Sunday, November 22, 2015

DIY "Lego" Advent Calendar

As you may have been able to tell from the blog, Legos are a big deal in our house.  When I saw the Lego City Advent Calendar, I thought it would be great for Xander.  Until, I saw the price.  It seemed pretty expensive for only getting a few minifigs (Xander seems to play with the minifigs more than anything else).

I decided to see what I could do myself.  I started by ordering a set of 20 Lego compatible Minifigs.  I'd ordered these for party favors before and the kids seemed to love them, so for $5, I figured they'd be perfect for inside the advent calendar.  Since I still needed 4 more, I decided to splurge and get some Avengers Lego compatible Minifigs.  (Now these took a while to arrive, so maybe shop around and see which ones will make it before Christmas).  My babysitter once gave him a couple of these, so I knew that he couldn't tell the difference between these and real Legos.  The only problem we have had with them is one of them sometimes loses his hand when putting a gun or something in it.  Not that big of a deal and I'm sure these will be Xander's favorites out of the whole set.  I also like that they come with accessories.

I got some little paper envelopes from Michael's (with a coupon), as well as a cute little snowman box.  The envelopes came 24 to a package, so I'll have some left over for next year.
 I put one little minifig in each envelope, sealed them up and they're ready to go!
 The box was a little smaller than I probably should have gotten, but they all fit.  I'm excited for December 1st so that he can start opening them!  I'm sure they'll be a big hit and they cost me half as much for things I know he'll enjoy.
I'd love to hear your advent ideas, since I won't want to give him the same thing next year!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apple Theme Week

Things finally calmed down enough for us to do a themed learning week again!  With the beautiful fall weather, we decided to start with apples.

Apple Fractions
We began by reading Apple Fractions.  Xander loved it so much he has read them several times.
For his snack, I cut his apple into 8th using an apple cutter.  Then I cut little pieces of paper with various fractions on them.  He would draw a fraction, and then show me the equivalent with apples.  For example, I had 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/8. For a challenge I included 3/6 and we talked through how to figure it out.  Then, of course, he ate all the fractions.

Apple Stamping Artwork
I'm not the most artistic person in the world, so this was a fun adventure for us. First I had him paint the trunk and branches of a tree onto poster board.
We let it dry, and then we sliced an apple into two pieces.  We used a brush to put some paint on one half of the apple.  As you can see from his expression, this is very serious work.
Then we stamped it onto the page.
He was incredibly proud of his finished product.  We hung it in the entry way so that we can "fall-out" our house.
Sensory Bin
It had been a while since we had done a sensory bin (mostly because all of the sensory bin materials are still at my dad's house until I can get the basement of the new house done).  I used a popcorn base with little leaves, apples and pumpkins.  I threw in some cinnamon sticks for fun.
Here he is describing his potion.
Apple Worksheets
I found this great set of free apple worksheets from TPT.  They were a great skill level for him (alphabetizing, graphing, synonym/antonym sorting and a free write).  It felt good to get some of his "work" on the walls of the new house for the first time.
Of course, no theme would be complete without some books.  Here are a couple of our apple books I picked out for the week.  Ana cultiva manzanas for some Spanish and Apples for Everyone for some info on apples themselves.

You may want to check out some of our other Apple/Fall themed posts.

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Hiring" My 4 Year Old

Why is Started
So Xander has been in a Lego phase for a while now (let's be honest, it'll probably be a 10+ year phase).  Anyway, it had gotten to the point where every time we went to the store, he wanted me to buy him some Legos.  Obviously, that wasn't happening.  I'd always tell him that we were choosing to spend our money on other things, like groceries, the house, bills, etc, but e struggled to understand why.  Therefore, in order to help him understand the value of money and really the concept of limited resources, I decided to start paying him.

I know a lot of people give their children chores, but I always felt things like setting the table, cleaning up after themselves, and occasional helping out are just part of contributing to the family.  I really did not want to pay him for these types of things, because I wanted to stress the value of working together as a family.  After some thought, I decided that I had always told him his job was to learn as much as he could.  He always called our should time his "work," so I decided that seemed like a logical place to start.
The Job
While we don't do as much "work" as we did during out Tot School time, there is still some work I'd like him to do frequently.  I decided he would get one sticker every day he did the following:

15 minutes of Splash Math or Matific
All About Spelling lesson

If he does his work 3 times in one week his gets paid $2
If he does it 5 days in a week, he gets paid $4 on Saturday
As a bonus, if he does it all 7 days, he gets paid $5

Here's his calendar for this month.  As you can see, he has had some weeks where he has done great.  Other weeks he hasn't done all that much work.  Usually, the math on the iPad is easy, but since he doesn't like to write, he doesn't always want to do the worksheets.  I encourage him, but do not make him do it every day.  At the end of a week where he didn't earn his $4, we discussed how sometimes we don't feel like doing the things we have to do, but we then do not get the reward.  I compared it to me not wanting to work on the house, but since I wanted to move in, I had to do it anyway.  I never did it angrily, because it is a good learning experience.  He is the one who has to wait longer for what he wants.
The Goal
To help him focus, I let him pick out the Lego set he really wanted.  He decided on Gorilla Grodd Goes Bananas.  I made a sign for him to hang above his desk, to help with encouragement.  While the sign does say $50, we also had to have the discussion about taxes.  I really liked that he had a rather expensive set as his goal.  

Long Term Planning
When he was really close to his goal, he saw the Lego Double-Decker Couch for $15 at the store.  It was really tempting for him to buy it, since he already had enough money.  Since we didn't have his money with us, he couldn't buy it that day.  We got to talk about long term goals and how sometimes you have to forego something you want in the moment to help you work towards a bigger goal.  While he considered going back to get it, he decided he wanted the Gorilla Grodd set more.  I was very proud of him, because that is something that can be really hard, even as an adult.

The other thing I liked about the process, was that although he still asked to look at Legos every time we went to the store, he no longer asked for them, or other toys.
A Few Extras
In addition to his "job," Xander was able to earn a dollar or two here and there over the last few months by helping with other tasks.  For example, he helped me move a bunch of landscaping stones at the new house.  These jobs weren't very often and not at his request.

Ultimately, he ended up saving up enough to get the set.  I was so proud of him when we went up to the register and he was able to pay with his own money he'd worked really hard to earn and save.  He was pretty proud also!
Showing off his new Invisible Jet. 
Looking Forward
So has he completely learned to plan ahead and save, of course not.  However, I have enjoyed teaching him about prioritizing and working hard for what he wants.  He has already decided that the next goal is the Black Manta Deep Sea Strike, and his new goal sign is made and hung above his desk. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Journey to Our New Home

Hello strangers!  I feel like it has been forever since I updated, and I sincerely apologize.  You may recall that way back in March I posted that I had purchased a house.  Well, in ordered to get a decent sized house in the school district I wanted, I ended up choosing a repossessed house.  Needless to say, it definitely wasn't move in ready.  My incredibly generous dad donated most of his evenings and weekends the last few months to helping me get it livable (which is why I haven't been posting lately).  We finally moved in last week.  Xander loves his new room and I am elated to be able to provide him with his own home and yard (not to mention, no longer living with my father as an adult!!!).

While ALL of the details of the things we had to do would be long and boring, I thought I'd share a few highlights.

So we got off to an exciting start.  Because it was a HUD house, they wouldn't give me the keys when I bought the house.  The realtor let me in long enough to start changing the locks.  Because it was a weeknight close, I only did the doorknob of the front door, figuring I would change ALL of the locks that weekend.  Well, when I showed up the next weekend, my deadbolt was locked.  There are only two ways that could have happened; from the inside or with a key (that neither of the realtors had).  Therefore, I got to have the exciting adventure of calling the police, who in turn, called the fire department to break in.  Then the police swept the place (much more exciting on tv than on the placing you're hoping to live).  All in all, it turned out ok.  The police, who were very familiar with the previous owners, decided that they'd probably come back looking for something.  I haven't had any trouble since.
The next big obstacle was the huge above ground pool.  It needed a new liner and pump, plus a lot of maintenance I didn't have time or money for, so I got rid of it.  It is a little more cleaned up now, but the deck and sand still have to go (anyone needing sand or landscaping stone, feel free to come get some!).
Next, the NASTY, stained, smelly carpet had to go.  BEST workout of my life!  I definitely couldn't lift my arms after.
My dad and Xander installed some laminate flooring.
For some reason, the previous owners liked a lot of crap decoration on the walls.  Unfortunately, the glued it all on.  I don't even want to think about all of the hours we spent scraping, sanding, peeling and fixing drywall.  Here's an example of just Xander's room.
Even Xander got in on the scraping action.
Here's his room after.  Such a HUGE difference!
The trim and doors may have needed some slight touching up.
Instead of doing some early learning work with me, this is how Xander spent most of his time during the process.  Reading or watching movies.
Here's the last before and after I'll show for now.  I'm sure eventually I'll post pictures of Xander's new room.  Anyway, the picture truly doesn't do the change justice.  Nasty, smelly, pee-stained carpet is gone. 3 colored walls are now a solid color. Window is refinished, all the trim has been repainted. No more holes in the walls. It smells much much better. Incredibly happy with how it turned out.  Can't wait to make many memories in our new home!

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