Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Week 2 January 13, 2014

This week's start has been kind of slow too. I feel that life is finally taking over and other things are crowding out my supreme focus on homeschooling. Maybe it is that the test we need to take is over. Maybe it is that it is 60 degrees here in Virginia in January. Maybe it is that I just need to get back to it.

This first half of the week we covered:
Math: Addition snake game, math facts
Language: spelling, Dwyer sounds, reading, handwriting
Practical Life: scissors cutting
Other: work journals and CAT Test update
T taught S how to do the addition snake game. (For a pretty good video introduction, go here.) She can do the counting version just fine, but this was her first time doing the extension exercise, isolating the head. (T has unofficially agreed to do a video of this Addition Snake game version. I'll try to post this later in the week.) My Boy's Teacher did a great video explaining this extension version of the Addition Snake game here.
S loves how the snake becomes golden.
D has really come advanced at doing his puzzles. Monday we went on-line together and ordered some more puzzles, of trucks and cars of course. Some of these puzzles are floor puzzles, which means a much larger work area and some crawling around, which is GREAT for "cross-the-body" work. Crossing the mid-line is a skill that is sometimes lacking in my little "w-sitters."(To read more about crossing the mid-line, w-sitting, and hand-dominance go here.) These new puzzles are also 24 pieces each. D feels he needs some new challenges and is so excited that these will come in the mail. He asked me 17 times that afternoon when they were coming.

Here is a look at S's new amaryllis bulb planted in her nice shiny red pot. I hope that our grow-light space is tall enough!
Here is S's verbena plant with two beautiful blooms. She is very proud of her plants.
This is the first spelling list I tried with T. He could spell them all without looking at the list right off. So I decided to make it all a little more challenging.

I made a second list on Tuesday and it focused on "oy" and "oi" words of varying lengths and a couple of sight words like "would" and "could." This list seemed to be a better level for him.

To the right is our practice activity sheet. I pulled activities from a lot of different sources to put together a list of items T can do through the week to practice his list of words. The plan is that he'll pick one practice activity each day and he will not get through the entire list in a week. (On Pinterest I searched "spelling" and got some great hits. I also searched the site teacherspayteachers.com for "spelling practice" and found some great ideas there too.) I haven't decided if we'll do a more formal "check" or "quiz" at the end of the week or not. I think it will depend upon how diligently he is practicing and how well he seems to know the words on Friday. I think if he practices independently well, I will not quiz him.

So far, T likes activity #9 which follows his love for Taekwondo. He doesn't actually block and kick, he just goes through his orange belt forms while saying the letters to each word with each action.

I made an entire separate set of Dwyer booklets in print for S. (You can read about the cursive ones I made for T here.) Since she is already knows print, and isn't doing cursive handwriting yet, I didn't want to confuse her reading with the handwriting. Making all these booklets was a pain the first time and a pain the second time, but S is sure speeding through the booklets.

Over the weekend S and I sat down and did some intensive reading. I certainly do NOT recommend this for every child. And this "technique" isn't very Montessori. But it seems S responds to the strong line well enough. When she was about three years old, she refused to take off her winter jacket. She wanted me to slip her arms out of her sleeves like I'd always done. But I told her that it was her responsibility to take off her jacket and that I knew she was capable of doing it herself. She cried. She screamed. She got floppy on the floor like bacon. Three hours later, she fell asleep under the dining room table with her jacket still on her body. When she woke up 45 minutes later, she took off her jacket, I found it on the floor in a heap, and went on her way. She's been taking off her jacket ever since.

This time, it was about her confidence in reading. I knew she knew all of her sounds.  But she never chose to read in the classroom. Or out of the classroom for that matter. And when I chose reading for her, (because we guides need to do the choosing sometimes when the child demonstrates they cannot) she would cry, refuse, cross her arms, make a scrunchy face, say, "I can't," and generally be a poor personality to be around. In this homeschooling environment, learning how to read whenever you want is unfortunately not an option. Others may have the luxury of letting the child wait until 8 years old to read but in the state of Virginia this is not possible. Next year S will need to take standardized tests just like T did this year, and she will need to be a strong independent reader. This exercise was really about breaking the cycle of "I can't" and turning it into "I can."

We started with Bob books and blue reading series cards. She had finished the CVC pink cards and I figured we'd take it baby steps first and make sure we had consonant blends down before going onto phonograms. She blew through all of the single word blue consonant blend reading cards with pictures. I think that there are 20+ initial blends in the Montessori R&D sequence, (and I had put three cards in each envelope) and she did them all in 30 minutes flat. The Bob books were quite a struggle and she didn't like all of the words on one page. There was a lot of squirming and whining while reading these. But she did. She read all of the level 1 Bob books with minimal assistance.

Now I've moved us onto the Dwyer double letter sound booklets to study the different ways to spell long vowel sounds among others. I really like the Dwyer booklets at this level because they let the child know just how many seemingly complex, and surprisingly common, words they really know and can read. S was so tickled that she sounded out the word "reindeer" today. When you know that "ei" says the long "a" vowel sound and that "ee" says the long "e" vowel sound, there are only two 3-sound syllables to sound out. One of her favorite stuffed animals to date is her reindeer Bambi. (She doesn't know that Bambi isn't a reindeer.)

S's reading confidence has improved GREATLY. She still has trouble with "b" and "d." And she still has trouble recognizing sight words. But I know the book reading will come and I am glad we found a path that works for her.
It is part of S's work plan to cut with scissors everyday. I don't specify for how long nor what the project should be, but she comes up with something every time. We are trying to work out that pencil hand! You can read more about S's pencil hand here.

Now, does any one have any ideas for the little guys? D just has small hands and can't get the scissors open very wide when he holds the scissors properly. Do they make itty-bitty scissors for lefties? Is this why children develop poor cutting skills because the scissors don't fit their hands?
D is not really working the green boards the right way, but doing a lot of crossing the mid-line!

T and S are starting to journal their daily tasks. I've read that this is comes before planning a formal weekly work plan. I keep having to remind them to write down what they've done. This is what T's daily journal entry looks like.
This is a little bit of brother to brother reading.

I received a small order from Montessori Outlet this week and the algebraic peg board was one of the items in the order. (There always seems to be something back ordered, and in this case it is the multiplication board and finger charts. And the other thing is that you never know when you'll get what is back ordered. I am hoping it is sometime in the next three months.)

So this is what happens when you let a 7-year-old-Lego-enthusiast alone with the Montessori algebraic peg board...

In addition to the Montessori materials order, I also got this from Amazon for S. She really loves it. Which is great, considering she HATED the last handwriting book, Handwriting Without Tears.
Here she is at the dining room table, which is round, doing some of the early exercises in the booklet. Notice her terrible posture. I think the chair is a little too low. I moved her to another chair, and with a ton of reminders she was able to improve her posture. 

She does try the hooked wrist sometimes but with reminders she keeps her wrist straight. And she tries to wrap her thumb, but again with reminders, she is able to hold her tri-pod grip. These sharpie pens (since the pages are shiny and slick) are a little fatter than a normal pencil and this helps the child hold the tri-pod grip and not squeeze the writing implement excessively. (Now I am going to have to replace these "were-mine-for-making-materials-only" pens.) She does a nice job of moving her hand and arm when it is necessary. And she also does a nice job of going slow and taking her her lines as smooth as possible.

Some other things about the book: these pictures of the little garden bugs are cute, but they are also very relevant. The grasshopper hops and you trace his zig-zag. The snail slithers and you can trace it's wavy "s" shape. The booklet also shows the lefty how to tip his/her paper to the right to get a good angle, and the book also includes some other good tips unique to left handed writers. And you'll notice that the spine of the book is at the top of the page, rather than down the left side of the book. So far, she hasn't wanted to put down her pen. We'll see if this leads to some more confidence handwriting. The only problem is that this booklet sequence teaches print first and then cursive in subsequent books. Well you can't have it all.

T is still working on the Handwriting Without Tears workbook. He still likes better to write in print, but some of his spelling exercises prescribe he write in cursive, so I hope he gets some practice. He is kind of a perfectionist.
D also thought he'd get in on the handwriting practice too. Somehow here he is using the correct pencil hold, left-handed. And his pencil is still too long. I've GOT to cut them down!

We also got the red rods from Montessori Outlet. Some weren't able to fit out the kitchen doorway.

He wasn't all that interested in organizing them longest to shortest. He was more interested in fitting them together like a race-track.  
 T and S are both working every day this week on their math facts. Here T is working with our Multiplication Magnets. You can read more about this home-made material here.
 And S is working every day on her paper cutting.
D realized that he needed this...
to repair this.
Luckily he had the other little peg piece and we just used craft glue, not Elmers, to glue it back in. These animal puzzles were from Montessori Outlet, but I hear that these pegs coming out are somewhat par for the course.

California Achievement Test update!
T more than passed passed by Virginia Homeschooling standards. Never the less I found that my the statistics course I took as an MBA student didn't fail me, thank you Mr. Zalkind. I looked everywhere on the Internet for a clue about what his raw score might mean in terms of National Percentile Rank, but to no avail. So here is our experience...I don't know if these questions are weighted so if your child has the same raw score, his/her percentile might still differ from ours.

T got a perfect raw score in the vocabulary section, but scored in the 91st percentile. You ask, how did he score better than only 91 percent of students in the norm if there were no more questions to get right? My statistical assumption is that 9% of all students in the norm got all of the vocabulary questions correct. So T got no more right than the 9% of students who got perfect scores.

T got a single question incorrect in the Language Expression section and this correlated to a 77% percentile rank. (Language expression was kind of like finding grammatical agreements. Like, "I closed a doors" is incorrect.) In other words, one could say, almost 25% of all students in the norm received a perfect score. It can be hypothesized that because the CAT test is a bit older, and academic achievement theoretically may have improved, more students will answer all of these questions, that test the most basic skills, correctly than when the test was first implemented. I say this because it seems silly that a nationally normed test would be written to allow 1/4 of all students to get a perfect score. Again, I don't know if the questions are weighted. If T had answered a different question incorrectly his percentile might have been different.

T also got a single question incorrect in the Math Concept & Application section, but scored in the 92nd percentile. So it just goes to show, a single question, right or wrong, can have a HUGE impact upon your child's percentile rank. 

So long story short, we can homeschool for another year. T passed his test.


  1. I have to say, I laughed out loud when I read 'floppy on the floor like bacon' - oh my, have I been there more times than I can count! Teaching my oldest to write was sometimes more than I can take some days, and looking back, she may not have had the hand strength necessary to help, although that is definitely not an issue anymore - she writes all the time! Hopefully handwriting will get better and she was enjoy it so much that before you know it, you won't be able to slow her down! I have been trying to catch up on my blog reading now that things are getting back to normal, and really have been enjoying your posts! Makes me anxious to do more and teach my children more, and also leaves me feeling relieved that my children aren't the only ones who see something totally different than the intended purpose with a given material (i.e. the lego land on the peg board and the race track with the red rods - sounds like something some of mine would do!)

    1. Thanks for your comment! I always love seeing what your children are doing too. I love that you have so many ages, it really gives me a good idea of what is coming up next for each one of my children.

      Oh the bacon thing. That has gotten better, but it still exists occasionally. The frustration is still so there, but she expresses it differently. Does your daughter still have a short tipping point where challenges just get to be too much rather quickly? Or has she grown out of that?

    2. You sounded JUST LIKE ME leaving her with her coat on until she fell asleep. Totally something I would have done. My Mom always says,"we already have enough pushovers in this world. It stinks when they are stubborn now, but someday you'll be glad for their strong minds."

    3. Just LOVE that quote from your mom!

    4. Oh, I definitely still try to be careful. Now, not always - when we aren't doing school, we work a LOT on not being overly sensitive or emotional (her future husband will thank me one day!) but in school, I am trying to really watch her and make sure she doesn't get overwhelmed, because I just don't see her learning well when she's frustrated. In fact, last year, at the end of the year - we stopped Math altogether, because of the same issues. She was also one of the most stubborn little ones I've had yet, and made sure you knew it. I hear that it's a good thing, when you can direct it the right way - but.... we haven't made it there yet, so I'll have to let you know later ;) . She does express it differently - she's not bacon anymore, just a bucket of tears and when she gets overwhelmed, she's done - for the day - even if it's only 9 in the morning.

    5. Your comment about her future husband had me cracking up. :) I wonder about that too with S, and who will come to tolerate such a hard head. That is an interesting idea you have there, that in the classroom, to go with the flow a bit more and steer away from the extreme frustration, whereas in regular life, in and out of the home I am sure, take it more as it comes and learn to deal with the situation in front of us.

      S seems to get over the tears and scrunchy face on her own time.Sometimes it is after a stint in the peace corner, other times it is just after a while. She just doesn't get to that place if she is well rested, and she has had a well balanced meal. So I try to keep the most challenging for those moments when she is at her best. So interesting how all these child development tidbits work together.

  2. I forgot to mention that I have never heard of having the children write down what they do each day, to prepare them for work plans, but that is a wonderful idea! One I am going to have to remember to do myself, especially on days when it seems we don't get much done - so I can look back and see what really did go on that day!

    1. I think I saw it here, http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.com/2013/02/work-plan.html in the comments something about doing the journal work first and then the planning part second. My children have trouble with both. I think it is an independence thing. So, for now I am having them do the writing down of what they are doing, and then the forward looking, what do I need to get done today, this week, and the implementation of that. We'll see if this works.

    2. We are definitely going to have to try this!

  3. BTW, my husband and I were buying scissors for the whole cub scout pack this week and I thought of you. My husband is left handed, I am not. I asked him if we shouldn't buy a certain number of lefty scissors. He said, "No. Left-handed people need to learn to use scissors with their right hands. It's not that hard. If you don't, you spend your whole life handicapped because there are NEVER left-handed scissors. You pull out the kitchen scissors to cut up a chicken...right-handed scissors, you grab a pair of scissors at work...right-handed scissors, you trim something at the copy shop...right-handed scissors. Sure, I could have a pair of lefty scissors for paper at home, but most of the time when I need to cut something I'm not at home and it's not always paper. Just buy regular scissors." I'm not saying he's RIGHT and I do recognize your very specific end goal (hand strength for writing). I just thought you might find his comments entertaining.

    1. I am smiling at your husband's reaction! This is why I am planning on duct-taping a pair of lefty scissors to Sydney's shirt so that she has a pair where ever she goes. Just kidding. Though I am going to make sure she has a pair for Sunday school and one at her grand-parent's home. I imagine she'll keep a small pair with her in her purse when she gets older. :) (She is just like that.) And if she was going to your husband's scout meeting, I'd be sure to send her with a pair of lefty scissors. My dad (who reads this blog, and may disagree) cuts with scissors using his right hand. But his handwriting is illegible. I can't read it. He can't even read it. The hook wrist, posture, whew! DAD! Not letting S see that model of handwriting.
      Are either of your boys lefty? My husband and I are both right-handed but S turned out to be lefty.

  4. Yay for passing the test! (and all the rest of the fun you've had)