Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursdays of Thanks....

Eighteen years; Communication; Snow Swirls; Salable books; Owls & eagles; Finishing a math book; Chicken wings....

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dyslexia Symptoms & Solutions

I spent the weekend watching Susan Barton's free online video series.  You can watch them here... Dyslexia Symptoms & Solutions.  When at this site, click on "Start Here" next to Barton's picture and it will take you to the videos.

I learned some new things and reviewed many old things.  Dyslexia Symptoms & Solutions is broke down into four parts.  The first part, What is Dyslexia?, is the longest at approx. one hour and twenty minutes.  It was a lot of review for me regarding what constitutes dyslexia and where it comes from.  When Ruben was first diagnosed with dyslexia, I did a ton of research and wrote this Dyslexia 101 post based on my findings at that time.

Part two, Classic Warning Signs, held some new information for me.   In this segment, Barton spoke not only about dyslexia, but also about dysgraphia.    I learned that children with dyslexia often also have dysgraphia.  And, that dysgraphia never comes by itself.  It's always accompanied by another condition, such as ADD, autism, cerebral palsy, etc.  However, most commonly it's paired with dyslexia.  Barton gave a list of dyslexia and dysgraphia warning signs.  She also cleared some common myths regarding the two.  Dyslexia is not reading backward!  It is difficulty with language including oral speech, auditory processing, reading, spelling, and written expression.

In Reading Mistakes, part three of the series, Barton shares how to check a student for dyslexia.  She suggests some typical reading mistakes dyslexics make reading from a word list and from stories.  She stated people with dyslexia don't actually read what is on the page.  They read by shape and sequence. Barton gave a quote from Dr. G. Reid Lyon, a Distinguished Professor of Education Leadership and Policy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and a Distinguished Scientist in the School of Brain and Behavior Sciences at the University of Texas, Dallas.  He said, "Phonemic Awareness is the core and causal factor that separates normal readers from disabled readers."  So what is Phonemic Awareness?  It's the ability to hear and manipulate sounds within a one-syllable word in your head with no print.   Barton states Phonemic Awareness is an essential part of pre-reading and that phonics won't work if you do not have it. 

Part four, Gifts & Solutions, tells about the profound strengths dyslexics have in areas controlled by the right side of the brain.  Since people with dyslexia have a 10% larger right hemisphere, it makes sense that they would be extraordinarily talented in one or more of these areas: art, athletics, music, people skills, mechanical skills, and 3-D visualization.  Folks with dyslexia are often very sensitive, highly intuitive, extremely curious, creative, global thinkers.

Barton went on to list teaching strategies/programs that won't work for dyslexics.  She also listed teaching strategies/programs that do work.  Of course, an Orton-Gillingham based system is the key.

One thing I disagree with Barton on is handing a calculator to an elementary child who is having trouble learning their math facts. Other than this, I think Barton is spot on. 

The total series takes about three and a half hours to watch.  If you suspect your child or loved one is dyslexic, I highly recommend making the time to watch this series.  Barton gives you many gold nuggets that may help clarify your child's struggles.  Dyslexia is a very teachable disability with the Orton-Gillingham method and a well trained teacher/tutor using this method as designed.  It can make a world of difference.  Ruben is making great gains at the Children's Dyslexia Center.  I am so excited with his progress!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Early Years....

The Early Years–A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook

I recently checked this book out of our local public library and discovered what an invaluable resource it is for parents of young children.  Whether you plan to homeschool or are readying your child for a traditional school, The Early Years: A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook by Sonya Shafer and Karen Smith is a real treasure.

Part 1 starts off with "The Chief Duty of Parents".  Charlotte Mason encouraged parents in their duties of instilling good habits and nourishing their child's mind.  This section will help you understand Charlotte's thoughts on these duties.  Parts 2 & 3 break down forming right habits and nourishing the mind into more specific areas such as "Proper Physical Care, Using the Senses, Nature, Play, Books & Stories, The Alphabet, Spiritual Life", etc.

Within each section, there are quotes from Ms. Mason's personal writings supporting her ideas.  Shafer and Smith have taken it a step further by extracting and summarizing practical ideas from these quotes for nurturing your preschooler.  For example, in Chapter 12, The Alphabet, there are such suggestions as "Draw letters in the air and see if your child can name them,...." and "Many children will learn the alphabet on their own, but there is no harm in teaching it when approached as play."

The Appendix in the back gives Charlotte's thoughts on kindergarten as well as ideas for beginning reading, math, and handwriting.  "Instead of academic or social pressures, Charlotte encouraged mothers to give their little ones a full six years of developing good habits, getting acquainted with nature, exploring the five senses, growing in their spiritual lives, and playing outdoors."

I'm looking forward to spending more time with The Early Years when Levi gets to the preschool stage.  I recommend this book and the Simply Charlotte Mason website for anyone interested in educating their child or learning more about Charlotte Mason and her methods.

I was thrilled to see that Simply Charlotte Mason released a video DVD this week titled Enjoying the Early Years.  It's a companion DVD to The Early Years that was recorded at a live workshop.  I watched the trailer and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy to watch in its entirety!!  What an amazing resource for preschool families :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thursdays of Thanks.....

Afternoon naps; Celebration of The Farmers' Uncle's life; Twenty months; Pastor Toth preaching "JESUS LOVES YOU" message; Normal test results; Beautifully sad; Shelter from the storm....

Monday, February 17, 2014


We watched Monumental this weekend.  I know, I know, I'm a couple years behind, but better late than never.  All joking aside, it was actually very timely for us because it fit right into our American History study.  It may not have had the same impact if we'd watched it back in 2012.  The film reinforced everything that we've been reading about.  I think it had the biggest impact on The Farmer because some of the information was new to him.

America's Providential History, Third Edition   -     By: Mark A. Beliles, Stephen K. McDowell

I've also been reading America's Providential History by Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell.  This book is part of the Beautiful Feet Early American History Intermediate study that we're using.  Although, it may no longer be included in the new BF study.  I have an older edition of the guide and it was used at that time.  I've been using America's Providential History more for myself rather than as scheduled for the kids.  I'm fascinated by how the authors trace the hand of God throughout the history of America.  Again, it really ties in with everything else we've been studying. 

I wish these two resources were required for every American citizen.  If you have not viewed Monumental or are not familiar with America's Providential History, I highly recommend you get acquainted with them. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day....

I really appreciated Ann Voskamp's post today regarding the beauty of true love. 

"The real romantics know that stretchmarks are beauty marks, and that different shaped women fit into the different shapes of men souls, and that real romance is really sacrifice...Real Love truthfully sees the flaws — and still really loves fully."  --by Ann Voskamp

I am so thankful for The Farmer's unconditional love.  He is AMAZING!  We celebrated this Valentine's evening with our beautiful children eating a specially cooked dinner.  There were no flowers, chocolates, or surprises, but it was anything but "boring".  Thank you God for the love of my life.....

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursdays of Thanks....

Fingerprints on windows; Haircut; Time off; Healing baby; Taking grandma; Surprise cake; Filed taxes...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully - Writing....

Our recent switch to Sonlight Language Arts has prompted me to get out my copy of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick.  I've already outlined the Reading section of the book and today I will focus on the Writing section.  Dr. Beechick breaks the writing section into six parts, these being Learning to Write, Write!; Writing Lessons; Scale to Writing Quality; The Mechanics of Writing; Spelling; and Usage and Grammar. 

Dr. Beechick states, "Writing is the other side of reading.  Reading is receiving language and writing is producing it."  I believe this to be true, hence the reason we love to read great living books.  Children who read rich literature will speak, write and communicate more effectively.  Children learn to speak by listening and speaking; listening and speaking.  Beechick suggests the same is true for written language.  She states, "They must read and write; read and write....And while you read or after you finish a book, if you have a personal response of some kind, and write, your mind grows even more.  You clarify your thoughts.  You develop new ways of thinking.  The is education, ongoing." 

I have started this process of journaling thoughts as I read, marking down specific passages and quotes, and rewriting ideas in my own words.  It's proven to be quite effective.  But keep in mind, this is nothing new.  Benjamin Franklin used this method of learning to write.  He tells in his autobiography how he taught himself to write.  After reading works he admired, he outlined the essays, then put the outlines away.  Returning to them in a few days, he then attempted to rewrite the original articles from his outlines. So basically, he read great essays and then tried to reproduce them himself. 

I appreciate Beechick's view on writing curricula.  "When you use real books and real writing, you won't have much need for textbooks, and particularly workbooks.  Your children should spend more time writing than learning about writing."  This is very much in line with Charlotte Mason's view of composition, in which she says, "composition comes by nature".  In The Original Home Schooling Series: Home Education, Volume 1, Mason states, "Our business is to provide children with material in their lessons, and, leave the handling of such material to themselves.   If we would believe, it, composition is as natural as jumping and running to children who have been allowed due use of books.  They should narrate in the first place, and they will compose, later, readily enough but they should not be taught 'composition'."  Mason does give further instruction on composition later in that same volume as well as Volume 6.  But I digress.

On page 66 of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, Beechick writes, "If you think you understand something or think you have an opinion about and issue, try writing it in essay form for someone else to read. You will discover a lot about your thinking that you didn't know was there, including, possibly, gaps in knowledge that you have to look up as you write.  So learn to use writing in all your children's subjects; don't reserve it for language class."  I love this and find it so true!  There have been times in the past when I was writing blog posts only to find that I really didn't know what I was talking about and needed further research. : P

In Chapter Six, Beechick does give writing lessons.  But, she states, "These lessons will have served you best if you get ideas from them to continue this kind of wholistic language teaching using literary models that you choose."  She further references Benjamin Franklin's self-teaching method.  In Chapter Seven, Beechick also gives samples of four kinds of writing (describing, narrating, explaining, and reasoning) at three different age levels.

In Chapter Eight, Beechick gives a basic grammar guide illustrating some mechanics of writing.  She also discusses handwritten versus typed papers and penmanship.  Beechick addresses three approaches to spelling in Chapter Nine.  She discusses Grammar and Usage further in Chapter Ten. 

After sorting through this writing section of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, I was pulled back to another Beechick book, A Strong Start in Language.  Though this little gem is geared for parents teaching kids in grades K-3, there is a section toward the beginning of the book titled, What You Do in a Lesson.   Here, Beechick gives a list in brief of "the levels of difficulty from easy to hard that you can use in your lesson plans".  She states, "You can see from this list that the range of difficulty can take you from kindergarten or first grade through the Benjamin Franklin level".  The list starts with tracing then copying a model letter or word and works up to deciding what form you will use - essay, poem, letter, or other - then writing your thoughts for someone else to read.  The list flows from writing a word to phrase to sentence to paragraph, using dictation. 

So what have I taken from all this?  Well, we will continue to read great living books.  I aim to be more diligent in expecting narration.  I have also encouraged the girls to keep a "Book of Mottos" or "Common Place Book", where they copy quotes and write thoughts as they read.   This practice was used by scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries including Charlotte Mason and Thomas Jefferson.  Through Sonlight Language Arts, I've started dictation with Riley and it's going very well.  She actually really likes it and wants to continue so this is a bonus :)

What natural methods have you used for writing?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thursdays of Thanks...

Simple wisdom; Arm full of boys; Creation science; Sunlight through the window; Lego Club; Dad bringing donuts; Sewing skirts....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kitchen Table Math....

Have you heard about Dr. Wright's Kitchen Table Math!?  In my math research frenzy, I came across this series of books.  I was fortunate in that our local public library was willing to order book 2 & 3 in the series for their collection.  The books just came in and I am thrilled to be able to check them out!

"Dr. Wright" is Chris Wright, a mathematician, math teacher, and father of two, whom he and his wife homeschooled for a period of time.  "He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Stanford University and was an assistant professor at Duke University."  The books were born out of Dr Wright's love for math and his experience home educating, tutoring, and teaching.  They provide a series of clear easy to follow steps and activities "that illustrate the methods of basic mathematics and help develop a child's mathematical skills".

Book one covers quantities up to 100, addition, subtraction, multiplication,  division, fractions, equations, geometry, reasoning, measurements, time, and money.  It is geared for teaching students PreK - 3rd grade.

Book two covers counting and place value, adding and subtracting, multiplying, dividing, number theory, fractions, number sense, number bases, and ancient number systems.  It is geared for teaching students from grades 1-7.

Book three covers concepts beyond arithmetic such as equations and inequalities, word problems, reasoning, probability and counting, statistics and graphing, geometry, measurements, and money.  Again, it is geared for teaching students in grades 1-7.

All three books have a chapter each on manipulatives, learning games and activities, and other resources.  This series really takes you through elementary math in a hands on, easy to understand way.  If you feel a workbook is warranted for written practice, Dr. Wright does suggest MCP Mathematics.  He states, "The pages of problems in those books are presented in a logical progression, with lots of examples of each kind of problem". 

I am impressed by the ease of which Dr. Wright explains the various concepts.  In 2-4 pages, he gives a concept objective, references prior sections needed as prerequisites,  and shows how to demonstrate, teach, and practice each concept.  There are gray boxes with "Math Words", "Rules", and suggested "Games" throughout.   

I am seriously considering purchasing Dr. Wright's Kitchen Table Math series. I think these books are great whether you would want to use them for reference or as your child's elementary math program. 

If you have any experience with Dr.Wright's Kitchen Table Math, please comment below.  I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sonlight Language Arts....

I'm in the process of re-evaluating Riley's Language Arts.  She is an avid reader and is always begging for a literature based program, which was my intention, but somehow it fell by the wayside.  So far this year, she's working on All About Spelling, Oral and Written English, which is an original text by Potter, Jeschke, & Gillet, from 1917, and reading misc. books as assigned through our history study.  She is also using excerpts from George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation for copywork.  Although, I like each of these resources individually, all together, language arts feels somewhat disjointed.

Last week, I started researching Sonlight Language Arts.  We've used Sonlight in the past, and still read books from Sonlight lists as they pertain to our history study, but I have not used their Language Arts curricula.  I bought used and pieced together many cores over the years, so I dug out some of my Instructor Guides and started researching.  Sonlight's LA Instructor Guides heavily reference the works of Dr. Ruth Beechick.  Keep in mind, I have older guides.  I know there have been revisions, but I'm assuming they still utilize Dr. Beechick's philosophy. 

Sonlight 4, which is now Core E, recommended reading sections of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick. I am working my way through these sections.  You can view my thoughts on Dr. Beechick's books here.

Sonlight 3, which is now Core D, fits our time period this year for history.  So we're going to give the SL Language Arts 3 a try.  Many of the readers will be easy for Riley, however in looking at the grammar and dictation exercises, I feel this is a good place to start get our feet wet so to speak.  The recommended readers are:

A Lion to Guard Us
Pocohontas and the Strangers
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims
The Thanksgiving Story
The Courage of Sarah Noble
The Matchlock Gun
The Skippack School
Meet George Washinton
Phoebe the Spy
The Cavin Faced West
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
Meet Thomas Jefferson
Sarah Whitcher's Story
Robert ulton, Boy Craftsman
Sarah, Plain and Tall

Riley has already read some of these books and I'm not going to make her re-read them.  However, I am still going to have her do all the related Student Activity pages because I'm thinking they build in a sequential manner so starting at the beginning will make more sense as we're trying to lay a foundation.  We will breeze over some for review to quicken the pace and because she's already familiar with basic nouns, verbs, when to capitalize, etc.  I am not looking for mastery at this point, just exposure to a variety of grammar, punctuation, etc., as she comes across them in her reading.  She is so excited!!  I took the Student Activity pages and bound them with the ProClick Binder creating her own "workbook". She already started working on the them over the weekend :)

I plan to have her read the scheduled readers that she's not read before, complete the student activity grammar pages and some of the dictation.  I don't think we'll utilize the "Creative Expression" writing assignments at this point.  We've used narration in the past and it works well so I will continue with that for writing. 

We will also continue All About Spelling and the copywork, but I'm not sure about Oral and Written English.  We only have approx. 20 lessons left so we may pick through them orally.  I don't want to spend too much time or get hung up so we'll see how it goes.

I'd love to hear feedback on your experience with Sonlight Language Arts.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully - Reading....

I've been re-evaluating RileyAnn's Language Arts.  She is an avid reader and is always begging for a literature based program, which was my intention, but somehow it fell by the wayside. This past week, I started researching Sonlight Language Arts.  Sonlight's LA Instructor Guides heavily reference the works of Dr. Ruth Beechick.  I have older guides and I know there have been revisions, but I'm assuming they still utilize Dr. Beechick's philosophy. 

My Sonlight 4 guide from 2001, which is now Core E, recommended reading sections of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick.  The first suggested section was Part 1, pages 1-57 regarding "Reading".  Since this book is intended for parents teaching grades 4-8, the first few pages were titled, "What Do You Do After Your Child Can Read?"  Dr. Beechick talks about the information stage of reading, comprehension, fluency and taking a wholistic view of reading.  She also discusses what you can get out of standardized test scores.  I especially liked this, "Tests should not be used as clubs....Get from tests what information you can, use the information for planning and goal setting, but don't let anyone in your family get ulcers over them."   I think there is great wisdom here and I appreciate Dr. Beechick's no nonsense approach.

Beechick next breaks reading into three types, Textual, Imaginational, and Functional reading.   Textual reading is the reading of non-fiction, including textbooks.  "Imaginational reading is a highly intellectual activity involving the image-making powers of the mind.  Included in this reading are both poetry and fictional prose."  Beechick further describes Functional reading as including everyday items like signs, labels, rules, directions, ads, telephone books, newspapers, forums, etc.  Though, I had never thought about it this exact way, I definitely see the significance of teaching each of these types of reading. I think this is one of the reasons I was pulled to Heart of Dakota's Drawn Into the Heart of Reading.  I really liked the idea of exposure to a variety of genres.  However, the busy work in that program overwhelmed us. 

I must confess, a month ago, the thought of teaching a child to read/use a telephone book seemed utterly ridiculous to me.  However, while I was waiting for Ruben to finish his tutor session, I was talking with the part time administrative assistance, who was a fresh university graduate looking for permanent full time employment.  She was telling me about the interviews she'd had, the number of candidates she was up against and how difficult her job search has been.  Being a former county employee, I suggested a few government type positions.  She stated she applied at the county, but couldn't find their phone number to follow up.  She looked online and in the yellow pages with no luck.  I then showed her the government section in the front of the telephone book and how to use it.  She was elated when we found the number.  I was astounded that this university graduate had no idea how to use the phone book!  I now understand what Dr. Beechick is referring to.

In You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, Beechick gives you low and no cost examples of how to achieve teaching each of these reading types.  I have used this book as reference in the past, but don't recall reading this first section.  I do plan to continue reading the suggested pages to see what else I can glean.