May 29, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Preventing Summer Learning Loss

My last post talked about what we are doing in our house to prevent summer learning loss.  What are you doing in your house?  Don't have a plan, yet?  That's okay, this article by Barbara Turvett for Working Mother magazine details 8 ways you can help prevent summer learning loss in your home.  Making your own plan is easy, just take a few minutes to think about what subjects your child(ren) need to maintain most, and what your child(ren) like to do for fun.  Combine the two, and there you have it.  If you do have your summer learning plan in place, please share it with the rest of us in the comments.


May 25, 2013

Mom's Summer School

There is one more week of school left at our house.  The kids were so excited for summer break to be here...and then they asked, "We're not going to do summer school this year, are we?"  Oh, yes we are.  Don't misunderstand, though, I'm not a drill sergeant.  I usually try to have a lot of fun and mix a little education into it.  I generally have some sort of math and language arts lessons each week, then fill in the rest of the week with topics they are interested in, or are not taught in school.  For example, in previous years some of the "other" subjects we've studied include art history (which included reading passages about various movements in art, viewing examples of each movement, then creating our own art in that style), cooking (which included lessons on the science of cooking, then creating dishes based on that science), and finance (which included lessons on checking & savings accounts, interest, and the stock market).  

The finance course was one of my favorites.  I printed out dummy checks for the kids and gave them each a blank check register.  They worked for me, doing chores and what not. They could either earn bonuses or get docked based on their behavior.  At the end of each week they received a "paycheck" and paystub printed out by me.  I was also the bank.  They had to either deposit their checks using a properly completed deposit slip, or cash their checks  (I gave them play money.)  They also had bills to pay. I based the cost of their rent, utilities, and car payment off of a percentage of their pay.  They had to pay their bills by check.  Also, they had to "buy groceries".  To determine this cost I had the kids make out a grocery list of what they thought they needed each week to plan out healthy meals.  Then we went to the store and wrote down the cost of what they wanted to buy.  They had the opportunity to revise their list before we finalized their cost.  This was their grocery bill each week.  Oh, and they could spend their extra money on things like buying extra dessert, buying video game time, or hiring a sibling to do the chores. Finally, at the end of each month "the bank" (that's me) gave them a statement for their account and they had to balance their checkbooks.  It was a LOT of prep work on my part, but it was so much fun and they learned skills that they will never be taught in school. Perhaps I'll create a course to post online for everyone else.  We'll see...

Anyway, back to what we are going to do THIS summer.  There is such an age difference between my children that I have two separate schedules.  (If you've never checked out the About Me page, I have two 15 year old boys and a 9 year old daughter.)  

For my daughter:  she needs to improve the speed of her math facts, so I downloaded and installed a free version of Timez Attack from Big Brainz.  She will play for 30 minutes per day, 4 days each week.  This will be her math class for the summer. (See, I told you I try to make it more fun than work.)  There are four areas of language arts she will be working on this summer; inferring, comprehension, handwriting, and writing 5 paragraph essays.  She will have a lesson on one of these each Monday, meaning she will study each area once a month.  I don't have lesson plans for these yet.  I'm still working on that. One day each week will be spent doing some sort of craft-ish activity.  She loves cooking, sewing, and paper crafts, so I thought we would combine home-ec & science and get crafty.  I'll post about some of those as we do them.

For my boys:  they are taking Algebra II this fall.  After taking Geometry between Algebra I & II, I think they could use a refresher course.  I've purchased Algebra and Algebra Practice Book from CurrClick.  We will pick and choose the specific chapters that they need the most help with.  Since this is our first year in Florida, my husband suggested that they take a boating safety course and get certified to operate a boat.  We found a free boating safety course that they will complete one lesson in each week.  Finally, the boys are getting old enough to go get jobs...the tax paying kind, not the work around the neighborhood kind.  I did some searching and found some lessons on Money Instructor that I though would give them a head start on being successful in the workplace.  They include topics like filling out an application, how to give a good interview, filling out a W-4, giving & receiving criticism, and dealing with difficult people.  Note that some of Money Instructor's lessons are free, and others are only available to subscribers.  

For all the kids:  our local library is planning an extensive summer reading program this year.  They are having separate events for younger children and for teens.  Both programs take place on Wednesdays, so we are setting aside Wednesday as reading day.  We will not study other subjects or do other classes that day.  It will be a day for reading and doing activities at the library.  Finally, summer is about getting to play and do some things you don't get to do during the school year. With that in mind, we are setting aside Friday to hold a Video Game Summer Olympics.  We scoured our library's video game collection and came up with a list of competitive games that we've never played.  We will check out two different games each week and hold competitions.  Scores will be tallied, and carried over from week to week, until we have an overall champion at the end of the summer.  Most of these games are for the Wii and are active participation type games, so I don't have to worry about them just sitting on the couch like slugs.

Finally,  I stated Tuesday that I would announce the winner of the $10 CurrClick gift certificate giveaway.  Unfortunately, there were no entries, so there is no winner.  If you tried to enter, but were not able to, please contact me right away.


May 21, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: My Very First Giveaway!

*Note: This giveaway has ended.*

I'm so excited to hold my very first giveaway that I just couldn't wait to get this post out!  I've been wanting to have one for a while, and finally decided to go for it. I'm using Rafflecopter to manage the giveaway for me.  It is a free service that will accept all of the entries, then randomly and impartially chooses a winner once the giveaway has ended.  Here are the details:

  • The prize is one $10 gift certificate to CurrClick.
  • The giveaway runs from May 21 at 12:00 a.m. until May 25 at 12:00 a.m.
  • Each person can earn 8 entries by completing promotional tasks.
  • I will announce the winner in my May 25th blog post.  I will also contact the winner directly.
  • The $10 gift certificate will be transferred to the winner's CurrClick account once (s)he has provided my with his/her name and email address used on his/her CurrClick account.
  • No purchase is necessary to enter or win.
  • A free CurrClick account is required in order to receive the electronic gift certificate.

If you are not familiar with CurrClick, it is an online marketplace for curriculum, worksheets & teaching aids, lapbook & notebooking templates, live online classes, free clubs, and more.  Products are great for all types of students from pre-k through high school, and include every school subject in addition to a large selection of faith-based subjects. There are over 52,000 products to choose from, including over 37,000 products available for $10 or less and nearly 800 free items.  Take a minute to browse their products and see what you might want to spend the $10 on.  $10 worth of curriculum and teaching aids is a great way to gear up for summer learning.  Please note that I do list my teaching aids on Currclick for sale under the name The Bright Ideas Company, and that I am an affiliate of the website.  As such, I receive a small percentage of sales generated by my promoting the website.

As I said, this is my first giveaway.  I think I've covered all the details, but if I've left anything out or you have any questions, please just leave a comment.  


a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 18, 2013

Summer Knitting Project: Legwarmers and Shrug

Let me start by saying, yes, I know that it's spring and getting warmer, not colder.  Call me crazy, but I like to start my projects for the year early.  That way, I have plenty of time to procrastinate and still finish on time.  I have already started the blanket I'm knitting for my nephew, who won't be born until September.  With that in mind, I decided it was a good time to give you the pattern for the ballet legwarmers and shrug I made for my daughter.  This should give you plenty of time to choose your yarn and actually have them completed before it's cool enough for the little ballerina in your life to need them.  I made these for my daughter when she was 7.  You may need to adjust the size of the pattern to fit your ballerina.  As usual, I'll include links to how-to's for the techniques used in case there are any you're unfamiliar with.


  • 2 balls of size 4-medium weight acrylic yarn (I used Red Heart Shimmer in purple, bought at Hobby Lobby.)
  • straight knitting needles (I used size 8.)
  • elastic or stretch cord (I used Cousin .8mm stretch cord, bought at Wal-Mart.)
  • tapestry needle

The shrug is the easier piece, so I'll start there.  Cast on 54 stitches, or how many you need to fit around your ballerina's bicep.   Knit 1, purl 1 for 16 rows, or 2 inches.  Then stockinette stitch however many rows you need to reach across your ballerina's shoulders.  I knit 20 inches of stockinette stitch.  Beginning on a right side row, knit 1 purl 1 for another 16 rows, or 2 inches.  Cast off.  You should have a rectangle with ribbing at each end.  Fold the shrug inside out lengthwise.  Using a length of yarn and your tapestry needle, join each end to form sleeves.  Be sure to leave enough of a gap between the sleeves to span your ballerina's shoulders.  Here is the finished product.

Now for the legwarmers.  They are a little more involved, so I'll list the instructions row by row.  I suggest using a row counter to keep track of where you are in the project.  Also, I'm listing instructions for the right leg.  To make the left leg, simply swap knit and purl in the instructions.  For example, on row 17 when the right leg says to knit 1, bind off 21 stitches, knit to end, you will instead purl 1, bind off 21 stitches, purl to end.  Finally, if you change the size of your legwarmers, you will need to adjust the directions according to how many stitches you added or omitted.  

Cast on 44 rows, or however many you need to fit around the arch of your ballerina's foot.  
Rows 1-16: knit 1 (k1), then purl 1 (p1)
Row 17: k1, cast off 21 stitches, knit to end (If you do not want your legwarmers to have stirrups, simply begin your stockinette stitch with row 17.)
Row 18: p22, cast on 21 stitches, p1
Rows 19-38: stockinette stitch
Row 39: k1, k7, make one stitch (m1), k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 40-44: stockinette stitch
Row 45: k1, k7, m1, k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 46-50: stockinette stitch
Row 51: k1, k7, m1, k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 52-56: stockinette stitch
Row 57: k1, k7, m1, k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 58-62: stockinette stitch
Row 63: k1, k7, m1, k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 64-68: stockinette stitch
Row 69: k1, k7, m1, k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 70-74: stockinette stitch
Row 75: k1, k7, m1, k7, m1, k7, m1, knit to end
Rows 76-110: stockinette stitch
Rows 111-125: k1, p1
Bind off.  Using your tapestry needle and a very long length of yarn, join the sides of the legwarmer.  Using your tapestry needle and the elastic/stretch cord, weave the cord through the k1, p1 ribbing around the knee.  I made 4 rows of cord . These are to help hold the legwarmers in place and prevent them from slipping down while dancing.  Depending on the yarn you use & how well they fit your ballerina, you may or may not need to put the cord in your legwarmers.  Here is the finished product, back and front.

Happy knitting!  By the way, I'll post about the blanket I'm knitting for my nephew once he arrives.  I don't want to spoil the surprise for my sister.


May 15, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Get Outdoors!

Spring is probably my favorite season.  It is a season full of hope and potential.  Nature is waking up from it's long winter nap, and everything is beautiful.  It just makes me want to be outdoors, enjoying the world around me.  But, sometimes, I don't know where to go to do the outdoor activities I want to do.  Park Visitor is a website I've found that allows visitors to search for parks, and other landmarks.  Search nearby, or where you'll be vacationing.  Search by park name, or by activity.  Visitors can also view pictures of the parks and reviews posted by other visitors.  All of these features make it so much easier to get out there and enjoy nature.  Don't tell the kids, but just maybe you can even sneak in a little education while you're there.


May 11, 2013

April Showers Bring...

April showers bring...stem and leaf plots?  Sure, why not?  Especially when the stem and leaf plots are disguised as May flowers.  My daughter learned about stem and leaf plots in math class this week.  Frankly, I don't remember learning them when I was in school, so we learned them together.  In case you don't remember them either, according to her text book they are "convenient ways to organize data using numerical order and place value.  The digits to the left of the ones digits are called the stems; the ones digits for each stem are called the leaves."  Just for fun, we started drawing flowers, using their stems and leaves for the stem and leaf plots.  It was much more fun than doing them the way her lesson suggested.  She decided I should make them for my store.  (I have mentioned that she's a very smart girl, haven't I?)  So, I sat down after dinner and started working on these Stem and Leaf Plot Manipulatives.  Visit my CurrClick store to download a copy.  The list price is $1.43, however for my blog readers it is free.  You can only get it for free by using the link above.  I do ask, though, that if you download a copy, please take a moment to rate and review it on CurrClick.  It will really help other customers know that I provide quality products.


May 8, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Admongo

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a very big believer in parents preparing their children to become successful adults.  To me, this means more than simply keeping your child alive until (s)he graduates high school and reaches adulthood.  One area in which most of us could use a little help is marketing and media.  As adults, we already know not to believe everything we see or hear in commercials and other marketing ploys...or at least we should.  Yet, so many people are fooled into spending their money on items that just aren't what they seem.  Admongo is a campaign by the Federal Trade Commission to "educate tweens (kids ages 8 to 12) about advertising so they can become more discerning consumers of information."  The website has a parents section & a teachers section, and uses a Mario Bros. style video game to teach kids about advertising.  I highly recommend it as a way to introduce your children to the real world of marketing.


May 4, 2013

School's Out...almost

May is here.  The kids are in the final stretch of the school year.  It's hard to believe another year of school is almost over.  This school year has been quite an adventure; one I'm sure the kids will never forget.  We moved to Florida just about a week before the school year started, so this has been a school year full of firsts.  Regardless of whether or not your school year has been quite as unique as ours, you & your children will want to remember this year and all the great memories it holds.  I've scoured the internet and found several free printable memory books to help put all those memories in one place.  Enchanted Learning has a memory book children can print and color.  Just look on the right side of the page, where non-members can print the individual pages of the book.  Elise Stoddard posted a fill-in-the-section memory book on Teachers Pay Teachers which is suitable for middle to upper elementary students.  Site registration is required to download the book, however both the registration and the download are free.  Fellow blogger and first grade teacher Cara Carroll created a memory book suitable for younger students.  Either visit her Teachers Pay Teachers store or click on the image to download it for free.  Teacher turned assistant principal, Alicia Lochridge made an 18 page, color memory book available for free at her Teachers Pay Teachers store.  It is suitable for younger & older students.  Third grade teacher, Ashleigh put together a 16 page, color memory book.  Visit her blog to download it for free.  It is suitable for older or younger students, however it may not appeal to older boys as much.  

With all of the parties and gifts, the end of the school year can get costly.   Here are some do-it-yourself, inexpensive gifts to make for your children's teachers.  First and foremost, iVillage has put together a list of do's and don'ts.  This is particularly helpful if you are new to giving gifts to teachers.  The Happy Home Fairy put together an extensive list of ideas.  So long, in fact, that she made it a two-part series.  Check out part 1 and part 2 to see them all.  Mique at Thirty Handmade Days has a few cute ideas as well.  Finally, the crew at Tip Junkie has put together a list of 24 ideas to show teacher appreciation.

Now that the teachers are taken care of, what do you send with your child to give to his/her classmates?  Don't worry, I found some affordable handmade ideas for that, as well.  Maura & Sheila, The Two Crafting Sisters, created adorable candy bags to give away.  Erin from Making Memories shared a dollar store goodie bag idea she made last year.  Rebecca, The Crafted Sparrow, has a "kool" gift idea for her son's classmates.  Finally, 24/7 Moms has found a way to help your children's classmates "have a ball".

Now that you have everyone at school taken care of, how can you make the last day of school special for your own child?  I found some very creative ways to show your child how proud you are of his/her accomplishments.  First, help build the excitement with this countdown to summer paper chain from Laurie over at Gallamore West.  When the day finally arrives, make them feel special throughout the whole day with this keepsake t-shirt idea from Awesome Craft Pins.  (S)he can even feel special at lunch with this lunch bag idea from Everything Pink.  However, after school is when the real celebrating begins.  Dixie Delights posted about how she celebrated her son's last day of school last year.  It was quite the extravaganza!  I also found this really fun finish line idea from Canadian blogger Gina Bell at East Coast Mommy.  Top it all off with this hand made keepsake meant to remind your child of all of his/her great qualities.  Confessions of a Teaching Junkie's Mrs. Wilson made them for her entire class, however I think they are great gifts for children at home as well.

Wow.  This is a much bigger post than I expected it to be when I came up with the idea.  Hopefully, there are plenty of ideas to help you celebrate the end of the school year with your children.


May 1, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Frosty Joe Recipe

As warmer weather creeps in, I can't help but think about warm weather treats. Right now, one of my favorites is the Frosty Joe.  It is a recipe I came up with that's cold,  refreshing, and satisfies your coffee craving all at the same time,  Best of all, it's super simple!  Make a tray of coffee ice cubes.  (These are a staple in my house when it's hot outside.)  TIP:  add ground cinnamon to your coffee grounds for fabulous cinnamon flavored coffee.  Place 6-12 of your frozen coffee cubes in the blender, depending on how many servings you are making.  Blend the cubes until they are ice shavings.  Add 2-3 scoops of ice cream and sugar to taste.  I used one spoonful of sugar (my coffee cubes were very strong.)  Blend again until a Frosty-like consistency is reached.  Pour into a frosty mug, and top with a dollop of whipped cream & some chocolate shavings.  I'd tell you to serve it immediately because they melt fast, but you're probably eating it already anyway.  Enjoy!