Friday, February 11, 2011

Holy Randomness, Batman! This One's a Rambler . . ..

Almost Valentine's Day! This year I think Valentine's Day is getting the short end of the stick. We had planned to have a very special (with candlelight!) dinner Saturday night as a family, but then heard from my sister-in-law that she had extra tickets to the play my niece is in. So we're all going to go to the play Saturday night instead.

Our Valentine's Day tradition has always been that the boys get a stuffed animal and a book. Now that they're getting older, though, our tradition needs to change a bit. SportsBoy has asked if he can have a Ravenclaw t-shirt instead of a stuffed animal. I thought that was an okay trade. SuperKid will get a stuffed animal he's been wanting. And both will probably get a gift card to the book store for a small book. I guess things change . . .

So this week went by in a blur. I am having a very hard time thinking about what we did. SuperKid was sick at the beginning of the week, so I do remember some nonsense about a "sick day." :-) We did go to the doctor, but "it's just a virus and not catching." Right. That's why the rest of us are all sick now. Because it's not catching. So anyway, a sick day sounds good to me today, but we're too busy for that!

Wednesday was our homeschool webelos meeting. We finished up all the requirements for our Citizenship badge except one. The mayor is coming to talk to our boys at the next meetting, and then that badge will be a wrap! We played some great flag, state and national anthem trivia games and the boys reviewed the poem, "I am Your Flag" that they will recite at our Pack meeting next weekend for all the families. They are very excited!

I finally broke down and bought the Bananagrams for my kids. I think it's good for SuperKid's thinking skills, and I'm hoping it will help with SportsBoy's spelling issues. Goodness! Spelling his tough for that boy. He can spell the same word two or even three different ways in the same paragraph. Doesn't even know he's done that. And his teachers at school say he's right where he should be in spelling. Seriously? It's hard to make him care about it when his teachers don't. (Don't worry - I'm still on it!)

Oh yeah! The most important thing of the week was Middle School Orientation for SportsBoy. That was last night. I sniffled and shivered through it, but was healthy enough to get the gist of what was going on. Two big decisions he needed to make - music (he's decided to do both band and choir) and foreign language (Chinese).

You gotta love how a preteen boy thinks. SB was adamant that he wanted to do only choir, no band because he "loves choir." Uh-huh. He does like choir, but loves? I suspect what he loves is the idea of not having to practice his trumpet. My response - "No problem. Take choir and we'll sign you up for piano lessons. Not playing an instrument is not an option." I have a way of being direct. Mr. Wonderful was more thoughtful in his presentation of that decision. He explained how adults often wished they could play an instrument and much harder it is to begin an instrument as an adult. He talked about how important it is to learn certain skills when you are younger so you have options when you are older. SportsBoy is a pretty deep thinker himself, actually. He totally got that discussion. But what clinched his decision was when he learned that if you do both choir and band, you just rotate between the two each day - it's not an extra class.

Then came the foreign language discussion. A choice between Chinese, French and Spanish. Mr. Wonderful took four years of French in high school and I took Spanish two years of Spanish in both high school and college (I took two years of German in high school, too, but it was too easy since my parents and grandparents actually spoke German at home). So SportsBoy decided on Chinese. He admitted he's not sure about this one, but there are two things that appeal to him. First, he liked the presentation the Chinese class gave to the sixth graders. Second, and yes, he did admit this to me, he likes the idea that I can't review his homework or "help" him study for this class since I know nothing about it. Sounds like someone wants some independence! :-)  So, anyway, it looks like I'll be learning Chinese this summer!! :-)

Okay, not sure there's much here to help anyone out this week - but that pretty much sums it up! Today SuperKid is trying out a new Chess Club at our local library, going to martial arts and then heading to the club for a swim lesson. We'll fit some school work in there, too - and before we know it I'm sure it will be time to wrap up another week!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Game Time!

Soooo, who's watching the Super Bowl? Me? Not so much, though it's definitely on a couple of TVs over here. Every year SuperKid and SportsBoy like to invite their grandparents over for a little tailgating before the game. My parents live 90 minutes away, so by half-time the party's over. We did have a good time again this year, though.

While I can hardly call myself a cook, and therefore this is not even close to a cooking blog - I am good at following recipes. SportsBoy, who is in charge of our menu each year, decided on brats and sliders for the "entree," I picked up some macaroni salad and potato salad from the grocery store and I made these delicious treats for the appetizers. Holy smokes were they amazing! I made about 40 (SuperKid wouldn't eat them, so there were only 7 of us who I figured would actually "nibble" at them) but they got DEVOURED before I could get them to the table. SportsBoy was begging me to make another batch - and let me tell you I was so tempted. I swear we're having them for dinner tomorrow night. By the way, definitely roll them in the brown sugar. So. Darn. Good.

We had a rousing game of The Cheese Touch Game before the Super Bowl began. Anyone have this game? Let me tell you, I have a love-hate relationship with The Wimpy Kid. Not even close to literature. BUT both my boys got turned on to reading with these books. SportsBoy has moved on - he's too old for the series but he couldn't help himself - he did have to read the latest one in the series when it came out. SuperKid, too, thinks these books are hilarious. Anyway, regardless of what you think of the books, this game is genius for a kid on the spectrum. Most of the questions require you to think about what someone else's experiences - not your own. It's hard for kids on the spectrum to think from other people's perspectives - so I like this practice! Also, there's a "do it like this" category where you have to act out different motions according to the adverb on the card (ex:  the word is "clumsily" so the player says to the player next to him, "walk like this" and the player acts it out. Then he might say to the following player , "eat like this," "sing like this," etc. Tricky - but I've been impressed with SuperKid's ability to act them out! This is a great game for this stage in SuperKid's development! Love it!

Well, I'm a couple of days late posting this, though I started it on Super Bowl Sunday. I'll post now and in a laster post talk about a few more of our favorite things. Do you have any family favorites that you want to share? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, February 4, 2011

January in Review

Hmmm, long time no see! I'm not sure why I haven't blogged; there's been a lot going on!

SuperKid had a wonderful birthday and a really fun birthday party! The kids all enjoyed an afternoon of bowling, arcade games, cake and pizza. I loved seeing how happy SuperKid was with his party. It was such a happy day!

SuperKid continues to love his piano lessons. His teacher moves quickly! We are one month into the instrument and SK is playing music that amazes me. He actually "gets" it and he loves it. It's so awesome to see him play - he's no virtuoso, but he has enough talent that he can keep up with the lessons and really enjoy the challenge. Perfect.

We spent a great day at the Science Center this week. There was a terrific NASA exhibit that we enjoyed, and then upstairs they have a myriad of different hands-on scientific experiments for the kids (and adults) to enjoy! That part was our favorite! We haven't been to this particular museum in several years but we definitely want to go back again. Maybe next time we'll go when SportsBoy doesn't have school so he can join us.

At the beginning of the year, SK was really balking at completing his school work. No more (at least for now)! The past few weeks have been very productive. The material is interesting and he's enjoying all the subjects. I did make a couple of changes that I think helped.

First, I took a break from our Saxon Math. While I basically do like their approach of introducing a concept and then reviewing previously-learned concepts in each lesson, I do feel like the concepts kind of jump around too much. One day we're doing area and then the next day we're doing something else. Then a few lessons later we're back to area - I felt SK was getting a bit muddled from the jumping around. I also thought the arbitrary use of metric measures was a hindrance to his learning at this point. It's hard enough for SK to really understand the relationship between an inch and a mile right now - to then intersperse centimeters and kilometers in a few problems here and there was really not reinforcing the most important part of the lessons. So for several weeks we just did word problems and some measuring (US measures only). This week I went back to Saxon and SK's excited to get back to the format. I have changed all metric refrences to US measures for right now, and we'll see how that goes.

We are continuing with our A Beka History but I decided to change out the geography portion for our own geography lessons. We are studying Europe - learning the names of the countries and their capitals, where they are located on the map and what their flags look like. I bought the boys this world flag game for Christmas and we're having a ball learning with it! I also got a very cool app for my iPad - it gives us a country name and 8 or 10 flags to choose from and we have to pick the correct flag. Also very fun! Even SportsBoy joins us for Geography now, and that's on top of the geography he's learning at school.

I am loving loving loving (did I tell you I am loving?) our Excellence in Writing curriculum. SuperKid loves it, too. He can actually write very fun stories with this technique! Finally! I have never been good at teaching writing - and this curriculum makes it so easy for both me and him.
We switched over to it just before Christmas, so we're really getting into it now. He's proud of his stories, and while the concept seems so simple, it is clear that the techniques it is teaching him are challenging. it's not easy, for example, for him to think of alternative titles for stories. And he still has enough of a language issue that adding appropriate adverbs to sentences is hard - really hard. But his vocabulary is improving with this exercise, and I find him substituting other words for "banned words" in daily conversation. Yes, this is good.

All in all, I feel like we worked hard in January! And we did - we logged well over the 100 hours we target for each month. But that's okay, because we just might have been a little under that target for the month previously ;-)  - Christmas is only 24 hours on the calendar, but around here it and all its festivities last a lot longer than that!

I hope you had a good first month of 2011, too! Let's hope we can build on this momentum!!