Friday, November 19, 2010

Handwriting Review

A couple of years ago, I started to worry about what I would do for handwriting for my kids. I felt it was important, because I didn't want to keep switching what we were doing on them. With research, I found some articles on teaching cursive handwriting first. It made sense to me. There were a LOT of reasons, which I'm not going to go into here - basically the ones that really stuck for me was that people usually revert to writing what they learned first, and that cursive is actually easier.

With more looking, I started out with a program called "Cursive First". It was designed to be used with a reading program by the same company, but could be used alone. When Delta started Year 1, we started up with the Cursive First.... which seemed to take us a long time. In the spring of last year, I had some reservations. His handwriting was 'ok' when we were doing handwriting - but any other time - even writing his name - he used an untaught print. Of course, it doesn't help that anytime anyone writes anything for kids, they print. But on top of that, he had to have the model of what he was to write right above him, and it was slow!

So - I did more research, talked to some people, and got more recommendations. And, I found "Peterson Directed Handwriting". I also happened to find this right as Echo started begging for writing lessons. Oh yeah - she is left-handed!

Peterson Directed Handwriting uses a different concept than most handwriting programs. Instead of tracing dotted lines with a pencil, or other means of tracing - instead you talk as you write to use a different part of the brain, and to create muscle memory.

Peterson does have a manuscript print option, and then courses to transition to cursive - but they also recently added in a learn cursive first option. They also now have PDF lessons that you buy so you can print your own lessons. This is what I used. Oh, the cursive is designed so that you can do a cursive print if you want.

For Echo, I put her into the Cursive Step 1 program. It is designed for a K or grade 1 student. I also found some information on their site on doing it with a K student. (I also found information on teaching a left-handed student, how their paper should be turned, etc.) So far she has learned about 5 letters. The Step 1 program has the pages in alphabetical order, with the idea that you just teach them in the order used by your reading program... but Echo is reading already. We are doing it in the order used by Step 2. Oh, btw, did you know that almost all the lower case letters can be made with a combination of 4 simple strokes? So, I must admit that Echo's writing is not very ledgible so far... but then again, she is only 4. When she wants to write something..... well, she does something vaguely resembling print.... and she tends to write from right to left.... is this common for left-handed kids? The only thing I don't like is that the practice sheets have both the capital and lower-case letter on the page, and I want to focus on just the lower case. sigh.

For Delta, he is in Cursive Step 2. You don't have to have done step 1 first, but I do use the Step 1 sheets to introduce the letter, then he does the step 2 sheets for actual writing. He is now about 4 letters away from knowing all the lower-case letters, and I'm impressed. The letters are organized by how easy it is to use. He is at a stage where he has a page to learn 3 or 4 letters at once.... then the next day he has a page of words using those (and previous) letters.... then maybe another day of words.

One other thing I like though is periodically, there is a fluency test..... the student is given 1 minute to write, and then you count how many letters were legible. So, I can see the progress. Also, when he is copying words right now - the words are written at the TOP of the page, smaller than he writes them. This to me is a good step towards writing more independently. I know that in a later lesson, the words he will be writing are just typed above - not in the cursive font. At that point, copywork should be easy to do.

There are later steps in the program - either done by people who are just starting out at an older age, or to further refine a student's writing. They introduce the letters again (at a faster rate) and work with smaller lines, and eventually changing the proportions of some of the letters to create a better look. I plan to use those in future years. There is also a couple of PDF's of master-words used to help you increase fluency in writing.

I have been thrilled with this program! The makers were VERY helpful when I had a few questions, and it is inexpensive. They do have a CD with their font(s) you can buy, but that was out of our budget. That is the one thing I wish I had - the font to make copywork or better practice sheets for Echo (as step 1 doesn't have any words either) - but I know that Delta will soon be writing copywork without having to have it in a cursive model.

A Simple Thing

The other day, I did something really simple. I took a map that I printed a year ago of the world (it is on 6 pieces of paper taped together), and taped it to the wall near our kitchen table. The kids had seen the map before on occasion, we own a globe, and often use Google Earth. Yet, this simple action has been a big hit. The kids have ON THEIR OWN gathered around the map pointing out the various continents, and countries that mean something to them. Some place will be mentioned on the TV, and they will run to point it out on the map (not always correctly, mind you).

I'm sure the novelty will wear off at some point, but in the meantime they are getting a better understanding of where things are in the world. And when the novelty HAS worn off, I can always change it for a Canadian map.......

[I would post the link from where I printed the map.... but the link listed on the map doesn't work anymore. It was somewhere on the National Geographic Site...]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


As like every year, we went to a Remembrance Day Ceremony. Delta, at the ripe old age of 7, has been to 8. His first, he was a babe in arms. Likewise, Echo has been to 5 in her 4 years. I have always felt it important for the children to go, so that they will understand in time what freedom costs, and the price that has been paid. Yes, at times I have had to take out a fussy child.... but as I was watching my children behaving quite well and being quiet when they should, and clapping during the March Past (and Delta even marching in his spot), I know it has been worthwhile. What really makes me feel that the message is being heard happened later this evening. We turned on the TV, and the replay of the National Remembrance Day Ceremony was just starting. And instead of playing, Delta sat and watched it.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scouting Plan

In Canada, I recommend using the BPSA Scouting Program. However, Scouts Canada, or Girl Guides of Canada also have good programs. Note that both BPSA and Scouts Canada can be co-ed.

For each Age, I've put in recommendations of which badges to work on. Note that your leader may want to do things differently! You may also work on more badges. If you don't join at the earliest age, you will want to try to earn the badges mentioned for earlier ages as well.

Although I am listing badges for each age, for Otters (in BPSA) and Cubs (in SC), the main program badges (paws, or stars) each cover a specific type of activity, like outdoor activities or handicrafts, etc. To keep things balanced, you should do a few activities from each main badge every year.

BPSA (see alternatives below)

Age 5 - Otters

Investiture Badge
Safety Badge
Plant a tree and look after it for a year for the Green Paw
A Field Trip should occur to go towards the Service Badge
A few nights of camping to go towards the Camping Badge

Age 6 - Otters (Alternatives - Beavers or Sparks)

Blue Paw (Activity)
Red Paw (Helping)
Tan Paw (Handicraft)
Plant a tree and look after it for a year for the Green Paw if you haven't already
A Field Trip should occur to go towards the Service Badge
A few nights of camping to go towards the Camping Badge

Age 7 - Otters

Green Paw (Outdoors)
Camping Badge
Service Badge
Swimming Otter Badge

Age 8 - Timber Wolves

Investiture Badge
1st Star
Life Skills
- other badges as interested

Age 9 - Timber Wolves

2nd Star
First Aid
- other badges as interested

Age 10 - Timber Wolves

Leaping Wolf
- other badges as interested

Age 11 - Timber Wolves or Explorers

Age 12 - Explorers

Age 13 - Explorers

Age 14 - Explorers

Age 15 - Explorers or Senior Explorers

Age 16 - Senior Explorers

Age 17 - Senior Explorers

Age 18+ - Rovers

Scouts Canada

Age 5 to 7 - Beavers

Beavers has no badges

Age 8 - Cubs

Investiture Badge
- other badges as interested

Age 9 - Cubs

- other badges as interested

Age 10 - Cubs

- other badges as interested

Age 11 - Scouts

Age 12 - Scouts

Age 13 - Scouts

Age 14 - Venturers (or Scouts)

Age 15 -
Venturers (or Scouts)

Age 16 - Venturers

Age 17 - Venturers

Age 18+ - Rovers

Girl Guides of Canada
The Guiding program has changed significantly since I was last involved, and I no longer have up-to-date information about the badges.

Age 5 to 6 - Sparks
Age 7 to 8 - Brownies
Age 9 to 11 - Guides
Age 12 to 14 - Pathfinders
Age 15-18 - Rangers or Cadets or Junior Leaders (Senior Branches)

Otter Hike

We have been having rather warm weather for the season so far this fall, which was nice for our Otter Hike the other weekend. (If you aren't sure what Otters are, it is scouting in Canada for ages 5-7 through the World Federation of Independent Scouting. (not Scouts Canada).

We hiked about 3km on a nearby nature trail. The kids had a great time.... and we even saw 3 deer!

We planned to pick-up litter on the trail to do a trail clean-up.... but there wasn't any litter to pickup.

On another topic - Golf is doing well, and is sleeping through the night. Mind you, she seems to eat ALL morning to make up for it, but it is nice to be able to sleep at night.