What We Did, April 2010

I haven’t kept very good notes this month but . . .

The handwriting books are working well enough. I do feel like having a book makes them want to move on before they have truly mastered a letter, but then, what is mastery? At this stage, I think it is enough if they are forming the letter in the right sequence, perfect slant and shape are not required. They do have improved handwriting. We have done perhaps two pages a week, and also instead still do some spelling words. They are now paying attention to landing their letters at the right place, so that is a great improvement. In spelling, we worked on the "ing" sound and spelling long I with "igh."

It amazes me how interesting they find these spelling lessons. I try to start with a word or sound I have seen them trying to spell, and have them point out peculiarities in the spelling. I am encouraging D1, especially, to "take a picture" in her mind of the whole word and then write it out on her own paper. D2, who is still working on learning his letter formation, prefers to copy letter by letter and usually does fewer words.

They also, D1 especially, did some free writing, a letter to grandparents, some whole paragraphs about various occupations and what they do.

I have added a couple of simple songs in Spanish, translations of "If You’re Happy and You Know It," "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes," and our own simple song, "Ten Little Fingers." This has gone over terrifically well. The twins join in, and we are picking up the numbers, body parts, and a few verbs that I was hoping. We do them as part of our morning song time, and sometimes at other times, too. Once we are comfortable with them, I’d like to add a couple of genuine Spanish folk songs. For now, having familiar tunes, gestures, and known English words is providing a nice bridge. I’m working from materials at the Songs for Teachers site.

Our morning song time has been working really well, although sometimes we ditch it in favor of getting outside before it starts raining. We sang "He Arose" and recited Psalm 24 through the end of April. We’ve also been doing the Books of the Bible, and D4 even requested, "Moses! Moses!" one day.

On read-alouds, Dr. Dolittle has continued–I fear it’s gotten way over their heads, but they still want to continue, so we do. We’re nearly done. It’s a LONG book. Poetry has been A. A. Milne. We have read a few more geography books, mostly on the desert: Desert Giant, Coyote Raid in Cactus Canyon, and Saving Sweetness. They’ve also requested some books on boats, and princesses (harder to find ones worth anything than I would have thought–I think we’ll stick to traditional fairy tales) and some Mother Goose books. (Sadly, our own Mother Goose collection was packed in the one box of children’s books I still can’t find.) We checked out some pictures and blogs online about the desert.

We have done a fair amount of watching things outside: deer, birds, rabbits, chipmunks, and most of all . . . slugs. They move slowly, you see. The twins are especially fascinated; in general, they are more observant of animals than the older two. The older two are observing the fruit trees flower and set fruit, especially the fig.

D1 rather painfully discovered that some plants have poisonous sap and should not be tasted. Fortunately it was a less toxic variety and she only had a sore throat and facial rash for a few days.

D1 and D2 tried to make kites, although not too successfully. Then I tried to make one, but that one hasn’t gotten off the ground, either. I blame it on the wind dying down. They’ve had fun cutting and taping, anyway.

We had a really interesting mathematical discussion when they were trying to settle splitting a juice box. They knew a minute was a count of 60. D1 first suggested that they count while sucking for a half of a minute, and they worked out how long that was. (Sixty is six tens, half of six is three, so three tens, thirty.) I suggested that was too long, so they decided to go for a quarter of a minute. Working out half of thirty was trickier–I took out three apples and helped them visualize dividing them in half–three halfs or one and one half more. Then translating that into tens–half of three tens is one ten and half a ten more, or fifteen.

We also had a rather amusing mathematical discussion when Her Majesty came home after supervising the first and second grade annual testing at the school where she usually teaches high school math. She was not too impressed with how hard the children had found the questions, and to illustrate, she asked D1 and D2 if they found it hard to add seven and six. Not used to being quizzed, D1 balked, and I pointed out, "Suppose you had six cards (we were playing cards) and D2 had seven, how many would that be?" D2 immediately said, "Then I would win!" (He also promptly came up with the right answer.)

They looked at house plans and drew houses. Then they got more interested in boats and have started drawing boat cross-sections.

AWANA finished and both of the older children finished their books; D1 also finished the first review set. We can tell D1 is suffering for the lack of outside interaction (or maybe it’s the rest of us recluses suffering from her desire to interact more). Anyway, I am going to be looking around for classes for her to attend, maybe art classes, which she would really enjoy.

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