Lego Learning: Four Links and Ways to Take it Further

LEGO LearningIt’s been a bit since I’ve shared some Lego resources we’re using in Joseph’s unit study and I wouldn’t want to leave you in need of some Lego goodness.  Here are four things Joseph’s checked out this week along with ways to take each one further for a bit of learning:

  • 10 Lego Facts from National Geographic Kids UK - Learn random facts like how many minifigures were made in one year and the tallest Lego tower in the world. Of course there is an easy math opportunity to convert the measurement from meters to feet and then actually measuring out how big that really is.  Be sure to challenge your child to make his own Lego tower – how tall can they build?
  • Video of a Lego Model Master Competition – This four minute clip shares one unique job application process – building with Legos!  One way to take it further: scoop up a small bin full of Legos pieces and have your child create some new Lego builds before the timer beeps.
  • Blocumentary The Lego Master Builders: Steve Gerling – Learn about one artistic man who started out as a carver and now works with Lego.  There are several more Blocumentaries on YouTube to check out if your child is interested.  This one gives a great opportunity to discuss computer aided designing, building on a large scale, and applying skills from other fields to Lego building.
  • Megafactories: Lego – National Geographic AU gives us an inside peek into the Lego production and quality control process.  Talk about robot-driven production lines, packaging in your home, or explore measurement and accuracy.  Grab a favorite item and challenge your child to design packaging for it!

What Lego topic would YOU like to know more about?  Have you tried any Lego building challenges with your children?  I will be sharing a whole post of Lego challenges later this month, be sure to check back later!

Where Courage Calls – Bethany House Review

Where Courage CallsSometimes I am wary about reading a new book.  The back cover sounds good enough but these days you never know just what you’ll read between the covers.  When I was offered Where Courage Calls to review I had no such reservations because one of the authors is Janette Oke.  She’s written award winning Christian fiction for decades.  Her daughter Laurel Oke Logan joins her as co-author for Where Courage Calls, the story of Beth Thatcher, a society girl who leaves everything behind to teach in Coal Valley, a rugged mining town.

Beth makes her journey to Coal Valley, overcoming challenges along the way, only to discover a town full of grieving widows and children, many of whom lost fathers and sons in a mining accident.  Beth’s first teaching assignment may very well be her last!

I enjoyed reading Where Courage Calls!  I found myself wondering how Beth would wade through the challenges and if she would give up and return home after her first year was up.  Add in two Mounties, one a longtime friend and the other a quiet, kind rescuer, and there is a sweet and funny element of romance in the story as well.

{Disclaimer: I received this book free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions presented herein are my own.}

Week in Review Zoo

IMG_4378-001It has been a great week and the highlight for everyone was a perfect spring day with a family trip to the zoo accompanied by dear friends.  It was our first trip to the zoo in quite a while and the very first with Mason using his wheelchair. I took more than 300 pictures so I’ll share some of them throughout this post.  Enjoy!

4.102We saw many beautiful and amazing creatures God created.  We saw very large animals like these bears and smaller ones like these flying fox bats.  My children were thrilled to see “Sven” the reindeer.  (Can anyone name that movie?) After close to 4 1/2 hours we headed home with still a third or more of the zoo to explore.  We’ll be going back soon!

4.101In homeschool the week went pretty much as planned.  I shared our plans here and won’t bore you by going over the details again. Children made progress in math, read lovely books, studied the gospel, explored their focus areas, and got it done.  There was more or less enthusiasm depending on the child and the day. ;)

4.10It hit me yesterday that two big events are coming up in the next two weeks.  Next week Mason has Myelo Clinic at the hospital.  It is a full team appointment where we meet with each of his specialists for checkups and set up any appointments they decide we need.  I expect a few, including one that will lead to more surgeries, to be added to my planner.

4.103The second big event is that I head to the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati a few days before my birthday!  I have not been able to attend a homeschool convention since before I got pregnant with Mason.  I’m going with my sister, who is driving up from out of state.  It’s an amazing opportunity with hundreds of workshops and hundreds of vendors in the curriculum hall.  I can’t wait to have some focused teacher development time!

To go along with that I’m trying to wrap my head around planning for next year AND for high school.  Can you believe it?  Makayla will be an 8th grader this fall.  High school is just around the corner and she’ll be doing her very first high school course this fall.  No, it’s not math. ;)  Next fall I will officially have these grades at my house: 8th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, K, PreK, plus two little ones.  We will do some multilevel teaching for the 4th grade and under crowd but there will be plenty of one on one learning to go around as well.  I love my one room schoolhouse family!  The life that having all these ages breathes into learning is something hard to describe.

Are you homeschooling a middle or high schooler?  Do you have little ones in the mix too?  Have you made any curriculum decisions or plans for next year?  I hope to share more about ours in the coming month.  Would anyone be interested in a link up to share plans?  Let me know and I’ll host one!

Linked to Collage Friday.

Reading Aloud to Multiple Ages: What to do with little ones in the mix

Reading Aloud to Multiple AgesReading aloud is one of the most important things we do in our homeschool but it isn’t always easy to accomplish in a real-life family.  From finding time to finding books to getting everyone to sit quietly there are many potential challenges to read aloud time.  One challenge is reading to multiple ages, especially when you have little ones in the mix.  A reader sent me this question:

Tristan, I would love a new post on what you do with your little boys while you read aloud to your older kids. Reading aloud is a challenge since the book we are reading is way over their heads!  (They are almost 3 and almost 5…we are reading Journey to the Center of the Earth.)  I have tried Legos and other things like that during Mommy Reading Time…maybe I just need to get more organized about having something different every day!  Anyway, I would love an update on what works for you!  Thanks! ~Carrine

What do I do with my younger 4 boys, ages 5, 3, 2, 9mos, during read alouds?  I read aloud to them!  Reading aloud is a family event and even the younger ones participate. I don’t remember many times I’ve tried to read different chapter books aloud to different age groups, mostly because I’m lazy!  I know there are moms who read different chapter books aloud to each child but it just never worked for me.  I read one story to everyone and each takes what they can from the read aloud experience.  I DO believe in reading aloud books on all levels and I DO believe in reading aloud from multiple books at once.

With that as a frame of reference, here are my read aloud tips.  These have all worked well in family at various times.  Your mileage may vary! :

  1. Give them something to do with their hands -  I have done paper dolls, coloring materials, playdoh, Legos, Lauri puzzles, and much more.  Some people can’t listen without something for their hands to do and will be disruptive if you ask them to simply sit and listen.  However, give them something for their hands and you will have a completely different creature on your hands! It helps to teach a child to play on a towel so they stay in one spot, or at the table.
  2. Feed them – When you are first starting out a new book it helps to sit everyone down at the table to lunch or a snack and dive in reading to them while they chew.  Let’s face it, sometimes we’re not sure we want to get into a new story, it might just be boring.  However, if we’re busy eating we’ll listen for a little while, and that little while may be all the time it takes to get us hooked.
  3. Shut them in a room with you – I haven’t done this in a while but with little ones it can be great.  Move the read aloud to a bedroom, put up most of the toys, and everyone can sit where they wish or play quietly while mommy reads aloud.  A baby gate on the doorway keeps everyone in the same room.
  4. Practice and Praise them – Like anything, getting your children to the point where they will sit relatively quietly while you read aloud for a half hour or more takes time.  Start small, with 5 or 10 minutes.  Praise children profusely for playing quietly, and gently remind them when they get too loud or rowdy.
  5. Vary the length and difficulty of books you read.  Depending on your children’s ages choose a wide variety of books to read aloud.  We read picture books, children’s chapter books, classics, and everything in between.  Some days I send to each child to choose a book from the shelves.  We then sit together and read them all.  We may have board books, picture books, nonfiction books, and a chapter book in the pile.
  6. Start with a picture book.  Settle everyone for read aloud time and read a book on the younger boy’s level FIRST.  Then pass out the activity for their hands and start reading the chapter book for the big kids.
  7. Choose a theme.  Instead of getting into one big chapter book, (though I highly recommend them!), grab a handful of books about Ancient Egypt or penguins or trains.  Choose a handful of Franklin the Turtle books, or Magic School Bus books, or any other series to read for the day. Get books from the library with the children choosing the topics.  That week each child’s topic gets one day as the read aloud focus.
  8. Read from several chapter books in a day.  If you really want to be reading something aimed at your older children, do so.  Do you feel mommy guilt that your younger or middle children aren’t getting anything out of that book?  Then by all means start a second chapter book aimed toward their ages. But don’t exclude the little ones from the older read aloud and be sure to include the older children in the younger kids read aloud.  They may enjoy visiting old favorites or taking a turn doing the reading aloud while you play quietly with the little ones.
  9. Break it up.  Lately our read aloud is happening in a few shorter bursts during the day.  I’m almost always reading a few pages to a chapter during lunch but at other random times during the day we drop everything, snuggle up, and read.  You can give it some little kid friendly name to call out, like “Freeze and Read”.  The idea being the kids freeze what they’re doing and you read for a few minutes.  Maybe “Snack Attack” works better, prepare a small snack and then call the kids over to munch while you read.  ;)

Another thing I want to mention is that audio books can be a wonderful addition to your read aloud time.  We listen to audio books every day.  I remember that once upon a time I just wasn’t up for reading aloud.  I was in the depths of morning sickness, had a baby, a toddler, and several more young children.  By using an audio book for the story I was freed up to play quietly with the little ones, lay on the couch trying not to throw up, or even feed the baby while we all enjoyed wonderful literature.

Do you have any tips for read aloud time when
you have little ones and older children?

Do you have any more read aloud questions for ME? 

Learning This Week – Planned and Unplanned

The week is off to a good start so I thought I would take a moment to write up what learning is planned, share some unplanned learning, and tell our upcoming learning adventure.

Focus Area

As we are winding down our school year each child has chosen a focus area. Makayla is focusing on finishing Exploring Creation with General Science.  She’s in Module 11 and today she has an experiment with raw chicken bones.  She was not excited to learn she has to get the raw meat off herself.  ;)

IMG_4289Joseph is enjoying his Lego study.  He has been learning about Lego design, made a Lego mosaic, and found a new book at the library called Beautiful Lego that is really amazing.  I think the most unusual creation in that book is the frog dissection made out of Legos!

Emma and snakes are getting along just fine.  She’s learned quite a bit and I think she enjoys lapbooking enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if she requested another lapbook to do when this study is over.

Daniel is working along with the praying mantis information.  Yesterday he learned about praying mantis sizes and measured out the smallest, the largest, and the average sizes.  It was totally creepy to realize one species of mantis grows to 10 inches long.


Much to my children’s dismay we never really get away from math.  Daniel is on lesson 18 in Math U See Alpha which is the beginning of subtraction.  As always he took the new lesson in stride.  Emma is on lesson 25 in Math U See Gamma where she has multiple digit multiplication with carrying.  This week she’s doing her math twice a day, doing the front of the worksheet first thing and the back of the worksheet after her other subjects are done.  She just really needed a break between all that math.  Joseph is on lesson 26 of the same math book and working on factors this week, such as listing all the factors of 16 (1, 2, 4, 8, 16).  Makayla is doing expanded notation and exponential notation in Math U See Pre-Algebra lesson 6.

Reading and Reading Aloud

Our current read aloud book is The Saturdays and my children are loving it.  So am I!  Then each child has an assigned reading book:

Scriptures and Family Devotional

The older three are in the Book of Mormon, Daniel is in the New Testament.  Some are using Discover the Scriptures guides to go along with their study.  I read to the younger four boys.

In family devotional we have been reading about Elijah and Elisha.  Our new song we are learning is The Family is of God.  We are learning the Articles of Faith as a family too.  The goal is for every child over age 3 to be able to say them.  When that happens we’re taking and ice cream picnic up to the picnic area beside the Columbus Ohio Temple and then we will walk the grounds as a family.

Makayla has a few other things she is working on, being four grades above my 3rd grade and under crowd.  She is writing and creating art daily.  The Tinkersketch challenge is going well and each day she creates art inspired by the prompt.  (And yes, I’m still doing it right along side her.  She has been playing around with Mango Languages, which we have free access to through our library.  She is practicing piano too.

Unplanned Lessons

IMG_4294Of course there are always the unplanned lessons happening.  Today, for instance, the city street department showed up to address the sinkhole on the edge of the street between our house and the neighbors’.  We talked to the men before they started, asking about the project.  They expect to be working on and off all week as they figure out what is going on and hopefully fix it.

IMG_4295The children watched as they used a saw to cut the asphalt road about 15 feet from our front door, broke up and shoveled away debris, and moved heavy equipment in, unloaded large pipes, and ultimately covered everything with a large metal plate to await their return tomorrow.

A great movie is another way for some unplanned learning.  Makayla turned on Fiddler on the Roof Monday evening and the first thing the kids did this morning was turn it back on to watch the rest.  Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof?  There are many good discussions that arise from movies like this.  Some of ours this time revolved around the following:

  • Arranged marriages versus having some say in who you marry.
  • Authority – parents to children, husband to wife, and government police to the governed.
  • Racism and people forced to leave their homes by the governing authority.
  • Traditions of different religions.

Learning Adventures

We even have a learning adventure on the calendar this week.  Thursday will be our first trip to the zoo since last fall.  There are new animals, babies recently born, and lots to see and explore.  Even better, we are going with dear homeschool friends of ours!  They have children close in age to four of ours and excitement abounds to go to the zoo with ‘best friends’.

What learning do you have planned this week?

Social Media in My Home

Social-MediaAn anonymous reader asked me several great questions related to social media, so I’m answering with an entire post!

1) How do you have time for social media? I have half the babies you do and I homeschool too, but I do not have time for social media.  The answer to this one is simple, though it may not be what you expect.  You make time for what you want to do.  When I get online to check email, blog, or be online I have a series of tabs that automatically load. One is Facebook. I can quickly look at it and interact.  Or I can ignore it.  For some people Facebook becomes a time warp – they lose track of time wandering in it’s vortex.  Reading blogs, cruising Pinterest, checking in on homeschool forums, doing family history work - everything online can be come a time-wasting vortex.  Too much of anything is still too much.

I have to practice self-control with ANY online activity and so far that has translated well into time spent on Facebook. My goal is to keep it under 5 minutes each time.  It helps that I don’t have a smart phone so I actually have to go sit at my computer or turn the internet on for the Kindle Fire to get to Facebook.  These are measures I put in place on purpose, checkpoints where I can ask myself “Is there something else I should be doing right now?”  Often the answer is yes and I go do that thing instead.

2) Have you always had social media? No, I’m a relative newcomer.  Last year my daughter turned 12 and her youth leaders at church use a private Facebook group to communicate with parents and youth about weekly activities, lessons, assignments, and more.  At the same time the women’s group at church began a private Facebook group to connect the sisters, share needs, and uplifting messages.  I learned how to use my husband’s Facebook account to check the private groups regularly.  I would also browse the recent items in his stream to see what our extended family was up to.  We have extended family living in 8 other states and 2 other countries.  It was really nice to be able to interact with these family members around what was going on in their life currently unlike by email where I had no clue what was happening unless they brought it up.

It did get annoying wading through the other people/company entries my husband ‘Liked’.  He is a fan of technical and political sites while I would rather be a fan of homeschool sites.  ;) I had to make sure any time I commented that I mentioned it was me and not my husband.  Still, it was doable.

Then I became an Independent Lilla Rose Consultant and I needed my own Facebook account.  I am part of a group of consultants and we have a large private FB group to do online training.  There is a lot of information passed through the group.  I got my own FB account last November for this.  It’s worked out better than I had hoped.

The only other social media I have is Instagram, which is new to me this month.  I joined so Makayla could participate in the TinkerLab Tinkersketch challenge.  Art is one of her passions and as a homeschooling mom I try to support that.  This challenge encourages her to try new things, stretching her artistic wings in new directions on a daily basis.  She wanted me to sketch with her, so I do.  She likes to share her work and Instagram makes it easy to share.  It will pop it over on Facebook for us too at the same time if we check that box.  She loves seeing others’ work for the same prompt.

Wait, is Pinterest social media?  I don’t think of it that way, I think of it as a visual way to organize information for homeschooling, gospel learning, and home.  However you look at it, I am on Pinterest.  Again, I didn’t join until after I had a FB account, so I’ve been on there about 5 months.  My Pinterest time is usually the middle of the night holding a baby who should be sleeping.  I search for whatever is currently on my mind for school and pin anything useful.

3) How do you justify your time on social media? I feel like it’s not benefial to our family, but you just tied it in to homeschool so maybe it is. I really lump all my online time together so I could turn the question around – how do YOU justify your time online visiting my blog and other places?  How is it beneficial to your family?  For me, Facebook has become a way to connect with family members across the miles on a regular, almost daily basis.  When my cousin from Canada who lives in the states now announced her pregnancy I got to see the video.  When my nephews competed in their first archery event I saw pictures as it was happening.  My children’s grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more see regular peeks into our life here in Ohio because of social media.

It has also been a real help during Mason’s hospitalizations, a fast way to keep everyone updated on how surgery and recovery are going.  Blogging isn’t something I can do easily while at the hospital without a computer but posting updates to Facebook takes 30 seconds.

It gives me a quick way to keep current on homeschool blogs I enjoy (many have a FB page and will share their posts).  It gives me notice on freebies for homeschooling too.

4) Is your husband on social media? Your oldest child? My husband has been on social media for years.  He’s a tech lover and while we don’t always agree on how much technology becomes too much, he’s an amazing man who does his best to navigate the online waters just like the rest of us.  My children do NOT have social media accounts.  The minimum age requirement for Facebook is 13, which none of my children have reached.  I know that doesn’t stop others from giving their child an account but we’ll stick with it.  Makayla is content with email.  She regularly emails friends from church, family, homeschool friends, and even reaches out to authors of books she’s loved (and has received responses!).

5) If so, what are your rules? for them and for you?  Our social media rules are simple:

  • Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say in front of the bishop at church.  :)
  • Jason and I have full access to one another’s accounts.  We are able and welcome to log in at any time to browse what’s there.  This will be true for our children’s accounts as well.

6) Basically, what benefits do you see from social media? I can see the benefit from having a blog (a written record), but somehow I don’t understand the wisdom in social media (facebook especially). I think I’ve pretty much covered this in the other questions.  Social media, specifically Facebook, is a quick way to reach out to family living far away, to share our life with them more regularly than I post on the blog, to be aware of their day to day life, to keep aware of youth activities, lessons, and assignments for church, to give updates when Mason is hospitalized, and to keep up with some homeschool favorites and freebies.  It is also a major resource for my continuing training work as an Independent Lilla Rose Consultant. Speaking of which, have you visited my store lately? :)

To my anonymous questioner – thank you for asking all your questions!  Asking questions is a great way to learn and see new possibilities outside our own experience.

To everyone else – do YOU have any questions for me?  Leave a comment or use the Contact Me tab at the top of the page.  You can also use the search bar to see if I’ve blogged about a topic before.  I’ve been writing for more than 7 years and have blogged about a little bit of everything, from homeschooling to food allergies to large family parenting. 

Many Ages, Many Needs

This week I have really felt the pull of all the demands of mothering this brood of eight lovely children.  Not so much the cooking and cleaning, though there is a lot of that to go around, but the needs of each child as an individual.  I have an almost teenager clear down to a baby with just about every age and stage in between.  Except they don’t stay in their ages and stages, they are constantly growing up! Case in point – Exhibit S (for Samuel):

4.3Samuel was introduced to table time this week, a practice that truly saves my sanity.  At nearly 9 months old he is crawling everywhere and loves being right where the action is.  Mason, being a good big brother, was showing Samuel the ropes.  “This is how you use washable markers little brother.  And if you smile really cute then mom will laugh and take pictures.  But don’t grab a sharpie or she is a lot less amused.  Stick with the washable markers.” Need more encouragement for homeschooling with little ones around?  Here are more of my thoughts on the subject.

IMG_4170-001Caleb and Oliver are my preschoolers.  They were consumed by playdoh for two days.  Caleb even multitasks – singing songs from the movie Frozen while he squishes and creates.  I have learned a secret to containing the playdoh mess.  Okay, two secrets.

  1. Don’t use old playdoh.  When it starts to dry out a bit and get firm it begins to crumble.  Crumbling = a huge mess.  I try to only hand my little ones soft, squishy playdoh.
  2. Only pass out small cans of playdoh until they can be trusted with it.  Caleb can only be trusted to keep the playdoh at the table 75% of the time.  So on days when I know I will be distracted I have him use the seatbelt on his booster seat.  He’s stuck in one place and I don’t find playdoh stuck to the bedroom wall, in the bathroom sink, or in the refrigerator (all places I’ve found it before).

The other big hit with my younger boys this week has been Duplos.  We have quite a lot of them and when not in use they live in the attic.  Well, Daddy brought the tubs down Wednesday night and for much of the each day my living room looks like this:

IMG_4232We just pick up before quiet time and bed time.  The rest of the day the Duplos migrate onto the floor, the piano, and just about everywhere else.  You know the saying about shoveling during a snowstorm?  It applies to Duplos!

CollagesPersonalities abound in this home – strong personalities and quiet ones.  The strong ones need guidance as much as the quiet ones need support so they do not fall through the cracks. Some need extra cuddles and others need extra quiet space.  Some need mom nearby while they work and others can plop down anywhere and get school accomplished.  It has been a week of slogging through math battles with Emma.  I remember similar days with Makayla.  She gets frustrated, I get frustrated, and sometimes we just have to take a break for a bit of fun before going back at it.

IMG_4219I keep forgetting to give an update on Oliver’s time with All About Reading.  We really are using it at HIS pace.  He asks to do it most school days and I keep our time short and our lesson varied and active.  He is blending 3 letter words about half of the time now which means we are inching ahead.  We are in lesson 2 and the most important thing is that Oliver still LOVES it.

Here are the blog posts from earlier this week in case you missed one:

I will be sharing some book and dvd reviews in the near future, so keep an eye out for those.

One More Thing:

This weekend my family will be listening to living prophets speak.  Will you join us?

I’m linking to Collage Friday.

Lego Learning – Start at the Very Beginning

LEGO LearningThere are so many starting points for a Lego unit study.  Ami from Walking By the Way even offers a free 5 day internet linked one complete with lapbook pieces if you want one laid out and lasting just a week.  We’re using her lapbook pieces but will be moving deeper in most of the areas because this is a passion of Joseph’s.  We decided to start at the very beginning and find out how the company started.  Joseph looked for answers in the Lego books we have and sometimes used the internet for research. You can check out the history of the Lego company on their website beginning here.

Our questions for this part of the unit study began as follows:

  • Who created Legos? Ole Kirk Kristiansen
  • What country is he from?  Denmark
  • What language do they speak? Danish
  • What was his job background before making Legos? He was a master carpenter and joiner. His company made stepladders, ironing boards, stools and wooden toys.
  • Can you find Denmark on a map? We used our world map, found where we live, and decided what modes of transportation could get us to Denmark


  • Map Work – Now please grab the sharpies and trace Denmark and it’s neighbors.  You can build it out of Legos, too, if you wish. We printed this free map to trace.
  • What landforms make up Denmark?  It happens to have a penninsula, islands, and even an archipelago.  After learning more about these landforms in Geography from A to Z or online here grab playdoh or Legos and build these landforms.
  • Research the weather in this country.  How does that compare to where we live?


  • What does Denmark’s flag look like? Can you build the country’s flag out of Legos?  Check out the history and legends surrounding the flag here.  Design your own flag out of Legos if you wish.
  • What is the government of Denmark like?  Who is in charge of the country? Here is a page from the official website of Denmark with some details.
  • What were Lego toys first made out of? Wood – but they weren’t bricks!  The first was a duck.
  • What machine did Ole buy that ultimately brought about the Lego bricks we know and love today? A Plastic injection-molding machine.
  • What does that machine do?  In short, it melts granules of plastic, fills molds with that liquid, cools it, and pops out shaped plastic pieces.
  • When did the Lego company make their first plastic interlocking bricks?  1949.
  • What was the first Lego SET theme created in 1955 and what sort of things were included?  Town Plan No. 1 had a board, cars, trucks, people, trees, detailed traffic signs, a hotel, gas station, and other buildings to make out of bricks.
  • When did Lego patent interlocking bricks?  January 28, 1958.  Look at the diagrams and compare the bottoms to some of your current Lego bricks.
  • How many ways can you combine two eight stud Lego bricks(2×4 rectangles)?  Make a chart and start building to find out!  Would you believe it is 24?  Three eight stud Lego bricks can be combined in 1,060 ways.  Six eight stud bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 ways. (* This information is found on page 35 of The Lego Book copyright 2012).

As you can see there are so many things you could learn about the history of the Lego company.  I am not going to give you our entire list because your child will have different interests than mine.  Joseph, for example, loved looking to see what the new Lego developments were in the years his grandparents, parents, and even siblings were born. He made predictions about what future Lego developments are coming in the next 5-10 years. He loved the Lego Elements to Remember timeline in The Lego Book where he could see when things like wheels, motors, and the knight’s horse were released.

What are some questions you would include in a study of the history of the Lego company?  Do you have any Lego related questions for Joseph and I to answer?  Just leave a comment!

This post is part of a series on Lego Learning.  In case you missed it, you can find the first post here: Lego Learning – Books Joseph is Using.

Book Club Today – The Mysterious Benedict Society

mysterious benedict societyToday was one of my children’s favorite activities – Homeschool Book Club.  This month we read The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  At 477 pages long I was slightly nervous to see if it would catch and keep the attention of all my children or not.  I needn’t have worried – it was a hit at my house.  About 150 pages into the book I got a cough and so we picked up the audio book for the story.  We have listened to the audio book twice and a few days ago began the second book in the series.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the book let me give you a tiny amount of background information.  Children take a series of unusual tests that include puzzles and physical challenges and four children pass the tests.  These children become the Mysterious Benedict Society, a team with a variety of talents.  One child has a perfect memory, one is extremely good at puzzles, one is adept at all things physical, and one is a bit of a mystery, though she is persistent and determined at anything she does.

For book club today our children went through a series of challenges that the Mysterious Benedict Society would be able to do, based on their talents.  First we tackled some physical challenges.

4.21Children were given 20 seconds to stack cups as tall as they could.  It was fun and funny to watch.

4.22Then each child put a popsicle stick in their mouth.  We had wooden animal pieces on the floor and each child was to pick up and stack on their stick as many as they could balance. Once they got the hang of that they teamed up like the MBS.  The challenge now was to stack wooden animals on your partner’s craft stick – while they were stacking animals onto yours.  Much laughing, ducking, and fun commenced.

4.2Makayla had prepared the puzzle challenge after browsing the online games found on The Mysterious Benedict Society website.  She drew picture puzzles for the children to translate into a word.

IMG_4144Now that their minds were warmed up we divided into two teams for the memory challenge.  If you’ve ever been to a baby shower you may have played a variation of this game.  I brought a tray of items and allowed the teams to look at the tray for 1 minute.  Then I removed the tray from sight.  Team 1 called out all the items they could remember seeing on the tray.  We counted how many they got right.  Then it was Team 2′s turn.  The teams had different strategies and varying levels of success with this.

IMG_4162The final challenge was aimed at the oldest children but in the end ages 6 to 12 participated.  In the book the children communicate secret messages off the island they infiltrate using Morse code and a flashlight.  We had a short lesson on Morse code explaining that there are many ways to adapt it.  You can flash a light in long and short bursts, write dashes (long) and dots (short), make beeps or other noises in long and short bursts, and so on.

IMG_4161I found a really helpful site online that has the Morse code chart as well as a Morse code tree.  The tree really is brilliant.  In essence, you place your finger on the start and move left or right down the branches.  Dashes (long) move you left while dots (short) move you right.  Would you like to try it?  Great! So if the code was dash, dash you land on the “M”.  If the code is dash, dot you land on the “N”.  If the code is dot, dash, dot you land on the “R”.  The kids all understood quickly and I revealed a poster with a Morse code message.  They worked as a team to translate the message:

IMG_4164At which point the challenges were done and it was time to eat, visit, and play.  It is fun for the kids and for the mommies!

A funny moment: for the next 25 minutes the oldest two children spoke to each other only in Morse code.  I’m serious!  And in case you ever wonder if little ones pick up things from hearing their older siblings there was a random moment when the 5 year old little girl in our friend’s family walked past the big girls and spoke in Morse code too – something along the lines of “dash, dot, dot”, which is the letter “D”.  ;)

Our next book club title is The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright.  We picked it up from the library today and will dive in tomorrow morning.  I’ve never read it so I get to meet the characters for the first time right along side my children.

Have you read The Mysterious Benedict Society or The Saturdays?  What did you think of them?  If you want to learn more about how we set up our Homeschool Book Club this post from a few years ago explains the details.

Need Some Creativity in Your Day? Plus a small information reveal.

Are you always looking for some fun and easy art inspiration for April?  Do you need a little bit of encouragement for creativity?  This month some of my family will be participating in TinkerLab’s Sketchbook Challenge.

There is a prompt for each day to use as inspiration for a sketch. Five minutes is all you need – even if that means keeping your sketchbook in the bathroom. Yes, I’ve seriously considered doing just that.  Participants are invited to share their daily sketch on Facebook or Instagram with the tag #tinkersketch. Did I just reveal I’m on Facebook and wading into the waters of Instagram? Click the links to find me. And if you have tips for this whole Instagram thing I’m open to them, I’m trying to figure out how to do it with my Kindle Fire and it’s a whole new world of confusing things for this smart-phone-less, can’t-even-text Momma.

But what do I DO for my sketch?

Anything the prompt brings to mind!  TinkerLab’s example is a great one:

“You can interpret the daily prompts however you want. “Drips” to one person may mean flicking watercolors off a toothbrush and to another person it might mean covering a page in marker and then leaving the page outside on a drizzly morning. You can take them literally or not — this is completely up to you.” 1

I love that this is open-ended and offers room for creativity!  As a mom to eight children I sometimes get so caught up in the day to day routine that creativity is left on a high shelf to gather dust.  After all, creativity can be messy, and if I’m making a mess the kids are sure to want to join in.  Moments later the whole room looks like a tornado passed through.  For April I’m embracing the mess and bringing creativity back into my day.

What do you do as a mom to keep your creativity flowing? If you or your children are up for the TinkerLab Sketchbook Challenge let me know! I would love to see some of your sketches this month and hope to share a few of ours.