Curriculum Clean-out {Write-and-Wipe workbook giveaway!}

{{This giveaway is now closed}}


So I’m planning for the coming year.  And this is what it looks like:

I know.  Scary.  I sat there for hours today and finally had to quit when I began staring blankly at a wall, mumbling and drooling.

Since I wasn’t getting anything productive done, I did a little tooling around on the internet and happened upon Jolanthe’s Curriculum Clean-out link up.  I decided I had plenty of stuff we no longer need, so I’m linking up!

Our workbook junkie

We have one child who went through a seriously Cuh-RAZY workbook phase.  Our youngest, Zachary, at three, decided he wanted to do work like the big kids and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He whizzed through workbooks so fast (actually doing them, not just scribbling) that we thought we’d go broke if we had to keep feeding his addiction educational habit.  We even asked my parents to get him the entire set of Explode the Code phonics books for Christmas when he was four.  They obliged.

I then found some awesome write-and-wipe workbooks for the PreK to 1st grade crowd and he was in heaven.  I got the whole set, and though a couple of them were used until they fell apart, most of them are still in good or great condition.

Curriculum Clean out giveaway

So this week I’m giving away a set of write-and-wipe books, and a pack of non-toxic Lakeshore Learning dry erase markers to one lucky reader! (US residents only)

Set will include: Get Ready for Kindergarten (books 1 and 2), All About Shapes, Count and Add, Think and Learn, and many more!

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me how old your children are.  I’d love to get to know you a bit more!  (Make sure you leave your email address!)

For extra entries, you can:

  • subscribe to Fruit in Season (or by email at the top of the side bar)
  • like Fruit in Season on Facebook
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Tweet this post or share on Facebook (use buttons below the post- easy peasy)

Leave a comment for each entry and I’ll pick a winner on Monday, August 7th.  Spread the word!  Don’t keep this to yourself. (And click the image for more curriculum giveaways!)

Curriculum Clean Out {Homeschool Creations}

Homeschool Mother’s Journal {Birthday edition}

Homeschool Mother's Journal

Yes, it’s my birthday!  I’m so glad you’ve stopped by!

In my life this week

I’m 39 today and am feeling very thoughtful about the upcoming year.  Getting older doesn’t bother me, never has.  I joke about it, but seriously I wouldn’t want to go back in time for any amount of money.  Each decade has had its challenges, and I’m sure the next one will be no different, but I feel I’ve learned something important with every year that has passed.  I want to do something bold and creative with my year.  I am feeling the need to redefine myself a bit.  I’ll keep you posted…

In our homeschool this week

We’ve wrapped up our year, finally!  It’s the first summer that we’ve actually schooled through, and I’m thrilled about that.  I’ve always wanted to retain some semblance of structure in our learning through the summer months so that the fall doesn’t hit us like a ton of bricks, but it’s never quite panned out.  This year, though, I tried something different.  For June and July we did basic subjects a mere three days a week.  That left a nice relaxing long weekend, but still avoided the brain drip that occurs with too much time off.  Only drawback to schooling through the summer?  The kids couldn’t figure out what grade to say they were in if someone asked.

Helpful homeschool tips or advice to share

Have a read-aloud book that you share with each child individually.  I started this weekly tradition a couple of years ago only with my oldest to make sure that he was exposed to literature that was more geared toward his maturity level and loved sharing the time with him.  Last year I started with my daughter as well, and we chose books with topics and characters that more resonated with girls.  Since she’s my only girl, voting on family read-alouds usually leaves her in the minority, though she still always enjoys the books we choose.  This year I will begin with my younger two boys and am so looking forward to that time with them, snuggled up in their beds.  Yes, this will mean that I will spend a half hour reading to each child individually (my goal is two kids per day) and it will take up a chunk of time, but the memories we make will be forever-memories!

I am inspired by

Color.  The more I explore in my art journals using all sorts of mixed media, the more my eyes are opened to how varied and vivid the world is.  Bright, bold, rich colors just simply make me happy.

Charcoal and watercolor art journal page in progress

Charcoal and watercolor

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing

In two weeks we’ll be off on our yearly summer adventure out east.  We’ll first visit wonderful friends in Maryland, then head to New Jersey to spend time with my parents, sister and her family, and finally to New York to visit my brother- and sister-in-law and their three boys.  It will be busy and fabulous, and I’ll use a lot of that time planning for the upcoming year, and doing a lot of doodling, thinking and writing.

My favorite thing this week

I was intentional about getting my hands in my art supplies more often this week and it made a huge difference in my mood.  I realized that my mind was quiet when I was focused on my art, and that’s a rare (coveted) thing.

What’s working/not working for us

Sibling love has been scarce around here lately.  So on Wednesday, I had a spontaneous idea to solve that problem.  I got a big piece of posterboard and put it on the coffee table.  I traced each child’s hands and then labeled each pair with their names.  I told them that since they don’t seem to be appreciating each other lately, I wanted them to spend intentional time thinking of how they are grateful for each sibling.  Then I asked them to write little notes and leave them on the hands for each person throughout the day.  The notes piled up, and the arguing mostly stopped.  Then Thursday was an even better day and they got along wonderfully!  Makes this mama’s heart happy!

Questions/thoughts I have

I have many thoughts and questions this week.  Most importantly I’ve been wondering where my notebook is that has all of my homeschool convention notes for the coming year.  I lost it and need it to start my planning process next week.

I’m reading

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov, which has been sitting on my end table for a year.  It’s very good so far, and not as challenging as I had thought.  The characters are unique and well-crafted, and the emotional depth is vivid.  I’m also reading 168 Hours on my Nook, which has an interesting take on looking at our time.  I also recently bought Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle and am waiting for my lovely UPS guy to bring it to me!

I’m cooking

With tomatoes!!  We have a ton of tomatoes coming from our garden, and it’s a beautiful sight, the garden has also been looking great since we hired the best Miami driveways landscape company, it’s called chapelvalley, if you want to check it out, we also did some awesome cleaning with the best pressure washer we have ever hired.  Last year our harvest didn’t start until September, but this season we’ve been in full swing since early this month.  I’ve been making BLT’s, salads, and just eating them in slices with a touch of salt.  They are so good!  Last night for dinner, I made Jason and me a ciabatta bread with goat cheese, basil, and oven-roasted tomatoes marinated in a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Accompanied by red wine, of course!

Tomato saladI’m grateful for

Homemade cards and hugs from little arms this morning.  And for a morning to hole up in the library and write, pray and think.

I’m praying for

My children’s relationships, my husband’s work, and the needs of friends and family.

A video, photo, link, or quote to share

Come visit me on Pinterest where I have a board for the Summer Olympics, which starts tonight!

Come on over and link up to the Homeschool Mother’s Journal at the iHomeschool Network!


What my friends should know… {10*in*10}

10-in-10 iHomeschool Network

So it’s week 10 already?  Wow, that went fast!!  Here are my other 10*in*10 posts in this fun blog hop:

Top Ten Homeschooling Questions
Top Ten Reasons We Defy a Homeschool Label
Top Ten Reasons We Love to Homeschool (Poetry edition)
Top Ten Series for Middle School Boys
Top Ten Homeschooling Websites
Top Ten Pieces of Homeschooling Advice

 If you’re here, you’re a friend.

That’s how I think of you.  You read my thoughtful posts as I’m wrestling out my life and my faith.  You read my silly posts when my sarcastic sense of humor pops up.  You read my homeschooling posts, and hopefully learn from my many mistakes!

But what are the things I maybe haven’t told you, that you really should know?  The things that you would know if you were a local friend with whom I met for regular coffee chats or play dates with the kids?

Yes, I color my hair...

Yes, I color my hair, and yes, my kitchen is cluttered…

Here goes!  The real me, unbound and unashamed:

  1. I am a hugger.  I love to squeeze those that I love, whether it’s when they are celebrating, or mourning, or simply because I’m thankful for them in that moment.
  2. I am a lousy housekeeper.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have accepted this fact, and stopped trying to make excuses.  I’m not horrible, but I’m certainly not great.  My cleaning rotations are not as neat, tidy or frequent as some of the ones I see on other blogs (even the ones that claim to be homeschool-friendly) but I’m OK with that.
  3. I am a true book junkie.  It goes along with my main learning style, which is visual, and so when I have a problem or question, the first thing I’ll do is find a book about it and read to learn.  I thought, because I love the feel and smell of real books, that I would never get an e-reader, but I did cave and get a Nook to go overseas.  And I love that too, although when I have a book I need to really chew on, I use multi-colored highlighters in a real book!
  4. I think in images.  This is why my recent return to art has been so profoundly satisfying for me.  I’ve always been one to speak and write metaphorically about things, and come up with imagery to explain my feelings.  For example, in my work as a classical voice teacher I’m more likely to describe a sound I want my student to produce with a mental image, than with physiology.  Or when my husband asks how getting some art time makes me feel I tell him it’s like a “dry sponge that is immersed in a vast ocean and immediately swells with life.”  This is just normal for me.  My husband thinks it’s a bit weird.
  5. I am a true introvert.  If you were my neighbor, you’d know that I don’t often socialize (I feel badly about that sometimes.)  I love to be around a friend or two at a time and share deeply, and I love spending time with my family.
  6. I treasure friendship.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t feel understood, had no really close friends to share with deeply.  I had moved and was in the midst of creating this beautiful family I have with a husband who was trying to establish himself in his career.  It was a lonely place.  So therefore I do not take for granted those amazing women who give of themselves, and share their hearts and lives with me.
  7. I sometimes don’t want to homeschool anymore.  Yes, I have those bad days too, which is why it’s so important to have a back up plan.  But I believe so completely that it’s right for our family, and our children are thriving in this learning environment, so I have no real intentions of quitting, it’s just important to be honest about the fact that sometimes it’s tough.
  8. Sometimes I love homeschooling so much I want to convince everyone else to do it.  Just so you know how normal it is to vacillate dramatically between feelings of drudgery and the euphoria, I had to add this one.  And I can be obnoxious, on these days, in my gushing about how much I love it.
  9. I am a woman of highs and lows.  If numbers 7 and 8 didn’t give you a clue, here’s a newsflash: there is no “vanilla” with me.  I run hot or cold, with rarely any in-betweens.  This is also something I’ve come to accept as I’ve gotten older.  I feel things deeply, for good and bad, and sometimes am so whacked out of balance I need to pull back and just be alone.
  10. I’ll be 39 this week.   Ack!!  What should I do for the remainder of my waning journey to the big 4-0?  I need some way to chronicle this next year and make it a good one.  Any suggestions?

So, dear readers…what should I know about you?

Top Ten Tuesday

Visit Angie and link up your Top Ten for the week!

And hop on over to Today’s Housewife to read my guest post on Art Journaling!

Art Journal- Hopes and Dreams

“Hopes and Dreams”

Shakespeare {for the first time}

Peter Paul Rubens- Julius Caesar

Shakespeare with my twelve-year-old

I admit it.  I was a bit apprehensive about choosing and reading our first Shakespeare play.

I knew my son was ready this year.  His love for books and language is well-established and his reading level is excellent.  This past year has seen him read many more classics than years past, and retain and enjoy them all.  He read (and we discussed) Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes, and the Tripod Trilogy, just to name a few.  We’ve been studying ancient history, and when we came upon the wonder, power, and subsequent demise of ancient Rome, I knew we had to read Julius Caesar.

So we jumped in with both feet.

I wasn’t sure how it would work, but I planned on having him notebook through it a bit, read it aloud with me, study the characters and history.  Mostly, however, my goal was for him to enjoy it.  And now that we’re well into the third act, I am thrilled to say that our experience has been wonderful and that the drama has captured us both.

How I introduced Shakespeare to my middle schooler

  • We reviewed the history– we’d already been going through the Story of the World, complete with my son writing outlines and filling in his timeline, so we discussed what he’d learned so far.
  • We researched Shakespeare’s life- I used this flip book as an easy introduction, and looked up a bit more online.
  • We read a brief synopsis– We used Pink Monkey Notes (free online notes similar to Cliff’s) and read about the characters as well.  I learned about this website from Susan Wise Bauer this year at our homeschool convention and it has been an awesome resource!
  • I assigned a notebooking page on vocabulary, and also a compare/contrast paper- The vocabulary assignment was with words such as plot, protagonist, antagonist, climax, and theme, basics about a play’s structure.  The compare/contrast paper was between two characters of my son’s choice.  He settled on Brutus and Cassius and came up with some great thoughts, including quotes that supported his ideas.
  • We started reading– We each had a character or two per scene and read as dramatically as we could.  I often would stop and ask what Colin thought of the passage, or a specific line, to see how he was responding.  I think we did a good job in the drama department.  At one point my 5-year-old looked up with a frightened look on his face and said we should be reading something about people who are nice to each other.
  • We supplemented with notes about each scene- Pink Monkey Notes again.  There is a detailed synopsis with cultural and literary notes on every scene.
  • I kept it simple- What I did not want to do is overwhelm.  I wanted us to experience the text, the rich language, and the story together without weighing ourselves down with lots of busy work.

Shakespeare resources for children

  • I gained a lot of confidence and suggestions from this lens on Squidoo by Jimmie; it is chock full of great ideas and links.
  • I also have loved using my Notebooking Pages membership to supplement the play itself.  This site has thousands of pages available to meet any need you may have.  It would be a fabulous addition to any type of curriculum this year!
    Basic lined notebooking pages
  • This post from Lauren has some printables about Julius Caesar for younger children, in case you want to include them in your reading.
  • Before we ever read a real Shakespeare play, we had read aloud a couple of the stories from Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.  It is very well-written and retains a lot of the integrity of the language while making sure it’s accessible for children.
  • This Shakespeare Can Be Fun series is also a great way to introduce the stories of Shakespeare’s plays with fun drawings by children.

 When do you plan on introducing the Bard to your children?  Or have you already?  Do tell!  I’d love to hear your experience!


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5 Days of Great Family Games {Blog Hop day 5}

5 Days of Family Games

Favorite Family Games {}

Day 1: {Kinesthetic Games}
Day 2: {Math and Language Games}
Day 3: {Strategy Games}
Day 4: {Card Games}

We’ve reached the end of this little summer series and I hope you’ve come away with some new ideas for your family game closet!

I’m wrapping up with a hodgepodge of games that are varied in content and play, but unified by the “fun” factor.  In our family we have six people with different ideas of what is a  “favorite” but most of the time everyone is still willing to play a game that they don’t adore like the video games I play with the use of csgo boosting online.  The following games are truly loved by all of us, though, and so they hold a special place in my heart.

Family games that please everyone

  1. Doodle Dice– This is another of those random finds that simply become a staple in our game time.  I don’t think I had ever even heard about it, but while searching the game shelves at Target I picked it up on a whim.  It’s cheap and endearing, a kind of cross between Yahtzee and Pictionary.  The game consists of six dice, each bearing on its sides six little doodles, a stack of cards with pictures that can be made with the doodles, and a cup for shaking them.  You have three rolls in which to make and claim any of the pictures on the cards in the center of game play, and to win you must collect six cards, one of each color.  Even the youngest can play, matching dice to the picture, and it can be played by up to six players.
  2. Art Memo I and II– I’m big on art, and so I always find a way to include art appreciation in our homeschool.  We do a bit of Charlotte Mason-style picture study, but often my children remember more through games.  The Art Memo games are simple memory games, but with famous paintings as the subjects of the pairs of cards.  The cards are sturdy, and the images are beautiful.  I can’t think of a better way to learn about styles and artists!
  3. Smarty Pants- This is family Trivial Pursuit, Wii-style (which means there are some shaking, dancing, jumping and other silly moves added in.)  I love that this game can be played in cooperative mode, taking the competitiveness out of the equation for family members of varied ages.  Each player chooses a Mii and enters his age (which  is how the game chooses trivia questions).  As a family, you try to complete a certain amount of questions in a certain amount of time, therefore garnering victory for your team.  Our 5 year old can play, and his questions center around basics of daily life: clothing and tools, colors, games, and science.  I have to admit that after we’ve played cooperatively, the kids always like to sit by and watch hubby and me as we play competitively.  And it ain’t always pretty!
  4. Zooreka– This is a clever game from the makers of Cranium, Cadoo and Hullabaloo, and has players traveling the board trying to complete their own personal zoo using resource cards collected around the board, and of course, to do so before their opponents.  The board is colorful and bold, with fun animals to choose to fill your zoo (like naked mole rats, bats, and a shark tank), and as you travel the board you either gain or lose resource cards depending on how well development is coming (sometimes your monkeys throw food instead of eat it, for example.)  This game is tons of fun, and up to four people can play.
  5. Snorta- 5 Days of Great Family GamesSnorta- I saved the best for last today, and this one will have even the grumpiest kid screeching with excitement and laughter.  Snorta comes with a bag of cute little rubber animals to choose from, and a little personal barn for each player.  There is a hefty stack of cards to be passed out among the players (a whopping eight players can play at one time!) and play goes quickly as cards are laid out one by one around the circle.  Here’s the catch: anytime your card matches anyone else’s card on the board, you have to be the first of the two of you to yell scream shout calmly call the sound of the matching opponent’s animal.  But all the animals are in their respective barns, so you have to remember them all and be quick about it!  It is hysterical, and often you’ll hear something like, “Dog! Bow-wow!! Cock-a-doodle-do!! Hee-haw!! Hiss!! Darn, what’s your animal again?!?”  The player to get rid of all his cards first, wins.  But really, with a game this fun, everyone wins! **Just noticed that this is super expensive on Amazon!  I’m sure you can find it used somewhere cheaper.  I hope they haven’t stopped making this fabulous game!**
What are the games in your house that everyone loves to play?

5 Days of... {Summer Series}Click on the image above to visit these fabulous ladies for the last day of this fun summer blog hop!  And don’t forget to check out the ultimate homeschool blogger’s retreat, a sponsor for this hop and an amazing tropical paradise!!

5 Days of Great Family Games {Blog Hop day 4}

5 Days of Family Games

Favorite Family Games {}

I’m so glad you’ve joined me as I share our family’s favorite games!

Day 1: {Kinesthetic Games}
Day 2: {Math and Language Games}
Day 3: {Games of Strategy}

Sometimes what we need is a quick and easy card game.  They are transportable, usually simple to learn, and inexpensive.  We have a number of favorite card games that stay out at all times, ready to be picked up by the kids on a school break, or weekend morning.  A regular deck of cards can yield dozens of fun games (I’m a big solitaire fan myself), but there are other less traditional games that provide tons of fun as well.

Great family card games

  1. Spot It- This is one of those afterthought cheapy games that I picked up on a random trip to Target.  I think it was a stocking stuffer.  The idea is simple and it’s a fast-paced game that keeps little ones and big ones alike equally interested.  Each circular card has 8 images on it, and each pair of cards shares one, and only one, image.  Your job is to identify what matches.  There are a number of mini-games, each with a different objective, and this little game takes no time at all to play.
  2. Slamwich- There are many types of sandwich fillings in this vicious little game.  As the name suggests, depending on what card is played, players “slam” their hands down to claim matches and take the pile.  We’ve had quite a few “ouchies” but also a ton of laughs playing this one!
    Card Games {5 Days of Family Games}
  3. Phase 10 This game takes longer to play than the others in my list, but it is one of my favorites.  The age range is a bit older, due to the attention span required, but I definitely think it’s worth it to have around the house.  The game is easy to learn: there are ten phases (a phase being a specified group of cards) to pass throughout the game, and the first to pass all 10 in order wins the game.  Yet it’s not quite that simple.  Multiple people pass phases at the same time, and you keep points for the cards you have left after each hand is done.  It’s a fun evening activity for adults and older kids alike.
  4. Uno Attack and Uno Roboto We were big Uno players when I was growing up.  Of course, then it was only the basic game, and while that’s still fun, we love some of the extension games in our family.  Uno Attack has a nifty little contraption that spits cards at you on occasion (from 2 to 7 cards) when you press the button, making getting rid of your cards a bit more difficult.  Uno Roboto has a cute little robot that tells you what to do, shouts out random tasks on occasion, and says things like, “I like the way you look.  Go again!”  It records each player saying her name and distorts the voice, making it silly and perfect for the younger members of your family. Both of these games can be played with up to six people.
  5. Monopoly Deal- I mentioned my love for Monopoly in the Day 1 post.  But, let’s face it, Monopoly can take forever, even with the “quick play” rules.  Monopoly Deal takes some of the best competitive elements of the game and provides a 15-20 minute game.  The goal is to lay out three full sets (the same sets in the traditional Monopoly) before your opponents do, but there are barriers to overcome: keeping enough money in your CC Bank to pay penalties your opponents choose( even though you have the loans with no credit option); making sure no one steals your cards; and simply the luck of the draw.  We just taught our 5-year-old the rules of the game, and while he’s not up on the strategy of his moves yet, he enjoys the fast pace.

Only one day left!  And tomorrow I’ll share some really fun ones!

Don’t forget to visit all of the Blog Hop ladies and get ideas for your family, budget, schoolyear, bookshelf, menu, and more for the coming year.

5 Days of... {Summer Series}

5 Days of Great Family Games {Blog Hop Day 3}


5 Days of Family Games

Welcome back to 5 Days of Great Family Games!

Day 1: {Kinesthetic Games}
Day 2: {Math and Language Games} 

Games of strategy and logic for the whole family

I love good strategy games.  They are also some of the most well-loved games in our home, especially for our boys.  There are so many educational benefits to logic and strategy games, such as critical thinking skills, improved concentration and attention, and math skills, to name a few.  We make them a regular part of our week and often begin a school day with a game or two.

  1. Chess– When I was three years old, my dad taught me to play chess.  Unlike other parents teaching difficult games to young, precocious children, he didn’t let me win, I would always see him getting free betting credits for his gambling games and I remember how bad I wanted to do the same.  Finally, when I started having nightmares about losing, my mom convinced him to go easier on me.  And yes, with that background it’s no wonder I’m still competitive, but I now have a twelve-year-old that can sometimes beat me.  Chess is a staple in our home (even the 5-year-old is pretty good), and it is probably taken out at least a couple of times a day for a quick game. We also play online casino at an Asian site called M88.
  2. Guess Who?– This is also a two person game, but one that is shorter and easier.  The two game boards are filled with pictures of various people, with different physical characteristics.  Your job is to guess the character your opponent has before he guesses yours, by asking key yes-or-no questions.  For example, if you ask, “Does your person have brown hair?” and the answer is “no” then you can rule out all of the brown-haired people.  It’s a great introduction to logical thinking.
  3. Castle Keep- This simple-to-learn building game challenges players to either build onto a castle of their own, or tear down an opponent’s castle with each turn.  It’s not always the easiest choice to make!  You can win with either action, so foresight and strategy is needed.  The little pieces/cards are pleasing to the eye and the perfect size for little hands. See this page to know more about the best online game today.
  4. Stratego-  This knights and dragons fantasy game is a two player game that requires players to set up their pieces in a very well-thought-out and strategic way in order to protect their “flag”.  Our boys love this game, and they’ve improved so much in their thinking skills simply by coming up with ways to better set up their pieces, not to mention the actual movement of the pieces to attack and defend.  There are differing levels of play, the most elaborate of which has each piece performing special powers and actions.  I get confused, but the kids love it!
    Stratego- 5 Days of Family Games
  5. Professor Layton- My oldest son has recently become enamored with these Nintendo DS critical thinking puzzle games.  Even though they are single player games, I included this series because of the great skill-building they achieve.  The virtual world of Professor Layton challenges the player to solve mysteries along with the professor by finding and completing logic puzzles.  I’ve played these myself on occasion and they are definitely brain-busting!
  6. Settlers of Catan- This game, which we’ve had since Christmas of last year, is definitely my new favorite strategy game.  I love the challenge of choosing your areas to settle down and building an empire by trading and making wise choices with your resources.  It’s a great tangential lesson in supply-and-demand economics too!  This game is very involved, but our five- and six-year-olds can play with some help, or at least be on someone’s “team”.  The game is for 3-4 players in its original form and takes up to an hour and a half to play.  You can purchase extension sets to play with up to six players and there are more ways to add to Catan with differently-themed expansion sets as well.

What are your favorite strategy games?


5 Days of... {Summer Series}

Come visit all of the above amazing ladies to learn from and share with them during this five-day series!  The series is sponsored by the Beech Retreat, a wonderful new homeschool bloggers conference on a little island in sunny Florida!

5 Days of Great Family Games {Blog Hop Day 2}

5 Days of Family Games

In our homeschool we play a lot of games.  Games have the unique ability to make learning both fun and painless.  If you ever need instruction on a particukar game, you can find detailed videos on the Movie Box App. There are so many math and language games to choose from that we could easily play games all day to learn the basics!  Here are some of our favorites:

 Great math games for the whole family

  1. Dino Dice- This game was purchased on a whim from Rainbow Resource one Christmas for a stocking stuffer.  I believe it was only five dollars and easily snags the “best-bang-for-your-buck” title.  The objective is simple: you want to roll “herds” of herbivores to earn points, and need to avoid rolling the T-rex so it doesn’t eat any of the more docile dinosaurs, thus eating your points as well.  We have used this game to help with mental math, and it’s so fun and quick the kids don’t even notice I’m using it to sneak some serious math skills in there.  I also love that it doesn’t have a maximum number of players, something that is hard to find with all of the games out there that require “2-4 players”.
    Dino Dice math game
  2. Battleship- A classic game that is a winner in our house of boys (and even my daughter likes it).  Anytime the kids can sink, kill, maim, destroy or otherwise pulverize their opponents, I’m guaranteed a game that will last.  Battleship is the perfect, easy way to teach basic Cartesian graphing.
  3. Blokus This game is in my top three, and perhaps is in my favorites list because I always win.  Each player has a set of tetris-like pieces that must be fit onto the game board, and must simultaneously block opponents and spread her own influence across the board [insert evil laugh here].  The only drawback to this awesome game of spatial skills, is that our family of six can’t all play together.
  4. Farkle Party- Another fun dice game, Farkle Party has six sets of dice, making it a great game for our family to play all together.  Simply put, players roll the dice to earn points and win the game.  The basics give way to a bit of strategy and a fair amount of luck, as you learn the more intricate rules of the game.  This is one we play often!
    Farkle Party Dice Game
  5. Trifecta This little free app is a great way to have the kids practice facts to 12 when you’re out and about and they are getting on your nerves you need to kill a few minutes.  My friend Mary introduced me to this game, and I even enjoy playing it on occasion.  To play, you roll virtual dice and then tap on tiles (numbered 1-9) that add up to what you rolled in order to make them disappear.  There are 27 tiles in all and your goal is to get to zero (something I finally accomplished last week for the first time!)  While you can’t play together, the game is quick enough to take turns and get a competition going.

Great language games for the whole family

  1. Green Alligator This little gem has been a great way to include little ones in our games, and is excellent for working on skills of description, and verbal processing.  Each card has a picture of an everyday object or action.  The player looks at the card and describes the object or action without using the word itself so that the other player can guess it.  Whoever has the most cards at the end wins, but we usually do not play with a winner, choosing to play cooperatively instead.
  2. Apples to Apples I love this game!  We have the kids and junior versions, and will probably invest in the regular edition at some point as well.  It can be played with the whole family (and there are not many games out there for more than 4 players) as soon as the youngest can read a bit.  There are two types of cards- adjective cards, and noun cards.  The “judge” chooses an adjective card to share with the group, and each other player then has to give the card in his hand that he feels matches the adjective.  The judge reads the cards aloud and chooses the one he likes best.  Laughter is sure to ensue, especially when you have a preteen whose only goal as judge is to choose the card that doesn’t fit in the slightest.
  3. Bananagrams- This little game has pleasing scrabble-like tiles that go “chinkchinkchink” in the bag (am I weird that I like that so much??)  But I even like it apart from the happy noise it makes.  Your goal in this game is to build an independent crossword puzzle structure (unlike Scrabble where you add to a joint structure) and use up your tiles first to win.  It is a great game for younger players and early readers, since they can use simple words and not worry about what words others are using.

Do you use games in your homeschool?  What are some favorites for math and language?

5 Days of... {Summer Series}

{Click on the picture and visit the rest of the crew!  They all have wonderful encouragement and information to share for this summer series!!}

5 Days of Great Family Games {Blog Hop Day 1}

5 Days of Family Games

Growing up I remember sitting around the table playing Monopoly with my family.  I remember loving the competitiveness of the game; the way my dad (cut-throat to say the least) often wouldn’t trade with anyone; the times my mom offered charity in the form of play money to someone who wasn’t doing well; the feeling of winning; and the occasional stomping off of someone or other who couldn’t handle not winning.

I remember playing chess with my dad, Life with my mom and sister, and pinocle and nickel-and-dime poker with the whole family.  I remember the towering stacks of games- Clue, Risk, Checkers, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Taboo, Scattergories- high up on the shelf in our playroom.  I absolutely loved playing games.  I still do.

Favorite Family Games {}

Characteristics of a great family game

So now it’s our playroom that has the stacks of games.  Sometimes we have high hopes for a game but it doesn’t quite fit our family, and sometimes a game surprises us and we enjoy years of play.  As I look at the games that get the most use, wondering what makes them great, I recognize that they do one (or more) of these three things:

  • make us laugh
  • make us think
  • make memories

I hope that this week, as I highlight some of the games that have stood the test of time in our home, you will find something new to explore here, something to add to the running Christmas or birthday list for your family.  And I hope also that you will share what your family favorites are in the comments.  I’m always on the lookout for a new favorite to add to our teetering stacks!

Kinesthetic games for the whole family

  1. Bop It XT This little treasure was given to us as a gift.  It is addictive, easily-transportable, and can be played solo or in “pass it” mode.  Each little doo-hicky on the game has a different function (bop it, flick it, twist it, spin it, pull it) and the objective is to follow the directions of the voice and do the right action to the right piece at the right time.  Very simple to learn, not so simple to master.  I love playing “pass it”.  When the voice tells you to pass it to the next player, it gives you an extra second to do so before the directions begin again.  Be prepared to go a bit bonkers with this one!
    Bop It!
  2. Hyperdash Another great game that can be played solo or with a group, Hyperdash requires players to set up the five numbered, colored cups and follow directions to each one as prompted “punching” them with the plunger as you go.  It can be played inside or out, depending on where you are and how much space you have.  The goal is to be the fastest, or to beat your own time if you’re playing solo.  This is a great game to help kids expend a little energy!
  3. Outdoor Challenge We like to keep screen time to a minimum, but the Wii has a couple of games that are really active and Outdoor Challenge is our favorite of this type.  This was the first Wii game that our then-four-year-old could play with us, and one of few games that can be played with a whole bunch of people (taking turns for each activity).  The challenges are varied and include fun activities like log jumping, pipe sliding, speed roller skating, kayak attack and mountain boarder, all of which require some serious physical maneuvering!
  4. Jumping Pixies What do you get when you cross cute wooden pixies with Newton’s laws of motion?  You get a hilarious catapulting game- marginally educational in the physics department, but guaranteed to have you giggling with your little ones (and not-so-little ones).  Try to pop your little pixies into the holes of the game board with the seesaw-like plank, and earn points based on which color they land in.  This game is so much fun, and will also have your little ones adding tens and ones in their heads to get their scores (an extra math perk!)
  5. Askew- Askew is basically a balance game.  It is made up of color-coded metal pieces and a stand that waits to foil attempts at balancing the lot of them.  Each player has a group of metal pieces of varying lengths and must choose wisely which to place and where, so that he is not the one to knock the whole thing down (getting himself extra pieces in the process.)  It’s a great and subtle physics lesson!  (Zach isn’t really wearing shades.  I was playing around with my photo editing software.)Askew gameWhat games get your family moving?

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5 Days of... {Summer Series}

A Paint-by-Numbers Life…

In a college from EDsmart known for its jazz music program, singers and instrumentalists scatting and improvising through their 16 bars on a skeletal framework, I was one of those who liked to follow what was on the page.  I could read anything you put in front of me, but I couldn’t ad lib.  And in a class with a jazz professor, I was jokingly called a “paint-by-numbers” musician.  It was not a compliment.

That’s exactly what I am.  I like bowing to the Beethovens, Bachs, and Mozarts of the world, allowing their genius to give me notes to sing, and rhythms to count.  The phrases are planned, perfected, and I am only to interpret and give them voice.  Compared to the abandon of a jazz musician, making it up as they go along, classical is safe.  Each color with its own number.  I must simply fill in.

This is me.  I am safe.  I like to have boundaries to inhabit and little geometric shapes to dutifully keep me in the lines.  I like being told what to play and what to say and what to do.  The “shoulds” and “ought-tos” of life, like the numbered spaces on the paint-by-number canvas, or the little black notes on the staff, give me a script to follow and keep me comfortable.

But this paint-by-numbers life has begun to yellow at the corners.  It is tiresome and false and based on lies about where my worth originates.  I want to be messy and color outside the lines and be free of the chains of my rule-following nature.

I want to be this:

Instead of this:

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died and 

your life is now hidden with God in Christ.

Colossians 2:13-14, 3:1-3

On this journey I am beginning to reinvent what I want to be, basing it on grace instead of rules.  Our God is one of completion, of finishing the good work He started, but also of new beginnings, and restoration of things broken.

As my children often do, I want to crumple up the artwork in front of me and begin again, with bolder brush strokes and wild colors that don’t match.  I want to stop waiting for someone to tell me where and when and how, and instead just make it up as I go along, following in the footsteps of Jesus, who turned convention on its ear and didn’t care who he offended, as long as he did the work of the Father.

Messy.  And free.  Being instead of always doing.  Not by numbers, but by heart and faith.

What piece of art do you want to be?
How do you want to play the music of your life?

A repost from the archives…
I’m off on an art retreat weekend, planning to get messy
and express all that bubbles up!


Be sure to visit next week when I’ll be joining up

with the iHomeschool Network, sharing

5 Days of Great Family Games!

Favorite Family Games {}