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I think EVERY kid should try this!!

I never really look too much into the links on the Google Home page… but last night something caught my eye. It said “Be a maker, a creator, an innovator. Get started now with an Hour of Code.” underneath a cool picture of Grace Hopper (an amazingly smart woman in the field of Computer science (and the Navy) when woman weren’t really in the work force never mind a man dominated field like Computer Science). My interest was piqued – I want to be a maker, creator, and innovator  (isn’t that what I’ve been learning in a Million Little Ways).  And to my pleasant surprise it is everything that I hold dear lately (well except God and my family).  In comes THE HOUR OF CODE – This week is Computer Science Education week and in honor of that they are encouraging everybody – really everybody to know that they can learn to code, they can learn to create computer programs and understand the process.
Check out this video –

But the real fun begins when the kids get to use visual coding to get an angry bird through a maze. There are 20 levels that get harder and harder… it took me a couple of tries to get through level 20! But even the youngest of kids can get through the first 3 levels and they will have so much fun!  If you want to give it a try go here for puzzle number 1 .There will be a video with a little introduction again (but don’t be put off they are goign to explain the challenge) to coding but then a young girl (yay!) will show you how to go through the challenge. When the video is over, just click the x in the upper right hand corner and you’ll see the puzzle. There is a new video for each puzzle to give you a little tutorial… to be honest the robotics kids and I just xed out of the videos quickly and tried the puzzles on our own.

Timing was perfect. I help teach a robotics class on Mondays after school and even though the class is mostly boys, my girls love to be a part of it and help. Today it was like a party for everyone. Each kid went through the coding challenges, helped each other out and laughed the whole time. They would run their program and see how they got stuck in a loop as their character spun around and around. They learned more in that hour about programming (very important in Robotics) then I had taught them previously. But don’t get me wrong this isn’t for just kids interested in robotics – this is for all kids!!!!!! My 6-year-old loved it. Any kid that plays mindcraft will love it, any kid that loves video games or apps will love it… (and to be honest these days that’s most kids – and even if you’ve stayed off technology this long, this you’ll want to see!) Programming teaches kids to break down problems into small doable parts, it teaches kids to think about the journey and the end result. It teaches kids that they are powerful, as powerful as their imaginations… please, please try it, do it with them, you’ll be amazed when they learn to do it quicker than you can. If you check it out please let me know in the comments, share it on facebook, spread the word. If you are having trouble navigating the Hour of Code website let me know and I’ll help in anyway I can.
hourofcode IMG_6430 IMG_6431(Note pictures weren’t staged… they really played for over an hour… you won’t be disappointed.)

The day my daughter lost her sh*@! over the word an

I don’t ever curse… you can ask my friends they’ll back me up, but I had no other way to describe today… the day I’m still in as I hide in my room with the timer set to 15 minutes as the girls have break/running/no work time. I’ve spent the last two hours with a screaming and crying almost 6-year-old. I am using this post to literally unpack what happened in my mind and hopefully try to learn from this experience for her benefit and my own. She is doing great in kindergarten, I can’t  believe how much she can read already and how she loves to sound things out. She really can do anything she wants to do WANT being the operative term. This week we are adding color words to our list of sight words, she pretty much knows them but I thought we could do some fun activities and Miss thing (my 8-year-old) has to do a color wheel this week and well it’s fall and those are my favorite colors coming around… so I thought it was perfect.

I decided to have her make a color book. Se loves making books and I”m really trying to do this enrichment stuff led by her interest. Each page was a different color and she was going to write ” I see a ______________   _______________. ” She was going to fill in the color of the paper and add an object to the sentence. She already knows the sight words I, see, a, an, and all the _at family words so I thought with a little help she could make a book she could feel proud of. She did black first great – she just forgot a… no big deal I was helping her
Next I wrote I see a black cat. and then under it I wrote I see an orange… and it was all over. Mom it’s a orange. Then I told her about the word an which she had already learned how to read and that this is what an is used for. It goes before naming words that start with a vowel. Which are all terms she can understand. She threw a fit. I mean an all out hissy fit. She screamed ” I will not write that and you can’t make me!” It was crazy and illogical and had some more screaming in it. Normally I’d loving say ooh we need to calm down let’s go up stairs and have some alone time, but I’ve been reading AHA parenting. It’s an amazing read. It makes so much sense. I struggle with big feelings, and that’s why I can be passive aggressive and try to eat away my feelings… I don’t want to do that to my girls… I want to handle this situation right so here goes.

So here’s how it went down. She is literally screaming, stamping and yelling about how she won’t write an and I can’t make her. (This is a true story, and  it was as surreal as it sounds.) THese are the tips Dr. Laura gives..1. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that there is no emergency.  2. Remind yourself that tantrums are nature’s way of helping small people let off steam3. Remember that anger comes from our “fight, flight or freeze” 4. Set whatever limits are necessary to keep everyone safe, while acknowledging the anger and staying compassionate  5. Set limits on actions only, not on feelings.  6. Keep yourself safe.  7. Stay as close as you can.8. Don’t try to reason or explain.  9. Don’t try to evaluate whether he’s over-reacting.  10. Acknowledging her anger will help her calm down a bit.
Sadly I didn’t have them with me but I remembered quite a few. I talked calmly and quietly and stated that I understood that the word didn’t sound as good to her as a. I said that it’s not fun to not want to do something, I stayed close, I let her be mad. But I did mess up one part I tried to explain “an” thinking maybe she’d understand… big mistake mentioning “an” set her off all over with more passion (seriously I was thinking in my head is this really happening?) I did acknowledge her anger. Finally I just hugged her and didn’t say anything and it took another 20 minutes till she calmed down… but now I’m at a point of what do I do now. She needs to learn to use the word “an”. She also needs to learn that just because she doesn’t like something doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to do it. What happens when she’s no longer homeschooled and has to do what her teacher says. I’m a little unsure of how to go on, we ended up doing a math sheet on apples. The irony is that her word family of the week is the _an family. I have printed out about 20 activities to do with the _an family. Oh the irony is not going to be lost on her, she’ll be annoyed and might throw another fit just because of it. But I’ll press on. Today for my own sanity we are going to avoid the an word even as an ending and begin again tomorrow.

My take away: It’s true kids can’t listen to reason or make good choices when they are throwing a fit and punishing them more for that reason is just continuing the cycle. They need to learn coping methods for calming down. This little girl likes hugs (it was a little funny to see her internal struggle of wanting a hug and not wanting to be nice to me). I’ve learned that she is stubborn and doesn’t want to conform just because you say so and hopefully as an adult this will be a great quality that will have her thinking out of the box and maybe keep her from negative peer pressure. But alas for now it is to be parented and reigned in. I know what I’m about to say next is a bit controversal, but I want her to be able to obey. I want her to question, but to be able to be obedient to her parents. We are loving and caring parents that have always loved, admitted our mistakes, and never ever spank. She needs to trust us and obey us. The word an is a part of the English language and she needs to learn how to use it. It’s my job to teach her and just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean she can just choose to ignore it. Just like she can’t choose to ignore safety rules, or rules about how to treat others. Sometimes we have to do things we disagree with because they are the right thing to use!

After she calmed down we tried to brain storm solutions..

My idea… lets write it an  with the n being really small so she can show it that she disagrees but is still writing it the write way and that she would still be learning how to use it in the correct way.
She vetoed that idea.

Her idea… She could write two books one the way I want and one the way she wants, but then she added in a not great tone “but I’m only going to read the one with a”. I told her that statement was meant to be unkind and we don’t talk unkind to each other.  (Just so you know at this point I’m on the point of losing it and that my nice voice really sounds like it’s on the edge of me screaming even though it’s really quiet.)

I said maybe we aren’t quite ready to share yet while we are still angry so let’s do something fun, I read her a story for her reading word pages. Then it was break time.

I am not sure what tomorrow brings or if I’m ridiculous for feeling – Oh she will learn to use the word an, but it’s how I feel and Dr. Laura says we should validate feelings. And that is what this blog post is doing for me.. writing it out is feeling validating… also I’m really up for suggestions. Also I really wished I could have video taped her all and out fit because i know my words don’t do it justice. But really all I want is to say thank you to Dr. Laura or helping me from keeping that girl in her room til she calmed down teaching her that I can’t deal with her big feelings, because even though I really don’t know the right way to deal with them I want her to know that I want to try to deal with them with her and that I want her to learn how to work through them, and that it’s okay to have them.

Please check out AHA parenting.. .this is not a sponsorship – she has no idea who I am…

Things I learned in September…

  1. Homeschooling two kids is not the same thing as being a stay-at-home mom of preschoolers so you can’t have the same commitmtent level or you will crack and start crying during the Science Explorer’s class you teach. Too many committments and productivity does not equal happiness.
  2. Learning to say no to commitments that are good but not the best is an incredible skill that you should cherish. I have yet to learn this and desire it so much. It is hard being a person who doesn’t want to disappoint, but nobody really wants you to do a bad job, so learn to say no. (see learned thing number 1)
  3. I am not good at picking out hair color. It said medium brown! I just wanted it to be my natural color without gray. Vain, I know but I thought it would be fun before my husband and I went to a wedding this weekend. It’s black. I look goth with my very pale skin… don’t get me wrong I have nothing against goth… I’m just not cool enough to pull it off!
  4. Just because something has been done a zillion times and it’s not really pinworthy doesn’t mean your kids aren’t going to absolutely love it. We put a rose in blue dye… it turned to this in less than four hours… we were all amazed!IMG_5386 IMG_5395
  5. The more time I spend with my kids the more creative I am at getting them to spend time together away from me… two “activities” this week…. make your own lunch… take my camera and surprise me with pictures outside… each yielded me with an hour of free time.
    IMG_5431 IMG_5430 IMG_5409 IMG_5407 IMG_5406 IMG_5405 IMG_5404 IMG_5401
  6. We have too much stuff.
  7. I love my husband. Alpha marriage is a fun course that gives us a kid free night and a free dinner… We’ve only been once but we’re sold.
  8. I am getting old and parts of me don’t heal as quickly as they use to. I started a new work out plan… it involved these push ups that you then move into a one armed T type move.
    133765_288108461294484_870649159_o My shoulder now aches and hurts and can’t move.. it’s been like this for almost two weeks… remember when we were 20 and aches healed the next day?
  9. It doesn’t matter how many times you read a Bible passage, you really can always find something new… this week I read Ephesians 3:1-13 everyday… it took me until Wednesday to really see and try to figure out 10 was something totally new to me…  Is it our job as the church to make known the joy of salvation through Jesus to the heavenly realm… I have no idea but I’ve been thinking about it for days now.

10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Homeschool Week #3

I have a friend who rightly so gets annoyed with people always posting the light and cheery aspects of life making it appear through their blog that life is perfect. I hope you don’t think that about us – here in our house homeschooling. I like to post the little things we do in hopes that it might be an idea for someone else, and I like to post it for me to see wow – at least we did something worthwhile this week. So I thought I’d write a bit about the good and bad before we posted some pictures.
The good – We had fun with art and playdough. My youngest Sassy Pants really is coming along with her reading and is getting more brave and I’m excited to start journaling with her this week and start word families (we are going to skip sight words this week to focus on word families). We had lots of cuddles, laughs and books. We had our first science explorer’s class of the year and it was wonderful.
The bad – My house actually looks like a hurricane went through it. I’m slowly realizing that we have signed up for too many extracurricular activities and we are all feeling it. My older daughter Miss Thing is still struggling with the annoyance of seeing her little sister do light and fluffy kindergarten activities while she has some hard work she needs to get through first. We had an online fluency test that pretty much sent us all into tears.  I’m so tired I don’t want to plan extra for really fun activities, but when I don’t it’s never a good day!

Here’s a glimpse at what we’ve done:
IMG_5313We did bubble pop sight word recognition and then some copy work.
IMG_5314We played Teach your Monster to Read and I love it. It starts off with just letter sounds so Sassy Pants was little bit bored at first, but she loved making her monster and all the games after it got a little harder. It’s free, with amazing graphics and a good sound foundation. If you have a preschooler or a kindergartener you should definitely try it out!!
IMG_5339 IMG_5333 IMG_5331We went over spelling and sight words with playdough and then made our 3D shapes… I love Harry Kindergarteners 3d shape youtube video… we are constantly singing it.
IMG_5351 IMG_5352 IMG_5353 IMG_5357 IMG_5358 IMG_5360 IMG_5361We did our spelling words and sight words on paper with white crayon and then the girls painted over them – it came out really pretty and they enjoyed it, then since we had the water colors out I showed them how to use the compass with the water colors – a bit of a fail – I should have taught them first with the compass and a pencil! Then we would just plop blobs of water color onto the paper and blow it with straws… it was a lot of fun. I finished Miss Thing’s compass painting by painting it in… we all really liked our art work and ended that day in great moods… if only I could figure out more ways to do art and school.
CD plant experimentWe are still doing plants in science and the latest vocabulary term was germinate. So we took some old beans we had that we use for counters and are seeing if we can get them to sprout. We also made a little experiment out of it. These two we just put in a cd case with a wet paper towel, but then we took two more and let them soak all day in water and then we will put them in the CD case. We are going to see which sprout first.
sunriseI get up everyday at 6. I do my quiettime with Hello Mornings and study Ephesians. And I exercise. I usually have almost 2 whole hours before anyone wakes up and it really is the most nourishing time of my day. It fills me up so that I can pour out all day… granted a lot of times I’m still not ready for the day, but Thursday night my daughter was up sick all night and I got up just in time to walk with a friend, but no quiettime and came home to awake kids that I was out of sync all day. I appreciate the time by myself before I need to be with others!

Homeschool Week 2 – What we did

My husband had off a bit this week so we went on some fun adventures, but learned while we played.
sightseeingWe feed the giraffes at our local zoo that are leaving and collected leaves at the zoo. They are seriously the biggest around. Then we spent all day in Philadelphia and went to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and some other places. We saw a chair that George Washington really sat in! We learned so much about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and enjoyed being together. We did top it off with a little trip to the Smith Memorial Playground which is a must if you have kids from 0-10!
homeschoolweek2Sassy Pants (age 5) made number bonds and worked on some math (We got the idea from the STEM Mom) and we used her ballerina pack from 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1. We played Blockers ( I love this game and even kids about 4 can play with help). We also worked on our two digit number names and our place value game again.
hsweek2cWe continued on our sight words and I made both girls a scratch off for sight words and spelling words. It was pretty much the easiest thing to do with lots of excited squeals. I used this tutorial to make it and I saved the rest of the formula in a baggie so I can do it again.
hsweek2bI always feel bad that Sassy Pants (age 5) gets more fun activities and Miss Thing (age 8) has more plan old work so we were doing a little experiment with Phototropism. Our pants grow towards the window so we turned them around and looked at them twice a day to watch them face the window again. It really only took 2.5 days for them to fully turn, and it might have been quicker if it wasn’t so cloudy!
hsweek2dHere is the Sight Word book we used this week. She can read it now, but it took a little while… I made it too hard. Here is the file (minibookweek2) and here is what it looks like:minibookweek2picturesRemember to cut and fold to get it to be a little minibook.

First Week of homeschool

I devour the internet… I know everyone does. But as you can tell by the name of my blog, I love learning new things. The engineer in me always wants to have the most efficient and best proven way of doing – well everything. This make me a sure candidate for pinterest addiction… you can see my 13,000 pins here. The great thing about homeschooling is that there is so much information out there to do fun and exciting things, but the sad thing is that homeschooling takes a lot of planning… I can’t really do everything.

I’m going to try to post a little bit about what we did the previous week that was fun and worked well. We use Calvert homeschooling curriculum for Third Grade and Kindergarten. I get most of my ideas from 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1 since she uses Calvert too and I love Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homeschool Creations. And random pins from the web.

Here is what we did this week (I’m doing this Monday before the girls wake up so there has been no editing to the photos!):
IMG_5147 IMG_5149 IMG_5165 IMG_5170 IMG_5180 IMG_5185 IMG_5212 The girls had to take tests on their computers for our Cyber School. We get the traditional Calvert Materials for free from the charter school and we have to send in tests every 20 days, but pretty much the rest of it is like traditional homeschooling. I made them write out what they wanted to eat for breakfast and lunch all week so I could plan. Sassy Pants (5 years old) did letters A-C and loved the Pattern Block Letters from Confessions of a homeschooler. My third grader was doing place value so I made up this little game where the place values from a million down were written on sentence strips and then each girl took turn saying how many cards they wanted… from 1 – 7. If Sassy pants picked 5, they’d each get 5 and try to make the biggest number they could and put it on the chart. Miss Thing (my 8-year-old) would have to say the number properly. The person with the most cards at the end took all the cards and we’d continue to play with the whole deck (we used uno cards without the specials like reverse and such). They loved it and wanted to play a couple of days in a row. Sassy Pants is almost 6 and so she can read about 20-30 sight words. So I am using these sight words with her every week and doing some activities with them. I use these sight word lists from Teachers Pay Teachers from Fanciful First grade – they’re free. I really like the words this list uses. So every week I’m going to make her a mini book that uses all the sight words. Here is the book I made her this first week. I drew the pictures and she colored them in.IMG_5180 IMG_5181 IMG_5182 IMG_5183 IMG_5184Here is the pdf of the file (sightwordbookweek1) if you’d like the book. Here’s a video on how to fold and cut to make your minibook. One of Miss Things activities was to write down and object from the house that starts with each of the consonant sounds – which is definitely a review. So we made it into a game. Both girls went upstairs found objects that had the beginning sound then Sassy Pants (5 years old) had to write the lower case letter on a small post it on the object. I then had to go up and find all of the objects. They loved it and it gave me 20 minutes to prepare lunch. SInce we belong to the Cyber school the girls get lots of fun resources. The school sent a Physical education bag with lots of fun toys in it so we played hopscotch and bowling one day for recess. I don’t hae a picture but I started a small blog for the girls through kidblog. I write all the lessons for the day and add fun websites and youtube videos for them. They love it. Kidblog is great and you can have a completely private page. I got the idea from 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1.
And that was our first week! It was amazing the first 2 days and not so much a tthe end of the week… but here goes for this week.

What I learned in August

I can’t believe August is over… it just slipped by without me noticing. Or well, it went by while we jam-packed the whole month with a thousand things of fun.  I need to preface this whole list with the fact that we’ve decided to homeschool this year. We send our daughters to a very small Christian school. It’s amazing and wonderful and everything I want for my kids, but it costs money – actually it costs a pretty good amount and my husband and I decided that I would homeschool our kids to save the money for our upcoming international adoption. It is a nice way for me to contribute monetarily and still getting to spend time with my kids.

1. I forgot that preparing for homeschooling was hard and this lesson was learned in a saddening overwhelming kind of way. The girls and I did so many great learning activities and new experiences this summer that I was psyched for homeschooling, but then I learned as I was prepping our first week, it’s a whole different story when there is different stuff that we have to cover and be responsible for. I think I might be more cut out for unschooling, but I am thankful that there is a cyber school that offers free traditional homeschooling materials (Calvert) for free with the perks of cyber school – like trips and extra help and free Internet and other perks. I’m hoping that preparing will get easier.

2. I learned that a great community is worth its weight in gold. We lived in a small borough that was urban but on a very small-scale. I loved everything about it the character, the diversity, the places you could walk to. We joined the community arts center there and have been going for over 6 years. Even though we don’t live in that borough anymore we are still pretty close and still very much in love with the arts center. My kids got to paint a mural a couple of weeks ago and it was an amazing experience. Helping contribute to a community when you are so small is a powerful experience. SOmetimes you think you can’t do much at 5, but when you are that small you are the perfect person to paint the bottom of a mural.mural-painting3. Books are always better than the movies. I’m up to my ears in adoption books, but I have a group of girlfriends who are avid readers (that might be an understatement). In the past, they have convinced me to read Harry Potter, Twilight (I’m not proud of it but it was fun), The Hunger Games, and this past time they convinced me to read the Mortal Instruments. This was actually probably my least favorite of all the books to movies they’ve convinced me to read, but I have to say it was still way better than the movie! I think I appreciate the book so much more after seeing the movie. Well it is also great to go out with a huge group of girls (int their 30s) to see a young adult movie! If only I had more time to read nonfiction.

4. Reading adoption books is actually really helpful for parenting your biological kids. I’m reading The Connected Child. The book is amazing. Truly wonderful and each and every chapter also gives me a little nugget of wisdom into the children with me now as I wait and hope for the one not yet with us.

5. Being with family can be hard, but oh so worth it. My dad is amazing, probably the best I could have asked for. Every year we have a family reunion with my whole family and then spend a week with my dad two states away. It’s draining, and tiring as the girls sleep on top of me in the basement. They watch a little too much TV, and we eat out for every meal. But it’s worth it every minute. My girls make memories with their wonderful Papa, I can see cousins grow bigger and bigger and I remember the joys of when I lived there. I wouldn’t change it for anything.seeingmydad

6. Kids just want to be with you so teach them to love the things you love (not force them, just teach them). Since my dad raised my brother and I we were pretty much with him all the time. We learned to love John Madden football, all sports, and playing anything we could. He would coach us, play in the street with us and cheer us on. We just wanted to be with him so it worked out perfectly. Now I see myself, crafting, sewing, and painting with my girls. I run with them and we plan lots of events. We do things together and truthfully we mostly do the things I love and that they love now from exposure. When they are with my husband they play music and work on their math because that’s their connection. It’s amazing how if we let our kids come along side us they will be passionate for the things we are passionate for… and don’t worry – you won’t squash their uniqueness they will still have their own things too (I don’t play Madden anymore and my dad never sewed.)

7. People really want opportunities to serve alongside with their kids. Every summer the girls and I are trying to have an event where we raise awareness and supplies for a cause. Last summer we had a family cafe where we had a mini restaurant on our back porch that our friends came to and they paid by bringing supplies for the local soup kitchen. This year we decided to have a monster making party to collect brand new toys for the local children’s hospital by us. Our neighbor’s grandson has cancer and it is something my girls pray for daily so when we were brainstorming what to do this year they knew it had to be something for Max. We sewed 60 monsters out of socks and old clothes and got a whole bunch of buttons and googly eyes and invited our friends over to make a monster. They had to bring a brand new toy for a donation to get their monster. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity – in gifts and in patience. Our house was packed and at one point with kids yelling, running, and gluing all over the place it was hard to even think never mind be patient! Moms were quietly helping other people’s kids and making new friends. We really just want our kids to know what it means to help others and will take every opportunity to show them.monsters6. I love doing hair, more than I realized.  I have two little girls 8 and 5 you would think I get this opportunity all the time. I don’t! My youngest can do a pony tail by herself and braid so she does these crazy things with her hair and won’t let me touch it and my older daughter likes it down, in front of her ears, nothing in it… drives me crazy – but I’m really not one to push on things like that. My friend’s daughter had a party and needed someone to help with hair… I loved every minute of it and remembered that this was a fun thing when I use to be able to do it… now if only I could do it on myself!hair7. I will never give up exercising with my friends. I have one friend that I run with twice a week, 1 friend I walk with once a week and one friend I bike with whenever we can. The awesome group of book reading girls use to get together and do tae bo together (it was hilarious). I love being with my friends, but our lives are so busy. It makes me so sad that we have to pencil in time here or there. I’ve always made it a priority to exercise, it’s a joy to me, but doing it with my girlfriends really is a win win – my happy place. We talk, we laugh, we sweat. It really is a part of my life I don’t want to change. (6am bike ride picture below!)bike8. On that note, I need a schedule. I have been doing Hello Mornings for my quiet time every morning and it has been a blessing. There is a pattern to it, accountability, and peace. I always did my quiet times at night and mornings were for exercise, but giving the first bit of my morning to God everyday has blessed me each and every morning this week. I hope it continues for a long time to come.

9. Sunday School boys don’t want to do crafts. Today I said good bye to my wonderful and rowdy group of 3rd grade students for Sunday School. For the majority of the time I had 8 boys and 1 girl. Every lesson in our curriculum was geared to girls, a craft here, a play there, a writing assignment. Really – they’d eat me alive! They needed to run, play, build and experiment.  I found this awesome website – Mad about Jesus Laboratories – and it made all the difference. We did experiments, we modeled the stories with legos, we made mini bow and arrows to represent the friendship between Jonathan and David, and we had fun and were loud, and sometimes crazy. And truthfully I’m not really sure if they learned as much as they could, but I do think they enjoyed coming to church and knew I cared about them and hopefully that feeling will last. (Disclaimer – this doesn’t mean in any way that girls don’t like to run build and experiment – very much the opposite the girl and sometimes girls in my class loved this too… I just don’t know if I would have been forced into doing it every class if there wasn’t a whole bunch of students who weren’t really into doing it the more traditional way.)

Things I’ve learned in July

Until I started doing this post month after month, I didn’t realize I was learning so much all the time. Here’s what’s been going on this month.

1. I learned the Russian Peasant Multiplication trick – How was I a middle school Math teacher and never learned this trick! It works for all the 6, 7, 8 ,9 and 10 times tables. Seriously this is amazing. You write 10-6 on your fingers on both hands and then… well it’s easy to do once you learn but it’s hard to explain, well hard for me… but check out the links below… it is seriously mind-blowing. Okay, I know you’re thinking really – how cool can it be… but if you are even slightly geeky you’ll love it… and if you are a full-blown geek like me you’ll be so annoyed you didn’t already know it and then spend the next 20 minutes figuring out why it works.

2. I learned that young people are passionate. When I taught middle school math, there was a boy in my math class. He was tall and quiet. I was focused on teaching them all to love math, to know that they had the ability to do it they just had to believe. I never thought about what would he grow up to be. What would he be passionate about, how would he live his life. When they are in middle school you are just hoping to get them past the hormones enough to learn some things. I was running last week and there he was tall, full beard but still those same young, kind eyes. It was my student, now 23. We got to talking and what he said blew me away. He was leaving the next day to walk across the country. Walk, really? Why? You see Jay had heard an amazing testimony about a woman who had escaped from the sex trafficking. He became passionate about getting the word out, he began learning about the 27 million around the world in 161 countries that are in bondage. So Jay and his friend Shannon decided to go big. They want to raise awareness about the very real issue that is in our country. So I’m here to support check out – . , and . Never underestimate young people!student
3. I learned that the key to keeping your house clean is getting rid of stuff. Tsh from the Simple Mom has been saying it forever but the thrifty mom in me is always too afraid to part with stuff because I don’t want to rebuy it if we need it later. However,  I’ve come to terms with we won’t need it later. I keep wanting to save toys for our son for when he comes home, but I was reading that too many toys and flashy things cane be overstimulating… so why do I hold on to it. I went on a rampage and got rid of boxes and boxes of stuff.  Guess what? It really is easier to keep it clean when everything has a place and isn’t crammed in somewhere! In our defense the first two pictures were after we had lots of kids over to play, but then while the kids were gone I filled up about 3 boxes and two bags to give to charity.getridofstuff

4. I learned that when restaurants are opening they have a “soft” opening before their grand opening. Really it is a chance for the kitchen and staff to get out all the bugs before the real deal grand opening… what does that mean for me and you? Free food. Yup a Red Robin opened up in our neighborhood and my friend sent me to their website and lo and behold a place to make a reservation to eat there – FOR FREE! We just paid the tip – it was fabulous. The next day was free Chick-fil-A day where you get free food for dressing up like a cow.freefood5. I learned that you don’t have to pay a lot for a lot of fun- just do some research.learnedfreethingsIn order from left to right and then down…
I found a neighboring borough does a 7 week tennis camp from 9-12 Monday through Thursday for $125. That is a 105 hours at about $1.20 an hour. If you have more than one kid it’s $165 per family. It’s crazy cheap, amazingly fun and my daughter gets a great workout. It definitely pays to be open to any kind of camp and sometimes you find a diamond in the rough.
VBS – Vacation Bible School is really free camp for kids. I always help at our church’s VBS and I’m usually exhausted by then end so I send my kids to a friend’s VBS and it is awesome. The kids meet new friends and I get a bit of free time to catch up on some homeschooling preparation.
Local parks – This is an amazing water spray park near us. It’s a township park that is completely free. It was about a 30 minute drive – totally worth it!
Memberships – Even though it is crowded in the summer we take complete advantage of all of our membership to a local children’s museum and try to visit all the closest ones that are reciprocal.
State Parks – This is a state park about 1 hour from us, it has a huge lake that actually has fun little waves, a beach and there are even fish that swim by you. There is no cost to get in to the park. If you pack a lunch you are good for the day.
Community Garden – We joined our local community garden (for free) and we’ve been going 2 or 3 times a week tending to it and eating the fruit of our labor. It’s really a wonderful experience.
We haven’t gone yet this summer but we love our kid’s bowl free passes.

6. I learned that sometimes the simplest are the best. My younger daughter and I found these cute peanut butter oatmeal natural do treats for our sweet dog who turned 10 on July 4th. We mixed and rolled out and cut out little treats and put them in a cute container and gave her some. At the same time I finished the peanut butter container and for the first time in the 9 years we’ve had her decided to give her the container. She licked it for over an hour and since it was a big jar she could pretty much get her whole face in there. It was pretty much a free kong toy. She licked it clean which made it really easy to recycle (I really dislike cleaning out jars to recycle!). It was a win win win… and it turns out she liked it way better then the treats we made her.dogtreats7. Lastly, I finally learned how to take those cool sparkler pictures –
Must be in manual mode, Choose shutter speed make it very slow, and hold the camera super duper still!!!  Note to self and others. The person with the sparkler must write their name backwards!

Great Audio Books for girls 5 – 9

My daughters can talk. I think I’ve said it before, and well since I’ve been known to talk more than my fair share, I can’t really blame them. Sometimes though when we are in the car it is nonstop yap yap yap, which I love and which I can only take so much of. Two years ago when we homeschooled I discovered the joy of the audio book for the car. We listen to them as we travel from one place to the next often staying longer in the car to get to a good stopping point before we disembark. When it is a really good Listen to (that’s what we call them) we bring the CD in the house and put it in the DVD player and listen to it while we hang out in the living room or eat lunch.

It wasn’t intentional but almost all of our books that we love has the main character or one of the main characters as a girl. Yay girl power. Here are our top favorites and little bit about each of them.
Top Young Girl Audiobooks According to us

  1. The Penderwicks  by Jeanne Birdsall- I picked this up on a whim at our library during TV turnoff week. It is so well written that I found myself wanting to get in the car and drive places just to hear it. Finally we just listened to it for 3 hours straight one night to finish it.  There are 3 Penderwick books and we listened to them out-of-order . We heard the Penderwicks of Gardam Street (2), then The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale (1), and finally The Penderwicks at Point Moulette (3).  The girls and I agree that the second one The Penderwicks of Gardam Street is the best. The story is of 4 sisters and their Dad and their adventures in life. Out of all the Listen tos this one seems like it is for older kids. The mom dies of cancer (even though it’s only talked about briefly I thought it was important in case that is a sensitive subject at the moment), and the oldest sister does like a boy in the books (my daughters loved this part as I tried to say ewww, they just laughed, but at least we could talk about it together, and finally the part that I liked least is that the one sister Sky (who is otherwise awesome) has a horrible habit of saying I’m going to murder you and a couple of things like that (The girls and I talked about it and worked through it). However even with this I must give this my recommendation, especially if your daughter is between 8-12 I think she’ll adore these three books.
  2. Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funk – This book is tom boy all over. Igraine lives in a family of powerful wizards, but she wants to be a knight. This book really shows her amazing conviction, her smarts, and her stubbornness. It was sweet, funny, and exciting. I also loved her relationship with her brother.
  3. Anne of Green Gables – I know classic right? I hadn’t read it as a kid, but we’ve listen to it twice already and really all of them in the series are good. What Anne lacks in reservation she more than makes up for in passion for life. Her spark grows and grows as she gets older, but her sass and hot headedness wane. It’s a beautiful story. It is also a wonderful story of adoption where hearts are knit together.
  4. Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry – Oh my – where was she was I was a kid? She is a leading lady that isn’t know for her beauty or strength but for her amazing storytelling and wit. This should be required reading for every second grade girl!
  5. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Series by Betty MacDonald – These stories are old, but not old-fashioned. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle gets kids, she really understands them. She is loving and kind but shows always cures them of a certain problem usually by giving them what they wanted so bad that they realize they don’t want it. I like some of these short stories better than others, but they are always interesting, and there is nothing scary in them so my kids love it. Plus I love talking with my girls about the cures and behavior. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle totally uses love and logic… I love it.
  6. The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett – This one we’ve also listened to twice. My girls love it when Colin gets stronger. I think of it like Anne of Green Gables in that it is a story of redemption through love and friendship. It is a great listen to because the kids paint pictures of the moor and the garden in their heads. I love it.
  7. The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler – I liked this, but it was a little bit older. I think we were definitely ready for it and my youngest loves mermaids so it was fun to see a story about a girl who is also one. Emily’s character is quite ordinary in the beginning but discovers that she is really extraordinary. The discovery doesn’t change the way she feels about herself and she is still a bit insecure (a great way to talk about self-esteem with your girls) but in the end she is brave and true to who she is. I think I liked this as much as the girls.
  8. The Ramona Series – We’ve listen to some and read others. Beverly Clearly does a great job of growing Ramona up in these books and I encourage you to read them in order to the end. They are not my favorite, because I can’t stand all of her tantrums and naughtiness in the beginning but my girls loved it – so I think it’s a win.
  9. Ivy and Bean – My girls and I go back and forth about these. I like them a bit because the girls are so fun and creative, but also a fair amount of naughty. I loved the one book we just read that had my girls learning all about global warming and starting to think about how little people can solve big problems, but in the same book I was completely annoyed when the girls played the game “orphan” and dragged each other around by the wrists… not cool! But alas they are the perfect reading material for a second grader with not too many words and an exciting plot.
  10. Melonhead by Katy Kelly – This is not a girl book, or even a book for girls. It is all boy, but you know me there shouldn’t be things just for boys or just for girls. This is a book about a boy doing such exciting type things like climbing roofs and trees and inventing stuff and some potty humor… but that is exactly what my daughters loved about it. They loved how Melonhead acted, they loved his ideas, and being the engineers that they are they loved his inventions. They didn’t love when he got in trouble… but it was a good way to show that some ideas shouldn’t be executed. It’s also a great chance to laugh about potty humor.

We also want to read these.
A little Princess, Esperanza Rising , Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell ,All-of-a-Kind Family ,Rebecca and the Strangest Garden on Earth, The Catnapping Mystery,The Ordinary Princess ,Violet Mackerel, Anna Hibiscus, Clementine,  Marty McGuire,  Piper Reed, Naughtiest Girl Collection, Thea Stilton (we’ve read 1 and liked it),  Rickshaw Girl , and Sophie Simon Solves Them All


Join the Revolution

Are you hitting the summer blahs? Are your kids bouncing off the walls? Do you want to get them excited about something? Watch the minute long trailer below…

How do you join the Engineering Spy Girls Summer Program?

  1. You don’t have to be a boy or a girl.
  2. Make yourself a Spy Puff.
  3. Do the first Mission.
  4. Send in a picture of your completed mission to either Kelly (at) or post it on our facebook page – .
  5. I will send you your spy goods with each completed mission. The first mission gets you a personal mission book and badge. You will receive a badge for each mission that you can put in your mission book. Your second mission gets you an official Engineering Spy ID and then your third mission gets you a spy decoder.
  6. You move up in the Engineering Spy firm as you continue to complete missions. There is a new Mission every Friday.