Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer (Home) School

I decided this year I would be less strict during summer for school work.  Last year I let the boy have a week off and then it was business as usual.  We both got burned out and I think it contributed to a harder school year last year.  So this year I'm only requiring math and reading/writing.
Here's my summer plan:

Math: Singapore Math 4A-B was our curriculum this last year and I thought after April we'd just move right in to 5A.  But 4 went way too fast and I don't think most things were learned concretely.  Maybe I can't completely blame Singapore's curriculum.  I have talked with A LOT of parents and students (some profoundly gifted) who seemed to struggle with the transition into fractions/decimals.  All of them recommended we go back to first grade and just review everything learned up to that point and that things would start to click after that.  So we're in the midst of that.  We're using Khan academy, Life of Fred Fractions, and a Singapore Math review book.  I'm already seeing improvement and think this might be a good idea every summer....

Reading/Writing:  I have a summer book list for both my reading kids.  We are making our way through that list and when they finish, they get a prize (swimming pool trip).  Jack has the additional incentive of writing a book report for each book he reads to earn computer time during the week.  I went through lists from Hillsdale Academy, Spalding International, and the Well Trained Mind and then created my own reading lists.

Everything Else:  This is when I get to unschool.  We drive in the mountains and talk about different biomes.  We talk about why the sky is blue.  We talk about the yeast start being a living organism.  We also own the complete series of Magic School Bus and Liberty's Kids and because my kids have learned so much from them, I have no issues with using them.  Jack has become very interested in politics lately and likes to talk about current events.  We'll worry about world history, famous artists, and formal science lessons when we start up again in September.  But for now, I'm enjoying a more relaxed atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Between the Studs Shelves

When I don't blog, I don't check other blogs.  And I miss reading other blogs.  I miss blogging too.  SO what better way to get back into blogging than with a tutorial?  Yay!!
Unfortunately for you, I didn't plan on doing a tutorial so there aren't gobs of pictures, but I will post the link to my pin board that gave me the ideas. http://pinterest.com/smallhousefam/small-house/

So one rainy Saturday found me feeling restless and wanting to play with power tools.  After spending some time on Pinterest looking at built in shelves, I decided to go for it.
My husband hates when that happens.
I have done this before at our condo and made it up as I went along.  This way works much better.

Step 1. First I taped things off so I knew I would like how it looked.  This where some nerdy math comes in handy.  Ever hear of the Golden Rectangle?  I think it is useful with a lot with home improvement/decorating.  Think of this as a sideways wall, I made sure my bookshelves fit within the square a.
 If you want to understand more about this kind of proportion, watch Donald in Mathmagic Land on Youtube.  Link
Moving on....
Step 2.  Drive a nail into the drywall and then pull it out.  Stick a wire clothes hanger (unbent) or something else that will fit in your hole and be easy to move around.  You're checking for wires or pipes or even horizontal 2x4s that might be behind your wall.

Step 3.  After that, score a small square around that hole and knock it out with a hammer.  At this point I like to shine a flashlight and see for myself that all is clear.  Then, cut the opening for your shelves.
On the first hole I scored the drywall with a box cutter and then hit it with a hammer to knock the drywall out.  Then I remembered I have this awesome tool called a jigsaw that can make really straight cuts and do it more quickly.  If you can, do it that way.  Oh, and PLEASE wear a mask and goggles during this.

Step 4. Build your shelves.  I really wish I had pictures, but I'll describe what I did and provide some links for you.
I used 1x4's for my frame, shelves, and trim.  PLEASE make sure they are straight before you buy them.  Ana White has a good tutorial on how to do that (why reinvent the wheel?)
Choose your boards by pretending that the board is an arrow on a bow, and you are shooting the arrow.  Look down the length of the board to make sure it is straight.  Rotate the board to check all sides.  Inspect the board for cracks or other imperfections.  You may want a rustic finish, so some knots or rough patches are fine - it's the straightness and cracks that you need to discard.
 1x4's will split, so be sure to pre-drill everything.  I think I used 1 3/4" screws to attach everything.  I strongly recommend using one or more squares and a small level when assembling so you can make sure everything is square.  It wont be.  But try to get as close as you can.  :)
This is the best drawing for showing how to build your box.  Instead of peg board, I used 1/4" mdf.  At our condo I used beadboard, but I attached it to the rear drywall before attaching the box.  Don't do it that way.  You'll spend all your time caulking the gaps.  Attach your backing to the box.

Be sure to MEASURE your hole.  Studs are usually 16" apart, but there will be variations.  Measure both the top and the bottom.  One of my boxes in 1/2" bigger than the other because of variations.  Then you'll need to remember a 1x4 is really 3/4"x 3 1/2" and you'll need to subtract 1 1/2" from your horizontal pieces for everything to fit.

Step 5.  Once your box is built, you'll attach it to the studs around your hole.  Use a level and maybe an extra set of hands.  I did this while my husband was at work and I was too impatient to wait.  I now recommend waiting.  I used 2" screws to attach to the studs.

Step 6. Attach your trim.  This was the inspiration for 1x4 trim.  For some reason, it wont let me embed the picture.

If you can do 3 it will look better than my two.  But I have wires in the way (see, that's why you check!)  Use a level when attaching your trim.  When I did, I found my shelves weren't completely square.  A sander can help with that.  Paint grade caulk is your friend, too.

Step 7.  Paint! 
Step 8.  Fill with books, pictures, and other things you love.  Paperbacks fit perfectly. 

Ta Da!
Like I said, I didn't plan on posting this originally, so I'm sure there will be lots of questions.  Just comment below and I'll do my best to answer!