Thursday, March 5, 2015

Still alive! - and Reading Progress!

Ok, it has been a long time since I posted.  Honestly, it is because we are struggling a bit this year, and my time is also limited. This year I have 3.5 students, with only a small amount of independence, and it is keeping me swamped.  We are 'behind' where I would like us to be, and I don't have enough hours in the day for what we are doing.

I thought I would update with a program I am trying for reading progress in my students.  This is so totally NON-CM - but our first week with it has gone well.

In December I was sharing with a friend of mine my frustration with the work on reading with the kids. Her husband happened to be nearby, and mentioned an old program that they had downstairs - hooked on phonics.

So, I took it home and looked through it, and did a bit of research. It is based on 'SRA' Reading Labs - but scaled down for home use. Basically it has short readings at a basic level, followed by some comprehension questions, and then a few questions in a section on 'learn about words'. It is designed to be done independently, and checked independently.

With this home version, it has 100 of these little cards that start at a 'basic' reading level, and progress to 'high school'. It looked intriguing (and a little familiar) - but I wasn't quite sure how to implement it... it says to do one daily - but obviously even a normal child can't go from basic to high school reading in 100 days - so I wasn't sure what to do when the child hits their limits..... Delta was also fascinated by the look of the program and wanted to do it.... 

So - I started researching the program it is based on. It apparently has been around since the 60's and has been used in a lot of schools and still is in some. I am quite sure that I used them as a child in grade 1. The big thing is it lets a teacher have students of varying levels work on reading skills at the same time.... and it helps struggling readers.

There are lab kits of various levels (kits 1a, 1b, 1c are generally used for kids in grades 1-3 (well, more like 2-3) kits 2a-2c are generally used for kids in grades 4-6) there are level 3 and 4 kits as well for higher grades.. In each kit there are 10-12 colour levels which have readings of all the same 'level' - and there are 12-15 readings per colour level. The levels go from below the target grade level to above. Students would take a basic placement test, and then pick readings from their colour level and do the questions, and evaluate themselves. After doing a few in their level, the teacher and the student would look at how they are doing and decide when to switch colours.

Well.... I checked our teacher library (which we get to use) - and they had 2 of the kits! I got them on Monday (I took both, one is a kit 1b and the other is level 2b.) These ones are pretty old, 1969 and 1973 - but fairly complete considering. There wasn't a sample student book for the level 1b - I've had to make my own from guesses and descriptions and looking at the 2b book. I also have made a student book for 2b looking at the sample one in the kit. I've looked at a few of the readings and they are pretty interesting. Oh, the one other problem is there is no placement test in the 2b book.

So - it is time to return the kits to the teacher's library and here is my results.

We ended up just using the 1b level because it had less writing.  The stories were still interesting for all the kids, and I think there was things to learn for everyone even using this level.  Foxtrot and Echo do enjoy the 'Power Builders', and did learn things from them.

But Delta is definitely a success story in my book.  He has worked to the top colour level in 1b (about a 4.5 grade reading level) -  and is ready to move to a mid-level in 2b.  He hadn't really hit a ceiling where he needed to stay for a while, so could potentially be reading even a higher level.  But even more important - his reading in general has improved.  He has read a couple of books that I think before he would have not been able to understand what was happening.  And I got a comment from his Sunday School teacher about how his reading in class has improved and that he seems more confident.

Besides the SRA Labs, I intended to do Sequential Spelling as well as Alpha Phonics.  Actually that was my plan last September.

I was going to do Sequential Spelling with all the kids at once because it is designed for a classroom or just a few kids, or just one.  I didn't have the DVD - just the book.   We did a few lessons - but the different speed of writing was annoying them and it was getting frustrated. So it fell by the wayside.

The Alpha Phonics was going to be my reading remediation with Delta.  We have done a number of the lessons - and although he was doing great (we are in the early lessons that are easy) occasionally he would first say the wrong word or syllable.  I do have to say - it is a pretty boring process.  I've tried to be consistent - but as I mentioned - I've been struggling to juggle with 3 students that need me for a lot of things.  

 Today I got in the mail a gift from an internet friend - it is (Classic) Phonics Tutor.  It is a CD-ROM program based on Alpha-Phonics (but NOT the CD-ROM/DVD that now comes with phonics which seems to be just the book and a few videos.)  No - Phonics Tutor (Classic - no idea about the new version) actually does the Alpha-Phonics book in an interactive way.    It presents the phonograms and words (reading them to the student) then lets the student study them by clicking on them to hear about them.  It also presents spelling rules, as well as basic Capitalization and punctuation.  It then has exercises where words are typed in, as well as word read.  There is also dictation to be typed in.   And the great thing - although there is a teacher's manual with some notes on things to teach/do (and information about every lesson on the computer including the screens) the program is designed to be quite independent!   So we will be giving this a try to see if it helps.   This might be a nice change to focus on while we have a break from the SRA Labs.

Just in general otherwise - I have decided that for the rest of the year, that Ambleside Online is being put on the shelf for re-evaluation for next year.  I need something that I can (yes, I'm saying it) combine my kids for a little while, and just focus on a combination of some basics and some fun items for a bit.  I think I have a basic plan in my head for this half of the year that will not feel like a never-ending to-do-list while still keeping our options open for next year.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Summer over, School started.

Here is a post I started - but then blogger crashed, and I gave up for that day....

I hope to find time to blog a bit more - but I'm finding it harder with more kids in school to find time!

Here are a bunch of pics from our summer.  School is going ok so far this year - a bit of fun trying to juggle more kids!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

RightStart Card Game Storage

Ok, I haven't gone away.  I've even tried to post a couple of times, and something would always happen.   Anyway, life with 3 students and a preschooler have kept me busy busy busy!

I mentioned on the RightStart Yahoo group that I had finally found the perfect storage for our Math Card Games box.... and everyone wanted pictures.... So here we go.

I was in Ikea, looking in their storage box area, and there it was... a box with nice slots for cards, deep enough for the Number Card Deck, with slots big enough for envelopes for the multiplication deck sets...  and I figured it would be perfect.   I have also bought a couple of little boxes designed for holding paper clips / safety pins at the dollar store.  They are working well for the Corners cards, the Clock Cards, and the Clock Cards that come from Level A/B Appendixes.   Finally I have the Tally Stick / Finger / Abacus / Bead Cards right now in a ziplock bag - they are a bit longer than normal cards, and I haven't found a solution for them yet.   Folded in the bottom I have a hundred chart and the Swim to 10 board.  There is also room for a couple of pencils, a notepad, and a few legos for Swim to Ten.

The Ikea box is a "Glis" box which is about $5 in Canada.

The total cost of this storage solution was about $8, except of course I got the safety pins and paper clips as well.

The only thing that would make it better is if I could put the card games book in there too.

You may want to read about our Manipulatives Storage too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Curriculum Plan for 2014-2015

So Tristan on Our Busy Homeschool has made a linky for us to share our plans for the next school year, and I thought I'd go for it.  Some of the plans aren't totally figured out yet - but this may also help with that!

First off, we use AmblesideOnline (AO) for our base curriculum.  We do some Canadianizing by removing some of the US history and adding Canadian History and some Lit.  You can see those general changes elsewhere on the blog, so I won't go through them again.

AO includes a lot of our topics like History, Science, Geography, etc - and then has items where you choose your own curriculum - like Math or Latin.

Delta (grade 6) - AO Year 4.  I don't think we will do all the new things added in Year 4 for the entire year - I expect to add them 1 or 2 items per term. 

Echo (grade 4) - AO Year 3.

Foxtrot (grade 1) - AO Year 1

Golf (grade K4) - AO Year 0


I am looking at the Getty-Dubay handwriting series.  It is pretty similar to the italic we are already doing, and I've heard really good things about it improving handwriting.  I'm just tired of making my own.  I will probably add some copywork from readings or other sources as well to get the benefits that good copywork selections provide. 

Delta - Level F?

Echo -  Level C or D?

Foxtrot -  Level B?

Golf  -  none


Delta - possibly Rewards Secondary? 

Echo -  McGuffey's 2nd Reader

Foxtrot -  McGuffey's 2nd Reader

Golf  -  Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons


We use RightStart

Delta - Finish Level D, Start E.  I am looking at 'Hands on Equations' to add some higher math concepts.

Echo -  Finish Level D, Start E

Foxtrot -  Level C

Golf  -  Level A (done as interested)

 A non-CM part of our day.  I'm debating between continuing All About Spelling or switching to Sequential Spelling.     We made some really good progress in spelling with All About Spelling - especially with Delta where nothing else seemed to be working.... but it is getting a lot harder as we go along to remember everything.  It also takes me 15 to 20 minutes a day each with Delta and Echo.  With Sequential Spelling, it would be maybe 10 to 15 minutes, and I could do Delta, Echo, and possibly Foxtrot together.  And if I was fortunate enough to get the DVD's it would be a something they could do independently.  (And it is a LOT less expensive!)

Foreign Language

Delta and Echo want to continue with German, even though we aren't getting anywhere.  I need a good program that we can use consistently.  Suggestions?

Echo and Foxtrot want to continue with ASL.  Not sure about Delta.  We need to find something a bit more than Signing Time, but a bit less than ASLU.  Suggestions?

Foxtrot has not been at all interested in German.  French would be more helpful here, and there are a lot more resources...  am I crazy enough to try yet another language?

Latin: AO starts Latin in Year 4, so that would include Delta.  I have heard a lot of benefits, and think we will give it a go.  I'm thinking 'Getting Started with Latin'

Musical Instruments

This is an area that really hasn't been going well.  And it is added into AO Year 4.  We have done violin but it just is NOT going well.  We own lots of instruments, but the kids just don't like to practice (common problem) and I just don't seem to have the energy to get them doing it.  But I do feel it is really important.  So do I try more on Violin?  Organ/Keyboard?  Recorder?  something else (we have a flute, guitars, harmonicas, etc.)


We have been using Drawing Textbook... but it is a little.... boring.  We own a couple of Draw Write Now books as well. I do own "Drawing with Children", but find it so intimidating.... 


Only Delta is at the age to start Grammar.  I'm going to try out KISSgrammar which is free online and that I've heard a lot about.


We will be doing AO's science in the years - but I am considering doing a family science - 

either one of the Exploring Creation Series by Fulbright... 
 or one of the Science in the series by Wile.


Everything else will be following AO rotations and years.

Monday, June 16, 2014

End of Year!

Well, another school year has come and gone.  I remember in September worrying about how in the world I was going to do it with 3 kids needing school, plus a toddler.  In the Fall, we were behind my planned schedule, and I was worried.  I made a few changes, and we have actually finished the year a it ahead of schedule!  (Ok, I have about 2 math lessons per child left....)

Mind you - I am panicking about the upcoming year.  3 children in 3 different AO years, and Golf moving up to the age that I generally start offering some instruction in the basics.  Not to mention that Delta is getting into a heavier year.  I'm sure that at the end of next year I'll be chuckling at my worries.

In the meantime, we have been enjoying ourselves during good weather with things like trips to the zoo.  Enjoy the pics!

Coming Soon: - our rough plans for next year!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Scouting!

The last week or two has been even more scouting.  Most of it has been pretty exciting though....

First, on Saturday,  the Scouts and Venturers had a Lego Mindstorms Workshop, and the last-year cubs were invited. This involved making various lego robots, and then programming them.

Building the Robot

Delta has a sense of humour - his caption for this is
"You thought you were having a bad day"
Almost done - this robot has a sensor to detect colours.

Will Delta's robot follow a black track?  I'll never tell!
In the morning, they made robots from a selection of plans.  In the afternoon, they could build one from their own design.  Some of the older kids took up the challenge to make a robot that could climb a rope.  Delta chose to make a fighting robot instead.

The Finished product

Delta downloading the program he wrote to the robot

Next came the scout meeting and.... Archery!  This was Delta's first chance at this sport, and he discovered that Legolas makes it look a lot easier than it is.

Legolas makes this look so easy.....
A couple of days later - it was the cub meeting night.  This one was a special meeting though, as the third year cubs were leaping up to Scouts.  

Saying goodbye to the Cubs

Changing uniform under the parachute....
Getting invested as a Scout

Mom gets to put on the Woggle (Neckerchief Slide)
Welcomed to the Troop!

My Scouting Kids

Great selection of Scouting Uniforms in our family!
(Looks like Echo is getting eaten by the Wolf!)

 Then the next Saturday,  the Scouts (including Delta) were selling hot-dogs and Chocolate Bars to make money for their summer camp in the States!   Meanwhile, the Cubs and Beavers were getting pledges for Scoutrees, where they get pledges to plant trees.

 And coming up.... Tonight Delta goes to cubs, and I get to receive a Scouting Award from the Lieutenant-Governor for service!  Later this week, cub meeting, more chocolate bar sales, and so on....

And yes - we are still doing Homeschooling.  Delta is up to the first-quarter test in Math (he started a new level in February) and Echo is close behind.   Spelling is going fine.  And we are on about week 30 of 36 weeks in our AO years.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Duke of Edinburgh Award, Hug a Tree, Lots of Scouting, and more

Life has been SO busy recently - I'm sure you have all given up reading my blog because of the lack of new posts.

I've been really busy with Scouting Recently.  Besides the meetings and activities, I've been taking some training.  That has included working on the WoodBadge II training for Leaders.   I've already earned it years ago as a Scout Leader and a Rover Advisor - now I'm taking it as a Cub Leader.

Temperature for the Klondike Derby!
Delta and Echo were outside for about 5 hours that day...

Echo and Delta starting out on the Klondike Derby
One of those activities was the Klondike Derby - where Scout troops and Cub packs compete at 10 various 'towns' doing things like building bridges, starting fires, and riding a zip line.  Our pack usually has a 'dog sled' (pulled by the cubs) - but it was frozen in snow this year, so they used backpacks to carry their provisions.

Big Brown Beaver's Birthday Cake
Part of my Woodbadge II training was held at the same camp as the Area Winter Beaver Camp.  As this year is the 40th anniversary of Beavers in Canada, it was a Birthday Party theme.  This cake was too good not to share.... well at least the picture of it.

See the Beaver in the 3rd slot?  That is Foxtrot's Beaver Buggy

Foxtrot got to start a race!  (Cars are already down the track)

Golf got to start a Scout Trucks race!

Foxtrot, Echo, Delta, Golf with their Cub Cars.  (Golf has Delta's from last year)

We also had the Cub Car rally this month with the church,  Although the church doesn't sponsor Cubs, Foxtrot came in uniform with her beaver buggy, and she got to run her buggy with the Cub Cars.  There were also Scout Trucks running.

I have also felt it was a good idea to be trained as a mentor for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  This Award is available for youth ages 14-25 in various (if not all) Commonwealth Countries.  It is quite challenging, but works well with Scouting - and is often included with scouting in Venturer Companies and Rover Crews.   One thing that is cool is that my province has a semi-unofficial challenge for youth ages 11-13 which Delta will be able to start this fall.

As well as that, I also took training to be able to present the "Hug-a-tree" program.  I was actually trained years ago when it was run by the RCMP, but it is now run by a not-for-profit organization, and there have been a couple of updates to the program.   This program teaches youth ages 5-10ish how not to get lost in the woods, and what to do if they are.  (This program almost perfectly completes the Cub level 'Trailcraft' badge....)

Also, Canadian Scouting is going through a review and redevelopment.  They are just starting to pilot some of the changes now, and the pilot programs will continue through next year.  The new program will be implemented Fall 2015 if things go as planned.  I have been attending various meetings about the new program, and hope to become a Mentor for Cub Packs that are doing the pilot, and for the implementation of the new program in 2015.  There may be many interested people though, so not sure the likelihood of being selected.  It looks like it has a lot of potential (besides, it is better to be on board with change that is definitely coming rather than drag your heels...)  I hope that the program turns out to be great!

Here are some pictures from the last couple of months.
Foxtrot figuring out a problem involving hats and shoes - using Tiles

Foxtrot and the Geoboard - Finding all the lines of symetry I think...

One of those homeschooling moments
The Sword in the Stone being reenacted just because they wanted to

 Well, I hope to do better at keeping this blog up....  I hope you enjoyed the pictures!