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Games we are enjoying

Just before the shelter in place order went into effect we had a fun game night with our local homeschool teen group. It was hosted at Galaxy Games. We had never been there before but it’s a great store. We got to try out several new-to-us games, and left that night with ‘Just One’, and later ordered ‘Code Names’ as well.

They have both been a lot of fun for our family (4 of us, 2 adults and a 13 and 16 year old) and I’ve even counted them as language arts a couple days when we needed some stress relief, and a little less book work.

Just One is a cooperative game and I’ve noticed the kids like those games. I don’t think the like feeling like they are competing against each other or us. One person chooses a card and a number and that will give us the word we will use (the chooser can’t see the word). We write down 1 word that we think will guide them toward the clue word and try to make it something the other players won’t have also picked because if 2 of us pick the same word, it gets eliminated. It’s surprisingly difficult but we get a lot of laughs from our mistakes as well as the successes. The goal is to get as many right, as a team, as we can.

Code Names works in teams, so still a little cooperative, and a little competitive. There is a layout of 25 words, some are ‘agents’ of yours, some are for the other team. Some are innocent bystanders, and 1 is an assassin. One player gives one word clues to their teammate to get them to pick the right words from the choices. Because you want your team to find all your agents first, the goal is to give a clue that can apply to multiple of your words, but not to any of theirs, and defiantly not to the assassin. You pick the assassin, and you lose. There is a variation to play with 3 players, and I think even 2 maybe, but we haven’t tried that yet. We’ll probably give that a try this week.

I really like the language work involved in both games. The kids really have to think about the words they want to use and all the different way that word could be understood since they can’t include any context.

Have you been playing any great family games while you’ve been stuck more at home? Any recommendations?

books · crafty things

Fun at Home

I’ve seen several posts on Twitter of folks looking for ideas of what to do with their kids while they are all stuck at home together. This has also come up in some of my homeschooling groups as people have friends who normally use brick and mortar schools are asking for advice. The homeschoolers feel like our moment has come! We have insight that can help!

First, I’d say – don’t feel like you have to be doing something educational at all times. The world is stressful right now. If you or your kids need time to decompress, or are unable to focus then you need to just deal with your emotional health. That might be enough for now.

If you are looking for fun things that are also kinda educational to pass some time – I have ideas:

  • Reading. As above, don’t feel like this has to be ‘learning’ type reading. Its okay and good to read for fun. Audiobooks are also great. I get most of mine from my local library via their app (that also includes ebooks). Check out your library system’s website. I bet they have way more remote and digital services than you knew about. Our also has kanopy.com which is streaming movies and documentaries.
  • Art and Science kits. We subscribe to several kiwico.com crates. My 12 year old loves her Tinker and Doodle crates and the older one gets Eureka, but she’s less of a builder so they are hit and miss with how much she gets into them. There are lots of other options. Look around on Amazon for topics they are interested in, or Thames and Kosmos is another one my kids have liked.
  • Just use normal art supplies you have around anyway. Youtube is full of great and often free drawing and painting videos. Also maybe a good time to learn to crochet or do some other craft with the help of Youtube. If there is an art of craft they are interested in, someone has probably made Youtube lessons about it.
  • Other good video stuff: We like Crash Courses on Youtube (science, history, and a bunch of other topics) all fast and fun. BrainPop is also a lot of fun but can be a little pricey for the subscription. They do have a different free video each day though. Tons of topics and very well made. We also watch CNN10 which used to be called Student News – it’s a 10 min news summery each day and while that can get a little heavy they usually work to balance the bad with more upbeat positive stories of people doing good things too, and they always end with a funny (or trying to be funny) pun segment.
  • Board Games! I feel like there has been an explosion of amazing games over the past several years so this is hard to give specific suggestions, but some we have enjoyed are: Timeline (put cards in order of when each event happened in history), Evolution (make your creature the one that survives), Elemento (chemistry), Kloo (Spanish), we also had one that was about the Egyptian Gods and also required multiplication practice that they would even play just for fun, but I can’t find it right now. The point is, just pop your interests into the search bar at an online game store (or on Amazon or Ebay with the word game included) and see what turns up. Like reading, this doesn’t have to be overtly educational either. Exploding Kittens is one of the long time favorites here. All games encourage problem solving.
  • Puzzles too if they enjoy them. They make puzzles about everything. We have the periodic table, human skeleton, various maps, and the tanks of WWII, among many others.
  • Coding. There are probably a lot of resources online for this. All I really know about is Scratch from MIT, but there is probably a lot more out there and varies based on age of your kid. Khan academy might be worth checking out as well. They could be on the computer and learning too.
  • We use Math Mammoth and their website has a few free online math games. Additionally, their small, individual subject workbooks also include a long list on online games and resources for that subject. They were always a nice fall back if the kiddo was sick or tired and not focused enough for workbook work, but still got some math in that day.
  • Cooking – great life skill obviously, but also reading a recipe is learning, using fractions for measuring, etc.

Okay. Believe it or not this was all just off the top of my head, so I have probably left off a lot. If I think of enough additional things, I’ll write a new post. Find out what they are into – what they want to learn about, and help them do it!

If you have specific questions you think I could help with, leave a comment. My kids are in 11th (yikes!) and 7th grades this year and have homeschooled the whole way through. It’s been awhile since they were small, and if anything there is probably even more available out there than we had, but I can try to remember back to help out if needed.

In the meantime, try to walk the tough balance of enjoying the time you have together and not bothering each other too much. (And maybe don’t play the Pandemic board game, especially if anyone in your house is sick. We did that once a couple years ago when my youngest had the flu and she is still a little scared by the experience. )

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Christmas AmiguruMe!

I found this adorable book at the library, and decided that THIS is what I was making the girls for their Christmas amigurumi this year. They were more challenging to make than anything I’d tried before, but a challenge is good, and the instructions were great for the most part. I loved the book so much I think I may have to pick myself up a copy to keep. I have 2 more nieces who I’d like to make as gifts. The author/creator also has a book for making pets that looks fun, and one of cute food. If you’re on Raverly her page is worth a look. So much cuteness! And I found a free pattern there for Sneeches (with and without belly stars!) I think I’m making that next.
Eldest daughter AmiguruMe by Kara Hartz

Youngest daughter AmiguruMe by Kara Hartz

Niece AmiguruMe by Kara Hartz
While I don’t think I’ve ever posted photos of my kids, or my niece – trust me, this is exactly what they look like. Those little sandals and flip flops were the toughest, but turned out so cute!

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Wonderful Weekend

We had beautiful weather here this past weekend. Neither I, nor my husband had to work, which is rare, so we enjoyed some family time. We went to a nearby park we enjoy that has a lot of pokestops, duck ponds, and a dog park. It’s a fun place to walk. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was clear there was something more than normal going on, and it was our daughter who first caught made the deduction that there were an unusual number of people playing Pokemon Go, so there must be something special happening in the game.

She was right. There were large-ish groups of people standing together in areas we knew to be Pokemon Go gyms. Then we started spotting groups and families all wearing pokemon t-shirts, or hats, and even a kid dressed as pikachu. Maybe it’s just the unusually beautiful January weather calling folks to get outside while they have the chance, I thought. My husband, however, Googled to find out what was happening, and sure enough there was some sort of special Pokemon Go event with special pokemon available to be caught only that day.

While we aren’t the type to chat with strangers, it was still fun to be around so many other people playing while we walked and hunted pokemon. There were also slightly more folks out with there dogs then we usually see there – those ones probably really were just taking the opportunity to get out on a nice day. So we were surrounded with dog walkers and pokemon players. Our kind of people. It was a nice day.

As a side note – and a request for advice: my youngest has a fire tablet that we tethered to my phone via making my phone a wi-fi hotspot so that she could also play. Her tablet requires wi-fi to play Pokemon Go. But it didn’t work very well. It kept either claiming no GPS signal, or placing her somewhere strange on the map that didn’t look like anywhere we actually were. She got frustrated enough to give up playing. If anyone has tips on how to get that system to work better, I’d love suggestions. Thanks!

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How the whole focus thing is going. . .

Well, I’ve taken a few baby steps in the right direction toward getting myself more organized and focused – and so far without giving up any of the things that I love.

How did I do it, I hear you ask. Well, I took a bit of advice from those books I mentioned before, as well as one I read awhile ago called, “Refuse to Choose” (I added it to the recommended reading list if you want a link) It’s basically about a certain personality type that the author calls a “scanner”, or a person who loves a variety of topics and activity and has an unusually difficult time focusing or picking one single life path, career, goal, etc. It’s me 100%. I really loved it when I read it because it stressed that I didn’t need to give up anything or “pick something” to do with my life in order to be successful – pretty much the opposite of what is implied in the other books I mentioned, and in my previous entry. However, it does say that keeping organized is important to success for a scanner. Now, I only ever implemented a few of the tools she suggested to help me fit the things I LOVE to do into my life around the things I WANT to do, but I’m trying to get back to that.

What I’ve done in the past several days is to plan my day a little ahead of time, and not try to do it all every day ( so I can focus on each thing I want to accomplish – see it all coming together here?) Yesterday I ran errands in the morning and in the evening I worked on items for my Karabu Etsy shop. Today I’m cleaning house and tonight I’ll write. Granted, my Etsy projects aren’t finished yet, my house could always use more cleaning, and there are other projects I haven’t gotten to yet, but I have to say, I’ve made more progress on each of these areas than if I’d gone about things in my normal fashion of fluttering around trying to do five things at once. We even spent several hours at a playdate with my daughter’s friends and I did a little craft project with my kiddo too today!

So far I feel really good about this, and since my extended maternity leave ends next week I’ll really need to have a time management system in place in order to work, have time with my family and accomplish my other goals as well. I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes.