Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week 10

 Pics from the Week:

Since I'm 99% positive I will be homeschooling next year I decided to buy a larger white board & bulletin board. I figured I could make do with what I had for the one year, but for the long haul I'd like something bigger. I love them already.

We did a quick lesson on verbs this week & he made this pull-out.

We finished reading Farmer Boy this week, so he also finished putting together the lapbook.

Last week as part of his vision exercises Capt. N had to wear red & green glasses while reading. And, to really get his eyes to work together he had to lay the green & red striped acetate over the text. If his left eye was slacking he wouldn't be able to read any of the words under the green acetate, since the eye glass lens was also green. It would appear as a black solid line. Then the last part of this exercise was to also use the flippers & flip after each paragraph.
He struggled with this exercise. But, he did it.

He had the same exercise this week. But, after we finished Farmer Boy I had him read Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey. This was so much better. I don't know what I was thinking last week. The font in this story was larger and there was more spacing between the lines. That helped tremendously.

We also started reading this Magic Tree House book.

We discussed what various animals do to survive the winter. I'm fairly certain these mini books came from Homeschool Share.

We made such a fun group collage using Eric Carle's style of paint on tissue paper. You can read more about it here.

Capt. N loves legos. So we spent an afternoon at the Children's Museum oohing and aahing over their lego exhibit. They had some impressive creations. Capt. N would have sat there all day building if I would have let him.

We had our first snow of the season this week.

StArt - Eric Carle

We recently checked out a bunch of Eric Carle books from the library. We did a variety of activities based on the books, but by far our favorite was making a tissue paper collage Eric Carle style.

Maybe I grew up under a rock, but I sure don't remember Eric Carle books as a kid. But yet, when we looked at the copyright many were dated even before I was born. I only became aware of him once I had kids. I didn't even know 'til recently the amount of books he's written. I gotta say I enjoy nearly every one I've read. And, of course the pictures are fun and fantastic.

One of my favorite things about his books are that they've got that extra something. The firefly lights up, you can hear the click beetle click & the rubber ducky squeaks. My favorite "extras" are the simple black dots in the book Hello, Red Fox. The whole book is playing little tricks on your eyes. On this page, you stare at the green fox for x amount of time, then stare at the black dot on the next page & you will see a faint red fox. Amazing. Fun. Exciting. There are multiple animals & colors to try throughout the story. The kids love it.

The beginnings of our paint palette looked like this.

When we were done, it looked like this. It appears we are true artists.

We read that Eric Carle makes most of his collages out of tissue paper & paint. So, that's what we did. Layer by layer the kids & I added paint to the tissue paper, using different stroke techniques. It was a bit difficult at first since the tissue paper rips so easily. But, we soon got the hang of it & enjoyed the craziness of this type of painting.

More of our tissue paper art.

We decided to make a group collage. Capt. N made the Santa and sleigh, Mr. T made Rudolph & I was in charge of the background. Mr. T, a kindergartner, had some trouble cutting the tissue paper. Capt. N, 8 years old, had an easier time.

Mr. T also made this snail.

Capt. N made these creatures.

This was such a fun project. And, we have left over painted tissue paper so we will get to do it again soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 9

Pics from the Week:

This was his first week of the writing 8 exercises. He didn't love doing them, but he was a good trooper. Supposedly, he should do these 4 - 5 days a week for many months. One blog I read mentioned the child needs to do these for at least 6 months & another mentioned you would start seeing results in 2 or 3 months. Either way, that's a lot of sideways 8's to make.

Here's the short explanation of what he is doing:
1. Starting in the middle, he begins the 8 going toward the left. He makes 3 of these 8's, always beginning his 8 toward the left of the paper.
2. He writes the letter a on the left side of the 8. While he writes the letter, he also says the letter name.
3. Next he makes 3 more 8's
4. Next he writes the letter b on the right hand side of the 8, saying "b" as he's writing it.
5. Then he makes the 8's, 3 more times. And this goes on all the way through the alphabet.
6. He used the same piece of paper all week. I just gave him a different colored crayon to use.

I don't fully understand the science behind this exercise. But, it has something to do with the way the right and left sides of the brain work together to write. His right & left sides seem to work a little differently than the norm, and maybe not as efficiently. It is actually a struggle for him to go through the process of writing. I guess, that's something I've always taken for granted, but then again - I suppose my right & left sides must work together more efficiently. The Writing 8's are supposed to help the two sides work together a little better & improve the writing of reversals. Capt. N scored 1% on the reversal's test he took at the eye doctor. I'm really hoping this exercise helps him in this area.

I've decided this exercise, vision therapy & either me reading to him or him reading are the most important tasks to accomplish in a day. Of course, there's so much more he does on a school day. But, right now he really needs to put the most of his energy into making reading & writing not such a struggle. I'm having a hard time finding a good balance of school work for him. When we started this journey 9 weeks ago, I had such big plans for what we would accomplish in a day. Ha! I'm just starting to get comfortable with realizing that's just not realistic for us. Hopefully, we get into a good rhythm pretty soon with the perfect amount of learning.

We discussed adjectives this week. This is a fold out page he added to his English Language notebook. I got some of the ideas from: Crayola, Lapbook Lessons & WellybootsMum. Next week we will be doing a quick run down on verbs. I have a whole stack of worksheets & fun ideas for our grammar lessons. Unfortunately, I am going to put them away for a while. I just can't accomplish all the things I think need to be taught in a day. Grammar is one of those things that is going to have to be put on the back burner until we don't need to spend the extra time on the basics of seeing correctly, learning to write more efficiently & his reading fluency improves. He will still be hearing good grammar in the books we read & we will discuss grammar in the paragraphs he writes.

For Cub Scouts, the boys made a diorama of "What Makes America Special" to them. Capt. N chose the military & that they fight to keep America free. I thought it was a fitting theme for Veterans Day. I also had him write a paragraph on why he thinks we should honor Veterans Day.

Capt. N is very good at math & he enjoys the math lessons. In the 9 weeks we've been doing this curriculum, I feel like he's learned nearly all the concepts I've been teaching. Out of everything, the only thing I feel like we still need to work on is when the clock is set to 9:30, what time was it 3 hours ago or what time will it be 5 hours from now. He can do the subtraction or addition easily, he just has a difficult time remembering which one means back in time or forward in time. But, we go over it a couple times a week & he is improving. But, the thing that drives me crazy with math is his carelessness. He knows the answers, he just doesn't read the question correctly. He would get 100% on nearly every math test at the end of the week if it wasn't for these mistakes. I try to remember that the actual part of reading the question, then writing his answer down is a struggle for him. It still drives me bonkers, though & I remind him that he needs to pay a bit more attention. And although it does bother me, I'm not terribly concerned. I feel he does really know the material & we are working on improving his reading & writing skills.
On the top question when I asked him to recount the $, he got it right. I'm guessing the reason he got it wrong was carelessness.  The middle question asked to put the prices in order from least to greatest. When I reread the question to him he realized right away what he did wrong. And, the bottom question he did right, except he didn't put a point on the number line. Again, he just didn't read the entire question correctly.

How much should I worry about these things? I don't know. I'm happy he really does know the correct answer. But in life situations, one little blip of carelessness could make a big mistake.
He was to write the temperature in Fahrenheit. When I first looked at his answer, I couldn't figure out why in the world he wrote 547. It took me a second, but I soon realized he actually wrote 54F, with the f reversed. My method, when he makes a mistake like this, is to simply show him the mistake, show him the right way to write it & move on. It takes all of about 5 or 10 seconds. I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I feel he needs to know he's doing it or else how is he going to know he needs to work on it.

We took a trip downtown this week to the science museum. The kids love it there.
One of Capt. N's favorite things is the ball room. It's a room with a variety of contraptions that have air running through them & balls, lots of soft, blue balls. This one has plugs you take in and out which manipulates the air flow. Capt. N loves figuring out a path for the balls.

One of my favorite things from this trip was the water dripping. It really is a steady stream of water. But it is in a box with a strobe light which makes it look like water droplets or sometimes that the water is running up. It's fantastic & had me mesmerized.

All in all, another successful week in school.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 8 & Dysgraphia???

It's amazing what I've learned about myself and Capt. N in the 2 short months we've been homeschooling. And, because of all these discoveries I'm changing our schooling a little bit. I've spent all weekend cleaning out my craft room, which we use as a school room. It was filled to the brim with various crafting supplies and to add the school stuff was just too much for this little room. I rearranged our bedroom and closets to make room for most of my craft stuff. Because I'm such an organized person, I can't function as a teacher in such a chaotic room & since Capt. N gets distracted so easily it wasn't a great setting for his learning. I hate giving up my craft room, but it needed to be done.

I've gone to the library and browsed the web to find information on dysgraphia. I had never even heard the word before I met with the reading specialist. But, I think Capt. N definitely has some form of it. I have no idea where to put him on a scale from 1 - 10, but he has many of the symptoms. I can read his handwriting, but it is sloppy & he struggles a lot with it. This may explain why he did so terribly on the reversal's test at vision therapy. Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder and a learning disability. The definition from dyslexia A2Z states: ‘Dysgraphia means having severe problems with the written word, which is affected by extreme difficulty with fine-motor skills - in spite of having normal intelligence and ability’. I am unsure how severe Capt. N's problem is. It seems minor to me, but it definitely is a bit of a problem. It explains why when I ask him about a journal topic he can ramble on and on and on, but when it comes to actually writing it down he only writes a couple sentences... and it takes him awhile to write those few sentences.

This is a list of symptoms from Eberly College of Arts & Sciences. The ones in red are the ones Capt. N has.
1. Students may exhibit strong verbal but particularly poor writing skills .
2. Random (or non-existent) punctuation. Spelling errors (sometimes same word spelled differently); reversals; phonic approximations; syllable omissions; errors in common suffixes. Clumsiness and disordering of syntax; an impression of illiteracy. Misinterpretation of questions and questionnaire items. Disordered numbering and written number reversals.
3. Generally illegible writing (despite appropriate time and attention given the task).
4. Inconsistencies : mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes, or slant of letters.
5. Unfinished words or letters, omitted words.

6. Inconsistent position on page with respect to lines and margins and inconsistent spaces between words and letters.

7. Cramped or unusual grip, especially holding the writing instrument very close to the paper, or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist.
8. Talking to self while writing, or carefully watching the hand that is writing.
9. Slow or labored copying or writing - even if it is neat and legible.

At this point I'm not going to take him to a specialist to check more into this. We are already going to vision therapy once a week and do daily exercises for that. I don't want to add something else to our days. But, I actually think a few of the vision exercises may help him with this too. I also stumbled across Dianne Craft's web site & she has a ton of great information. I'm going to have him quit doing most of the copy work he's been doing and instead do the writing eight exercises Dianne Craft mentions. I have a feeling this is going to get quite tedious for him, but it says to stay at it for at least 6 months and you will see great results in their writing ability. I've got to have him try it. I'm also going to use Dianne's method for learning spelling words.

I've also been doing a little research on ADHD. At this point, this is the least of my worries, but I've realized he may have some form of this, too. I feel many of the inattention & hyperactivity symptoms describe him, but not the impulsive symptoms. I've read that many kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD, when they really have vision problems. So, I'd rather focus on fixing the vision issues and see if these symptoms improve. But then, I've also read that many kids with ADHD also have dysgraphia. So, maybe he does really have it. His reading teacher this summer did mention he was kind of wiggly and had a hard time focusing. Before he started kindergarten, I remember a friend of mine, who taught kindergarten, say to me to not be surprised if his teacher says he has ADD. She told me, though, that she didn't think he had it... or maybe she just didn't want to tell me the truth. His vision doctor has asked me a couple times if he always has this much energy... and the answer, is yes.

I can't express how weird this is for me. Last year at this time I had no idea that he had any issues, except that he reads too slow. I wasn't overly concerned since the school put him in Read Naturally, which was supposed to help kids like him. I figured he'd improve & that's that. By March, I was beginning to think something else was wrong or if not wrong, just not something the school was fixing - which is when I began investigating homeschooling. And now here I am with the realization that he's got far bigger issues than just reading slowly. Whether it's right or not, I have to admit I'm a little irritated at the school. Aren't they supposed to be watching out for my kid? Aren't they supposed to catch any issues he's having? They never mentioned any of these things. They just said he reads slow, so lets send him to the typical class for that problem. Then when it didn't work, everyone just told me to have it read more. Are you kidding me? Couldn't they see there was more to it than that? I did, which is why I'm 99% sure I will continue to homeschool my kids next year. I can't put my trust in a system that didn't help him or see any of these issues. I don't care if they are not typical problems. The fact is, they couldn't help him - so he's not going back. And, even if they could tell me he had these issues, they aren't things he can work on in public school. So, then he'd have to struggle all day in school and after that work on all these exercises that actually help him. And, meanwhile, I fear he would lose lots of self confidence. At home, he knows he's working on things to help him get better, but he doesn't feel bad watching his peers perform better than him. My complaints are about the school system in general. I really love Mr. T's kinder teacher. She's the same one Capt. N had & I think she did a fantastic job teaching him, too. I think he may have been worse off, if it wasn't for her teaching him to read in a way that worked for him.

Now, I just gotta scream - "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" I know parenting isn't supposed to be easy, but jeepers! A few minutes ago, Mr. T came over and said to me, "I think you should take a break from school and hang out with your children." Talk about, taking a knife to my heart. I have spent a lot of time this week reading up on dysgraphia and ways to help Capt. N with it. I don't tell my kids exactly what I'm doing, I just say I'm working on school stuff. And because I had the house torn apart trying to rearrange things, the hubby took the kids to Sunday School & play practice for me so I could get the house put back together. Mr. T said to me when they got home, "Wow mom, I haven't seen you all day." I think he's still trying to get used to being at school every day, even though it's only for a couple hours. Then, when he gets home I'm doing school stuff with Capt. N. I read blogs about people who say they do homeschool for only 2, maybe 3 or 4 hours per day. I wish we could do school that quickly, but Capt. N is soooo slow. We could probably get school done more quickly if I got rid of the fluff. But, the fluff is the stuff he likes. I don't want school to just be the boring, hard subjects for him. I need just a couple more hours in a day. I'm going to have to try harder to spend more quality time with Mr. T.

Pics from the Week:

Gertrude, the Geometric Witch. Capt. N made her on Halloween.
I got the idea for Gertrude from this book.

Just for fun, I had the boys paint with shaving cream. It was a quick project, but they really enjoyed it.
I love the way the colors mix together... but, don't mix too much or you wind up with gray.
A shaving cream & paint masterpiece.

We did a little comprehension lesson using the book, The Widow's Broom. I had never heard of it before, but I thought it was a great story. Capt. N liked it, too. It definitely kept his attention.
Instead of writing out all the answers, we discussed them & he drew pictures.

For math, he was learning about number lines. The task he was asked to do was to make a number line counting by 2's. I was thrilled when he asked to make another one. He chose to make this one counting by 5's.

We talked about animal life cycles this week. This page is (obviously) on insect life cycles. We also discussed amphibian, salmon, and extreme life cycles such as a tortoise who lived to be 250 years old. He knew all about a butterfly's life cycle, and he found it interesting to learn that the ladybug & mosquito have similar life cycles.

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