Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gives a new appreciation for anyone who has taught preschool

I am sitting here today writing this post as my 4 year old sits and does nothing.  Ugh.  Homeschooling is often joyous, but sometimes my kid goes out of his way to be stubborn and obnoxious.  Yes, I know this is developmental 'stuff', but as a mom I am frequently torn between letting him just 'do his thing' because it is developmental or throwing some discipline into the mix to help him learn some boundaries. 

So, my son can read.  He doesn't read long fancy words, but he can easily sound out pretty much any cvc word.  Today we sat down to do reading after enjoying our homemade Zoku a great mood.  Then instead of reading, he chooses to lean into my face as close as he can get and smile that devilish smile that says...."It is my mission to mess with your head today and nothing more".  Typically I won't engage in power struggles, but as I is hard to know when a situation requires a little more backbone.  So, in the end I told him that I couldn't sit with him anymore because it was only going to anger me.  I told him to let meknow when he was ready to try even one word because I won't allow him to sit and not even try.  There is a difference between struggling to do something and needing help and clearly doing things to torture mom.  So I am out of range to be tortured which is a nice thing.  Undoubdtedly he is probably sitting and devising some other way he can make me crazy today and then what?  I don't know.

I know I have read many a homeschool blog and the moms seems so organized and there are beautiful pictures of kids reading in an apple orchard or video diaries with children calmly sharing their wisdom.  I am only at the beginning of my blog and wondering where it might go.  Do other moms have days like this and they just don't admit it or are they just really fantastic mothers/teachers???  Gosh, I don't know.  It's just another day of trying to figure out how to do the best for my kids that I can do.  I sure wish it were easier sometimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Day!

This morning I could tell straight away that Indi had some wild spirits in him.  Not anything terrible...just wild.  So we had breakfast and immediately headed for the park to channel some of that energy into a place where it belonged.  We rode bikes, played with friends, ran through the forest, threw leaves in the air, watched squirrels and then all was right in the world and Indi was pretty peaceful.

We came home and put the baby down for a nap, had some lunch and then happily dug into the academic portion of our day.  I finished the alpahbet review in TOPGTR and began the blending lesson even though Indi already knows how to blend.  The problem is that I am not seeing him gain any more comfort or automaticity with it.  As suggested by some other homeschooling moms, I went back to it.  I also incorporate the paint sample card activity I mentioned before.  Indi really enoyed this.  I definitely plan on making additional sets of other word families this way. 

Indi was chomping at the bit to do math today as usual.  We finished lesson 7 from Right Start and then played a game of Uno.  He won. 

After math, we did some handwriting.  This is not Indi's fortay at this point, but he isn't totally resistant to it.  I am considering doin Handwriting Without Tears with Him, but their website is kind of confusing in my opinion.  It's something I need to research further. easy peasy happy day!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dinosaur Bones!

Ahhh Sunday!  and today was a beauty.  Seriously...I am not sure the weather can be any better than it was today.  Indi has been wanting to go back to the Dallas Childrens' Museum for a few weeks now so I decided today was the day.  I generally like going to places like this in the morning, but now that I have to juggle Casey's naps with our schedule, everything has changed. 

This morning we did our usual breakfast, play, get cleaned up sort of thing and headed outside.  Michael is still plugging away on a play structure in our backyard and Indi likes to 'help'.  Of course since Indi was outside, Casey just had to be there too.  Then Casey conked out at about 10 am.  We pulled weeds and played in the backyard.  Then I took a trip to Lowe's with Indi.  We had to buy a Hula Hoe and picked up some paint cards while we were there so we could to this activity.  Although I couldn't find those long strips so hopefully mine works out as nicely.

Anyway, we came home, had lunch, and took off to the museum.  We had a great time checking out the dinosaurs, digging for dinosaur bones, crawling through a giant ant hill replica, looking at the critters, etc etc.  Casey loved it too.  After our museum experience, we had a lovely dinner together outside in the back of the museum.  Indi wants to go back and ride the swan boats we saw at Fair Park.  Guess we will have to do that, especially considering I bought us a membership today!! 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Off Day

We have no set off days around here.  If Indi is bright and chipper in the morning and I know I can seize the opportunity to work with him on something that requires focus...I do it.  If not, I do something else.  This morning my child was a banshee.  He did not settle to sleep easily the night before and therefore was a bit crazy this morning as he does not seem to understand this is when people sleep in.  Anyway, we had our regular morning with the baby, breakfast, play time, etc. and after the baby went down for a nap, I found Indi outside pulling weeds with my husband.  As tempting as it was to leave them be, I knew he needed some serious outside time.

So, we decided to hike around Lake Grapevine this morning as we often do.  As we were pulling out of the garage, he announces he would prefer to ride bikes instead.  Being accomodating, I threw our bikes on the back of our car and headed off. 

The trail around the lake has lots of hills.  Indi is a pretty good rider for a 4 year old though, so we went for it.  We rode probably a mile out to the marina on the other side of the lake.  No problem.  On the way back however, he decided to stop on every UP HILL...which means he couldn't get going again and so we had to walk his bike up many hills.  I was beginning to think we would never make it back.  Finally enough was enough and I walked his bike backwards to teach him how to approach a hill on a bike.  It took him three tries before he understood that he needed to generate some speed on the downhill to make it up the uphill.  I am thinking to child is exploring physics.  And well, I guess he was.  I actually did talk to him about momentum and I am sure someday he will really get it. 

The rest of the day was spent in the backyard 'helping' Daddy build a play fort and helping me weed the yard.  It's nice to see that even when we do nothing traditionally academic that a lot of learning happens regardless.

Links, Links, and More Links

Friday, March 18, 2011

Digging In

I feel I accomplished something today, which was a remarkable feat I think.  My baby who normally naps at 10:30 was still holding out on me an hour an a half later.  I found myself back and forth between my two children, trying to convince my 4 year old that it was indeed time to wear pants...and nursing and rocking my crazy 1 year old.

I normally do all my homeschooling while the baby naps, but it is best to get it in before lunch.  Just works out better for the rest of our day.  This morning I rearranged most of our learning space.  I made one of our spare rooms into our official classroom.  I had been doing lessons in our playroom, but the toys are a huge distraction. 

I spent some time scrubbing our easel clean too.  It had spent some time outside on our back porch not long ago and as I was cleaning, I could not believe what I found.  I kid you not....there was a huge wasp nest on the inside of it.  CRAZY!!!!  The wasps had moved out thankfully, but I could not believe that at one point my son had been painting on something that housed wasps.  Eeek!

For now I plan on leaving it there because it is unlikely we would ever see another large nest like that again.  Since this one is empty, it gives us a good opportunity to examine it a bit more.

The first thing we did today was go back to The Ordinary Parents Guide for Teaching Reading.  I am now seeing that this is definitely a good thing.  We reviewed 'S' to 'V'.  Obviously he already knows these sounds, but it was nice to go back and review the whole alphabet again.  He already knows how to read cvc words and I think I was jumping the gun a bit to just move on.  What we did today was a bit more relaxed yet he was very focused and certainly enjoyed being a know it all for a while.

So today we made it through another lesson of Right Start Math A.  I can't remember the lesson number off the top of my head, but it was a lesson where we reviewed numbers 1-7 and practiced 8.  For those who have not done RS, that may sound strange.  What RS emphasizes is understanding not just a number, but the amount...being able to visualize it an manipulate it, build it, and show it in different ways.  We do this with an abacus, tally sticks, hands, objects, sounds (tapping and clapping), chanting, and singing.  With this, he is able to look at a group of objects up to 5 and see how many there are rather than count.  This is helpful for figuring sums quickly, doing mental math, and also to prevent simple mistakes caused when children count by one and either lose track, skip, or double count. 

I have heard some mixed reviews on RS.  Some people have said their child hated it, others loved it.  It's always hard to tell the reason why a child might love or hate something like this because it very much depends on the person teaching it.  That's not to say that I am teaching it perfectly, but I have read from other homeschool moms that they feel overwhelmed with the amount of manipulatives and with the number of concepts covered in one lesson.  As a teacher, this is where you have to step in and determine the pace at which you will teach, the voice you give it, get organized, and not try to rush through all the activities.  This being said, I am sure there are some children who just do better with a different style of math.  For now we are enjoying this though and I feel strongly that it is giving my son a very firm standing on concepts that are typically just skimmed over in a lot of curriculum or watered down as I have seen done in a lot of preschools (coloring the number, counting the number, and gluing some buttons on a sheet of paper or the like).  If you are of the constructivist philosophy of teaching as am I, you would appreciate this curriculum I think. 

We generally do just one lesson a week from RS with a lot of review for the rest of the week.  I am excited this week because I happened to remember a couple activities from Family Math that would complement this nicely. 

So the other concept today was putting things in order from smallest to largest, thinnest to thickest, oldest to newest, etc.  We did not make it entirely through this portion because Indi had come up with a game using the colored tiles that he wanted to play called "The Sorting Game".  Sounds good to me!  I love it when he takes the lead like this.  We sorted then into piles and then decided to clean up and grab some lunch.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Below Ground

My name is Holly and I have a newly 4 year old son, Indi, and a one year old.  I had my older son in 3 differnet preschools before I realized that it just wasn't working.  He wasn't getting enough outside time on days he went, getting him out the door on time was a nightmare, and due to his on again off again sleep silliness...we never knew if it would be a crazy making day for the teachers or not.  Indi is a super high energy guy.  As long as he has the opportunity to run hard and play...coupled with a good night's sleep, he is a delight.

To make a long story short, keeping him in preschool seemed to present us with greater challenges, stress, and work than if I just homeschooled him.  In his last preschool they were doing "Letter of the Week" curriculum, but Indi has known his letters and sounds for about 2 years now.  I honetly think he was a bit bored.  We were simply told that he wouldn't do the work (said as if he didn't know what any of it was).  It breaks your heart when a teacher tells you that your child is 'not academic', which I was told.  I knew he was very bright and that for whatever reason...these teachers/program were not designed to keep him engaged.

I pulled him from the last preschool in December 2010.  This was the school with the long wait list that all my neighbors and nearbys thought was the cream of the crop.  To each their was not for us.  Right after I pulled him, Indi had told me in passing that he wanted to be able to read.  So, we sat down the next day for our first lesson.  Two weeks later, he was reading simple cvc words.

I had been reading The Well Trained mind for a couple of years (reading and reviewing and dreaming of the day I could actually put any of it into use).  I had ordered The Ordinary Parents Guide for Teaching Reading and some primers from Modern Curriculum Press.  I did the lessons from TOPGFTR, but they are heavily scripted and the voice was not my own.  So I used it as a framework, but put my own voice to it.  Having been a school teacher in the past for a number of years, my 'teacher voice' was hard to deny.  He started reading once we were at the letter 'R' review. 

So once he started reading, I kind of abandoned TOPGFTR.  I didn't think we needed it anymore since we were focusing more on the MCP primers and word groups.  However, 3 months later, we have only made it through 3 of the books.  It hasn't been painful by any means, but it isn't moving as smoothly as I had hoped for.  I had asked around on the Well Trained Mind forum about my dilemma and one person recommended I return to TOPGFTR.  So starting tomorrow, we will continue where we left off. 

Apparently Explode the Code is connected to TOPGFTR???  I am not for sure on this, but when I looked at the reviews on Amazon, someone had mentioned this.  So I am thinking I should buy ETC book A just to see how they compliment each other.  I figure it will be a well spent $8.

As for math, we have been doing Right Start Math A.  Indi loves doing this.  We only do one lesson a week though.  I figured why push faster than we need to.  We do the lesson one day and then practice the concepts here and there throughout the week.  I do a quick review on lesson day and then move forward.  I have thought of doing two lessons per week of Right Start, but until I have my reading stuff figured out a little better, I think I will leave well enough alone.

Indi is only beginning to develop an interest in writing.  I have been taking this very slow since his fine motor skills are not so great.  I make sure to give him practice to build his fine motor skills by having him unscrew lids, buckle his car seat on his own, etc.  I know I can do more though and I need to be more cognisant of presenting him with those opportunities.

Tomorrow I plan on having a sort of 'do over' day.  Since I began homeschooling rather abruptly when I pulled him from preschool, I never had time to put together a proper set up.  I did put up a bulletin board, but I have found it to be not that useful for what we do...especially since Indi isn't much of a writer at this point.  I don't end up with much to post.  So tomorrow I would like to go through my space an organize it into a proper homeschooling area.

On another note, I am in progress to building a co-op with a friend of mine.  We are hoping to gain support and direction for our own homeschooling as well as have the children working on a science unit every other Friday.  We start meeting April 1st.  I call the co-op Open Minds.