Tag Archives: Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

Day in the Life 2013

Date: January 30, 2013

Players: Henry (7), Samuel (6), Kate (4), Becca (4)

The conundrum: It’s been a rough month getting back into the groove after the fun of the holidays. Kind of like trudging through the mud. I’ve been realizing lately that my children excel in the Art of Leisure (a.k.a. dilly-dallying) and that when we do school well, it’s to the exclusion of everything else. But we have to eat. We’re nicer to be around when we wear clean clothes. I’m more positive and patient when clutter is picked up. So what’s a mom to do?

The solution: Ha! Of course it’s not as simple as that. I think we’re probably only on version 1.6 on our way to success. But we’ll get there.

No, seriously, I spent last weekend brooding over this conundrum and woke in the middle of the night with a brilliant plan in my head. We had a Homeschooling Huddle on Sunday to talk about the new plan and get the kiddos on board. It was simply this: each child is assigned an hour slot in the morning to work with Mom one-on-one. When their tutoring session is over, they finish their assigned work independently before they’re free for the day. Simple enough.

So this is how the plan went down on Wednesday, January 30th.

I (surprisingly) popped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. ready and rarin’ to go. I read a chapter in the New Testament before double layering my usual walking attire and heading out into the 45-degree-plus-a-stiff-headwind  morning to meet my walking buddy.

I returned at 6:30 with a cold, red nose, and after stretching, bundled up in a cozy blanket and downed a couple of chapters in Don Quixote. The house still quiet, I took advantage of the extra minutes to enjoy  a quick, but nice warm shower. By the time I got out and dressed, the sleepy kiddos were starting to stagger into our room bleary-eyed, looking for a cuddle to help them wake up.

By 8: 15 a.m., the day’s normal volume had been attained and pop-up pancakes were baking in the oven. I fixed a bowl of greek yogurt and granola for the son with the egg allergy. Dad headed off to work for the day.

Now, the new schedule mandates that I begin school with Child #1 at 9:00. This has been a lot harder than I thought it would be but today, I knew the schedule needed to bend a little. Why? Double-ad Wednesdays at Sprouts. The kids and I have this worked out to a science. We try to be out the door by 9:30 at the latest so we can skip morning commute traffic but also avoid the lunchtime crowd at the grocery store. The kids are all actually very good at selecting the produce for the week and we can usually get all of the groceries we need (mainly produce, dairy, and bulk items) and be back in the car heading home in around 30 minutes.

We returned home by 10:15 a.m. and by 10:30, the cold-sensitive groceries now residing in the refrigerator, Samuel and I were in the middle of a math lesson on adding double digits to double digits (RightStart B). He kind of had a case of the dilly-dallies so I decided to cut the lesson a little short and push the math game for the day to Thursday. He read a chapter of The Littles to me while we cuddled on the bed together. I helped him work through a page in Explode the Code Book 5. Then we called Henry to join us for grammar (First Language Lessons Book 2) and writing (Writing with Ease Book 1). Then Sam was off for some independent reading while I did math with Henry (determining perimeter, also RightStart B).

By now it was 11:40 a.m. I felt panic starting to well up, but reminded myself that we were making forward progress, so I forged ahead. Henry and I cuddled up with his National Geographic’s Rocks and Minerals book and worked through reading a page together. This book is a reading level or two above his reading ability but the topic is one he’s passionate about now, so it’s worth it to me to take a team approach to reading it. He then happily did his Explode the Code Book 5 page by himself and went to the front room to do his independent reading while I started math with the girls. (Dizzy, yet?)

I forget what our math lesson was on (RightStart A) but feel fairly confident it involved both abacuses and giving out a chocolate chip for each correct answer. Becca and Kate worked in tandem on their handwriting pages (Getty and Dubay Italic Handwriting Book A) and then took turns on the couch with me, working on their reading, which right now equates to a page in The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, followed by practicing their mad skills on a BOB book.

1:12 p.m. Phew. Made it to lunch time! The kids were happy for some play time while I prepared lunch. We ate, and then they headed outside to play in the backyard while I hurriedly cleaned up the kitchen. I now had exactly one hour to get a batch of bread in the oven and the kitchen ready so a friend could come over and use my wheat grinder to grind her wheat.

3:00, friend comes over, grinds wheat. 3:10, two neighbor boys come over to play for the afternoon until their mom gets home. 3:30, new piano student shows up for a lesson. 4:00, piano lesson #2. 4:30, piano lesson #3. Thankfully (oh, so thankfully!) the weather had warmed up from the morning and all six kids (my four plus the neighbor’s two) were happy as clams playing outside.

5:00: Sent neighbor boys home. Started dinner.

6:00: Dinner while everyone caught Dad up on the news of the day.

7:00: Showers for four dirty children (how do they get so dirty playing outside???), all got ready for bed, stories, etc.

8:00: Lights out for the kiddos.

8:30: Drove to the church to meet a student for an organ lesson.

9:15: Back home and got ready for bed.

9:50: Lights out and ready for a good night’s rest!

Considering all of the external intrusions on the day’s schedule (grocery shopping, bread making, piano lessons), I felt pretty good about the work we completed. Looking back on our week overall on our new schedule, I think it has its merits. At least it was a great jumpstart to get us back in the groove. I just need to figure out how to get history and science back into the schedule and we’ll be 100% back on track.

I was actually talking to a friend about the “homeschooling to the exclusion of everything else” problem today. Does anyone else have this problem, too? I love being up to my eyeballs in schoolwork and discovery and learning with my kids, but sometimes think it would be nice to find a few hours to batch cook some freezer meals. Providing, of course, I am able to find an hour to actually plan said meals!

Hope you enjoyed the snapshot of our life right now.


Year One in Review (July 2010-July 2011)

Trite as it sounds, I can hardly believe it was a year ago that I sat down at the kitchen table and began teaching Henry how to read, which was the advent of our home schooling. All things considered, we’ve had a wonderful ride on the home schooling roller coaster this year. All of us have learned much!

Perspective is a wonderful thing, really. When I take into consideration the fact that none of my kids knew the sounds the letters in the alphabet make a mere 365 days ago, it is a marvelous feeling of accomplishment to know that today, all four of them can tell me the sound any letter makes. Not only that, but Henry—and Samuel—and even Kate and Becca (if you count the capital letter magnets) can read. A lot can happen in a year.

What began as Henry’s Kindergarten year in July found us adding the start of Samuel’s Kindergarten year in January, and Kate and Becca’s preschool in April. We’ve gone from putting the girls down for afternoon naps and having two hours to quietly work on school to having Mom tutor each child in turn for most of the morning. We’ve gone from two kids with library cards to four kids with library cards…at two different libraries.

So yes, looking back, the feeling of achievement is terrific. Did we accomplish anything in a year? Here’s the list, in brief:

Henry:

  • Completed “Hooked on Phonics,” Kindergarten level
  • Is nearly done with RightStart Math Level A (will finish before we start our next school year in October)
  • Completed Getty-Dubay Italics Handwriting Book A; is making good headway in Book B
  • Completed “Explode the Code” Book 1 and 2; is halfway through Book 3
  • On Lesson 62 (of 231) in “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”
  • Completed numerous science and art projects
  • Completed “Hooked on Spanish”
  • Nearly finished our social studies book (“Children Just Like Me”)
  • Memorized three poems and several Articles of Faith
  • Logged HOURS of reading time, including 8 classic read-alouds
  • Began piano lessons

Samuel:

  • Learned his alphabet and the sounds the letters make
  • Read through the first set of BOB books
  • On Lesson 51 (of 231) in “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”
  • Completed “Explode the Code” Book 1; is halfway through Book 2
  • Halfway through Getty-Dubay Italics Handwriting Book A
  • Completed “Hooked on Spanish”
  • Completed numerous science and art projects
  • Nearly finished our social studies book (“Children Just Like Me”)
  • Memorized three poems and several Articles of Faith
  • Logged HOURS of reading time, including 8 classic read-alouds
  • Is begging to start math and piano lessons

Kate and Becca:

  • Learned their alphabet and the sounds the letters make
  • Completed a workbook on shapes
  • Completed a few art projects
  • Memorized two poems
  • Logged HOURS of reading time

I’ve learned a few things along the way, as well, no surprise. Mostly, I’ve been pleased to discover that the reasons we gravitated toward the home education option are better in reality than in theory. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility home schooling gives us. Flexibility to start and stop as needed. Flexibility to try new curriculae or approaches or even put something away until the time is right for that student. We love being able to do school in the morning or the afternoon as the day requires. We love traveling in the off-season, and schooling during the blasted hot summer. I’ve loved discovering how much I enjoy teaching things to my kids and am excited to keep learning things right along with them. I’ve been surprised at how frequently questions or problems I’ve encountered have taken me to my knees. And I’ve been really grateful for the answers I’m led to. I’m grateful for growth.

All in all, I’ll call our first year a grand success. It’s been a good one. Sign us up for another year!


Reporting on Reading

It’s been two months since my last post, and I don’t think I can adequately convey the sense of the miraculous change that has happened in our home as it relates to reading.

My boys are reading.

My boys are readers.

My boys are anxiously taking turns with our easy readers so they can complete various Summer Reading programs…ON THEIR OWN. Honestly, this one surprised me to no end.

It is all just awesome.

I feel very grateful for the inspiration I received to help me structure our second attempt at learning to read. It all came together so much better than what I was coming up with on my own.

Seeing their progress on their sticker charts with the object of their desire at the top really kept Henry and Sam going. Slow and steady was the name of the game. Their enthusiasm for reading grew as they neared their rewards. I overheard them talking about what they wanted to work toward for their next chart, which of course, made me smile, because it meant that they intended to continue in the learning process.

Sam reached his goal first. He ended up getting Nitroblast (a bad guy) instead of Stormer (a good guy). There were a lot of brother negotiations involved, but part of it had to do with Henry having his birthday about a week before they finished and buying Stormer with some of his birthday money. They were both happy with the way things worked out.

Henry finished a few days after Samuel and ended up with Evo instead of Fire Lord (he wanted Fire Lord for his birthday more than he wanted it for the reward chart).

By the time we finished these charts, it became apparent to me that we were more than a little behind on our Explode the Code books. Since I felt strongly that we needed these as reinforcement for the things we were learning in Reading, we decided to structure the next incentive chart a little differently.

Incentive Chart #2 was 100% ETC (Explode the Code). I calculated how many pages they each had left in their workbooks and told them that this time, in order to earn a sticker, they had to complete four pages of their ETC. 4 pages = 1 sticker. The reward would be a $5 gift card at Target, where they could buy whatever they wanted. Henry caught onto a subtle difference with this chart early on. With the first incentive chart, he got 1 sticker/day of reading, regardless of how much he read. This new system didn’t say anything about what he was required to do (or be limited by) in a day. He quickly got in the habit of doing 8-12 pages (2 or 3 stickers) a day. As a result, he finished his chart almost ten days ahead of Sam.

Here’s the happy reader:

The kids were anticipating a trip to Target with Dad this weekend, so Samuel hustled and finished his last 16 pages yesterday.

His $5 gift card went toward two new Transformer toys.

The current state of affairs brings us to another incentive chart, the purpose of which is to get Henry through ETC Book 2 and get Samuel into ETC Book 2 so that I can begin the Silent E section of “Ordinary Parent’s Guide” with Henry and Consonant Blends with Samuel. Henry is working toward a box of Jawbreakers and Sam a King-sized Twix. I’m not entirely sure how much longer we’ll need incentive charts to keep us going, but I couldn’t keep up with the expectation of Bionicles. Too expensive! A gradual weaning process is my hidden agenda here. 😉

All in all, we are all very happy. The boys are feeling more confident with their new skills and I smile from ear to ear when I hear them sounding out words on signage, boxes, stores, merchandise, etc. We are on our way.


More thoughts about reading

When a topic rankles your soul unrelentingly, consumes any thoughts you may have in your “free time” (kid-free), is a subject of much prayer and fasting, and you start having inner dialogues to argue and justify the aforementioned thoughts, it’s pretty much futile to just wait patiently, no matter what you told yourself earlier.

Such has been my life with Henry and reading. Or non-reading.

To avoid rehashing all of the inner dialogues, here is my grand conclusion:

Unreadiness is not the same as unwillingness.

If Henry were truly not ready to read, then we would not have completed the Kindergarten level of Hooked on Phonics in four months. He would have struggled with identifying letters, most likely wouldn’t have known the sounds they make, and would have had a difficult time connecting the dots. This was not the case for him.

Which led me to realize that when you’re five years old, Legos are more important to you than learning to read. Duly noted. Who wants to do hard things, ever?

Time for Life Lesson 105.

We started tackling reading again this week. But my approach has been modified. This is the recipe I’m trying to follow right now:

  1. Change in curriculum. Now we’re using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I believe it’s working for Henry because he doesn’t have the pressure of a brightly colored book waiting to be read. That was the part he would balk at before. In this new book, the stories are encapsulated in the lesson and are illustration-free. So it works. This change is working for me because I felt there were too many holes in the logic and sequence of the Hooked on Phonics program. I like the systematic and very thorough approach in Parent’s Guide.
  2. Set a timer. I’ve been setting an egg timer for 10 minutes when we sit down to work on reading. If we finish the lesson, great. If not, no biggie. Ten minutes keeps it from getting big and overwhelming for Henry.
  3. Lots of positive reinforcement. I didn’t praise him enough in Round One. I’m trying to find one thing he did well in each lesson and sincerely compliment him on it. I’m trying to stress less and laugh more. We have lots of High Fives and hugs.
  4. Reinforce lessons learned. Again, learning from my mistakes the first time. Once he mastered something, we would just plow on. This time, I’m using Explode the Code Book One to reinforce the things he already knows. It feels “easy” to him, so he feels successful.
  5. Incentives. Hooked on Phonics had a sticker chart. That was fun. We could see our progress and be excited about it. Overall? Not a big enough carrot. Now Henry’s working toward a Lego Bionicle toy that he wants. He still gets the daily sticker for doing reading, but he’s a leetle more motivated to sit down with me for our ten minutes of reading now.

(I am clearly not a 5-year old boy. This does NOT motivate me!)

Once we had the Bionicle chart on the fridge, Me-Too (a.k.a. Samuel) wanted in on the gig. So he’s working toward this guy:

(Seriously? What happened to chocolate as a motivator?)

He’s doing great. I started him at the beginning of the Parent’s Guide and we flew through the review of consonants and vowels. We’re two or three lessons into the short-vowel sound words, and he makes it quite clear that he wants to do this himself, with no help from the teacher! I think reading will come much easier to him than to Henry.

I feel much better with this change in course. We can all do hard things, and the one thing I can’t wait to teach my boys is how awesome the feeling of satisfaction is when you conquer a mountain. Wish us luck as we climb.