Friday, September 12, 2014

Combating a fussy attitude with a to-do list

The other day, I attempted to have Johnny switch gears from coloring a picture to doing our math lesson for the day. Instant resistance.

My motivation to do math at that moment: the baby was happily occupied playing with toys nearby and I thought ooh, we can do math now.

Johnny's motivation: he wanted to work on another drawing. He didn't want to switch gears. Hence, protest.

At the time, I didn't quite understand the issue since he wasn't communicating what he actually wanted to do. He was making it sound as if he didn't like math, period.

So...after a time-out for an attitude adjustment, some chatting with my husband to see if he had any insight, and the sort, we were able to sort it out. My husband even did the next math lesson with Johnny so he could see what he was learning and so we could both observe him doing the work. It went well. We saw that the math program is continuing to be age-appropriate, interesting and educational.

The problem was attitude.

I've been suspecting our days would go more smoothly if Johnny knew what was expected of him in terms of our school work. I recently made a morning to-do list for him, and he so enjoyed going through each item and checking it off.

So, I asked if he would like a checklist for his school work. He loved that idea, so I made one real quick the night before.

After bible and his reading lesson, I had on his list to do 10 jumping jacks. Next was his choice, and I listed a few options. He chose to make a drawing taken from the vantage point on the moon, American flag on it, looking out and seeing the sun, the Earth and a comet going by).

While he was doing this, I gave Vivienne some one-on-one time. I selected a Lauri puzzle, the one with kid shapes doing all sorts of different poses. I asked her to put the pieces in piles based on color; do an AB pattern with them; lay out 3 green pieces and then add 2 more and tell me what she had, etc. Next was I think her favorite: I asked her to stand in the pose of each piece before putting them back on the puzzle. Some poses were extra-fun (standing on her head, doing a squat, running, etc).

Next, Johnny told me it was math time. How 'bout that? So we did lesson #23 and it went really well. No complaining. Asking to do one task again for practice (!). Win.

Next was handwriting, then I had him do some practice with scissors, and his last task on the to-do list was do a headstand. Hah!

It went swimmingly.

I think I could do a similar thing with a workbox, but I think it will take me less time to do a to-do list for him. He seems to get satisfaction out of checking items off (don't we all)? and there's the added benefit of him reading what I wrote. He sees what his school day will include and he knows when he will be done.

We finished and they had some quiet time in their rooms while I prepared lunch. The weather is gross today, so they are inside and watching a video. Amelia is sleeping now (on me, of course...whatever).

When she wakes up, we will read some library books. This week, we are reading about insects and pioneers (separately, lol!). I'll have them choose some puzzles or something else from our educational toy/game selection. I'd like to keep afternoons a little more light. If we can do our 3Rs in the morning, I think that goes more smoothly for us.

It has taken us more than a month to find our rhythm with kindergarten stuff, but I think we are getting there. Yay!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Our first break and getting back into it again; AAR thoughts, RightStart etc.

We had our first break since we started kindergarten due to us catching a cold. Blah! One Saturday, we went to the Children's Museum and I'm pretty sure that's where we picked it up. It was nice to just pause where we were at, have our colds and not have the stress of J missing school and all that. So, we played a little, watched some DVDs, read, and took a break from our routine.

We did some reading and math lessons but it was low-key. Still learning, but not my goal.

This week, we were back at it and I was worried that our break would derail us. I took advantage of the fact my husband had Labor Day off to help ease back into it. I had him be a part of our math and reading lesson and I think that was really helpful for all parties. Yay!

Reading is going well and I'm going to place an order for All About Reading level 2 soon. At one point during AAR level 1, I wasn't sure if we'd go for level 2 or not. I wondered if we could just use other (cheaper!) materials and have the same success.

Then I decided to just forget that plan. Johnny really, really enjoys his reading lessons through AAR. He likes the readers, he likes the worksheets and activities, and the pacing and progression are just so spot-on. We got to a point where I suspected we'd need to spend a few days getting comfortable with a new phonogram, and I flipped ahead and saw the author was doing exactly that with the lessons.

This is a rock-solid program and I am seeing great results. Also? Johnny is reading words that I have no idea how he knows. Like when he's reading to himself, he'll read words (with no picture clues!) and I'm just!

I do want to keep going with AAR because there are a lot of phonograms that we haven't covered. And, he needs a lot more practice with fluency. He is not at the point of reading short novels to himself, by any means. Lots of words on a page still do intimidate him. Plenty more work to do. But this is fun work.

Rather than mess up a good thing by switching to our Phonics Pathways book, I'm just going to plow forward. I'll be able to use most of it (minus the workbook) with the girls. It's fine. I already have level 3 anyway that I got on sale.

I also plan to buy All About Spelling level 1 while I'm at it. Johnny has a strong interest in being able to spell words correctly, so we're just going to run with it. I briefly looked at other programs to see how they do it, but AAR has made a believer in me, in that the author knows exactly what she's doing and I trust her. I appreciate that AAS will teach encoding using phonics rules, rather than memorizing word lists by rote and doing worksheets that don't actually enhance learning and retention.


I like RightStart math. A lot. We have completed lesson 19 of 130 and I think it's going well. I'm surprised that 3.5yo Viv is joining us and understanding a lot of it, but hey I'll take what I can get.

Mr. Johnny on the other hand is starting to get a little fussy about math. I know he knows how to do it. I know it's not too hard, and the lessons certainly aren't taking very long. So I'm a little puzzled as to why he's showing some resistance.

I probed a little and he said he wanted to practice writing numbers (and lowercase letters, he said). Oh. Because math involves writing numbers, in his mind I guess? I'm wondering if he'd actually enjoy some math worksheets?! Gah.

I have Math Mammoth which is a worksheet-based program, with some manipulatives perhaps. My plan with MM was to use perhaps as reinforcement or a break when we hit walls with RS. Perhaps we're hitting a wall now? I have no idea.

I do want to keep moving forward with RightStart for now, and I'll just try to tune in to Johnny some more to see if I can't resolve his issues with it.

One other possibility is I could back off with math for a few weeks. Though I'm intending to keep school time fun and not stressful, maybe the amount of things we're doing is stressing him out somewhat.

OOH. In re-reading this post (I vaguely edit these things) I'm wondering if Johnny's resistance to our math stuff is because he doesn't like his sister joining us? Maybe he feels that if she can do it, it might be babyish? Or too easy to be worth his time? Hmm. I'm pretty sure that it won't take long for the program to be past Viv's capabilities. Maybe a wait n' see could help.

No need to stress out a kindergartner. It is EARLY SEPTEMBER. Don't need a burnout already.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Notes from the last 2 weeks

Rather than create lesson plans for our to-do list, I'm simply recording what we have done. So far, it is working really well.

Highlights from the last 2 weeks:

- Went on a field trip to Eagle Creek Park where we met up with some other homeschoolers and did a guided trip. Learned about amphibians, reptiles and insects. The kids had some opportunities to touch animals; Vivie touched a snake and turtle and J touched the turtle. Lunch and then playground. Fun!

- Dinosaur unit via My Father's World. Read a big stack of books over the last 1.5 weeks, some simple coloring pages, a dino puzzle we had, a dino dig (plastic dinosaur figures we had, and letter "Ds" we had from foam puzzles/fridge magnets, all in a plastic box of dried beans),

- Some phonics lessons from All About Reading -- I appreciate that the author probably realized many children would need some extra practice with double consonant words ("ff'" , "ss", etc.) because we've just been assigned some stories in the reader without new instruction, which is exactly what Johnny needed. He has finished lesson 28/49.

- Moving along with RightStart math. He was starting to get a little frustrated that he wasn't learning new things. So I skipped some things I knew he had down cold, and combined lessons for a few days. I know that soon, he will indeed be learning new things. A k-level math program is just plain going to start at the very beginning, and we need to make adjustments for each kid. Love this flexibility. He has completed lesson 10.

Here's where some moms might feel a little derailed, but I'm choosing to look at it as life-learning and building relationships. And this is also why I'm glad I'm recording our "done" stuff rather than making to-do lists for dates:

This week, we spent the day at the zoo. My husband and his parents were able to join us. Educational! Also, since school is back in session locally and it was during the week, it was LOW crowds. Still plenty of people there, but I had room to breathe. The kids could see the animals without a bunch of folks everywhere. Love it so much.

Then Thursday and Friday, we went to my grandma's for part of the day where we watched construction workers 1. dig up her old driveway 2. pour a new one. Pretty entertaining and it was nice to spend time with her. The second day, I took some educational toys with us to help keep them occupied after they were done watching stuff.

They've had time outside, some free crafting/book making/coloring. Some time with our educational toy stash. Etc.

And, after doing a more "chapter book" read-aloud with limited pictures during our dino study (Finding The First T. Rex) and having attentive children, I decided to try Charlotte's Web. It is going well! There are some illustrations (which I forgot were there) and I think that's great. We're reading a few chapters per night and they beg for more. Yay! It really is a great first chapter book for little kids.

Overall, I'm happy with the way things are going. It's a slow ramp-up to more academics. For pete's sake, it's still only mid-August! And again, the weather here has been unseasonably cool. I'm worried about this winter, that it'll be another bitter cold thing. So we'll just be outside when we can.

There are some things that I sorta intended to be doing now, that we haven't gotten to yet: handwriting and Five in a Row. The FIAR I think I'm going to put on hold right now. For weeks where we are really digging in to the MFWK unit, that is plenty of literature and activities. FIAR on top of that would just be too much at this point. We will run out of MFWK units so having FIAR for later will be helpful, or for weeks where we just don't dig in as much. Plus, I may combine some MFWK coming up (when we are doing farm animals and wild animals, I'm thinking).

Handwriting is still a priority but it just hasn't been happening. Johnny has been writing on his own for when he makes a book or a coloring page, but we haven't done our more structured stuff yet. Soon. And I'm not going to stress.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Some highlights from our first week of kindergarten

My son thought August 1st sounded like a good day to start, so I said why not? The area public schools are back in session ranging from July 30 - the first or second week of August.

I am planning a slow build, especially since it is August and the weather so far this summer has been pleasant for the most part. Let's be outside!

We went to area parks 5 days in a row. Love it. We even went to two that we had never visited. We had a last-minute playdate and 3 other homeschool moms joined us.

While at one park, a mom commented aloud that she couldn't wait for her kids to go back to school. Johnny told me later that he thought that was a really sad thing to say.

I mean, I get wanting to be back in a routine and stuff but don't make your kid think you don't like spending time with them. If that's how you feel well, that's your feelings -- just don't tell your kid that, know what I mean?

So while we have been in the van, I've switched us from music CDs to some story CDs to change things up. We borrowed an Adventures in Odyssey pack from a friend and enjoyed it, though some of it was over their heads. Though it was 4 hours, I was surprised how fast we went through it.

Now, we're listening to the Adventures in Odyssey the American history one from the HSLDA. LOVE IT. They were both so into the first (of 8) CDs. I wish they had some history CDs of other eras and places (let me know if I'm just not seeing it).

(Sidenote -- if you have other suggestions for CDs I'm all ears. I'm still downloading Jim Weiss CDs at the rate of 3 tracks per week. I wouldn't mind other history CDs, or perhaps audio book recommendations. I'll see what our library has. If it's a book, perhaps less than 3 hours? I just want to make sure we can finish it within the 3-week borrowing period without needing to renew).
One day, Johnny read aloud to me from a Dick and Jane reader that I had. The illustrations are so precious! The stories are kind of dull but Johnny seemed to enjoy reading it. He is overwhelmed by books with small print and pages full of text. I don't know if it's a visual thing or psychological one.

He is doing really well with reading but he needs lots more practice to become fluent and comfortable, so I'm just going to encourage him to read anything that builds his confidence right now. No need to feel stressed.

He is working on an "all about me" book this week. I think it'll be a fun kindergarten keepsake. I found some free printables for it and created some simple questions for him to answer with my help for spelling.

Things like full name, age, address, height and weight (we measured him and weighed him and wow this guy is growing!), and a family tree. Also, I asked him some open-ended questions, like "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Answer: "a flying-car engineer."

I told him I would buy a flying car if he made one, and he said not to worry, he'd give me one for free.

He's having fun making his book and sharing it with his grandparents. I 3-hole-punched the pages and we are putting them inside a folder with a clasp. We'll print off his "first day of K" photo to include, maybe do a paint handprint for a page and I'll ask what else he would like to add.

We are doing a lazy unit study on China. There's a really fantastic exhibit at the children's museum that opened recently, so I thought it would be fun to expand upon what we saw there. We watched two videos (one was about ancient China and also the terra cotta warriors, which are at the museum now; the other video was a day in the life of two Chinese children).

We read through a few books, I made a Chinese-inspired dinner one night that was well-received, and Johnny made his version of the Great Wall using craft sticks. He is really into craft sticks lately and he did that project on his own.

Oh and of course, we found China on our globe.

I should probably do The Story About Ping with our Five in a Row guide soon.

We started our 100 chart (just add a number to a chart each day we do school), a craft stick counting thing (one stick per day and when we get to 10, we bundle them with a rubber band, up to 100) and filling in the date on a blank calendar. These are all MFWK ideas. When we get to 100 days of school we will have a partyyyyyyy. I like these activities because while they are so quick to do, they reinforce a lot of information.

A few books from our library basket and that was our week.

It was great and I'm so glad we've been able to be outside and play with others.

Johnny is excited for this year and he said, "I can't believe I'm in kindergarten!"

I can't believe it, either. So glad I get to do it with him!

Not much has actually changed between what we normally do and now, because children really do learn all the time. As we add our more structured subjects perhaps it will take a different feel.

P.S. I am making progress on my history search. I am loving the looks of TruthQuest History, starting in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. Haven't decided and I will post more about it soon.