Sunday, February 24, 2013

We went to PA last weekend for a little vacation, and I visited an educational store there. A woman who worked there said she was a former preschool and kindergarten teacher and asked if she could help me find something. I asked her about resources for teaching some specific phonetics skills.

When she showed me some workbooks that were heavy on writing and drawing, I explained that I was looking for something more visual since my son was young and didn't enjoy writing. When she heard that Henry was three, she looked at me like I was crazy. First she said that there was no way that he could really read. When I assured her that he could, she acted like I was "hot-housing" (a term I just found out about) or something, drilling him with concepts too advanced for him. When I said that I only followed his interest, teaching him when he asked to be taught and answered his questions about reading, she said, conciliatory, "Well, it's not developmentally normal. Pretty soon he'll just stop and then all the other kids will catch up."

At first I was baffled. Why didn't she just show me what I wanted (and make a sale)? Why was she so invested in convincing me that my son was weird, that I was crazy, that Henry learning early and well was something to worry about, that it would be fine because eventually he would fall back and average out?

I know not all teachers are like this lady. There are certainly teachers out there who see each child as an individual and do their very best to bring out the full potential of each student in their care. But it made me realize that sending Henry to school might subject him to personalities like these, who want everything and everybody to fit in a neat little box, those who see working ahead in the same light  as falling behind.

Homeschooling is hard. It will probably get a lot harder before we are through. But it's worth it to let my children learn the best way they can, whether that fits into someone else's timeline or not.

Snowy Day!

It didn't snow this week but that didn't stop us from reading some great books about snow days and snowmen. There were so many cool activities I found for a snow theme that we didn't get to all of them, so we may sneak a couple into next week when we read The Mitten by Jan Brett.

Henry is getting faster at reading and spelling words. Other than reading aloud and along with him, we also practiced some silent e words and now he is much better at pronouncing silent e words quickly. Before when he saw a word like "make", he would say "mack, no wait, make." Now he is much faster at seeing the whole word and saying it correctly. We'll probably continue practicing the silent e words this week, maybe with some vowel-r-silent e words because I think those can be tricky.

He is also more interested in holding pencils. He didn't want to write letters but likes those printable worksheets where you trace a path from one object to another. He also did some dot-to-dot worksheets and some regular old coloring. I'll be ordering more FLIP crayons from rainbow resource because we've worn ours down to nothing. I'll probably also order some new do-a-dot markers just for fun.

I backed off doing any kind of math this past week.

We opened up our first continent box, Antarctica! Henry absolutely loved it. We have a little ball that looks like a globe, an inflatable globe, and a big map of the world on the wall. We found Antarctica on all of them. We read books from the library and tried watching March of the Penguins. I have to say I was glad Henry wasn't that in to it, that movie is sad! I think his favorite thing about Antarctica is spelling it. It's probably the biggest word he knows and he gets a kick out of it.

We listened to Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne on cd from the library. The first chapter I played he almost ignored it, running around the house. His attention span got much longer as we continued, and now he'll sometimes ask for two chapters, but I've found one is more where he is at this time.

We've been reading one devotion from Gotta Have God Devotions for Boys each morning. Now that Henry is a bit older, the ABC Jesus Loves me curriculum is more his speed in terms of the Bible stories, so we're following that schedule again. Next week is Jesus Feeding the 5000, which should be fun!

I play classical music during some of our down time, but haven't put up our composer of the month pictures yet. I am going to do the Artist of the Month first I think, starting with Picasso because he is fun. I got some books from the library and googled coloring pages for Picasso's paintings - it is amazing how many there were! We will hopefully start the Artists this week and the composers a couple weeks later.

I think I'm mellowing out as we go. I used to feel so bad if we didn't do something I had planned or if I changed the plan or dropped something. Now I'm realizing that those decisions were usually made not because we are lazy or ineffective, but because that was what was best for us at the time. If Henry isn't ready for something he isn't ready. In the same way, if he is ready to read why do we need to wait on someone else's schedule to do it?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Will You Be My Valentine?

We had lots of fun with our penguin theme last week. I think we may return to it once I get our Antarctica continent box ready!

This week we are reading some Valentine's Day and love-themed books. Today we worked on making some Valentine's Day cards for our friends and some handprint crafts for the grandparents. We also took some time looking at our new maps that I hung in the hallway and reading Where Do I Live?

Henry asked to read BOB books but got bored with them pretty quickly. I'm thinking this is a good thing because they are very easy for him and the stories are not very interesting. It is always hard to know how much he is comprehending when he is reading aloud to me, but in this case I think he realized that the stories were boring. He loves to read Go, Dog, Go, which has more newer sight words and is just all around a more "real" book.

I tried to play a little addition game but he was either bored or just not getting it. I think we'll have to try something more conceptual. Tomorrow we will wrap Valentine's Day presents for the kids in our small group (hoping Amazon gets them to us in time), and do some more fun reading aloud.

Stella has been cruising, crawling, teething, and eating us out of house and home, so it's been harder to sit down for a long time with Henry. On the other hand I feel that for his age shorter, more spaced out learning is working well. I do a little activity with him, then feed the baby, then something else, then do some dishes, etc. It doesn't fit into my neat little plans always but it works.

This Week: Penguins!

We are having a great season of preschool! Henry is happy to be learning and makes progress every day. We are still working on potty-training and our main focus for school is just improving his reading. He will now verbally spell words out unprompted. It is fun to open the front door and hear his little voice whispering "L-O-C-K. That's lock. Yeah, that lock."

I got him to try tracing some letters by using some printable letter pages, I think from 1+1+1? I put them in a binder in sheet protectors and let him use tiny dry erase markers from the Target dollar section to trace the letters. He loved erasing them with the eraser too. We also just do do-a-dot pages and I'll be opening up a new pack of skinny pipsqueak markers to color with tomorrow.

This week our theme is Penguins, and we've been having fun reading some really great books. Greg has been reading The Narnia Chronicles to him before bed, and I just started reading Mr. Popper's Penguins during the day. We've also found some great picture books, including One Cool Friend, Tacky the Penguin, and Penguin. Of course there is always our old favorite, Osbert. Henry hasn't asked to watch Pingu yet, but I'm sure that will happen too.

Greg does "Math School" with him about once a week but I am hoping to join in and do little games throughout the week. He would love memorizing whatever math facts we taught him but we are hoping for a more conceptual understanding.

I am planning a big geography survey based around our continent boxes, but I'm not sure when we'll start. I guess I originally planned to do Antarctica when we did Penguins, but I don't feel like I've prepared enough yet.

I found a great website for a study of artists and musicians. I had some classical cds I got at a prior homeschool convention and I hope to get some more when we go in May.

It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by all of the awesome plans I'm making right now. It feels like there is so much work to do, especially considering our budget limitations, but I'm trying to remember to focus on the basics for now, and realize that by the time Henry is ready for these substantive topics, I'll have it figured out.