Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week 14, day 4

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed a few verses and catechism questions, and read about the shepherds and the wise men.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): It was almost warm, and sunny. Yippee! Eventually, sogginess becomes tiresome.

Handwriting: I did wet-dry-try on the board with P for the numbers 5 and 6. Hopefully this will help her remember how to form them when she's doing her 5-a-days.

Language Arts: P wrote yesterday's sentence from dictation, and read her reader with ease. The schedule had me hum tunes the kids knew and ask them to identify them. Since neither child can remotely carry a tune, I was skeptical about whether this would work, but P found it fairly easy. So her inability to carry a tune is separate from an inability to hear a tune, which is interesting.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): On Thursday morning, E asked if we could count to a trillion. When Ari heard me explain to him that we couldn't, but a computer could, he offered to program his linux box to count to a trillion. The computer took about 20 hours to count to almost a trillion by ones (some kind of floating point error caused it to count to a trillion minus 2^12), displaying every 100,000th number (because printing out numbers takes the computer much longer than counting them). This was highly entertaining. We then asked it to count to a trillion and a half, which it is still doing, but it's gotten past a trillion and thus the objective has been achieved. The kids have learned that computers can count much, much faster than people can.

I asked P to make 30 cents using 4 coins, and then using 2 coins. She did both of these instantly, hardly having to think about it at all. It's amazing how much easier this sort of thing as become for her over the past few months.

E's "school": We read "Thumbelina" from Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales and "What Happens To Your Food" from The Usborne Flip-Flap Body Book. E wanted to repeat yesterday's SSGMR activity, so I let him trace around a small book, trace the pencil line with a marker, colour in the rectangle, and cut it out. He was quite pleased with the result; his scissor skills are pretty good for 3 years old.

Geography and/or science: We looked at the pictures in the book about Denmark, and I talked about some of my experiences as an exchange student there. The book was quite long, so by the time we had finished reading it, the kids had no attention span left for any other geography-type books.

Other: We're done with school for 2009! I don't plan on doing any more until the first week of January; there is plenty going on around here for the next few weeks. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Since the baby's due date is February 3rd (but both P and E were born before their due dates), I don't know how much school will happen during January. I plan to take a couple of weeks off once the baby is born. Hopefully P and E will get to see much of the (home)birth, and that will count as science for several weeks!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Week 14, day 3

School didn't happen on Wednesday. The kids hung out with their Oma all morning while Ari and I went Christmas shopping for them (we're making them kites - shh, don't tell), and in the afternoon I had a midwife appointment from which I only got home at 3pm. (I really like the fact that my midwife spends a full hour chatting with me at every visit - so much better than what I've heard about big OB practices). By that time I didn't think it would be worth the stress of trying to get anything done, besides which the kids were enjoying being read to by their Oma, so instead I took them to the library when she was done. The outside of the library, that is, because "an incident" caused the library to close without warning for the rest of the day, so although the official closing time was 6pm, it wasn't open at 4:30pm when we came. We tried again on Thursday, and they were open (I called first).

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed a couple of verses, and read the story of Jesus' birth. The story went into Joseph's initial reservations about Mary's pregnancy, which led to an interesting discussion of just who should have babies when (I summarized it as "you ought to be married, and if you aren't it's a problem, unless an angel from God tells you otherwise").

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): It's been cloudy and/or rainy all week long. But this (Friday) morning we woke up to clear skies. Hooray!

Handwriting: I had P write her first and last name on the envelope of the card she made for her friend last time we did school. Her handwriting is still too large to comfortably fit the return address on the envelope as well, so I wrote that.

Language Arts: P did the copywork and read the reader to E (I wished I had my camera, it was really neat to see the two of them sitting together reading, but if I'd gone downstairs to grab it she'd have been done before I got back up). We played a "Tigger Toss" game where all the letters we've looked at so far were spread out on the floor, I said a word starting with one of the letters, and the kids took turns tossing a stuffed Tigger puppet onto the starting letter.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P did her 5-a-day without much difficulty, though it seemed like she'd switched her brain off when trying to write a 6 - it ended up as an 8, a 0, and a spiral before she finally got it right. Perhaps we should spend some handwriting time reviewing number formation.

E's "school": This week's SSGMR activity involves tracing around an object such as a mixing bowl or a book with a pencil, using a marker to trace on top of the pencil line, colouring in the shape, and cutting it out. E enjoyed doing this, and P watched patiently, which I used as an example when E was messing with P while she did her 5-a-day.

Geography and/or science: We made it to the library, and checked out books on Iceland, Norway, Denmark, the Vikings, the Solar System, various planets, and magnets. Once home, we read about Jupiter (a fairly good book, I didn't have to correct anything and only added a few points that I found interesting but the author hadn't), the Vikings (the book was over the kids' heads, but we discussed the pictures), and Mars (unclear, inaccurate writing by someone who HASN'T studied the Red Planet for several years at Caltech. I ignored the text entirely and told them like it was. At least the pictures were okay. Perhaps you should just never check out a book for your kids that deals with your area of expertise, but I think the key is that this particular author was neither capable of understanding science nor of writing in English).

Other: The kids decorated the cookies they baked a few days ago, using icing in ziploc bags with one corner cut off. If sufficient force is applied closer to the zip closure than to the open corner, the zip closure bursts open and a gallon of icing spills out, even if there was only half a cup of icing in the bag to begin with. I think this was mainly because I was trying to cook dinner at the same time, and E didn't think it as much of a problem as I did (I have no idea how many globs of icing he ate before I became aware of the situation). Okay, it wasn't really a gallon, it really was more like half a cup, but half a cup of icing is a LOT.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Week 14, day 2

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed a couple of memory verses and catechism questions, and read the story of the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary. I wasn't sure I liked the rhetorical style of the children's Bible for this story; it used a lot of unnecessary imagery and figurative language. I don't think the average 3- or 5-year-old (or at least my two) can grasp symbolism at the level the storytelling used. Imagery is great for older children and adults, but preschoolers and kindergarteners need ideas to be expressed more concretely.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): It's still cool and cloudy, and is expected to remain cloudy for a long time. The rain last night left a large puddle, and I let the kids play in it once we were done with school (I used it as an incentive to keep us on task).

Handwriting: I had P do wet-dry-try with b, c, and d to try to emphasize that "b" starts with a "big line down" and "d" starts with a "magic c". Later on, she complained that we hadn't done handwriting, since she hadn't done any pencil-on-paper work, so I let her make a Christmas card for another friend of hers in PA.

Language Arts: I had P do yesterday's copywork from dictation, and she read the reader quite well. She's clearly gaining confidence and fluency. She also got to make up a story about a fanciful picture, which went slowly at first but eventually she got into it and came up with a coherent and sensible story.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): Before we officially started school today, the kids played with Cuisenaire Rods. When we were putting them away, P counted all the 1-rods and found 22. She divided them into 2 piles of 10 with 2 left over, and I felt inspired to try to introduce adding with regrouping (carrying). So I started by establishing that the way we divide them into groups doesn't change the total, so I had her add 10+10+2, 12+10, and 11+11 both on the whiteboard and using the 1-rods. Then I told her I'd do something a bit tricky, and divided them into piles of 6 and 16. I wrote the problem on the whiteboard and asked her to do the first column. She saw that 12 (6+6) wouldn't fit in the column, so I asked her how many tens and how many ones were in 12. She wasn't quite sure, so I asked her how she would make 12 using dimes and pennies. This made it clear to her that there were 2 ones and 1 ten, so we wrote the 2 in the ones column and I told her we'd store the one ten above the other ten from 16. She added the tens column and got the expected answer. She seemed to readily grasp that this made sense. I'll find other concrete examples to teach the same concept in the coming days and see how it goes. I'm so stoked about teaching my 5-year-old stuff I'm pretty sure I wasn't taught until 2nd grade, and having her understand it.

I put a 2-digit addition problem (no regrouping) onto her 5-a-day, and she needed a bit of guidance with that but did it well. The problem was 40+15, and I made it concrete by having her find 40 cents and 15 cents, and then put them together and compare the result to the result of her addition. Once she did, her response was basically, "Well, of course they match, they're the same problem." So I feel pretty confident that she's tied the more abstract addition problem to reality.

E's "school": E demanded "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" today, so we read that, as well as a book about 3 boys who spend a day on the river. We didn't get to any P3/4 books, but that can wait for tomorrow. Yay, flexibility.

Geography and/or science: The kids' extended playing outside in last night's puddle meant that it was too late to go to the library when they were finished. I'm sure they absorbed some good physics by splashing around. They also invented an adorable game where they took turns being Jericho and Joshua's army. The child who was Jericho stood still in the middle while the child who was the army ran around Jericho in circles, then stopped, made a trumpet noise, and Jericho fell. Then they switched roles and played again. This worked great for them until E thought it would be hilarious for Jericho to run away instead. P was annoyed at E but then got the idea that a Jericho made of sticks would be easier to control than her younger brother, so they played the same game but both ran around the pile of sticks, and took turns knocking it over and rebuilding it. This is a way more creative game than I'd be likely to come up with myself - it's fun to see them in imaginative play together.

Other: The gingerbread recipe I used for the gingerbread house we made was ridiculously generous - I could probably have made 2 gingerbread houses - so we used the leftover dough to make cookies. Both kids are really good at this now. It was frustrating a year ago to make cookies with E, because he cut out several shapes on top of each other and was upset when the resulting cookie didn't have a recognizable shape (and when I insisted on transferring his creation to the cookie sheet instead of letting him eat it before baking). This year, he's as good at it as P, so now we have even more good things to eat, just lying around being tempting...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Week 14, day 1

I thought about not doing school this week, but the idea of entertaining the kids in some other way every single day made me shudder. They still find it enjoyable (hopefully this will remain the case for a long time), so I don't see any need to stop until the week of Christmas. Also, this way we can read the whole Christmas story during our school time.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the 2 most recent memory verses, and read the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): We agreed that the weather today was cool and cloudy. E was able to recognize the 14 on the calendar without much help.

Handwriting: I let P trace 5 letter cards and E trace one. He wanted to do more, but P was already done. She has been reversing "d" lately (actually, all her "magic c" letters that start with a c shape), so I may use tomorrow's handwriting time to correct that with wet-dry-try.

Language Arts: We introduced another letter, and the kids were happy that they got to make a letter sheet. E chose to play foolishly with his scissors near his pants after I had warned him not to, so he lost the privilege of cutting anything out (he's ruined at least 2 shirts by testing scissors on them). This was upsetting to him but didn't completely extinguish his joy at finding appropriate pictures and at least getting to tape them in place. P got to cut out, tape in place, and label all the pictures she found for the letter sheet - her handwriting is neat and small enough now.

P did her copywork (tracing, really) neatly, and read this week's reader without much trouble. After she'd sounded out each sentence slowly, I had her repeat it to me faster, to see if she was comprehending, and she really was. This is the first of the readers that she hadn't looked at before, and she was pleased that she was able to read it so well on the first try.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): We had fun with this today! I didn't make up P's 5-a-day until just after lunch, and I asked her if she wanted to trace coins or just count them (since she'd been struggling with the tracing the past few days). She insisted that she wanted to trace them, so I had her make 25 cents in as many ways as she could without using any pennies. She found 3 of the 4 possible ways herself, and I guided her to the fourth.

After P was done with her 5-a-day, I thought I'd try a suggestion from the MOTL Operations book: adding Really Big Numbers. I wrote down a pair of 5-digit numbers (making sure that there would be no carrying required), and drew columns so that she could add the numbers in each column (ones, tens, hundreds, etc). She was able to do this easily and came up with the correct 5-digit answer. Then I let her make up a number, I made up a second number (looking at each digit I wrote to make sure that its sum with the corresponding digit in her number would be 9 or less), and she did the problem without any guidance from me. Then we let E write a number. He can only really write 1s and 0s, so almost any number I came up with for the second line would work - the last problem we did, P ended up adding 101,110,110 to some random number I came up with and getting the correct answer (I did draw the columns for her). The kids loved this so much - they were really impressed at being able to add such big numbers. Ari commented later on that they don't really understand what they're doing, so I plan on alternating between having P add 2-digit numbers (and demonstrating with manipulatives, like dimes and pennies, or beans and 10-bean sticks) and letting them play with huge numbers. As she gets a grasp of larger numbers, I'll add in dollar bills or 100-bean squares and I'm sure the connection with reality will come. Ari suggested that we could probably introduce carrying as well, if we used manipulatives. I'll "test the waters" on that one and see how P does when I introduce the concept.

E's "school": I tried interspersing various P3/4 books with the other activities, particularly P's seatwork, today, and it worked well. We read several sections of Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day? and "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" from the Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics. I didn't even look at what this week's SSGMR activity was - the past weekend was packed; I sang in 4 concerts and didn't have any evenings at home from Friday to Sunday (evenings being when I usually do most of my prep work).

Geography and/or science: Nothing along these lines happened today. I've been meaning to take the kids to the library, but the nearby library closed and is moving farther away, and I only recently found the next-nearest one (and had no time to investigate it in much detail once I'd found it). We might do that tomorrow, since there's no Titmouse Club this week (or anything else, for that matter - no Arabic Bible study, no ballet lessons, no CBS - it's rather relaxing).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Week 13, day 5

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed John 3:16 and our most recent catechism questions. These deal with sin and how sin deserves the wrath and curse of God, so I explained to the kids that that's the bad news, but John 3:16 tells the good news - Jesus took the curse on the cross, and when we believe in him we can have life forever instead of getting what we deserve. We also read the story of Jonah, both in the Bible storybook and a Peter Spier picture book adaptation (which I conditionally recommend: the pictures and story stick close to the original text but in the back there's "additional information" including a more liberal date for and attitude toward the book of Jonah than respect for the Bible justifies. We discussed the pictures - a map and a diagram of a ship of Tarshish - and I didn't read any of the comments aloud).

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): E really excels at identifying the date on the calendar, and P is doing pretty well at telling time to the nearest minute when I walk her through it.

Handwriting: Paul, look for a pair of Christmas cards from your niece and nephew in however long it takes a standard letter to reach Canada at this time of year. E traced his name (though he couldn't see what he was tracing and formed the letters as well as he could remember instead, which turned out surprisingly well) and P wrote a few sentences.

Language Arts: We played the picture matching game, where the kids place various pictures on the letter card corresponding to their initial letter. P has no trouble with this, and E just needed help finding the letters sometimes - he could easily identify whether a given letter was right or wrong once he'd found it.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): Again, P got frustrated when I included counting money involving a dime and a quarter. She's been able to do this readily in the past, but it's been a problem the last few days. I may change up the 5-a-day again, using scanned coins for her to count and letting her trace the same ones if she wants to trace something, instead of making her come up with the right number of coins.

We played the coin matching game, this time with various numbers of nickels to practice skip-counting by 5s. E does this almost perfectly, and P is at about the same level as he is but doesn't like it and resists.

Earlier in the day, we did more measuring. The kids put their chairs on the table, and we measured together that the table alone was 41 cm high and the chair alone was 26 cm high. I showed P how to do the addition problem on the whiteboard, and we confirmed together that the chair on the table was 67 cm high just as our sum predicted. Later on, when I found out that standard postage to Canada is 75 cents, I showed the kids how to add the values of two standard stamps, which came to more than 75 cents, so we knew that 2 stamps would be enough.

E's "school": We read a number of stories and poems, including "Leo the Late Bloomer," "A Baby Sister for Frances," and "Baby Says" from the Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics. P tried to read the words in "Baby Says" (there are only 7 unique words), but they don't follow the phonics rules we've covered so far (Uh oh, no, okay, baby) so I had to help her out quite a bit. She started to recognize some of them by the end. We discussed some of the ways life might change once our baby is born - I may not have as much time to do some of the things they're used to, our school might be interrupted if the baby cries in the middle, etc.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Week 13, day 4

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We didn't get started until about 3:15, because I was enjoying reading a magazine and the kids were enjoying being read to by their grandparents. We reviewed our memory verse and most recent catechism question, and read about Daniel in the lions' den.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): While we were outside observing the weather, we ended up measuring various items because E brought the meter stick with us. The jungle gym is almost 2 meters high, the roof of the first floor more like 2 3/4 meters. When E was standing on top of a pile of wood stumps, he was 2 meters high, though he is almost exactly 1 meter high when he's standing on the ground. Although it was late and I wanted to get through various other school things, I thought this was a valuable enough activity to let it continue for a while.

Handwriting: P completed a page of capital "A"s. I can see HWT's point about having children complete an entire line of letters without any sample letters in the middle or at the end of the line - the letters do get progressively messier. I think that, when we use these free worksheets in future, I'll put a few sample letters in before I have P complete the line.

Language Arts: P wrote yesterday's sentence from dictation, re-read this week's reader quite fluently, and completed a "story elaboration" in which she added to a 2-sentence story. Her elaboration ended up taking up over half a page of my handwriting (which is slightly larger now than when I was in college, but still...). She seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, but insisted on jumping off the bed repeatedly while coming up with some of the descriptions.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): I could tell, when I brought out the 5-a-day, that it was going to be a chore to get P to sit still and do it, so I let the kids play with Cuisenaire rods first. While they played, I made number cards (I cut 4x6 index cards in half and wrote a number from 1 to 18 on each, and also made +, -, and = cards). I traced the relevant Cuisenaire rod onto each card and coloured it the appropriate colour. The kids enjoyed finding the right Cuisenaire rod for me, and once we got into the teens I placed the appropriate 1s digit next to the orange 10-rod. P insisted on decorating the +, -, and = cards with Cuisenaire rods in different colours from their sizes (she traced a purple 4-rod onto the + card and coloured it dark green, for example). I wish she hadn't, and may make new ones to use when we're actually using the cards to demonstrate concepts, because it confuses matters. I showed them that 4+1=5, 1+4=5, 5-4=1, and 5-1=4 using the cards and the Cuisenaire rods, and I think they understood the interrelatedness of the 4 equations, but I'm not sure they'd be able to reproduce them.

When P finally did her 5-a-day, it took a good bit of refocusing. It became clear to me today that working earlier in the afternoon is far easier in terms of the kids' attention spans, so I paid for my laziness. When it came to the coin play, generally P's favourite part, she collapsed in tears of frustration when trying to add to a quarter to make 42 cents. I walked her through it, and she did most of the thinking herself, but needed to be cajoled to trace the coins once she'd assembled them under her paper. I declared that formal school was over - it was time to start thinking about dinner, anyway.

E's "school": This didn't happen. It was cloudy again, so we couldn't examine our shadows outside. I did read a fun book to them, but I'm counting it under "science".

Geography and/or science: Before we started school, E asked me to read the Usborne "What's Under the Ground" book. I told him we would read it after school, which we did once the food was on the stove and safe to ignore for a while. The book deals with many of the things near the surface, like anthills, moles, and pipes, as well as caves and mines. It deals briefly with the idea of "digging a hole through the earth", with a cartoonish cross-section of Earth. After we had read the book, P told me, "I don't understand how, if the earth is round, people on the underside don't fall off." This led to a discussion of how gravity pulls stuff toward where the most stuff is, and the most stuff is under your feet wherever you are on Earth. I reminded her of how, when we visited South Africa, gravity seemed to work just the same as in the USA. We turned the cross-section page of the book to various angles to see how down was always toward the center of the earth. I think she grasped the concept, and I was pleased to see her really thinking about it.

Week 13, day 3

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed John 3:16 and read about the handwriting on the wall.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): This whole telling time thing is a little beyond P, and I think I succeeded in intimidating her by asking her to do it on her 5-a-day a few days ago, because she seems confused now. When we record the temperature and the time the temp was taken, I go through how we figure out the time step by step. (Where is the hour hand pointing? What hour is it? Where is the minute hand pointing? Let's count the minutes together - do you want to count by 5s or by 1s?). If I leave out any of the hand holding, she gets upset. Clearly, this means that she's not ready for me to leave any of the steps out, so I need to be reliable to help her with all of them for the next little while.

Handwriting: I gave P a page of "a"s to copy, since she was tempted to do them wrong on Tuesday. She completed all the lowercase "a"s and they looked good.

Language Arts: P traced the second sentence for the week, re-read the reader, and we played a game where for each letter we've learned, the kids took turns naming a food that started with that letter. E really enjoyed coming up with different kinds of meat: turtle meat, alligator meat, penguin meat, fox meat, etc. I tried to get him to identify foods he's actually tasted, but at least he proved that he's fully grasped the concept.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P got through her 5-a-day slowly, after a few threats about how if she pretended to be asleep instead, I'd have to assume that she was sick and couldn't go to ballet. This problem wasn't restricted to math; she tried it repeatedly during just about every subject. I didn't let her get away with it, and she did all her work well once she actually did it.

E's "school": This didn't happen. It was too cloudy to look at our shadows outside, which was the main other thing from SSGMR I'd planned, and I left to take P to ballet before we had time to read any storybooks. Perhaps I ought to switch around our schedule some, by putting a read-aloud between handwriting and language arts or before math, to give him more direct attention. I'll mull this over and perhaps try it next week.

Geography and/or science: We looked at my picture book about Bamble, a region in Norway. The book is full of beautiful pictures, mainly featuring seaside towns and winter scenes. I explained what fjords were by drawing an outline of Norway on our whiteboard, and then erasing bits of the coastline and drawing jagged inlets into each erased bit. It was a bit more dramatic than the real map, but the kids readily saw that Norway has a lot of coastline because of the fjords.

When I first received this book in 2001, I was amazed to see that one of the pictures was of an area whose name was the same as my mother's maiden name. The picture's caption stated that the land in that area had been farmed for over 5000 years. Never having lived more than 4 1/2 years in one place (though I have now lived in the USA for almost 8 straight years, which explains why I'm getting stir-crazy), I found it incredible to have a photo of a place where I have 5000-year-old roots. I tried to explain to the kids why I liked this photo so much, but they were way too young to grasp the concept of "rootedness". I guess it is kind of abstract.

Other: I took P to ballet while Ari and E used their underwater camera housing to film sunfish eating bacon. They got some awesome close-up footage of several sunfish stripping their bait wire clean. I guess this counts as "science".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 13, day 2

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed about 10 of the most recent catechism questions and the memory verse, and read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): Today, the kids didn't argue that it was cold, and were satisfied with recording it as cool and cloudy with a bit of rain. The time was 11:55, and I showed P how we could figure that out on the clock, but I think I confused her.

Handwriting: Mom and Dad, expect adorable Christmas cards in the mail, the one from P with several sentences and the one from E with his own tracing of his name. P started making her lowercase "a" in a strange way, so I nipped it in the bud by having her do "wet-dry-try" on the chalkboard.

Language Arts: I asked P to write yesterday's copywork from dictation, which she did well when she was trying. I became frustrated with her when I reminded her to leave a space between words, and she started the second word at the very end of the line (leaving most of the line as a space). I made her erase it and do it sensibly - I think she just wanted to get a rise out of me. She read the reader beautifully. The "creative expression" activity for today was for the child to make up words to a tune they know already, but P can't carry a tune yet. I helped her and we sang the list of her favourite colours (from most to least beloved) to the approximate tune of "Mary Had A Little Lamb": "Pink and purple, blue and green, yellow, orange and red" twice.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): Before Titmouse Club, I let the kids watch the math video, covering addition, subtraction, and comparisons. Later in the day, P compared all the braid bracelets she's made, deciding which pairs were the same, similar, and different.

I put a clock reading 8:05 on P's 5-a-day, but it took a lot of prompting and eventually telling her before she figured it out, so that was premature. I'll keep reviewing hour and half hour, and work on more direct instruction for the next few days to try and help her grasp it. I showed her how to tell time to the nearest minute after she was done with the 5-a-day, and she seemed to grasp it again, like yesterday, but it's clear I need to let her keep practicing with lots of input from me before she can do it by herself.

E's "school": We did the "shadow play" activity today. It was cloudy anyway, so we closed the curtains and turned off the lights, and saw what kinds of shadows various toys cast when they were between a flashlight and the wall. I showed them how the shadow got bigger when the toy was closer to the flashlight, because it was blocking more of the light. If it's sunny enough later in the week, we'll look at the sizes of our shadows outside at various times of day.

We read "The Gingerbread Man" from The Tall Book of Nursery Tales and a few more poems. P was amused by the poem "Brooms", which described trees on a windy day as brooms sweeping the sky until it's blue again.

Geography and/or science: Titmouse Club today featured birds, the various things they eat, and the places they live. The kids spread peanut butter on pine cones and rolled them in seeds to make bird feeders. We haven't hung those up yet.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Week 13, day 1

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): I introduced a new memory verse for this week, John 3:16, and we discussed the meanings of "perish" and "eternal". We also read about the prophet Jeremiah, and how King Jehoiakim burned Jeremiah's scroll.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): The kids thought it was cold, although they were both in short sleeves and didn't instantly start shivering. We compromised with "cool/cold"; it was about 58 degrees F. P's ability to read the thermometer is really useful sometimes: I can ask her to tell me the temperature while I'm getting dressed without having to go into their room and look at the thermometer myself.

Handwriting: Today, I thought it was time for something completely different. I had P and E both make Christmas cards for friends of theirs back in PA. P wrote a Christmas greeting neatly inside the card. I intend to have her do this each day this week, so, family members reading this, you ought to receive one in the mail sometime before Christmas.

Language Arts: We played a matching game where the children took turns picking up pictures and placing them on the letter they started with. P found this easy, and E struggled to find the right letters sometimes. We'll play it again, probably, on Friday, and see how it goes. E has no trouble hearing what the starting sound is ("phonemic awareness"), just with identifying the shape of the letter - he mixes up F, T, and I.

P did her copywork happily, and I had her read the 4th Sonlight reader. She was really amused by the misadventures of the sap-sipping rat. I enjoyed seeing her laugh after each sentence she decoded. This is the last of the readers that she's looked at before, and I think last time we tried (over the summer) the process of decoding was still so difficult for her that she didn't really grasp the storyline. It's neat to see how much she's progressed since then, even though she doesn't have any new quantifiable skills - she's just more comfortable with the skills she already had a year ago.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P has really grasped the concept of place value, as far as I can tell. She had no problem telling which was greater, 45 or 54. She is easily able to make a given amount of money using dimes and pennies (in this case, 41 cents: 4 dimes, 1 penny). She's starting to get comfortable with using quarters as well, in this case using a quarter, a dime, and 6 pennies to make 41 cents a different way. She enjoys it when I give her a money problem whose solution involves lots of coins, because then she can arrange them into a "flower" shape before tracing them. Later in the day, I gave her a little direct instruction in telling time, because she's really solid on hours and half-hours and I want to move on to intervals of 5 minutes. She grasped it pretty well, and I'm going to start putting that sort of problem on her 5-a-days.

E's "school": We read "Crictor" and "Pete's A Pizza" from the Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics, as well as a few poems. Tomorrow I'm going to try this week's activity from SSGMR, which involves playing with shadows cast by objects held in front of a flashlight.

Geography and/or science: Mom, you'll be pleased - we started looking at Scandinavia. We identified Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland on the Markable Map, and the children took turns tracing them (E traced Iceland and Greenland, where there's more margin for error). P wondered whether Greenland was really green, and I assured her that it was not - when I was an exchange student in Denmark, a fellow student told me of her time in Greenland and described her excitement, after a few months of being there, at finding a bit of green lichen on a rock. Once she was back in Denmark, she was looking at her pictures and couldn't figure out why she'd taken so many photos of the same grayish green bit of lichen! P thought probably Iceland was a more honest name than Greenland. Does anyone know why Greenland has that name? I plan on going to the library on Wednesday and getting kids' books on the various Scandinavian countries; at this point I have a general textbook on Denmark which is pretty dense and whose photos would take a lot of explaning, and a small book on Bamble, a region in Norway where I visited relatives in 2001 (also while I was an exchange student). I haven't showed these to the kids yet, though we may look at the Bamble one tomorrow.

Other: I made dough for Norwegian Christmas cookies with E's "help" (he was excluded a few times for unauthorized operation of the food processor), and plan on assembling them tomorrow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Week 12, day 4

It did snow! This influenced our choices for the day, our ability to focus, etc.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed a couple of memory verses, and read about Isaiah. This story wasn't as coherently a story as most of the ones in our Bible storybook, but P seemed to grasp quite a bit of it (E sat on the floor in a box / with a box on his head, so he was probably listening intently but it didn't look like it).

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): Cold! Yes! It spat a bit of snow before we went out and recorded the temperature, but then turned to big fat flakes for most of the rest of the day, and they even stuck a little. This morning, the shaded spaces still have little bits of white left. Huzzah! This morning, the kids enjoyed running outside and finding ice in the bird feeder and finding that the drips on their jungle gym were ice, not water.

What do public school teachers do when white stuff comes out of the sky? It was hard enough getting ONE child to focus occasionally - what about 30 children? (I let P get up and look out the window, at least, between each activity we did, on condition that she eventually sit down and do the next thing).

Handwriting: I remembered that I had a booklet of handwriting practice pages. They don't go with our handwriting curriculum, but they're close enough that we can use them to good effect. P chose to do an "I" page instead of dry-erase letter cards.

Language Arts: We finished the week's letter review worksheets and dictation, and P read the 3rd reader. E wanted to read too, and got through the first 2 pages before his atention span expired. I told him, "You're 3, you really don't have to be able to read yet." He threw himself to the floor and sobbed, "But I WAAAAANT to!" "Okay, then, we'll keep working on it." We also played a "replace the letter" game - given a word like "pit", have one kid read it, then replace the i with an a and have the other kid read it. E did pretty well with this, though he still struggles to remember what sound "i" makes, and P did perfectly.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P finished this up as quickly as she could, in order to be able to go outside and play. She did it accurately, but her neatness suffered toward the end. That was basically it for school.

E's "school": He and P learned all about white frozen bits of H2O falling out of the sky. Any suggestion of anything else would have earned me disdain.

Geography and/or science: Water freezes. This is awesome. We talked about the difference between TX and PA, and how there was no reason to hope that the snow would reach above E's head (something he kept suggesting).

Other: We went and bought a Christmas tree, and decorated it. I let the kids cut out snowflakes from paper, which they taped up in the windows. Ever since I learned how to fold paper into sixths instead of just quarters, my and my kids' snowflakes have looked awesome.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Week 12, day 3

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the most recent catechsim questions, because the kids had some trouble with these yesterday. We also read the second half of the story of Esther.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): It was definitely not cold by the time we checked the temperature, but the kids disagreed with me. However, tomorrow it is supposed to snow (yes, snow, in Houston), so perhaps this will give them some needed perspective. :-)

Handwriting: I had the kids use the dry-erase letter cards again today. I gave P all 10 letters we've covered in the language arts curriculum, and I gave E 4 of them. He was upset over not being given as many as P, so while she did her language arts worksheets I gave him the other 6 to trace. He got through 4 1/2 of those before becoming sidetracked.

Language Arts: Not much of interest here, there were worksheets and copywork, and P re-read the 2nd and 3rd readers. She is gaining fluency, and reads all the words accurately and with some measure of understanding. It seems like she enjoys re-reading the readers while she's doing it, even though she protests beforehand.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): I'm really in love with Math On The Level. P says that math is her favourite subject, and I use the promise of her 5-a-day to motivate her to finish her language arts. She complained at the fact that, when a problem is written in vertical format, the equal sign consists of a single long horizontal line beneath the problem instead of 2 short horizontal lines next to the problem. She placed a normal equal sign next to her answer for one of the problems, and added a long horizontal line beneath the original to make it look more like an equal sign on another problem. Sorry, kid, notation can be nonsensical at every level of math.

E's "school": E played with 2 puzzles while P was doing her seatwork, and I can see him making progress in his ability to put them together. His 15-piece Bob the Builder puzzle he completed without help, and I only gave him a few suggestions for his 25-piece Nemo puzzle.

We read "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse" from the Tall Book of Nursery Tales, and a few poems.

Geography and/or science: We didn't do any of this, unless you count starting to bake a Christmas fruitcake (note to all you Americans out there: you only groaned because your excuse for fruitcake is not worthy of the name. You need to try my great-grandmother's recipe before you get to make another comment on the subject of fruitcake: it is exquisite). We added baking soda to a pot full of boiled raisins, currants, sultanas, and butter, and watched it fizz. Now it gets to sit overnight, and we'll bake it tomorrow. Ari also built a fire with them, so they got to see how you need to light the smaller bits of wood before there's enough energy to get the bigger logs to light.

Other: Nothing else academic happened. Not having had Monday to get things rolling, this entire week has felt like catch-up and only the "3 R's" and Bible have happened consistently.

Week 12, day 2

Yesterday (Wednesday) was packed brim-full. I had a midwife appointment in the morning, followed by Arabic Bible study, and after coming home and doing school with the kids, I took P to ballet and had time for a quick bowl of soup before dashing off to the rehearsal for the Houston Symphony Orchestra Chorus's Christmas Pops concert. Needless to say, there was no time in there for updating the blog.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the catechism to date, and read the first part of the story of Esther (how she became queen).

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): Again, the kids thought it was cold, and I thought it was cool. The temperature was in the upper 50s.

Handwriting: I had P do a page of the phonics workbook, and write her name neatly at the top. Her dictation in language arts also counts as handwriting.

Language Arts: In addition to the vowel worksheet, there was a "chore description" activity. P chose instead to describe how to braid a bracelet, which she did fairly well. When I read her description back to her, she saw an obvious hole in it and filled it in.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): We only just had time for this, but P did her 5-a-day well. We didn't have time to finish the last question (I asked her to make 30 cents using at least one quarter, which she did, but there was no time for her to make 30 cents another way, because we needed to go to ballet).

E's "school": Nope. Didn't happen.

Geography and/or science: Nor this.

Other: Because of so much other going on.

I've been meaning to insert a musing on the value of learning to read at the same time as your kid. I'm thinking here of my studies of Arabic. I've known most of the letter sounds in Arabic since I was 13, but fluency is hard to come by. When I'm at Arabic Bible study and the ladies take turns reading aloud a few verses each, I feel extremely stupid. I force all my powers of concentration into pronouncing the words on the page, but there is no mental power left over for parsing the meaning of what I just read. The ladies are all supportive and encouraging, but I can tell that it's frustrating for them to hear me going so slowly. Suddenly, I have sympathy for all the kids who were in the "other" reading groups, and for the adults who stumble over words when called on to read aloud. (Since I've been reading fluently since I was 5, I'm afraid I always felt mild disdain for people who couldn't). I know that, with practice, my skills will improve. I'm also sure that it makes me a better teacher for P and E. The immediacy of this experience - being faced with a page full of squiggles, and pouring all my energy into turning the squiggles into words - helps me grasp what it's like for a small child doing this for the first time. So, homeschool moms and kindergarten teachers, let's hear it for learning to read a phonetic language that isn't your own, for a deeper understanding of what it's like for your kids.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week 12, day 1

Ari and I had a wonderful time away from the kids in Fredricksburg, TX, and we enjoyed our time in North Carolina with my parents over Thanksgiving as well. We got back last night, so this morning our 2-week break was officially over.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed all the memory verses to date. I was surprised at how well E remembered most of them - he supplied the gaps in P's memory. We read the story of Jehoshaphat's "singing army" - how God caused the alliance of enemies to turn on each other and destroy each other, so that Jehoshaphat had only to take the plunder.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): I had no time to do prep work, so the kids watched me make another calendar sheet for December. They thought it was cold, I thought it was cool: 53 F. Ari's parents found a jungle gym on Craig's List and stepping outside to observe the weather was more temptation than they could handle, so I let them spend 5 minutes or so burning energy before insisting that they return inside.

Handwriting: After lunch and some longer jungle gym play, I let each child trace a few dry-erase letter cards. I did "wet-dry-try" with E on the board while P finished her letter cards (I gave her more than him), and he happily (and neatly, for a 3-year-old) wrote B and F on the board several times.

Language Arts: This is another review week, so P has vowel worksheets to do as well as her copywork. I introduced the third Sonlight K reader, and P was unwilling to read it at first, so I helped E through it. He doesn't routinely recognize the letter I, and most of the words in the reader contained the short i sound, so I gave him lots of hints, but he was able to read about a third of the words independently. Once he was done, P read the book fairly accurately but slowly. We'll work on it daily and I'm sure she'll increase in fluency.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P did all the problems on her (hastily prepared) 5-a-day without much trouble. She doesn't always look closely at a problem to see whether it is addition or subtraction, but I point out to her if she's solving 11+3 when she should be solving 11-3. She's fully grasped making a given amount of money using dimes and pennies, so I think she's getting comfortable with place value.

We started playing the "trading up" game, but neither child seemed as excited about it as usual (though they were the ones who suggested we play it). When E asked me to count his coins for him and the total was different from what he had anticipated, he swept the coins to the floor in rage and I declared the game over. He sulked for a while, and I didn't change my mind, so he contented himself with playing with cardboard shapes instead (I made them from old cereal boxes and painted them with tempera paint - there are squares, circles, triangles, and halves and quarters of the squares and circles).

E's "school": I didn't prepare anything from SSGMR this week, though the Saturday immediately after my last post we did observe whether various items sank or floated in water. We didn't read any of the Sonlight P3/4 books, but we looked at "A Child's Book of Art" from P4/5 and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs".

Geography and/or science: We went to Titmouse Club where the theme was squirrels and mice. The children learned that rodents' teeth grow throughout their lives and they have to gnaw to keep them from getting too long, that baby mice and squirrels are born blind and naked, and that they build nests for their babies that look a bit like birds' nests. They made thumbprint pictures of mice and we took a nature walk during which we saw no mice or squirrels, but 2 female cardinals.

Other: None of this. When the math game finished on such a sour note, I felt that I wouldn't get away with making the kids do anything else at all, so I let them play by themselves. Easing back into our daily routine isn't automatic, and it felt like more of a fight today than usual.