Thursday, May 20, 2010

Camping - Vogel State Park - May 7 - 9

Camping - Vogel State Park - May 7 - 9

In addition to homeschooling stuff, I am also going to use this as a journal for my camping trips. I am using copy image location from Chris' flickr site and I don't like the image size so I am going to have to have plan B for future posts. I might even bother to fix this post if it bugs me enough. All photographs were taken by Chris and more photos from this trip can be seen on his flickr site.

On May 7 - 9. 2010, we went to Vogel State Park. We invited along the Remingtons and the Heilmans who are friends dating back to college that we continue to be friends with as adults. Both live near us. The Rems have 3 boys as well aged 4,2 and 6 mos.

We chose Vogel State Park because with all those boys, you really need a stream. Peter really liked the stream the best. Josh would walk in it and then immediately walk back out. I am guessing that he didn't like how cold it was.

We have been to Vogel twice before. Once when Andrew was almost 2 and we stayed in the walk in campground (those days are over). And over Christmas, we stayed in a cottage which was very quaint minus the dead mouse. It was freezing and if we go next year, we are going to bring an area rug. But I digress. This was the first time we had stayed in Vogel campgrounds and it was very nice. It was shaded and the sites were huge. We went back to the tent and pop up only section and I liked it even more and whereas all the big sites were completely full, the tent/pop up section was nearly empty.

E totally made fun at me at camp because I brought toys. I always bring toys. There is only so much throwing gravel that I find entertaining. My boys like the woods but I must say that the Rems did a much better job in finding entertainment in the outdoor world. It took them about 10 minutes before they discovered the creek behind the campsite and immediately got wet. But all that to say that even though we had the evil toys from Mattel present, Andrew's favorite part was definitely climbing trees. He only fell out of it once.

Josh enjoyed climbing a ladder at the playground that is much too high for him. He also is a huge fan of toasted marshmallows. Not just marshmallows but toasted ones to make the most gooey mess as he possibly can. He was very cute wandering around the camp fire to be next to which ever person had the marshmallow bag.

We had a great time. I really enjoyed camping with both the Rems and Heilmans and hope that we can coordinate future trips with them. Our next trip is on May 29th, we leave for Hunting Island, SC for our camping on the beach trip.

Last but not least..a very fitting family photo for us. I think it should be our Christmas card. :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What I have learned about reading so far

My path to reading. My dos and don'ts and my resources that I have used.

Step 1: So when should you start to teach your child how to read? The day that your child is born is the day that you start but you might not even realize it. Luckily, I have a mom that drilled in my to your baby even though you sound retarded. Tell him everything you do. Now we're going to change your diaper. Now let's eat your peas. Yep. When I had just one kid, I felt stupid a lot of the time. I filled in the gaps singing made up songs by my mom. It helped. Now I have a 5 year old that does all the talking for me. Isn't that teaching your kid how to talk? Yes. It is but it is also the foundation of reading and vocabulary..provided that you are using real words and not goo goo gah gah (which incidentally also makes one look silly). So talking is step 1 towards reading.

Step 2 is actually reading books to your child. This can start as early as you want to but by age 1, be bringing out those books. Short board books at that age. Things to touch and feel are good. I didn't do a stellar job of this with Andrew. When he turned 3, we read a lot. When he was 2, I think it was more hit or miss. Peter is 2 and we read all the books that I can possibly stand in a day. Hey, I'm not perfect. I still need to work with Joshua more. We have a lot of board books that I need to pull out. Books are lying around our house but I need to make a conscious effort of actually reading them. I also have Andrew read to Peter which is fun.

Step 3 - Teach your child to read. You can start teaching your kids to read as early as 3 or 4. Basic letter sounds and recognition and then working on phonics. I think that taught Andrew most of his letters and phonics. I am doing that already with Peter but when he turns 3, we are going to start on the letter of the week concept. I am reading a book by William Bennett called The Educated Child and it says that most Kindergarten teachers do not expect their entering students to know the alphabet. And they expect to have to teach them how to read. That's up to you if you decide to go that route but as the parent who knows your child best, you can foster that individualized reading attention before they go to school and while they are in school and give them a love for reading that they will have for life.

The Dos and Don'ts I have learned

1. Both quality and quantity matter and patience is required. Schedule reading time during a non rushed time. I had to learn a lot of patience during this process that I did not start with. Andrew would be reading a book and he would want to comment about everything and I felt like he was so not on track and not focused. Wake up call! This is a 5 year old. He is curious and imaginative and wants to make the story his own. I didn't get that at first. It seemed like a chore and sometimes both of us struggled through it. Now I like to read a lot. I do Peter first thing in the morning and I grab about 10 books. Sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes I have to read them twice. Sometimes he gets on a kick for one book and know that I will have to read it several times in a day. After all preschoolers like repetition. Andrew is usually in the evening after the others go to bed so I have the one on one time with him. This may result in a later bedtime but I am okay with that. I try to get 15-20 minutes with Peter each day and Andrew is anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour but not all at one time. Average is 20 min to 30 on one book.

2. About quality - Not all books were created equal. I am reading a great book right now called The Read Aloud Handbook. Got it at the library. I skipped to the back to check out his collection of read aloud books that he suggests. It's a great collection of books that I know but many we don't have. I need to buy the book so I can use it as a reference book to guide me in my selections.

3. Don't read books that are boring. Not when they are little. There are too many great books to waste your time on a book that doesn't interest you or your child. Andrew is obsessed with space and as a family, we try to go camping so I try to get books on his level that are about these things. I also can tell fairly quickly if Andrew is disinterested in a book either because it is boring or because it is above his current level if after reading two pages, he asks if this could be his last page. We have moved on to Frog and Toad books and he loves them and will read 15-20 pages at a time. That is much different than 2.

4. Just because the book is easy enough for Andrew to read doesn't mean that he should have to read it. A recent book was a little hard for him. I could tell he wasn't into it so after he wanted to be done, I told him that I was going to keep reading the book to Peter and we finished off the book. We finished which is sometimes important to Andrew and I didn't have to make him do it the next day. If we are on good books, he will ask to read. If we are on bad books, he will never ask and will complain when I suggest it. But I can always read it to him and he is usually content with that.

5. Andrew likes to be read to. A new concept that I learned. I had been focusing all my time on him reading aloud to me. He enjoys reading himself but sometimes he just wants to curl in my lap and hear a story. I recently checked out a chapter book that he could almost read but not quite. Chris didn't want me to frustrate him by even trying so I made it our read aloud book. We read a chapter a night and I designate a word for him to read so when I get to that word, I point to it and he reads it. He loves this and will point out if we accidentally say his word. Reading aloud also helps with teaching reading comprehension. At the end of the read aloud, I am much more likely to get responses about what actually happened in the story. We are working on that when he reads but that's a harder process. I am really excited about getting some more chapter books to read to him. He likes mysteries but I am thinking I want some action packed boy themed book. I wonder if he would be too young for Treasure Island? It's been a long time since I have read that one so I don't remember.

6. Acting out stories. I can't say that we have acted out any of the stories from Frog and Toad but Andrew got a real kick out of it the day that we read his Bible story and then did a play of David and Goliath. We got costumes and I numbered each one of Andrew's lines (he was David of course) and I called out the number when it was his turn to say it. Reading aloud and then also a lesson in inflection and learning how to say things with drama. Reading aloud also stimulates the knowledge of how to say things when there is a question mark or exclamation mark.

7. Turn off the TV...Okay this is really just a joke between me and my husband that I will share. I told him that whenever I start to read one of these crazy educational books, ALL of them in the first chapter say to turn off the TV...exactly what are they trying to say here? I don't get it. Ok yeah yeah yeah..I get it but I don't do it. We already don't have TV with like stations and stuff but I let my kids watch videos from the library and Hulu. Good thing about the videos from the library is that they are "educational". Hee hee. Hey, there could be worse things. But since I have a whole post about reading, I had to include that because apparently you can't talk about reading without mentioning getting rid of the idiot tube.

What I did that I would do again in starting the process....

I started with phonics a week before Andrew turned 5. I had several different phonics programs that people recommended. I decided to go with Hooked On Phonics. Remember the 80s commercial - Hooked on Phonics worked for me! Well it's still around and it's pretty good. I also had Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons and Explore the Code. 100 easy lessons was too boring for me. All text. No color. No fun. Explore the Code had too much writing for me. I wanted to concentrate on reading first and writing later. Hooked on Phonics was the best for me. I think if we get into GCA, we might be doing Phonics Pathways. I never looked at that one.

We then moved to sight words. Chris found them on Word document and I cut them out and drilled Andrew. We did a little at a time and he didn't mind them. I never could get to 100% and I eventually gave up. It was then that I realized that he knew all the sight words but just flipping through note cards, he would miss one or two each time. But in the context of a book, he would read "there" and "could" right every time. So I know my little brother in school had to have them memorized and he would be quizzed on them for speed. I realized that that was a school "box" and I didn't need to have Andrew do that. The more we practice reading, the more those words will come naturally to him and he will learn them. It's much more interesting to practice reading then it is to drill flash cards. Trying to use that principle with math too so we play games like math bingo and he has a addition puzzle he does.

One of the speed bumps I ran into was with phonics curriculum. I liked Hooked on Phonics so I moved to 1st Grade and it was on consonant beginnings like scr, th, sp, ch. Well he has all those down. He could read his entire HOP work book and all the practice books. What I really need right now is a phonics curriculum that teaches more of the rules. We know the silent e on the end rule. And we know that when two vowels go a walking the first one does the talking. But we learned those both from videos that we got from the library. There are others that I need to teach but I don't really know them off the top of my head. So for right now, I have just hung up the phonics hat and I am trying to just teach rules as I go. But I know that he is learning a lot of whole words and we try to sound them out phonetically but I wish I could tell him more times why it sounds like that. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not. But I still maintain that a lot of practice will help with that. And I am re-checking out those videos from the library too.

Resources I have used

1. Library - I bring a couple of bags and we fill them up each week. I get read alouds, books he can read and then we go over to non fiction and get books on topics like countries, space, airplanes, the food pyramid, animals..whatever we want. One time Andrew wanted to read an Eyewitness book called Oil. It was one of the most boring books I have ever read but he seemed to like it and had I kept going and not returned it (shhh!), he probably could tell you a thing or two about oil.

2. Five in a Row (FIAR) - $5 work book I got off Ebay. The concept is that you take one of their books they have listed and you read it five days in a row. The workbook outlines different things you can talk about on each of the days. Among the topics are social studies, art, geography, math, history, literature devices. If you google the book and FIAR, you also get a slew of blogs and web pages about additional projects and lapbooks that you can do for your week. I probably will blog about a couple of them. But for example, when we read Madeline, we talked about France and colored the flag and did a coloring sheet of the eiffel tower. We watched a You Tube video with the fireworks at the Eiffel. We did a human body project and did human body worksheets. We talked about symmetry. Lots of art with Paris scenes to talk about. Vocab words like solemn...You catch my drift. It's a fun way to expand the story.

3. I already mentioned the Read Aloud Handbook. Going to use that a reference tool. I also got some ideas from the Well Trained Mind. I also googled "I can read books" and then went to Amazon and used their Click Inside feature. By reading the first couple of pages, I could tell whether it was too young, just right or too old for Andrew. I then made a list for my trip to the library and discovered it was much easier to find books when you knew what you were going for and had written down the call number.

I don't think blog posts are supposed to be this long. :) Apparently I am on a roll with what I have to say.

Homeschooling - 1st post of many

I am going to use this blog to talk about my homeschooling tales along with posting general pictures and posts about the kids and whatever else I think of. One of the reasons is so that I can look back on it and see what I had to say later. I do have 2 kids coming up behind Andrew after all.

The other reason is because I have friends that have kids right behind me in age and maybe I will say something that sparks an interest in them. You can drown yourself in homeschooling blogs and ideas and crafts so I try to be very diligent on only reading ones that are good. I love reading my friend Jamie's blog because I know her so it seems more real to me. Her kids are older than mine so only a bit can apply to my current level. I also get a lot of my friend Tina's blog because she does a lot with her preschooler. Victoria's blog inspires me for oh so many craft ideas with my kids. Super crafty. (I feel like I am doing the thank yous for an academy award :)) All of these ladies are Christian ladies who I admire and learn a lot from. I read a lot of personal blogs for ideas. I like a lot of other blogs too for ideas and one day I will probably post my favorites. Okay that was a bit of a tangent...all that to say that I know I have some friends that read my blog and my hope is that my experiences - both positive and negative - will encourage you in your journey whether you are homeschooling or not. Because all of us parents are teachers after all.

A little about where I am right now. Andrew is 5 1/2. He will turn 6 in November. When he turned 5, I already knew that I was going to homeschool so I went ahead and tried to do as much Kindergarten things that I could. I have applied to a online virtual school called Georgia Cyber Academy for Kindergarten that begins in the fall. I will know next week whether or not he got in. According to the state, he will be considered a public school student. They will send me all the curriculum, books and manipulatives for free for use during the year. We will keep up with our assignments online and I will mark the time that he completes. He has to complete 4 hours a day. How I am going to get 4 hours a day in with my other kids, doctor appointments and work? I don't really know but I will work it out. I see night school and Saturday school in my future. Choosing GCA is a bit of a concern for me because Andrew is reading very well right now and his math isn't too shabby either. We have a virtual teacher assigned over us so I will have to ask her about it but I think that we can take assessment tests until we get to where we are. If I don't get into GCA, I will be starting a 1st grade reading and math program with him.

There will be a whole other post about reading and what I learned about that so far. Several things I would have done much different. Some I would have kept the same.

My friend, Melanie, loaned me a book called The Well Trained Mind. I checked out a copy of the library so that Chris could read it as the same time as me. It has eliminated so many of my fears and really answered my year long question of "Sooo how DOES one home school?" I signed up with GCA to ease some of these fears because they will lay it out for me. But after starting to read this book, I am also completely prepared to go solo with the task and have most of my curriculum planned out for next year. I might even be disappointed if I don't get to use it. :)

There are a lot of questions that people like to ask homeschooling parents. The popular ones being Why are you going to home school? and What about socializaion? (which can have a vague meaning on what the person is actually asking..I always assume they mean "social life") For the most part, I have not had a lot of people ask me questions. For starters, homeschooling is more popular than it used to be. I am reading one book from the 80s that lists advocacy groups you can call if you have to have a legal battle. It's still illegal in many other countries but it is more and more accepted here. Especially where I live, I am not made out to be some freak because my kids aren't in school. But if you don't me well and are wondering the they are.

I am homeschooling because I feel like God has called me to do this for my family and I enjoy it which is a bonus. Homeschooling is not for everyone. If it's not right for you, don't feel bad. Don't be defensive. Do what's best for your family and don't worry about what others are doing with theirs. This is true for me too. It doesn't affect me at all and I don't judge you if you put your kids in school. There is nothing wrong with putting your kids in school. I just don't want to put my kids in school and God has blessed me with the means and ability to teach my children at home. I treasure teaching my children. I love watching them learn. If you put your kids in school, you get to treasure teaching them and watching them learn too. It's just in a different way than me.

What about socialization? The answer that people want to hear is that homeschoolers have many opportunities for socialization through hybrid schools, extracurricular activities, church, homeschool groups, etc. I might give you that answer but to be honest, I don't care about socialization. My kids will get all the above things. I believe they will turn out just fine. I feel like children their age for the most part actually provide negative socialization. I would much rather my children learn how to be a functioning member of society through older peers and adults. My mentor once said the only thing that a 10 year old can learn about other 10 year olds is foolishness. And I believe this to be true. I can list out more negative experiences from my childhood than I can positive - the teasing, the ridicule, the low self esteem, the bullys, the body image issues, how bout the pot and porn in the 8th grade locker room at my prestigious private school. Is it really such a bad thing that I want don't want my kids exposed to this. I think that I am going to shelter them too much. Overprotect maybe? Nahhh, I don't think so. They will know that sex, drugs and rock n roll exist. I really don't think they are going to go off to college and jump into all these things because I didn't expose them to it in high school or middle school or heck these days, it's elementary school. I knew several home schooled kids in college and for the most part, they were actually much more mature than others their age. This is the inspiration that I have for kids. My mission for my family is that we will all know, love and serve Jesus Christ and I am confident in this for my family. Sure there will be ups and downs whether my kids are homeschooled or school schooled. But God will direct my paths and the paths of my kids and I trust Him completely.

Fun with Snacks

This was on my other blog but I like it so much that I am putting it over here too. :)

So Andrew and I are at the dentist today reading a High Five magazine. Well, we were there for a cleaning but of course, we had the pre-show entertain yourself time. And we came across a fun snack idea for kids. They are called "Apple Smiles". They seemed simple enough. Cut an apple into slices. Oh wait..forgot step 1..wash hands. Heh..we forgot that step when making them too..oops! And then spread a layer of cream cheese on a side of each in such a way that the red is facing out. Place mini marshmallows (I'm sure the dentist would be oh so proud) between the cream cheese for the teeth. Place apple in mouth. Take photo. Okay, it didn't say to take photo but when you do fun crafty things as infrequently as I do with the kids, you have to take photos for posterity's sake.

So here's the rub. We had apples. They were even red. But we only had large marshmallows so we had to cut them. And Andrew doesn't like cream cheese so we used peanut butter. So without further ado, I present you both Exhibit A and Exhibit B of what I affectionately call my

Tobacco spittin redneck apple smiles...

I am thinking about a weekly blog post with fun kids snacks ideas gone wrong. But I can't imagine them looking as utterly ridiculous of sticking peanut butter apples with malformed marshmallows into your mouth. You should try it. Fun for all ages!

P.S. Here's the "recipe" and what they are actually supposed to look like!

Welcome to my new blog

Welcome to my new blog. I had an old blog but I didn't like it. I rambled a whole bunch on it. I might still go over to it and ramble on it but this is just going to be a diary of life events for myself and my kiddos. I am married to an awesome man named Christopher. He is a wonderful husband, father and leader of our home. I admire his devotion to Christ and his commitment to glorifying Him. I love his devotion that he has for our family to be the loving husband and father and the leader and provider. He does a wonderful job and I have learned so much about life from him.

I have three boys - Andrew is 5 1/2 as he will tell you proudly, Peter is 2 1/2 and Joshua is 1 1/2. They are my crazy boys. Crazy boys rule! I love my family immensely and have so much fun with them. Two big things in our life are camping and homeschooling so you probably will hear about a little about both here. Well probably more homeschooling than camping. Not much to say about camping but I do hope to summarize each excursion we go on. I am also insanely organizationally challenged so you will also hear me ramble about some awesome organizational tool/trick that is going to completely revolutionize my household and way of living but I will note that I will only follow said great idea for about a week maybe two..hence the organizationally challenged part.

Well that's all for now. Thanks for stopping by.