Homeschooling: Miss Rhonda’s Readers

I’ve shared a few resources here before that helped get the Scout Kid on the path to reading. Native Reading was one– and I was excited to see the technique backed up in Thirty Million Words, which I just finished reading on my Kindle and plan to review soon. Leap Frog’s magical Letter Factory was another, and I cannot recommend it more highly to anyone who want their child to effortlessly learn basic letter sounds.

So the Scout Kid has been reading for a good few months now, but I found it hard to find him good books to practice on. I wanted books difficult enough to stretch his abilities, but it’s easy for him to get discouraged if there are a lot of nonstandard words, and because of this difficulty finding good books, neither of us were as enthused about him practicing his newfound skills as we should of been.

That’s why I was delighted to stumble across Miss Rhonda’s Readers. Written by a Montessori teacher, they are simple, sweet little stories that are designed to be delightful instead of dull or frustrating. At $0.99 apiece on the Kindle, we’ve been buying a new one every few days for the Scout Kid to work his way through. (He may or may not have learned how to buy them himself today and bought four while I wasn’t paying attention, but hey. There are worse things to accidentally buy four of.)

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It is such a joy to see my boy reading– as a word-lover myself, I’m so thrilled about the worlds that are opening up before him now that he can read, worlds of imagination, learning, and depth. I deeply believe that helping kids learn to read early is better not because it’s a race or because academic success is in itself an important goal for a four year old, but because of that. Because now he can start to dig into his own interests at his leisure and liberty, read a dozen books about dinosaurs in a row if that’s what he wants. Because of the connections with characters and the wonderful worlds that fiction hold. Because he won’t be at anyone’s mercy in decoding the world around him; he can forge his own way. Because reading is a door, not a destination. </sentimental monologue>

Anyways, check  out the readers; they’re great and the price is definitely right! You can by physical copies on her website, or grab them for Kindle from Amazon.

(Right now the Scout Kid’s biggest struggle is sounding out longer, unfamiliar words without immediately defaulting to trying to guess based on the picture and the word’s first letter. I’m mulling over how to make a game to practice that.)

 

Homeschooling: Science: gofindit Sensory Game

GoFindIt! At the State Park

Gofindit At the State Park

From the UK-based Sensory Trust, this little scavenger-hunt card game has been a happy little buy for our family. Basically, it’s a deck of cards featuring all different adjectives- wet, curvy, huge, crunch!, red, etc. With older kids, you could play by the rules: hand each kid five cards and race to find an item that matches each card. For the boys, though, we don’t make it a contest. It’s just a great way to engage with our surroundings, observe, and discover. They even love playing it indoors!

It doesn’t seem to be available in Canada, but for US-based readers, you can grab it through my Amazon Affiliate link here: http://amzn.to/1UFIzSg. It’s not particularly cheap given the dismal exchange rate, but it’s open-ended and friendly to all ages, so I’m definitely not worried about getting our money’s worth out of it!

Homeschooling: DIY.org

How cool does DIY.org look? Kids do challenges and master skills to earn badges. You can access this part of it for free, or for a subscription (that can cover multiple kids) you can access courses on learning how to do the different challenges. I can’t wait to show this to the Scout Kid, and someday to the Feral Kid and their sister. What will we start with? Baker? Archer? Graphic Designer? I know Scout Kid will have some opinions once I show him the options. Our life just got way more fun.

Download the app here and let me know if you sign your kids up so we can follow each other’s progress!

Advent Activites 2015: December 3rd, Christmas Playdough

We kept things simple yesterday because Scout Kid was sick and laying on the couch all day yesterday. We read a Christmas book, but he didn’t even really have the energy for that; curled up pitifully and closed his eyes as I read. Thankfully, he’s back to his usual spunky self today, so we’re back at it.

Today, after dropping off a load of packed Christmas goody boxes for Christmas in King, we pulled out the red and green playdough, along with all my Christmas cooky cutters. Feral Kid, especially, was thrilled– he had never played playdough before, and mostly used his newfound cutting skills to reduce his playdough to tiny shreds. Scout kid went more on-theme and decorated some gingerbread people and Christmas trees before settling down to cutting playdough into fishing bait. All in all, a good time was had by all, including Mama who did dishes in peace while listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas and occasionally helping out with the rolling pin.

 

Homeschooling: Science: Healthy Body Book: Lungs

 

I was super-stoked to find Teachers Pay Teachers the other day. Basically, it’s a bunch of teachers sharing their classroom resources for all ages and grades, and you can buy or download PDFs of activities and lessons for every subject. My wishlist is already as long as my arm, but I started with this Health and Nutrition for Little Kids book. There’s no particular order it has to be done in, so we just jumped in. Today we learned about lungs. Here’s what we did.

-Watched this great little TED-Ed video about the basic workings of the lungs. Because it’s not geared to three-year-olds, I paused it quite often the first time through as we breathed in and out slowly, held our breath, and answered any questions Scout Kid had. He watched it through again while he coloured the worksheet.
-Coloured in the lungs worksheet from the Health and Nutrition Book. Scout Kid’s colouring is is a little half-hearted, like, “oh, here, I coloured two little spots, I think that should do it!”but he was enjoying it so whatever.

-Made the accompanying craft: fit two straws into two plastic baggies, secure the tops with elastics, and voila! Lung demo. It’s dead simple but Scout Kid loved seeing them in action. We taped them loosely onto the sheet so they’re handy next time he wants to demo his respiratory system.

Homeschooling: Science: Cloud Types

Trying to get back into the swing of doing regular homeschooling activities now that the school year is started again. We do have a few regular things: weekly piano lessons with my sister + practices, weekly art lessons with my mama, daily Bible reading/memorization, reading, and practice counting (I’ll post about our hundreds chart another time,) and we enjoy those, but Scout Kid really gets most excited about the special activities I plan.

So for this activity, we first spent some time learning about clouds. We read our Field Guide to Weather and watched a few videos on Youtube about weather and clouds, which kind of went in the extreme storm direction instead of the fluffy cloud direction, but hey, guided by his interest and all…

I needed some time to get cotton balls, so we did the rest of the activity a week later; in the intervening time we kept our eyes open for cloud types as we drove or played outside. Scout Kid is a big fan of the cumulonimbus.

Once my cotton balls arrived, we painted a poster (Scout Kid added a moon and some stars up top there) and decorated it with all the 10 main types of clouds (there are a lot more subspecies and special types.) Scout Kid added the rain to the nimbostratus and cumulonimbus clouds, and I labelled everything. There’s lots more to learn, so we’re excited to keep talking about it– clouds are more interesting than I was previously aware.

 

Thursdays with Words: April Reading List

I’ve been reading a lot more than I have in I can’t even remember how long (thank-you, Georgia!), so I wanted to sit down and do some reviews of what I’ve read recently. Partly I want to just get it out of my head, and partly I hope you can find something that catches your interest. All links will be through my Amazon Affiliates account*. So, without further ado– what I’ve read this past month (well, six weeks-ish):

How We Learn, Benedict Cary
Steven got me this for Christmas and I loved it. I loved it for me, and I loved it for my children, and I can’t wait to read it again and sit down and write out how these ideas can be applied to homeschooling. It’s basically a series of ‘brain hacks’ to help you retain and memorize information better, solve problems more creatively and efficiently, and generally learn more effectively. I’m probably going to do a longer blog post on it so I’ll leave it at that.

The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
I read this right after he died. I had always had the impression that Pratchett just wrote kind of goofy fantasy, but I was wrong. Or at least, about this book. But I will definitely want to read more. I found his work a beautiful blend of humour and poignancy, his culture rich and detailed, his MC thoroughly relatable and awesome, and his imagination wonderful. This story made me laugh out loud and it made me think. I was wasting my time not reading him all these years.

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card
I got this because I am working on a fantasy novel; this is also the reason for most of the other books I’ve read this month and most of the books on my to-read list. I’m trying to get a handle on the genre and some of the aspects I am less strong in. I feel myself to be reasonably strong on the mechanics of writing, but this book focuses on aspects specific to speculative fiction– worldbuilding, magic systems, types of stories, and the SFF publishing market. I think it was a good base for me, and serves as a good jumping off point for reading SFF with a watchful eye for the elements that make it good SFF.

The Patternist Series, Octavia Butler
I downloaded the first book (Wild Seed) because Card praised it in the above-mentioned book. Then I tore through it, dowloaded the next book without stopping, and tore through that, and so on ’til I’d read all four. A creative concept and I was very surprised the direction it took. All four books are connected, but in a loose, unexpected manner as they travel from the 1600’s to a post-apocalyptic society. The writing is spare without being unnecessarily so, and the plot is forefront without neglecting the skill and beauty of the language, which I find rare in plot-driven books. Content advisory: there is a lot of sex in these books. It’s not graphic, it’s just ubiquitous. The story features essentially the breeding of a new society and the characters are all part of that so they all just end up having lots of sex. You were warned.

The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Read this for book club; it’s been a while since I read older fiction like this and it was a good shake-up for me, I think. Different language, different style conventions, different social mores and overarching values… I was interested in the story but I had a hard time getting away from the constant commentary on what females can and can’t do/feel/think. I read on Collins’ Wikipedia page that “He also wrote penetratingly on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time,” so maybe I was just too far removed socially from the time of the book to catch on? Maybe he was being ironic? He seemed to spend for more time than necessary pontificating on what women are intrinstically like, and he doesn’t usually decide on the more flattering choices (i.e. weak, emotional, stuff like that). Marian Halcombe is interesting, witty, intelligent, and totally not the love interest in the story, which role is instead fulfilled by her angelic, blonde, and boring-as-heck half-sister Laura. So that annoyed me the whole time.

Update: This was still bugging me so I did a quick Google of “feminism the woman in white wilkie collins” and came up with this blog post which does enlighten me a little. Commentary on unjust marriage laws, strong female character, types. Ok, cool. Still a little annoyed but less so.

Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson
Read this on the plane back home for Easter (and then all the next day when I was supposed to be actually doing stuff like mothering my children and unpacking). I’m working on writing a fantasy novel so I’m trying to read more in the genre, get a better feel from the sweep of fantasy and hit the big authors in the field. I enjoyed the magic system (Allomancy) in this book, which was intricate, internally consistent, and unique. The characterization and development was decent and the writing also fair to middling, although Sanderson did feel the inexplicable need to use the word ‘maladroitly’ like four times which is totally uncalled for. But (spoiler alert) Jordan used the word ‘rictus’ even more than that in Eye of the World so it was probably a good thing Sanderson was chosen to continue the Wheel of Time series…

The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
For the whole first section of the book I had a very hard time separating my opinion of the elements of this book that have become tropes from my opinion of the actual writing, but as I got deeper into the story, as things got more immersive, I was able to set that aside. The further in I got, the more I admired Jordan’s worldbuilding and creativity. I still don’t find the writing style very much to my taste, and I was annoyed throughout the book about the way he wrote women and the way he wrote male-female relationships (like, everybody had to mention about how they could never understand the other gender), but the story, the scope, the world, the magic, were all beautiful and well-done.

*And hey: if you buy any of these books through my links here, I get money! So, just a thought…

Toddler Tuesdays: Leapfrog Letter Factory

As we started working our way through School Sparks, I realized that before we could do the letters section, Scout Kid needed some serious phonics help. He knows his letters backwards, uppercase and lowercase, can write them all with minimal help, and has a few sight words, but he really only knew a handful of the phonics sounds despite, I thought, me being pretty regular about talking about them.
I got this movie on the recommendation of a friend— she used it for her kids in the past and apparently it works like magic for teaching kids phonics sounds. Since I am all about education in the form of magic, I bought it and, yep! It’s magic! Scout Kid went from basically not knowing more than a few letter sounds to knowing them all in two days! The video doesn’t cover long vowels, alternate sounds (such as for c, g), or digraphs, but it’s a good start and Scout Kid found it effortless and engaging.
Find it on Amazon for $15: Leapfrog: Letter Factory (link through my Amazon Affiliates account).

Toddler Tuesdays: School Sparks Preschool Worksheets

Hi guys! Sorry for the radio silence. Life and stuff, you know the drill. So! I’m currently in the backcountry of Georgia for work, and we don’t have much in the way of school or craft supplies. Scout Kid was getting a lot of mileage out of colouring the Shake N’ Steak hats we got, but I thought maybe something a little more challenging was in order. Did some browsing on Amazon and came up with this lovely workbook, School Sparks. It’s got 450 tear-out pages of worksheets in fine motor control, numeracy and early math, letter recognition, writing, visual discrimination, all the good stuff.

Scout Kid has been eating it up, doing a few pages in each ‘subject’, if you will, every morning while Feral Kid naps. It’s interesting to see where, as a newly-minted three year old, the sheets are too easy (visual discrimination is totally unchallenging for him) and where they are too hard (mazes are still tough, can’t really do initial phonics sounds or rhyming words at all. He outright tells me he has no idea what I’m talking about when I try to explain the concept of initial sounds.) It gives me an idea of where to focus our work going forward– on which note, anybody have a good phonics app/game/workbook to recommend?

School Sparks also has a website with printable worksheets. FYI, the Amazon.ca link is currently listing the book for $300 used, but I paid $18 used here in the States, so maybe this is not a good time to buy through my Amazon Affiliates link?

Science: Simple Machines

Back at it for the New Year! Here’s what we did today:
-Looked at a picture of the six types of simple machines: wedge, pulley, wheels and axle, lever, inclined plane, and screw.
-Talked about how simple machines make work easier for us. I briefly summed up what each machine does in simple terms.
-Hunted around the house for things we could use to build some examples of simple machines, built them, and tested them out.
-Watched this video of a Rube Goldberg machine using all the simple machines. Scout Kid was fascinated; we watched it over and over and he attempted to replicate it with our machines.
I was glad we got to this topic as Scout Kid has a growing obessession with making pulleys, and this will only expand his scope. I’d like to revisit this topic, and maybe build our own simple-machines Rube Goldberg machine.