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Erika has been using Math Mammoth Blue Series for quite some time, and is perhaps halfway through Add & Subtract 3. I gave her the placement test for Beast Academy 3a, to see if she was ready for that, and based on the results, decided to let her try it.

The first chapter is on geometry, and contains some really interesting and difficult problems. Our approach has been for her to try them herself, and then if she doesn't quite see everything, I let her know that she needs to try again and offer her hints and suggestions if she wants them. I'm very happy with the level of thinking required thus far -- and was amused that I encouraged her to play Tetris in order to deepen her understanding of one of the lessons.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes from here, and I'm pleased that she's been willing to accept help; unwillingness to actually be taught has been an ongoing issue for us.

This has definitely been the spring of reading for her -- she just finished the entire Harry Potter series, and has now started reading the Percy Jackson series.

I didn't really expect her to read the entire first Harry Potter book, let alone the whole series! But she just kept wanting to keep going, and I don't believe in censoring kids' reading, so...
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Today was the first day of German School for this academic year, and unlike last year, all four of us went.

I wasn't sure what to expect from my class, which looks like it's going to involve reading, discussing things we read, and giving a short presentation. About half of the students in the class are heritage speakers like me, so I definitely feel like I'm in the right place. It's kind of a relief to be in a group of people who have the same general types of problems with the language that I do.

Karl seems to have enjoyed his class, and I'm sure Erika will be OK -- the teacher didn't tell the kids they should eat their snacks on the playground, which is different from what they did last year, so her main feeling about the first day of class was grumpiness about being hungry. She'd been very excited about the first day of class, so I'm sure things will look up next week.

John was looking a lot more relaxed during the break than he did before class, which I take as a good sign.

It's really a lovely atmosphere, one I'm really glad to be part of. Photo of the rest of my family on the first day of German School )

In unrelated news, Erika has reached a point in her journey into reading where she has trouble falling asleep without reading for a while first. I think she's taking after me.
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... her response to a power outage is to keep reading by the light of the two LED tea lights she had on for atmosphere. I would have gotten her a better light, but it was really time for bed anyway.
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Erika has not yet reached the point where reading a book generally seems like a fun thing to do with her free time.

I have seen signs lately that it may be coming, though. Several times recently, she has continued reading past her assigned block of required reading time. Yesterday, she told me reading was her second-favorite part of school, after math. Today she commented at the end of assigned reading time that she knew she didn't have time left, but she was just going to keep reading. She finished the book. Not a long book, but still...

Then in the afternoon, she read a book in the car for fifteen or twenty minutes.

I'll be interested to see how this develops.
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We had another great day today, featuring lesson 98 in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (the "oa" in words like "boat" and "float") and various math stuff, including lessons 35 and 36 in MEP.

We did have a bit of a conflict over the use of a balance scale -- I had found some checkers that were part of my old Connect Four set and happened to all weigh exactly the same amount, and had intended to use them to expand on some balancing equations exercises we'd been doing. Unfortunately, she balked at the use of the checkers, wanting to use the metal weights that came with the scale instead. Since there were only two 1-gram weights, we ran into trouble, but she wouldn't consider using the checkers instead. I do think that this evening, when we experimented with many other objects around the house and found that nothing else we found was actually sufficiently uniform, she may have gotten over it. We'll see.

Anyway, other than that, we had a fantastic time. The highlight for me was when I tried a new approach to even and odd numbers. We've only touched on them briefly before, and she clearly didn't get it then. This time, I took out some of Erika's glass "math stones", in groups of 2, 3, 4, and 5. I asked her to divide each group into two equal parts, and then explained that the groups she could divide into two equal parts were even numbers of stones, and the ones she couldn't divide into two equal parts were odd numbers of stones. We then took this further into 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. The cool part was when she started saying things like, "I don't really need to divide these into two parts, because I know that 8 is equal to 4 plus 4." and "I don't really need to divide these into two parts, because I know that 9 is equal to 4 plus 5, so it's an odd number."

I was also impressed that she was able, after only one reading, to answer the question, "Mary has one more Red hat than she has Blue hats. How many Red and how many Blue hats can she have if she has not more than three hats of either colour?"

The only problem she didn't quite get today was a pattern that began:


She completed it:


Which isn't quite right -- she correctly identified that the number of lines and the number of 0's increased each time, but she didn't figure out exactly how.

Then this evening before bed, she read a Bob book called "Joe's Toe" quite successfully -- there were only a few words she needed help with, and she figured out some long words she'd never read before, like "doctor," without any help. I was very impressed!
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This afternoon Erika and I did lesson 97 in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, and lesson 34 in the Mathematics Enhancement Programme.

Earlier in the day, we'd reviewed the exercise at the end of lesson 33 using a new teaching method and some Cuisenaire rods -- the exercise was to color every second ball in a series one color, and every third ball another color. Erika didn't really understand what "every second ball" and "every third ball" meant, so I got out some Cuisenaire rods and showed her how to count 'one-two, one-two, one-two" for every second block, and "one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three" for every third block. Then I laid out a row of white Cuisenaire blocks, and had her put a red one next to every second block, and a green one next to every third block. That seems to have worked for her, so hopefully this idea will be less confusing in the future.

Anyway, our lessons this afternoon were just lovely. The reading lesson was short and easy, and the math lesson was exactly right in terms of challenge. Erika was really receptive to my suggestions on how she might think about the problems, and it was just a totally pleasant experience.

Here's hoping our "official" school days next year go mostly this way!
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This afternoon during Karl's nap, Erika:

Had her first computer programming experience using Scratch -- she had a lion cub and a fox wandering around the screen making noises.

Completed lesson 95 of the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.

Finished three lessons in Reading Eggs, and passed the quiz for map 8. She hadn't used Reading Eggs in a while, because the level of difficulty of the lessons had exceeded her comfort zone, but since the company sent me a code for 3 free months of service, I suggested she might give it a whirl and see if it was easier now. Not surprisingly, it was. She still doesn't like anything involving time pressure, though -- she freezes when there's a timer going.

She also watched educational videos on Brainpop Junior while I was helping Karl get to sleep.

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I got an e-mail from the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op that they were offering LEGO robotics items at discounted prices... and after several days of deliberations, we were unable to resist the LEGO WeDo robotics kit, marked for ages 7 and up. I feel confident that Erika and I will be able to make sense of it next year, even if she will only be 6. :-)

I figure it'll be a nice gentle introduction to robotics and programming logic before moving on to LEGO Mindstorms at some future point. I know Mindstorms can be used by young kids, but based on my personality and Erika's, I think we'll do better starting off with the little kids' version.

In other news, Erika has started to read a bit in German. I was quite surprised to see her read a couple of things in German over the last week, including a poem that was several stanzas long. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised, since I know I learned to read German the same way, but I was.
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This week I visited the used book sale at the Wheaton Library, and came out with a pile of great stuff, including a 5-year-old DK/Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary, the third- and fourth-grade volumes of the "What Your X Grader Needs to Know" series (I already had K, 1, and 6, so now I just need 2 and 5 for a complete set), and a couple of Dr. Seuss books.

I feel as though Erika has turned a corner in reading. She's realized that she can easily read many words in books for small children, which makes sitting down to try to puzzle the rest of the words out more interesting. She's also exhibited some interest in reading together, asking for help with words she doesn't know. My sense is that reading is likely to take off pretty quickly for her now that she's reached this point. Today at the Natural History Museum, she read a simple book she'd never seen before in the gift shop. Yesterday, she read the entirety of "Hop on Pop," a book I don't think she'd ever heard read aloud, without much help. She's also picked up the BOB books again, which she had set aside after reaching a point where they became too difficult; this week she read books six and seven in Costco collection 3 -- I think these are toward the end of set 4 in the regular BOB book boxes.

Today we went back to the Natural History Museum with John, so he and Karl could go off on their own while Erika and I spent more time drawing in the Mammals exhibit. Erika spent about 45 minutes drawing before she'd had enough. She drew a tiger, a walrus, a panda, a caracal, a giraffe, a fennec, and some kind of hopping mouse -- I only had time to draw the walrus, the giraffe, a fox, and the beginnings of a zebra during that time. I'm amazed at her endurance for drawing.

Afterwards, we went up the Old Post Office Tower, where the kids enjoyed looking out at the city. I particularly liked watching the airplanes take off and land at National airport.
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Today we got a Judy Clock used from someone on Homeschool Classifieds, and of course the kids wanted to use it right away. While Karl was napping, Erika asked to do math, so I suggested that we do some work on telling time.

I'd been planning to use the Math Mammoth Clock Worktext with Erika next year, but since she was interested today, I bought it and printed out the first few pages. Of course I could have just talked with her about it and let her play with the clock, but I find that Erika is much more willing to do enough work with an idea to really get it when we use someone else's curriculum. She doesn't respond well to having me suggest that she needs more practice with something, but she's willing to put in the practice when it was the curriculum author's idea. The concepts in the Math Mammoth workbook made sense to her, and she even successfully wrote things like "half past seven" and "six o'clock." I think it likely that she'll continue to be interested.

After we'd worked with telling time for a while, she asked to do some number line work, and then did half a page of Miquon as well.

She also finished lesson 49 in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading today, which we started using a few weeks ago when she expressed interest in a more formal approach to reading instruction. She seems excited that tomorrow, we'll be starting initial consonant blends -- something she's certainly encountered before, but not with the same degree of depth. I'd say that she doesn't particularly LIKE the Ordinary Parent's Guide, but it is helping her make progress with reading.

Right before dinner, the kids were watching an episode of a German TV show, "Die Sendung mit dem Elefanten," which happened to feature a science experiment. It involved lighting a candle in a plateful of water and then putting a glass over the candle to watch the candle extinguish and water get pulled up into the glass.

We decided to duplicate it after dinner and have further discussion. Some photos of the experiment )

Erika seemed to have a pretty good understanding of what was going on, especially since John was able to remind her of recent conversations they'd had about the three things fires need.
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Erika definitely has her own ideas about reading, which means she's not terribly teachable. She only likes to work on reading right before bed, when she's exhausted. She doesn't really want any kind of systematic instruction. All she wants to do right now is read Bob books, usually only once for each book, so she doesn't get much practice before moving on to harder material. It's not what I would consider an ideal learning situation.

One of the things that often happens is that she doesn't want to try to decode unfamiliar words that she's perfectly capable of decoding. For example, the other night she professed complete ignorance of the word "skipped" despite having correctly read the word "skipper" in the same sentence. She likes it if I sound out the word for her, at which point she knows exactly what it is.

When the same kind of thing happened tonight, I came up with a new strategy. I suggested that I sound out every other letter.

What I didn't expect is that this would cause her to read the whole word. I just figured we'd take turns sounding out the letters. It turned out that once she'd sounded out the first letter, she just went ahead and read the word. This probably happened 4 times. I guess the idea that we'd take turns made it enough fun that she was willing to focus, and once she focused, she no longer wanted or needed any help.

I'll be interested to see what happens from here.
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Erika had been using an online reading system called Reading Eggs in the spring, and was pretty enamored of it. But it got to the point where it was hard for her, and she wasn't interested in going back and doing some of the previous exercises again to solidify her grasp on the earlier material, so she didn't do much with it over the summer. She was stuck on an exercise that required you to read a certain number of words in a 2-minute period and click on the corresponding picture from a grid of 16 or so choices. She really dislikes timed exercises, and hadn't much liked being put on the spot anyway. What she really wanted was for me to do it for her, but although I'm willing to give her some help with Reading Eggs, I felt like this was an exercise she really just needed to be able to pass on her own.

So she took a hiatus from Reading Eggs. In the intervening time, we've been reading the Beginner Phonics books from Progressive Phonics and playing the associated memory games. She's also been working her way through the first box of BOB books we bought at Costco a few weeks ago ("Collection 1") and has gotten through 12 of them. During this time, she's also gotten a lot more "teachable" -- she previously seemed to feel like she ought to know everything without any help.

Anyway, today she went back to Reading Eggs, and after needing a little encouragement to get through that first exercise in egg 70, she flew through the rest of the egg, which required genuine reading on her part, and easily passed the quiz at the end of map 7. Yay, Erika!
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A few days ago, Karl started asking me which letters start particular words. It's kind of an interesting thing for him to be asking, because he doesn't actually know his alphabet. Perhaps this is his way of learning it.

This morning in the car, he started asking Erika. He probably asked her 20 words before she got sick of the game, and the only two she got wrong were "arm" (she thought it started with R) and "tree," which for some reason she thought started with H -- I think this one may just have been a lapse of attention on her part. She did get the starting letters for ambulance and truck right.

Anyway, I thought it was fun to listen to the conversation between them.

In other reading news, Erika read me a book yesterday! Admittedly, it was a super-easy beginning reader book, but it was a whole book she'd never seen before. Whee!

Number line

Sep. 6th, 2009 03:40 pm
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This afternoon Erika suggested that we read part of book 3 from Progressive Phonics. After she was done with that, she wanted to play the short "i" sound memory game, which we hadn't done before.

When she counted up her cards at the end, she told me she had 11. I told her that wasn't one of the possibilities, that it had to be either 10 or 12. Since I've been reading the Miquon Lab Sheet Annotations, I thought it might be a good chance to show her a number line, so I asked her if she'd like to see how I knew she couldn't have 11 cards. She was interested, so I drew a number line on a piece of paper and we talked about it a bit. Picture of number line )

Then we played a game of Set, and did a number line for that at the end also. Since each set is 3 cards, this time we got to hop by threes. Picture of second number line )
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Today's amusing "homeschooling" activity was play-dough words -- or rather, word. I made up some cards with useful words on them in huge type, and Erika rolled out snakes to lay over the letters. I decided to try this activity because I wanted to see if doing something that required extended time with one particular word would help that word get really set in her mind. Anyway, she decided one word was enough ("you"), but she had fun and seems to know exactly how to read and spell it now. We'll see whether she wants to do this again on another day with a different word.

Picture of completed word )
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A few days ago, I heard about a free reading program called Progressive Phonics, and thought it might interest Erika. One of the features that distinguishes it from other programs is that, although it does teach the phonics rules, it emphasizes the acquisition of sight words. Since I believe that true reading is done by sight words, this appealed to me. Also, one of its main teaching methods, at least in the early levels, is through the reading of amusing stories where the parent reads most of the words, and the child reads only a few words on the page. This allows the stories to be more interesting, and creates a fun atmosphere of reading together. Erika really likes the kind of story where the adult reads most of the words, but the child "reads" pictures representing some of the nouns, so I thought she might enjoy this kind of collaborative reading.

She enjoyed reading the first book together, but what she really loves is the associated card game. The program comes with a lot of worksheets and other materials to go with each book; in this case, there was a memory game featuring 9 high-frequency words with the "short a" vowel. I enjoyed printing up and laminating the cards, and we've played twice now. She clearly reads all of the words well, and I'm pretty sure she didn't know some of them before we read the book. One of the things I love about memory is that it's possible for me to play together with Erika and have her win; of the 8 times we've played, I think she's won about half the time, including one game in which I got no pairs.

pictures of the game )

I'm not entirely convinced that I ought to be doing this kind of thing with Erika at her age, but I think I've decided that as long as we're both having fun and I don't have any expectations of how often she'll want to do it or what kind of progress she might make, it's OK.


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August 2014

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