Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks....

The boy's dream of riding in the groomer came true; 8 months; The girl's new cat; Recovering addict thirsting for the Lord; Average high temperatures above freezing; All About Reading; Foster care.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

All About Reading Sentence Strips...

Ruben is making progress with All About Reading Level 1.  He has mastered the initial letter sound of each consonant and short vowel as well as a couple of consonant teamsHe finished the first reader, Run, Bug, Run!.  It was such a blessing to see his face upon reading that last page.  

Ruben enjoys the program as well as anything we've done for reading so far.  I think his favorite is the word cards.  However, he really struggles with the Fluency Practice pages provided. 

This is hard for me to understand because he knows the letter sounds and can read the word cards individually, which have the same words as the Fluency Practice pages.  But when they're in a list or sentence form, it's hard for him.

After some thought, I decided to put the sentences from the practice pages on to index cards.  Ruben helped me write some of them.  We put one word on each card.  Then he laid out the cards in sentence order and was able to read them.

In my quest to be more efficient, I started making sentence strips using the sentences on the practice pages.  I type each sentence in a column format using a large font so that there are two words in a row going the width of the standard sheet of copy paper.  Then I print them on card stock and cut each row apart. Ruben can take each row of words and lay them out as a sentence strip.   


I've put them all in a large manilla envelope, labeled by lesson number.  He pulls out 2-3 strips each day, puts them in order, and reads them.  This seems to be going well and he is much less resistant to this approach.  I think he sees it as a game. 

Another bonus to the sentence strips is that he really has to read the words in order to get the sentence strips in proper sequence.  Sometimes, I find he memorizes stories rather than actually reading the words.  With this method, he needs to read the words in order for the sentence to make sense. 

What accommodations have you made with All About Reading?  Please post a comment below.  I'd love to hear your ideas!!  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dyslexia 101

It's been 6 months since Ruben was termed dyslexic and I've done a lot of research in that time.  I am continually learning new things and wanted to share a few thoughts.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific developmental disability that alters the way the brain processes written material.  According to The International Dyslexia Association (IDA), dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.  Studies show that individuals with dyslexia process information in a different area of the brain than do non-dyslexics.

There is no single pattern of difficulty that affects every dyslexic person.  Dyslexia can cause a variety of issues.  I found a wonderful checklist here called 37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia.  I smiled when I read, " The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency."  

What causes dyslexia?

Dyslexia is thought to be an inherited condition.  It may be genetic, but how and if it comes to be varies considerably from individual to individual.  Sometimes dyslexia can be attributed to a wide range of environmental factors, like birth trauma, problems during pregnancy, brain injuries, infections and toxins. However, although considerable progress has been made, the exact mechanism that causes genes to contribute to the multi-faceted dyslexic condition is still unknown.  Research shows dyslexia affects up to 20% of the population. 

Is there a cure for dyslexia?

According to the Mayo Clinic website, there is no cure for dyslexia.  It's a lifelong condition caused by inherited traits that affect how your brain works. However, most children with dyslexia can succeed in school with tutoring or a specialized education program. Emotional support also plays an important role.

What do I do if I suspect my child has dyslexia?

Initially, I brought my concerns regarding Ruben to our pediatrician and she was very helpful in getting the ball rolling. I always knew there was something special about Ruben.  I was thinking of sensory processing or mild autism.  Dyslexia was not on my radar at that time.  He was struggling academically, but I was looking more behaviorally.  I was thinking his behavior was hindering his ability to learn until I discovered his inability to learn was causing his behavior.  In hind site, it all makes perfect sense.  With the pediatrician's help and referral, Ruben was tested at a pediatric neuropsychology clinic.   Once we had the official diagnosis, I started reading, researching, and networking to learn as much as I could about how to help.

If you have a child with suspected dyslexia and you decide to pursue a formal diagnosis, I recommend checking with your pediatrician or researching the Scottish Rites program.  The Scottish Rites have a national organization and I understand they have a hospital and large testing facility in TX.  Their services are free.

I was very excited to find a Scottish Rites Dyslexia Clinic about 30 minutes away from our home.  We applied and Ruben was accepted into the program for tutoring.  He was put on a waiting list and will start next fall with tutoring 2 days per week.

Other Thoughts

Orton-Gillingham is a common recommended method of teaching for dyslexia.  I was reassured to hear this since we started using All About Reading last spring, which incorporates the OG approach.  Ruben is making progress.  Some days it seems slow going, but when I think back to a year ago, I can see he's made great strides. 

Barton Reading and Spelling is another OG program that is highly acclaimed, but it is more expensive.  Susan Barton has a wealth of information at her website.  I have not contacted her directly, but I've watched the webinars and have heard praises from people who have used this program.

In addition to All About Reading, we started Dianne Craft's Brain Integration Therapy.  We are about 8 weeks into it.  It's going OK.  Ruben hates it, but I can notice improvements in his visual tracking.  When we started, he wouldn't look to the lower left quadrant and his eyes were jerky when tracking.  Both of these areas are getting better. Again, Dianne Craft has a ton of information on her website.

I have learned that dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.  Therefore, public schools don't test for it and often don't have programs to address it.  Shortly after Ruben was diagnosed,  I contacted our local public school, which is also connected with a cooperative of 29 other local school districts, and found none of them had any materials utilizing the OG method.  Nor, did any of them have OG trained teachers.  Our local public schools put dyslexic kids in special education classes with other learning disabled kids, many of which have lower cognitive abilities.  I have a hard time with this since many people who are dyslexic are typically of average to above average intelligence.  Ruben has no cognitive delays and as with most dyslexics, his IQ is right on track.

Other Resources

Sally Shaywitz's Overcoming Dyslexia is a great book!  Originally, I was able to borrow it from our local public library and since ended up buying a copy.  Another book I purchased and love is How to Reach & Teach Children & Teens with Dyslexia by Cynthia M. Stowe.  The International Dyslexia Association has a wealth of information on their website and holds a conference in our state that I'm hoping to attend next fall.

One thing I've learned is that there is hope.  Technology plays a huge role in aiding people with dyslexia.  Voice activated software and audio books can help students gain independence.   I am very optimistic about Ruben's future and believe he will learn to read.  If you suspect your child could be dyslexic, I encourage you to reach out and seek help as soon as possible.  Studies have shown, early intervention is key to success for people with dyslexia. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks....

Oil change; Celebration of cousin's coming baby; Four seasons; Second hand math manipulatives; A boy's excitement as he tells the story of how the bait was gone and the trap went off...but ______ got away; Finishing a great book; Quiet time with The Farmer before sunrise.....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Math Mania

Mathematics - "the science of numbers and their operations, interrelations, combinations, generalizations, and abstractions and of space configurations and their structure, measurement, transformations, and generalization" --- Miriam Webster Online Dictionary

Arithmetic - "a branch of mathematics that deals usually with the non negative real numbers including sometimes the transfinite cardinals and with the application of the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to them" --- Miriam Webster's Online Dictionary

My brain is on math overload!!  I've been studying "best practices" for math lately and there's a ton of information out there.  Traditional math, new math, reform math, living goes on and on.  Math has become a controversial subject and has brought about much debate triggering the "math wars".   I've been studying the history of math in an attempt to figure out the differences in it as I make curriculum decisions for our family in the upcoming school year.   I plan to do a series of posts regarding my findings and how it relates to various curricula.

Let's start with the history of mathematics....

Traditional Math was the predominant method of mathematics education in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century in which students were given instruction in standard arithmetic methods (algorithms) to perform a task in a standard sequence  Traditional Math uses step by step procedures for calculations, much of which can be done with computers and technology today.

Topics and methods in traditional math include elementary arithmetic, addition, carry, subtraction, multiplication, multiplication table, division, long division, arithmetic with fractions, lowest common denominator, arithmetic mean, volume, etc.  Critics of traditional math argue that it relies too heavily on rote memorization and repetition failing to promote conceptual understanding. 

New Math came about during the 1960's.  It was a dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught primarily in American grade schools. The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the U.S. shortly after the Sputnik crisis in order to boost science education and mathematical skill so that the intellectual threat of Soviet engineers and highly skilled mathematicians could be met.  New math was based on set theory, which is a branch of mathematics based on sets.  I can't begin to understand the language and aspired concepts of new math, nor do I have the time or energy to study it.  For further interest, you can read more about it here

Reform Math or Standards Based Mathematics came about in the early 1980s, particularly in North America, as educators reacted to the "new math" of the 1960s and 1970s. The work of Piaget and other developmental psychologists shifted the focus of educators from mathematics content to how children best learn mathematics.  It became more about child development rather than step by step memorization.

Reform Math is based on principles explained in 1989 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).  The NCTM produced a document attempting to set forth a vision for K-12 mathematics education in the U.S. and Canada.  Their recommendations were adopted by many education agencies, from local to federal levels through the 1990s. The standards were revised in 2000 and these updated standards continue to serve as the basis for many states' mathematics standards, and for many federally funded textbook projects.

Reform mathematics curricula challenges students to make sense of new mathematical ideas through exploration, projects, and real life scenarios.  Although Reform Math has been very controversial.  Some opponents refer to it as "fuzzy math".  Reform texts emphasize written and verbal communication, working in cooperative groups, making connections between concepts, and connections between representations.  Research has shown that children make fewer mistakes with calculations and remember algorithms longer when they understand the concepts underlying the methods they use.

I think there are parts of Reform Math that are beneficial and parts that are a little fuzzy.  I think it depends more on the teacher and how well they understand math and can relay their understanding to the students.  I feel very strongly about students learning their math facts inside and out with whatever method works.  Whether that be through exploration or memorization, math facts are an essential base for all other math concepts.  Maria Miller, author or Math Mammoth, wrote this blog post back in 2006 regarding Reform Math and the importance of balance.

Stay tuned for how this relates to our current math curriculum options.....'s the link for Part 2 and Part 3, as well as some thoughts on math and the Common Core State Standards.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mom's Rotini Alfredo

Here's our latest love and it just so happened while cleaning out the refrigerator one evening ;-)

Broccoli coarsely chopped
Red or orange pepper chopped
Fresh mushrooms sliced
1-2 cloves garlic pressed
Tblsp olive oil or butter
1 can chicken broth
8 oz. cream cheese
Approx. 1 cup milk or cream (feel free to add more liquid if necessary, it will soak up in the oven)
1 16 oz. box of rotini noodles boiled and drained (or substitute whatever type of noodle you have on hand)
Mozarella cheese if desired
Parmesan cheese if desired

Saute broccoli, pepper, mushrooms, and garlic in oil or butter.  Add chicken broth, cream cheese, milk or cream.  Heat until cheese is melted and well blended.  Add noodles and mozerella.  Cover and bake at 375-degrees for approx. 20 minutes.  Remove and top with parmesan before serving. May season with salt and pepper if desired.  

Toss a salad...add some garlic bread and voila....supper is served.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Day 13-15

Day 13-15, Chapters 36-45

Well, we've come to the end of Uncle Tom's Cabin and it's bittersweet.  I usually like the satisfaction of finishing things, but finishing this book was different.  I feel a little bit like I've lost a friend.  I felt such an attachment to the characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin.  This is definitely what you'd call a living book.  It's made a huge impact on our family. 

"Tom gazed, in awe and wonder, at the majestic patience of the face; the deep, pathetic eyes thrilled him to his inmost heart; his soul woke, as, with floods of emotion, he stretched out his hand and fell upon his knees, - when, gradually, the vision changed; the sharp thorns became rays of glory; and, in splendor inconceivable, he saw that same face bending compassionately towards him, and a voice said,  "He that overcometh shall sit down with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father on his throne."     --- Chapter 38, page 388-389 Uncle Tom's Cabin

I thought this scene was profound.  Tom was so strong in his faith up to that point, but when he began to falter, the Lord spoke and gave him the comfort and strength to carry on.  Harriet Beecher Stowe portrayed Tom's likeness to Christ in his willingness to die for the salvation of others. 

Then to top it off, in what would seem his darkest hour, Tom forgave his tormentors...."and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us."  I was absolutely dumb struck by the beauty of this dark moment. And then Sambo and Quimbo accepting Christ and Tom praying for their salvation...oh my.   I just the end of Chapter 40, I just stopped reading.  The Farmer and I looked at each other.  The kids were quiet.  There was stillness and silence....a pause.  It just happened, and seems so fitting now thinking back.

I've learned patience from Uncle Tom's Cabin.  I've learned about peace and contentment when one believes in the Lord.  It isn't that I didn't know these things before reading this book.  It's just that I feel them on a deeper level now.  I found the book to be spiritually healing....and this was the sweetness in the bittersweet. 

Please consider reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, the full unabridged version, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Then leave a comment here about how it affected your life. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks....

LOVE; Paper hearts; Candy hearts; Bleeding hearts; Beating hearts; Giving hearts; Thankful hearts.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Day 11 & 12

Day 11 & 12 - Chapters 27-35

Have you ever been so close and yet so far away from your heart's desire?  Were you able to sustain the faith of Tom?  I am so inspired by this book!  However, it's a difficult read emotionally.  One minute I'm up, the next I'm way down.  First Eva, then St. was almost too much!!  And, that dreadful Marie....what a snot!!  Riley and Ruben were so turned off by her, they could no longer bear to listen.  They ask what's happening on a regular basis so I've been summarizing. 

I just knew that Tom would be sold to some horrible people.  Sooner or later, you knew it had to come.  Cassy is right in declaring Simon Legree the devil.  Can you fathom such an evil human?  It seems as though his mother tried to do well by him, however, Stowe passes it off as Simon following in his father's footsteps. He is a despicable man. 

It appears as though Sambo and Quimbo are despicable as well.  I think they gave in to the devil to save their hide here in this life.  I actually felt a little sorry for them.  Legree took advantage of their vulnerability and turned them into bullies.  They appear ignorant and dysfunctional.  As Tom says, forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.   

Do you think Cassie will kill Legree?  Chapter 35 was a cliff hanger.  I have the impression Legree may get what's due him.  I thought the way the lock of hair freaked him out was pretty funny.  His superstitions got the best of him.

I really wish you were here in my living room so we could chat freely.  I think Uncle Tom's Cabin would make for great discussion.  Angel finished reading yesterday and she declared it her new favorite book.  It sure is powerful!  

I may not quite finish Uncle Tom's Cabin by Friday as scheduled, but I plan to carry on and do my best.....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Day 9 & 10

Chapters 20-26 - Day 9 & 10

Oh my....I sobbed like a baby.   Can you believe Eva died?!?!  Oh wait....I  need to back up.

First Topsy, what did you think of this poor little darling?  She'd never been loved or so she thought.  It was heart breaking to think this even possible for a child.  And the dear girl keeps saying, "I's so wicked."  I believe Eva did truly love her.  I loved her and to be honest I saw signs of our adopted daughters in her, a child so abused and neglected they only see ugly.

I was disappointed with Mr. Shelby in the glance back at life on the Shelby plantation since Tom left in Chapter 21.  He didn't seem like getting Tom back was a priority.  I felt he was making excuses to Mrs. Shelby about never getting out of debt and he poo pooed her suggestions to try to make money.  Then sweet  Aunt Chloe was going out to make money to get Tom back.  Do you really think she'll be able to save the money she makes?  I was skeptical of the treatment she may receive once she leaves the Shelby's.

I mentioned in a past post the faith and maturity of Eva.  This held true to the end.  I think that's why I cried so, not only because she was a mere baby, but because she was so strong in her belief.  She was so kind and generous and loved everyone she met regardless of their look.  Eva so badly wanted the slaves to be treated well and freed.  As I said before, she was wise beyond her years.  Some of us may live to be 100 and never reach the level of Eva.

And that Marie, she is nuts!!  I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.  She is just selfish and spoiled.  I really  ached for St. Clare though.  I believe he is a Christian, but somewhere along the line his heart was hardened, maybe upon the death of his mother or when he was parted from his first love.  It really wasn't clear, but something happened to make him so sarcastic and callous.

Do you think Tom will be freed now?  I also wonder what's happened to Eliza. I feel like her character has just dropped off the radar.  I'm hoping it all comes together in the end.

I don't know about you, but I've been telling everyone I meet about Uncle Tom's Cabin.  I absolutely LOVE the book so far and consider it a must read!!  The content is difficult and weighs heavily on my mind, but the subject matter is very important and relevant in the world today.  I'm sorry the book was banned for some time and that it seems to have dropped from the radar since.  You can read more about the ban here and here.  My hope in this book study is to bring awareness and spark interest.  You must read this book!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks.....

Levi in my dad's arms; Snow crystals glistening in the sun; Brothers; Vacuum cleaner; The Farmer delivering good deeds; My grandma's hands; February.....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Day 8

Day 8 - Chapters 17-19

I must admit, I only made it to the end of Chapter 19 today.  Riley and Ruben both fell asleep tonight to the sound of my voice.  I believe some of this book is over their head, but they so sweetly try their best.  They love to be involved and a part of the conversation. 

I was glad chapter 17 picked up with Eliza and George.  The Quakers of the 1800's remind me of the Amish of our time, such a peaceable group.  Or the Hutterites, who live in a communal setting.  The Farmer and kids like Phineas and his outdoors man like ways.  I was actually glad Tom didn't die so it wouldn't be on George's conscience.  Do you think Tom will be converted?  How about George?  It appears as though the Quakers kindness may have softened George's heart.  Time will tell.....

And oh, St. Clare, I've grown to like him.  He really doesn't belong in the south.  Though, I'm not sure where he does belong ;-)

I also get a bang out of Miss Ophelia.  I picture this laid back household that's sort of in disarray.  Then in comes Miss Ophelia to straighten everyone out.  I can just imagine her and her old schoolmarm like ways.

I am so tickled that Tom wrote a letter home.  I wondered if he would do that.

This is a great book!  I feel a relationship with each of the characters.  If you haven't started reading, please consider joining in.....

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Day 6 & 7

Day 6 & 7 - Chapter 10-16

Well I must admit, I had a hard time meeting this deadline.  That was a lot of pages to accomplish in what seemed like a short amount of time, thus this late post.  Though, the plot thickens as the story moves along and I'm really enjoying the book.  We were introduced to a wealth of new characters in these chapters. 

But starting with the original, again, I am irritated by Haley and his careless casting off of humanity.  He shows such a lack of emotion when it comes to blacks, particularly women and children.  This is a very sensitive area for me as I'm likened to an old hen with a brood of chicks to protect. First it's Hagar being ripped from her last child.  Then he sold the baby out of the cradle from the young mother on the boat.  Levi was sleeping in my arms as I read this chapter.  The suffering of these women was nearly unbearable to me.  I could really relate to them.   

I continue to grow deeply fonder of Tom and his Godly character.  There are several references to his stupidity.  Yet, his undying faith seems to make him one of the more intelligent characters. The Farmer really admires Tom and he actually reminds me of Tom in his kind, patient and faithful way.  

I was a little confused in Chapter 13, The Quaker Settlement.  It seemed the Quakers came out of no where.  The update on Eliza was reassuring, but I had a bit of a hard time following the story at that point.  So where was George and how did he find Eliza?  I felt like I was missing something.  I'm hoping it ties together in a later chapter. 

What do you think of St. Clare?  I'm undecided at this point.  So far, I like him just for buying Tom and treating his slaves respectfully.  Of course, we were easily exhausted by Marie and her pathetic ways.  She's very self absorbed and spoiled.  Ruben just kept saying, "She's so ridiculous!"  The kids LOVE Eva!  Here again, Stowe uses the innocence of a young naive child to teach a lesson in faith and character.

In chapters 10-16, as in previous chapters, I felt Stowe was very effective at showing good vs. evil and using ignorance and innocence to show bliss and upstanding morality.  She uses Tom and Eva, two unlikely characters, to teach us the proper way to a Godly life.  I was reminded of Luke 18:16-17 which says.... 

Then Jesus called for the children and said to this disciples, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it."  

God reminds us that entrance into the Kingdom of God requires childlike faith and dependence on God.  In my mind, Stowe portrays Tom and Eva both naturally have this faith. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Day 4 & 5

Day 4 & 5 - Chapters 7-9

So now The Farmer's in too.  He walked in a couple of evenings ago when I was reading Chapter 7 aloud. He asked about what we were reading and we gave him the summary 101.  He's been listening since. As a matter of fact, it was his idea to read aloud last night. 

I must admit I did get bogged down in Chapter 8, particularly reading aloud with the broken dialect.  It took almost an hour to get through just that chapter alone.  And, those characters are so nasty, they repulse me.

What did you think about Senator Bird and his wife?  Here again we see these prominent white people torn between good and evil.  The Birds reminded me of the Shelbys.  You can read more about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that Senator Bird voted on here.  I must admit, I was very disappointed that he voted for the act, but it appeared as though he saw it as a duty to honor the state.  Slaves were very valuable property at that time.  The Underground Railroad aided and abetted slaves in their freedom.  This created huge losses for slave owners in Kentucky.  The Act helped the slave owners reclaim their "property".

I really want to see Eliza escape with her boy, but I just have a feeling this isn't going to happen. Let's press on and see......