Thursday, December 11, 2008

Here At Our Happy Homeschool

I haven't written much about our "school" lately, but the kids have really been learning all kinds of stuff! No, really!

I say kids-plural because Morgan, all of 3.5, is very involved in things, and is actually our most academically-inclined child. I've hesitated writing this before, because I think it makes me sound like one of those stereotypically obnoxious homeschooling mommies, but . . . she can read. And has been reading fairly well for months now. She did this all on her own, mostly using the website. (Hooray, Starfall!) It's so interesting to me because I'm told that I taught myself to read at the same age. Weird, huh?

She will usually resist, in three-year-old fashion, any specific request to read out loud, but she will occasionally relent so I can gauge her progress. M can read most of the simple Dr. Seuss books, even ones that are new to her. When called upon to do so, she can spell words like "box" or "farm" or "bone" without paper or pencil or book or computer in front of her. She can identify nouns and verbs and usually can distinguish between adjectives and adverbs. We read out loud almost every day--lately, the My First Little House series of books.

She is learning to write, too--after months of frustration that she couldn't make her body obey what her brains wanted it to do, she began writing toward the end of the summer. She's a bit fuzzy on the concept of getting all of the letters to go in a straight line, but I figure that will come later. Also, she can do simple addition up to about 12 and can do groups, too (3 groups of 2 = 6, etc.). She can count by 10s up to 100.

She also acts out songs and dances, pretended to be a Minuteman General for the amusement of those in the waiting room at taekwondo tonight, can quote long passages from her favorite books and tv shows, and is generally so stinking smart I'm not quite sure what to do with her except move out of her way. Now if only she'd use the potty consistently! I know, seems strange to me, too.

Ryan is learning bunches o'stuff, too. Which is good I suppose, as I'm officially homeschooling him, and I've got the official State paperwork to prove it! Take that!

In addition to chess and taekwondo, activities in which he is focused and disciplined and really excels, he is enjoying our history class (even though we're way behind and need to catch up). I think he'll get more from Mr. Powell's history classes once he can read more fluently and quite frankly, I think he just needs to be more mature. I believe the history classes were aimed at age 7 and up, and Ryan is 6.5. And a boy. We'll definitely stick with it though, because he LOVES all of those maps and the stories and has pretty good retention when he remembers to listen to the lecture instead of pretending to have battles all over those interesting maps! I enjoy the classes, too, and Morgan is clamoring to "have history class" and who knows what she might be learning?

Ryan's reading is coming along, but he would rather quickly guess at the word than take the time to sound it out. He doesn't enjoy the process of figuring out the word as a kind of letter-puzzle, as Morgan does (and me, too!). He'd rather just know the word and when he doesn't, starts guessing, then gets frustrated, then gets whiny (my favorite) and will eventually figure it out. He even spelled the word 'Thanksgiving' with my brother-in-law over that holiday, by sounding it out, letter-by-letter. Hmph. That's no small word, so I think he understands the concept, you know?

I have told him that I'm getting tired of reading the words in his Empire Earth games and that he'll have to start reading those words on his own. So today, while we were at the car place waiting for the car to get the 30K service, we made a list of 10 Empire Earth-y words that he worked on. Here's our list:

  • Army
  • Navy
  • Oil
  • Gold
  • Stone
  • Plane
  • Food
  • Wood
  • Tank
  • Attack

I'll help him review these words--all of which he actually sounded out, under duress and through whining, on his very own--and we'll add to the list as we can. The child CAN read--he just finds it more convenient to have Mom tell him (which is his normal MO). Well, I have resigned from that particular job! I think that having a Killer App, an internal motivation to read, will get him weaned from this crutch. So heads up! If this kid asks you to tell him what any of the above words say--you have my permission--nay, orders!--to refuse him.

His handwriting is pretty good--it's nice that he is internally motivated to make signs and books and stories and wall decorations. No worries there. He appears to be right-handed, although he really is somewhat a "both-y" and will do lots of things left-handed, too. Just like me!

Even though we haven't officially "done" math yet, he really understands addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Today, he figured out on his own how to count by 2s. I plan to ask him how to do the 3s tomorrow, just to see if he can do it. I suspect he can. He noticed the other day that "one way to make 12 is to take 5 + 5 and add 1 to each 5 so that you get 6 + 6, since 5 + 5 = 10 and 1 + 1 = 2." Yup. It's really amazing, the things they notice on their own! I am looking into a Math program, especially since Morgan would love it. We tried Math Blaster and she is too little to work the arrow keys, which is a drawback I had not expected. And Ryan is not interested AT ALL in a computer math game. Hmmmm.....maybe if there were battles or peopleguys? If only they had a Starfall Math! I found on Tammy Takahashi's blog a link to a website called Math is Fun, so we might try that before I shell out $$ for a program like Right Start Math or Saxon or Singapore.

Let's see, what else with Ryan? He has continued his exploration into Geology, as evidenced by the number of rocks that seem to be rattling around in my washer and dryer, still remembers to feed his frog (nearly 2 years old now, grown from a tadpole), and is obsessed with computer strategy games like Empire Earth. He can also find the nouns and verbs in a sentence, and the adjectives and adverbs, too. Thank you, Schoolhouse Rock! He knows what color uranium is when it's mined and his head is full of interesting little tidbits just like that. Again, he's so smart, I am a little bit amazed and try to just throw things that I think he'll find interesting at him, and then move out of his way.

We still don't have a name for our homeschool, though, but I'm getting closer! Morgan has expressed a strong preference to go to "real school" (her words!), but Ryan can't figure out why anyone would want to do that ever! Very inline with their personalities.

So that's our school, such as it is. It's difficult to differentiate between Life and School and to be completely honest, I don't often try. This is just Our Life and how we do things in our family. We all live our lives together, and I'm pretty satisfied with the way things are going so far.


Stephanie Ozenne said...

I've got a mathematically interested almost-6-year-old boy. I had originally planned to do Singapore from the start, but then I found If you click on "reader lists" you'll find zillions of books that deal with mathematical concepts sorted by math topic. We've had a great time getting lots of books out of the library and just playing with math. There's also a living math yahoo group (moderated by the same woman) that is awesome (and pretty high volume). People really give good and detailed answers to questions there.

Also, Maria at is running a "multiplication study" - she has lots of interesting activities based around multiplication. She asks each family to choose one activity per week, and report back on how it went, how they changed it, etc. I guess she's gathering the info to refine things? Anyway, so far we've done an activity with two mirrors hinged together, which of course multiplies the images, and a snowflake activity (and we also put the snowflake between the mirrors to see what it would look like unfolded before actually doing the unfolding).

I guess I'm excited about the non-traditional math stuff, which is a little weird given my math-heavy background. But it's great watching my son absorb the concepts and I know it will be a great benefit when we move on to algorithms. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer - stephanie at ozenne dot com.

PS - love the blog, I'm a lurker by nature. :)

Monica said...

I love it when you blog about this stuff.

Wow, Morgan is SMART. My mom claims I could read at that age, but really I think my mom is just bragging and I'd just memorized the books. I don't think I was actually *spelling* at that age (though I'd have to ask her). The fact that she's actually writing os super-impressive, IMO.

What I find interesting is that different kids progress differently based on their developmental abilities (brain and physical) and perceived needs.

This seems to be evidence that humans are naturally curious and want to learn (not sure I've ever met a non-curious child, it's usually drummed out of them by parents), and when the child is ready the learning will happen relatively easily. Well, so long as there is appropriate guidance and resources.


suchlovelyfreckles said...

Wow!!! Congratulations on our smart girl. She's got it going on. :)

Jennifer Snow said...

Your story about trying to motivate Ryan to read on his own reminds me of how we (inadvertantly) motivated my brother Benjamin to learn how to read--Gareth and Dad and I would all play Magic: The Gathering together, but we wouldn't let Benjamin play unless he could tell what the cards did. Since the descriptions are all printed on the cards, he got really *into* the idea of learning how to read very quickly.

My grandmother used to tell the story of how my dad came home furious from his first day of kindergarten because they hadn't taught him to read. It was quite cute.