Saturday, January 10, 2009

Phonics Update - January 2009

I am a bit paranoid about teaching phonics. Afterall, I am a middle school math teacher at heart. I am a fish out of water when it comes to phonics.

This causes me to be a bit fearful about skipping any pages in a workbook. Afterall, what if you missed something really important in there? How would I even realize it? (Which probably explains why I have the Ordinary Parent's Guide, MCP Plaid Phonics B, AND Explode the Code for my child...but THAT is another post...don't worry, I don't make her do them all daily!)

Then at one of my support group meetings, the leader was talking about not frustrating our children by making them do something they know over and over. (I have no clue what got us on this topic) She talked about moving passed pages in workbooks or just skipping things.

It was very freeing to hear and I needed to hear it.

K (age 6) is an excellent reader, yet I feel this necessary compulsion not to skip any page of Explode the Code EVEN THOUGH we are working through the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading as our main phonics program. I have this "fear" of her missing some rule and being damage for good...sigh.

But this conversation encouraged me to get her to a place that makes more sense for her level in Explode the Code, so we post tested OUT of Book Two today. We skipped about 40 some pages to get to the post test, but I felt empowered to do it. (yes people, this was a step out of the comfort box for me...)

And she did an EXCELLENT job on the post test. I took a picture of her post test dictation sentences. By number 4 it was clear that she had it down, so we didn't do the last one because it was optional. (thank goodness I am not "grading" her handwriting on this...LOL!)

I am very proud of her hard work. We'll move on to Explode the Code Book Three on Monday.

I am proud of me too. Yep, feeling more confident in my phonics!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Math Choices

So, for a few months I have had some concerns about our math program. There are things I love about it and things I don't love.

The things that I don't love finally won over and we switched to a new program. Thankfully I will still have all of the cool manipulatives to use!

This week K (age 7) began Singapore Math. It is an adjustment for all of us, but I love the way some of my concerns are being addressed.

We dropped her down a level because things are presented so differently. She had basically finished 2nd grade math in her other program, but I just didn't think it was a comprehensive program. I think dropping back a level will help solidify her skills and help her adjust to the new program.

There is also an Intensive Practice (takes to a more advanced level), so we can work through that to make it harder on the chapters that are a bit easy.

I love this program so far. I am adjusting to the new routine as it takes more time to implement and plan. She is also adjusting to math taking up more of our day. But it is working out little by little.

Ultimately, I love being able to find a math program that is going to work best for my child and our family!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Our Homeschool Schedule 2009

So last month, we didn't do a lot of school work. I took some time during the tough weeks of this pregnancy to rest as this baby continued to grow (now 15 weeks and feeling better). The kids enjoyed a break during the month as we participated in holiday festivities.

Learning is always going on, but it wasn't following any sort of curriculum or guide. It was a fun month, but I was ready for a routine again.

Our former schedule just wasn't exact enough and needed some tweaking. Inspired by Jolanthe's schedule, I decided to attack mine and at least get a start. I knew I'd have to plot out 4 versions because we have 4 different types of days.

Monday and Friday are the same. We are home without any outside activities to participate in, although we often run an errand or have a playdate. I decided we would try to commit our Mondays and Fridays to being at home.

The schedule looks like this, but with colorful titles and headings (just like Jolanthe's). I have no clue why the file looks this way: (The columns go in age order with D (23 months) being the first column, then T (age 4), then K (age 6), then Mommy)

Some explanations
In the past we only accomplished the AM board and FIAR in the morning. I wanted to have handwriting done in the morning too.

We built a home gymnasium in the basement for Christmas. (basically some rings from IKEA in the ceiling, a trampoline, tunnel, roll up balance beam, and a gymnastics mat) The kids love it and it is a great way to burn off some winter energy! Our first "break" is free time in the gym, which they want everyday.

Games/Reading was something I took from Jolanthe's schedule. I don't know what it means in her house, but in my house it means that mommy sits and plays games or reads with the girls. It always happens when D is in bed. It gives me a block of focused time with them.

One of my goals was allowing my kids plenty of free/imaginative time, as my oldest is only in kindergarten. I also wanted to have focused time to play with them as well, so I was sure to incorporate those goals.

Our bible time in the AM on Monday consists of introducing our new ABC bible verse. We read the devotional and discuss it. We also review former verses. We end in prayer for our day, which includes a prayer for peace in our home. (as that is something God has laid on the forefront of our minds at this time...the specifics of our prayer will change with time) On Friday we spend some time on an aspect of studying our hymn for the month.

Devotion time in the afternoon consists of 15 minutes of personal time with God. The girls are on their blankets with any bibles or bible stories they want to gather. We begin with prayer for our time, then K (age 6) can read her bible while T (age 4) looks at pictures. I sit in the same room with my bible and journal. After 15 minutes, we come together to share something God taught us during our time (or a story we liked looking at).

Finally, I wanted a well laid out schedule, praying it will help to end some of the complaining, whining, and boredom. We have been dealing with some of that and I think some of it was due to the lack of a good routine.

The results after only ONE day: (which isn't a great measure, so I'll evaluate in a month)
This schedule really made the day go fast! I have a hard time staying at home (believe it or not), but today didn't seem bad at all. We had very clear guidelines and the schedule helped keep us on task.

There is a lot of give room in this routine. Most activities did not take the amount of time allotted. My kids don't need a half hour to eat. Our FIAR activity only took about 20 minutes. Our morning board did take longer then 15 minutes today, so it all evened out.

I liked knowing there was so much give room so we can run an errand or deal with the little things that come up on days that don't run as smoothly!

Complaining was non-existent this AM!!!!! Now, I am not crazy. I realize that the complaining isn't gone forever just because of this schedule, but it definitely helped without a doubt! My daughter, K (age 6), really got into this schedule. She watched as I developed it yesterday and we talked about it. Today she continually looked at our schedule to see what we would do next and began to do it without the protest.

By the time their afternoon quiet play time rolled around, they were so ready to just relax and play together. It gave me some much needed time to work out some insurance things since our new year kicked off with new insurance AND to type this post!

One day chores for the kids will be added. I plan to have them take over the toilets and sinks in the bathrooms as well as empty the small trashcans throughout the house. That will be our kick off for chores sometime in March!

I am thrilled there was as much free time as there was! I was worried about how we were going to fit in first grade work next year, which adds in grammar, spelling, and more in depth studies in general. But after walking through this I am assured that there is PLENTY of time!

So it works for now. Below, I have posted Tuesday and Wednesday to show our routine on days we have bible class and co-op. Most homeschooling moms are like myself...the more schedules to grab ideas from, the better! I am always on the hunt!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus

Our homeschool bible class had a Happy Birthday Jesus party. We had a great time!

The organizers were faced with a dilemma as they discussed what to do. Most of these kids know the nativity story inside and out. In fact, many can recite it directly from scripture. The organizers really wanted to put a different twist on the party for the kids. They focused on what the kids can give Jesus for Christmas...their hearts. They did a great job!

First, we made ornaments. I was thrilled because I treasure the ones my kids made in the past at preschool. It was so nice to have some homemade keepsake ornaments for this year. The outside of the ornament reads, "What does Jesus want for Christmas?" The "doors" on the front open up and a picture of the child is glued inside.

Then, the children gathered for the Christmas Story. They were each given a character to add to the Nativity scene as the story was being told.

Next, we played an unwrapping gift game. A mystery gift was wrapped in many many boxes, so when the music stopped, the child holding the gift got to unwrap a layer. Inside the final box was the answer to, "What does Jesus want for Christmas?" It was a mirror.

The teacher had planned a Christmas play. Scripts had been emailed and parts assigned. The students took a little while to rehearse while their siblings listened to a story in the other room. K and several other little girls were the heavenly hosts.

K and one other angel had speaking lines. She was so excited!

After singing, "Happy Birthday Jesus", we ate cupcakes which were decorated as presents.

My adorable son didn't want the icing on his hands. He refused to eat the cup cake without a fork! Silly little one.

That is his Poppy with him. I am so thankful that family lives close by and is willing to support our homeschooling activities!

It was wonderful spending time with other kids focusing on the true meaning of the season!