Saturday, January 31, 2015

DIY Perler Bead Quilt Squares

I saw this idea done in fabric and wanted to make a set myself, but I didn't want to drag out the sewing machine.  So I made a set with Perler Beads instead!  This is a fun afternoon project that you can do with your older kids.  And the younger ones can have fun playing with it!

Here's a picture of the fabric project that was my inspiration.

Tangram-esqu Fabric Puzzle

It was created by Rebecca from the Beauty All Around blog.  She calls this a Tangram-esque Fabric Puzzle.  Check out her post to see pictures of her kids playing with these.  The fabric ones look really nice for younger kids.

Here's my Perler Beads version.  I went with an 8X8 perler bead square.  You can make bigger or smaller ones. 

I used one of the square pegboards from the interlocking set and could fit 9 squares at a time on the board.  It's easier to iron 9 squares at once, rather than one square at a time! 

Here are some purple/green squares.

And some pokeball-looking squares!

Perler Beads now come in different shapes like rods and shaped beads.   They also have a wonderful variety of colors, like striped, pearly, and glow-in-the-dark!  I used some purple shaped beads to create a hole in the center of these squares, and also used some glow-in-the-dark and green pearly beads.

As I went along, I realized that having some solid color squares would allow me to make some more interesting patterns, so I spent a little extra time to whip up some green and purple solids.  They do make pretty patterns!

 While checking out quilt patterns online, I also noticed this interesting half-quarter quilt square.  Fill in one diagonal half in one color, then split the other half into two colors.

And now you have even more variety for your patterns!

Here are a couple designs I made with a combination of the different color squares.  My colors don't go all that well together.  It might be worth while to consider which colors you want to use before you make them.  Or just use whatever colors you have on hand and make something very unique! 

You can whip up a bunch of these and then create some patterns on paper for your kids to copy using the quilt squares.  I made some pattern templates that you can download.

Perler Bead Quilt Patterns

Just click on the picture above to download from Google Drive.  Print off some copies and then color them in to match the colors squares that you made!  You could print them on cardstock and cut the different patterns out.  This would make it easier for the younger ones to focus on one pattern at a time.

I hope you have fun with this idea! 

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

National Puzzle Day - January 29th

Today is National Puzzle Day! It's an unofficial holiday, but still fun to celebrate anyway.

National Puzzle Day Rebus - Easy
National Puzzle Day Rebus - Hard
Take some time to do some puzzles with your kids today.  That could include some pencil and paper puzzles, like the free rebuses above, or hands on puzzles, like a Rubik's Cube or a jigsaw puzzle.  You could even throw in a couple of logic style games, like Quirkle or Mastermind.

Download the National Puzzle Day Rebuses above by clicking on the pictures.  There is an easy page and a harder page that will download together in one file.  Good luck and have a fun and puzzling day!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Perplexing Puzzles 1/28/15

Today I have two different types of free puzzles available for download.

Birthday Rebus Puzzles

Birthday Rebus Puzzles
The first puzzles are rebuses to help you celebrate birthdays!  There is an easier version and a harder one.  You can download both from Google Drive by clicking on the pictures above (they come together in one document).

President's Day Puzzles

The second set of free puzzles are to help you celebrate President's Day coming up in February.  This set of puzzles prints on one sheet of paper, but folds up to create a Teeny-Tiny book!  I think these are a lot of fun!  You can download this freebie from my store, The Puzzle Den

I hope you enjoy these free puzzles!

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Monday, January 19, 2015

What We've Been Reading

 We've been doing a lot of reading lately, both for homeschool and for fun.  Here are some of our recent reads.

The Family Romanov

1) The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming - This was a history read.  It's a recount of the life of Nicholas Romanov, his family, and the end of tsarist Russia.  Ms Fleming has done an amazing amount of research for this book.  There is an extensive bibliography and notes section at the back of the book, and she even visited many of the sites in Russia that she writes about.  It's about 250 pages long, so a nice chapter book for middle and high school students.  The ending is, of course, depressing.  There is a somewhat vivid description of the family's execution.  So watch out for that if you have sensitive kids.  But, if you'd like to know more about the Romanovs and Rasputin, this is an excellent and well-written book.  Jack didn't want to stop reading a number of times.  I had to track him down in his room one morning and remind him that he had other assignments he needed to complete.  He said the war had just started and couldn't he finish that chapter at least?  How do you say no to a kid who wants to read?  Ginny said the book was "alright."  I liked it quite a lot, but this was an area of history I've been wanting to read more about for a while.

Sky Raiders

2)  Sky Raider by Brandon Mull - This is book one in the Five Kingdoms series.  Book 2 "The Rogue Knight" just came out.  Ginny LOVES this series!  She is eagerly awaiting March when book 3 comes out.  I also read book 1 and it was quite good.  This is definitely a chapter book that you can give to your middle graders to read without worry.  It's a magical world where some people have "shaping" powers.  The main character, Cole, enters the world to try to save his friends who have been kidnapped.  This first book does not reunite him with his friends, but he meets some interesting young people and helps them out too.  Brandon Mull also wrote the Fablehaven series, which is also very good and worth a read.

Around the World in 80 Days

3)  Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne - Or as Jack calls it "80 Days Around the World".  He and I are reading this for his literature course.  This book is awesome!  The language might be a little tough for younger readers, not so much the vocabulary as the style, but it's packed with adventure and silly mishaps.  The only problem I have is with this specific edition of the book.  It's translated by William Butcher who also wrote the intro and notes.  Most of the notes I read were not informative and sometimes inappropriate for younger readers.  And the intro, on the first page, talks about "deflowering heroes" which is really not for middle school kids.  At least, I don't want to explain to them what that means.  So, if you decide to read Around the World, definitely just read the story and don't bother with someone else's interpretation of it.

The Moorchild

4)  The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw - Ginny and I read this for her reading class.  Ginny said it's the best book we've read for reading class so far this year.  I wouldn't go quite that far myself.  I thought it was quite good and an engaging read, but I also enjoyed The Secret Garden and some of the others just as well.  The Moorchild is based on Irish folklore.  The main character, Sasski, is a changling, half-human and half-fairy.  It's about her life growing up in the human village, not realizing she's half-fairy.  She looks and acts different from the others, so she is teased and bullied.  The story is very well written and the ending is quite good...but I won't spoil it for you.  Definitely a lovely chapter book for middle schoolers.


5)  Knight-Napped! by Ursula Vernon - This is book 10 in the Danny Dragonbreath series.  Both Jack and Ginny enjoy reading these books.  They are heavily illustrated short chapter books, so appropriate for younger readers (maybe late elementary).  Even though they are for younger kids, mine still love them.  Apparently, they are quite funny.  I haven't read them myself, but Ginny and Jack often share silly parts with me.  The illustrations are amusing too.

I have barely been able to keep up with all this reading with the kids, but it is worth it.  It's always fun to talk about the books you've been reading with someone who has read them too. 

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Five on Friday

Puzzle Stamps

1)  PuzzleNation is one of my favorite puzzle blogs.  Yesterday, they posted about some new stamps from Macau, China.  Puzzle Stamps!  They are totally beautiful.  I'd love to receive a letter with a stamp like this on it!  Head over to PuzzleNation to learn more about these stamps.

Magician Handkerchief

 2)  Another puzzle blog that I find completely delightful is DIYPuzzles.  The author is an engineer from Turkey (the world is so small)!  He's been posting quite a lot of neat puzzle making ideas lately.  I particularly like the one shown above called Magician Handkerchief.  This is one I'd like to try to make myself someday!

 3)  Speaking of DIY, Ginny made some new counters for her game.  These are sheep with special powers.  I believe the Earth Sheep (the one with flowers growing from its back) has the power to make any 5 roll become a 6.  The Weather Sheep (the blueish one with raindrops on it) is immune to any weather tiles on her game board.  (I forget what the others do)  She's a creative kid!

4)  Jack and Ginny kept busy this week with some Lego Minecraft sets and Just Dance...Gangnam Style!

Teeny-Tiny Valentine's Puzzle Book

5)  I've been busy this week creating some Teeny-Tiny puzzle books for Valentine's Day.  So far I've complete the Kinders, First Grade and Second Grade versions.  These are neat because you only have to print one page, then fold and cut to create the teeny-tiny book!  There are 6 mini puzzles in each book.  One buyer posted that she was going to put these in her student's Valentine's boxes.  What a fabulous idea!

Ginny has been testing them as I get them finished.  Here's what the front covers look like.  I think they're really cute!  They are 4 1/4" by 2 3/4", so definitely tiny!

And here are some of the puzzles you will find in these teeny-tiny books!  If you'd like to purchase one of these puzzle books, they are in my store, The Puzzle Den, for only $1.00.  Here are some links to the different grades:  Kinders, First Grade, Second Grade.

Hope you all had a wonderful week! 

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Serpentiles from Thinkfun


Serpentiles is an awesome path finding logic game from Thinkfun.  We've had the game for years, and it's one of our favorites!

Serpentiles comes with 12 rectangular tiles and 7 square tiles, a rule booklet, a deck of 40 challenge cards and a handy-dandy card holder.

It also comes with a storage bag to keep all your pieces together.

To begin the game, you pick a challenge card and select the required tiles.  This first challenge is the easiest with only three tiles to use (see above photo).  The object of Serpentiles is to find a path that creates a complete loop, while making sure not to mix any of the blue and green lines together.  There are no other rules, so this is a nice and straightforward game.

Here's another example of a completed challenge.  There's one straight blue line and one curvy green line which together form a continuous loop.

And the backs of the cards show the answers.  One small hint if you get stuck:  Double check your tiles.  The "S" shaped tiles go in two different directions, and it is easy to pick up the wrong one!

Serpentiles is a great little game for some quiet time fun for your kids.  Thinkfun recommends 8 to adult, but younger kids would be able to solve many of these challenges on their own.  The tiles would also be fun to play with and maybe build roads for small vehicles!

I think this would also make a great learning center activity for classrooms.  There aren't too many pieces to keep track of and the deck holder makes it easy to display the challenges while in play and easy to clean up the cards when finished.  Having so very few rules also makes this game easy to learn!  The rule book shows how to play in several simple steps.

Thinkfun offers an additional set of 16 challenges that you can download from their website for free.  That makes a total of 56 challenges for you and your kids to sink your teeth into (or fangs...since they are SERPENTiles!)

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Homeschooling and Writing

Spilling Ink

I thought I'd share some thoughts about writing class in our homeschool.  Writing is something that we've struggled with every year, not from lack of ability, but from an inability to stick with any one writing course.  They all have their shortcomings, the biggest of which is the sheer amount of actual writing that is required!  Nobody here wants to actually have to write a page long paper about elephants, especially when writing more than three sentences cramps their frail little hands!

I exaggerate a bit, but it ended up being the subject that all of us despise the most.  My kids will claim they hate math, but I love it and I don't believe them anyway.  Grammar has always been a thorn in their sides, but we use a course that the kids can read and complete on their own, so it's never bothered me.  But writing!  Shwew!  That's always been too much work for me and too much work for them!

Thus began 8th grade for Jack and 6th grade for Ginny.  And I had to try to come up with a new idea!

Ginny has been writing a book for a while, so I figured, why not let her work on her book and call it writing?  I purchased a couple of books for young writers to go along with it and told her to spend 3ish hours a week reading about writing and working on her book.  After half a year, she has not finished her book, but has started another one!  And she really has enjoyed the writing books.  Much more than I thought she would.  Spilling Ink by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer was the first book she read.  She shared entertaining passages with me and tricks about writing that she'd learned.

Rip the Page!

Rip the Page! by Karen Benke has also been a success!  There are writing prompts of some sort in the chapters that Ginny has been diligently filling in.  She also shared parts of this book with me.  She is eager to read her writing books and eager to sit down and write.  I'm not sure she actually accomplishes too much, but that's all in the life of the writer, as we learned from this video...

Definitely preview this before sharing with your's not bad, but it might not be for all families.  We thought it was hilarious though!  And you could easily rename this video "A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler named Jack".

Banish Boring Words!

The last book that I bought for Ginny's writing "class" was this one called Banish Boring Words! by Leilon Shelton.  It's more of a reference book with lists of synonyms to juice up your writing.

The key for me was that this writing class could be totally hands off.  So I haven't read any of these books and Ginny has banned me from looking at Rip the Page! with her written bits in it (and I will respect her writing privacy.)  I cannot recommend these books personally, but Ginny certainly seems to enjoy them.  And I do recommend breaking away, if you dare, and letting your kids enjoy the freedom to create written words of their own, in their own time, and in their own way.

Excellence in Literature

Caveat:  Jack is on the cusp of high school and can't play around anymore.  He is using Introduction to Literature from Janice Campbell this year as a Literature/Writing course.  Having something specific to write about (instead of just mongooses) is helpful, but there is still some feet dragging around here.  Jack has now written several essays, and he is reading some top notch literature!  So it's a good course and we are definitely getting something out of it.  (And I mean we, because I am reading it all too.)

So sometimes you need a serious writing course, and sometimes you don't.  The best thing about homeschooling is getting to choose what your child needs when he needs it.  If you can figure out what that is! 

Now to bring all this back to can find some nice literary word searches at tlsbooks like the one below.


And Fun Trivia has quite a lot of online literary crossword puzzles.  Slide a nice literary puzzle in after your kids have finished reading a book and test their comprehension...or just have some fun!

Enjoy your writing (and reading) journey!

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