Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Games!

The Kid has developed some new patience and strategizing, and so we've been adding to our game shelf! It's so exciting, because the games themselves are much more interesting for an adult to play.

Some of favorite new games:

Ticket to Ride:Europe: This is definitely at the top end of her ability to manage, but so much fun. The board is massive, you have to manage a zillion cards, and you have to really play with strategy and alternatives. But there's cute little trains. And a bit of geography. And the Europe game has the city names written in their native languages.

Qwixx: Simple dice game with a bit of probability thrown in. Take turns rolling and try to mark off numbers in order before others can. From Gamewright, one of my favorite game makers.

Crab Stack: Simple game where you can move your pieces in limited ways, trying to be the last one still able to move at the end of the game. Minimal strategy (unless I'm missing something), but a game takes maybe ten minutes and it's fun.

Double Shutter: A newer twist on the classic Shut the Box games, adding a tiny bit more strategy. The numbers some in a double row, and you can't play the back rown until the tile in front of it is shut.

Gobblet: This is a twist on tic-tac-toe in which the pieces can gobble each other up by playing a larger piece on top. Who knew tic-tac-toe could be made fun again? We had Gobblet Gobblers, which uses a 3x3 gameboard, but The Kid was ready to upgrade to the usual adult 4x4 gameboard recently.

Dixit: You have a handful of cards with generally surreal pictures on them, use a phrase to describe one of them, everyone else finds a card in their hand that might also fit the description, then everyone tries to figure out which card was the one originally being described. In order to get points, you're best off if some people (but not all) can correctly choose your card. Or if someone chooses your card when it wasn't the original one. It took some getting used to, but is now among The Kid's absolute favorites on our shelf.

Dr. Eureka:  Fun, quick visual perception and speed game. You have three "test tubes" and two little marbles of each of three colors. Flip a card and it will have the marbles in various configurations within the tubes and you have to rearrange your setup without touching the marbles with your hands. We've learned for The Kid to play over an empty box lid so we don't spend our time searching for runaway marbles.

Monopoly and New York:1901 have arrived from Amazon, but we haven't even had a chance to break them open yet.

Monday, December 5, 2016

October's Top Books

So, it's December and I've been totally slack in my posting. Logged in and realized I never finished this or posted it, so I might as well give these books credit now as favorites for October!

1. Ballywhinney Girl by Eve Bunting - a story about a girl and her grandfather who discover a mummy buried in the bog in Ireland, told from the girl's point of view.

2. The Greatest Power by Demi - an emperor wants to name a new Prime Minister, so he issues a challenge to all children - return in a year and demonstrate what they believe to be the greatest power in the world.

3. The Bat Boy & His Violin - a father and son story. Reginald loves playing his violin, but his dad doesn't understand and requires Reginald to work as a bat boy for his losing Negro Leagues baseball team. Reginald's playing inspires the team, which in turn manages to have his dad open his ears.

4. How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman - cross-cultural story about two adults learning how to manage a bit of each other's customs, and teaching both to their child. This was a really good find.

Bonus selection! The point of these lists is to spotlight lesser-known books, which this is not. DD read Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, which is by far the longest work of fiction she has ever chosen to read. We've done many Beverly Cleary read alounds, but this would work horribly as a read aloud, so I had been saving it until I thought she would be ready to read it. She loved it, and I was reminded how much I had loved it as a child. This is one I had read over and over again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fairy Tale Project: Snow White

I will confess, I dreaded doing Snow White. I dislike the tale, I dislike the absolute helplessness of Snow White, I dislike that it has a group of men needing to protect her. . .

But The Kid knew that the tale existed because friends had talked about it, and she didn't know the story and wanted to include it.

I had only known the Disney version previously, and I was surprised that there was so much variation in the versions. All but one of them still had her as a helpless female protected by men, so I still can't say I like it, but at least it freshened up the tale for me.

We read:

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves retold by Cynthia Rylant - Chosen because it is the most well known version in the United States and she really wanted to know the same story that her friends knew.

Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Quentin Greban - The most faithful to the original Grimm tale, this one is more interesting than the usual version in that the witch tries multiple methods to do away with Snow White.

Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Charles Santore - Pretty much the Disney version, but with absolutely stunning illustrations.

The Seven Dwarfs by Etienne Delessert - A reimagining of the tale told from the point of view of one of the dwarves.

Rimonah of the Flashing Sword adapted by Eric A. Kimmel - If all Snow White stories were like this one, I would love Snow White. This character is amazing, smart, strong, and independent. This version is from North Africa.

Obviously, you could watch one or more of the many movies based on this tale, but The Kid is still a little hesitant about the scariness of most movies, so we skipped watching evil queens.

The Kid mashed together several of the Grimm/Disney versions to create her own. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

August/September's Top Ten Books

The Kid was camping for half of August, so I'm combining these two months.

1. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein - I had never read this "billy sook", which is a collection of poems in which the first letters of many words are swapped. The Kid read it twice through, once enjoying the sounds, and again to "translate" it.

2. The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter - a great picture book biography focusing on the determination and patience of Jane Goodall, ending with talk of her work on preserving habitat.

3. The Monster That Grew Small retold by Joan Grant - a retelling of an Egyptian tale about conquering fears by facing them.

4. The Rich Man and the Parrot retold by Suzan Nadini - a Persian folk tale about greed and possessions, with a parrot who communicates ingeniously in order to find his freedom.

5. Rimonah of the Flashing Sword adapted by Eric A. Kimmel - a North African version of Snow White, this was nothing like any other Snow White story I've ever read. I detest the piles of helpless women in fairy tales, who are all beautiful and completely selfless but have no spunk, and Snow White is among the worst of these. But this one is a complete badass. Absolutely awesome.

6&7. The Boy Who Painted Dragons and The Girl Who Drew a Phoenix by Demi - these Chinese tales are both about young people who pass through trials to gain virtues in their pursuit of amazing artwork. Phenomenally illustrated.

8. Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah da Costa - a tale about two boys who are taking care of the same stray cat, one in the Jewish Quarter and one in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem.

9. Rainbow Soup: Adventures in Poetry by Brian P. Cleary - a nice find. This introduces several poetic devices and styles of poems and then has several fun, whimsical examples of each. An incredibly approachable introduction to poetry terms.

10. Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi - An awesome Halloween picture book that is not the usual fare, with a Korean-American as the main character.

Monday, September 12, 2016

All Things Math

Didn't mean to take such a break from posting. Time got away from me. 

I know I've done math posts before, but now is time for a gigantic post about non-traditional math. First off: Math is not boring! Many traditional programs are boring, but math is an awesome subject and deserves treatment as such.

Now, some resources for elementary kids:

Beast Academy -  this is a hard math program, currently available for 3rd-5th graders, with 2nd grade written soon. They teach concepts and expect kids to be able to figure out the application pretty independently. Some of the questions are things that I have to think about, and can really stump a kid. But it is fantastic, with guides written in colorful graphic novel style, engaging and sometimes unusual math, and an introduction to having to combine arithmetic, logic, and problem solving. This is put out by the Art of Problem Solving company, which also has highly conceptual-proof-heavy books from pre-algebra up.

Books by Ed Zaccaro - These often focus on problem-solving skills, have some cartoonish drawings, and gently lead kids through adding more complex skills to their skill set. I suggest Primary Grade Challenge Math as a first book to try, probably best for someone who has at least 2nd-3rd grade skills.

Time-Life I Love Math series - these are out of print, but easy to find used. Each book has a wide range of skills, maybe Kindy-3rd grade, so they are worth revisiting. The math is typically either in story format or hands-on. 

MathStart books by Stuart J. Murphy - These cover a wide range of topics, with the vast majority being pre-K through 1st grade. Short books that each introduce one concept, from matching pairs to multiplication. These are great, engaging books, but I do suggest getting them from the library, as their usefulness is short-lived.

Sir Cumference books - most of these focus on geometry topics (naturally, with that name!) though a few go outside of that scope. Primarily at a 2nd-4th grade level, these can be great independent reads, or you could base entire math units around each book.

Murderous Maths - Awesome and hilarious. Most of these are written for ages 8+ (and I mean that +, as some venture into high school topics). Awesome Arithmetricks would be where to start for elementary kids. These just didn't work as read aloud material for us, so maybe waiting until your child can read independently and comfortable is a prereq.

Hands On Equations - teaches how to solve algebraic equations, broken down so elementary kids can easily understand. Best done before a child hits pre-algebra, and can be started with 1st graders. I know there's an app version, but that rather defeats the concept of "hands on" equations, and I believe the physical manipulating of the pieces matters here, especially if starting with younger kids.

Dragonbox apps - And immediately, here's the contradiction to recommending Hands On Equations only in tactile format. Dragonbox 5+ and 12+ are great apps that teach algebraic concepts in game format. It's entirely possible that your child won't even realize it is a math app. For younger kids, there is Dragonbox Numbers, which is basically games with C-rod-like creatures that help teach number sense and addition/subtraction. And for the older set, there's Dragonbox Elements to introduce geometry.

Math for Smarty Pants and I Hate Mathematics! - two very different titles for two fairly similar books by the same author and publisher. Kids should have at least basic number sense, addition, and subtraction down before starting to read these. These are classic books covering many unconventional topics, written with kids who believe they dislike math in mind, but appealing to kids who already know they like math as well.

Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School - Another classic. Nothing is normal at Wayside School, including a math class that requires spelling books. Throughout this book, there are math and logic problems for kids to do themselves, with silly stories to engage. Most of this book involves multi-digit addition and logic problems, with a good bit of puzzling. There is one short section that involves multi-digit multiplication, which can be completed or skipped depending on the abilities of your child. Kids who really enjoy puzzling can do on their own, but we have had a lot of fun figuring these out together on the whiteboard.

Zeus on the Loose - a fast-paced card game that involves adding, subtracting, and rounding as everyone tries to be the one holding the Zeus statue when the count reaches 100.

Toss Up! - great for beginning probability, the only actual math skill needed is counting and adding within 100. We used an abacus for each person to keep score before paper-and-pencil adding was solid.

Yahtzee - is there anyone who doesn't know this game? Adding, multiplication, and probability all wrapped into one game.

Oh, and if you are going to play a bunch of dice games with young kids, I highly recommend a dice tray and dice cup, both lined with felt. It really is sanity saving.

Sleeping Queens - ok, so there's very little actual math here, just adding multiples of 5 to no more than a total of 50. But it's a fun game on it's own.

Highlights MathMania - each issue is full of math puzzles. Some are straightforward arithmetic, some are logic puzzles, some are spatial awareness. There's a good variety of types of puzzles and levels in each one, mostly ranging from 1st-3rd grade. Homeschool Buyers Co-op often has deals on these.

Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Math - exactly what it sounds like, this is a colorful reference book to many math topics. Covers elementary through at least junior high.

Rat A Tat Cat - enjoyable game for longer than the math provides any challenge, involves adding four single-digit numbers and some logic.

Math Dice and Math Dice Jr - I wish there was a bridge in between these two. The Jr version involves only very simple addition and subtraction, and the standard version is meant to include multiplication, division, and exponents. Definitely much more "this is a math game" than "this is a game that involves math" than most things on this list, probably best for kids who already enjoy math and want to play with it more.

Zometool - We underuse this, and I really need to get it out again. This is a unique building toy, and you can get lesson plans for math, science, and art. The spatial work can be a real challenge. If you want a huge investment, you can purchase the mega-kit on Homeschool Buyers Co-op; it comes with the storage case but the pieces aren't arranged in it yet, apparently resulting in a major discount.

Logic Links - a simple one-person setup, you place colored chips on a card trying to follow the rules laid out on the card. 

Any logic-based game - Solid logic skills are needed for math, especially as you move up in level. Any game that strengthens logic is useful - Connect 4, Qwirkle, Forbidden Island, Gobblet Gobblers, Chess...

Library books - 510 is the Dewey decimal call number for math books. Just go poke around. I've been amazed how many great books we've found!

And an honorable mention to some things I haven't personally used yet, but have heard great things about:
Prime Climb
Muggins and Knockout
Secrets of Mental Math
Short-Cut Math
The Book of Think
The Number Devil

 

Monday, August 1, 2016

July's Top Ten Books

We read so many books, both from our Literature List and also just randomly chosen from the library's shelves, I thought I'd try to start a monthly Top Ten list.

1. The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco - a great story that features a main character with learning differences

2. Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin - We read this as part of our Fairy Tale project (yes, we're still working on that!) and enjoyed the silly mashup of fairy tales.

3. Appelemando's Dreams by Patricia Polacco - an imaginative tale of visible dreams

4. Freedom's School by Lesa Cline-Ransome - set after the Civil War, when schools for African-Americans were being started, but were surrounded by racism

5. Pinduli by Janell Cannon - the author is better known for Stellaluna but I think I like this tale better. Basically a morality tale of "what goes round come around" when you say things that make others feel bad.

6. The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie by Chris Van Allsburg - The story of a mistreated hamster and the many children he is passed around to. Not a happy story, but a simple one that introduced the idea of what happens when animals aren't cared for properly; still has a happy ending for Sweetie Pie.

7. Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel by Patricia Storace - This was my favorite of the Rapunzel stories we read this month, with adjustments to the tale as it is typically known in the U.S. to fit the island setting.

8. A Midsummer Night's Dream retild by Bruce Coville - a well-illustrated picture book retelling of the Shakespeare classic. This was The Kid's first introduction to Shakespeare and she enjoyed it so much that we followed up by going to see a local production of the play.

9. The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool - an imaginative story with the theme of taking only what you need and no more, a greedy king orders a woman who can spin the clouds into cloth to make fine clothes for himself and his family until there are no clouds left and the kingdom is without rain

10. The Shaman's Apprentice by Lynne Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin - tells the tale of a boy who wants to become the next shaman in a remote village in the Amazon, and a village caught between tradition and newly introduced Western ways

Thursday, July 7, 2016

RightStart Math: Final Cost, Levels A-C

We've moved on from RightStart Math and I wanted to address one of the most common concerns I hear from people considering this program: cost. Yes, it looks to be a very expensive program, especially with the startup costs of that huge box of manipulatives. Here and there, when people ask online, responses cite the high resale value, but without numbers. Here are my numbers:

RightStart A
I bought the first edition of Level A, before the second edition existed. Costs include the lesson manual, two workbooks (so I could sell with a clean one), and a set of the appendix pages. I believe that the second edition becoming available in the meantime really hurt the resale value on this one!
                Cost: $78.50
                Sold on eBay for: $34.50
                Final Cost to me: $44.00

RightStart B
I bought the second edition of Level B, with an extra workbook and an extra set of Appendix pages (so I could sell a complete, clean set). I did get the extra workbook and Appendix during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale for a discount.
               Cost: $97.50
               Sold on eBay for: $65.00
               Final Cost to me: $32.50

RightStart C
I bought the second edition of Level C, with an extra workbook so I could sell a complete, clean set. All on sale during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.
               Cost: $80.00
               Sold on eBay for: $55.00
               Final Cost to me: $25.00

Manipulatives Package
I originally bought the set for version 1 and then upgraded. For ease of numbers (and not being able to find my receipt for the original purchase) I am going to use the current price of the full Version 2 Package, which is what I had by the end and sold on eBay.
                Cost: $205.50
                Sold on eBay for: $152.50
                Final Cost to me: $53.00

Taking the total cost to me of the three levels plus the manipulatives ($154.50) and dividing it over the three years this would be expected to last, I come up with a Final Total Cost of $51.50 per year. 

Not bad. And it would have come in even cheaper for me if I had started with Version 2 of Level A (the new version had much better resale value) and if I had planned ahead and always bought during the Cyber Monday sale