Saturday, April 16, 2011


It's been a while since my last post, and I apologize. Too much life, too little computer - and that's not a bad thing.

B is walking well, and starting to talk. He says "Hi" to anything that moves, repeatedly. A few weeks ago, in the grocery store, I was wandering up and down the cereal aisle finding all the family favourites while an employee wandered up and down in the opposite direction restocking the shelves. Each time we passed each other, little B's face lit up, he waved his arms, and he exclaimed, "HI!" It made the guy's day.

B is also aware that books are important objects, and he explores them in every way he can. He loves the crinkly feel of his Daddy's Bible pages in his fist, so we've had a few ripped pages. He wants to turn pages by himself in books both board and paper, so we've had a few ripped pages. He knows that you have to take the book off the shelf before you can read it, so we've had a few empty shelves and crinkled pages, not to mention quite a clean-up job. I try to do as much school with P and E as I can while B is napping, because when I'm reading another book to them, I have no attention to spare for whatever havoc B is causing.

A month or two ago, I caught E paging through P's reader with a wistful look. At the end, there's a certificate stating, "I Did Read It!" When E got to that page, he looked at me and announced, "I did read it, just like P." I told him that he could start reading lessons right away. We started using The Reading Lesson, and he enjoyed the first few lessons, but started refusing to do the assignments in lesson 4 or so (they involved saying the sounds of about 25 letters on a page, mostly the same 3). I'm going to instead try some of the approaches suggested in Ruth Beechick's The Three R's, drilling new letters with actual words, which he finds more interesting, until we're ready for the Bob Books or Sonlight readers. He actually read Bob Book number 1 quite happily yesterday and the day before, but I remember with P feeling that they moved too quickly compared to the Sonlight readers. In any case, I intend to do a few days of drill with each new letter, creating words he can read, and then let him read a book containing letters he knows several times in a row. This is roughly the Sonlight K method, but I'm tossing the instructor's guide aside - I've gained confidence since teaching P to read.

Speaking of P's reading, she can now read anything you set in front of her (though I haven't tried her on Shakespeare yet) for about a minute or so, before the mental effort gets too exhausting. Halfway through the 3rd "I Can Read It" reader from Sonlight LA 1, she announced, "This is boring. I don't want to do this." So I let her choose one of the next readers, and she happily read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and The Cat In The Hat. She's finishing up the rest of the Grade 1 readers quickly. We'd been having problems with her willingness to do the creative expression assignments, so, emboldened by Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason, I've replaced them all with copywork. Over the past several weeks, she copied the entirety of "What Bilbo Baggins Hates", which I mentioned in my last post. I've started taking spelling lessons from her copywork instead of from the lists in the instructor's guide. For example, if she copies "Chip the glasses and crack the plates", I have her spell plate, plates, gate, gates, hate, hates, etc. If she can do it well the first time, she doesn't have to do it again. If we come across a word that she'll need to memorize because it doesn't follow the rules (when, whole), I write it on the board, ask her to look at it until she knows it, and then erase it and ask her to spell it. If she makes a mistake, I simply repeat the process until she really does know it. This is working well for us, and I'm fighting a lot less during language arts time.

Although I haven't taught any formal multiplication yet, P can solve 56 x 4 mentally. I asked her how she did it (I had asked for the perimeter of a square, and expected her to line the numbers up on her paper and add them). She told me, "Two 50s is 100, two 6s is 12, and I need two 2s of each of them, so it's 200 and two 12s, so the answer is 224." That's the sort of answer I love! No fragile knowledge for my kids! I bought the Singapore Math book of Challenging Word Problems, which is another guard against fragile knowledge, and she's enjoying it.

In order to keep E from feeling left out, I've decided to give him 3 daily math experiences while P is working on her 5-a-day reviews. Typically, I'll have him write numbers on the board, play a RightStart game, and do some other fun activity - a dot-to-dot, playing with pattern blocks or Cuisenaire rods, playing with coins. He's enjoying getting more of my attention during school time.

In non-school-related recent events, we recently had to reiterate the rule of no playing with bricks when barefoot. E's big toe is quite sad, though not broken, and after I'd bandaged him and given him lots of sympathy, he spent an hour or so giving himself even more. He and P spend a lot of their free time building "flying machines" using ragweed stalks, bricks, leaves, and balloons. They fly to Catalina Island frequently (I don't believe either of them has been there in the flesh, but their grandparents have, and P & E see it as quite the destination).

Speaking of flying machines, I'm still plugging away at my flying lessons. I'm almost ready for the checkride! I passed my written exam with flying colours, I just got 2 questions wrong (and one was a stupid mistake). I need to do my maneuvers more precisely - I have to keep my altitude to within 100 feet of the goal, and my heading and airspeed within limits, which I find myself forgetting about as I think about other things. But I'm hoping the next lesson or two will be enough for my instructor to hand me over to the FAA examiner. I've actually interacted with the examiner - he's a really neat old guy, a WWII veteran, who loves explaining things to anyone who'll stand still and listen. I'm lucky in that I get to schedule 2 flights with him before the actual checkride, so I'll know more of what to expect. Once I pass the checkride (and oral exam preceding the checkride), hopefully on the first try, I'll officially be a private pilot! I'm looking forward to taking people for rides. I have a waiting list already!