Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Frustration

Last week I was very excited about a new book I bought for Ethan: Little Hands Celebrate America. The activities looked simple and like something he would really be interested in doing. As a matter of fact, as I was searching Amazon for books to check out at the library to supplement the activities, he took the book and just soaked it in. He was fascinated, and we couldn't wait to get started.

Imagine our disappointment, then, when we went to our closest library (our town doesn't have its own) only to find that, out of a list of 12 books, they had not a single one of them. I pulled out a few on the same subjects, just whatever they had, based solely on the title on the spine, but upon getting them home, I was disappointed in the quality. There is exactly ONE book of the 7 we brought home, that we will actually use.

That afternoon while the children "napped" (I use that term VERY loosely), I went on the TX library website, to see about inter-library loans. I entered the information for the first book on the list, and lo and behold, there it was! Happily, I asked for it, and moved on to the next book. Found it...but wait! You can only do one book at a time through this program. Not only that, but I found out this morning the turnaround could take up to several weeks. So...scratch that.

My next option was to try the library in the city. The City of Tyler's library is really just for residents of the city itself (the one closest to us, in Bullard, gives a card to any TX resident). If you live in another town, Tyler's library doesn't let you borrow, but lets you "rent" books at 50 cents a pop. And I was going to break down and consider it part of our homeschooling cost, when I searched their catalog and found, again, NONE of the books that I wanted.

Because I am a glutton for punishment, just out of curiosity I went to the website of the library system where I used to live in a Metro Atlanta county. Sure enough, I scored with every entry. Multiple copies, at several libraries throughout the system. I could have cried.

Hopping on eBay, I toyed with the idea of BUYING the books,thinking that if I could buy enough from one seller I could combine the shipping. That didn't work out so well.

So...here I am, stuck.

What to do, what to do? Lower my standards, I suppose, and just take whatever I can find at the Tyler library, paying for the privilege, since Bullard is worthless.

Anyone else trying to home school in a smaller town or city? How do you work around the problem of a second-rate library? Do you just make the most of the libraries you have, and it works anyway? Do you have a really good second-hand book store? Do you order and then resell on eBay?

I'm open to any advice. I'm stumped. Help!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Long Time No See

Well, hello there!

We dropped off the face of the Earth for a bit, but we're back now!

Today Ethan did a worksheet counting items in a row and finding the corresponding number on the line underneath.

We did a practice page of writing 3s (which will definitely need some work).

Yet another round (actually, two rounds) of "Ready, Set, Go!" counting Duplos in sets of 3.

We counted fruit on a worksheet (numbers 11-15) for some practice (he seems to always want to skip 13 and 15).

We cut and pasted shapes to complete patterns.

We practiced telling top-of-the-hour time (he's VERY good at this; took him no time at all).

A match-the-outfit-to-the-weather cut and paste page.

Tracing letter B, upper- and lower-case.

We played a game where I would call off words and if it started with the B sound he would give me a thumbs-up, and if it did not, I got a thumbs down. He liked that a lot.

Simple letter search (think word search but for non-readers) with letter B

Bible story was creation days 4 and 5. He put little fish stickers in the water on a picture of the sea and sky.

Then to the couch for reading. LOTS AND LOTS of it today. We read the chapters in his Bible Story book for 4th and 5th creation days.

Then The Princess and the Pea, The Wind and the Sun, and The Three Wishes from the Usborne Bedtime Stories book (you've never seen a child laugh as hard as he did when I pinched my nose and said, "How could I enjoy byself wid everybody calling be sausage-dose?").

Then Tasha Tudor's One is One (even more practice counting to 20 - I LOVE this book. I had it when I was his age, too).

Then poetry! My, but we read a lot of that today.

The Pickety Fence, by David McCord
That Was Summer, by Marci Ridlon
Sound of Water, by Mary O'Neill
The Dark House, Author Unknown
Houses, by Aileen Fisher
Chairs, by Valerie Worth
What is Black?, by Mary O'Neill
Sunflakes, by Frank Asch

Friday, January 16, 2009

And Another

Another good day today, though we got a late start.

Another A/a page from Starfall, this time we were to cut pictures out of magazines that started with the short a sound. Only problem? I don't have many magazines that were any good for that. I sat flipping through an old Southern Living while Ethan wrote a line each of upper- and lower-case As, when he stopped me. "Plaaaaant," he said. "That has A in it. He was right. So we bent the rules a little. We cut and pasted a cat, cactus, lamp, candles, hands, glass, apples, plant, macaroni, and ballet ("What's ballet?" he asked. I told him it was a kind of dance, and they dance on their toes a lot. So now? He calls it balance. The perfect mash-up of the two words!)

We worked on more scissor skills, cutting along curvy and angled lines. Even just from yesterday to today I saw vast improvement.

We cut out three pictures of children building a snowman, and he was to put them in order of first, second, and third.

We did another count-objects-circle-number page, which he did completely on his own without any guidance from me, and got them all correct!

We did a "Help the Grocer Count the Fruit" page, with numbers from 16 to 20. Again, remarkable improvement. He can almost count to 20 with little prompting (13 and 14 trip him up, and then he skips to 16).

Then it was off to the couch for reading.

We read four poems today, two short and two longer. The Squirrel, by Mildred Bowers Armstrong, The Cricket, by Marjorie Barrows, Wynken Blynken and Nod (twice - he and Aidan were both rapt, and asked for it again when it was over), and The Village Blacksmith, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (per Ethan's request, having seen the accompanying illustration).

Then Scuffy the Tugboat, which again held Ethan rapt, and then the chapter out of his Bible Story book to correspond with his Bible activity: God created land and plants. I dipped a Q-tip in orange extract, and he touched it on his coloring page where there was fruit on a tree. We reviewed Genesis 1:1 and called it a day.

Two good days in a row! Are we finally settling in? Does that ever really happen?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good Day

Today was another good homeschooling day. He was extremely squirmy as we sat at the table for writing and math, but when we moved to the couch to snuggle in and read, he was very focused - interested and engaged in the stories and poems that we were reading. We accomplished a lot today.

We started back at the beginning with our writing, just to work with the printables for the Starfall program. Today we did the first A/a sheet, and played a game he liked a lot, where I would say words, and he would clap when he heard one that started with a short a sound. I added more than what was on the sheet, because he was having so much fun with it.

Then he did a word search but with letters. I found some worksheets at a website called Beginning Reading that kids can use to search for whatever letter they are working on. The letters are printed in a large font, and spaced further apart than a regular word search. Each letter of the alphabet has its own search, and each page has space at the bottom to practice writing the featured letter.

Then we moved on to a page for practicing scissor skills. He had to cut along various shaped lines. He had rather a lot of trouble with this, so we'll be revisiting it quite a bit in the coming week or two. Straight lines are no problem whatsoever. Throw in an angle, however, and he can't do it.

We did a cut and paste farm animals page. He cut out the back half of various farm animals and glued them to their matches on the other side of the page.

After than he did a connect the dots page. It was a seal, and I think it was actually supposed to go with a lesson on the letter S but it was one of only a few I found that were not too few numbers (he's ready to move past 10) and not too many (over 20). He's doing a fantastic job learning to recognize his teen numbers.

He did a color-by-number of a ball with stripes and stars on it, for number recognition and learning to read a key. He did a great job on this.

For further reinforcement of number recognition, I found some counting pages (also from Beginning Reading). He was to count the number of objects in a given row, and find and circle the corresponding number from a line of numbers beneath. As you progress through the worksheets they get more difficult. We'll be using these probably every day.

Then we went to the couch to read. We read a story called Minnie the Mermaid, by Tom and Elizabeth Orton Jones, and two poems: The Little Gnome, by Laura E. Richards, and God is Like This by Rowena Bennett. After that came There's No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe (Cat in the Hat does beginner's astronomy, although it was printed and we bought it before Pluto was demoted) and finally we read two chapters in volume 1 of his Bible Story books, to coincide with our Creation story Bible activity, which was gluing wisps of cotton balls to a picture of the ocean and sky. There are some wonderful printable activity books available at Child Evangelism Fellowship. I have used them in the past (about 2.5 years ago) and was happy to see they've added more since that time. They are very simple, and it won't be long before Ethan outgrows them, but we will use them for now because they are wonderfully sensory.

And that was that. I wish every day went as well.

Narrowing the Choices

I did some research last night and found a reading program called Starfall. Their materials look quite good, are aesthetically pleasing (not too cluttered, professional-looking, and cute), and even better, they are free to print in black and white. You can also buy their books in color, but since right now we are schooling on a tight budget I just printed off the ABCs and the 1st level reading package instead of buying anything yet. They have story books that coincide with the packages that we will probably purchase if we decide the program is working well.

For Math we are looking at Saxon, but still haven't made a final decision. I don't know if it's feasible, but I'd like to get my hands on a copy of one of the books to really take a good look at it before we decide anything finally. Does anyone have any knowledge of or feedback on Saxon math?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yet Another Breakthrough

Tonight at the dinner table, Aidan had finished but had come back to visit with Ethan, who is a bit slower.

I told him, "you can play with Ethan later. He's eating. Ethan's eating," then turned to Ethan. "What does 'eat' start with?"

He knew the answer to that one - E. But then he took it further.

"E. Eeeeat. Eat. E....T. E, T is eat!"

And you know what? So what if it was wrong. He's on the right track. He's sounding out words and telling me how he thinks they are spelled, something he hasn't even attempted until tonight.

I am SO proud of him!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Number Recognition

By far the best thing we've found for number recognition was accidental. It's Dave's measuring tape - a big, heavy, metal thing that Ethan discovered, begged for, and has been carrying around for three days now as he compulsively measures everything in the house. "Daddy, this cup is 4 inches!" "This book is 10 inches, Mommy!"

Even better, "Mommy, what is three-six?" So, yes, we get to talk about when there are two numbers, if the first one is 2 you say twenty, and if the first one is 3 you say thirty. Something I didn't think we'd be getting into for several months. It took him a while to catch on (Mommy, is 'three-six' 33?") but now? He just needs a gentle nudge and he can tell you each number through the twenties and thirties.

So on a day like today, when our school session was cut short right in the middle of math (it involved a toddler who has discovered the joy of removing his diaper), he still did math after dinner, all the way up until bedtime - far longer than if we'd finished our class, and he had a lot more fun.

Opinions, Please

Dear Reader,

Can you please give me your opinion on the Whole Word approach vs. Phonics? Can you also please let me know if you think it is reasonable to use a little of both, or if they contradict each other too much to do so?

I'm a little worried about laying the wrong foundation with Ethan's reading. Unfortunately, I don't remember anything about how I learned to read, because I honestly don't remember not being able too, and Dave is the same way, so he doesn't have special insight either.

Right we are working on a few VERY simple Dolch sight words, simply because to me they make sense phonics-wise as well. I, a, my... I've just been explaining WHY they sound the way they do (long vowel sounds, etc.).

I am on the fence, but leaning more toward the phonics side, and wondering if the two can be used together, as we seem to be doing right now, or if later down the road that will become impossible, or if whole words can be used as a spring board to phonics, or if that is just preposterous.

Are they mutually exclusive? Must we choose? Is it too early either way?

Frankly, I am confuzzled. Please help.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jan 6 09

Last night I was sick. Nothing major - small cold, but didn't feel up to a ton of schooling. We did upper and lowercase B, the number 2, and the sight word "my."

Today was better. I found a website with Christian worksheets, and I think that's what I'm going to use for writing.

Today was still B, for Bible. Even better, the sentence to trace was "I love my Bible." His sight words so far have been "I" and "my," so this was perfect for us. I traced in black everything but I, my, and the upper and lower case Bs, which Ethan traced.

We reviewed more sight word "I," with a complete-the-sentence worksheet.

We did a color-by-dot picture, where he had to count the dots in a space, and then find the same number in the key to know what color that space should be. It was a picture of a hot air balloon floating over rolling green hills. When he finished, he made me draw a picture of a red Toro riding mower on the grass. And if you think I can draw a red Toro mower, you are wrong. But I tried, and he deemed it good enough.

We worked on writing the number two. I found some printable pages that had an empty box on top, and two handwriting practice lines underneath, so we did two pages of 2s. On the first, in the box, I drew a big circle. After he had traced a line of 2s and written another line, I told him the circle was a pizza. I had him draw two of each topping. He drew two pieces of cheese, two slices of tomato, and two chunks of pineapple. In the box on the second page I drew a tree. After he'd traced a line and written a line of 2s, he drew two red apples, two green apples, and two yellow apples on the tree.

For number recognition, we did a matching page. There were boxes with different objects in them, in numbers from 1-5. He had to count the items in each box and match it to the number in the next column.

Then we did patterns, on which we'll need to spend a little more time. We started simple, eg., star/square/star/square, and at the end of each row, there was a box with two shapes in it. One completed the pattern the other did not. He had to circle the shape that completed the pattern.

After that came the FUN math - a game called Ready, Set, Go! I filled a tupperware container with lots and lots of Duplos. I set the kitchen timer for one minute, and in keeping with his work with the number two, he had to pull out (and count as he did it - one, two) sets of two blocks, and stick them together. The idea was to see how many sets of two he could build in a minute. He LOVED this. And his mind was so in the "one-two" mindset by the time he was finished, that when it came time to line them up and count how many he'd done (11), he was still stuck and counted them as 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2. It was fantastic - we'll be doing this often I think (though not so often that it wears thin - it's too wonderful to let that happen).

Next we counted a group of 12 crayons, then sorted them by color (three each of red, yellow, green, and blue). We counted that there were three of each color, then I showed him that if we have three yellow, and add three red, we have six. We did the same with blue and green, yellow and blue, and green and red. The idea being to show him that three plus three will always equal six, even if the objects are a different.

For science, we started a chapter on time, which I decided to skip, thinking it might go over better once he has the number recognition thing down. We moved instead to a section on grouping and sorting, and choosing the different item out of a group.

Bible was the Creation story, and as we read, we did a worksheet matching the created thing/s to the day they were created (number recognition! hooray!).

I was going to do a book report, but Dylan was melting down and the Kirby man rang and the dog started barking and totally screwed with our groove, so we snuggled in and read Sadie and the Snowman and called it a day.

Today was a GREAT homeschooling day. I needed it badly.