood) are accelerated readers, so finding their weaknesses takes serious looking.  However, phonics, spelling and word break down are always key areas, so I chose to focus on these - As with math, I'm starting both kids at the same starting point, even though I know little lady will accelerate faster than little man.  To that end, I've been studying Beth Newingham's reading approach and am attempting to do it in house.  I have been through Words Their Way, and have the books already, so this is taken care of.  I am also having them both do the Worldy Wise booklets for their respective grade levels.

I'm waiting to see how the schools deal with science, writing and history to see if I need to supplement that.  I have plans in place if I do - write me if your interested, otherwise I'll post if I need to.  

Friday, 12 August 2011

London Riots

So for my two cents..

These riots in London are scary...  The news is littered with violence, with shots of police lines breaking and being forced back as scores of young people (yobs = young mobs?) throw things and rush them.  Images are everywhere of women jumping from burning buildings into the waiting arms of concerned citizens below.  It is said that the impoverished "were a tinderbox" waiting to ignite.  That government funding, or lack thereof, has caused this to happen. Others say that bad parenting, perhaps due to poverty, perhaps not, is to blame.  Facebook has over 1 million people signing a petition that will take away government housing and benefits from those families that are found guilty of the looting, riots and arson.  The question that plagues me, is what will that fix?

If government cuts have caused this tinderbox to begin with, it seems to me that more cuts will just add fuel to the fire.  With no where to live on top of no where to play, these kids will just continue to ransack the streets. Now, I'm not claiming to have the answers here, I just don't want people jumping to the easy solution, the angry - strike back- solution, which is cutting more funding where it's needed the most.  Those kids are saying "we're striking back at the rich, those with businesses"....  Leaving alone the ignorance in that statement, these kids are trying to tell the government something.  They are screaming about the injustice in their lives, the lack of opportunity, the helplessness they feel.  They watch their parents struggle, and they know that they will not be able to help and therefore will fall into the same trap.  Who will stand up and help them?  Will the parties, the government, stand up and make the hard choices with fiscal reform and the reform needed to help those that need it the most, or will they scapegoat and take the easy way out and simply punish those responsible for our failings?

Who will listen?

When pressed to answer about specific punishments, my answer is this...

I know this is a small distinction, but to me there is a difference between rioting/looting and arson.  I know that it's still vandalism and destruction, but arson does more damage; setting fire to the Sony building, to the family run furniture business, to shops where people's homes are above; those things should be punished.  The people responsible for the arson should be punished, because those acts went above civil disturbance; they are acts of people who aren't just desperate but who have a mean streak; a tendency to harm others or a selfish and careless nature.  Those people should be punished.  The others should be made to return what isn't theirs and do community service.  This should happen while the government figures out how to fix the underlying problems inherent within the UK system.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Getting back into the swing of things

What a strange summer.  We have decided to make the move back to the UK and to place the little people back into the school little lady left when we moved to the states originally.  I believe that this is a good thing as the age difference is a bit of a put off.  I am going back to school to get my masters degree in education, and I hope to do some good crafting and gardening these next two years.  I'll volunteer as much in the schools as they will allow me to do, and this will pass the time!  I'm also hoping to get some great pics of the little people, now that I have all the tools that I need to do a portrait session.  More to come on that...

My first craft of the summer is to finally tackle the Tooth Pillow design that I saw on my friend (Town Monkey's)  blog which she got from mmmcrafts blog (

I'm making one for little lady even though she's already lost 10 teeth!  (I'm putting them in a baby tooth album from  Little man hasn't lost his first tooth yet, so I'm hoping his police man tooth pillow will get some good use!

Here is a picture of the completed project!