Update from the "Teacher's Lounge"

2.05.2011

That's what I'll be calling my personal homeschool musings/ramblings. (I saw this phrase used by a homeschooling group and got a chuckle out of it.)

The first order of business leaves me speechless. Reading has not come easy for Caleb. He was very slow to read CVC words, even though he has great phonemic awareness. In November of last year, we began using the McGuffey readers for our reading curriculum and Noah Webster's American Spelling Book. That's it. I didn't want to overwhelm or frustrate him by moving too quickly, as our curriculum at the time was doing. Sure, he could read the words in isolation because of his ability to decode the words, but his fluency wasn't there. So we stepped back the degree of difficulty in order to build this fluency.

In addition to changing Caleb's reading list, I also determined to improve our read aloud time, as it was meager at best. Having little exposure, personally, to great literary works for children, I turned to those who have for advice. I've never had so many books checked out of the library at once! 26.....with 6 more on the way!!!! Anyway, we have thoroughly enjoyed reading Virgina Lee Burton's books, The Little House (Caleb's favorite), Katy and the Big Snow, & Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Caleb has also enjoyed Munro Leaf's Ferdinand. Madeline has been joining us during this time, and she thoroughly enjoyed Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine.

So back to the read alone/read along books....I have seen several people recommend a few series for beginning readers and thought I would give them a try, such as Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel and Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant. These books have been a huge hit! Caleb and I have been sitting down to read them together "after" school, and it has been something he asks to do or tells me he can't wait to do. Now, I have been waiting for this kind of reaction in reading for over a year!

So, how is reading going this week, might you ask? Well, we were sitting around the kitchen table having an afternoon snack with Henry and Mudge in the Green Time in hand. I'll have Caleb read as much as he can until he gets tired, and then I'll finish the story with/for him. (So we read for about 5-10 minutes during school and 20-30 minutes after school.) Anyway, one day this week, he told me,

Caleb:"Mommy, I'm just going to read this to myself."

Me: "Um, okay. Do you mean with just your eyes, silently?"

Caleb: "Yep."

I asked him if I could ask him some questions after he read one page, and he agreed. Well, I just about fell out of my seat when he correctly answered all my questions!!!

Caleb: "See, mommy. I told you I could read quietly."

Well, we continued this little game for several pages, just to be sure he wasn't being aided by the photos on the page. Yup...he's doing it! So my little man who struggled with learning to read is now reading 2nd grade level books "quietly to himself." Unbelievable! Now, his fluency (the ease of reading) is still 1st grade (right on target, by the way.) But I am so thrilled that his level of fluency isn't keeping him back from enjoying "older" books.

Madeline is also getting in on the homeschool action by watching Leapfrog's Letter Factory. I don't expect her to understand much of it at all. I simply want to expose her to the alphabet and give her something educational to watch when the TV is turned on. Well, last night as I was putting her PJs on, she looked up at the monogram over her bed (MDB) and said, "Mommy, buh" for the B on the wall! Hooray for baby steps. Caleb also thoroughly enjoys helping her to learn the alphabet. It's precious. She loves singing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and playing all the fun little preschool apps on my iPad.

On the curriculum front, we have recently made some changes. For language arts, we have added First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise and Writing With Ease (WWE) by Susan Wise Bauer. These additions have been terrific. The literary passages used in WWE, which beatifully chosen, seem to go over Caleb's head a bit. But this doesn't frustrate him at all. He so patient with himself!!! So we are continuing with it in a way that is good for him. We have been doing daily narration with our McGuffey reader for the last 2 months. But we are now adding in dictation. The simplicity of the stories allows Caleb to narrate and dictate his own sentences! Yesterday, he summarized the passage with his own 10 word sentence! And I didn't even need to help him arrange his sentence correctly. He only needed help with spelling the word "their," which isn't surprising given the fact that it's a homonym. His sentence? "Robert and Bess went camping with their mommy and daddy." Yep, capitalized, punctuated and spelling perfectly, only needing help with the word "their." Can you tell yet how proud I am of his progress in language arts?

Now, the one thing I knew I wanted to do when we first started our homeschooling journey was to stick with the 3 R's (per a dear friend's recommendation to which I agreed). But unfortunately, despite my own protests, Caleb will be starting up a Science curriculum next week! Yep. Over the last two weeks, I took a good hard look at the scientific discussions we've had, realizing if I didn't do something about it, I might thwart his desire to understand the world around him. He's constantly observing and inquiring, asking/saying such things as, "Mommy, look at the shape of those clouds in the sky!", "How come the dryer gets all the water out of our clothes?", "Look at the cutting board floating in the water!", "How do we get the gas for our cars out of the ground?", and "Why does my shadow always follow me?" I think you get the idea.

On a well known homeschool forum, I saw some folks talking about a different approach to science, and after much research, thought it would be a perfect fit for us. I didn't want a boxed science curriculum I needed to get done in year or anything like that. So I decided upon Dr. Bernard Nebel's Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for K-2. It focuses on how to teach to a child science in order to build inquiry, not simply doing experiments and throwing meaningless, unrelated facts at a child. The lessons build upon each other and help the child understand how the different disciplines relate to each other. I love it! It's approach encourages children to expand scientific inquiry in their daily lives. What could be better?

Although we haven't formally started our lessons yet, I've already read through the intro chapters in the book so I know how to handle Caleb's wonderfully, endless questions. And I can already see the benefits of this approach. After noticing a gas station placing a new tank in the ground, we had a 15 minute discussion about where gas (oil) comes from, how it gets into our cars, why cars need gas and how that relates to us as humans needing food it eat. All the while, I'm not giving Caleb the answers to his questions; rather, I'm throwing it back into his court and encouraging him to think of the answer for himself. It was awesome! This is my kind of science class! And we haven't even done any lessons yet!! If I'm being honest (although I'm not looking forward to the extra time it will take to formally incorporate science into our weekly schedule), I am really looking forward to seeing Caleb's reaction to our experiments/lessons and seeing his face light up at his discoveries.

So today's Teacher's Lounge update was waaaay longer than I thought it was going to be. But since it was my first, I guess that's okay. LOL. Anyway, I hope to give these updates now and again, as we progress through the rest of the school year and on to the next one.

6 sweet words:

Barbara Saturday, February 05, 2011  

Great work Caleb!!! You are a wonder, you are.....
I love you
Your Grammy in Connecticut
Bammy

Cheri Saturday, February 05, 2011  

Wow, sounds like you and your children are just thriving in school. I'll have to check out the science since that is my weak, weaker, weakest subject to teach.

Deb Saturday, February 05, 2011  

Caleb, I am so proud of you! Madeline, your letter sounds are precious. Way to go mommy!

Patrick Monday, February 07, 2011  

Yes, I can second that, Caleb is very smart and he has a super teacher!

Melissa Tuesday, February 08, 2011  

Wow, congratulation to both Caleb and Mommy. I love that Madeline is using the Leap Factory stuff. Iris loves to sing along with that one too. She can't "see" the letter yet but she knows the sound.

Cheri Saturday, February 12, 2011  

Thanks, Eva. You can email me at clmnva@yahoo.com

I really appreciate your last 2 notes. I've struggled back and forth about what to do. I know it will be okay. I've noticed about 3 different efforts just tonight! She is paying attention.

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About This Blog

This blog is a place where we have shared our lives with family and friends while we waited to bring our daughter, Madeline, home from China and while we actually traveled to China for her. It is also a place where we will continue to share our life experiences, as we try to glorify God and raise our two precious dumplings from China.

And now we wait to bring Havi home from China.

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