Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reviewing a Game: Spot It!

I have been working on tweaking my summer car bag this week. I already had most of what I needed, but I added a snazzy new picnic blanket I found at Target and a few new games. One day, when we had time in between one kid's practice and another, I told the kids that instead of running yet another errand we were going to go the park, set the blanket down in the shade, and play a game. They were thrilled, and we decided to make games-on-a-blanket a regular thing.

I have been feeling a little bummed that summer has been going by at warp speed and my kids are so busy with practices, camps, and other things that there isn't much time for the lake or the pool. But games outside feels summery too, and it is actually do-able with our crazy schedule.

Spot It!

This week we are playing a new to us game - Spot It!, which I purchased earlier this summer.  I love that it is inexpensive, versatile, and easy to transport. 

Look at the cute little tin it comes in! All the cards (55 of them) and directions fit right inside. Round cards, how cool is that?

How to Play

There are many variations of this game, which makes it fun. They all involve matching a shape on your card to another card as quickly as you can. The shapes are the same color, but not the same size. This is deceptively difficult! We only tried the first three variations but we're looking forward to trying the rest. In the first variation, called The Tower, everyone starts with one card. You put the rest of the cards in the center for a draw pile. 

Then you flip over the top card in the draw pile.

And try to match a shape on it to a shape on your own card, before someone else does.

In this case you would want to yell "candle!", because both your card and the draw pile card have a purple candle. If you call out your card first, you keep the card from the draw pile. This game really makes your brain work! Whoever gets the most cards wins.

Spot It! is an awesome brain training game, helping to build visual skills, attention span, and memory. The manufacturer calls it "a game of visual perception" Younger kids would also learn some vocabulary and simple reading skills from this game. It is one of those rare games that really feels perfect for all ages. And age isn't necessarily an advantage either....I lost every time the first day I played against my kids. And I was trying!

There are a total of five game variations in Spot It! We also played The Well, in which one card is placed in the middle of the blanket and all other cards are dealt out. Each player flips their cards right side up in front of them. 

When the center card gets flipped up everybody tries to match one of the shapes on any of their cards to the card in "the well". This gets a bit frenetic! The matched cards get placed on top of the center card, and the object is to get rid of your cards first.

We haven't played the other three variations,  like The Hot Potato and The Poisoned Gift yet. My kiddos liked the first two variations so much we haven't yet made it to the rest. But I am sure we will. I played this game once with four people and once with two, and lower numbers of people definitely make it easier.

Game Summary

  • Recommended ages: 7+ according to the manufacturer.  A younger kid could definitely play, but might get frustrated, depending on who they played with. 
  • Number of Players: 2-8 
  • Time to Play: 5-15 minutes, depending on which variation you play and how fast you are.
  • Perfect for: Keeping in the car to pull out at the beach, park, etc. Fun on the go! 

That was fun! I noticed they also have a camping version of Spot It! which is now on my wish list. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Rowing The Finest Horse in Town {FIAR}

Horses are a big thing around our house. Both girls take riding lessons and older sister Grace is very involved at the barn. We spend tons of time driving back and forth to the barn and many weekends at horse shows.  So it was fun for Rose and I to have a Five in a Row book with a horse theme.

The Finest Horse in Town is a selection from FIAR Volume 3.

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • This story takes place in Maine, which just happens to be my very favorite state. We are heading there for vacation in a few weeks and I am greatly looking forward to it. We found Maine on the map. 
  • We talked about what "turn of the century" means, because that's when this book takes place. 
  • This book offered a good opportunity to talk about dishonesty, since one of the characters steals the finest horse in town. We talked about how that man was treated after he was found out. So often, being dishonest comes with a built-in consequence! Especially in stories:). 
  • The main characters in the story give gifts to other characters who help them throughout the story. We played a little memory game to see if she could remember what was given to whom.
*Language Arts*
  • The manual suggested using the opening of the book "Long before my mother was born, her aunts owned a store..." to introduce the concept of reminiscing, so we did just that!
  • We talked about how this book is really three stories in one...the author comes up with three different explanations for who may have cared for Prince. It's an interesting and fun technique, and we spent just a few minutes discussing it. 
  • We talked about the medium used ~ watercolor ~ and spent some time looking through the illustrations to notice the many details pointed out in the manual. There were so many things ~ such as the story opening and closing with a watch face illustration ~ that I am not sure I would have picked up on my own. This is exactly what I love about FIAR!
  • We talked about how overlapping objects, like the bowl of candy in the general store, are drawn. We arranged fruit in a bowl to see the effect first-hand. You can only see partial outlines of some of the fruit. 

  • She tried the technique out for herself, with watercolors.


  • We reviewed how many years are in a century and did the simple counting by hundreds activity suggested in the manual.
  • We reviewed the two's time tables.
  • We discussed why it is important for a shopkeeper to be able to tell time. Rose sometimes struggles with this skill, so it was nice to have a way to introduce the concept of its importance so gently. 

  • We touched briefly on how to care for horses, always a popular topic. 

  • And we briefly discussed ice houses and how important ice was in the "old days" and what a luxury it was. I also shared the information from the manual with her about why leaves change color in the fall. 

And that was it for this row! The last rows of our year tend to be pretty light as we are trying to finish things up. I'll have our row of Truman's Aunt Farm up soon, we just need to bake an ant cake to finish that off. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Rowing Paul Revere's Ride {FIAR}

I have three long overdue Five in a Row "rows" to share in the upcoming weeks, starting with Paul Revere's Ride. This poem has such a wonderful cadence to it - it is just sheer fun to read aloud, yes even several days in a row! And I love this picture book version with it's lovely illustrations. It really brought the whole story to life for us. 

I grew up in New England and my kids are growing up in New England, so reading about early American history is always pretty exciting for us. By a happy accident we rowed this book right around the anniversary of Paul Revere's ride!

Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We talked about when the ride of Paul Revere took place and I had her add the date ~ April 18, 1775 ~ to her timeline book.
  • We found Boston on the map, and I reminded her of a previous row that took place there.
  • We talked about the signal used to alert Paul Revere and the other riders to the movements of the British troops "one if by land, two if by sea"....referring to the number of lanterns that would be lit in the Old North Church tower. 

*Language Arts*

  • As suggested in the manual, I asked Rose if she knew why the Somerset was in italics; she remembered from a previous row that that is how you deal with ship names in text. 
  • I read her the information on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from the manual, and we read The Village Blacksmith, another of his poems.
  • There was a long vocab list in the manual ~ lots of new and interesting words in this "spectral", "grenadiers", and "impetuous".  I briefly went over them with her.


  • Our manual pointed out that much of this story revolves around light. Using the suggestions found in that section, we examined the illustrations for all sources of light.
  • The manual also includes an interesting section on colonial architecture. I shared a bit of that information with her, and we looked for examples in the illustrations. 
  • We examined the scene where the British ship is reflected in the water. We talked about how the artist portrayed that reflection and another, quite different, reflection later in the book.


  • We put our math caps on and figured out  how old Longfelllow was when he wrote this poem -it's pretty amazing!

  • We talked about what causes fog and why it tends to form over rivers, as it does in this story.

*More fun*

  • Rose watched a Liberty Kids episode about Paul Revere's Ride. And later, I bought the whole series for us to watch together over the summer. 
My next FIAR post will feature our row of The Finest Horse in Town. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Preparing For a New Homeschool Year

While we haven't technically finished up last school year ~ looking at my two olders who still have several math lessons to go ~ I am definitely thinking about next year and trying to squeeze in a bit of planning time each day.

Here are the things I am hoping to get accomplished in the next few weeks:

  • Finalize basic curriculum plans for each child
  • Consider online classes for my oldest - I'm thinking about Bravewriter
  • Decide on a family art and music plan for the upcoming year
  • Place curriculum orders
  • Plan for and sign up for extracurricular activities
  • Create a 36-week plan for each child 
  • Order a teacher planner and fill out the first week ~ I love Plum Paper for this
  • Set up my working teacher binder
  • Order student planners ~ possibly from Plum Paper as well?
  • Submit samples and plans to school district for review
  • Check supplies - pencils, binders, notebook paper, etc. and make a shopping list
  • Purchase art and lab supplies needed for whole year
  • Clean off school shelves, file all papers, store or toss curriculum, restock for a new year
  • Pre-read Sonlight Core 300 history & literature 
  • Deep clean the house - I always want to do this and usually don't get very far, so we'll see!
  • Plan Five in a Row for the year
  • Read some inspiring books
  • Plan a routine for next school year - how our days & week might (ideally) look
  • Set up a fall meal plan - meal planning takes me too much time; I'd like to try to do it ahead
  • Update chore chart 
  • Update (by which I mean start!) high school transcript for my rising 11th grader

In addition to these things, I really need to get in gear about late highschool/college. I keep putting this off and really just need to put my head down and get going. So be expecting a second list detailing my checklist for that...after I research, talk to Grace, and wrap my brain around things a bit. I keep telling myself no one said this would be easy!

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Homeschool Summer Reading List

Row of Books in Shelf

It's summer! I am excited to actually have time built into our schedule to make it to the library. During this past school year, library trips just didn't happen often enough. But this summer we have some convenient gaps in our schedule between picking up one kiddo and dropping off I am planning a weekly library day! That means a library list is in order.

My own summer reading list includes some just for fun books. I read Wolf Hall during our recent vacation and was pretty excited to learn there was a sequel. And I loved the first Grantchester book so I definitely want to read the next two of those.  Middlemarch is one I have had sitting on my nightstand for months.
I also have some books I am reading in order to be able to discuss them with Grace next fall. She will be continuing to read through Sonlight's Core 300 (secular-friendly books only). She will be starting off on week 12 with that Core next fall. I have found that reading the same books makes all the difference in being able to discuss. I can't read all of the kids books, obviously, so I am focusing on high school literature. Christopher is officially a high schooler next fall too, but thankfully I have already read most of what he will read.

I also want to read some books about homeschooling or learning ~ for inspiration....

Next up I have a list of books to search out for the kids or suggest to them if they are stuck ~ some elementary/early middle grade for my youngers...

Some later middle grade/young-adult titles for my olders....

Rose just started reading the Story Thieves series and she absolutely adores it. She literally sighs as she reads and tells me it is "the best book ever!". I know the kids won't necessarily like all (or even most) of my suggestions, but I think we're off to a good start. I'd love additional summer reading suggestions if you have any!

Thanks for stopping by!