Ready to start teaching Jenny to read!

Today Jenny tried a few of the printables I’d designed for her, with sight words and word families, for the first time. Which gave me some good feedback! Point one: don’t allow jpgs to reduce image quality. Some of the words were a little hard to read. 😦 I think that I also definitely need to wait on the word family stuff until we’ve officially started AAR 1, because I think she needs to learn a little bit more of what she’s doing before she starts working with them. Which means I need to wait until the end of September, because All About Learning Press isn’t releasing All About Reading Level 2 until then, and I plan to make one order (to save on shipping) in which I buy level 2, plus the consumables from level 1 that I need again. However, I have a great plan this time! I’m going to turn all of the games into file folder games, so I’ll be able to preserve them from kid to kid instead of having to buy new.

Totally confused? Well, All About Learning Press is the company, and they have two main products, All About Spelling and All About Reading. All About Spelling has been out for quite a while and gained a fantastic reputation for teaching spelling using phonetic rules. All About Reading is newer, and so far they only have pre-level 1 (the preschool level that teaches the letters and goes through various phonemic awareness activities and pre-reading skills) and level 1. Level 2 is scheduled to come out at the end of September. I think that level 2 is going to end up being really easy for Emily and be more of a review than anything, but I’m going to get it and go through it with her anyway. I think a lot of her reading skill is based on whole word recognition from when her reading really took off, so I’d like to make sure she still has a good foundation in phonetics as well. We’re also going through All About Spelling, rather slowly, nearing the end of level 1 of that program.

All About Reading (AAR) has a lot of games for kids to play, but they’re just on paper and so they’re rather one-time-use games. So my plan is to copy the game pieces on cardstock to make them tougher, glue the paper base image to the inside of a file folder, and keep the game pieces in an envelope glued to the front. I think this will also make it possible to play the games several times and get even better at them by repetition. I might make additional game pieces (extra words that fit the patterns we’re learning) to vary the games up a bit each time or extend them. There’s also a new game add-on to AAR 1 called “Adventures with Ziggy” that looks fun. Since we’ll probably start when Jenny is a bit on the young side for it, at 4 or so, it would be nice to extend it and take it slow, playing the games multiple times, adding in additional games, etc.

That’s why I ended up making a bunch of games to go along with it. I flipped through AAR 1 and looked at the words introduced in the various lessons, and I made some games to give extra practice on those words. So I made some games that deal with word families: sorting words by which word family they belong to, coloring by word family (color all the -am words one color, all the -ap words another color, etc.). I also made some slides, where you match different first letters to go with word endings, and some pictures where you put letters below them to make CVC words that match, and some sight word stuff. AAR doesn’t really teach many sight words, as they focus on phonics, so the sight word activities are mostly just based on the first few basic sight words to learn. But the other activities are tailored to the words that are being taught in AAR to give extra practice. If anybody reading this happens to be doing AAR 1 and is interested in some extra printable activities to go along with it, let me know and I’ll send the files over! I’ll work on seeing if I can sharpen the words a bit so that things are clearer. Not sure how to do that, but I’ll work on it. 🙂

School today went fairly well. The kids were driving me crazy today, though! Emily and Jenny just seemed determined to spend the day fighting, and Charlotte was having potty training issues that meant she spent most of the day in a state of vexation. Between the fighting and the whining, I felt close to tears by dinnertime. I don’t remember a day when I better appreciated bedtime. They were at their most sane while doing schoolwork. Maybe I should have just assigned them extra. 🙂

We did make paper airplanes (with elevators and rudders!) for our science experiment, which was fun. We finished In Grandma’s Attic. What a wonderful book! I have the next one on hold at the library, and I purchased #s 3 and 4 from Amazon (the 2nd one is in a future Sonlight set of readers, so I don’t want to purchase it and end up with 2 copies eventually). Unfortunately, Emily wanted to start our next book, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this evening, and I can’t find it! I had to put it on hold at the library. 😦 Very disappointing and frustrating. I can’t imagine where our copy could be. So we’re reading Capyboppy in the meantime. I’m rather amused at the idea of a pet capybara, especially considering their size! There are some really amusing scenes with the pet cats being terrified of the “mouse” that is twice their size.

I’d better head to bed now. I will try to keep updating on a more regular schedule. I might even have some pictures soon!

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Creating my own geography curriculum

I realized early this summer that I was going to run into a problem in terms of our progression through Sonlight “cores” (the main portion of our curriculum, which covers Bible, history, geography, literature, readers, etc.). We were going through them too fast! We stared Core A in January right when my daughter turned 5, even though it was rated for 6- and 7-year-olds and “advanced 5-year-olds.” She had finished the previous core quickly, was loving chapter books, and I decided to go for it. It’s worked out well for us, but the problem with starting it at the very earliest possible is that, well, we school year-round. So even with missing a *lot* of school in the spring because we expected to be moving and I was trying to pack, we were still going through the core so quickly that we’d be hitting the next core, rated for 7- and 8-year-olds and advanced 6-year-olds, before she even turned 6! If we continued to school through the summers, and get through cores too quickly just because my daughter was always requesting that we read more, more, more, then the problem would just be compounded as the years go by. And Sonlight cores aren’t so much rated the way they are because of intelligence or learning ability, it’s more about maturity, what kinds of situations kids are ready to handle. So I really didn’t want to jump too far ahead.

So, what I decided to do was to make my own core, which would be an “around the world” geography tour, before we started Core B (world history 1). I thought that it would help give her a basis for world history and be fun at the same time. I also thought that it would be a great idea to go back through many of the Sonlight books that we’ve sped through in the past, and do them again, but this time paying attention to their geography to give us a sense of the layout of the world. Not to mention that it would be nice to revisit books with maybe a bit of additional maturity so that we can get more out of them.

I’ve spent a lot of the summer working on it! I started with a list a fellow Sonlighter made of the books from P4/5 (the previous core) sorted by country/region. I then added any books from P3/4 (the first core) and Core A (the one that we’re doing currently) and sorted them in as well. I added in a few other books that had been recommended to me, and then I started making a schedule. Of course, as I made the schedule, I’d notice that I had a ton of missionary stories for one country and that we’d need to spend a lot of time on it to get through all of them, but there weren’t any regular stories to balance things out. So I’d look in the library for some regular fun stories/tales to add in. And then I realized that if we were going to spend two weeks on a country, instead of just reading missionary stories and the country’s folktales, we ought to add in a nonfiction book or two about how people actually live in that country. Etc. I chose several “spines” from Amazon… geography books that gave an overview of many countries/peoples of the world, and then scheduled in some nonfiction from the library to fill in gaps. But, of course, if you’re going to spend a year learning about the countries of the world, you might as well make it fun with crafts, music, and recipes, right? And then you need a passport to mark our trip, with lots of little flags to cut out and paste in when we visit countries, right?

So what I’d originally expected to be a basic review of previous books and stories that we’d read, before moving on to the next core, has morphed into a giant core of its own! And if we go through it at the speed I’ve scheduled it, it’ll end up taking us about 40 weeks! We’ll see how it goes, though, as it can be hard to estimate how fast we’ll move, how much reading we’ll want to do per day, etc. We also have a certain little new arrival expected in October who may throw off schooling for a while in there.

My spreadsheet, which lists books/stories (individually if they are about separate countries/peoples, as one item if the whole book is on one country even if it has many chapters/stories), recipes, songs, science projects, crafts, etc., is now up to 733 items.

The spines we’re using (books or CDs that cover a lot of countries and I’ll be buying because we’ll be using them frequently all year) are as follows:

Geography Spines:

A Life Like Mine
A Child’s Introduction to the World
Children Just Like Me

Fiction Spines:

Around the World in 80 Tales
Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book
Lion Storyteller Book of Animal Tales
Stories from Around the World
Tales Alive!
Tales of the Shimmering Sky

Missionary Spines:

Hero Tales
I Heard Good News Today

Activity Spines:

Science Chef Travels Around the World
Sticker Dolly Dressing Around the World
THUMB Coloring Book
Science Around the World: Travel through Time and Space with Fun Experiments and Projects

CDs:

European Playground
African Playground
Latin Playground
World Playground
World Playground 2

I’ve bought some great fiction books that I think will be fun to read, along with the stories in the books listed above, and I plan to get many more at the library as we go along. I’m also planning on adding in a lot of the easiest level of nonfiction country books that my library has. I’m not sure how much we’ll be thrown off by our move in March/April, because I’ll be moving to a new library system that will probably not have many of my painstakingly chosen books and will have entirely different ones instead. But I will deal with that when we get closer and I have an idea at what point we’ll be in our curriculum at the time.

If anybody is interested in my spreadsheet/schedule of books and activities, or the flags I’ve set up in printable form to glue into our passport, or anything like that, please let me know, I’m happy to share it. I’m also working on making a list of readers on the 2nd/3rd grade level for Emily to read on her own while we’re doing those countries, so I can share those as well. Right now I’m working on verifying reading level for the ones I’ve found, to make sure they’re doable for her.

We look forward to a fun year doing geography once we start! I think Core A will last us another few months (we’re on week 22 so far, but going through it a bit faster than scheduled), so I figure we’ll probably start in November/December. But we’ll see how the baby affects that. Hopefully once we start I will remember to take pictures on occasion and let everybody know how it’s going!

A new school year?

I haven’t updated for ages, I know. Part of it is that I reformatted my computer and then didn’t have the “blog” link on Firefox, and (this is embarrassing) couldn’t figure out how to login to WordPress without it! I finally decided that it’s high time I updated, and I spent some time digging around and figured out how to access the login page. So, we’ll see, but maybe now I will try to update a bit more!

So a lot of my homeschool friends and fellow bloggers have been posting about the new school year… what their room looks like this year, what their child is using, etc. We, however, are not starting a new school year, because we’re year-round schooling. We’re near the end of some school materials, the beginning in others, and the middle in yet more!

Nevertheless, here’s a rundown on what we’re doing right now:

Emily, 5.5, kindergarten
History/Geography: Sonlight Core A, which we’ll be finishing this fall and starting an around the world geography tour
Math: Singapore 1A (workbooks, textbooks, intensive practice, and word problems), RightStart A, Kumon Counting Coins
Language Arts: Sonlight LA K, All About Spelling 1, A Reason for Handwriting A, and we’ll probably go quickly through All About Reading 2 once it comes out in September
Science: Sonlight Science A, nearing the end, will be starting Science B in a month or two, also doing the occasional experiment from the KnowHow book just for fun
Reading: Mostly we’re just reading through the Sonlight Readers 2 at the moment. Emily’s reading has really taken off and she’s reading books on the level of “Ramona the Pest,” although I don’t think she understands every word. Still, we’re going through Readers 2, even though it’s generally below her level, to practice reading clearly, with expression, etc.
Chinese: BetterChinese, which we’re still working through book 3 of. It’s pretty slow going, but I’m trying to be more consistent about it at least.
We don’t get to them consistently, but we’re also doing:
Art: ARTistic Pursuits, K-3, book 2
Music: Pfeiffer House Music K
She also started violin lessons a few months ago.

Jenny, 3.5 years old, preschool
Jenny is mostly just tagging along, as I have very little that I require her to do. However, she wants to do everything her sister is! This means that she has and occasionally does the following:
Math: Singapore Earlybird A, Kumon Number Games 1-70 (she actually just finished this, so I’ll need to get her another copy, as I don’t think she’s ready for 1-150 but she really loves the book)
Language Arts: Kumon Lowercase Letters for handwriting, All About Reading pre-level 1, Explode the Code A
Jenny will also be starting some early reading activities this fall, mostly extra games so that she can start All About Reading 1 but take it slowly with extra reinforcement due to her age. She’s desperate to learn to read and she’s just getting the hang of blending.

Charlotte, turns 2 tomorrow, not in school yet
Mostly Charlotte plays with toys during schooltime, although she’s a *huge* fan of the math manipulatives and often drags them all out and makes a huge mess with them during schooltime. I tolerate this to some degree since it keeps her busy, although I’m working with making her clean them up afterwards! She’s particularly a fan of the counting bears and abacus, which she considers hers and does not like to share, even for math lessons. I think she’s going to get a set of her own counting bears for her birthday so we can have the school ones back. 🙂 We time the read-aloud (when I read to the kids) portion of our day for when she’s napping, because she’s not very good about staying quiet while I’m reading longer things aloud.

As for our school room, it’s basically the dining room table and living room couch at the moment. I keep several crates in the living room in front of the fireplace. Two are stacked on their sides to make a little shelf where I can keep some supplies and such. The other are stacked in the traditional way, and they have hanging folders inside. I have the folders ordered so that I start at the beginning of one crate and go from one side to the other, then at the beginning of the other crate to the end. I always do things in the same order every day, which works fairly well, although if we have a short day I leave some things off at the end and do a little less overall.

I start by having Emily do all her seatwork at the table. This is a Kumon book (we were doing a number games book for a while, but it’s currently “counting coins”), then handwriting, then Singapore math, then her copywork for language arts. That’s the end of her seatwork, so she comes into the living room and we do anything left of language arts (writing assignments that she dictates, etc.), then I pull out the whiteboard from behind the couch and do her spelling with her while she whines (spelling is not her favorite, so we keep it brief, about 5-10 minutes at most). We all do Chinese together, then RightStart math. Then Emily and I sit down together and she reads aloud to me for a little while (maybe about 10 minutes? I’ve never tried timing it).

The Readers 2 Bible takes up much of the year, so what we do instead of reading it all at once and then moving on to the other readers, is that she reads a little from another book and then one story from the Beginner’s Bible every day. She was really frustrated with Frog and Toad and Owl at Home, the really basic “learn to read” readers included, so I didn’t make her finish those. She’s been enjoying reading about Pompeii, the Titanic, Hill of Fire, the Fire Cat, Mouse Tales, Amelia Bedelia, and books like that. Our current book is “The Great Balloon Race.” We only have a few left when it’s done… I think there’s Greg’s Microscope, Daniel’s Duck, Nate the Great, and maybe one or two more.

I’m not entirely sure what we’ll do after that, because we won’t be ordering our next core curriculum (history, geography, literature, Bible, etc.) from Sonlight until next spring, and readers come with it, so we won’t be doing Readers 3 until then. I might just try to get some books from the library like the On My Own History books, maybe some of the Readers 3, to stave her off until April. Of course, once we do get Readers 3, I don’t know how long they’ll last before she’s ready for Readers 4/5! But another Sonlight mom posted a list of other books on the Readers 3 level, so I might just get a bunch of those and make an extra year of readers to go in-between.

After Emily practices her reading, I do all the rest of the reading. We read from a Bible I got (the Bible that came with Sonlight Core A was a little too much for us, so I found another that is a bit simpler but still covers most of the Bible and we’re using that for now), and a devotional that was mine when I was a kid, called “More Little Stories About God.” We read some nursery rhymes, some history/geography/missionary stories, science, and our current children’s novel. We’re just about finished “In Grandma’s Attic” right now and loving it! Next I think is the Wizard of Oz.

Jenny doesn’t really have a regular routine as much. I do activities with her when Emily is occupied with work of her own, gone for a few minutes, or sometimes I multitask and have each kid doing an activity at the same time. Today, Jenny was very jealous of Emily getting to use the whiteboard for spelling, so while Emily worked on spelling phrases with her magnets, I helped Jenny get started putting her little letters under pictures to make the CVC words, something I’ve just started with her to work on her blending. After Emily was done with the whiteboard, I worked with Jenny a bit on sounding words out, and she successfully read “hat” and “mat” and “tap” and some other simple CVC words. This is great progress!

I have about 6.5 weeks until my due date, although given my history, I’ll probably actually have a little more than that. We’ll be gone for two of those weeks doing some visiting with family, though, and while I plan to bring some school stuff along, we probably won’t get a lot done. My current plan is to bring the Kumon Counting Coins book, handwriting, Singapore 1A, the Beginner’s Bible, and some read-alouds. I’ll probably plan to do some of the read-alouds out of order so that we can bring fewer books, if possible. I’ll have to see how complicated that would be. I’ll probably set science aside for those two weeks, although since science uses the main history book, it might not require an extra book. We’ll see. I’d like to keep school short, doing maybe 30-45 minutes a day and not necessarily every day, just to keep consistent.

And that’s the basic summary of what we’re doing right now! Since we’re not starting fresh, we’re well into some of these programs (week 28 in science, week 22 of our core, etc.), so I’ll probably have an update in a few months as we move onto a new level or program in some of these. Also, I have a geography curriculum that I’ve been designing myself, which I expect to start sometime over the winter. I’ll post again later this week and tell you more about that, as well as some little printables I’ve been working on to go along with All About Reading level 1. So I will try to post again soon! I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to the new school year!