Thursday, January 28, 2010


I'm declaring a 3-week break from school, due to Baby's arrival. My parents will come visit from Feb 11-14, and I'll aim to start up again after they leave.

He was born yesterday, Jan 27, after only 5 1/2 hours of labour (only about 3 hours of which were truly uncomfortable). This surprised me as, with each of the other 2 kids, I knew I was in labour almost 24 hours before the baby was born (and the first 18 hours or so were very easy). I went to Arabic Bible Study in the morning and, as I was pulling off the freeway, had a contraction that really meant business. I decided to go to Bible study anyway, and the contractions continued every 5-7 minutes. I started to become afraid of driving back home. The subject of the Bible study was Jesus walking on water, and how he said to his disciples, "I am he - do not be afraid". I was thrilled to be able to understand enough Arabic to grasp the main point, and I repeated it to myself (in Arabic) all the way home, through each contraction. By the time I got home, I knew without a shadow of doubt that this baby was on his way, and soon. I lay down for an hour and the contractions intensified. My mom called as I was getting up. By then the contractions were only about 3 minutes apart, so I didn't exactly have a leisurely conversation with her. I called the midwife and she headed over while Ari started setting up the birth tub. By the time there was enough water in the tub for me to get in, the contractions were intense enough that I needed to make a lot of noise - I tried to keep it to a pure musical note, and mostly succeeded, but it felt much more like the sort of note a baritone in an opera would make than my typical soprano range! Once I was in the tub, I was marginally more comfortable, but it was really intense. My mother-in-law had taken the kids out to be out of the way, but things were moving along quickly and they started back. I pushed for about 10-15 minutes, and the kids arrived back during the last push. They watched him being born - I think the intensity of the noise I was making was a bit overwhelming for them, but they saw him come out. He was born at 4:34pm. I was so grateful to God for making it so that the kids saw the birth, but didn't have to listen to my noises for any longer than necessary. The midwife showed the kids the placenta (which was huge - almost a pound bigger than average) and explained to them about the cord, and the amniotic sac, and the blood vessels that were on my side. When I was sitting on our bed with him, the kids came and got a closer look and were reassured that I was okay, too. This morning, they got to hold him for the first time, which they really enjoyed. They are so gentle and sweet with him, but he finds them a bit overwhelming and becomes overstimulated more quickly than they would like. Sorry, kid - the 3rd born is just going to have to learn to deal with a lot of activity around him! At this point I'm starting to feel somewhat recovered, but bed beckons appealingly. Good night!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Week 17, day 1

Sunday night, P and E had mentioned that they wanted to spend more time with me doing "something fun." I told them I would think about what sort of "something" we could do, and when, and decided that Monday would be spent at Space Center Houston. We got going by about 10:30 (avoiding morning rush hour traffic) and spent almost all day. When we first arrived, we looked at some suits on display - an actual suit from Apollo 12, complete with moon dust, and a quarantine suit from Apollo 11. There was an interactive display area with a wind tunnel, weights to lift that became harder to lift if you pressed the "Jupiter" button and easier if you pressed "Mars", and a model rocket to launch (you pumped it up and it was powered by air pressure). There were models of the Space Shuttle demonstrating the 3 degrees of freedom: roll, pitch, and yaw. There was also a Shuttle mockup that you could explore, with freeze-dried food and lots of velcro on the lower level and the pilot and copilot seats on the upper level. I explained how the stick controls roll and pitch and the rudder controls yaw, but I'm not sure how solidly the kids grasped that. Probably flying an actual aircraft would help, but I'm not ready for them to take that step just yet.

We got to take the tram tour this time. Last time we went, it was the end of the summer, and in addition to every out-of-town visitor to Houston, at least 3 summer camps had decided to take their entire contingent of 100-odd kids in matching t-shirts to Space Center Houston. It started to rain, and they cancelled all the tram tours, which only added to the crowds in the museum itself. It was a complete zoo, overwhelming in every way, and I bought an annual membership ($3 upgrade) in the hopes that I'd be able to come back on a day when I could get my money's worth. Monday certainly fulfilled these hopes, and the tram tour was the most worthwhile part of it. We stopped first at the refurbished mission control room, restored to how it looked during the Apollo missions. (We visited when I was a child in 1988 or so and the room was still in use, and were able to see, through the window, people actually controlling a space shuttle mission. A new room is now used, which tours are unable to see). If you've seen the movie "Apollo 13", you have a very accurate picture of what the control room looked like. I'm not sure the kids grasped much of the significance of the control room, but the next stop was easier for them to understand: the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. This building contains 2 mockups of the Space Shuttle and mockups of all the components of the International Space Station, and is used for astronaut training. I explained as much as I could to the kids about what the various components were, and they were riveted the whole time we were in the building. The final stop on the tram tour was the Saturn V rocket, which was used to send people to the moon. The rocket is an actual one that was built for the Apollo program but never used, and it is housed lying down inside a building. Even lying down, the base is much taller than our house, and the engines are impressively huge. It took a long time to walk the length of the rocket, and there was a display on the wall featuring each of the 17 Apollo missions, as well as a "looking forward" display about a planned return to the moon. When we were leaving the building, the kids looked up in the sky and noticed that the moon was up, so we talked about the energy it took to get people all the way up there. On the way back, the tour guide said that one of the most common misconceptions people have is that the Space Center has a zero-G training facility on the grounds. I laughed out loud for several seconds, then noticed that no-one else thought it was funny. I forget how much more physics I know than the average American. My kids will too if I have anything to do with it, mwa-ha-ha! Perhaps we'll visit again before E turns 4 (admission is over $20 for kids 4 and older, and free for 3 and younger).

Today, we started the school week.
Bible: We reviewed last week's catechism and memory verse, and read the story of Zacchaeus.

Calendar: During our outside observations, I decided that today was a good day to start our "early spring" seeds (the ones they tell you to plant "as soon as the ground can be worked"), and we did that after we were done with school for the day. I plan on having us water them daily during "calendar" time.

Handwriting: P traced her copywork today, which she did fairly neatly. She still struggles with "b" and "d", but I'm seeing progress.

Language Arts: We introduced a new letter today, and P read her reader with full comprehension (she told the story to Ari at lunch time).

Math: P has seemed to enjoy her 5-a-days lately, or at least find them somewhat easier. Today's went quite smoothly. We played with pattern blocks for a while afterwards.

E's "school": didn't really happen today, but we did read How Do You Lift a Lion?. We discussed friction and gravity, and I reminded them of how I'd talked yesterday about the friction between the space shuttle and the air of Earth's atmosphere which made the shuttle heat up during re-entry and necessitated heat-resistant tiles.

Science/Geography: Today's theme at Titmouse Club was the noises animals make. We listened to various birds, and the kids made noisemakers. They carried the noisemakers with them on the nature walk, which added somewhat to the challenge of hearing nature sounds, but the docent did a good job of having them sit quietly with their eyes shut for a minute to listen. She pointed out a tree riddled with woodpecker holes, and asked the kids to imagine the noise that was made when the woodpecker made the holes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Week 16, day 4

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the memory verse and catechism question, and read about how Jesus walked on water.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): The weather was still beautifully warm, and we enjoyed it more after lunch.

Handwriting: I had P trace "b" and "d" on her dry-erase letter cards, and then practice writing them correctly on the whiteboard. She also rewrote yesterday's sentence from dictation.

Language Arts: P read the reader easily and accurately. We played a guessing game where I described an animal and gave its starting sound, and the kids guessed which animal it was. They then took turns describing animals - P did this fairly well, and E hemmed and hawed for a while before copying one of P's descriptions verbatim.

E's "school": We read all the remaining stories in The Tall Book of Nursery Tales: The Princess and the Pea, The Little Red Hen, and Chicken Little. We also played the "yes/no statements" game again, which he continued to enjoy tremendously.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P did her 5-a-day quickly and easily this time. Today (Saturday), she put her coin-counting abilities into practice by going out and buying a scarf for her grandmother (I'm not sure why, but it was really sweet of her to want to spend her own allowance). She counted up her amassed savings, determined that she had enough, and once she'd paid I showed her how to count her change.

Geography and/or science: Again, nothing formal, but we did spend a good amount of time outside doing yard work (mostly pulling up huge ragweed stalks). P noticed the root structure of the ragweed and we talked about what an impressively good job the roots did of holding the plants in the ground. P pulled apart the stalks and found some white spongy material on the inside.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week 16, day 3

Today's weather was beautiful - perfectly clear and mid-70s. Once we got home from CBS, the kids played outside with my mother-in-law while I took a nap (Baby doesn't believe in my getting a full night's sleep any more, and if meaningless contractions don't keep me awake till 1am, they wake me up at 5am). Once I woke up, I decided that if school was going to happen today (it didn't yesterday) it would have to be outside. The kids loved this change in routine.

Bible: While P and E swung on the swings, I reviewed the week's memory verse and catechism with them. We then read the story of the feeding of the 5,000.

Calendar: We observed that the weather was warm and clear, but didn't record it or look at the actual temperature, because that would have involved going inside. The kids were not interested in any activity that took them inside at this stage of the game.

Handwriting: I had P trace her copywork, lying on the porch and pressing on a book. It turned out fairly well despite her unconventional position. I did not work on the b/d reversal difficulties with her, because I wasn't prepared to haul the chalkboard outside!

Language Arts: P read her reader while sitting on the swing, and did so accurately and fluently. Having her read the same book every day of the week is helping her gain confidence, and I'm glad Sonlight suggested it because I wouldn't have thought of it.

We played a letter matching game, in which I spread out the capital and lowercase letters the kids have learned so far and had them pick up matching pairs. Once each of them had 6 letter pairs (including a vowel each), I suggested that we play at making words. E was quite able to read the words I made for him, and seemed to enjoy reading "bat", "cat", "ham", and "mat". P made some real and some original words, and found it funny when I accurately read her made-up words.

Math: P dawdled a little on her 5-a-day, but the suggestion that she complete it inside renewed her attention. Once she was done, she wanted to play store, and that ended up happening inside. E didn't join us, because he was watching Ari in the garage working on his telescope tracking machine. The sky is so clear, Ari couldn't bear to have his tracking machine working less than perfectly. P has gotten pretty good at playing store when the prices are easily made with the coins she has in her hand, so I introduced the concept of making change. I explained it in terms of "trading down" - you have a nickel, and trade it down for 5 pennies, and now you can buy that 4 cent item and have a penny left. She seemed to grasp it pretty well, but it'll need a lot of practice before she's confident.

E's "school": When P and I were winding up our "store" game, E came in and tearfully said, "You didn't do any of my school!" So I read him "Make Way for Ducklings" (P was outside again at this point) and "The Three Javelinas" (both kids loved this one, as did I - if they demand a daily reading, it will not drive me insane). I then revisited the "yes/no statements" game: "Cars drive in the ocean", "E has green hair and brown eyes", etc. (I once had green hair and brown eyes, but I don't know if my kids are aware of this).

Geography and/or science: Nothing formal of this nature occurred, though my mother-in-law was including the kids in some serious garden work when I got up from my nap. We also discussed the adventures of their uncle and aunt, who are currently becalmed in the Sargasso Sea in their 30-foot sailboat but just caught a 3.5-foot mahi mahi on a line without a fishing rod. Some of my "yes/no" statements with E also covered science topics: "It's summer here," "It's summer in South Africa," "Penguins live in the jungle." We received postcards that my parents sent from their trip to South Africa over Christmas, and talked about how the seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. Thanks, Mom and Dad - the kids enjoyed the postcards.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Week 16, day 2

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed this week's memory verse and catechism question, and read the story of the 4 men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing. We discussed how, although the man's obvious need was that he couldn't walk, he really needed Jesus to forgive his sins, and that's something that everyone in the world needs, including those who can walk.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature)

Handwriting: I had P write from dictation the words that she had traced yesterday. I forgot to do any review of "b" and "d" today, but I doubt we'll get to it tomorrow because we'll only have an hour and a half or so between a doctor's appointment (interviewing pediatricians) and P's ballet lesson.

Language Arts: P was to describe how we decorate our house for some special occasion. Not surprisingly, she chose Christmas. I was interested to discover that the decorations she saw as most important, I had barely noticed.

She re-read this week's reader. Having read it once and knowing the story, she was more inclined to guess words rather than look at them and read them accurately, but I insisted that she try again. Sight words are only sight words if you're reading them correctly.

E's "school": We read Noah's Ark and "The Ugly Duckling" from The Tall Book of Nursery Tales. We spent a long time over "Noah's Ark", enjoying the details in the pictures (the concerned expression on the elephant's face when the ark bumped the summit of Mt. Ararat, for example). "The Ugly Duckling" fit in nicely with our study of ducks at Titmouse Club. We also re-read "The Three Little Pigs". (Jeannette, I just looked and discovered that our library has a copy of "The Three Little Javelinas" - we'll have to check it out).

Math (5-a-day, other activities): I promised the kids that we could go to the playground at Bear Creek after we were done with school today, so that inspired P to work at her 5-a-day with diligence. She tends not to look closely at whether I am asking her to add or subtract, so she misread 12-5 as 12+5, but I stopped her before she got too far. Attention to detail is important in life, but it doesn't come naturally.

Geography and/or science: Today's Titmouse Club theme was ducks. The docent did a fantastic job, demonstrating how flippers moved more water than open fingers could, how duck feathers are waterproof, and how ducks filter out duckweed from water (she had a pair of spoons with holes drilled in them, and used them to scoop up weedy water and demonstrate how the weeds remained in the spoons once the water had drained out). The craft involved making ducks out of paper plates and plastic spoons. Then, each child was given a net and instructions on how not to fall into the lake, and they swished around catching zero fish. (I'm sure the fact that it's January didn't help, but it would have to be a pretty idiotic fish that hung around long after a dozen preschoolers started muddying the water). The docent caught 3 mosquito fish and put them in a bucket for the kids to look at, which helped cut the disappointment somewhat.

After we were done with our formal "school", we headed over to Bear Creek Park, which has the best playground I know of in the entire city as well as a collection of birds including rheas, emus, horned owls, peacocks, and parrots. I pointed out to the kids how the rheas' feet were clearly not webbed and not designed for swimming. There were some ducks in a waterway nearby, and the kids found several feathers. They investigated their waterproof properties, and then tossed them into the middle of the waterway, where the wind blew them under the bridge. E was excited about the progress his feather had made for at least 20 minutes. I hadn't planned it out to tie in with Titmouse Club, but it was neat how it did anyway.

Other: We reviewed finding "C" on the piano and each child played all the Cs on the piano with their thumbs. We also played a version of Simon Says, which E is finally old enough to grasp pretty well (P is a pro). I have a "pre-violin" book I bought from the Violin Book company - it's for preparing preschoolers for their first violin lessons, and contains activities for following directions, rhythm, treating an instrument gently, etc. - and the Simon Says idea came from there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week 16, day 1

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): I introduced a new memory verse for this week, John 10:11, and another catechism question. We read the story of how Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): P is really starting to get the hang of telling time without much help. I only need to ask her, "What is the hour? Where is the minute hand? So what time is it?" and she can figure it out pretty much by herself.

Handwriting: I let today's copywork (tracing) take care of handwriting. P is still mixing up how to form "b" and "d", so I may work on that more directly with her tomorrow.

Language Arts: We introduced a new letter today. I had put the picture dictionary away in the wrong place last time, and spent a frustrating 10 minutes scouring the bookshelf before giving up, taking up the catalogs to make our letter sheet, and finding the picture dictionary at the bottom of the pile. Ah, well. The kids are very forgiving.

P did a fantastic job of reading this week's reader. Her reading was almost fluent the first time she read it, and she really enjoyed the story itself. I'll have her continue reading this reader all week, which will help many of the words become familiar sight words, enhancing her fluency even further.

E's "school": We had a great time with this week's SSGMR activity. It involved reading a list of statements to E, and having him say "yes" or "no". For example, "The grass is red." "The sky is blue." "Plants grow in the washing machine." He thought these were hilarious, and made up several that I had to answer. P and E continued playing this game intermittently throughout the day, and I think it'll outlast the week. We also read "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", "Put Me In The Zoo", and "Mr. Brown Can Moo - Can You?" P was clearly reading some of the "sound effect" words in "Mr. Brown" before I got there, which was fun.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P dawdled on her 5-a-day, and the timer went off before she was anywhere near done, but she didn't complain about it as much as she did last week. She was glad that I had put a measuring activity on the worksheet. I asked her to make 34 cents using as few coins as possible, but figuring out how to trade in 3 dimes and 4 pennies for a quarter, a nickel and 4 pennies was too hard for her by herself and I had to help her.

P played with the Think-It-Through tiles again, and enjoyed finding the pattern. The hard part for her isn't the actual questions in the activity book, but keeping track of the number on the tile vs. the number that is the answer. Once she's comfortable on that, I think she'll enjoy the toy even more.

Geography and/or science: Finally! P finished her "Denmark" book today. She drew and labeled a windmill, a rocky beach, a swan, some cheese, and a lot of bicycles. I talked about how, when I was an exchange student in Denmark, I had enjoyed the fact that they have separate traffic signals for bikes (allowing bikes to go straight before cars are allowed to turn right, for example). I also reminisced about the plentiful, inexpensive Brie and Havarti. "Mommy, I would like to visit Denmark one day," said E.

All right, Mom, we'll do Norway next! I'll try to make it appeal to them even more... :-)

Other: It was a beautiful day, warm and partly cloudy, so I had the kids play outside for over an hour. They rode their bikes, climbed trees (I forbade one tree to E after he slipped down, got stuck, and I had to strain to get him out, which was decidedly uncomfortable), and built a "treehouse" (several items of plant matter were actually placed in a tree during this endeavour). Meanwhile, I sat and knitted - rather, I ripped out 6 rows (of over 200 stitches each; this is a huge project) where I'd made a mistake, got all the stitches back on the needle without losing any of them, and redid 2 of the rows. I felt satisfied and productive, even though my net progress was negative, because it's going to be beautiful this way.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Week 15, day 7

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the most recent catechism question and a memory verse, and I read them the story of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter and healing the woman who touched him.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): It has rained all day, and is predicted to continue doing so tomorrow.

Language Arts: We played "letter match", in which the kids took turns looking at a randomly selected set of 4 letter cards with capitals and lowercase letters mixed together, and seeing if any of the cards matched (a capital and a lowercase of the same letter). I secretly reshuffled the deck when P started getting upset over how E had 4 matches when she only had 1. P had no problem figuring out if 2 cards matched; she could see it instantly, and only had to think for a little bit when both lowercase b and d appeared in the same 4-card set. E mixes up p, b, and d, but he's only 3.5 years old - I gave him all the help he needed. I'm actually quite impressed with how well he's doing and I wonder what sort of language arts curriculum he'll be ready for when we start doing kindergarten with him.

P read the 5th and part of the 6th Bob books. The Bob books get harder faster than the Sonlight readers, it seems; the 6th Bob books had 6 sentences on a 2-page spread, which made P start feeling overwhelmed. I let her quit because she had already read a whole book.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): The kids watched the MathTacular video while I exercised and showered, wanting as usual to see their favourites, the water fight (greater than or less than), company store (making change) and snack schedule (telling time).

I forgot to set the timer at the beginning of P's 5-a-day, and she dawdled like crazy until I remembered. She complained that although she likes the money and telling time exercises, and doesn't mind multiple-digit addition, she doesn't enjoy the single-digit subtraction or writing problems in vertical format or sequencing problems I give her. So after she'd finished the 5-a-day, we reviewed measuring lines with a ruler, and I rearranged her 5-a-day review schedule so that she'll get measuring practice more often and the ones she doesn't like (which she understands well, so they don't need to be reviewed as often as I had been) less often. E also practiced measuring lines with a ruler, and did really well, though he had trouble keeping the end of the ruler on the end of the line. Once I helped him, he was easily able to count how many inches long the line was. (We only worked on measuring in inches, but next week I plan on adding centimeters since the concept is exactly the same - they just have to remember to turn the ruler to the correct side).

E's "school": We read a LOT of books today. We read 4 Eloise Wilkin stories: Busy Timmy, Guess Who Lives Here, We Help Mommy, and Baby Dear. We also read How Do You Lift a Lion? and Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? from P4/5, as well as a book Ari's brother gave us about the life of naturalist William Beebe. Ari's dad filled in a gap in his education by reading the kids "Bartholomew and the Oobleck" by Dr. Seuss. Oh, and how could I forget "Hippos Go Berserk" by Sandra Boynton?

Geography and/or science: Reading the science books from P4/5 and the biography of Beebe (who, among other things, invented the Bathysphere and discovered many deep-ocean creatures) counts as science for today. I found P's half-finished Denmark book, but when I suggested working on it she announced that she had already done enough school, thank you, and would work on it later. I decided not to push it.

Other: I reviewed with both kids how to find "C" on the piano, and had them practice playing it using their thumbs with their other fingers unfurled (not in a fist).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Week 15, days 5 and 6 (Wed. and Thurs.)

I didn't update this yesterday evening, because Ari and I went out for a date and then I thought (again) I might be going into labour. So we watched Wall-E while I bounced on the birth ball and contractions kept up every 10-15 minutes until 11pm. I decided it was bedtime no matter what, and slept very well through the night and woke up with no sign of labour. So much for that.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): Yesterday and today, we reviewed the most recent catechism question and a verse. Yesterday we read about how Jesus raised a widow's son from the dead, and today we read about how Jesus helped Peter catch many more fish than he expected to. We sang "I will make you fishers of men if you follow me" again.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): P is really gaining confidence with reading the time on the clock. I moved too fast on making her do it by herself before, but I can give her much less help than I needed to a few months ago and she still figures it out. I'll keep giving her as much help as she needs for telling time to the minute, and reviewing hour and half hour on her math worksheets.

Handwriting: Yesterday, I wrote "bed" and "bad" on the blackboard and had P copy them (to practice writing "b" and "d" the right way around). Today, I didn't make her write at all.

Language Arts: Yesterday and today I had P read some of the Bob books. She made it through the first 3 and a half yesterday, and today finished the 4th and didn't want to do any more, so I let it go. Today, we played alphabet BINGO. E is getting more confidence recognizing letters and sounds, and P finds it easy.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): The timer continues to be a good strategy for keeping P focused on her 5-a-day. Today, I told her to make 71 cents any way she wanted to. She hauled out 71 pennies, then realized there was no way she'd be able to trace them on her worksheet. She started trading up, looked at the timer, and decided to do it a different way. At that point, E asked me how much 2 quarters makes, and I suggested to P that she use this knowledge to make 71 cents. This was enough help to have her make it the most efficient way possible (2 quarters, 2 dimes, 1 penny). She finished tracing them just before the timer went off, so she got a sticker and her choice of a math toy. She lost interest fairly quickly, but E wanted to play with the Think-It-Through tiles. I gave him the help he needed, and he enjoyed seeing the patterns, but then we had some kind of communication glitch. He wanted me to help him make patterns with the tiles outside the tile box, but he didn't want me to rotate the tiles, or to complete patterns I saw, or to remove tiles from the box and place them pattern side up, or anything else I thought of that fit into my mental category of "help make patterns." He ended up in a screaming tantrum and I put the blocks away, rather dissatisfied with my inability to grasp just what he'd wanted me to do.

E's "school": Yesterday, we read "Jack and the Beanstalk" from The Tall Book of Nursery Tales. Today, we read "Lentil" from A Robert McCloskey Treasury. Yesterday, we did an activity from SSGMR, involving folding a circle and two squares along axes of symmetry, forming a semicircle, a rectangle, and a triangle.

Geography and/or science: I still can't find P's half-finished Denmark book. I've searched folders and everything now. I don't know if I should have her start another one, or just move on to the most important country in the world (that would be Norway, for those of you who have never met my mom).

Other: Yesterday I taught both P and E to find "C" on the piano, and had them play it with their thumbs. E wanted to keep his hand in a fist while playing with his thumb, but was able to unfold it when I asked him to. I didn't have them practice today, because they were having lots of fun with play-dough and their grandmother at the time I would have asked them to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Week 15, day 4

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the most recent catechism question and introduced a new one, and we read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): The weather was beautiful when we went to check it - somewhere between cool and warm, and perfectly clear. So I let the kids play outside for 15 minutes instead of heading immediately back upstairs to record the weather.

Handwriting: I let P's dictation count as handwriting; she wrote yesterday's tracing from dictation and had no trouble with spelling. I brought up the timer to keep her focused, which really helped.

Language Arts: P read her reader before lunch - she's really doing well with this week's now, and I'm going to let her read some of the Bob books tomorrow and Thursday instead to see how many she can read now.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): Again, the timer (and the promise of playing with pattern blocks if she finished before the timer dinged) helped tremendously with keeping P focused on her work. I'm also taking care not to give her the more difficult problems first, since she's easily discouraged. Today, she finished with 5 minutes to spare (I gave her 15 minutes), and I found a sticker to put on the top of her work.

The kids both played happily with pattern blocks, and then I hauled out our "Think-It-Through Tiles". When I was a kid, this was one of my favourite toys. P wasn't ready for it when my mom got it for her 2 years ago, but today she enjoyed it. It calls for fairly complex thinking (I seem to remember it being a simpler system when I was a kid). There are 12 numbered tiles and 12 lettered spaces. The child finds the problem in the book that corresponds to the number on the tile, solves the problem, and finds the solution in the key which gives the correct letter in which to place that number of tile. The child has to remember that if the answer to tile 7 is 3, she is looking for 3 on the key and not 7 (this tripped her up all the other times she tried to play with it). Once all the tiles are placed, you turn the container upside down to reveal a pattern, which matches the one given in the book if all the problems were done correctly. P did 2 pages in the first book, in which all the problems simply involved counting objects and finding the corresponding numeral in the key. The simple problems made it fun for her and she loved finding the patterns at the end (this was my favourite part, too, when I was her age), so I foresee us taking this toy out again.

After the Think-It-Through Tiles and pattern blocks were put away, P wanted to play a card game, so P, E, and I all played Go Fish. E is really starting to recognize numbers, so it was more fun than it's ever been to play with him. Once we'd finished Go Fish, P and I played War (E didn't want to), and each time she captured one of my cards I encouraged her to tell me by how much she'd beaten me (her 6 took my 3, so she said, "I won by 3!"). She seemed surprisingly quick at this and did it all mentally; I don't think memorizing math facts is going to be a struggle at all. When a face card took a number card, I just had her say, "I won by a lot." Eventually I will introduce the idea that J=11, Q=12, K=13, but not for now (when we play cards, A=1 and is the least valuable card, because it only has one symbol on it. This makes more sense than the standard valuation).

E's "school": We read The Bee Tree together. I'm thinking there was more, but it's slipped my mind.

Geography and/or science: Today's theme at Titmouse Club was "Animal Detectives" - that is, ways to figure out that an animal is or has been nearby. They talked about things to look for and listen for, as well as how your sense of smell (skunk) or touch (mosquito) might clue you in. We looked for and didn't find tracks, but the craft involved rubber molds of various animals' feet, which the kids used as ink stamps to make tracks on paper. P found a worm-eaten leaf, which she realized showed that a worm had been there.

I was going to have P finish her Denmark book, but couldn't find it. It was on their table yesterday, and today I searched their entire room and there was no trace of it. Bah.

Other: I found an online source of free piano lessons for preschoolers, and felt that if I could include E, we might be able to be more consistent (since I wouldn't be trying to keep him off one piano while teaching P on the other). So I did the first lesson with both kids, and they both grasped it (basically, finding groups of 2 and 3 black notes on the piano keyboard). This system makes more sense to me (in terms of how my kids think) than the Bastien method, so we'll see how it goes for the next few weeks' worth of free lessons. If it goes well, I'll buy the rest or make up my own in the same style (of course, the free lessons only take you so far).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Week 15, day 3

I've labelled today Week 15, day 3 in order to track with the week of Sonlight Language Arts we're doing. We'll basically finish Week 15 of language arts tomorrow, and I'll just fill in with other stuff for the rest of the week, but I know if I label this week 16 while doing week 15 in the schedule, I'll confuse myself more than pregnancy brain is confusing me already.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed 2 memory verses and read about how Jesus turned water into wine. The story started with a description of Jesus calling his disciples and telling the fishermen that he would make them "fishers of men", so I taught the kids the song "I will make you fishers of men if you follow me".

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): It's warmed up after 3 days of 20-degree nights and highs in the 30s and 40s. The kids were happy to call 58 degrees "cool" instead of "cold".

Handwriting: I had P do a worksheet of the letter "d", to practice starting it in the right place. She did it beautifully, but then when she tried to form a "b" she formed it the same way as the "d". I know it's normal for kids her age to struggle with reversals, so we'll just keep working on it.

Language Arts: P was slow and unwilling to trace her copywork, but when I stopped paying attention to her she did it more readily. She read the week's reader more easily than last time, and didn't guess at all. We played "letter sound pick-up", where letter cards for the letters learned to date were placed on the table and the kids took turns picking up the card that the word I said started with.

E's "school": We read "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The Three Little Pigs" from The Tall Book of Nursery Tales. The kids enjoyed "The Three Little Pigs" so much that I had to read it twice.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P was very slow to do her 5-a-day, and had a nearly impossible time staying focused on it. I wonder if giving her a time limit and a sticker or something if she finishes before the timer goes off will help her - I'm going to try to remember to do this tomorrow. I made sure today's problems were not too hard, and as soon as she actually thought about each problem she was able to do it, so I think she just needs something to keep her focused so it doesn't take up 30 minutes, 25 of which involve her changing positions on her chair, getting up and running around, twirling her pencil around until it rolls under the bookshelf and then having to retrieve it, etc.

Geography and/or science: We didn't do any of this, unless listening to the midwife check the baby's heartbeat at the home visit counts. We didn't start school until afternoon because of the home visit in the morning (mainly for the midwife to get familiar with where everything is and discuss my birth plan, but she also gave me my weekly checkup).

Other: My mother-in-law made marshmallows with the kids, and they decorated them with sprinkles, chocolate, and nuts. Then they hand-delivered platefuls to both next-door neighbours and some friends who live nearby. Fortunately, there are still some left over for us to enjoy as well.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Week 15, day 2

We didn't do school yesterday. Partly, getting back into the swing of things is tough after a break, but partly it was a busy day anyway. We had CBS in the morning, and it may have been the abundance of "You're still around? No baby?" comments, but after lunch I was having fairly uncomfortable contractions every 15 minutes or so. Since I'm still only 36 weeks along, I decided to lie down on the couch to try to make them stop. After 45 minutes of laziness, I was feeling better, and realized that the living room was a disaster area that needed serious tidying before we did any school work. When I was almost done straightening up the room, my inlaws got back from their week-long trip to Fredricksburg. By the time the excitement of their return had subsided and I was starting to think about maybe doing a little school, my mother-in-law had enlisted the kids in removing Christmas ornaments from the tree, and she suggested that I take a proper nap. This turned out to be an excellent idea, but precluded any school. I did better today - no baby seems imminent, which is good. He'll be full-term on Wednesday, and then he can come whenever he wants (if I went into labour before 37 weeks, I'd have to go to a hospital, which would stink - I'm really looking forward to a home birth).

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed all the catechism questions, and read about Jesus' baptism and temptation. I emphasized the concept that we learn memory verses so that we'll know God's word and be able to resist temptation the way Jesus did.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): Houston is having a major cold snap! The high today was predicted to be 36 degrees, and when we measured it we got 35 degrees. It was down in the 20s last night and is supposed to be that cold again tonight. Our thermometer's sensor is right next to the house, and we suspect the temperatures it gives of being elevated, but it was 28 when we woke up this morning. P misread it as 58, not being used to the first digit being a 2.

Handwriting: I had P write last time's copywork from dictation. She wrote the first 2 words half the size of the line, and complained bitterly when I asked her to make them larger, but eventually complied. Is she taking after me in this? (I remember a high school teacher, squinting at my assignment held at arm's length, saying, "You'll write a beautiful essay on the AP Biology exam, and no-one will be able to read it without a microscope!"). I insisted on the size mainly to help her get the proportions correct, a skill she has not yet mastered.

Language Arts: P has a tendency, when reading a reader she's seen before, to try to remember what the word was instead of sounding it out. Thus, "Sid Hits" (the title) became "Sid has a bat." (the first sentence). I didn't let her get away with it, and she became frustrated at me, but eventually she did sound out all the words in the book. Some words are becoming sight words for her as she gets more familiar with them, but she needs practice paying attention to the details that separate words that she knows by sight from words that are slightly different.

P was to describe "our busiest day ever" while I wrote down her description, and she chose yesterday. She kept wanting to skip to the most interesting part (taking down the Christmas ornaments), and I insisted on her including details from earlier in the day by asking leading questions. The final product was a combination of her wording and mine - getting things properly in chronological order is a challenge for her.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): We practiced measuring lines I drew on the chalkboard using the "inches" side of the ruler (again, E wanted to use centimeters. He'll be easy to brainwash into cgs units, mwa-ha-ha). Both kids did this really well.

P became frustrated with her 5-a-day, because the first problem I gave her was too hard for her. I walked her through it, and she did the rest of it just fine. Note to self: If something is likely to be hard for P, put it towards the end instead of the beginning, because she's easily discouraged. Challenges don't invigorate her the same way they do me - it's a personality thing.

E's "school": Didn't happen today. I prepared a SSGMR activity, but it fell out of my mind.

Geography and/or science: Perhaps watching Ari light and tend a fire, and dropping dry paper and then a wet paper towel in and observing the differences in how they burned, counts as science. We didn't get around to finishing the book on Denmark, but I may suggest we do it tomorrow. E has been banned from touching, let alone using, crayons until after the baby is born, because he meticulously transformed a box containing 21 intact crayons into a box containing 4 intact crayons and 34 halves. Perhaps the envy value of seeing P draw with the crayons while being denied the same privilege will cause him to respect property better.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We're Back! (Week 15, day 1)

We finally got around to doing school today. We had friends from our Caltech days visiting from out of town until lunchtime yesterday, and although P asked to do school in the afternoon after they left, I felt that tidying the kids' room was a higher priority. We'd let all the kids do a good deal of unsupervised playing while we adults enjoyed each other's company, and unsupervised play by a trio of small children isn't conducive to neatness.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): I decided that this (half) week would be a review week. We went over all the memory verses we've learned to date, and read the story of the boy Jesus in the temple.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): This took a while since I hadn't made a new January calendar, but the kids watched me do it and thus grasped more of how a calendar is put together than they would have if I'd done it without their input.

Handwriting: I ignored this today, having decided to let P's copywork serve as handwriting practice. She traced the copywork, and I realized I need to give her a lot more practice on lowercase "d". I'll haul out a worksheet tomorrow, put a few samples in the middle and at the end of the line, and have her work on it then.

Language Arts:We introduced the letter D, and I demonstrated the difference between lowercase "b" and lowercase "d" on the blackboard. I wrote the word "bed", and, because the word itself looks like a bed, drew a person sleeping with his head against the vertical line of "b" and his feet against the vertical line of "d". I explained that if it were "deb", there wouldn't be room for the person to stretch out, so to remember which is "b" and which is "d", they just needed to write the word "bed" such that the person could lie comfortably. They can also hold out their hands, thumbs up, and say the word "bed", to remember which is which. P used this strategy when sounding out some of the words in this week's reader.

The reader featured a game of baseball, so I had to search my memory for an outline of the rules of the game. The kids were somewhat confused after my explanation, likely because I lack a deep understanding of the subject myself. But then, I'm not a U.S. citizen and I have no talent for round moving objects, so I have an excuse. It's probably a good idea for my kids (who are U.S. citizens) to have a rudimentary concept of the national sport. Perhaps Ari can fill in the gaps I leave...

E's "school": I hadn't prepared this week's SSGMR activity, but we read Horton Hatches the Egg and several poems. The kids are still taken with the poem "Brooms", which describes trees on a stormy day as sweeping the sky blue again.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P wanted to do her 5-a-day on the top bunk (the bunk bed was a Christmas present from their grandparents). I was willing to let this happen, but she got discouraged with the 2-digit addition problem I gave her and turned her brain off. At least, that's what it seemed like. I told her to come down from the bed so I could help her better, and I led her through it step by step. I think she simply forgot what to do first, and the uncertainty paralyzed her. Once she got through that problem, the rest went fairly smoothly.

Part of the Language Arts for this week involves talking about standard measuring units (feet, inches, etc). I'm counting this under math since it's on the list of the next few math concepts I want to cover. I got out a ruler, pointed out how it was 12 inches long (E pointed out that it was 30 cm long - hooray!) and that 12 inches made a foot, and then put up my foot. Both kids commented that my foot wasn't nearly a foot long. Daddy's foot might be a foot long, but P's and E's feet were even shorter than mine. I talked about the concept of standardization (because if I needed a 5-foot piece of wood, and measured it with E's foot, or even mine, I wouldn't get a long enough piece for what I was building). This they grasped pretty easily. We then measured how tall each of us was. E is 3' 5.5", P is 3' 11.5", and I'm 5' 9.5". We measured the table as being 3' 9.5", and predicted that E would be shorter than it and P would be longer than it, and then verified our predictions by having the kids lie on the table.

Geography and/or science: We went to Titmouse Club this morning (it is offered both Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and we were busy yesterday but not today). The theme was insects, so the kids learned that insects have a head, thorax, and abdomen, six legs, and antennae. They did a craft involving 2 cups cut from a styrofoam egg carton being transformed into "insect eyes" by means of pipe cleaners. On the nature walk, the docents rolled aside a few logs, and handed out magnifying glasses to each child so they could closely examine the critters that skittered away. In addition to insects, there were worms and skinks. Later this afternoon, E was heard muttering, "What is a thorax? What is a thorax?"

P had wanted to make a book about one of the Scandinavian countries yesterday when I insisted on tidying instead, so I let her start a book on Denmark today though there wasn't time to finish it. She wrote "Denmark" on the front and drew the flag all by herself (Denmark's is a good one to start with), and I traced a map which she coloured in time to leave for her ballet lesson.

Other: P was glad that ballet lessons started up again. After ballet, the kids watched intently as I made a t-shirt saying, "No, I'm not having my baby yet. Yes, I'm sure it's not twins." Enough strangers think I'm huge that I'm ready to repel them with such a t-shirt.