Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Silent "e" takes a vacation~

Today we were working with a few spelling rules with adding the suffixes "ing" and "ed" to words that end in silent "e", along with the one syllable rule, where you double the consonant when adding "ing" and "ed".

After going over the two spelling "tips" as I like to call them. ( I don't use rules because so often these "rules" are broken so we call them "tips" )

I gave my youngest a notebooking page to practice some more words on. You can find the notebooking page I made here.

Afterwards, I wanted to once again go over the information just to be sure he had a clear understanding of the two different rules. My little cutie decided he was going to teach me back the tips. (I have introduced this way of showing mastery when we first started homeschooling, a child who can teach another something shows mastery)

Here is what HE came up with and I just had to share~ :)

Along comes the word "poke". Mr. "e" in "poke" was really getting tired and decided he needed a vacation, (we just came back from vacation this past week :) ) SO Mr. "e" decides to call up his friend "ing" and ask him to come and stay with "poke" for a bit while he is off on vacation. Mr. "ing" agrees because he is always so busy "doing" things (this is where I mention tenses and verbs, lol ) so he comes over to "poke" and joins him and they are happy.

Then Mr. "poke" is tired of Mr. "ing" so Mr. "poke" decides he wants to visit with Mr. "ed" so he calls him up to visit and come over... Mr. "ing" leaves when he sees Mr. "ed" and they join up together and are happy too.

I really just loved this and it really, really showed (me anyway) just how much understanding he really had with this. ~

So now, I plan to use the "vacation" idea whenever I am talking about silent "e" and adding suffixes. By the way he had gotten all the answers correct on the notebooking page partly because I allowed him to, once again, take control and make sense of this in his own words. :)

So if you have any learners who are worn out from learning about suffixes and adding "ing" and "ed" to their words... you might want to suggest a "vacation" for little silent "e" :)

Happy Home Learning!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning about Synonyms~

We have been working with Learning Language Arts through Literature and came upon a lesson on Synonyms. These can be SO much fun to teach but at times. My younger son could never remember what synonyms were and what it meant.
After working the re-introduction to synonyms from LLATL, I decided to create some further practice for him with a notebooking page, called Sensational Synonyms. I wanted to try to capture key points that LLATL brought across and also some ways I knew would help trigger a memory hook ( link provides information on creating memory hooks) for him in trying to remember what a synonyms was.
The first thing I thought of was that there was an "easy" way to remember what a synonym was and that is by looking at the first letter of the word Synonym. "S" stands for "same". By definition, the word synonym is a word that means the "same". This seemed to REALLY help.
Another was the introduction of the "book" of synonyms as we called it ( The Thesaurus ). He had a hard time pronouncing it but I referred to it as a book that sounds kind of like a dinosaur... and he picked it up right away... :) it was really quite funny!
I also tried pulling in another subject since I could see a direct relation to it that would really help. In working with IEW (our writing program) in one of the units (unit 2, I believe) it introduces "banned words". ( I cringed at this at first and then as we moved along we would make a game out of it and it really brought greater depth to their writing). The banned words are words like "said", "run" or "big" words that children so often overuse in their writing. So they are banned. Instead a list is given much like the one on my notebooking page above and a list of alternative words (synonyms) are given to replace the "banned word".
I didnt even have to explain the page when my youngest blurted out "banned words MUM", look and began listing words.... it clicked he got it. :)

Seeing how we can use synonyms and how they can make our writing so much richer in content along with a "book" (thesaurus) to help really explained much more to him when learning about synonyms.
I hope some of these little things help your synonym lessons for your learners at home as well ~

Monday, September 28, 2009

Handwriting Happenings at Home~

Handwriting used to be a big deal in our home. It meant a lot of moans and groans... working with two boys with graphomotor difficulties meant for some "trying" lessons.

One of the biggest difficulties I saw in the very beginning with their handwriting is their poor visual processing they had when trying to focus and write on the paper. It was very difficult and it could be very overwhelming for my boys. My youngest especially.

I started both children with a program called Handwriting Without Tears. The paper they used is what intrigued me the most. It seemed much easier for them to use and I really felt would help their visual problems they were having with spacing and letter size. We worked with Handwriting Without Tears for nearly two years. With great success. Both boys now do much better with their handwriting and our youngest enjoys his handwriting practice. So much, that he now is learning to use a more traditional style of cursive handwriting. (see picture above)

For new letters we use our wipe board that has the same line style that his paper has. He can feel free to try his "hand" at certain letters and once his confidence is there can go ahead and take his practice to paper at any time.

I didn't plan on starting a whole new handwriting program, however because we started this year with a literature based language arts program - ( Learning Language Arts Through Literature) it gently incorporates handwriting practice every so often so he wanted to try it and found he really enjoyed it. Now we practice the same letters each day very gently, perhaps 10 minutes and no longer that was introduced in the lesson until a new set of specific letters are introduced. As they are I bring the other letters into the new lessons for review, extra practice and consistency.
You will notice the circled letters on his board.. this is his critique of his work :) He likes to go back and circle his favorites. I have learned not to make any corrections on his work, I stay in the background and watch him and I can see he knows when he did something wrong and he will self correct and with that I leave his work alone. Afterall it is his work and can sometimes be much more particular about it than even I would be. :)

When I looked into problems with handwriting I found all kinds of information. I could never correctly put my finger on a particular article that helped explain our problems but through a combination of articles and programs I was able to find ways to help him.

I mention a combined effort because it was not just strategies and muscle strengthening exercises that helped, but actual programs that really were not meant to teach the mechanics of handwriting, but in their own way, played a huge part in helping my boys to become better and more consistent in writing.

Some programs I am referring to are: All About Spelling, a multi-sensory based spelling program that is used with letter tiles, a wipe board and paper/pencil activities. The daily lessons provided him with more confidence with trying out different spellings for words and for helping with letter reversals. Now, when he reverses a letter, he self corrects and mentions, "no this is the way it is supposed to be". Can't ask for more than that.

Another that helped tremendously is IEW: Institute for Excellence in Writing. A program that teaches writing through modeling. We began with me having to scribe for him in order to accomplish his work to him doing the KWO himself ( three words per sentence) and then to the sentences and then finally the full write up. He has gained confidence in his writing and writing ability not just in thinking of what to put on the paper but everything that goes into writing and bringing ALL the skills together; thinking of the words to writing, adjusting the paper to writing, holding the pencil correctly, writing the letters and sounding out the words while trying to remember what he wanted to add to his paper.

Here are some exercises we would work on in the very beginning: ( some of these may seem quite little but when trying to strengthen those little muscles it can really be very helpful and important to fine motor skills)


American Classroom Supply

The Nale Family

American Stroke Association

A few personal recommendations for handwriting practice:

a lined wipeboard to practice new letters on

clay or playdough for letters (especially helpful for new printers)

mechanical pencils to help a bit with pressure

golf pencils to help with placement

sand and tray for new letter practice or shaving cream

use multi-sensory approach by saying and writing what the letter is.. I have seen more children who write cursive very nicely but cannot read their writing or other cursive writing... now what good is that? :)

a small chalk board and sponge that you can wet write the letter and it disappears, no worries if something looked wrong it is gone! :) especially for our young learners. :) when my youngest would see it disappear he would quickly write it again and what great practice!

and lastly a patient heart and a quiet voice (it really helps them to focus on your words :) )

Looking back I am glad I took the time to do these things and not PUSH the handwriting too much. I did encourage the printing as we moved further along but always offered help when I saw his story was getting long and he needed a rest. I knew in time he would have built up his muscles and the stamina to go for longer periods of time and I was right. He now does all his own writing and has very little troubles with the mechanics of writing. What helped also is how we kept plugging away~ even though it was very hard some days we would just spend our short time and with patience, time and encouragement we started to see the progress. ~

Happy Handwriting!~

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More ~ Games for Teaching

I just found this site and just had to share~ We love games
and using them for teaching. I have written about it quite
often~ this site is free for registration and you have access
to many different kinds of games to use for practice and
From the home page: Teaching with Games
Language Arts - Homonyms - Board Game and a Go Fish Card Game
Phonics - Initial sound - Go Fish Card Game
Math - Plus And Minus 7- Old Maid Card Game (Pre-membership sample Available below)
Language Arts - Short Vowels - Two Board Games
Math -Subtraction - Several Spinners (One Available below)
Generic Review Gameboards with Spinners
Language Arts Word Comprehension Go Fish Card Game
Reading Sight Word Alphabetizing Tiedown
Language Arts Parts of Speech MatchIt Card Game
Math Money More Or Less Card Game (Available below)
Math Telling Time Board Game
Geography US States and Their Capitals Old Maid Card Game
Plus More... Register and look, over 35 Games as of September 2009
I have not had a chance to look through all of them but found many we could use.
This is a must to check out~ Happy learning!

Friday, September 11, 2009

~Clearing the Cobwebs~ Motivating Learners with Games

Some families home school year round and never have this trouble of cobwebs in their little brains~ . I had every intention of continuing our studies this summer but I soon found, there were a few other plans for me this summer, with my other children. :)

Life tends to throw us a few curves now and then and things we may have planned sometimes just do not materialize the way we would like them to. We ended up taking the summer off except for reading and some math fact practice on-line just to keep those skills sharp.

Now, it is back to our studies and we are doing wonderful with my plan of starting with two full subjects of Mathematics and Language Arts for the first week and adding one subject every week as we move along.

I wanted to talk a bit about what happens to our kiddos over the long summer of having not has much structure and poor eating and sleeping habits. Perhaps too many videos and too much tv time? It happens and lounging in bathing suits and flip flops while reading a book on the blanket at a lake certainly "counts" for something... right? (How I wish we had that kind of summer, but it wasnt to be, here in New England it was cold and rainy for over two months straight) So, it was a very different kind of summer for us~

One thing I found to get the juices flowing without hearing all the moans and groans is to re-introduce concepts they learned last year with games. Games can be a fun, gentle way of trying to get things moving once again with our studies.

There are so many out there- I have a few I found and wanted to share the resources with you.

First I will start with Language Arts and Math since that is where "we" started this week~

(these do not have to be just for re-introduction in your teaching. I use these for testing and assessing their abilities in a certain area. I also use these for rote practice instead of drilling with flash cards and oral quiz's. )

Johnnies Math Page is completely filled with interactive math games for students and teachers. At times I look at the games just to give me ideas to create my own "table versions" also.

Adrian Bruce's Website is full of posters and printable games for practicing math and reading/phonics concepts.

Fun Brain is another wonderful site that is a real favorite in our home. The boys enjoy many of their games and links.
Primary Games is one my youngest enjoys very much to use. This one actually covers science and social studies as well.

The Kids Page provides printable learning games and puzzles.

Mr. Nussbaum's site is a MEGA site for interactive games for learning and covers much more also than just Language Arts and Math. We definitely have a few favorites on here. My oldest likes the lunch lady.. :)

SenTeachers is a site I found way back when I first started homeschooling. It helped me a great deal when I was just starting out and I refer to it often. A real find!
I suppose you could say in my own way I use "Game Based Learning". I found this link that explains a bit more about how you can incorporate games into your own teaching~ it is called How to Teach Using Games.

This idea of using Games for Teaching really isn't anything new. I think it just gets lost and forgotten because our textbook publishers have taken the place of teachingconcepts like money with a workbook, instead of playing Monopoly or for math facts we use drills and math facts workbooks instead of Yahtzee and others. I think we forget the importance of games and the role they play not only for education but for the family and the quality time we have. when playing games and interacting as a family.

I found a really fun game the other day at our local Used Homeschool Books Outlet, it is called Choclate Chip Math~ you can see a picture of it here. It is a way to practice math facts for Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Dvision. It is just such fun and the boys love the choclate chips because it is so different~ sure beats the old flashcards. :)

Here are a few more sites I have saved and used in the past: -Teaching with Games - Cardboard Cognition - lots of free games and resources to check out. - ready made games and board games to print - a long list of games for practicing math.

One other game we use a great deal for multiplication practice is Times Attack, it is without a doubt. one of the best math practice games out there. Taking a tour that Ben Harrison (the creator) to understand how the program works fully is so helpful and a real must. It is a real video game so if you have video game lovers they will love it. We use the free version and the boys love it.

There are also some really good book resources out there that provide games for learning. One that comes to mind immediately is Scholastic. There are some free games but there are also books here is a list I have. These books are filled with games and activities.

I also use the Scholastic Grammar Games and Activities book for grades 2-4 to reinforce parts of speech, punctuation and a bit more.

Living Math has a list of books of games for learning as well:

Getting kids motivated for learning can be hard at the beginning of the new school year, games can really help "clear out the cobwebs" and opening their minds once again ~ making things much easier to tackle and fun for our learners at home~

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Science and some Schedules~

We are getting ready to begin our new science programs next week and so I took some time today to go over the various ideas and resources I have for our science. We are using NOEO Science Biology II with both boys and also separately they are going to be working on Apologia's Exploring Creation Series for Astronomy and General Science.

I realized I was going to need some sort of a schedule to make things a bit easier with the General Science Book and so I began looking around for one that would fit us, in order to save some time. I found this SCHEDULE over at Core Foundations blog and it fit perfectly for us. (scroll down to see the 2nd edition General Science, there are others there too) I tweaked the schedule just a bit since we only do science 2x a week perhaps more if he can but I did not want to box ourselves into dates and weeks, so I took those out. I found this schedule to be just perfect for us. It gives a snapshot of what is to come also for experiments and vocab words etc..

I couldnt find what I was looking for with the Astronomy so when that happens I decide to create my own which you can find here. (under Exploring Creation with Astronomy )
I added book resources I could find with my online catalog at my library and also some internet sites also that we may use if time permits. There are also blank space I can write in something I found or want to remember to use as a resource.

My boys probably love science as much as they love history maybe even a bit more depending on the topic. My then 12 yo when asked what he would like to study in science this year commented he wanted to study Stem Cell Research and the politics and science involved with it.. as you can see I have my work cut out ahead of me~ :)

Here are some really wonderful science sites I keep and refer to often: - Donna Young's site to get information for Apologia and their General Science Program. - wonderful site with videos and tons of outdoor information. - I really like this site for when I need to look something up. - this site has just about everything you would want in science. - my older son loves the forsenic science.

Books on science:

Well I am off to check out another new program we are starting for next week~ toodles everybody ~ :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learners Who Know Their Own Needs - Daily Checklists~

It was our first day back to our traditional studies today and it went wonderfully. We followed my plan of only doing two subjects today Language Arts and Mathematics and it worked out very well indeed.

Taking the time that was needed to explain and acquaint ourselves with the new programs can take some time, but we did well. I really think as we move along things will become much more efficient.

I have mentioned before how I remain flexible with my teaching and the needs of the boys and today was not exception. My younger son, who worked very well with our "Weekly Assignment Sheet" last year decided he would rather have a daily checklist to go by and know what his assignments are just for that day and not have to bother writing down or worrying about looking ahead to the rest of the week.

I listened and sat down to write up a daily checklist for him to use instead. You can find his personalized checklist I made here.
I then asked my older son which he would prefer and after he looked at my younger child's checklist he said he found this also to be much better SO, I went ahead and made one for him as well which you can find on this page as well. (his is named Christian).

For anyone interested in a blank template I also erased my subjects and created a blank template for others as well on the same page marked blank daily checklist.

I plan to use these daily. For mine that I had written I will be circling and writing beside the programs what is going to be worked on if I need to. In the comments I can write any notes on something we may not have finished or that we need to review.

I was so pleased to see my younger child taking control and understanding and being able to verbalize his needs/wants. I really think this is so important in a childs learning.

Even though we only did Language Arts and Mathematics my youngest decided to watch History Channel and decided to come and orally narrate back the whole story of King David and the War with the Israelites. He expressed he wished to study this much further which I promised we will ~ one thing I am learning about my boys is they definitely know what they enjoy learning and that makes my job a whole bunch easier as their teacher.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The New Year Begins~

We are returning to our traditional studies this week~their favorite brands of hot cocoa is bought, nutritious special snacks and teas for our breaks are back in our canisters. The special pencils are sharpened and favorite color stickers and markers are ready~ it is about that time... we watched the yellow school bus go by last week while we were out watering our flowers and enjoying the beautiful summer weather that we so deserved after all our rainy days and cold weather. My boys smiled sheepishly, as we giggled at their thoughts of having just a few more weeks to enjoy the outdoors and their free time before our studies begin.

As I prepare for our studies to ramp up again, I had a few thoughts and posted this question to a few e-groups I belong to:

For many, this week will be the first week starting back to school ~ for our special needs children, this time can be very stressful and make them very anxious for several reasons; different routines with sleeping/waking, schedules need to be re-adjusted back to a more structured setting, busier days mean for tired students/children, social skills are tested once again-

These things can affect all our learners, what accommodations/strategies/things would anyone suggest to help make the transition easier?

I notice around this time of year language and sensory issues begin to re-surface due to the change in schedules etc.

I choose to go very slowly with our boys. We decided at the beginning of the school year to review for a few weeks with math facts and math games, read a-louds to re-introduce a concept in history or grammar.
Each week I decide which subjects I will start with and add on every week a new subject so that by the middle or end of October they have successfully ramped up to all their subjects and are ready to begin working productively at full steam. ;)

My example;
* We work outside as often as we can on our farmers porch in our wicker chairs or the back deck with the table. Warm sunny days are so comforting and relaxing when beginning our studies at this time of year. We don't feel we have to be confined to our tables inside but rather enjoy the nice weather while we have it. :)
(I remember last year a few times we were on our front porch having cocoa and our youngest was getting ready for his reading and the big yellow bus went by- he giggled and waved to it as other waved back).

First Week:
Language Arts (remember LA consists of various skills and subjects; reading, spelling, vocabulary, writing, grammar and usage)~ we are also going to be getting used to a new LA program so a bit more time may need to be spent in this area.
Reading is incorporated into this program, however our youngest still requires reading remediation which takes quite a bit of some time as well.
We will begin a new Read A-loud story~
Continue on with our Spelling Programs~

Mathematics – we will begin by review math facts and doing some fun math facts game drills online, along with some math games I found over the summer. We also will be reviewing our 5 a days and journals from last year which will continue on now as I do not file these away and start a new one each year.. we continue on with their notebooks/journals as their skills are built upon.

Yes, only two for the first week. I choose to work LA first because it encompasses so much and we can take our time through it since this is a weaker area for both my dyslexic learners. I would rather take our
time, and have learn something very well than to teach them a whole bunch of things and only understand and remember a little bit.

Second Week:

(while working the previous programs already started we will add)

History/Geography; we are using a new program that I an incorporating with Story of the World. Mystery of History is a more chronologically based history program and we will be using both this year.

Third Week:

(again, incorporating the above subjects, we will add)

Science; We begin this year with creation based science while my older son will begin exploring other scientific theories and methods that surround General Science and it’s history.

Nature Study; here is a helpful link for learning about a Nature Study:

Fourth Week:

Art and Music Study~ we are planning to do a few studies this year of famous composers and works of the Masters.

We should be ramped up enough by the end of beginning of September to be working all subjects and reviews should be just about complete from the previous year.

This has helped us in the past slowly moving forward from a summer of unschooling (my boys learned SO much about topics that they are interested in~ they learned more naturally) to now a more structured schedule and daily lessons.

It’s that simple in our home. I plan to lean toward a relaxed but consistent effort in our learning at home. I want to continue to keep their interests in topics and enjoy a “delight directed approach”.

As their mum, I am fully prepared for the good days that fly by and lead us onto bunny trails and the days when we need to switch things and accommodate more but that is the beauty of home learning. Understanding their needs, changing things to suit them, so that they can learn and understand with the best possible outcome.

A new year brings such hope and anticipation. ( As I am finishing this post, my 13 year old came up behind me at the computer to give me a hug and tell me how he can't believe it, but he is really excited and happy to start up his regular studies and schedule again) :)
Patience, a sense of humor and taking things slow and steady is our the way we learn and the rest will fall where it should as we move forward ~ and the new year begins for my learners at home. :)

I wish all of my subscribers special blessings for this new year of learning~

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