Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kentucky There We Went

We had a trip to Uncle Jay and Aunt Rebecca's home in Louisville. We had a three day weekend to spend with them and we left Friday night. The kids were excited about visiting with their Aunt and Uncle. Sophia spent weeks talking about a visit after Aunt Rebecca told her about their wall in the kitchen covered with chalkboard paint. Sophia spent hours telling me about how she was going to color and write all over the wall in Aunt Rebecca's kitchen. She would ask daily when we were going and seemed she couldn't wait to get there when we finally piled in the car.

The drive to Kentucky was uneventful and we sailed through the four hours with ease. The children were tuned into the3ir television shows and Traci and I chatted through the miles. The night was cold with snow lined highways. We arrived in Uncle Jason and Aunt Rebecca's driveway just after 11 p.m. with a road weary mania usually associated with being reunited with family. We visited for a while with our Kentucky relations then went quickly to sleep.

Uncle Jason and Aunt Rebecca have a wonderful brick home in the eastern edge of town. The basement was equipped with a large screen t.v., a ping pong table and an air hockey table. The air hockey table was of serious quality and proved to be central to our activities this weekend. The air hockey table was in continual use and often drowned out the sound from the t.v. in the next room.

We hadn't played air hockey the first night but started early the next morning as everyone roused and finished a breakfast of cereal and coffee while watching Sophie gleefully spread colors of chalk across the giant wall of chalkboard. We made plans to go to a ski resort and do some snow tubing. We found a place about 90 minutes away, suited up in our snow gear and left town.

Ninety minutes later we were in Paoli Indiana at the local pizza joint to eat something before hitting the slopes. We over indulged in a pizza buffet in anticipation of needing energy to climb hills and speed down snow lanes in the frigid nineteen degree weather. We drove our stuffed, snow loving bellies to the resort. We followed the gravel road to its terminus with the excitement building to a low buzz. We pulled into the parking lot to find every parking spot full and three large buses pulled into the bus lanes. The crowds lining up for the five lanes of snow tubing were huge. Our full bellies had triggered some sloth in our psyche and limited our tolerance for waiting in line. We ditched the Paoli peaks experience and drove back to Louisville.

We returned to Louisville and went to Cherokee Hill Park to attempt some sledding of our own. We called every store in Louisville and there were no sleds around. The six inches of snow blanketing the town had drawn out all the sledders. We grabbed some plastic storage bin lids and headed for a park closer to the house.
Shane made several attempts at snowboarding down the small hills in the park. Sophie tried sledding on her own as well.

We retired to the house and finished some air hockey tournaments, watched some of the winter olympics and played the Beatles version of Rock Band with Aunt Rebecca on the drums. The evening flew by. We made plans for snow tubing at the Perfect North Slopes.

We left early the next morning eating a small breakfast on the road, no heavy buffet to weigh us down. We rolled into the nearly empty parking lot at Perfect North Slopes to find over 10 lanes of tubing lanes. We paid, got our tubes and rode the belt up the hill.

We all piled off the belt and lined up in our separate lanes.
Shane quietly stated he was not going down the hill in a tube, or at all.
An hour later, after much discussions, bribes,threats and promises Shane walked down the belt accompanied by a ski resort worker. We met him at the end of the lane. The worker directed us to the small hill where kids under 35 lbs were allowed to run with reckless abandon. "He can go in there" he stated.

We let Shane run the small hill all day and he was happy. He tubed the small hill with daring, at one time standing in his tube trying to slide down the hill.
Everyone mostly enjoyed the two hours tubing, we had lost a little time trying to convince Shane to ride the hill but it ended well.

We played some more air hockey, watched some more Olympics and generally enjoyed the relaxing time spent with the kids' Aunt and Uncle. They went our of their way to make the visit enjoyable.

The next morning Aunt Rebecca treated us to chocolate chip and blueberry waffles before we hit the road for home. While we ate breakfast snow started falling. We cleaned off the car and hit the road, slowly. The stress of the drive colored the interactions between Traci and I. We launched into several spirited discussions about driving technique. Ultimately we drove out of the snow and cruised the rest of the way home.
The visit to Louisville was a relaxing break. We had a great weekend.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spelling with SpellQuizzer

We've been using some new software to help with spelling. Mostly our seven year old has been using SpellQuizzer to help him get through spelling lists from school. I did a little experimenting to see if this helped or hindered his success in spelling and came out with some interesting results. SpellQuizzer is a spelling program that helps kids learn their spelling and vocabulary words.

He has struggled a little with spelling when we first transitioned from home school to public school. Traci and I found he just wasn't spending time studying his word lists and we started keeping after him more closely, making sure we ran through the list every evening and reviewed his words. It helped. He quickly turned his spelling grade around. We were able to get him to start trying the 'challenge words' at the end of the regular spelling list. He was starting to even get a few of the challenge words correct.

We were then approached by SpellQuizzer to try their software and give our opinion here on the blog. SpellQuizzer is spelling software for children that need help learning their spelling and vocabulary words. We had been homeschooling but our children had recently returned to public school. It was a great time to try a different way to help Shane learn his spelling words.

SpellQuizzer is a piece of software, easily loaded and run on any PC or Mac running the windows operating system. We downloaded the software and had it up and running within about ten minutes. The concept behind SpellQuizzer was to enter the spelling words and provide a sentence using the word and Shane would type in the word with attention to correct spelling. The software grades his spelling and notifies him when he has missed a word.
The software is simple to set up. With six buttons at the start menu a person can create a spelling list, be quizzed on a spelling list, import or export lists or edit current lists. The buttons are self explanatory. I was able to set up Shane's first list with only a few minor hiccups due to learning the ins and outs of the buttons.

The creation of the spelling list flows quickly. I could enter Shane's fifteen word list and record the sentences using the words. I tried to keep the sentences funny and entertaining for Shane. He enjoyed listening to the sentences and I enjoyed watching his reactions to the silliness. The list creation can be navigated by the mouse or through tabbing and using enter. There is an area on the SpellQuizzer where you can discuss various techniques for education and download spelling lists or add your spelling lists for others to use.

The SpellQuizzer web site has pre-made downloadable spelling lists that you can download and use with SpellQuizzer. I browsed through the website and found some discussions about homeschooling.

The big question I had was would SpellQuizzer work. It did help Shane get better grades on his spelling tests. He has gotten 100's on all of the tests we used SpellQuizzer for. He had to be reminded strongly every night to do his SpellQuizzer. I didn't notice him getting up on his own to do his spelling. He was able to start the program and pick out the list for the week on his own. My only concern was we had had some interaction when studying the words together without SpellQuizzer. When he started SpellQuizzer we weren't studying together but he would often laugh and talk about the sentences I had made up. I asked him if he liked SpellQuizzer and he looked at me, smiled and said with perfect seven year old articulation, "Yeah, I guess."

I liked SpellQuizzer. It was easy to use for me and for Shane.

Posted by Picasa