Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Report: Week 8

Last weekend Lydia broke her arm.  She was riding in her Cozy Coupe in the backyard and it fell over.  I didn't see it happen, I just heard her cry more than usual when she was tipped over.  If you ask Lydia what happened, she'll say, "The car squished you [me]." (She has trouble with pronoun reversals.)

It was only a minor fracture and she's had to wear a splint all week, but should be able to take it off next week.  It did mean that I had to go to the ER twice in one week (once for Lydia, once for Adelaide).

Lydia finished Essential Math A!  She started it a little over 2 months ago.  I thought it would take us the entire PreK year to get through it.  She seems to understand almost all the concepts, and those that she doesn't will come up again soon.  I think we'll go ahead and just start Essential Math B and keep on trucking, taking it slow if we need to.

Miquon is still going well.  This week she used the rods to learn a little about addition.  She did her first few addition problems ever by "making 4" with the rods.

We continue to use the readers I made from the sentences in OPGTR.  Lydia can only ready four sentences or so before she loses all interest, so it is slow going.  But she is doing well.  We're also using ReadingBear still because she likes to and she willingly practices sounding out words if it is involved.

This was a big week for memorization.  Today, Lydia finished memorizing "The Falling Star," which we've been working on for a little over a week.  I think we'll start the Third Article of Faith next.  She also quickly memorized the four points of a compass and surprised me by already knowing all the planets in order.  I think she learned them from her Leap Frog Tag Solar System board, but it might also have been the solar system episode of Blue's Clues.  Either way, she knows them, so that was easy.

This week I got her speaking part for the Primary Program at church that is at the end of October.  I have no idea if she'll actually get up and give her part, but if she does, I want her to be prepared.  So we'll work on memorizing it. "Jesus Christ is the perfect example for me. My favorite story about Jesus is ____________."

As we finish up the memorization plan I laid out, I'm marking what we've done so far this year on this post. It's looking good, and I might need to find some more stuff before the year is through!

Harvest Time:
We didn't do anything this week.  With Lydia's broken arm and my laziness, it just didn't happen.  Luckily, it wasn't an exciting week (tractors).

Lydia did pages 13-15 of Color, Count, and Cut.  It is going much slower because it requires coloring every page.  I have seen a marked improvement in her fine motor skills over the last few months, so that's great.  I love seeing her progress.

She also has the name of the Renoir prints down now, including the French ones, so we'll continue to review them and I think I might get a book on Renoir from the library.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


A few months ago I posted a list of all the curricula I planned on using with Lydia this year, including a post on math specifically.  When I wrote that, I really didn't understand my teaching style or Lydia's learning style.  At least I knew that fact, which is why I had many resources from which to pull.  I've already mentioned that I'm dropping MEP Reception.  I think it is probably a good program, but I didn't enjoy teaching it and Lydia didn't do well with it either.  We're also finding that Essential Math A is going way faster than I planned.  I planned on using it for the whole year and she's going to finish it this week! That means I have to decide whether to move to Essential Math B or take a break with it for a while.  Looking through it, EM B starts speeding up much faster, and I'm not sure if Lydia will be able to keep up with the concepts.  That, and I didn't plan on hitting it until Kindergarten, and she's still barely 4.  So now I have to decide whether to take a break or just spread it out. I'm not sure what I'll decide.

In the meantime, however, I'm absolutely loving Miquon!  I guess you could say that math always came easily to me.  I enjoyed it in school, and although I only got to Calculus, I did enjoy it up until then, and I feel like I understood it.  I want my daughters to really understand the why's of math and not just the how, you know?  Miquon looks very promising to accomplish just that.

For those unfamiliar with Miquon, here's a bit of history about how it works.  It was a math program developed at the Miquon School in Pennsylvania in the 70s for grades 1-3.  There isn't a "teacher's guide" per se, but there is quite a bit of guidance.  It relies a lot on the teacher being comfortable teaching concepts and facilitating learning through exploration.  There are 6 "lab sheet" books that are named different colors.  Right now we're working on the first one which is Orange.  There is also a book that has some guidance on how to use the lab sheets, called Lab Sheet Annotations.  You can buy a book called First Grade Diary that is basically just Lore Rasmussen's (the lady who developed Miquon Math) daily diary about what she did in her class and how she overcame different students' hangups.  These are the two most helpful books.

Making 1:1 corresponding tallies and then finding the rod that goes with the number of objects in the picture.

Every lab sheet is numbered with a letter and a number.  The letter corresponds to a concept (A is counting, C is addition, etc.) and the number just identifies the lab sheet within the concept.  Here's a chart that shows what I mean. Because the lab sheets are divided this way, you can jump around as necessary.  So if the addition concepts start getting to be too much for Lydia, we can switch over to clocks or whatever else she's ready for.  It really adds a lot of flexibility for the teacher and the student.

One integral part of Miquon is Cuisenaire Rods.  They are a very simple math manipulative.  There are 10 rods.  They are different lengths, in centimeters from 1 cm to 10 cm, and each length is the same color.  It is amazing all the math concepts that can be taught with these.

The first task we had to do was have Lydia learn the different number/color combinations.  We've had our rods for almost a year now and she has had lots of time to play with them.  For her, though, it took much more formal teaching to help her learn that the white equals 1 or the yellow equals 5 (at least for now.  They can change depending on what you are teaching).  She has them down now.

Because of my goals and the fact that she is 4 and is enjoying it, we are working very slowly.  I want to be sure that she actually understands before we move on.  This often requires demonstrating concepts not on the lab sheets.  For this, the videos at Education Unboxed are proving to be very valuable.  They show how to use the rods to teach various concepts.  I also use ideas from the First Grade Diary and the Lab Sheet Annotations book.

I'm hoping Miquon continues to be as great as it has so far.  It has a promising beginning at least.

Update 10-21-15:
Lydia didn't make it very far in Miquon Orange. She just wasn't internalizing the concepts the way the program wanted her to. She needed more explicit instruction. However, Eleanor is now finished the Orange book and is almost done with the Red book. It is perfect for her. She sees the connections it wants her to see. Here's how we do it.

Every day, I let her pick a page to do and I pick a page to do. The only rule is that it has to be the next page in a sequence, so if she wants a page from letter L, she has to do 1 before 2 or 3. This usually works pretty well for us because if I see that the page she picks looks like it will take a while, I pick a page that will be fairly quick, or vice versa. Plus, I can keep her working on more difficult concepts when she would naturally do all the easiest pages first. On occasion, pages take longer than I anticipate, in which case I won't make her do both that day.

To keep track of our progress, I mark each page she completes on the progress sheet at the beginning of each lab book. Some people prefer to let the kids keep going on a certain letter track over multiple books, but I prefer to finish a book at a time. That might change at some point, but it is working so far.

Despite having two very different math learners so far, I'm still in love with Miquon for those who make the connections naturally.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Week 7

This week was pretty standard, except that I did have an ER run with Adelaide that kept us both out until 3:30 in the morning.  Since Tyler is on his surgery rotation, I thought it would be better if he got sleep.  Unfortunately, this made me incredibly tired all day, so at least one day was pretty useless.  But we still managed to get some school done, even if the house did get trashed!  And Adelaide is doing much better now, so we just keep trucking along.

We did pages 121-136 in Essentials A.  This week we continued to cover size comparisons and started weights.  I'm excited that Lydia is almost done with A, as my goal was to finish it this year, not two months after we started it!  I've been amazed with how well she is learning new concepts, and she's definitely exceeding my expectations.  I'm thinking we'll just start Essentials B when she finishes A.  I'm sure this will slow her down a bit, because it is supposed to be at a higher difficulty level.

Miquon is still going well.  We went back and did some of the lab sheets we already completed, mostly because I think she still has a little bit to go before I feel comfortable using the rods to teach her concepts.  She is really enjoying it so far, and I'm finding that I am not having as difficult a time teaching it as I thought I would.  So far I've had to tweak most of our school work to Lydia's unique way of learning, so Miquon works because it is built to be a tool, not necessarily a set of step-by-step lessons.  So I guess you could say that I'm still feeling the Miquon love.

We're still working on reading through all the OPGTR sentences up to Lesson 40 via my homemade readers.  Lydia's attention span for reading is pretty low, so we're only getting a few minutes done a day, but she continues to do well.

Calendar is the same as usual and we started a new poem.  Lydia is now working on "The Falling Star."  It is longer than Lydia's last poem, so it may take us a bit longer.  We are also reviewing all her other memory work almost daily.

Harvest Time:
I decided to make this its own section in my Weekly Report.  I'm a little off on this one because our week for this curriculum is Thursdays-Wednesdays.  Because of the activities we do outside our house, this schedule makes the most sense for us time-wise.

This last week we talked about where milk comes from and read a book about Heifer International giving a goat to a little girl's family. We also read a different book about the process of getting milk from the cow to our home.  Then, as our activity, we made bread and butter.  I tried to let the girls help with the bread and they enjoyed watching the bread kneed.  As anyone who knows our family can attest, I am definitely not the baker in the family, so I wasn't sure how our bread would turn out, but it was pretty good!

Then the curriculum guide suggests you let the children do a "butter battle."  Basically you put cream in a container for the child to shake while you let the mixer make butter, and see who wins.  Well, I knew the "battle" part wouldn't work, but I thought I'd let the girls try to make butter in a jar.  Very quickly I moved them outside to the grass because their jars kept dropping on the ceramic tile (although luckily didn't break).  Both girls lost interest after about 30 seconds, so that was a flop too.  We came inside and I poured their cream in the Kitchen Aid and they watched it turn into butter.  Success!

They also enjoyed eating the bread and butter that they helped make.  Lydia kept saying, "Mmm, this is good bread!"

Lydia did pages 6-12 in Color, Count, and Cut.  We talked about our Renoir prints, and although Lydia can now successfully name all the ones that have English names, she's having difficulty remembering the French ones.  Makes sense.  We also continue to listen to Debussy on a regular basis, although lately Lydia has wanted to listen to Adele instead. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Week 6

We didn't get a whole lot of school done this week, although we did do some.  We had a birthday this week and that, combined with a playdate at our house, made our week pretty hectic.

We did pages 115-120 in Essential Math A.  We're working on comparison words like longer, taller, shorter, etc.  She was struggling with it at first, but is starting to get it.  I love seeing her learn a concept she didn't understand before.
A week or so ago, I can't remember, we were working on place names like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Lately she's been telling me things that go in order.  She'll say, "Lydia is first, Ellie is second, and Adelaide is third!"  I'm happy to see her applying things to life.

The kitchen table ready for Lydia to start school!
Since we stopped doing MEP Reception, I decided we'd pick up Miquon Orange, which I have but have just been waiting to start for some reason.  It is a fairly intimidating curriculum, because it isn't written for parent educators.  There aren't lesson plans, or even a regular set of worksheets and problems.  It is also a very unusual approach to math.  After spending many hours studying it and learning about its methods, I was still nervous to start.  I wasn't even sure if its approach would even mesh with Lydia.

Well, it is going really well!  Miquon relies heavily on the use of Cusineaire Rods, and in order to use them to teach concepts, a child has to be familiar with them.  We've owned ours for several months and I let Lydia play with them regularly.  We did the first few lab sheets from the Orange book, and Lydia went from not having a clue which rod corresponded to which number, to now knowing about 70% of them.  As we were working on it, I could see how this would really help a child internalize a lot of math concepts, and I'm excited to continue.  And Lydia loves it so far too!

We're through Lesson 40 in OPGTR.  Well, that is, she's read words from each.  She hasn't read all of the assigned sentences from the lessons yet, so we aren't going to move on until she does.  Lesson 40 is the end of Section 3 in the book, so it is a good stopping point.  So far she can read all standard cvc words, the sight words "the," "I," and "a" (which give her more trouble than you would think), the sound "qu" and "s" as the sound "z" as in "has" or "as."  We're going to pause for a bit and work on fluency with these concepts before moving on.

Same as usual.  We didn't add anything new yet.  Although I did take a video of Lydia saying all of her memorization (minus the geography).  She lost interest quickly, but if you listen carefully, it is all there.  I promise she knows them.

We finished Bigger Steps and started Color, Count, and Cut, which is the third book in the Rod and Staff series.  We also started looking at our Renoir prints.  We talk about the names of the paintings and we talk about some of the things in the paintings.  We are still listening to our Debussy playlist regularly too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our "School Room"

Now that I have everything I wanted for our learning area, I thought I'd post pictures of our "school room."  It's not a room unto itself, just our dining room.  I wanted to be able to not feel like we're living in a school, so all the things on the walls are not visible from the living room sitting area, which is awesome.

This is our art study wall.  We're doing Renoir this term, via Ambleside Online.  The prints were files that they have and I am allowed to use because of fair use.  I had them printed on cardstock at Office Max for a few dollars.

On the opposite wall is a world map, because Lydia is learning the continents, oceans, and compass rose this year.

 The calendar we use for calendar time daily is on the other side of the doorway.

 This shelf (which is on the back of the wall with the calendar) holds all my curriculum and supplies and the drawers underneath holds all my paper and most of my math manipulatives.  It's the only part of our schooling that is in the living room. You can see the art appreciation wall off to the left side a little bit.

So there it is.  Nothing special, but it works for us!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Week 5

This was another good week.  Last week I talked about how Lydia wouldn't go into her dance class.  This week I worked very hard at talking her through the process before we got there and made the expectations very clear.  She actually went in and participated this week!  I was worried, because I didn't know how she'd do once she got in there, and while she was very distractable, she wasn't any worse than a normal kid would be.  She seemed to have lots of fun.

We went to the library this week, did therapy and dance, and lots of learning!  In my last post I mentioned that I was planning on starting Harvest Time curriculum next week.  A friend pointed out to me that it is scheduled to be started this week.  So, because I already had the books from the library, I decided to go ahead and get going.  We read The Vegetables We Eat and Tops & Bottoms a few times.  Both of these books are about vegetables and talk about what part of the plant they come from, and I thought that both were very good.

This morning we made salt dough vegetables that I baked and we're going to paint them later (I'll edit this post with pictures when they are done).  The whole time were were playing with the salt dough, Lydia kept telling me that she was making "crops" or a hare or a bear.  I guess she was listening to the books!  Please forgive the girls' hair in these pictures.  It was morning and I hadn't brushed their hair yet.

Can you tell which ones I made and which ones Lydia and Eleanor made?

***Edited because we finished them:

They took several hours to dry out in the oven and we didn't get around to painting them until today (several days later).  We aren't artists, and yes, my pumpkin looks like a tiger, but we did it!***

Tomorrow we're going to either go to the grocery store produce department or the farmer's market for a field trip.  It will depend on if it is raining or not.

As for regular academics, here was our week:

We did pages 106-115 in Essential Math A.  We finished up patterns and started measurement.  Patterns took us a while and we spent a few days mostly practicing them with manipulatives.  She still struggles with more complex patterns like ABBABBA or ABCABC.   She has ABABA down though, and I decided that I'd keep working on patterns informally.  No doubt she'll see them again.
I think I've decided to ditch MEP Reception for now.  I just don't really like it for Lydia.  There are too many games and too much talking for her.  I bet Eleanor will like it when it is her turn, but it doesn't work very well for Lydia.

We're working on short "e" words as well as short "i" words.  We are through lesson 35 on OPGTR.  Because I am using the book as a guide and not scripted, like it is intended, I decided that at the very least I would have her read all the practice sentences in it.  I made up a reader for her to read off the iPad.  Basically, I just put a sentence or two on a page, added a relevant picture, and then moved to the next page.  This week I've had her read a page or two of our homemade reader and then she can do Reading Bear, which is her favorite.  She'll practice with Reading Bear for 45 minutes or more lots of days if I let her.  Her reading is definitely improving.

Calendar is more of the same, except I've noticed that Lydia is using her newly found reading skills to guess the day of the week.  She looks at the first letter of the name of the day (so "w" for Wednesday) and then guesses that it is Wednesday.  I'm happy to see her starting to decode these types of things, even if she isn't reading the whole word yet.
For Memorization, we finished the continents and started oceans and the 2nd Article of Faith.  We mostly practice the continents and oceans from a map of the world, but some days I'll get down the globe and we practice them from there.  She almost has the 2nd Article of Faith down.  Oh, and we practiced all of our past memorization every day too.

We did page 23-27 in Bigger Steps and Lydia's handwriting skills continue to improve.  We also started listening to our Debussy selections for this term.  Tomorrow I pick up our Renoir prints and we'll start learning about those as well.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Trying to Round Out Our Preschool Experience

We are doing great with my current plan for preschool right now.  Lydia loves learning and once we get started with a subject, we often spend 45 minutes or more on it because she wants to keep going.  As I've mentioned, right now we're doing reading, math, and memorization.  I got to thinking about my teaching style and our preschool as it is, and it occurred to me that I'm not a project-doer.  I have never loved doing crafts more than 2 or 3 times a year.  It is just not something I am naturally attracted to.  But when I thought about what preschool should be like, I realized that I want my daughters to be able to do fun stuff like that.

After talking to my husband about it, he agreed.  Most of our memories from early schooling are of fun projects we did, and he especially doesn't want our kids to miss out on those types of experiences.  As a result, I think I'm going to try to follow a preschool curriculum, complete with books, crafts, and fieldtrips.  I could do this on my own, but I think that because I don't really want to do it, it probably wouldn't happen if I had to piece it together.

The curriculum I'm planning on following is the free preschool one over at Wee Folk Art.  It is a waldorfy, seasons-based curriculum, but it appears to be very gentle and the crafts appeal to me.  We are right in time to start the Harvest Time one, too.  My plan is to do week one starting next week.  I already have the books for it from the library even!  I'm not going to do the art appreciation or poems because I already have my own plan for those, but everything else is fair game.  I think I might even attempt the quilt!

Another thing I'm adding in is art appreciation and starting up music appreciation again.  I'm still happy to follow Ambleside Online's classical music appreciation.  This term they are studying Debussy.  I made a playlist of the recommended songs and will be playing it every day while the girls are playing.  For fine art, they are studying Renoir.  I've ordered prints of the 6 paintings and am going to put them on the wall in the playroom so the girls will see them often.  We'll also talk about the paintings' names every day and maybe a little about the individual paintings too.

I'm sure I'll go into detail more as we progress through all this, but this is my new plan!