Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting Crafty: Putting up Pictures

As we settle into our new home I am trying to transform it from house to home.  At our last home I never really got around to putting family pictures on the wall.  Not sure why - it just didn't really happen.  Honestly, some of it was busyness and some of it was expense.  Then a friend of mine gave me some guidance on how to display family pictures - of all sizes - on the cheap.  WAHOO!!  So here we are.

I am not very good at organizing my pictures so I spent a ridiculous amount of time culling through them to pick out some favorites - of kids at different ages and stages - to print.  My friends who print lots of pictures recommend Costco and they are VERY reasonably priced.  I got a few 12x18 for $4, but you can get large 20x30 for just $10.  I wanted some irregular sizes so I got a bunch of 8x8 as well.

You may be wondering, how are you going to actually get those ready for the wall without spending an arm and a leg on picture frames - especially the odd sized ones?  Here is my friend's idea - foam core!  Yes, it's that simple.  Here's the breakdown.


- pictures
- xacto knife and good blade
- foam core (I got mine for a buck a board at dollar tree - 20x30 - they probably aren't acid free though, use a coupon at Michael's or Hobby Lobby if you'd like)
- mod podge (what I used) or spray adhesive (what my friend used)
- ruler (okay, I didn't use one but someone more particular might)
- pencil

How to: 

1.  Use the Costco website to upload, crop, and prepare your pictures and order them in the sizes you want.
2.  Lay your pictures out on the foam core and try to fit as many as you can.  If you cut it really straight you don't have to leave any space in between them.
3.  Trace around the picture edges with your pencil. Remove the pictures.  If you do a lot at once of different sizes you might want to label them somehow so it is easy to match them up again.
4.  Use the xacto knife to cut out the foam core to your desired shape
5. Use mod podge - but you could use spray adhesive - to cover the foam core with sticky stuff.
6. Lay your picture on top and press it down.  Let them dry for a while before you actually try to hang them up.

To hang: 

I decided to get Command Poster Strips to hang mine and they seem to be doing well so far.  The boys were very excited to wake up to new pictures on the wall.  I still have one big layout I want to do - but need to do other projects (like laundry) tonight.

There are other ways you could use this same technique - for example:

- To cut out and create letters for your kids initials (use cloth or scrapbook paper to cover them)
- To do other cut outs - clouds, superheroes, etc.  You could either paint them or use other materials.

So, there you have it.  A great project for helping make a house your home on a budget!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Weekly Resource: Song School Latin

First off - Happy Mother's Day!   I hope that you had a great day.  My big present was taking a nap! Hopefully yours was great too.

If you have been around a while you might know that I am a little obsessed with Latin.  I mostly collect resources about learning it - but have yet to apply myself to studying it.  After spending some time with Prima Latina (and the videos) we moved on to Latina Christiana this year.  I didn't do the book and we didn't watch the videos (they were a little dry) - we just listened to the vocabulary in the car.  I am not sure that much was retained- if any.

Through CC we memorize the noun and verb endings in different years so I am not too worried about those.  The tutor for A (so about 7th graders) said that learning vocabulary, knowing their Latin endings and having a firm grasp of English grammar by the time they enter that class would help them a lot.  Although Latina Christiana does have more vocab that will prepare them for Caesar and other readings - if you aren't retaining it there is limited benefit.  When we finished listening to Latina Christiana I decided we needed to try something different.

So, I splurged and bought Song School Latin.  Around here we call it "monkey Latin" and even my 3 yo asks for it.  The difference in interest level and retention is night and day.  I did get the videos; to me, they are worth it.  My boys think Simeon (the monkey) is hilarious and they go around repeating his jokes using the Latin he uses.  The humor is spot on for my boys.  The songs are fun and they get stuck in your head.  The derivative river is just enough to show words we get from Latin but not too long to lose kids attention.  We, again, aren't really doing the book part.  I do have it and read the stories and do some of the games but I really just want the kids to hear it.  My mom learned French in elementary school (through dialogues) and she said in 7th grade when they finally read it they already knew so much.  I think now that my oldest is making progress in spelling (YEAH) we could probably do more written Latin - maybe next year.  I didn't get the clash cards but I might make something similar to play with over the summer.
Song School Latin 1 teaches just a few words a lesson and uses the words in multiple songs and stories.  It focuses on "everyday" language versus a prep for Caesar and is appropriate for this age.  It allows us to use it more naturally in our conversation.  I can say to the boys "Go stand by the porta" and they can do it.  We plan to do levels 1 and 2 and then I'm not sure what next.  My 5 yo actually seems to remembers things better than the 8 yo.   At that point the choice will probably be between Visual Latin and Latin for Children.

I don't think that entertainment is necessary for education - but I do have to say at this age there is a lot to be said for engaging kids in what they are learning, especially when it is something that most people think of as "hard".   I am glad we made the switch and my boys are too!  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wednesday With Words: Elementary Math

I have heard about the book Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics by Liping Ma and recently I saw it Half Price Books so I couldn't resist.  Last week I spoke with a homeschooling mom who is a little bit further down the road and she really encouraged me to focus on my children's strengths and let them run as fast as they could in topics that interest them.  Well, my son loves math, so I figured I should try to figure out more about how to help him see the bigger connections in math. So, while I was at the Tae Kwon Do tourney this weekend I decided to give it a read. Just using the math curriculum we do (Miquon) has helped me better understand some concepts.  I was a plug and chug girl and did well enough - but I don't "get" math.  Honestly, my oldest probably does well because he had Montessori math as a 4 yo.  I need to use some of that with my current 5 yo.

Anyhow, back to the book.  The premise is that she posed basic math problems to American teachers and Chinese teachers and asked them how they would teach the concept.  IT IS FASCINATING! Honestly, it shows how little depth we have in our math understanding.  The few concepts she addressed have really helped me to better teach already.

Here are some key thoughts:

Here is a very interesting difference in understanding between the countries.  In the United States, problems like "5+7=12" and "12-7=5" are considered "basic arithmetic facts" for students simply to memorize.  In China, however, they are considered problems of "addition with composing and subtraction with decomposing within 20".  The learning of "addition with composing and subtraction with decomposing within 20" is the first occasion when students must draw on previous learning, in this case their skill of composing and decomposing a 10 is significantly embedded.

The question posed was about teaching borrowing/carrying, regrouping or as they say decomposing in subtraction.  When you teach the math facts up to 20 in this manner, students really GET what it means to "borrow" a ten to help out your units that are lacking.

Next they move on to multiplication and helping students to multiply multidigit numbers.  Here the Chinese teachers use the distributive law.  WHAT?  Yes, that's what you are doing because really in 436x812 you are multiplying each digit - 812 x (400 +30 +6).which become 812 x 400 + 812 x 30 + 812 x 6).  Why didn't I ever really get that?

They go further and say

Besides the distributive law (above) there is another argument that should be included in the explanation. That is the multiplication of a number by 10 or a power of 10.  

They go on to explain why in this special case we can just add 0 at the end of the number.  When done the traditional way, you may remember that you have columns and move over for each column.  This also speaks to learning place value as well.

Finally, fractions.  So, most of the American teachers didn't even get the fraction problem right, forget explaining it to a student.  I just remember "When dividing don't be shy, flip the second number and multiply".  I never really knew why - but the cheerleaders in middle school came in so we would remember to "flip" the second number.

Instead of "invert and multiply,"  most of the Chinese teachers used the phrase "dividing a number is equivalent to multiplying by its reciprocal".


Dividing by 5 is equivalent to multiplying by 1/5.  

The light bulb went on - of course it is. That makes it SO MUCH easier.  Of course we remember that we always multiply the top times the top and the bottom times the bottom when it comes to fractions.
So, it's a great read.  It helped me to better understand math and see how to teach it to my kids.  I don't know that you need to own it - but checking it out is probably worthwhile.

See what others are reading over at Ladydusk Wednesday with Words.