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27 July 2011


Monkey: Mom! I'm thirsty!

Mom: You're in the shower!

Monkey: I want people water!

Oops. Guess I should be more specific. That should have been, "You're in the shower you can have some when you get out!"

Birthday Boy!

World's Cutest 1 Year Old!

24 July 2011

Review: Happy Phonics and Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

When Monkey was a still 1, he asked to use my mouse (what could be more fun than using this thing that captivates Mom's attention so much?!), and I turned him loose on Starfall. He could barely click at first, but by 2, I had to limit his computer time, and he'd learned all his letters and their sounds. I knew I wanted to teach using phonics, but was at a loss as to how to proceed, so I began looking at the various phonics courses out there. The ones I could get my hands on looked thorough, but they were hopelessly dry and so boring that I could barely stand to look at them myself. I couldn't imagine trying to use them with so young a child. Still, I felt that it only made sense to offer him the next step on the journey to reading, so I kept looking.  My search ended with the discovery of Happy Phonics.

Happy Phonics is a phonics-based system for teaching children to read, and everything is a game. For my very young reader, this was perfect. No stilted dialogs for us! We play games when we sit down to practice reading. Thus far, the "Reading House" is Monkey's favorite. It's a house with a window cut out, where the ending of the words peek out. Monkey "burns up" the beginning sounds as he reads them. Some days Mom is required to air-life water to put out the flames, though that doesn't actually contribute to the reading. But it sure is fun!

My only complaint with Happy Phonics is that it's not complete. It teaches cvc words, but leaves the new reader largely on their own for figuring out 2 consonant blends at the ends of words, for example. And, if Mom doesn't know very much about phonics, it doesn't offer much in the way of an education. This program makes a lot of assumptions.

Enter The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This is one of those books full of stilted dialogs. Reading it, as I was trying to decide how to teach phonics, kind of made me want to poke my eye out. But it's very systematic, and very thorough. Each sound is explained, each rule gone over. I needed that sort of hand-holding. We skipped the first set of lessons, on what is each letter. Starfall had taken care of that for us. But we used the word lists to add to our Happy Phonics games, and also a few file-folder games we made. Some lists we made into "Go Fish" which became Monkey's new favorite. All of the lessons include a little reading, which I printed onto little booklets I'd made by sewing down the center of several sheets of paper. Then, Monkey's Daddy or I will draw simple illustrations (think Bob Books), and it's a real book for him to practice with. We carried on like that until we got into the section on vowel pairs - about halfway through the lessons. At that point, he could, with some help on rules we hadn't seen yet, read from real books, and, very slowly, do a verse at a time from scripture. Monkey never actually sees this book while we're learning, but it's an important part of my preparation. And I'm much more confident that I'm not missing something important.

Separately, I'm not very impressed with either one of these programs. But together, they make beautiful music at our house, and Monkey is doing great with learning to read.

23 July 2011

Getting Ready to Dye

I'm short on shirts, and the boys are both going to need some new clothes this fall. I want to try doing some batik on a skirt and some shirts. I also want to play around with some tie-dye. So I'm collecting information on how to do it.

First, the tie-dye ties:

Then, a bit on how to batik:

20 July 2011

Classical Homeschooling Carnival #17

My life got crazy, the deadline passed, and the submissions for May's carnival sat so long that I thought for a minute the carnival people had deleted them. But they're still there, so May's carnival has become July's carnival. To those who submitted, I'm very sorry. My life has been a zoo.

But we're recovering nicely now; the carpet was reinstalled in the upstairs and the basement this morning. They'll be back to put the baseboards back tomorrow, and then we'll move the mattresses OUT of the living room and back into the bedrooms where they belong! I can hardly wait. In the mean time (What does that mean, anyway? "Mean time. Average time? Cruel time?), these submissions aren't any less wonderful for being slightly dated. Enjoy!

Over at Teachable Moments, Jessica was winding up their school year and enjoying the flexibility that homeschooling allows when she wrote and submitted Doing It Our Way..., which is much more than just a wind-up post, and still very relevant, including such gems as this:

“We tried.  We grew.  We learned.” ~ me.

The Mama, at Concordia Classical Academy, talks a little about How to Teach Reading. I sure wish I'd thought of doing blending orally before doing it with written letters! She's got some great ideas.

Karyn, of Teach Beside Me, is creating a lovely resource for using The Burgess Animal Book for Children in science. She's shared Chapter 1 with the carnival.

Head on over to Sparks of Learning to read Alicia's glowing review of Primary Mathematics (aka: Singapore).

For my own contribution, we did an owl pellet dissection, which Monkey loved. I did too: I'd never done one before. Learning with the kids has got to be one of the best parts of homeschooling. 

And when you're done with all that, take a second trip through those blogs for the great posts they've put up more recently. I think every single one of them had something that made me stop and read a bit as I was getting all my links. Don't forget to submit your post to the next edition of the carnival; we'd love to have you!

Links Links Links

Haven't had time to collect many links lately, but it sure is fun to browse around a bit when there is time. So many good ideas out there! Got a pretty good grab-bag this time. Enjoy!

Here's a good one: Keeping Hands Busy and Minds Engaged During Read-Alouds. There's enough good stuff in this one to keep a family coming back for more and more for quite a while!

 One Obama Presser [press release] 36 Obama Lies and Deceptions. They've gone through point-by-point, sometimes several in a sentence. I love that kind of breakdown of an article. It's particularly unfortunate that it's lies our President told  us this time.

I've got a shirt that I'm going to make. Well, I'm going to make it after the mess in my home is settled, after I find my sewing machine, and after I find my fabric, and after I find my pattern. I suspect that none of those things are actually together in the same place. But one of these days I'm going to make this fun knit shirt. I haven't done very many knits. None, actually. And Burda has this article about using a toile - that's a muslin mock-up for folks like me that don't know the fancy terms - that's just in time and has some great tips.

My Grandma died last year, and one of the things my Mother brought home was the string of pearls plant Grandma had in her kitchen window. The plan was to propagate it and pass out the babies so we all could have some of Grandma's plant. Only, the poor thing went into shock over being transported 1500 miles in a car. And it's kind of been downhill from there. Now I've got one tiny little strand of pearls that I'm trying to re-root in some fresh dirt. As a result, I've been reading what little I can find about this plant. If anyone's got one and would care to offer advice, I could use it. This and this are what I've found that's useful. It's not much to go on. But the poor little plant isn't dead yet!

19 July 2011

Red-Wing Blackbirds

We're trying to grab the tattered shreds of Normal and put them back into a routine. The kitchen is making good progress in getting back together. We just need to have the laminate installed and finish painting the rebuilt areas. Upstairs, the rebuilding is also nearly finished: we need new pad and to have the carpet stretched back out. Of course, to do that, we have to get all the junk that was dumped up there in the course of all this out of the shuffling that's gone on around here for the past month. But it looks like they'll be doing the carpet tomorrow, which means that we'd move our beds OUT of the living room and BACK into the bedrooms upstairs. Hallelujah!!

While we're trying to get all that figured out, I though a little school would be fun. The boys had a good time watching the bird videos. We're doing red-wing blackbirds, but Monkey watched some others too, and I liked the one about the indigo buntings so well that I've posted it too.


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