Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five in a Row Week 2: Lentil

Some of you have noticed that we are "rowing" the Five in a Row Volume 1 books in order.  We did start out that way, but plan to start mixing things up after this week.

Lentil (Picture Puffins)This week's book was Lentil, a cute tale about a little boy who, unable to sing, takes up the harmonica instead.  When one of the town's grumpy citizens threatens to derail a prominent benefactor's homecoming with his pucker-inducing lemon consumption, Lentil saves the day.  Best (and last) line of the book: "You never can tell what will happen when you learn to play the harmonica."

These wrap up posts are taking me ages to write, so I'm going to experiment a little this week with just a bullet point list and some fun photo editing, courtesy of Picnik.

Generally, we focused on:
- the 5 senses (especially taste and hearing)
- harmonicas / music generally
- Ohio (just a little)
- making ice cream (the Bibliophile's request)
- learning North / South / East / West

Specifically, we:
  • Tasted a lemon.  Practiced our silly sour faces.
  • Made lemonade.  Both fresh and Del's frozen lemonade (it's a Rhode Island thing).
  • Read a couple of lemonade books: Lemonade for Sale (MathStart) and Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink.
  • Played a game with plastic Easter eggs, in which I filled them with various objects - pennies, rice, paper, toy car - and he had to figure out which was which.  (Relevance: sense of sound).
  • Played a toy harmonica.  Practiced singing the blues, like his grandpa.  (Best line: "Mama won't give me no more skittles" *harmonica riff*).
  • Talked about sound waves, and why Lentil liked to play the harmonica in the bathroom.  Tried it out.
  • Did our USA jigsaw puzzle.
  • Talked about North, South, East, West.  Tried to make up silly songs to remember the directions.  In the meantime, realized he had learned them.
  • Did an Ohio workbook page from a Target dollar section book.
  • Made homemade chocolate soymilk ice cream, using a Highlights magazine recipe, which required just chocolate soymilk, sugar, ice, salt, and a plastic bag.  We did this at least twice.  (In Lentil, the town celebrates with ice cream at the end).

  • Decorated a paper doll to be Lentil (Bibliophile's idea).
  • Acted out the book.  I was the grumpy lemon-eater.  The Bibliphile was Lentil (of course).  And his baby sister was Colonal Carter.
  • No new sensory bin this week, but I did give him a bowl of raw rice one night while I cooked dinner.  In it, I had hid the letters of harmonica, so he fished them all out and unscrambled it.
  • Cutting strips.  I printed some simple strips of repeating lemons.  He wasn't really into it, but did one strip.
  • Talked about what an architect does, and what a floor plan is.  Drew a floor plan of our house, then used FloorPlanner to create floorplans for pretend houses.  Printed the floor plans and arranged cardboard boxes to lay out rooms like his floorplans (which, incidentally, involved slides into playrooms).  (The Five in a Row curriculum has a tie-in to architecture in the Lentil study, but the books I found looked too advanced, so we just simplified to something I knew he'd find fun, even if there was no clear Lentil connection.)
  • Built a pretend town like in Lentil out of blocks, making sure to include each building mentioned in the book.  If we have more time in the next few days, we might do a paper bag town (from lunch bags).
  • Sang many verses of She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain (which Lentil plays at the end of the book).
  • Did some printables from Homeschool Share, including some math problems and an Ohio directions sheet.
  • Did instrument matching worksheets from this site.
  • Editing to add our coop plan, so I have the link if I need it.  We will be making musical instruments - some kind of shakers for the youngest kids and this harmonica-like instrument (which works great!) for the older ones.
It was a fun week, and we both really enjoyed Lentil, but I am ready to move on.  (Our coop meeting isn't for two days, and I'm already writing the summary blog post.)  Next up: we are jumping outside of the FIAR curriculum to do One Tiny Turtle.

If I remember, I will be linking this post up with Weekly Wrap-Up and Preschool Corner.

Comment!  Have you read Lentil?  Do you play any musical instruments?

Disclosure: If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Introducing Factor Trees

We spotted You Can Count on Monsters at the library this week, and snatched it up because the Infant Bibliophile has been interested in both monsters and multiplication lately.  If you are looking for a fun way to introduce the idea of a factor tree and prime numbers, hunt this down!  (I don't recommend for the Bibliophile's age, although he has been enjoying leafing through it, but for older kids).  I'm not feeling very articulate tonight, but you can click through to Amazon for the full book description and other reviews. 

You Can Count on Monsters

I'm linking this post up with Math Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our Coop Hostess...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five in a Row Week 1: The Story of Ping

Story about PingThis week's Five in a Row (FIAR) "row" was The Story of Ping.  I know it is a classic, but I don't care much for the book's spanking references and its overall message about accepting punishment.  We still had fun with the activities, however, and I found a few great companion books.  All in all, we are enjoying Five in a Row very much.

We focused, generally, on ducks, China, and buoyancy.  Here is what we did throughout the week, in no particular order:

 Ducks --

We read a nonfiction duck book.  We fed the ducks (some corn) at a nearby pond.  Well, in actuality, we fed the geese, but I did see at least one brave duck sneak in and get some.  (We also talked a bit about the science behind the reflections on the water - a suggestion from FIAR.)  We played a fun little birds boardgame from Homeschool Share.  And we visited the local aviary.

At the Bibliophile's request, we made a quick duck out of small paper plates.

China -- 

We located the Yangtze river on our world map, and did our Asia Geopuzzle.

We built a Great Wall of China out of duplo blocks.

We tried to draw a few Chinese characters (he didn't take to this - just scribbled).

Follow Jade! Learn Chinese: Let's Go To Market in ChinaWe watched this China field trip video.  And this Chinese language video (which he loved.  He doesn't like movies/television generally, but loves language dvd's).

We skimmed this China (True Books).

And we ate rice with chop sticks.

We also read these books:

Tikki Tikki Tembo
 Tikki Tikki Tembo -- This was a childhood favorite of mine.  I have heard it criticized now as culturally inaccurate, and as the Bibliophile says, "that Mama is kind of mean," but we enjoyed it for just the silly name factor.

The Runaway Rice CakeThe Runaway Rice Cake -- a fun book about a runaway rice cake (ala Gingerbread Man), with a beautiful message.  A family that only has enough money to make one "nián-gão"  (rice cake) for their holiday dinner shares it with someone needier than they.  Their generosity is rewarded when their neighbors (and presumably the Gods) fill their table.
The Empty Pot
The Empty Pot -- We loved this book, which had a nice message and a clever twist.  The emperor is searching for a successor, and designs a contest whereby children are given seeds.  Whoever grows the best flower after 1 year will be the next emperor.  Ping, who has always had a green thumb, can't seem to get the seed to grow.  After 1 year, he only has an empty pot to show for his labors.  His father tells him "your best is good enough to present to the Emperor."  So, that is what Ping does (amongst all of the impressive plants that others present), only to learn that the emperor had given out trick seeds which were incapable of sprouting.  Of course, Ping's honesty is rewarded.  We took an empty plant container and acted out this story about 25 times after we read the book.  It is a lovely story with compound messages about honesty and perfectionism. 

Kai-lan's Great Trip to China (Ni Hao, Kai-Lan)At the Bibliophile's suggestion, we also read Kai-Lan's Great Trip to China (he requested this from the librarian in person.  He loves to chat up the librarians).  His favorite part is that the story incorporates a handful of Chinese words and includes a list at the back of the book.

We also created a river rock sort of sensory bin.  This was mostly because I wanted to get rid of our rice bin, which was ridiculously messy and kind of old.  The rocks aren't as nice from a sensory perspective, but I find it a challenge to come up with fun sensory bins that are not a choking hazard for our crawling baby.  I tried to pick rocks big enough that she couldn't choke on them, and within 5 seconds of setting it up, she grabbed one and had it in her mouth!  So we haven't really used the bin all that much.

Buoyancy and Other Stuff -- 

We did a sink/float activity from Homeschool Share.  This, and the Ping coloring sheet on the right (also from Homeschool Share), will be the focus of our FIAR coop group this week.  We also played a bit with drawing and using lines to indicate water and movement (from the FIAR manual).

And, as we drove around in the car this week, we retold the story as we thought it should be told -- minus the spanking.  This was a suggestion from the Five in a Row forums, in reference to a discussion as to what to do when a child doesn't enjoy a book.  Today, I asked the Bibliophile what he thought should happen to the last duck to board the boat (who, in the book, gets a spank).  He was quiet a minute, then said, "I think the last duck should be able to go over the bridge any way he wants -- he can roll over the bridge, he can do a silly walk, anything!" 

We still had plenty of time for twice daily outings, free play, and 100 "NOW what should we do, Mama?" questions each day.  And much of our best learning was student-led, as always.  He has been very interested in multiplication and division lately, and in trying to tell time, so we dabbled a bit in those things.

Next up: Lentil!

I will be linking this post up with Weekly Wrap-Up and Preschool Corner.

Comment: Have you read The Story of Ping?  Do you have a FIAR blog?  Please share in the comments!

Disclosure: If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may earn a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Monday, August 22, 2011

Starting Our Adventures with Five in a Row

Today is the first day of our homeschooling "school" year, and I've decided to use the Five in a Row curriculum with the Infant Bibliophile, who is now 3 1/2.  It was kind of an obvious choice for him, but I did debate whether to buy the Five in a Row (Volume 1) or try Before Five in a Row first.  I decided to jump right into Volume 1.  I am supplementing the curriculum with related activities and printables that relate to the book of the week.  Rather than the one-subject-per-day style of Five in a Row, though, we're keeping with our learning boxes, and basically doing every subject every day (I try to keep the drawers full of fun activities/books/videos/worksheets, and he pulls from them whenever he'd like to during the day.  We still do most of them together).  I am also trying to form a local coop that we will meet with weekly to read the book of the week and do a companion activity.  We have 8 moms and 18 kids signed up, but I have no expectations as to how many will really stick with it throughout the year.  

To be honest, I'm not sure I really have regained my will to blog, after the summer break, but I do want to record our activities with Five in a Row, in case I want to revisit them again with my daughter (or the Bibliophile, again).  So, I'll post in a few days about our first "row" -- The Story of Ping!  (Not my favorite book, I'll admit, but I found some real gems when finding companion books about China - the Empty Pot, especially).

Comment!  How has your summer been?  Have you tried Five in a Row?  Have any favorite blogs that you follow that use FIAR?

Disclosure: If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may gain a small commission through our affiliate relationship with

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: Every Day on Earth

Every Day On Earth
Did you know that in one day your heart pumps enough blood to fill the tank of a fire engine?  That the nearest black hole is 1,600 light-years away from the Earth?  That your brain comes up with 70,000 thoughts per day?  (Ah, but how many does a mom actually get to finish?).

If not, and you are a random fact aficionado, check out Every Day on Earth, a new release from Scholastic.  Authors Steve and Matthew Murrie have assembled 200 incredible facts into one fun, clever book.  They are organized into 8 categories -- Living Things, Earth, Food, the Human Body, Pop Culture, Space, Technology, and Sports.  Each "fun fact" is given its own page, with a paragraph or two of explanation, which provides good context for the figures.

The book is too old for my son (3 1/2), who doesn't have the relative grasp of the large numbers yet for most of the facts to mean much.  (That didn't damper his excitement when it arrived, however).  I enjoyed it, though, and it is definitely a book that I would have loved when I was at the appropriate age for it (the reading level is age 9-12), so I look forward to him growing into it.

Comment: Are you a fan of quirky facts? Are your kids? 

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book from the author at no cost in order to write this review.  If you click on any links in this post and purchase anything, we may recieve a small commission based on our affiliate relationship with