Monday, August 25, 2014

Math Fact Mastery for the Whole Family {A Review}

As a child, I loved flashcards. My children? No so much. But they do love my laptop. 




So, when I was given an opportunity to review UberSmart Math Facts by UberSmart Software with the kids, I took it.  It seemed like an effective way to combine a childhood love of mine, a current interest of my children's and a necessarily step in lifelong math sills -- mastering math facts!


The Story Behind UberSmart Math Facts

UberSmart Math Facts is the brainchild of homeschool dad and computer programmer David Kocur.  In a nutshell, he created the program for his own children, realized how well it worked and decided to share it with others.

As the story goes, one day David was sitting at his desk when his wife came to ask him to write a program to help their children master math facts.

David thought there must be an effective program out there already, so he looked around online.  Upon finding everything he looked at unsatisfactory, he did as his wife had asked him to do and set about creating a program he felt would work.  

Within months of beginning the program he wrote, his daughters mastered their math facts!  

UberSmart Math Facts was a proven success.  David was delighted by that, especially since he had been told that his oldest daughter, who learning disabilities due to epilepsy, would always struggle to recall her math facts.  

David then thought, ""I need to put this thing on the market so others can use it!" And,  UberSmart Software was born.

Don't you just love when need begets ingenuity, which begets success, which begets sharing, which, in turn, begets further success?  I do!


So What Is UberSmart Math Facts?


UberSmart Math Facts Review



In my experience, UberSmart Math Facts is old-school math flashcards and timed tests packaged as downloadable software that makes learning basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division easy for independent learners and trackable by parents.  

In appearance, UberSmart Math Facts is "no frills".  With the program, there are no bells, whistles, crazy characters, catchy tunes nor distracting sidebars.  What there is with UberSmart Math Facts is one smart, proven program, that, among other things:

  • allows students to learn more facts in less time by reducing repetition of already learned facts and breaking down the addition and multiplication tables into small sections for children to master.
  • tracks student progress to the millisecond and allows students and parents to see progress on easy-to-read graphs
  • lays a strong foundation for math success by giving children a toolthat can ensure automaticity of math facts.



How Did We Use the Program So Far?
 


Since it has been summertime, we are out more than we are in, so any learning tools we use at home must be easy, effective and, well, fast!

Thus, I downloaded UberSmart Math Facts  on my laptop, created usernames for each of my children, and, then, after testing the program out myself, decided to approach introducing it with a preemptive measure.

"Kids!"  I explained.  "I just got this great little program to review that can help you become math whizzes.  It's not fancy, but it is useful!  So, I will tell you what: Any day that you choose to use the program for at least 10 minutes, you can earn 15 minutes of free screen time with it!"

With that, the kids were off and learning!




After being a looker-on for so many of the things we have reviewed this year, Jack was happy and intent as the first UberSmart user in our home -- and one that had his own username!




In his first session, he surpassed the 10 minute minimum I had set to earn free computer time as he worked with dot cards and number typing practice.

In subsequent says, Jack, Luke and Nina all chose to use different features of the program on their own, and sometimes, helping one another.




In doing so, Jack and Nina tended to gravitate toward the dot cards...


UberSmart Math Facts Review
 
 ...and number-typing practice.


UberSmart Math Facts Review


Luke used these, too, admitting to me that sometimes he did the easy stuff just to get his 10 minutes done instead of challenging himself with numerical addition or subtraction problems, or, lo, multiplication or division ones, like this:
 

UberSmart Math Facts Review



I was okay with that because it is summer time and I figure any practice is worthwhile.  Come fall, I intend to check-in more using the parent tracking features and to encourage all the children to use the program at levels that will challenge them while also helping them become successful with their math facts!

A Balanced View

I am happy to have UberSmart Math Facts on our laptop as a tool for helping my children.  Some things I like about it are:


  • It is cost effective.  An entire family can use the program for a single one-time fee, which, from September 1 through 30 will be 30% off using the discount code v4 Early Bird.   That means that if children tire of the program and want a break from it, you can easily come back to it without paying additional subscription fees.  Once you purchase and download the program, it is your to keep and use whenever you wish with your entire family!
  • It is basic.  Entertaining programs have their place, but sometimes non-distracting, not-too-flashy programs hit the mark.  UberSmart Math Facts does just that.  It takes the proven effectiveness of flashcards and timed tests, adds interest and intuition to them through computer programing, yet forgoes distracting extras so children can focus on skills.
  • It is user-friendly.  Children can use the program with independence and parents can track progress easily.  Truly, my four-year-old was up and running on his own with the program after one session with me and his big siblings found their way around the program easily, too.

  • It is adaptable.  Parents can make changes to time limits, difficulty of presented problems, etc. to tailor the program to children.  So, the program offers the time-tested effectiveness of regular flashcards with the modern convenience of smart computer-generated tweaks.
One thing I would like to see improved about the program in future editions of the software are is the size of the flashcards.  Although readable, they could be larger.  I would love an option to make them full-screen size, as opposed to just making the blue box around them full-screen size.

Overall, I think the program offers a fair bang for the buck.  It makes a worthwhile staple for a math fact mastery repertoire of choices, especially for visual learners who like computers!

Learn More


  • A family license to UberSmart Math Facts costs $24.95, includes free upgrades and support and allows you to run the program on every computer in your home so the entire family can use it.
  • The program is geared for K-6 grade level students but can really be used by younger or older children as well.) 



Click to read Crew Reviews



What tools do you keep handy for helping your children master math facts?

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Do You Share Moments of Greatness?


"Mommy, can you share my moments of greatness?"  Jack asked the other night as he crawled upon me to offer a big hug after I gave him his bedtime blessing.

"Sure."  I smiled, reflected back upon the day and began to verbally list a litany of moments when Jack had shown with virtue, love and skill.

"You gave me the best hug this morning... You continued to tidy the living room when your brother and sister stopped tonight... You helped make our meal...  You welcomed friends at the beach... You marveled at the creatures God made and delighted in catching crabs... You were able to keep your body safe by buckling your car seat all on your own... You made your snacks with such independence...  You..."

With each specific moment I recalled, Jack's arms squeezed me a bit tighter.  His smile turned into a satisfied giggle.  His siblings' voices chimed in with their own memories of greatness.

Then, of course, during a pause, Luke and Nina each asked me to share their moments of greatness.

I happily obliged, delighted to lay the final focus of our day on that which had evidenced my children growing in age-appropriate skills, wisdom, virtue and love.  Delighted to have each of my children pressed warmly against me, readily recalling so many moments that had blessed our day.  Grateful to balance any moments of lost patience, frustration and other ills that had happened throughout the day (because, reality is, these moments had happened!) with memories of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control and the rest of the fabulous Fruits of the Spirit!

I also paused to ask if the moments we were sharing - the children's greatness - were really moments of their own greatness.  Quickly, Jack replied that they were not.  They are God's!

He gets it!  I smiled.  They all do.

My children understand that greatness comes when we let His love for us shine in us and through us.

Imagine if we all focused on such love -- and the greatness it begets -- a little more each day?  I know there's plenty of room in my days to do so and that sometimes taking time to list how that greatness shined with my children helps us all!

Do you and yours ever verbally share moments of greatness?  How else do you reinforce how God shines in and through each of us?

http://traininghappyhearts.blogspot.com/search/label/Training%20Happy%20Hearts%20in%20Young%20Children

Please feel free to share about them in comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board

 

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Friday, August 22, 2014

What Does a Week of Always (Or Is it Never) Schooling Look Like?



~1~
Back-to-Where?



My computer screen has been lit up lately with back-to-school posts and pictures from and brick-and-mortar school and homeschool friends alike.  Truth be told, I'm just not ready for that!

For summer is still in full swing here and I am planning to enjoy experiencing every last bit of it with my kiddoes.  (Much like I was doing in the picture above that my friend Annemarie captured of me playing with Jack at the beach this past Tuesday!)


~2~
Always (Or Is It Never)-Schooling

 
Of course, that doesn't mean we aren't "school"ing.  We just are not "back-to-school"ing, because, in our view, we are always "school"ing (or never "school"ing depending on how you look at it.   For, we've come to recognize that life is schooling and schooling is life.  

There's just too little divide betwixt living and learning for us these days to allow us to demarcate when we go "back" to school.

Take what was happening in the picture above, for example.  Luke, Nina and Jack have been loving the Swiss Family Robinson lately.  We've listened to two different narrators sharing the unabridged version of the story on CD, watched both the original Disney film of the movie and the more modern one and read graphic novels and abridged children's editions of the story.  

(NOTE:  I've put some of the Swiss Family Robinson resources we've been enjoying in the carousel below for your convenience.  If you click through and purchase anything at Amazon, we may receive compensation at no cost to you.  Thank you for supporting us this way should you wish to do so!)



Inspired by all that, the children and their friends began building a fort the other day - completely self-directed at a beach we had met at for homeschool gathering.  They creatively used dried grasses to make traps and fortifications.  (In the photo, Nina and her friend are preparing a trip line!)  Then, when the grasses sliced into Jack's finger, another child used nearby vegetation to begin first aid.

Is this life or learning?  I'd say a beautiful mix of both!

~3~
Of Marine Biology, Personal Growth and Harmony


And, what do you call this?  School or life?

We were at a wrap-up session of a Marine Biology mini co-op when Luke, moved over to help a little friend across rocks without any prompting.  I thought, Wow! He's come so far.  

There was a time not too long past when Luke could not stand the sensory experience of sand nor water, when just getting himself to cross a shoreline was everything he could do -- and often necessitated Mom or Dad help.  And, there was also a time when mastering typical age-appropriate social skills seemed a far distant goal.  Yet, there my boy was evidencing with a simple kindness how many life skills he has mastered in recent months.

Marine Biology lesson?  Sure, we had it that day.  But the true learning lay in so many other areas...When kids of varying ages play and chat, and chat and play, and play and chat some more, all day long without one "I'm bored' and with little to no skirmishes, I think, Harmony and happiness.  I want this reality to take over everything.

~4~
My "Tribe" (Or a Part of It)




This summer, we have spent so much time with these folks sharing little pieces of heaven on earth.   (And with several other families who are not in the picture.)

As anyone knows, relationships are so important; community is key. We have, this summer, found ideal community - similar styles, values, education choice, ages, interests and all that - with just enough differences to make things interesting without causing cringe-worthy incidents or undue angst during get-togethers.  

I recognize that not only has God always blessed me with knowing great folks (some from the past that I miss so much!), but also that this past year, especially, He has perfectly placed some friendships for my family - ones where everyone connects well in so many ways. I could not be more grateful!


~5~
Coming Home to Daddy!

 
Of course, while outside-the-family relationships are valuable, the rock-solid love between Daddy and the kids is priceless.  

It so warms my heart each time the children come home to Daddy or Daddy comes home to them and they move toward one another to share.

In the case pictured above, Luke came home from an outing with me and began sharing with Daddy one of his many plans.  Daddy whole-heartedly showed interest, asking Luke questions about the ideas in the drawing.


~6~
Cold Kids, Warm Hearts



For the record, Daddy also gets out with us, sometimes bearing wet, ice-cold beach hugs when he doe.  What a champ!


~7~
Yep, Well Be Rarely-at-Home-Schooling Until the Weather Turns



This photo depicts the start of an ideal day.

In it, you might notice some children who appear not to be paying attention.  Trust me, they were.  Just not to the book or to the child who was commenting on it.  Instead, as this photo was snapped, a couple children had just heard a vehicle pull in and had realized, with delight, that friends we did not expect to come to our meeting had surprised us by showing up.

We welcomed them enthusiastically before continuing with learning and fun for the day.  
And, that, in a nut shell is what I expect my family will continue to do as summer unfolds into fall -- be out and about, with delight and welcome, often with happy surprises, as we live, learn and share.

Much as this week was, with all the things pictured above, plus a Lego Build night, a carnival at Daddy's work, a visit with family from out-of-town, the playground with friends, imaginative play outside, quiet times at thome and so much more, I forsee many weeks of fulfilling always (or is it never?) schooling this coming season!

Do the lines between life and learning blur in your home, too?  What is afoot for you and yours as you embrace the wonderful opportunities the final weeks of this season brings?

Sharing at Conversion Diary, Managing Your Blessings, Pebble Pond,  Weird Socialized Homeschoolers and Home to 4 Kiddos.

http://www.conversiondiary.com/category/quick-takes

http://www.managingyourblessings.com/category/homeschool-mothers-journal/

http://www.thepebblepond.com/search/label/Random%205%20on%20Friday


Weekly Wrap-Up



http://our4kiddos.blogspot.com/2014/08/premiere-of-my-week-in-review-linkup-822.html

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sing a Song of Social Skills and Character!

When our family was offered a chance to review Happy Kids Songs Friends & Sharing (Set 1), Happiness & Attitude (Set 5) and Manners & Character (Set 6),  as well as the companion Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-on Activities to Build Character, Social & Emotional Skills, I did not hesitate before saying "Yes, we'd like to do so!"  For, although I have not written much about it lately, long-time readers might recall that our family was on a diagnosis road for a while, and literally driving between therapies for one of my children.  So, anything that encourages strength is social skills and character development is always welcome here.


Of course, the child who could most use both the overt and subtle messages of the Happy Kids Songs sets is in a no-music phase, preferring instead to listen to audio dramas and books on CD.  So, that meant my other children were the ones who really enjoyed the songs so far!

We played the songs in our home on my computer while doing other activities, and, as you can see in the photo above, at least one child sometimes just at and joyfully sung along with the songs on occasion!

What Are Happy Kids Songs?

At the risk of being redundant, Happy Kids Songs are, well, happy songs for kids.  Truly, the product is aptly named.  For, the three downloadable MP3 sets I received, indeed, contain upbeat, cheerful songs for children that emphasize positive attitudes, good manners, and desirable traits, such as sharing, giving complements, and honesty.   

Some of the songs are sung by adults and others are sung by children.  All are professionally recorded and vary in style and tempo.  Each is only a couple minutes along with clear, easy-to-sing along with lyrics.  Thus,  the songs offer an opportunity for little learners to commit positive character messages to memory through the power of song.


Happy Kids Songs Review

Friends & Sharing is perhaps the most mellow of the collections we reviewed, yet still has catchy tunes, which are:

  • Sailing on the Seven Cs, which is a song that names the ingredients of friendship as caring, consideration, commitment, communication, concern, curiosity and cooperation.
  • Everybody Wants to Find a Friend, which encourages you to reach out to others because everyone wants a friend.
  • Sharing Friends, which reinforces that it is okay when your friends want to play with other friends.
  • Happy as Happy Can Be, which is about how it feels good to be with a friend.
  • Together, which sends the message that you can be friends with someone even when you are not with them.

Happy Kids Songs Review

Happiness & Attitude is an upbeat collection that features two songs in the kids rock genre and other at a little slower tempo.  Songs on the album are:


  • Shake It Out and Dance, which encourages children to give things a chance before deciding they cannot do something. 
  • Who Knows What's a Kudo?, which teaches the vocabulary word "kudo" while also exemplifying how to offer true compliments to others. 
  • I Don't Understand, which emphasizes that it's okay to ask questions and that we all have different limitations and understandings. 
  • Be Good to Yourself, which is about being good to yourself and others. 
  • Better Together, which is a feel-good song about being together with friends.



Happy Kids Songs Review

Manners & Character has spirited songs that stick in your head.  These are:

  • H-o-n-e-s-t-y, which shares reasons why it is important to tell the truth.
  • The Magic Word, which, of course, is about saying, "please".
  • Quirks, emphasizes how we all have our differences and unique habits, but that's okay.
  • The Golden Rule, which focuses on doing to others what you would like them to do to you.
  • Six Little Kids, which uses a story to explain how even when people have different perspectives, all of the perspectives can be true.

Happy Kids Songs Review


The physical Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-on Activities to Build Character, Social & Emotional Skills 
contains song lyrics, worksheets, coloring pages, puzzles, lesson plans and more for all of the songs in the entire Happy Kids Songs collection.  Some of the materials are geared for very young children (coloring), while others are suitable for older children (crossword puzzles).  The lessons included seem, to me, more appropriate for schools and day cares than homes, but still contain some worthwhile nuggets.

We used the workbook so far just to read the lyrics for singing along.  I will likely use some of the activity sheets later in the year.


As an aside, some of the song lyric sheets and activity pages in the workbook are available for free if you subscribe to the Happy Kids Songs newsletter.  However, to save yourself time and ink, as well as to get bonus lesson plans and activities, the workbook can be a great idea!

Do Happy Kids Songs make me happy, too?

While I certainly do not feel that Happy Kids Songs are essential listening for home and homeschool, I do think they make a worthwhile addition.  They include positive messages presented through upbeat, catchy tunes that two of my three, so far, have been enjoying.   So, that makes them a win for me.

I also think the songs and accompanying workbook would be great for co-ops, classrooms and day cares.  Because Happy Kids Songs are a secular product, they can be used anywhere.

For home or group settings, some things I like about Happy Kids Songs are:

  • Recordings are professional and contain a variety of styles and tempos.
  • Albums are affordable at $4.95.
  • Lyric pages make the songs easy to sing a long with and reinforce reading skills.
  • The songs are fun to listen to and have positive messages.
  • The workbook includes copyright permissions which allow you to copy pages for more than one child at home or in a classroom.

Further, although we love Catholic/Christian resources here, not everyone we know shares our faith.  Thus, I like that we can share the clean, catchy, values- (but not faith-) based Happy Kids Songs tunes with anyone.

The only thing I do not like is that they only come as MP3's.  Honestly, I prefer pre-recorded CD's.


 Learn More


Happy Kids Songs Review

There are five other Happy Kids Songs sets:

You can listen to sample clips of songs and sign up for free song and activity sheets.


All sets target children, ages 3-8.  


Each Happy Kids Songs album contains five songs that can be purchased and downloaded for $4.95.  Individual songs can be purchased for $0.99.


Lyrics and activity pages can be downloaded FREE.
lyrics, activity and coloring pages are available as a FREE download for an added bonus!  - See more at: http://chestnutgroveacademy.blogspot.com/2014/08/review-happy-kids-songs-tos-review.html#sthash.xgWaVhKm.dpuf


You can also purchase a physical copy of the Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-on Activities to Build Character, Social & Emotional Skills for $12.56.


See how 100 or so others are using Happy Kids Songs in their homes by reading the reviews linked at Schoolhouse Review Crew.
 

Click to read Crew Reviews


Find Happy Kids Songs on:


How do you help your children learn and grow with social skills and character?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Resource for On-the-Road Faith and Fun

When our family was offered a chance to review Wizzy Gizmo's Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?, I sat down on the couch my children and listened to an online preview of the audio.  Before the preview was even half-way done, my oldest Luke smiled excitedly and said,  "Get it, Mommy!" 


Luke was thrilled when our Who Created Everything? CD came in the mail.  His younger siblings, Nina and Jack, however, I think were even more excited when we listened to the CD on our way to and from summer adventures.  Indeed, they sometimes got very silly as soon as the songs in the CD played!


What is Wizzy Gizmo?

Wizzy Gizmo Review


Wizzy Gizmo, the company, is a publisher founded by two Christian fathers, a pastor and a music minister.   It offers audio dramas, books and Bible study cards which help children explore God’s Word.   Wizzy Gizmo products are designed mainly for children ages 4-12, but are layered in such a way that they can help entire families gain a better understanding of the Bible.

Wizzy Gizmo, the character, is a genius inventor who loves God and exploring the Bible and who makes fantastic, fun gizmos to help other characters explore with him.
 
What is  Who Created Everything?


Wizzy Gizmo Review


Who Created Everything? is a physical CD that contains a 36-minute audio drama of Genesis, Chapter One, complete with character voices, songs and sound effects.  The CD also includes 24-minute bonus soundtrack of songs, both sung and instrumental.

In the audio drama, children named Summer, Thomas, Eli and Olive have been waiting for Wizzy Gizmo to complete his greatest invention yet - the Gizmovision machine, which can take folks right into the sights and sounds of a book.  

When the Gizmovision is finally finished, it comes to life.  There is a big flash of light.  Then, the children find themselves in the dark.

Thus, begins the children's adventure, which takes them back to the beginning-Genesis, where they are able to see and hear the days of creation unfold.

As the children explore, they are joined by two silly sidekicks, Qwacky (a robotic duck) and Pepe, (Wizzy Gizmo's dog, who can think and speak with the help of one of Wizzy Gizmo's other inventions).  A narrator presents Bible verses.  Songs add fun.  And everyone comes to better understand Genesis, Chapter One.


How did we use it and what did we think?



As we are in a season of experiential learning, we are rarely-at-home-schoolers.  Thus, we added Who Created Everything? to our collection of minivan listening selections and ended up listening (and chair dancing) to it a number of times, sometimes twice in a row.

The children also enjoyed taking the oral quiz that is included right on the CD!

I, personally, liked the CD.  Sure, it was corny at times, but it was also:

  • entertaining for the children.

  • filled with scripture.

  • punctuated by songs (that at first I thought were ridiculous brain candy that distracted from fun, focused faith learning, but which later grew on me as my children delighted in them).

  • sprinkled with strong vocabulary (like "auspicious").
  • layered with well-presented, engaging fun and faith.

    When I asked Jack what he thought about the CD, he giggled.  "I lie the strawberry song and the mango song!"  Jack and his sister then broke out in song.

    Once Nina and Jack were finished singing, Nina piped up that she would like even more songs on the CD, with the mango song being longer and more musical bonus tracks.

    Big brother Luke then groaned.  He said, "They should cut out the music at the end and make the story longer.  They should include more stories, like about Egypt and stuff."  

    Luke went on to say that he especially liked the character Pepe and Qwacky, because they were funny, and that the Gizmovision was cool, but that he wished the kids in the audio drama could do more than just see and hear the action in Genesis.  He wanted them in it!  

    Of course, the kids did not just lie the "fluff" of the CD's -- the funny characters and silly songs.  They also benefited from hearing scripture narrated and illuminated.  In fact, more than once wince Wizzy Gizmo came into our lives, I have heard my children incorporating ideas from it in their own play as well as chatting about what they have heard on the CD.

    Fun, faith-centered, entertaining and enlightening at a level the kids get.  That makes Wizzy Gizmo's Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything? a win for us!  It will stay in our on-the-road repertoire of listening options for some time.

    Learn More

    Listen to a number of clips of the Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?  


    Click to read Crew Reviews


    Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to see what other families thought about Wizzy Gizmo's Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?  as well as about these other Bible-based resources:

     
    Wizzy Gizmo Review


    Wizzy Gizmo Review


    Wizzy Gizmo Review

    Find Wizzy Gizmo at:



    Current Special Offer

    Wizzy Gizmo's Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything? (aimed at children aged 4-12) is typically $14.99, but right now all Wizzy Gizmo products are up to 10% off.

    What are your favorite resources for faith and fun on the road?

    Crew Disclaimer

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    3 Blessings on Sickbed Sundays


    What do you do when you want to keep the Sabbath yet you have sick kids (or adults) at home?

    In our home, we enjoy three blessings:

    1.  Online Mass

    Whoever is sick (and whoever is staying home to care for the sick one) watches Heart of the Nation's Online Mass.  

    Sometimes, the children ask to pause the video so they can go potty, comment on a stained glass window, ask a question or share an idea about a reading or homily.  The latter can lead to wonderful, unexpected exchanges, making "Mass at home" a true blessing on a day when sickness strikes.

    2.  Mass in Peace

    If neither my husband nor I are sick, one of us goes to early Mass and the other to a later one.  If one of us is sick, but not so sick that a child cannot stay home as "nurse", the non-sick parent just goes to whatever Mass seems most do-able, taking a child or two along.

    Either way, being at Mass without all three of our boisterous babes is a blessing.  For while we appreciate when everyone is healthy and able to participate in Mass together, it is definitely restorative at times to be able to focus on Mass without redirecting children.  I admit it.  I like going to Mass alone when my kids are sick.

    3.  Service

    When one or more people in the house is sick on Sunday, it amazes me how the others step up as "nurse" and "helper".  It is absolutely beautiful to hear the children ask, "Can I get you something?" and to witness them serving one another with love.

    Just as special to me are opportunities to cuddle in for movies and read alouds, to lay together listening to audio books, to stroke hair and to lay on a blanket in the yard looking up at the sky together...

    How do you approach Sundays when folks in your home are sick and what blessings do you find in them? 

    http://traininghappyhearts.blogspot.com/search/label/Training%20Happy%20Hearts%20in%20Young%20Children

    Please feel free to share about them in comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board

     

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    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    What Does At-Home, Self-Directed Learning Look Like?

    Often, I get asked how I teach my children at home.

    More and more, my answer is, "I don't always.  More often than not, I let them teach themselves."


    Take last Sunday morning for example.

    Nina woke up after a night of being sick.  She looked up at the ceiling fan that had kept her cool during the night and one of the first things she said was...  

    [Spoiler Alert:  If you haven't made a guess about what is pictured above, go ahead and do so now, because I am about to reveal the answer.]

    "Mommy, I think I know how to make a fridge."


    O-kay. I thought.  I guess my girl is feeling a bit better, and we're in for a messy morning of creative engineering and experimentation.

    Thus, our day commenced.

    With joy, focus and determination, my seven-year-old directed herself through a self-initiated project which hit perfectly on typical engineering design process steps.


    Engineering is Elementary



    Step One:  Ask

    I have no idea why, but my little girl woke up asking herself how she might make her own fridge using materials we have at home that she may freely access.

    Step Two: Imagine

    Before sharing anything with me, Nina had already brainstormed ideas in her own mind and chosen the one that she felt was feasible to test.


    Nina talks her way through her plan before moving forward.


    Step Three:  Plan

    Nina dispensed with writing or drawing about her ideas and got right to asking me to help her collect supplies:  a box, a small fan, tape and scissors.

    Step Four:  Create


    Nina's theory was that she could aim a fan inside a closed box to keep the things inside the box cool.  

    In order to get the fan's cooling power into the box, she surmised that she needed a hole in the box.  She tried cutting one, only to discover that her scissors would not go through thickness of the outside layer of the box and the flaps within it.

    Studying the first obstacle...

    Before I could offer any suggestions, Nina problem-solved on her own.  She simply taped the inner flaps to the inside of the box, cut the outer portion of the box, and then worked on the inner layer.


    Obstacle one tackled.

    With great delight, she showed me her success!

    Happy working the engineering design process...

    Obstacle two came when Nina how the cooling air of the fan made it's way into the box.  She discovered that the fan and box did not quite align.

    Tackling a second obstacle.

    As Nina brainstormed solutions such as finding a new box to cut or finding a way to align the box she already had cut, I noted a pile of books near to where she was working.  Within seconds, she had her problem solved.

    Nina's design was almost complete.

    Nina asked if she could take some leftovers from the fridge in the kitchen to test her new fridge.  With my blessing, she transferred a small portion of pasta into a container to put inside her creation.

    Testing the design...

    At this point, she hit a third obstacle.  She was not sure how to keep her fridge closed.  

    She proposed using tape or creating a latch.  I suggested that tape would be cumbersome because she'd have to keep re-applying it.  Then, before proceeding with latch design, Nina glanced at the book pile, then got up and fetched something else.

    A chalk box that Nina had made at Lowe's once became her door closure system.

    Just as Nina finished her self-constructed fridge, Grampy called in to check on how she was doing with sickness.  Obviously, engineering design is healing!

    Look at how vibrant Nina is while telling Grampy about her creation!

    When Nina got off the phone, I asked her how we might test if the fridge really works. 

    Nina decided to put some other leftovers just outside her fridge to test which would stay cooler.

    Later, when Daddy got home, Nina excitedly told him about her morning's work.  He became her assistant in testing if her design was an effective one.

    Nina takes pasta from her fridge and from the container outside of it it give to Daddy.

    While Daddy closed his eyes, Nina put the pasta pieces into his hands. 
    Daddy had a difficult time determining which pasta was colder.


    Step Five:  Improve

    Daddy picked the "right" pasta, but noted that there was not a huge difference in the temperature of the pasta in his hands.  Nina proposed that that was because the pasta that she had left outside her fridge had been in our kitchen fridge longer.  (Remember, she put one container of pasta in her fridge before she talked to Grampy and the other outside her fridge after she talked to Grampy.)

    She decided she would need to test her fridge again using leftovers placed inside and outside it at the same time.  However, by this time, both of her brothers were up.  So, the pasta got gobbled down, Nina's fridge pushed aside for Lego play and the rest of the morning unfolded in different directions.

    My Personal Reflection

    As I sat at Mass later in the morning, I thanked God for instilling a bit of his creative genius in all of us and asked Him to continue to guide me in encouraging my children to exercise their imaginations, to experiment with their own self-directed learning and to unwrap personal gifts of passion and purpose.  

    Later in the day, I thought about how seasons of unschooling work for my family in so many ways.

    Looking back at the morning, I realize that I delighted in observing Nina's engineering design process as much as she did in experiencing it!  I marvel at the creativity of children and the learning that can unfold when time, space, some basic supplies and imagination are put together.


    What does self-directed, at-home learning look like in your home?  How might you move from being your child's teacher to being a facilitator, guide, observer or co-learner?  

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