Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reagan's Weekly Report - Week # Whoknowswhat

Another productive week for Reagan's first grade here at Heritage Academy! I'm finding that if I (and by I, I mean my most wonderfully helpful dh who has really helped takes up my slack and make my currently heavier job in the kitchen much easier for me - "Shout out, Hubbs!  You rock!") really focus on getting prep work for the day's huge homemade meals and chores done the evening before, our lessons go much more smoothly allowing more wiggle room for her attitude.  She has been a bit on the moody side this week and it's meant a lot of lip-biting for me to keep the lesson upbeat and try to keep her from crying (about nothing other than her inability to answer me quickly and correctly every time - I don't know where she gets this standard as I am constantly reminding her to take her time and just try again if she makes a mistake!).  So I'm thankful when I have some wiggle room that allows her time to re-adjust her emotions...and also for coffee, even if it is black these days!  :-D

We plodded through our CCC workbook covering the long /e/ sound when spelled (e consonant silent e), (ea), (ee), and the because it doesn't follow our 2-vowel rule, (ie).  I find that the rules for using each of these in words are becoming too many for her to manage, so I'm trying to just expose her to as many examples of each as I can through copywork and add to her spelling list (since her spelling 'tray' helps her to 'velcro' the words into her head better).  I assume that as she sees the usage of these phonograms more and more over her elementary years, her spelling will improve.  (Maybe I'll run her through a Spelling Workout book over the summer to see how she does...)

On another note, I'm looking for advice on 'decoding' words... or breaking them down into syllables with correct accent and vowel sounds marked.  At what point should a student learn this?  This part of the lesson always tortured Jefferson (as well as me) and is now bringing the glazed deer-in-headlights look to her eyes torturing Reagan also.  She just doesn't seem to be able to hold all the 'rules' for syllable breaks, accents and vowel sounds in her every lesson is like a new lesson instead of one that builds on previous knowledge.  Will this info get picked up later?  How will this skill help her - in reading...spelling??

As I can see her motorskills improving and her hand becoming stronger, I am trying to give her 1 to 3 lines of copywork each day (we started the year with that much per week).  She is finally writing more quickly but her penmanship still looks wonderful.  I never thought we'd get past all her little kinks and backwords habits she'd had!  With some good spelling basics under her belt and the ability to read, she is also becoming confident enough to write her own little stories.  She does this on papers and cards and little homemade 'books' and has a great time with her imagination!  I try not to correct these writings unless she asks me because I want to encourage her confidence in writing down the things on her mind.  I love the initiative she shows!

(A Lightning McQueen book written & illustrated for little brother, A)
Grammar (FLL):
I love that these lessons are so short - they don't seem to burden her that way and I can fit them in here or there.  She is gaining a better feel for the noun, proper and common, while learning some basics, like her address and how to abbreviate.  She memorized the poem "Work" by Anonymous in two days (shocking me, as usual, with her memory). I wrote down her narration of "The Girl Who Wanted to be Dirty" and she illustrated it.
One of our first tough weeks in this subject - I was surprised!  It turns out that she needs some more practice partitioning numbers up to twenty (ie. 20=8+5+5+2). I really want her to have a good grip on mental adding strategies before she moves on to harder topics.  Right now she is working on adding by "completing the ten", "two five's", "adding nines" (always one less) and seems to be able to add most 2-digit numbers that I give her, even if they 'trade' over into the next place number.  She still needs practice at this, so we are working on card games since they keep her interested and relaxed (I looooove Right Start's card games! I have no problem resorting to 'trickery' of this kind to get strategies into student's brains - lol!).  But even the games didn't seem to keep her from getting frustrated this week with the partitioning, as she would start crying almost as soon as she hesitated at an answer. It was as difficult for me, the teacher, as it was when Jefferson used to deal with frustration!  The real lesson for them is that practice is more important than fast or correct answers!  I'm hoping that next week the practice will result in a more relaxed and confident student (and fewer greys hairs for me!).  I am happy that we are still progressing well and have plenty of room for the practice that she needs as this foundational mental math is sooooo important.

And all this in just one week!  Surely I could learn to make my post a little more concise so I'd be more likely to keep up with journaling her progress.  But hey....there's always next week's report...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jefferson & Magnetism

Jefferson is currently studying science in his second trimester at away school....and loving every minute of it!  Not that I'm surprised by that - he has always loved science.  And this year is full of new stuff (as opposed to my nature walks and sketches - "Another drawing? Awww, Mooooom!") with a new (and well respected)teacher.

His longterm science assignment this trimester was to choose a scientific principle, find sources from which to study it, write a paragraph about it, and find a way to demonstrate it. 

He choose magnetism and a demonstration of a home made compass.  I will admit that I was a bit nervous about this assignment since I am clueless not well informed about magnetism and didn't know quite where to start helping him (not mention the rest of the 'chaos' around here with their fat little legs and loud little voices).  Nevermind that this was in the Sonlight plan for his 3rd grade year at home - if I haven't taught it, I haven't learned re-learned it. So I diverted to my mechanical engineer educated (but working software engineer) hubbs (there has to be some kind of info about magnetism in those degrees and experience, right?)!

Nice thing about homeschooling is that one can always find a book (or two or three) with information about magnetism and compasses around!  Who needs the internet when one is a bookaholic??  ;-) 

Hubbs helped him learn how to copy the reference information from the books and summarize the information about magnetism given in each book so that all Jefferson would have to do for his sloppy copy is to pull his summaries together into a paragraph.  There ensued much arguing at this point as Jefferson has trouble listening (to us, mind you, not to Mrs. Third Grade Teacher!) and seems to know everything already (is this just age 8 or is it MY kid?  LOL!).

Once he had read from his sources and discussed the principle with dh, he chunked out a sloppy copy which dh didn't have time to help him refine.  So I sat to help him fix spelling and chop any extra stuff.  He was so durned excited the whole time I worked with him that I thought someone might get throttled - lol!

Here's the end result for "Magnetism" by Jefferson:
"I would like to know more about magnetism.  The main people who discovered magnetism are Nicolas Tesla and Michael Faraday.  Some vocabulary words that you might need to know are: magnetic field, which means the field surrounding an object, magnetic domains, which are atoms that all have the same magnetic direction, and magnetism, which is how materials respond when exposed to a magnetic field.  That ends our vocabulary words.  Now on to the background information.  There are many uses for magnetism including electric motors, bicycle lights, and compasses.  The compass involves magnetizing a piece of metal.  This makes the metal align with the earth's magnetic field.  Since we know that the earth's magnetic field goes North to South, this then helps us with navigation because the magnetized piece of metal will tell us which way is North.
Magnetism is when all the magnetic domains in a material are aligned.  To align all the magnetic domains rub a magnet on a piece of metal in one direction.  Use metal because magnetism will not work with insulators, like cork.  The magnet will align itself with the earth's magnetic field just like a compass."

For his demonstration of a home made compass, he was required to explain a bit about magnetism and the compass without his report.  Holy smokes, did this makes him nervous!  He thought that he'd have to write something else out in order to memorize it.  But I reminded him that he had clearly explained it to me (who had not done the research with him) and that he already KNEW the information from his research (which was the point - not that he realized that he actually learned in this process - lol!).  And after a bit of practice, he was ready to take on the third grade class!

DH went to watch his presentation (leaving jealous momma at home) and take photos.  Jefferson did very well and hardly stumbled - even when Mrs. Third Grade Teacher asked him questions and got up to check his home made compass with a real one (I hadn't thought of that!).  He later told me that it helped that he had something in his hands to talk about (isn't that the truth for most of us?).  His overall grade was excellent - better than even he expected.  We're so proud of our boy!  I continue to be amazed at how he reaches and exceeds the bar that is set for him.  His motivation may be that of pleasing his teacher (insert envious momma sigh here) as well as his excitement for learning (every momma's goal) but it's so exciting to see how fast he's learning! I hope that he remembers this project because we certainly will....


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Reagan's Reading!

I can not tell you how this thrills me to.the.core!

I love how she tracks with her finger every "hehehehahahahehehe" of the laughing monkeys!  Also note the "grownup" mug she is using for her elderberry tea - she uses it because she pretends it's her coffee and she likes to 'sip' it like me!  The boys love it when she reads to them!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - My Sweet Valentine

October 11, 1997
(Barry Wolfe, Photographer, Fallston, MD)

And to think that this guy came up to me my the first day of my freshman year at Drexel University and introduced himself even though my face clearly said "Please do not speak to me cuz I am too freaked out about being away at school and I don't wanna know you no matter how cute you are!"  He also thought it would be funny (5 mo later) to stick his finger in my back and ask me for all my money the day after I was mugged (although he didn't actually know about the mugging and the dimples helped convince me!).  He talked me into joining the crew team (I'm sure just so that I could enjoy the view - lol!) and then I didn't see him around campus for a while.  Wasn't until 3 years later that we even started dating and the rest is history!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

...the mouths of babes!

Adam (4) talking about the coffee I always drink: "I can't have that because it has COFFIENE in it, right?"  (He hasn't a clue what the difference in 'coffee' and 'caffiene is anyway'!)
Reagan (6) in regards to dh's not eating the same food as us: "Yeah - Daddy can't have that because of the pounds, right?"
(Don't think she gets what these pounds are that we talk about but I'm sure she knows we don't want to have too many!)
DH wanted to turn off the tube and put the kids to bed before they saw the winner of  AFV.  But I gave him a look and convinced him to let them stay up later, to which he said: "Isn't Mommy the nice one??"

Right away Jefferson's (8) face looked shocked and unsure as he said: "Uhhh....not usually!"
(Yes - we know who the 'mean' one is in this house - lol!)
Reagan (6) tends to be our little drama queen so I wasn't shocked to hear: "Mommy - when are we ever going to scrapbook again in our whole lives?"
(Life is just so hard when you are 6 years old and have everything that you need but still find yourself bored!)

Enjoy more Tiny Talk Tuesday with Mary over at Not Before 7!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reagan's 1st Grade Progress

It's truly been forever since I've taken the time to journal about Reagan's progress this year in 1st grade.  It really has just been such a different 1st grade than Jefferson had....don't know why I thought it would be the same considering their uniqueness and the events of this year - lol!

Our year got off to a rough start last August while I tried to balance Jefferson's heavier 3rd grade load (and new Sonlight curriculum package and growing disrespectful independent attitude) with Reagan's learning differences (namely her auditory processing delays and sensory make the mommy crazy bullheadeness irritations).  After four weeks, we ended up placing Jefferson in a local (but not quite local enough - next door would be nice - lol!) Christian school so that I could give Reagan focused attention at what could be a critical year for her developmentally.  DH and I truly felt that she would end up farther and farther behind if we didn't help her learn to concentrate and learn to be disciplined about her school work and to work through her struggles.  We felt that she was being hugely overshadowed by Jefferson and the attention that he often stole throughout the day (not purposely - just a part of his "golden retriever" type personality).

I'm so glad to see how well Reagan is doing at this point in the year!  She has come to be a great helper as she has gotten to step up and be the "oldest" child during the day, which builds her confidence and spills over into her lessons.  She is still very particular - to the point of perfectionism with her penmanship and with her lessons.  But THIS momma understands THAT - lol!  I do my best (snortchucklechuckle - as I bite  my lip into pieces!) to patiently encourage her past it rather than try to shove her through (she will NOT be shoved people!).  I've even come to enjoy the quality of work that her perfectionism produces and have learned to give her time limits so that she doesn't sit indefinitely working on one task. 

Reading is now exciting for her!  She is finally moving over that 'hump' from struggling to read one word at a time to reading more smoothly into readers.  Dr. Suess and anything with a princess in it are her favorites.  She recently purchased a Littlest Petshop book and shocked us by reading almost all of it by herself (there were some big words in there!)! This has to be the most exciting part of teaching someone to read.  It is such a joy to see her choose to sit down and read a book for me.  But my favorite has to be when she reads books to her little brothers!!!  So wonderful....and it makes her so proud to be 'helping' me to 'teach' them!

Her penmanship is improving in leaps and bounds!  What used to be like pulling teeth for me has become something that she enjoys because she realizes how well she is doing and how much she is learning (my goal is to keep her from being anxious about it and to move more quickly past something that isn't 'perfect' in her eyes).  Simple grammar (capital letters for sentence starting and proper nouns; punctuation; indenting in letter writing; identifying nouns) is starting to become familiar to her through her copywork and she is developing better stamina in her hand.

(The final line is "To live again a butterfly")

Her spelling lesson is part of her Christ Centered Curriculum phonics program - she learns one phonegram (ie. "a consonant silent e" or "ai" to represent the /a/ sound) per lesson and practices spelling words which use it (in addition to words she's already learned).  Because of her 'struggle' to write perfectly, I have had to switch her to tracing the word in a sand tray rather than have her use a pencil.  This small change has helped her stop stumbling over the penmanship and improve in the spelling - she loves it!

For grammar we have finally started using First Language Lessons (Wise Bauer) when I told myself that we wouldn't.  With her literal mind, I figured she wouldn't be able to wrap her mind around the abstraction of grammar - yet.  I am thankful that she seems to be at a point where she is comprehending it!  I do NOT enjoy the way it is presented in CCC, however, and do not wish to purchase another program.  Because she is 'ready,' I have been able to run more rapidly thought the first FLL lessons than I did with Jefferson (what a struggle grammar was for him!!).  MY perfectionism would tell me that we are 'behind' here (as I 'compare' to Jefferson or others) but what I've learned about homeschooling and how I'm learning to better understand my students allows me to realize that we are right where she needs to be!  Yay - progress for teacher Mommy! 

I'm seeing progress in her narration ability just these last months as well.  This can be a difficult skill for some children and I think that it's important to choose the right reading/picture for them to narrate back from.  This is doubly important for Reagan due to her auditory processing delays.  Learning to listen (not just hear) the words read to her and process the information as well as formulate her own words to tell it back was quite hard.  We had started with daily reading from the Little House on the Prairie series.  She liked these but found the chapters very hard to narrate back and soon I could see her body language telling that she was dreading our reading time.  So we recently started with a book from the Millers series, Storytime with the Millers, which is comprised of short chapters based on clear lessons about godly character traits.  These have been short and clear and Reagan is enjoying them much more! The added benefit being that her heart is soft enough to gain wisdom from the Spirit in these chapters as well! My plan is to work on different ways for her to narrate, including verbally, acting out, or drawing a picture. I'm hoping this will make it more interesting for her and help her to listen better.

Math is by far her favorite subject!  Again - a surprise to me (yeah - I'm always surprised by the speed at which my kids learn - shocks me everytime and adds to the joy of getting to teach them!) since I initially thought that her little nuansances and perfectionism would delay her actual learning here. But here she is - flying through the same awesome curriculum that Jefferson used (I'd bought another more "right-brained" program but was so pleased with AL RightStart that I knew it would work for her).  As fast as she is picking it up however, I find her perfectionism creep in and do it's best to ruin a lesson if she finds that she can't give me answers quickly enough (in her mind - not by my requirement!).  Again - I'm working on teaching her that it's the learning & repetition that matters and not perfection!

But here's where I've gone so astray from my last journey through 1st grade: history & science!  My plan this year was to combine The Story of the World Vol1 with Mystery of History for history but I'm not sure I'm liking MOH so much (for this age and this student - it doesn't hold her at all). We've been trying to hit one chapter of SOTW each week as well as one day with mapwork/coloring sheet.  However, it always seems that this gets pushed if time gets tight and we are vastly behind schedule - certainly not going to complete SOTW by June.  My problem with this is that Reagan needs continuity to gain a feel for the flow of history (as well as the fact that my almost OCD can't stand to be not on schedule - lol!)!  We find ourselves in the same boat with science.  Just wrapped up a unit on the human body (which she loved!) but not sure what to work on next (holy crow! Think of that: me - with no lesson plan!  You flexibile, laidback mommas would be so proud!).  Most likely we will continue with some more nature study as we head into spring (she loves this and seems to have a knack for observation and for sketching).  I plan to just flex with it (while biting my lip to hold back my own perfectionism) and remind myself that she is excelling well in her basics (applause for me please, those who know me and my love of non-flexing)!

(Looking for a 'cloud' to form at the top of the jar -what focus, huh?)
(Sketching seeds pods we found outside)

(A white blood cell enveloping a 'bad' bacteria)

(We all know how hard it is to do 'detail' work with watercolors!)

(A bit of geography in every lesson)

As far as teacher planning goes this year, I have been far from diligent myself!  The calendar that I planned for us has been shredded due to Jefferson's time in 'away' school - everything now rotates around that (I hate to admit how stifling it feels to me after 3 years of a more flexible homeschool schedule).  If he has a snow day, so does she - even though I would normally have gotten lessons done in the morning.  I had a week break planned for this next week (2/22-2/26) - for some time to regroup, photocopy, re-adjust the schedule according to her progress.  But then the double blizzard hit, brought Jefferson AND dh home and no lessons got done for Reagan.  I'm a bit bummed that I didn't use the time better (I focused on our food prep & research and making Valentine's instead) because now I'm gonna have to stuff my planning into a couple weekends instead (I don't like to have to ask dh to deal with our labor intensive food plan).

But now that Reagan is progressing so well and has settled into the flow of homeschool in our house, I feel that I need to focus on diligently bringing her along as far as she can get in the next few months.  I plan on schooling through the summer (for 1st grade - that's light enough and leaves plenty of play time) but will have to balance that with Jefferson being home daily on his break.  I guess the best thing to do is to plan a summer 'school' for him as well - he's always happier when he's busy.

Goodness, what a post!  Glad to have caught my dear blog up a bit on Reagan's 1st grade progress thus far and I'm hoping that I can do so on a more regular basis - kind of get back into the swing of weekly reports.  But now....back to teacher planning for me!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Swallowed Up By Snow

Can't go without posting photos of this week's two ( that's as in double!) blizzards.  After all, the last time we had this much snow was 14 years ago when I played King of the Mountain with this cute dimpled computer geeky guy on Drexel's campus (and then went on to marry him)!  I want the kids to remember how much fun they had and just how much their daddy had to blow off the driveway.  Consider it a late Wordless Wednesday....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Reflection of My Brain These Days

I don't know if it's having four young children, getting older, or just that I'm only now realizing it,but my brain seems to be becoming more and more scattered!  Try as I might, I often succomb to what I call "The Overwhelm" and just throw my hands up and throw my stuff around, where it sits and give me a panic attack to look at until the day (months later) when I can return it to some semblance of normalcy and order (snortchucklesnort....riiiiight).

This photo is evidence of this homeschool/cook/cleaning lady/mommy me phenomenon occuring on my desk.  I have my highschool yearbook (Why? Oh - that would be for FB) up with my Teacher Manual along with my garden notebook, a book on allergies, Mystery of History (am I even utilizing that this year?), printer/scanner and colored paper up where they should be safe from clutter, but alas.....  All other scraps and pieces are a hodgepodge of life.  Don't know why I need a 150 piece pack of safety pins or reciepts from Christmas 2008 but hey - why deal with that now when I can wait a few months years?

It truly is a reflection of my brain these do I even function?  Oh...the coffee - that's how!  LOL!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Wishing for spring as I'm greeted each morning by sparkling frost, remnants of long lost flowers, and a lonely, quiet baby swing...