Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 7

 Pics from the Week:

We talked about acrostic poems this week. For teaching and discussion purposes I wrote the short word mom on the white board. Capt. N came up with this poem and thought it was hilarious.
His Halloween acrostic poem. I love it. I think it's a fun poem. I only wish his handwriting was more legible. His letters are getting better, but he still occasionally leaves out a letter such as the s on lots and forgets to leave a space between words like on orangeand. He also has a difficult time writing in a straight line. I am curious if this is also vision related.

I thought this was a fun way to show the patterns in the addition table. The various groups are different colors such as the doubles, doubles plus one and sums of 10.

I have a folder with these animals & report sheets. The idea is that occasionally Capt. N will pick one of these animals and do a short report on it. I have a variety of report sheets to keep things interesting for him. The sheets came from Enchanted Learning, Homeschool Share and other sources. I like this project for a few reasons. One is simply because I've been to a number of zoos and taken pics of the animals, but really what are you supposed to do with those photos once you get home? This project uses those photos. Capt. N was so interested in where I was when I saw these animals. It was a fun discussion. Capt. N loves science and animals so I'm hoping these will be fun projects for him, and at the same time he can learn something new.
I was really only showing Capt. N the animals and report sheets in the folder to get a head start on next week. I wasn't going to ask him to report on an animal until Tuesday. But, he asked if he could do one. How can you say no to that. He chose a crocodile relative, the gharial which is critically endangered. BTW, these guys are found in the zoo in Honolulu.

These birds weren't part of our lesson plans. But, there were at least 50 of them acting quite crazy outside the window. Capt. N and I stopped for a few minutes and watched them. At one point they stopped just long enough at our pond that I could quickly snap a pic.

A community map made by Capt. N. He named his city New London. I have 3 collages in the room we do school in - one of my trip to Paris, one of London & one of New York City. He said he came up with the name by combining New York & London.

In Social Studies we are discussing the different types of communities, such as city or town, suburban or rural. That Artist Woman has another great project on her site showing how to make a city skyline collage. You begin by drawing an outline of your buildings then cut it out.
Next place your skyline cutout on black paper, then flick white paint on the paper for the stars in the sky. Remove white paper and let the paint dry.
And finally the best part is to add a variety of buildings cut to the size of your skyline you drew on the white paper. Capt. N used construction paper, newspaper, textured paper, painted paper and gel crayons to make his buildings. He got a little fed up with cutting out the windows from foil, which is why there aren't many windows on his buildings. I love how he got creative and built a couple skybridges (on the left). And the little thing drawn with red gel crayon is a vegetable and herb stand. I'm not sure how or why he knows about those stands - we don't have any where we live - but, he thought it was important to add it to his city.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meeting with a Reading Specialist

I had a meeting yesterday with an amazing lady who specializes in reading. Her specialization isn't just teaching kids to read it's teaching kids to read who have other issues like dyslexia or vision problems. She's familiar with the type of vision problem my son has, which is great! And, since she also works with people (not just children) with dyslexia it was great talking to her about that. From the beginning of this journey, I've been wondering if Capt. N might have some form of dyslexia. But, after reading the many signs to look for I still haven't come up with whether I think he has it or not. Some of the signs he has, but a lot of them he doesn't. And, quite honestly once I found out he might have a vision problem I looked into that first simply because that test was a hell of a lot cheaper than the dyslexia test. After talking with this woman, I'm still not sure of the answer, but she's going to help me find that answer.

From the things I told her, she's a little perplexed about Capt. N's reading problems. The vision doctor sent this woman the report they'd sent me on all the tests they'd done on Capt. N. This was the only thing this woman knew about Capt. N. When she saw a couple of the things he's been reading, particularly the Develop Reading Fluency Using Poetry, she was shocked to hear that he could actually read the words in the poems. She was also shocked to hear the words I've been giving him for his spelling tests. In her opinion, at first, both these things were too hard for him. She was really under the impression that his phonetic awareness was not great. But, that is not the case. She gave me a couple tests to do to double check this. I think she actually may think I'm stretching the truth a bit about his abilities. But, she also said I know him, and obviously she doesn't. I'm not stretching the truth. Last night I even went back and listened to a story he read the other day. He records every story he reads in Raz-Kids. So, I was curious and listened to one. And, nope, I'm not delusional, he really can read slightly difficult words and can use his phonetic awareness to sound out the few he didn't know. And, he's great about catching himself reading something wrong. Something in the report, though, is keeping her apprehensive. Something is telling her his phonetic awareness isn't great. After he does the tests she gave me, she will look over the results and let me know how to best help him next.

She did give me some great tips, based more on the vision problems than the reading since she's not yet sure if he does have a problem with phonics. Here's a few of her suggestions:
• Whenever I photocopy things for him to read, print it on light blue paper. That helps the words "stay" on the page.
• When looking for reading material use stories with large print & much space between the lines.
• Pay attention to which kind of lighting he prefers to read in.
• Take a story/paragraph at a 3rd grade level and give him one word at a time. If he can read most of the words, then most likely he has a major vision issue, not so much of a reading problem.
• For the same reason, retype a story from Raz-Kids in large print on blue paper and see if he can read it at a quicker pace than reading the small print on Raz-Kids.

She also gave me these other bits of advice:
•When he's PRACTICING reading, make sure he only reads things that are easy for him. This will build his fluency and his confidence.
•When he's getting INSTRUCTION, this should be at whatever level he's at to challenge him a bit. She hasn't figured out yet, in our case, where this level is.
•When he's doing COMPREHENSION work it should be challenging. We don't want his comprehension to slide, just because he's reading easier books.

And, a few other misc. things we discussed:
• She's wondering if there's a glitch in his wiring somewhere that makes it difficult for what is in his brain to make it out his hand onto the paper when he's writing. I told her about how he seems to be able to spell things better out loud, than writing the words out. That's something I'm going to look more into. It makes some sense since his handwriting isn't great and he tends to not write in a straight line. She asked me if he has difficulty doing copywork. And he does. He's incredibly slow and it's quite sloppy, even though I know he's trying so hard for it not to be sloppy. I told her about the various copywork I have him do for his lapbooks. I asked her if I should have him stop doing those for now. She right away said yes. That is a vision problem and it is hard for him. We need to be focusing on making things better, not giving him yet another difficult task.
• She was impressed to hear I already have him learning keyboarding/typing. She said that may be his life-line later. If he gets to the point where it's quicker for him to type than to write things out it will be important that he knows how to do it correctly. Right now, I don't put a lot of emphasis on that subject. I decided he should learn it simply because he likes to work on the computer & I didn't want him learning to type wrong. He's been practicing his keyboarding twice a week. I think I may up that to three times. She suggested we work on it daily, but I'm not sure I want to add another thing to his daily tasks.
• Her other concern is that he gets distracted so easily. She asked if I thought he had ADD or ADHD. The truth is, I don't know. It's possible. I've never looked much into it. He is antsy-pantsy and he does get distracted while doing his work. But, he can also focus on things when he puts his mind to it. He loves all the science & social studies work we're doing and can stay focused on those things. He did an excellent job making the tessellation, even though it took him a long time. She said he will always be slow if every little thing makes him stop his work. He may not even be aware that he's doing it. She suggested we get a little timer and every time he gets distracted he's got 10 seconds to get back to what he's supposed to be doing. The timer buzz will remind him to get back on task. She also suggested getting him some music with earphones. I like that idea & I think he would do well with that. But, most of the distractions come when I'm actually trying to teach him, not when he's doing his quiet work. It's because I'm in the room that his brother and sister come in. It's because he gets distracted that I'm looking at something and he wants to know what I'm doing. While I'm teaching, I don't want him listening to music. On the days when he does most of his quiet, independent work it's when the 2 other kids & I are not home and he does quite well getting his work done.

So much to think about. I talked with this woman for 2 whole hours. I decided I better write out the most important things from that meeting before I forget them. It's a bit overwhelming, but I'm happy to hopefully be on the right path to helping him.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week 6

This was a short school week for us. Mr. T & Princess K didn't have school Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, so neither did Capt. N. I had decided when we started this year that the days Mr. T has off school, so will Capt. N.

Pics from the Week:

Since Capt. N only had school 2 days this week, I took this luxury to do some fun stuff for math. He made his first tessellations. He loved them. I'm so proud of the effort he put into them.
We started out easy by simply making a tessellation out of a hexagon. Then we decided it looked like a bee hive so Capt. N added a bee.
To make an original tessellation shape I gave him an index card & asked him to draw an uneven line on one end. After cutting off that end on the line he made, he traced the line on the opposite end of the card. Then he cut out that line. Next, he did the same thing on the other 2 sides of the index card. It ended up being some random shape. I told him I bet if he looked hard enough he could make a real thing out of that random shape. He noticed first off that the one end looked like ears. We talked about that for awhile & finally decided the shape should just be an animals face.
He first traced the shape in pencil, then went over those lines with a thin sharpie. Next he added the details of the cat.
The finished kitty tessellation. It took him way longer to make this than I was planning. But, he really tried his best & I think it turned out fantastic.

He loves his calculator, but I rarely let him use it. So I thought he would really enjoy these worksheets about turning the numbers on the calculator into words. The worksheets are from Super Teacher Worksheets.

We learned about bees by creating a fold out page in his Animal Kingdom book.
He added the hexagon tessellation to the front.
The page opens up to see this. The information is from a variety of sources including magazines and Homeschool Share. Capt. N was really into this.... Now, if only he'd have the same enthusiasm for reading & writing.

I really liked these little tri-fold information cards.

Even though it was a short school week, that didn't mean Capt. N got to slack off the rest of the week.
We still did our partner reading of Farmer Boy.
And, he practices the keyboard daily.
He also has vision therapy stuff he has to work on daily.
And, tae kwon do.
And we got artsy making pumpkins. Capt. N's favorite was his one eyed vampire pumpkin .

Pumpkin Art

In the spirit of Halloween, the kids made a couple pumpkin crafts this week.

~ Goofy Pumpkin Faces ~
These really are the goofiest, most fun pumpkins. My kids loved making them.
I love when my table looks like this. It makes my heart happy to see all my kids sitting around it gettin' artsy.

We started out by cutting out a pumpkin shape. The boys cut out their own, but I cut out Princess K's. Next they were given red, yellow & white paint to mix an orange color. They also mixed in a tad of texture & glitter medium. We use the fanciest paint trays I can find laying around. Ha! In this case it was cardboard from granola bar boxes I had in the recycle bin.
After they painted their pumpkins they used an old comb to give it some extra texture and/or pumpkin grooves.
Princess K adding designs in her pumpkin.
Next, they were given blue & yellow paint to make a green stem.
The final step was to cut face features out of white & black paper and glue them on the pumpkin.

Each kid made 2 pumpkins. Arent' they super fun!

 ~ Tissue Paper Pumpkin ~
This is a super simple pumpkin to craft.
I cut strips of red, orange &  yellow tissue paper.
The kids then glued the strips on to paper. It was interesting to see that my boys both put their tissue paper on in a mangled format with no rhyme or reason & Princess K applied her tissue strips only in one direction.
When they were finished gluing on the tissue paper, the boys cut out the pumpkins. A few tissue pieces required a bit more glue after that. Then they used the leftover green paper they had painted from the previous pumpkin craft to cut out a stem.
2 out of the 3 finished pumpkin works of art.

 ~ Crayon Resist Pumpkins ~
I'm not sure why he needed to draw such an evil jack-o-lantern, but Mr. T had a great time creating this guy.
Capt. N made his jack-o-lantern on orange paper using a green crayon.
Next, they mixed colors & painted their jack-o-lanterns.

 ~ Princess K's Pumpkins ~
Princess K decorated a couple other pumpkins, too.
I cut out the pieces, she glued them on. Simple, cute & enjoyable.
She used the paint daubers to decorate 2 of her pumpkins.

~ Our Little Pumpkin Patch ~

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unanswered Questions

At the end of each week I feel a sense of relief that we completed all our homeschooling stuff without any major mishaps. For some reason I'm waiting for it all to come crashing down on me & show me what a fool I was to think I could take this on. We are busy. By we, I mean my hubby & I. By busy, I mean a heck of a lot more busy than I care to be... and I don't even have a "real" job. I am really feeling the pressure of all the activities - school included. I don't think any one of my kids is doing too much, but between the three of them their is a lot of coming & going from our house. For example Thursday's look like this: Leave at 7:15 to get Mr. T to school. Make a quick trip to the grocery store & get Princess K to preschool by 9:00. Head to Mr. T's class to help until he gets out of school. The two of us go to the park or grab lunch while waiting for Princess K to get out of school at 11:30. We get home a little after noon. Then there's the hub-bub of just walking in the door. Then I go over the assignments Capt. N was working on while I was gone. Then Capt. N & I do school stuff for a short time & at 1:45 we leave so he can go to Piano class. We get back home at 3:45 and do more school work since we didn't do much earlier today. The hubby left at 4:45 to take Mr. T to his soccer game, then they went to a cub scout leaders meeting. Now the day's over & I feel as if I've accomplished nothing.

I don't know how to change this except to become a hermit & don't let my kids be involved in anything. I'm striving to find the perfect balance because right now it's certainly not balanced. I'm not sure how there is a way to fix it for this school year. It's bound to be busy when my 3 kids go to 3 different schools on 3 different schedules. I literally waste, on average, 2 hours just in drive time most days. That kills me & seems like such a waste of time & energy & gas money. But, what am I supposed to do? Tell my kids, "Nope, we can't go to soccer or tae kwon do or cub scouts or piano or Sunday School because I already drove you & picked you up from school today? My goal is to leave the house only once a day. This year that just isn't possible. My youngest kids are in school in the morning. Activities are in the afternoon or evening. This all makes me desperately need to change something next year. But, what? I am glad I'm homeschooling Capt. N this year. I think this was definitely the right choice. He's doing well & I'm having a good time teaching him. But, is it the right choice for next year? That's what I keep thinking about already. I know it's a while off still, and I shouldn't even waste my time worrying about it yet. But, I can't help it. This year isn't working for me & I'm looking for ways to improve it next year. As far as education is concerned I really, really like all the homeschooling benefits. But, I think Capt. N is starting to miss hanging out with his friends at lunch & recess. And, I know he would be getting a fine education in public school. Am I really able to offer him that much more? This year I say yes. Next year, I don't know.

The problem is I'm quite overwhelmed with life in general. I need to cut out something, but there's nothing I want to cut. I don't go to the gym, I don't take any fun classes, I don't have regular lunch with girlfriends. It would have to be something I cut from my kids & I just don't want to do that simply because it's a pain for me to be on the road all day. I'm trying to juggle in my mind what would make our family life run more smoothly. Would homeschooling all my kids make things easier or more difficult? Even if it's more difficult, are all the benefits worth it? Would the simple idea of not having to take and pick my kids up from school make life easier? Then we would only have to leave for activities. But, then I'd have 3 kids worth of schooling to figure out. Would it be easier just to send them to public school? Do I want to send them to public school simply because it's easier? I'm trying to look at the big picture & I'm not coming up with any great revelations. I'm confused. I enjoy homeschooling, but is it best for my kids & our family looking forward? Part of me says yes, part of me says no. The fact is I've just got to get used to being extremely busy because that's going to happen with either schooling option I choose for the future.

And, since I'm thinking about it, I'd like to add that I've really enjoyed learning Capt. N's learning style and the things he excels at & the subjects he just doesn't like at all - like reading & writing. I thought I kept pretty good tabs on what he was doing in school in the past, but this is a whole new level & I feel like I know him that much better. As I've already blabbed about, we spend a great deal of time in the car, and it's nice to continue a conversation we've been having in class while we're driving. Sometimes I will also quiz him on his spelling words or give him math problems. I love spending this time with him & learning so much more about him. For the good or for the bad, he's also probably learning more about me as well. As much as I love this, it does make me wonder if he should be learning these things about kids his own age? Should he be building friendships while at school as opposed to learning more about his weirdo mom? Oh, I have a never ending supply of unanswered questions & have no idea on how to get the best answer.

Week 5

Pics from the Week: 

Science ~
We are going to spend quite a bit of time this year on the animal kingdom. We're starting with learning how to classify them.
This classification folder is from Homeschool Share
We took a trip to the zoo to search for vertebrates & invertebrates. The penguins were so fun. I don't know if they thought we had food or if they just like to play, but they swam to the window and followed our hands. I've never noticed them do that before and it made for a memorable part of the trip.
The 3 caracal babies & their mom were out.

Earlier in the day I gave Capt. N the journal questions, "If you could trade places with any animal what would it be? Why?"  I was so happy to see he put quite a bit of thought into it. He's not usually very enthusiastic about writing. He chose a dolphin. Later that day I asked him to draw himself as a dolphin. I was expecting him to draw his face on a dolphin body. Although, he didn't do exactly what I asked he put a lot of effort into it & he asked me all sorts of great questions. I got this idea from Crayola and of course we adjusted it to fit our needs.

Art ~
To get in the Halloween spirit Capt. N made this bat. I love it! To see more of our bat crafts click here.

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