Wednesday, February 29, 2012

StArt - Dr. Seuss

With Dr. Seuss' birthday coming up later this week we made a variety of crafts based on a few of our favorite books written by him. What an amazing talent. I still enjoy his books, maybe even more now than I did as a kid. They are fun & imaginative. ♥♥♥

Cat in the Hat Hats
Simple hats made from paper

Handprint Things
I got this fun idea from Stuff by Ash
I've got 3 Munchkins, so I made a Thing 3.
Thing 1, Thing 2 & our very own Thing 3

One Fish Stamping
Make your stamp from a styrofoam take-home box
Print or draw your image. Remember to make it in reverse (like looking in a mirror) because it will print reversed. On our fish doesn't matter much, but if you were spelling something you wouldn't want to go through all the work just to realize it's going to print backwards.

Tape your image onto the styrofoam. Then with a sharp pencil or pen trace firmly around your image. You want to make an indent in the styrofoam.
It will look something like this.
I traced over my indents with a pen just to make the indents more prominent.

Working quickly, paint the styrofoam. Where the paint puddled in the indents we used a toothpick to clean it out a bit.

Flip your stamp over & press on a piece of paper. None of ours came out perfect. But, the kids still enjoyed this. I'm sure we will be doing something similar soon.

Left Foot. Right Foot. Prints
This project idea from The Foot Book came from Meet the Dubiens

I had my two youngest make this project. They loved it. They said it tickled when I painted their feet.

You can print this (minus my kids feet) here.

Displaying our Masterpieces

Make a Story
Dr. Seuss wrote the story Green Eggs & Ham using only 50 words. Capt. N wrote a short story using our own set of 50 words similar to the idea from First, I had Capt. N find all 50 words in the Dr. Seuss story. Then we came up with a list of our own 50 words. Our words were: head, read, bread, dead, said, fed, led, bed, Ted, Jed, Ned, Fred, bird, flew, you, knew, blue, was, am, I, like, robin, in, win, tree, to, it, the, best, nest, a, they, play, way, would, could, can, see, free, me, be, he, them, that, bat, and, on, are, if & of. For a printable list of these words click here.

Next, we made a list of random sentences using only our list of 50 words. Here's some of our sentences:
  • Robin is a bird.
  • Can I be dead?
  • They like the bread.
  • The robin nest is the best.
  • Fred said, "Can I play?"
  • You knew the blue bird flew.
  • The robin flew to the tree.
Then, he read through the list of sentences & came up with a story combining some of the sentences. His story started like this: I am a bat. I am dead. If I was a bird I would be a robin. I would be the best robin.

I am linking this post to:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Week 22

Pics from the Week:

For the last couple weeks we've been reading this abridged version of Huckleberry Finn. Capt. N seems to be enjoying it. I'm not sure he loves it, but he's not complaining. It's a fun adventure story for him in a time period he doesn't know much about. This has opened up the dialogue for us to discuss things that were happening in the United States during this time. And, he's asked if we could build a raft some time. Of course, this means I am going to have to figure out a way to build & try out a raft. Maybe it could make a fun Cub Scout project?

I bought this book at the beginning of the year & am just now actually doing something out of it. I think it's a fantastic & fun & a great way to help Capt. N learn. But, FYI, the maps aren't colored like it shows on the front cover. If you want them colored, you get to color them.

He did the map about the Mississippi River, since that's where Huck is traveling. It was great. He had to fill in the state abbreviations - which we haven't talked a lot about, so this was new for him. Then we got to discuss what types of cargo floated up & down the Mississippi & why.

We are still studying birds. This week we talked about their feet.
We also learned about feathers. Click here to read about our feathers & feet projects.

Capt. N's Vision Therapist has concluded that his fine motor skills aren't where they should be for his age. I definitely agree, but I'm not sure why I didn't figure it out sooner. One thing she suggested was doing dot-to-dots. So, I bought him this Extreme Dot-to-Dot book. This swan pic has over 500 dots.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Week 21

Wow! Week 21 already. This year has gone by so fast. It's been a stressful year for me. I've been so worried about making sure Capt. N is getting the best education. I've spent a ton of time on the internet researching lesson plan ideas, figuring out the best way to teach him & help him in the areas he's struggling with. All in all, though, it's working out great. I don't think he'd be thriving as much as he is had he been in public school. I fear he'd be struggling more than thriving. I'm so glad I chose homeschool this year for him. I have already made the decision to homeschool him again next year. He knows that, & is fine with it. He melted my heart a couple weeks ago. The kids were talking about their favorite teachers. Mr. T asked Capt. N who is favorite teacher was and he said I was. I may have let a few tears fall at that moment. I've been worried this whole year about taking him away from his school friends. I truly don't think it's mattered to him much at all. There are only 2 kids he would like to see more often. He sees school friends at piano lessons once a week, new kids & a couple school friends at taekwondo twice a week, the kids at Sunday School, cub scout kids a couple times every month & play dates occasionally. I only hope I can get the same reaction from Mr. T next year. He's a much more social person. It's going to be much more difficult on him to stay home, especially since he's gotten a taste of public school interactions this year. While driving with my hubby, Capt. N told Mr. T he was going to be homeschooled next year. Mr. T's reply was that no he's not, he doesn't want to be. I have to say that's very hard for me to hear. It's not a surprise to me that he responded that why. Honestly, that's why I hadn't told him yet. I don't want to do something he really doesn't want to do. I'm going to need to make sure he's got plenty of social interactions. The other difference with him is that he's very competitive. He does well in school - one, because he is a smart kid, but also because he wants to be the best. I'm going to have to help him realize that he needs to do well just for himself, not to show off. I'm guessing the homeschool decision for is never going to be an easy one for me. And, if I ever send them back to public school I'm sure I'm going to have some reservations about that, too. Here's an interesting article to remind myself why I'm homeschooling and yep, my son is thriving!

Pics from the Week:

Tuesday was Valentine's Day. Capt. N did a few holiday themed activities. You can read about them here.

We learned more about birds this week including why birds have different types of beaks. Here's my post about those activities.

Bird Beaks

We are a bird lovin' family. So, the kids are having a lot of fun with the bird activities we've been doing. This week we discussed why birds have various types of beaks.

 Encyclopedia Britannica Book
At Christmas time I bought this set of 6 Encyclopedia Britannica books for Capt. N. They're fun. The pages are colorful & the pen gives additional information when you touch various things on the pages.
The beak page.

Fill the Bill Activity
This activity shows how different beaks are made to eat certain types of food. I combined ideas from the National Wildlife Federation & The Rogers' Family Circus.
Here's a link to good printout showing a variety of beaks.
Our bird beaks

Our bird food

They loved it. The boys spent a long time figuring out which type of beak was best for the which type of food.

They couldn't resist rummaging through the kitchen looking for their own beaks. I was most impressed with Mr. T's observation that the frying pan with the holes in the bottom allowing the water to drain out, but keeping the good stuff was similar to the way a flamingo eats. Flamingo's are filter feeders. They found the same thing was true with the kitchen brushes, commenting that it was similar to the way whales eat krill.

Bird Mask
Idea from Elizabeth Abernathy

Bird masks made from index, construction & copy paper. I love that the boys took free reign to design their bird face. Capt. N chose to add fake eyes to trick predators.
Mr. T wearing his bird mask.

Syntu Poem
A syntu is a poem about a natural feature of the Earth. It is five lines & emphasizes the five senses.

Line 1: Name of a natural feature - 1 word
Line 2: Observation about the natural feature - referring to one of the five senses
Line 3: Thought, feeling or evaluation about the natural feature
Line 4: Another observation about the natural feature - refers to a second sense
Line 5: Synonym for the natural feature - 1 word

Hard as a rock
Dig little worm, dig!
Long & pointy like a knife
written by Capt. N

I came up with stinks like fish for the second sense, which I thought was awesome. Ha ha ha! Capt. N didn't love it as much as I did, though.

Valentine's Day

Oh, the holiday of love! Here's the activities Capt. N did to celebrate.

Postcard From Paris
Love, love, love this idea from That Artist Woman. Here's Capt. N's version.
The one made by Mr. T. Anytime we can pull out the paints makes for a fun project!

Heart Map
Capt. N took it literally - the different sections represent different states. His states are named after different things he loves: Climbing, the Zoo, Lego's, etc. I might do this again next year, but show the boys how colorful the kids at Riverside Elementary made theirs. It was fun for me to learn what he really loved. Most things I could have guessed, but there were a couple surprises.

Graphing Conversation Hearts
Capt. N is learning about graphs in math, so I asked him to make a bar graph showing the number of candies in each color. His favorite graph, though, is a line graph.

Roses are Red Poem
Roses are red
Violets are blue
And I like you,
You read Dr. Sue

written by Capt. N
He also wrote one ending with the word poo. When do they outgrow the fascination with potty talk?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Writing Wall

To help us with our new focus on writing I added these hints & tricks to our "Writing Wall." Here's what it has so far:
• Using my Writer's Eye: from Sailing Through First. I love it. Capt. N likes it too. Occasionally he will read one of the tips... I only wish he wouldn't do it in the middle of math or some other subject besides writing.
• Fluent Reading & Other Ways to Say Said: from Scholastic. I took their ideas and made my own wall art. I want to try their Put Words Together Like Talking idea with Capt. N.
• What Do Writer's Write?: from The First Grade Parade. I actually like her hand drawn version better, but I was trying to put this wall together quickly so I made mine on the computer. I also really like her Why Writer's Write poster.
• Using Transitions to Tie my Ideas Together: Made my own wall chart. (Hopefully, one day I will get it linked here to share)
• Sensory Words: Also my own chart. (If I can figure out the best way to share the Transitions chart, I will also be sharing this chart.)

Vision Victory!

Capt. N has hit a Vision Therapy milestone! For the past few months he's been going to vision therapy once a week & spending nearly an hour on daily vision exercises. He's improved enough that now he only needs to go to therapy once a month & work on the exercises 3x per week. Yippey!

His dr. emailed me a progress evaluation report. For the most part things have improved quite a bit. Here's some of the test results:

Oh, and let me point out that when I'm listing a % I don't mean that he scored a 93% on the test. It means he scored in the 93rd percentile for his age.

DEM (Developmental Eye Movement) Test: This tests a few different things. His scores on the 4 areas she listed from the initial eval were 16%, 8%, 4% & less than 1%. Everything improved to now 93%, 81%, 27% & 48%.

Gardener's Reversals Frequency Test: The first time he was tested he scored less than 1% on reversal recognition. Yikes! This time his score was 7%. Not sure how to work on this or what exactly this means. But, it definitely could use improving.

TVAS (Test of Visual Analysis Skills): Initially he scored into 2nd grade equivalency. Now he scored 3rd grade equivalency - right where he should be!

TAAS (Test of Auditory Analysis Skills): Initially he scored 1st-2nd grade equivalency. Now it's 2nd-3rd grade.

Visagraph: This is an amazing piece of technology that tracks his eye movements while he reads. I'm going to list 3 scores here: initial eval / last week's eval / grade norms.
Fixations (the fewer the better): 253 / 160 / 155
Regressions (the fewer the better): 54 / 37 / 35
Average Span of Recognition (the larger the better): 0.4 / 0.62 / 0.65
Average Duration of Fixation (the larger the better): 0.31 / 0.31 / 0.28
Reading Rate (the more the better) (words per minute): 75 / 119 / 138

Accommodation (unaided): Focusing amplitude & focusing flexibility. Initially his score was "poor" with these scores: right eye -2.25/-1.00, left eye -2.25/-0.25, both together -2.50/-2.25. Now he's listed as "improved." His scores were: right eye -7.00/-6.75, left eye -7.50/-6.75, both together -3.25/-0.50

She also mentioned a few other topics:

Visual Motor/Fine Motor Skills: If these skills are lacking the student can have poor handwriting, excessive erasing, poor spacing, trouble finishing written assignments and a list of other issues. This definitely describes Capt. N. The dr's report says that she thinks the problem is with his fine motor skills as opposed to his visual motor skills. I would agree. He scored greater than 99% on the spatial relations portion of the TVAS, as opposed to the 2% he scored on the fine motor speed & 25% for fine motor coordination on the Developmental Test of Perceptual Skills - revised. Fine motor skills is not something they work on in the office. She gave me a list of things we can do to improve these skills such as dot to dots and mazes. It's weird, but except for his handwriting, I've never noticed his fine motor skills to be off a bit.

Visual Perceptual Skills
: Visual analysis skills are critical for recognizing & remembering orientation, shape & position to what we see. Here are his scores on the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills:
Visual Memory: 91%
Spatial Relationships: greater than 99%
Figure Ground: 84%
Form Constancy: 95%
Visual Closure: 77%
Visual Discrimination: 50%
Sequential Memory: 25%   (He has been working on a computer program at home on this. A random sequence of numbers flash on the screen & he needs to type those numbers in the correct order. He does ok when it's just 3 numbers. But, with a group of 4 numbers he does terrible. He gets less than half of them correct.)

All in all I'm impressed with his improvement. When it comes right down to it the reason we started vision therapy was to help his reading. The fact that his average reading score was 119 words per minute is outstanding. It's an improvement of 44wpm since he first took the test 4-5 months ago. When he reads quietly to himself I can just tell it's not such a strain on him, which for me, is a victory in itself. It was hard on me watching him struggle to read. He never wanted to read. Now he can finish a Magic Tree House book in 2 or 3 sittings and probably even quicker if he wanted to. His comprehension is staying good, too.

The interesting thing about Capt. N reading 119 wpm is that this was quiet reading. While taking this Visagraph test he's not reading aloud. He looks up when he's done reading & the goggles track that movement, which is how the dr. knows when he's finished. His aloud reading skills are not that good - although they are improving. He's reading about 82 wpm now, as opposed to the approx. 65 wpm he was reading over the summer. 119 wpm is getting pretty close to 3rd grade norms, but the dibels test is an aloud reading test. 82 wpm would still put him way below grade level. Why do I care so much about the words per minute? I know. It's because that's the test that started this whole sha-bang. Before learning that he was only reading 32 wpm at the beginning of 2nd grade, I never knew he had any sort of reading problem or any other learning problem. I know it really doesn't matter what it says on paper. What matters is that he can actually read & read at a decent speed with very little struggle. That's where he's at now and I'm so proud of him. For now, I'm going to have him finish up this vision stuff and then decide which direction we should go next. In the meantime, I'm sure I will be searching the web & other sources to work on figuring out if he really does have a glitch somewhere with getting information he takes in, processing it & getting it back out. He can obviously read quicker when he's reading quietly. But, I bet that's true for most of us. For him though, his fluency is just not good. He's slow & doesn't pay attention to punctuation. How much should I worry about that? I don't know. He also does have sloppy handwriting with reversals and odd spacing. How much should I worry about that? Reminder: One step at a time, Jennifer. One step at a time.

Week 20

Pics from the Week:

To practice his multiplication facts Capt. N & I tossed the ball back and forth. I call out, "4x7" & toss him the ball. As he catches the ball he replies, "= 28." Then he tosses the ball to me saying, "5x7" & I catch it saying the answer. We did a few rounds of this game this week. I'm not sure whether this would work as his only way of learning the facts, but he really likes it & it makes the facts more fun to practice than always doing flash cards. He also uses Math Wrap-ups to practice.

With the Saxon Math we're using I don't see a good way to keep track of the multiplication facts Capt. N has learned. He takes timed tests, but I wanted to make a chart so he can see his progress. This is what I came up with.

You can print it here.
You can also print the "passed" words here.
I also made an addition facts chart to get ready for Mr. T next year. You can print the addition chart here.

The boys learned that owls puke up the bones, feathers, fur & other body parts from the animals they eat. They dissected (fake) owl pellets searching for the bones of a passed critter. Read more about it here.

Owl Pellets

Since next weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count I thought we'd learn more about birds. My kids are very interested in birds so this is a great topic for us. This was something they didn't know - that owls (and a few other birds) puke up part of the last meal they ate. Gross! Perfect for my kids. Before dissecting our own pellets we watched a couple YouTube videos: Baby Owl Ejects Pellet and Great Horned Owl Coughs Up Pellet. This was a great introduction. Nothing's more exciting to little boys than puke.

I bought this package at Joann's. Normal price is 14.99. I used the 40% off coupon. This was a fun activity but, definitely not worth paying full price.

The box came with 2 pellets wrapped in foil.

The pellets looked like hard dryer lint.

Pull it apart carefully looking for the bones from the owl's last meal. In our case we knew one was going to be a mouse and one was going to be a bird.

The pile of dryer lint & a few feathers.

Mr. T's pellet had bones of a starling. The bones broke fairly easily - which made it a pain to get all the lint off the bones. So we just left the lint.

Capt. N's pellet had the bones of a mouse.

The box came with a bone identification sheet, which was great. But, many of the bones didn't match the sheet making it a bit challenging to figure out which bones went where.

If I were rating this kit, I'd give it a 3 out of 5. Between the videos and the pellet activity I'm sure my kids are never going to forget that owls puke. And, isn't that the point? Learn something, have fun doing it & remember it. But, the kit itself was kind of chinsy. And, since it was man made why couldn't they have had the bones in the pellet match the bones on the chart? I'd like to dissect a real pellet and compare the two.

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