Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Christmas Fun….so far

I finally had success with shaving cream/glue puffy paints!  Last year we had a pitiful mess of flaking, smooshable, FLAT goo but this year….SUCCESS!

Look at that lovely, puffy snowflake.


I guess I wouldn’t say this was any less messy than last year but Vicki had a great time.  Evidently the secret is to make sure you use enough glue.  The “recipe” calls for 1/2 glue, 1/2 shaving cream but it’s really hard to measure when the cream foams up and the glue doesn’t.  Vicki chose a lovey brass-colored glitter to add.


Meanwhile, Georgie had no interest in playing with sticky white muck so I introduced him to fuse beads.   I had a bucket full from when Steph was younger.


Georgie made a star that he decided to hang on the wall of his room instead of the tree.  I made a heart and then made him a Pikachu.  Our bucket of fuse beads is mostly pastels and neons, so I’m going to have to gets some more blacks and primary colors before I can make any other Pokemon.


Vicki and I also made some Christmas sugar cookies this week.  Georgie wasn’t interested in helping – since he doesn’t eat sugar cookies, he didn’t want to make sugar cookies.   I may try and talk him into making some cookies with his two favorite things - Hershey Kisses and  peanut butter.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up

We had a good but short week.   We will keep plugging away as much as we can even though the holidays, although I am going to try and throw in some more fun stuff.


Vicki was very excited to start her Handwriting without Tears kindergarten level book “Letters and Numbers for Me” this week.    She proudly wrote her name on the cover and started right in.   She still needs quite a bit of work writing on the lines.  

She still enjoys using the lined chalkboard with small chalk pieces and little sponges to practice.  I’ll write something, she then uses a small wet sponge to go over each letter, then dries it and writes it herself.  HWT refers to this as “wet/dry/try”.  We are mostly practicing her name this way.


Georgie is doing one page a day in his Handwriting without Tears 2nd grade book.  The smaller lines and full pages make this all he can handle with good technique and careful formation, at least for now.   He has been doing more of the writing in his Spectrum Writing workbook (for some reason he likes writing in that book) and even some math.


Vicki has moved on to short /i/ words in Explode the Code.   She still enjoys ETC and will do between 2 and 6 pages a day.  I let her do however many pages she wants to do and let her quit when she’s had enough.  She usually writes this herself so gets tired faster than she might if she let me do the writing.

We are up to Lesson 35 in Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  When we reach blends in a few lessons, we may take a break and just review and work on fluency.  She usually sounds out the words one letter at a time but is getting slightly faster at putting them together into a smooth recitation after.   I wasn’t ready this week with a print-out so she did Lessons 34 and 35 right out of the book.  She didn’t seem to mind this like Georgie did when he used OPGTR, so that will make things easier (for me).   We are still using the Hubbard’s Cupboard booklets for practice and next week we are going to give Hop on Pop a try.

The only phonics Georgie is still doing is All About Spelling 2.  We are up to Step 9 and he is continuing to have no trouble spelling any of the words.  I’m not sure he is actually utilizing the rules but I will continue demonstrating them in the hopes he is retaining at least some of the information.

We are having a little trouble finding a good place for the magnetic board when we are working in the kitchen.  I had it leaning on Georgie’s chair but he didn’t want his barefeet on the cold tile floor so he perched on the edge of the seat.  It actually worked fairly well but I’m not sure that is the way we will continue.


We spent time reviewing commas and adjectives outside of our Spectrum workbooks this week.   I found some extra practice pages from Evan-Moor Teachers File Box and The Learning Page.  He’s definitely getting more comfortable with writing since on The Learning Page worksheet all he had to do was write 5 words to describe a storm.  Instead he wrote 5 full sentences, “The storm is LOUD”, “The storm is big", “The storm is dark”, “The storm is wet”.  Of course, he had to yell when reading “LOUD”.  Not overly creative but he seems to understand adjectives finally.

Reading Comprehension is still a mixed bag.  Some of the selections (from Evan-Moor Read and Understand with Leveled Texts, Grade 4) he reads right through, answers the questions easily, and moves right along.  Others, he scans the text then takes random guesses at the questions.   I have found that he isn’t ready to answer questions that require a lot of deduction from the text instead of the answers being clear.  After the holidays, I’m hoping to do some literature units where we can discuss actual books.

In Spectrum Writing, he is working through the stages and tools for writing – brainstorming, word webs, etc.   Their suggestion for a web was “Foods I Like to Eat”.  Not a great topic for Georgie since there are very few foods he likes to eat.  But, we managed to get through the assignments.  Next week he will work on writing his own paragraphs and I will probably let him type them up on the computer.  Observing him lately he types using both hands, all 10 fingers and at a decent speed.


Vicki has been getting bored with her kindergarten math.  She decided to mimic her brother and declare them “too easy” this week.  I took a look through the math suggestions in What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know and some of what would be coming up, and decided that she may be ready to start Math Mammoth 1A.    Next week we will give that a try and see how she does.  Since she is starting right at the beginning and definitely doesn’t have Georgie’s affinity for math, I think we’ll probably be able to just proceed through the chapters in order.

George is doing great with his 5 million different math activities each day. 

He still loves the Algebra Readiness Made Easy puzzles but it looks like the current ones are too easy since he finishes them in about 30 seconds.  We are still at the beginning of the 3rd grade book and I think it gets harder as it goes along so I may need to jump farther into the book.  I’ve also been looking at some other logic books, such as grid puzzles, that I think he may enjoy.

He did slightly more of the writing than is usual for him this week in Math Mammoth.  In one case he actually chose to do math while I was working with Vicki instead of waiting for me like he usually does.   Another set of problems – borrowing over zeros from 3B – I wasn’t sure how to have him explain it to me so I could write it for him while still making sure he understood it.  I did copy the problems larger onto separate sheets of paper so they were easy to work with, especially having to cross off and borrow from multiple digits.


He thought this meant he would only have to do four problems since I wrote a problem on each side of a page folded in half.  When I told him I would just get another piece of paper he said “Drats, I knew mommy would know a way around that”.   But, since he was able to answer all four of the problems I gave him without hesitation I didn’t give him anymore off that page.   He is currently doing 3 pages from 3A or 3B each day.

He is working on Beast Academy 3A as well.  We are only up to the second section, on quadrilaterals, but he is doing a lot better understanding.  He had some trouble when we were doing the triangle section and I thought he might not be ready for the very different approach of BA, but for some reason the quadrilaterals are coming much easier to him.   We will continue doing this very slowly as a supplement.

I’ve also started running through flashcards with him at the end of school.  He is great with understanding concepts but is not quick with facts.  So, we are doing drills of addition and subtraction to build up his speed.  Eventually we will move onto multiplication.  He doesn’t seem as resistant to flashcards as he used to be, as long as I let him have the cards after he answers them correctly.  That makes it into a game for him.


Once Vicki is done with her work each day, she usually does Play-doh while I work with Georgie.  This week I did get her to make some foam Christmas ornaments we had from last year.  She actually followed the picture on some of these and put them together according to her directions.  Most of them had her own unique touches though.


I’ve gone back and forth on various methods of organization, and various strategies for work flow over the past couple years.   I think I may have finally hit upon something that will work. 

Georgie really likes to see how much work he has to do each day.  He likes being able to see what he should do on his own and what he can wait until I come help him.  He likes to talk constantly as he does his work, and he likes to put his worksheets right in my face to check them over the second he is done with them, even though this is usually the time when I am working with Vicki.  The constant talking isn’t really a problem since he doesn’t expect an answer and it doesn’t seem to bother Vicki at all.  He is just discussing every single thing he is doing, what he thinks about it, and how it’s going.   The shoving things at me and expecting an immediate response IS a problem.

He really liked his binder where he had a clear division between his independent work and what he did with me.   But we now use a bunch of workbooks that I can’t pull apart for binders, and we sometimes had trouble with him not knowing what to do with “independent” work that he actually needed help with.

So, here is what I’m going to try:


a very loosely interpreted workbox system from plastic magazine holders.  In one is all his independent work, in the other is all the things we usually do together.  Things that are borderline I am putting in the “Go Ahead” bin and if he feels he needs help, he can move it into the other bin.   Anything he finishes and wants me to look over, he can put in the “Stop” bin and I will go over it with him (which usually means me checking the answers and saying “you’re right, good job”).  If he finishes his “Go Ahead” work before I finish with Vicki, also in there are his composition notebook for free writing, his How to Draw Pokemon book and a couple Draw, Write, Now books.  These will be clipped together and have a note saying only to do them if mom is still working with Vicki, although I will try to make sure he gets to these at least a couple times a week.

Also in the “Go Ahead” bin is a checklist written in Sharpie marker on a laminated page (so it won’t smear but can be removed with alcohol) that he can check-off things as he finishes them.  I don’t know if he’ll like the checklist, but since he’s always asking how many things are left when we are doing school, I thought it was worth a try.

Vicki is also getting her own version of a workbox.  Just hanging file folders in a file crate we already had.  This will make it easier for me to put together things I want her to work on beyond workbooks, like manipulatives and games, and sits on the bench seat next to where she sits for school.