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Archive for August, 2014

For her fourth grade math class, Satori’s homework involved making a math puzzle that she would put on the wall for the other students to solve. She had some ideas, but wanted my help “making it creative”. Last week I helped her write a poem to put on the wall in a creative way, so I guess she figured I’d make this project look cool too. Although I really shouldn’t help so much with her homework in the future, I couldn’t resist.

We have her a mystery five digit number. In between the purple lines are clues to fill in all the digits. The creative touches to our number puzzle include magnetic numbers, we included just the five digits of her final number, but the person doing the puzzle would have to snap them in place. We used real coins as well as a real foam polygon shape. The picture is Satori and her teacher I took on the first day.

Number Puzzle

 Who can guess the Number Puzzle?!

One of my obsessions with homeschooling is learning at least one foreign language. Having a Spanish degree, it’s only natural that I’d push Spanish. So I’m always checking out new Spanish curriculum, and by now, we’ve tried quite a few and have stuck with our favorites. But a new one that kept popping up on the forums was The Fun Spanish by Kimberly Garcia. I managed to resist checking it out for quite some time but of course finally succumbed to a Google search. I found it on Amazon in paperback for $17.85, put it in my cart, but there it sat for over a week.

The Fun Spanish

A few days back I tried to find more reviews for the program, and finally found it on a new educational products website – Educents. After googling Educents, finding out they were founded in April 2013 by two women and are a legit company, I added some products to my cart. Wanting to support this cool startup company dedicated to providing K-12 educational resources for extremely affordable prices, I went through and completed the purchase.


From Oakland Local, 8/6/14

So I got The Fun Spanish in PDF format for only $7.50! Since it was a download, in seconds I was already printing out the book, in minutes started Proclicking it, and now I have an awesome lay-flat Spanish workbook!

The Fun Spanish describes itself…

The Fun Spanish is a fun, beginning Spanish program which teaches Spanish the Charlotte Mason way, one fun phrase at a time. Elementary children read fun Spanish sentences, write fun Spanish sentences, and draw fun silly pictures to aid in memory retention. With The Fun Spanish children draw pictures of green cats, orange rats, fish in trees, and blue houses with wings. Verb conjugations included are the following: ser (to be) , estar (to be), tener (to have), vivir (to live), comer (to eat), jugar (to play), saltar (to jump), ver (to see), oír (to hear), dormir (to sleep) and querer (to want). Besides verb conjugation, prepositions, and a host of vocabulary, children using The Fun Spanish also learn the fundamental structure of Spanish sentences.

Quickly leafing through it, I determined for our purposes it would be a quick Spanish review for Satori. She knows quite a bit of vocabulary and verbs, but needs practice in conjugating verbs. Luckily The Fun Spanish focuses big on Verb Conjugation. There seems to currently only be a Level 1 book out so far, and there are 17 lessons in Level 1, with five Days per lesson, making it a One Semester Curriculum. For children new to Spanish, the book suggests spending two weeks per lesson, reviewing between days, but we won’t need that, this is just a reinforcement and practice on what Satori has learned already.


Each Lesson is broken into five days, which covers two pages of the workbook. The format goes like this:

  1. Verb Conjugation – read, memorize, and copy the verb conjugations
  2. Vocabulary (about 7 words)
  3. Translation Practice – a sentence in English is provided to translate. I add a line to the page for Satori to write down the translation
  4. Model – A longer, descriptive Spanish sentence where the child is to copy the sentence and then draw the picture

The silly sentences in which the child is asked to draw is appealing to children, which earns the book its title. 🙂 Here we have what looks to be an engorged tick, but is really Un gato grande y verde con piernas largas (a green and large cat with long legs).

Un gato grande y verde


I think she was trying to make fun of our fat cat Kashi…






As we personally will be using this mostly as verb conjugation review, I’m going to list the verbs once again. Most of these she has learned in Getting Started with Spanish book, but I do see some new ones. I’m looking forward to her getting used to a well-rounded list of useful verbs, including stem-changing, irregular verbs.

  1. ser
  2. estar
  3. tener
  4. vivir
  5. comer
  6. jugar
  7. saltar
  8. ver
  9. oír
  10. dormir
  11. querer

The $7.50 PDF download looks like it will only last for five more days, according to Educents (making it good until 8/23/14), but maybe it will be offered again. It says it is 50% off a price which is still lower than Amazon’s current price.

Hopefully a new Fun Spanish level will be out this winter or early next spring, as I figure this curriculum will be super easy to stick to faithfully each week, and we’ll have completed Level 1 by then.

A post on my favorite homeschooling forum prompted me to chat a bit about the various colored pencils that have worked best for Satori ages 4 through 9. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, so when we first started homeschooling 4-5 years ago, I purchased several sets of different brands of colored pencils. I was most excited about the Prismacolors, but to my dismay, their leads kept breaking and so they never rarely used. Plus, one of our cats took to chewing on only this brand. You can see this in one of my photos below. This post is to recap some of our favorite colored pencils for various ages and situations. Although we love to draw, we’re not serious artists, this is just for fun.

For the Younger Satori – Lyras

Then I found the short, fat Lyra Ferbys! I actually did a short blog post on these back in 2009 I see. Anyway, we got the same vibrant, rich color, but with absolutely no breakage! This little snake filled with her 12 Ferbys followed us everywhere Satori wanted to draw.


For the Older Artist – Prismacolors

Over time, I eventually purchased a new set of Prismacolor pencils and these did not break quite so easily. However, a few might be lemons, sadly just this morning I had a red pencil break off a hefty chunk of lead. But I am seeing Satori prefer her Prismacolors over all the others now. She says they write the easiest. (I could write another whole blog post about her verses my writing pen preferences.) We have the widest color assortment of Prismas. Here they are on the right compared to various Lyra pencils.

Prismacolor vs Lyra

Prisma vs Lyras. Note the violet Prisma gnawed on by our cat, lol!


Lyras still rock, but they are harder to find. I haven’t been able to get more than 18 colors in a set, although I think if you try hard, you can get up to 36. Most of ours are the fat kind, which is hard to keep a sharp point, but those points never break! They also have a buttery smooth blend yet don’t wear down so fast you can to keep sharpening them.

I think both Prismacolor and Lyra colored pencils rock equally, but since we can more easily find a wider color assortment of Prismacolors, we’ll be sticking with these going forward. If I find an equal set of Lyras, we might switc

Yes, we’ve tried quite a lot of colored pencils. The solid woodless fuchsia one below is a Koh-I-Noor Progresso, which are fun and a delight to sharpen. The leads never break, the entire pencil is the lead. They have a weighty feel, but the drawback is that they just LOVE to snap in half. They’re so very fragile that if one rolls off the desk, we invariably end up with two shorter pencils. So most of our Koh-I-Noor is small, stubby half pencils and I just throw them away then. We also have a set of the Derwent Coloursoft, which is the dark brown pencil with red color below. Nice, but for some reason, they color laydown doesn’t feel as smooth as our favorite Prismacolors/Lyras. It almost feels dry and scratchy, but the color still looks nice. The pencils are a tad more thicker than most of our pencils.




For Watercolors – Derwent

The Derwent Watercolor Pencils are our favorite colored pencils that, with a brush of water, turn pencil drawings into watercolor masterpieces! I’d recommend a Water Brush to use with watercolor pencils for better control. Please note that we haven’t tried other watercolor pencils, so there’s a good chance we might prefer another brand over the Derwents.



Inexpensive Non-Artwork – Crayola Twistable Erasables

For homework, I try to keep a set of Crayola Twistable Erasable pencils. The quality is nowhere near the above that I’ve reviewed, and if your child is used to that, they might be a disappointment, especially when trying to write with them. But if Satori has to lay down a bunch of color for some homework, or write short words/phrases, these do the trick. They’re inexpensive, so we can keep purchasing them to add a bit of color to homework. They erase very well too!
Erasable Colored Pencils

The combination of being both “twistable” and “erasable” seems to offer only 12 colors, which isn’t as fun, but for homework, who cares! The downfalls are that the pencils are not labeled, so colorblind people can’t use them like they’re used to using Crayola brands which are usually labeled. Some people have noted the entire lead falls out, but we haven’t noticed that yet.

Crayola Erasable Twistables

So that’s our colored pencil review! I think for Christmas, we should get a new set of Prismacolors, some of them are quite bit up and worn down to small stubs already.

I’m sad to say that we are trying public school for the very first time. In fact, Satori has already started her fourth grade last week at our local elementary school. I can’t believe how early they start, but she was very pumped to start attending school. She actually still wants to homeschool to keep her edge, so we’ll continue to learn at home by afterschooling.

Here’s updated photos of our precious girl, taken the day before her first day of school.



Naturally, as a self-professed homeschool curriculum addict, I was dying to know what her new curriculum would consist of, and thought the teacher would cover that in the Back to School Informational Night, but all they talked about was rules and stuff. All I know is they are using a Singapore Math, the Math in Focus version. Satori tells me that the workbooks they use are the same as our good old Singapore Math we’ve always used, just with a different cover. I don’t know.

For our 2014-2015 Afterschool, we’ll be using Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems, Life of Fred (we’re currently on Honey book), Story of the World History Year 4, logic workbooks every week. We’re going to continue learning Spanish with various resources, as her current school system doesn’t cover any foreign languages in elementary school. She’ll continue piano lessons from a teacher outside of school. We are also going to get serious about some technology/programming resources, starting with a Youth Digital course in 3D modeling that she’s been wanting for over a year.

It’ll be quite a lifestyle change for Mom, who has been busy homeschooling Satori for the past five years, and prior to that, was very busy with my online business. I have volunteered at her school to help with math and technology, so I’m going to be sure I keep up with my own math and technology skills in the meantime. 🙂 Hope to blog again soon about all the cool new resources we’re still using!

Last year we started enjoying watching CNN Student News as a family, which has been a quick and safe way for us to incorporate current events. It’s designed for middle and high school, but so far we haven’t seen anything that she hasn’t been able to handle, and we started in third grade last year. We’d sit around the table and watch the ten minutes of student news over dinner. Now normally we don’t have the television on at dinner, but this is a fun way to spark conversation.

It’s a free resource, simply head to Monday through Friday during the typical school year. Each episode briefly discusses a selection of today’s relevant topics as it spins the world covering the chosen events. There’s always a short quiz question which Satori and my husband race to answer before it delves into one of the topics. There’s always a way to preview the transcript if you wish to make sure the day’s news is okay for your child. Here is today’s transcript.

CNN Student news

CNN Student news resumes today

CNN Student News returns on Monday, August 11th, kicking off the 2014-2015 school year! Our commercial-free coverage includes reports on violence in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola in West Africa. We also introduce a new way for schools to get announced on our Roll Call, and we conclude with a “royal” cattle call. Hope you can join us on our first day back! News returns on Monday, August 11th, kicking off the 2014-2015 school year! Our commercial-free coverage includes reports on violence in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola in West Africa. We also introduce a new way for schools to get announced on our Roll Call, and we conclude with a “royal” cattle call. Hope you can join us on our first day back! 


I would love to conclude this blog post with some corny puns, but I guess I’m just not that cool. If you think your kids are ready, check it out today!