Sunday, October 30, 2011

A new infatuation............

While my dad was in the ICU for a week, my mom and I spent a LOT of time sitting in the ICU waiting room.  Since Dad was never conscious the whole time he was in the hospital, we had a lot of time on our hands.  For the first several days, I just sat or paced or drank a lot of the free coffee.  On the evening of the fourth day, I asked my husband at about 8:30 p.m. if he had any cash on him.  He handed me a $10.  I thanked him and said I needed to run to the store real quick.  He asked what for.  I sheepishly admitted that I was going out to buy a pair of knitting needles and a skein of yarn.  He looked a bit mystified as I left on my errand.  I've been wanting to learn to knit for quite some time.  In fact, Hubs had bought me a gift certificate to a knitting shop several years ago.  I never used it and within the last 6 months the store closed.  My mom taught me the very basics of knitting when I was in elementary school, so I knew a little bit.  I packed my new ball of yarn and needles in my purse to take to the hospital the next morning.  My mom laughed as she watched me knit a few rows, rip them out, and start over again.  I did this MANY times.  It kind of bothered her that I was ripping it out so much.  (I'm a perfectionist.)  I finally listened to her advice that the knitting gets easier once you have several rows on the needles.  I kept going.  My plan was to knit a little dishcloth.  I used the basic garter stitch.  What I wasn't expecting is that my boys were VERY interested in this new craft.  They both pleaded with me to teach them!  My little boy has helped me knit a row and my oldest now has his own pair of needles and ball of yarn and has been periodically picking them up and knitting with them.  VERY COOL! 

Since the boys were so into the knitting, they were having none of the "dishcloth" plans.  The first dishcloth soon was appropriated as a blanket for my little boy's stuffed bunny.  Of course I then had to knit a blanket for my big boy's giraffe.  With the leftover bits of yarn I knit (or is it knitted?  my knitting vocabulary is still weak!) matching pillows for each animal.  The cool thing about these particular stuffies is that my boys got them in their "memory" bags for Grandpa.  A wonderful nurse named Jean (she refers to herself as "Mean Jean", but I know better!) gave me the bags for when Dad passed.  Each bag contained several resources for helping children deal with grief including two very helpful pamphlets.  They also each had a stuffed animal for the boys to keep.  I love it that they have these special reminders of Grandpa, and I also love seeing the little guys cuddled up under the "blankets" I made.

I think it's safe to say that I'm now kind of obsessed with knitting.  I love it for its portability.  I can sit and knit pretty much anywhere and don't need to drag out a lot of "gear".  I am currently knitting a scarf for my youngest son (at his request) and have a skein ready to knit one for my big boy too.  I also have a scarf for myself in the works.  I have a list of "favorites" on Ravelry too............a great website with TONS of free knitting patterns.

If you are interested in knitting but are afraid to try...........I say, "GO FOR IT!"  I knew a little bit, but everything else I know (which isn't much yet) I learned by watching knitting videos on You Tube.  I had put off learning to knit because I thought I needed a live person to teach me, but I have truly found everything I need to know online.  I do have one question though for any of you who are still reading this non-homeschool-related post and who are also knitters.............what's the deal with "knit 2 together"?  I am trying to make myself a scarf with that stitch as part of the pattern.  I know how to do it, but I am finding that it is SO hard to get my needles through two stitches at once...........the stitches are so tight!!  I realize this is a tension problem, but I don't know how to fix it other than trying to avoid patterns with "K2tog" a sidenote I am ridiculously impressed with myself that I know what K2tog means now.  Knitting patterns used to look like a bunch of gibberish to me.  And the more complex ones still do!!  Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.  In the meantime, I'll search for a real live person to ask!!  Following are some photos of what I've done so far..........

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A great resource for reading instruction

I wanted to pass along a great resource I came across recently.  It's so important for beginning readers to be appropriately matched to "just right" text.  What I mean is that for optimal growth in reading, children should be able to successfully read 90-95% of the words in any given reading passage.  If they struggle over more than 10% of the words, the text is too hard for them.  If they read more than 95% with no errors, the text may be too easy for them.  It's fine for them to read easier texts for fun, but for reading instruction and growth, they need to have some words that they must "solve" in order to become better readers.  This is one reason that I like to use Reading A-Z leveled books because I can be sure that I'm matching my first grader to appropriate text.  Now, however, my little guy is starting to read more fluently and I'm starting to explore using library books for his reading books.  The website I'm sharing is awesome because it lists published books by level.  I printed out the levels that represent the range my son is reading at and I have it in my purse so when we are at the library I have some specific titles to look for.  HERE is the link to the website.  At the top you will see a little table which tells the "letter" level and the corresponding grade level.  If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section.  Hope you find this link useful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

First Grade Reading: Jellyfish Study

 I wanted to share some more about my first grader's reading program.  A few weeks ago I printed off the book Gaggle, Herd and Murder from Reading A-Z for him to read.  He really likes to learn about animals and I knew he would enjoy this book about the names for various groups of animals.  After he read it a few times, I had him choose one of the animals from the book to research.  He chose jellyfish.  In the photo above you can see the printed book and the cover of the lapbook we made about jellyfish.  In the photo below you can see a photo of the page from Gaggle, Herd and Murder that was about jellyfish.

The rest of the photos are of some of the various lapbook components.  All the lapbook pieces are from Homeschoolshare.  We checked out some books about jellyfish from the library and used that information to fill in the mini-books.  This project took us about a week to complete with my little guy writing on 2-3 mini-books each day.  This was a great way to incorporate reading, writing, and science all into one activity.  I think more lapbooks are in our future for sure.  He was proud to show his finished book off to his grandmas.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One of the best things about homeschooling............

...............watching my oldest son reading fiction for pleasure.  YAY!!  I snapped a few quick and sneaky photos of him during his daily 30 minutes of independent reading.  Once he was sitting outside on the deck on a beautiful day (something he couldn't do in public school) and the other time he was all cuddled up under a quilt on my bed (also something he couldn't do in public school).  Reading while cuddled up in bed........a man after my own heart!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh, my soul.............

I don't know how many people are actually reading this blog, but I know there are a few!  So I'm sure a few of you have noticed that I haven't posted in a while.  On October 14th, my father was admitted to the ICU for severe pneumonia.  He died on October 21st.  His funeral was Monday.  Our pastor blessed us with a beautiful service which honored the gentle, humble, self-less Christian man that my father was.  We also had a perfect day on Monday to lay him to rest.  Needless to say, the past week has been very tumultuous.  I was at the hospital with my mom every day, Hubs was trying to hold down the fort (thankfully he was on fall break) at home, and our schedule was entirely disrupted.  I am finding that grief comes in bursts.  I will be totally fine, then something silly like a slight change in plans will bring a rush of tears.  Part of the grieving process, I guess.  I am also VERY tired all the time which is unlike me.

My wise cousin (who also homeschooled for many years) told me yesterday after the  funeral luncheon that I should just take it easy and take the rest of the week off from school with the boys.  I had planned to start up again in full force today.  In some ways it is good for me to get back into a routine.  When she sensed that I needed to start getting on with things, my cousin suggested that I ease into it and perhaps consider taking a nature walk today instead of diving right back into our academic routine.  This turned out to be a perfect suggestion.

So today I took the boys on a hike at a state park about 25 minutes south of where we live.  We have hiked here frequently, but not recently because the park was inaccessible most of the summer due to flooding in our area.  My oldest son has really been asking to go, so I took them today as a surprise.  It was a totally beautiful day and it was so good for my soul to be outdoors.  I took many hikes with my dad when I was a little girl, so the day brought many fond memories of those times together.  I felt close to him and it was like a balm for my soul.  I took several photos to remember our outing.  I'll share a few of those with you now..........I should be back to homeschool blogging soon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dreamgirl, whoopie pies, and why homeschooling rocks!!

I just had to hop on here quickly and post about what's been on my mind recently.  I have a TON of things that I should be doing right now, but I never claimed to prioritize well.  ahem........

First of all, the boys and I had "life skills day" on Thursday and quickly whipped up a batch of homemade whoopie pies for Daddy right after he left for work.  Then we rushed up to surprise him with them at work.  His work is about a 25 minute drive from our home.  I brought matches and candles and we sang "Happy Birthday" to him and had him blow out the candles.  I know he was both surprised and touched.  And we would never have been able to pull this off if the boys were in school.

During the time we were at Daddy's office (he's a college professor), my boys were visiting with Daddy's colleagues.  At one point my six-year-old grabbed me, planted a kiss right on my lips and announced to everyone that I am his "dreamgirl".  Words to warm a momma's heart.  I know there will come a day when I'm no longer his "dreamgirl" and that role will be filled by someone who is a.) closer to his age and b.) not his MOM!  And of course that should happen because it would just be weird for him to exhibit the same behavior and say those words as a sixteen-year-old!!!  Still...........I am realizing more and more that homeschooling is allowing me to keep a close connection to my precious boys, one that would surely be challenged and perhaps even strained if they attended school all day.  Inevitably, the influence of their peers would take greater precedence than the influence of their parents.  And I definitely want to continue to nurture our relationship as long as possible.  It's great to be a homeschooler...............especially if you're also a "dreamgirl."  :-)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Story of the World: Chapter 2

This week we finished Chapter 2 of SOTW.  In this chapter we learned about the Egyptians and the Nile River.  We learned why the Nile was so important to the Egyptians and how it flooded predictably at the same time each year which allowed the farmers to plan ahead and plant in the fertile soil once the floodwaters receded.  We also learned about the battle between the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt and how the "White King" of Upper Egypt, King Narmer, finally defeated the "Red King" of lower Egypt.  From that point on, the kind of Egypt's crown was red and white, representing the combined Upper and Lower kingdoms. 

The boys completed the map activity from the SOTW Activity Guide.  They traced the Nile in blue and also colored the Red and Mediterranean Seas blue.  Then they colored a green border along the Nile which represents the fertile silt deposited by the flood waters.  The remaining land was colored tan or yellow to show the desert.  These maps were then glued into their history notebooks as shown below.  I thought they did a great job!!

On our second day of history, we learned about the myth of Osiris and his brother, Set.  A perfect example of an UNLOVING brotherly relationship!!  Set tricked Osiris into getting into a coffin, closed the lid and threw him into the Nile River to drown.  Osiris' widow, Isis, was so bereaved that she cried a river of tears.  The Nile also mourned the loss of Osiris and ran dry, causing a drought.  Isis wrapped Osiris' body in cloth, making the first mummy, but then Osiris came back to life.  The river was so overjoyed with Osiris' return that it filled up and overflowed it's banks.  And that is why the Nile river floods every year............according to Egyptian mythology.  After reading about this, we made our own model of the Nile river using the directions in the Activity Guide.  We flooded the river and set it outside on our deck.  Hopefully grass will grow along its' banks soon.  My little guy wondered a few hours later why it hadn't grown yet!!  He also said we should throw "that guy" (Osiris) into the river like in the story.  (We have an Egyptian TOOB of figures that has Osiris in it.)  I was just glad to know he had listened to the story since he is pretty fidgety during our read alouds!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

First Grade Reading: Camping Week

I explained my system of planning reading for my first grader in THIS POST.  I thought I'd try to do a post each week sharing another week of our learning together in reading/language arts in case it helps someone else.  Last week our main guided reading text was Our Camping Trip printed from Reading A-Z.  In addition to reading that book, we did some of the worksheets from Reading A-Z which focused on long /i/ words and contractions, both of which were skills taken from the text.  The worksheets are shown in the photos below.  Note that I added the yellow highlighting on the right worksheet.  Although he is very capable of doing so, I didn't think my son was paying close attention to keeping his letters between the lines, so I highlighted the space and told him to make his letters sit in the "yellow".  This is a great way to help children visualize on papers with lots of lines. 

As a writing activity, I had him brainstorm a list of things he would take on a camping trip and I made up a quick little paper for him in Word using clip-art and a table for organizing his list.

I also checked out the book Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping and read it to him one of the days.  Then we talked about the story elements and he dictated them to me as I filled them in on a story map we had printed from Reading A-Z.

I am finding that I really like planning his reading this way.  It's easy to find other literature and poems that correspond to the topics in the guided reading books and I feel this makes his reading experience more integrated and rich.  Can't wait to share what we're up to with his reading this week.........but you'll have to wait until NEXT week to find out!!