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Friday, October 29, 2010

Teaching Reading: Playing a Foundation to Build On

This wooden magnetic set is my dream... I think it is SO cool... 
though I might play with it more than my kids would :)  
It would serve for letter building and it is AWESOME ( well as expensive!).

Learning Letters:
“Let the child alone, and he will learn the alphabet for himself: but few mothers can resist the pleasure of teaching it; and there is no reason why they should, for this kind of learning is no more than play to the child, and if the alphabet be taught to the little student, his appreciation of both form and sound will be cultivated.”

“When should he begin? Whenever his box of letters begins to interest him. But he must not be urged, required to show off, teased to find letters when his heart is set on other play.”

So. First of all, from an early age, the children must have letters! And those letters must be childproof and durable enough to endure many hours of being wrangled and mangled and even sucked on, because, if he can't play with them, how will the child take interest?  Providing his letters ARE inviting, we may take advantage of his interest in them and point out how each one has a different interesting sound, sounding them for him and tempting him to repeat the sound. This activity can be enjoyed from the earliest ages (CM mentions the infant of 2 years old) or as the child takes interest.
The baby of two will often be able to name half a dozen letters; and there is nothing against it so long as the finding and naming of letters is a game to him. But he must not be urged, required to show off, teased to find letters when his heart is set on other play.

There are a multitude of ideas you can use to teach letter sounds. It is best to specifically teach the letter sounds, with the focus not on the letter name. I recommend teaching not only the basic 26 letter sounds, but the 70 basic phonograms used by Spell, to Write and Read (begin with the 26, adding the multi-letter phonograms later on). Learning all of the sounds and combinations, it is sure to make things easier in the long run, and will bring your child to the point of being able to read almost any reader once he decides (or you decide) to begin.

As for his letters, the child usually teaches himself. He has his box of ivory letters and picks out p for pudding, b for blackbird, h for horse, big and little, and knows them both.

Until the age of 5 years old (CM recommends 6), all lessons should be completely relaxed and playfully informal. Imaginative play, outdoor play, hearing stories, nature walks, memorization (by repetition) of simple poems, hearing another language spoken, etc, will prove more than enough to fill a child's days without formal lessons.

Yes, it astounded all of us that Obama should be the first word she ever spelled. (?)

At around 4 and a half – 5 years old, depending on the child, we may decide to start introducing games for concreting her knowledge of the phonograms (single-letter sounds and later multi-letter combinations). A variety of 10 minute activities may be introduced without the child having chosen them on her own.

I want to strongly emphasize, that this kind of letter play does NOT have to be anything fancy. It doesn't have to involve printables or flashy activities. For instance, we didn't use anything but refrigerator magnets, a foam alphabet set for in the bath, a salt box and letter cards with Bria and Josiah both. And they were perfectly happy! As 3rd and 4th children, they didn't get as extravagant of manipulatives... heheh. I just didn't have time, but I don't think they felt even the least bit slighted, they had no idea! But for those of you with only children or children fairly spaced in age, who have a time to be more creative, by all means! Have a little fun with it. But, keep it simple both for your sake and theirs. :)
(please, I beg of you on behalf of your child, please don't introduce any worksheets until he is around 6 years of age when he will begin writing his letters! if he begs for worksheets - urge him outside! ;)

{a VERY important key to all learning}
“But the learning of the alphabet should be made a means of cultivating the child's observation: he should be made to see what he looks at.”

This is pretty much true of every aspect of a Charlotte Mason education. It is obvious in the areas such as nature study, copywork, and we even see traces of it narration! Naturally then, it also holds true that a child must learn his letters by careful observation. The child should be taught from this early stage to really see the letters. I often use verbal prompts to encourage observation when teaching the letter sounds, “Oh, yes, that's the curvy one /S/,/Z/ that looks like a snake and sounds like one too...” or “See this one is shaped like a /H/- horse! See his tall straight neck and humped back? Where do you think we'd put the saddle?”  (letters marked inside slash marks like this /K/ indicate where I would say the letter sound.)

(though not necessarily in this order)

Air, salt or sand letters.

“Make big B in the air, and let him name it; then let him make round O, and crooked S, and T for Tommy, and you name the letters as the little finger forms them with unsteady strokes in the air.

To make the small letters thus from memory is a work of more art, and requires more careful observation on the child's part. A tray of sand is useful at this stage. The child draws his finger boldly through the sand, and then puts a back to his D; and behold, his first essay in making a straight line and a curve.”

My kids LOVE doing this when they get to the stage of learning to write their letters (around 6 or 7). Another way to do the same thing is to use a salt (or rice or sand) box. Make a shallow pan and fill it enough to cover the bottom. The child can use his finger to “write” the letters. We also use a similar idea when they are learning to write. I like to call it full body cursive!  Using our large motor skills, with an arm outstretched, finger pointed, we trace the letters in the air.  I posted a video of one of our lessons here. Another similar idea is using sandpaper letters that they can trace over with their fingers. I used glitter glue on index cards, see my example here.  Another letter tracing idea I've used is with a Magnadoodle.  I write a huge letter with marker on a piece of construction paper which fits nicely on the 'screen' of a magnadoodle.  The child traces over the written letter, and then lifts the paper to see his letter magically written beneath on the magnadoodle. See an example here.

Find the letter.

This is a GREAT activity for quiet time (or during church!). Pretty much any page with words will do, but sometimes it's better with a slightly large or colorful type. It can go something like this, “This is an, /a/ /A/ /ah/... can you say it? Can you find a Mommy (capital) /a/,/A/,/ah/? Can you find a baby one?”, etc.
There is no occasion to hurry the child: let him learn one form at a time, and know it so well that he can pick out the d's, say, big and little, in a page of large print.

Use this same idea of find the letter with paper letters or refrigerator magnets as well... :) "Bring me the /H/ that looks like a horse." Or, "Can you find the red /B/ that has two big bumps?", etc.

“But the devices for making the learning of the 'A B C' interesting are endless.”

Helpful links:

Some of us are VERY creative and the idea of a resource for ideas to teach letter sounds may sound rather ludicrous. There are others of us who for sake of time or lack of innovation can't seem to come up with anything at all. For those of us who need a little help and more ideas than we EVER could use, here are a couple of links:

*(please keep in mind that you only need a FEW fun ideas to use... don't get out of control! Use in moderation! ;) You don't want your child's whole focus to be the alphabet, it is just a PART of a full living CM education in these early years :)

This is a free online curriculum with innumerable ideas for teaching letters here.
Erica has a TON of printable manipulatives and some really cool ideas on her site (for free), or you can get them all as a download for $10 here (for a sample of her ideas see her post on the letter B, here)

[All CM quotes are in italics and are taken from Volume One, pages 202-204]


Print on your child's favorite colored paper,
cut out and use with learning letter sounds as well as for word-building 
(which we'll cover in the next post).  

(right click and 'save as' to your computer).

Here are some cool alphabet sets for learning letters

More posts in this series:

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two}
Our Story... Just relax! {part three}
Learning to Read - The Scary Myth {part four}
The Two Keys to Teaching Reading {part five}
Playing a Foundation to Build on.  << -- You are here. :)
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Outdoor Hour Challenge #2: Geese... (or not)

While we actually do have geese and ducks plentiful enough around here as some rather scrubby occupants of our neighbors' earth-floored yards, I would so rather have them look at geese and ducks in a more pleasant light as we might see them in the US.  So, I chose that we would do a comparison of the two birds that call our own backyard their home.

We only had about an hour to do this study, so though I would have liked to spend more time, and the kids could have gone on much longer, we did this whole activity rather quickly. It was probably for the best.

First, we went outside and had a very careful look at the parrot. It is hard sometimes to really look at something you see so often. You have to REALLY look to see past it's commonality. Armed with our nature notebooks, we all did a sketch (which if you're going to draw something, you have to really look at it, by the way). This quiet concentration time facilitated conversation about the pigeon who was on hand nearby. :) When inside, we went ahead and drew a venn diagram up to compare the two. The older two boys did their own, while Bria and I worked on ours on the white board and she copied down what we had written there.

Here are our results:

I'm linking up with Barb and the Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge series posts! Thanks, Barb! :)

If you have an entry you'd like included in the blog carnival, read here for more information. The deadline is: October 31st

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaching Reading {part five}: The Two Keys

So, I present to you, without further ado...

The Two Main Keys to Teaching Reading

Make them want it.  

Each child is different and so the key to their motivation will look different for each one.  But whether it's a book they're just dying to read, or the reward* of a personal pan pizza, or they want to be like their big brother, or they want to learn about planets... whatever it is, let them know that their goal (of learning to read) is within their reach!  Gently taunt them with it.  Make them want it!  Once they want it, you show them the tools.  Oh, and when they want it bad, they're willing to work on it (as long as it's still fun of course! :) I seriously think that's all there is to it! 
*(I do not intend to promote the use of a reward-system - as CM definitely was careful in offering *rewards* - but encouragement as you see them making an effort and wanting to learn.  When you notice a developing desire to read... actively nurture it!  I'm not suggesting that the reward be dangled in front of them, but actually the desire itself -  carefully, appealingly remind them that if they work at it, they CAN accomplish goals set before them!  We personally didn't use the personal pan pizza idea - how could we here in Peru? ;) but I know many parents who do.)

Charlotte calls it,
“...the joyous interest which is the real secret of success.”

(...while the tools are pretty much the same for each child, apart from physical issues, some may need extra practice in one or more skill areas than others...)


Use interesting material.

I don't know about you, but this seems completely natural to me. Who on earth would love reading if all we had to read was dull, meaningless unrelated words. For example, imagine our first reading experience if we were given a whole page from the stocks section from NY times, full from top to bottom with letters and symbols like these:

TSX Comp.

Or how about this juicy bit:

...improve the operational performance and the strategic direction for scaling up delivery of mix of anti-malaria interventions in order to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality and overall transmission.

I'd be done. It has ZERO context for me... I would despise being forced to learn to read with that! It is beside the point that the first selection contains a minimum of real words!  Well, I imagine that your children are like mine in this... and not much different from us! We secure their interest and they will delight in learning to read when we present material that has beauty, meaning and context for them!

“The child cares for things, not words; his analytic power is very small, his observing faculty is exceedingly quick and keen; nothing is too small for him; he will spy out the eye of a fly; nothing is too intricate, he delights in puzzles. But the thing he learns to know by looking at it, is a thing which interests him. Here we have the key to reading. No meaningless combinations of letters, no cla, cle, cli, clo, clu... should be presented to him. The child should be taught from the first to regard the printed word as he already regards the spoken word, as the symbol of fact or idea of full of interest.” [p217]

“That's just it. Interest the child in the thing, and he soon learns the sound-sign for it – that is, it's name. Now, I maintain that, when he is a little older, he should learn the form-sign – that is, the printed word – on the same principle. It is far easier for a child to read plum-pudding than to read 'to, to', because 'plum-pudding' conveys a far more interesting idea.” [p209]

“What we want is a bridge between the child's natural interests and those arbitrary symbols with which he must become acquainted, and which, as we have seen are words, and not letters.” [p217]

In regard to one of the reading lessons Charlotte encourages us:
“To make the verses up with his own loose words will give Tommy such a delicious sense that knowledge is power, as few occasions in after life will afford. Anyway, reading is to him a delight henceforth, and it will require very bad management indeed to make him hate it.” [p220]

So, in summary... reading is nothing more than learning to recognize that written words represent the interesting things all around him. There are several basic skills required to accomplish this: Learning sounds (and subsequently building words), and recognizing common words by sight (especially rule-breakers).

We secure our child's interest in learning by early on planting and nurturing the desire to read. We encourage and further their desire by presenting them with interesting material.

Phew!  I've finally made it through all the theoretical part, so next time I'll be back with the hands-on lesson part that is WAY more fun!!  ;)

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two}
Our Story... Just relax! {part three}
Learning to Read - The Scary Myth
The Two Keys to Teaching Reading << -- You are here. :)
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Teaching Reading {part four]: The Scary Myth

How many of us remember learning to read? Unless it was traumatic (a mean teacher, or some learning difficulty), I would guess you're probably like me. I do remember reading my first books, I even remember some of my very first readers (they were Abeka books). But I don't remember clearly enough now to remember HOW I learned to read. I don't remember who taught me, nor which was the first step, nor when and how I figured out the trick to the silent final e's, etc. But I did learn to read. And if you're here, chances are you did too!  But, it's all a little blurry now isn't it?  ...kind of mysterious. Charlotte agrees:
Many persons consider that to learn to read a language so full of anomalies and difficulties as our own is a task which should not be imposed too soon on the childish mind. But, as a matter of fact, few of us can recollect how or when we learned to read: for all we know, it came by nature, like the art of running; and not only so, but often mothers of the educated classes do not know how their children learned to read. 'Oh, he taught himself,' is all the account his mother can give of little Dick's proficiency. Whereby it is plain, that this notion of the extreme difficulty of learning to read is begotten by the elders rather than by the children. [p201]
However, not all mysteries are scary! :) Children don't automatically share the nervous feeling about learning to read that we might have in regard to teaching them! Let's dispel some of the mystery, so that we can relax and enjoy the process with our kids.

So, what does it take to read?

A child already has knowledge of many things and boasts a vast vocabulary by the time he or she is five or six years old. All reading is, is the ability to recognize words as the written symbols representing real things or actions that he already has some kind of relationship with. [p208]
“Learning to read is no more than picking up, how we can, a knowledge of certain arbitrary symbols for objects and ideas.” [p216]
The basic skills needed in order to acquire the ability to read consist in 1) learning to recognize a good number of words by sight (as a sum of their parts) and 2) the child must know the sounds of the letters and acquire power to throw given sounds into new combinations. [p216]
“If words were always made on a given pattern in English, if the same letter always represented the same sounds, learning to read would be an easy matter; for the child would soon acquire the few elements of which all words would, in that case, be composed. [like Spanish for example] But many of our English words are, each, a law unto itself; there is nothing for it, but the child must learn to know them at sight; he must recognize 'which', precisely as he reocognizes 'B', because he has seen it before, been made to look at it with interest, so that the pattern of the word is stamped upon his retentive brain. This process should go on side by side with the other – the learning of the powers of the letters; for the more variety you can throw into his reading lessons, the more the child will enjoy them.” [p205]

When should we begin?

This question is left to individual mothers and their individual children. Charlotte points out that it is open to discussion whether the child should acquire the art unconsciously, from his infancy upwards, or whether the effort should be deferred until he is, say six or seven, and then made with vigor. [p200] There's no wrong answer! Isn't that a relief?! Heheh.

There does come a time in which if the child has not turned his attention toward the skill entirely of his own volition, he will need to be directed (this between 6 and 7). But this does not imply that it is to be any less fun,
“We cannot excuse our volatile Tommy, nor is it good for him that we should. It is quite necessary he should know how to read; and not only so-- the discipline of the task is altogether wholesome for the little man. At the same time, let us recognize that learning to read is to many children hard work [especially those tactile learners!], and let us do what we can to make the task easy and inviting.” [p214]
Are you still a little nervous? Continue to dispel the scary myth by familiarizing yourself with CM's steps to teach reading (which I will be outlining in the following posts). I encourage any of you who are about to embark on this journey of teaching reading to read the section on reading from the CM's original volume.  I've put the entire section from her book which contains the material used in these posts conveniently into one document available for download by right clicking HERE. (select save as... to save the PDF to your computer).

So, in summary... learning to read is nothing more than learning to recognize the written words that are symbols representing the interesting things all around him. There are several basic skills required to accomplish this: Learning sounds and subsequently building words, and recognizing common words by sight (especially rule-breakers). Which I will cover in the upcoming posts. This post got rather long, so I've split it into two.  Stay tuned for next time when we'll look at the two main keys for us to remember when teaching reading.

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two}
Our Story... Just relax! {part three}
Learning to Read - The Scary Myth  << -- You are here. :)
The Two Keys
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

**All quotes indicated with [brackets and a page number] are taken from Volume One of Charlotte Mason's series, Home Education: available online at AmblesideOnline here

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Planning around life.

Well, I'm just pulling my plans together for Term 2 (we started the year early and have to continue on - see note below :), and I've come to realize that the sample weekly list I posted a few days ago was REALLY complicated looking!  hahah!

I guess I'd just gotten used to looking at it since I'd been using it for over a year... but today as  I started subbing this term's information into the boxes... whoa!  I could hardly look at it!  With the cute fonts here and there, it was much too busy.  So, I've renovated and made something a LOT more plain... as well as legible. ;)  I thought I'd put it up here in .doc format and that way if there's anyone doing a AOy6 or AOy2, maybe you could even tweak it to work for you?  Well, regardless, I'm putting it here for my own use... I'll always know where I can find it when I need it!  :)  Also, the list shows how I keep track of multiple students using different years.

Here's what the new format looks like...

Click here to download a copy.

Notes about how I organize:
*I am easily overwhelmed with information overload!  To help with this, I categorize the readings by subject and assign each subject a day (for example, Tues=History, Wed=Literature, etc.).  I do this in order to have a daily checklist.

*I've worked out a daily schedule that we follow loosely, this has been essential for maintaining order around here.  Just to get my head around it, several years ago, I used Managers of Their Homes for working through that.  Our schedule undergoes almost constant tweaking.  Regardless of how I plan, our days are rarely regular.  And we're okay with that ;)

*A daily checklist helps me to easily see the things that need to get done.  When something doesn't get done on the assigned day we move it neatly into 'catch-up' day and don't worry about it a bit until then!

*I re-vamp our weekly list often (as you may have noticed) at the beginning of every term.  I sub in all the readings for that term into the list with page numbers and print off copies for my own use as well as for my older boys.

Keeping it real:

This term includes a good amount of disruptions to normal living as there are two more river trips planned before the end of the year, we'll have guests for several weeks and then will be packing up (putting everything in storage) and moving (across the country to Trujillo).  Then crawling on top of each other adjusting to life in a tiny apartment (for a couple of months... yay!) as well as traveling to and around the US (we may be in Term 3 by then...)  ALL while trying to finish the school year.  heheh.  Life has a way of getting kind of complicated sometimes. (My husband wrote a cool article about our life in missions here.)  At the moment I feel kind of overwhelmed about how it will all work out, but I'm sure it will all work out...

The cool thing is, as homeschoolers we are able to roll with the punches!  We can be flexible!  We can work with what we're given.  Isn't that one of the best perks of teaching our own kids at home?    

I will be finishing my Teaching Reading series this coming week (I've been SO enjoying my study of it). I hope you all will continue to comment and add anything I forget!  Also, make sure to link up in the comments if you've blogged any CM reading lessons so that we can all find them and learn from you!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Burgess Animal Book Resources

We're enjoying Burgess' Animal book again with Bria in AOy2, and this time around I've decided to accumulate my resources!  So, I'm putting them up here to share... of course!
(if you've posted additional helpful information, please feel free to link up in the comments!)

Helpful links:

Download the book here: AO_Year02 (available in .doc or .pdf)

Read online here:

Visit Librivox to download the audio version for free HERE.

We have picture files of the animals in WORD format HERE (thanks to Sandra Yarborough).
Or you can BUY the prints HERE! (hahah!)
I've worked up a pdf using her files and it is available in one file below or HERE.

(these images are the original images to the now out-of-print book)

Right click images (select save as) to download the (PDF) to your computer.

LindaFay from Higher Up and Further In has made a shutterfly album using real photos of the animals HERE. I used these the first time through with my boys. We filled a little 4x6 photo album with these.  Thanks LindaFay!

Extra help:
Kelly Kenar's taxonomy key for further research: online HERE. (or download a PDF - HERE)

In other formats:

KINDLE editions:
for $1:

for $4:
Yesterday's Classics
(we know it'll be good)

Print edition:
from around $5- 10:

Teaching Reading {part three}: Our Story... Just relax!

>>> Fast forward several years to the day my daughter turned five...

If you've read my previous posts here and here, it goes without saying that I now approached this whole area of teaching reading with much fear and trembling. I no longer expected it to be something every child learned by six years of age.

So, admirably, when she turned five, you can guess what I did...  NOTHING! Hah! What a relief!
We kept on the path of learning we'd been happily ambling along... you know the living kind of learning that is really hard to pinpoint or label by subject. She knew her alphabet, and myriads upon myriads of other things. Halfway through the year I decided I'd better get going on teaching her phonograms (as a game... always playing!). By the time she was six and a half, she was quite solid on all her phonograms as well as lots of the spelling rules from having heard her older brothers work.

Shortly after she turned seven she up and decided to read. I gave her a blend phonics book with 'real words' and we sat down several times to work on blending the sounds she already knew.  She played around a lot on her own with her words making sentences and after a few weeks she'd read most of Helen Treadwells early reader books. She really wanted to start into a chapter book right away, so she determinedly worked through the Sarah and Paul books (Patricia St.John), with several more books on her waiting list!

Honestly, I really didn't do anything fancy but listen and prompt letter/word games, a tiny bit of blending practice, and help when she had a question! We are currently still working on building speed and accuracy through practice (mostly on her own, but also with the same reading lessons I will outline later), but OH! what a difference!

However, still not overly confident, I just chalked that success up to the fact that girls are generally quicker in the whole language skills category in these early years. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And still looked tremulously toward the day when I would teach my next aspiring reader.

My youngest boy is now turning six in a few days. We decided to go ahead and work on his phonograms in a relaxed sort of way a couple of months ago because HE wanted to. So, little by little we'd play memory games with the phonogram cards (I use Spell to Write and Read's wonderful materials), mix in a little refrigerator magnets play, no writing, just relaxed, 5 minutes a couple of times a day kind of thing. The older kids take pride in teaching him too, which of course he relishes sweetly. At some point, he recalled that our daughter upon finishing memorizing her phonograms got to celebrate with an ice cream sundae. That was it. He had the first 26 flawlessly memorized within a couple of days. :)
Ice cream is such a motivator!

That was about month or so ago. Today, he finished reading his second Frog and Toad book. Oh my. He's gone off and taught himself too! Of course, there are a lot of practice hours ahead, but for goodness sakes, why didn't anyone tell me anything about this relaxed method?   When a child wants to learn, they'll teach themselves if there's no one else!  Of course, we laid the foundation... he just picked up from there.  We are still doing reading lessons, as I will talk about in another post. But, once again, I did nothing extravagant!

Now, I realize there are learning difficulties out there. I even have a feeling that my eldest is perhaps rather visual-spatial (which is not really a difficulty in itself, if we as mothers understand it and can artfully teach to it). I think every one of us have to thoughtfully evaluate our own children. But in ordinary circumstances, even though learning to read as we are told is a very complex skill, perhaps it isn't something we need to freak out about teaching... maybe it's something that comes kind of naturally given a good basic foundation and a somewhat relaxed approach? Hmmmm.

I've come to realize, especially having to think back in order to write these posts, homeschooling has required my utmost when it comes to problem solving and creativity.  Perhaps sometimes it is simply figuring out what NOT to do that will save us. What a challenge we have!  I'm not an expert.  I'm just here to tell our story, show what we've learned from Charlotte Mason, and what has worked for us. (Oh, and give you some free printable lessons to get you started!)  With the hope that maybe it will help someone else as well.

In the next post, we'll look at what it takes to really learn to read... and hopefully clear up some of our doubts about teaching it. :)

Posts to keep a look out for:

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two}
Our Story... Just relax!  << -- You are here. :)
Learning to Read - The Scary Myth
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaching Reading {part two}: Our Story... Struggle no more

In the last post I admitted that I did not fully trust Charlotte Mason's reading-lesson recommendations. I didn't know then what I know now. But I did know that my kids hated reading, and were beginning to turn sour in other areas as well. I had to do something.  Now, I'm not pro-reward systems, in fact, I remember at times feeling rather volatile toward sticker charts! So, I am not necessarily advocating the following unless you are desperate. I was.

In came a tailor-fit reading incentive program for our family. I worked out a points system based on words per book. With accumulated points they could buy stuff from the bin in the closet. Cool stuff. Big boy stuff.


They left the library with a haul of books each week from then on out. Granted, a good number of those were board books for reading to their younger siblings, not worth a whole lot of points.* But, if you read enough of them, the points do have a way of accumulating. AND they were reading. AND they were motivated. Finally.

Quickly, they realized that more words = more points. More points = better prizes.
{Insert image of dreamy Dollar Store do-dads and giddy Goodwill gadgets}

As they moseyed on over to the easy reader section of the library, I simultaneously became acquainted with the fact that there are VERY few non-twaddle easy reader books. But there are some. They brought these home. We scoured the entire section for suitable books. And they read them, every single one. Three times.

This incentive program was HUGE in getting them over the hump. But it was not yet the clincher.

The point of no return came when they were introduced to Redwall. Brian Jacques IS my hero. Their first exposure was an audio book borrowed from the library. And let me just say that these books are not easy reading (certainly with the British accent they are NOT easy listening). Being a little skeptical of the series, and knowing they were not really ready for a nearly 200-page-pictureless-reading-experience quite yet, I told them they'd have to read the series in order. The library only had the print version of the next book. ;) Wasn't I clever? I dreamed of being able to dangle the Redwall carrot out to keep them motivated over the next month as they continued their slow but sure paced journey through the juvenile section of the library shelves.

This minor setback did NOT discourage them in the least, they were MORE determined than ever. They would have Redwall. They checked that next book out and suddenly they turned into little recluses and became furiously infatuated with the world of Redwall. To this day, I have no idea how much they understood of that first book. But they made it ALL the way through, tag-team style. One would read and narrate to the other. Then the other would read and then he'd narrate it back - all on their own time - over about a month. Hmmmm. Interesting, no? They were about relatively 7.5 and 8.5 at that time.

Well, from that point, it really only got better. We kept on reading aloud a little each day, they read more Redwall, but in addition they were also introduced to Roald Dahl. I wasn't sure if I should be happy or sad about this. I've never read even one of his books, and we own at least 7... all of which the boys read with gusto... in less than a month. Some of the things they've narrated, I've thought... uh, yikes? (So, though I think I feel comfortable with them, please do not interpret this paragraph as a full-blown endorsement of the Roald Dahl books.) We had finally arrived at the point that I could confidently say that these boys were on their way to discovering new worlds by way of books! And, thanks to Redwall and Roald Dahl they had begun to LOVE reading!

So while they were finally reading...
I had NO idea what I'd do with my next up and coming reader who would turn 5 within a couple of months!
In the next post, I'll tell you what we didn't do!  ;)

Posts to keep a look out for:

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two} << -- You are here. :)
Our Story... Just relax! {part three} Learning to Read - The Scary Myth {part four}
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

*(please note, I do always screen the books that make their way to my house, and I have a very strong aversion to twaddle; but desperate times call for desperate measures... so don't blame me if they read a few borderline books there in the beginning. -- I'm just covering my bases here in case there are any CM police in the area... ;)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Teaching Reading {part one}: Our Story... I'm a failure.

It had long been very important to me that my boys LOVE learning.  So you might imagine my disillusionment, when at the prime age of five and a half years of age, my boys pored over picture books, and they were being read aloud to (living books!) - but they had NO interest AT ALL in actually reading to gain knowledge for themselves. Matter of fact, they were quite happy for me to read everything to them. They were completely dependent on me for knowledge!

One of the primary means of educating one's self being through reading (obviously); it was brought to my attention that most other children, my childrens' age, already knew or were at least advancing in the skill (it was not mentioned that they HATED it). If I didn't teach my children to read now, they would not be up to par with their peers.  No one cared to mention the fact that it takes no time at all to catch up, and that it can be done effortlessly in a matter of weeks if the child is excited to learn...  hmmmm.)  Well, I caved.

I had no idea what I was doing when I taught my first two children to read; two very different boys learning to read at the very same time. My youngest boy with a lightning quick memory, but with little to no interest in detail, and my eldest slower to make connections, but quite solid once having figured it out. Sure, I tried some CM style lessons even from this earliest point, as described later on, but I had no confidence and as I said before, no idea what kind of progress to expect. Because of pressure to comply with others' expectations of my children needing to read by the ripe old age 6, we started using a quick fix reading program that put a lot of pressure on memorizing an unreliable set of phonics and words by families. It flopped.

They whined. We cried. They hated reading. And I was devastated

They did eventually learn. Somewhere between 8 and 10 years of age. After 3-4 YEARS of reading instruction. Okay, not exactly true. I did some CM-styled lessons (these among those I will outline in the posts to come), I taught them phonograms, I cut and pasted poems, etc.  But I wasn't at all sure it would work.  After all, the various reading curriculum all make learning to read seem really drawn out and complicated!  Following our reading curriculum failure, I laid off for several months (except for games, hoping to regain that LOVE of learning, somewhat tainted by a forced learning to read), but my husband pushed on (it's not his fault, he never had read Charlotte Mason...:). After many trials and tears, I laid us both off again. After all, they were reading, sort of. It was halting, painstakingly brutal for all concerned. They skipped words, guessed words... um. yeah. I thought we'd pretty much ruined them for LIFE...  
(next time I'll be posting how things turned for the better... so stay tuned :)

{Thanks to some semi-sinister ways on my part, we finally did trick them into reading...  :) }

This is the first post in a series on Teaching Reading that I'll be posting over the next week or so.  I'm putting them here for my own reference and the use of anybody else out there who may find our experience helpful.  In the later posts I'll include step-by-step instructions as well as printables!  All of which, I'm really excited about because I'm just now coming to it again this time around with my littlest guy.

Posts to keep a look out for:

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one} << -- You are here. :)
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two}
Our Story... Just relax! {part three} Learning to Read - The Scary Myth {part four}
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

guest post by Bria...

happy Birth Day Mom I Love you

{I came to the computer to get started on my post on first reading lessons (stay tuned) and that is what I found already written here... see my post over here for more of this girl's sweetness today}


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CM Blog Carnival! Hooray!

I don't know anyone who wouldn't love a CM carnival!  Well, besides my uncle Ron, and maybe my father-in-law's friends... well okay, maybe I'd better say, I know a LOT of people who LOVE a good CM carnival, so how 'bout let's have one!!

There are SO many sights at a carnival like this one, the ferris wheel of habit training (it goes round and round...), the nature study exhibit (perhaps the most popular!), the popcorn stand (or shall we say biscuits and tea?), the artist and composer tent, karaoke hymns, the hands-on booth ... you name it!  You know what you came for!  So, I'm totally curious, what's your favorite part of the carnival?  Please leave me a comment!

Now, I figure that from the carousel we'll each be able to spy out the different sights as we go around... you gals have gone and posted SO much this time around, and I have the feeling this is going to be so FUN you're surely not gonna wanna stop!  So, seeing as the carousel is about to start, find your favorite animal, climb aboard and let's get this show on the road!  :)

Make sure that at each place you stop, if you enjoy what you've read, leave a kind note...  it's the best kind of fun to be among friends :)

*Nancy gives us a chart for looking at training the will  "...20 adults met to discuss our reading of Charlotte Mason's Towards a Philosophy of Education, Chapter 8, "The Way of the Will"... " Of course, everyone wants something practical, something to apply right away, something to use..." So head on over to her place and get the chart!  The Way of the Will Chart posted at Sage Parnassus.

*Scripture memorization in big chunks... "I'm sure we've tried memorizing things before but with this year being our first year using Charlotte Mason methods, we're memorizing scripture."  Be inspired!  Contessa presents Scripture In Pictures

*Nebby questions the good of testing...  "a kind of mental exercise, like lifting weights for the mind. The time limits imposed by a testing environment force the student to concentrate and to perhaps be more systematic and diligent in their thought processes..."  Testing in Homeschool

*Deborah Jean relishes in memories of early CM days...helping us mothers of yet young ones relax in CM methods :)..."It's no wonder I fell in love with Charlotte Mason's gentle learning approach for the elementary ages." ...  Busy Hands, BUSY WORK or both? 

*Shirley Ann talks about the beauty of Artist study as passed down from one generation to the next, and showcases some blooming beauties and how they relate to taking off in reading.  Hello Vincent. AND Spring Blooms and Late Bloomers

*Mama Squirrel presents a reflective post on Listening. You'll definitely want to head over and read this: Don't talk over the music posted at Dewey's Treehouse.

"...for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this - 
that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, 
nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder - and grow."
*Robin has found a relatively painless way to learn new birdsong!  Hilarious.  Creative Nature Study: How to Let Bird Song Wake You Up - Crack the Egg

*Pamela talks about nature study for city-dwellers... "So, one of the things I am always super grateful for when we spend any amount of time in a big city is finding the little refuges where nature has a little bit of space to do her thing, and so do we. Thank goodness people in the past had the foresight to set aside some land for parks before the sprawl of civilization took it all over."   Check out her post here: Trees in the City 

*Melissa's starting and customizing their book of centuries  "...starting at Creation and learning the truth of history from the Bible is one of the greatest gifts I can give my children. From the beginning of time, God's love for us is evident and that continues to be the common thread throughout the course of time.." Book of Centuries...givin' it a go! 

*Becky's CM basics, Living Books, Narration, Art, Composer, Poetry.
"Lots of homeschool parents look into the Charlotte Mason method and get overwhelmed.  Here are 5 easy ways to make the CM method part of your busy day..." 5 Ways to Add a Little Charlotte Mason to Your Routine

*Jeanne talks about how all of life is a classroom, a must read. "How different things are from those first heady days when I was first learning about homeschooling. The book work set me up to succeed, but it was the actual doing that made me a homeschooling mum, not the reading about it."  Learning about learning posted at A peaceful day.

*Nadene talks about motivation!  Very good tips.  All of us have some of those months days, grab some good ideas to turn things around!  Turning those frowns upside down ? Motivation! posted at Practical Pages.

*Penny makes Artist studies a matter of everyday conversation...
Excellent (and easy) idea!  Making an art placemat

*Phyllis shows First Reading Lesson in Pictures!  Nice and easy :)
All Things Beautiful: First Reading Lesson Charlotte Mason Style

*Phyllis does nature walks... just right.  She reminds us of how Charlotte advised was the best way for spending time outside. All Things Beautiful: Taking a Nature Walk

*Anna encourages us not to be afraid to offer our children wholesome foods. CM talks about the importance of balanced nutrition in Vol. one.  For Pure Pleasure: Assume the Best

*Jennifer has talked about her Book of Centuries project and it looks GREAT!  She also made some VERY nice timeline book pages/BOC for purchase. Now Complete! Jewish Book of Centuries (Charlotte Mason style) 

*Laura Grace Weldon is a writer mom pondering education at the grass roots level  :)  Asking questions: Mom Knows Nothing

*Jimmie gives us a CM summary post... perfect for those just starting out to get a handle on some of the basics: Implementing Charlotte Mason Basics posted at Jimmie's Collage.

*Tricia shows us an EXCELLENT idea incorporating, art, cooking, multi-generational learning... and pretty photos :) Pastels Tutorial: Hot Chocolate

*Rachel presents a hands-on feet-on activity for a picture book: Fun Learning Activities for Preschoolers and Kids » Blog Archive » Purple Toes: The Book & Activity

*Makita hopes to show some progress on Copywork, one of those constants... cheer her on at: Copywork Revisited!

*Lynn gives us some images of autumn in Signs of Autumn.

*Need handicraft ideas? Susan has one! Stitching Life: Maple Leaf Handicraft.

*amy in peru shows one way to teach map drills. Hey!  that's me!  You're in the right place!  ;)  Map Skills: What we do posted at Fisher Academy International ~ Teaching Home.

*amy in peru inspires us how to make Nature Study a high priority: Nature Study: One of the Constants here at Fisher Academy International ~ Teaching Home.

HAHAHAH!  It's such fun to talk about myself in the third person :)

OOh... and one last post:

*Richele shares more nature study nitty-gritty facts! More Mechanics of Nature Study!

Alright, time's up!  After the carousel has come to a complete stop, please step off and exit straight to the beach, for some good peace and quiet!  Though I love a good carnival as much as the next mom, I do enjoy the peaceful putting into practice part the best ;)  I hope you've found something you enjoyed! 

It's been so much fun, let's do this every month...
no wait, how 'bout every two weeks! ;)

See you around next time friends... 

So, what's YOUR favorite ride at the CM blog carnival?  
Is there something in particular you usually come to see?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

how to go weekly...

How to make a weekly list using the Ambleside Online curriculum...

...notice I use my AO list to note groceries, and new guitar chords I'm learning too ;)

I need lists.  I need to see what needs to be done, as well as be encouraged seeing what's been finished!  Lists are wonderful!  However, if the list is too long, or too boring, or poorly organized it does me NO good.  I make lots of lists, but the one I use absolutely MOST often is my AO weekly list!  :)

Get a hold of the Term Schedules:

First of all, we are spoiled rotten because of the files AmblesidOnline is coming out with VERY SOON (*edited 4/9/2013) for EVERY AO year in both .pdf and .doc format! You will be able to find all these schedules at or on the forum. I print a copy of the entire year for my Homeschool Planning Day every year and use it extensively in my planning throughout the year.

The same information is available on the AO site for every year.  You'll see the pages for the booklists and the schedules for each year.  But, that long list is SO overwhelming for me... having to find my place each week, and oh me oh my...  I'm so thankful for the Term Schedules!

Here's an idea of what you'll be looking for in minuscule version :)

Term 1

Term 2

Term 3

Basically, what we have here is all the AO subjects/readings for year 2 plotted out by week (horizontally), and books/subjects (vertically).  In a lot of cases it even has the readings broken up.  Sometimes not, it depends on the book because there are different versions available, so you can easily just count the pages in your book and evenly divide it up over the term.

I used to just have a print out of this glued to my forehead handy at all times and crossed everything off as we read/narrated.  It has blank fields for you to add in assignments for math, language arts, foreign language, handiwork, etc.  This was a really easy way to go in year one and two even.  But increase the number of children = the result is more complicated...

SO.  I personally need to limit what I see.  Too much information leaves me feeling quite swamped and overwhelmed.  Which leads me in the direction (finally) this post is supposed to be going; the need for a weekly list.

Converting to a weekly list:

The idea is to basically just transfer all the information from one week at a time from the Term Schedule (or from the AO Schedules online), to fit our daily routine.  I fill out this weekly list each term so that I have 12 weeks done ahead of time.  This is my main task each Homeschool Planning Day.  Transferring the information to a weekly list, counting off pages, filling in the assignments for the other subjects, etc.

If you need help figuring out, or putting order to your daily routine, I highly recommend Managers of Their Homes (MOTH), which was vital early when I was first beginning juggling of days. :)

My weekly list incorporates time frames that normally (hah!) work for us... but we are SUPER flexible.  It's there as a guide, nothing more.  Mainly, I work from the following schedule as a list of what I have to accomplish that day.  Here's an example (sorry it's not super clear).

You'll notice the little checkboxes!  These help me keep track of what everyone's doing and done.  :) I'm such a listy girl :)  Basically, a LOT of the information on this list is just transcribed from Judy's Term Schedules pictured above. I put in every assignment and every reading, the exact page numbers so that not only they know what to read, but I know what they're reading (so that I can stay ahead in the readings, if desired, and so that I can know what they are to narrate).

Every 4 weeks I print off the two older boys and myself a booklet of 4 weeks worth (4 pages) of their weekly assignments.  I print it off using booklet format on my computer and it ends up looking something like this:

Imagine that middle gray as a fold ;)

Of course, I had to go and make a fun version for my seven year old girl to check off her assignments as well, here's a peek at hers (she doesn't have all the page numbers on her assignments because for the most part, we're still doing most of her readings together out loud... they are detailed out on the weekly list pictured above):

Now, I could go on FOREVER about my routine, schedule, weekly list... but I'll stop and see if there are any questions.  If there are, I'll be happy to elaborate  ;)  If not, I'll be satisfied knowing that this post covered everything you wanted to know about how to make a weekly list for multiple children doing Ambleside Online!!   heheh.  ;)

I did make a blank weekly list that someone may be interested in using as a guide in making your own weekly list... it's here:

(right click the image and select Save As... to save the full-size pdf file to your computer)
and here's a zip file of the pdf and doc version :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

education... a masterpiece.

a CM education is like an Impressionist painting… Up close all the living books might seem a little messy like looking at a lot of individual brush strokes… but leave it to the children and keep on painting… adding more and more strokes (books and ideas and experiences). When the painting is done, they’ll stand back having had relationship with the world around them, making connections between what they’ve read and real life experience… and from that point of view, they’ll be left gazing at a most amazing masterful education…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

wide open spaces...

"...there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air. And long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day, from April till October.

Impossible; says an overwrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children than a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighboring London squares. Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them. A journey of twenty minutes by rail or omnibus, and a luncheon basket, will make a day in the country possible to most town dwellers; and if one day, why not many, even every suitable day?"
CM vol.1 pg44

I might have to agree with the overwrought mother, because I think that CM would have been referring to mothers of young children who were not yet in school and so those same mothers wouldn't have had also to be concerned with the training of their older children at home as well.  However,  I've been reading Charlotte Mason's Homeschooling Series, vol. 1 again over the last weeks, especially the last couple of days, and the benefit of outdoor time cannot be overlooked.  We should be outdoors as much as is feasibly possible.  On that point, I absolutely agree.

We like to keep our house open, the doors and windows at least as much as we can bear it with the heat, we all go in and out and through the backyard many times a day.  The younger kids particularly also have obligatory times outside in the backyard every day.  But, our weekly nature walks are WONDERFUL times outside.  I'm going to try harder at making them happen more than once a week.

the family nature walk

 does a body good.  :)

the irrigation canal is dry except for a slimy moss at the bottom

the coconuts grow attached to this part... way up in the palm tree.

every now and again there was a broken spot where water gathered,
here was a TON of little red larvae... dragonfly? 

See those coconut shells? that's what we used to carry a little fish
we found in a little puddle back home... 
we figured he'd die if we left him there, so we'd watch him for a few days 
and then take him back when there was water again.  
But he jumped out and burnt his head.
"Mama called the doctor, the doctor said, NO more fishies jumping on their heads!"

here's an up close of the larvae, worm thing...

...and the almost dead fish.  
as I was saying, he'd been showing suicidal tendencies from the start, 
as he leaped from the coconut shell I was carrying him home in.  
He seemed to survive the first attempt with little ill effect, 
it was the second attempt that proved fatal. :(

a bat we found hanging from the backdoor frame... 
kinda cute.

I think his tiny little feet are kind of endearing, don't you?

one of the nights last week, we decided to go on a frog hunt... 
actually, somebody went out 
and spotted them, and then we sat and watched them for awhile.  
They were as still as statues with the lights on.

these guys are like my best friends. they eat cockroaches...
need I say more?
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