Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

George Washington vs. Washington Street

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

On Independence Day we watched the musical 1776 from the 1970s.

Levi was in and out of the room while we watched the movie.  I really didn’t concern myself with how much he watched.  It wasn’t on for educational purposes.

Later that evening we watched the fireworks at Minnetrista in Muncie.  As we left and went through downtown Muncie and Levi was loaded up with Caffeine.  He was chattering about everything he saw.  Think Kurt Vonnegut on crack.  He then read a sign saying Washington Street and then started asking if George Washington was on the bus next to us.  I was shocked.  George Washington was several times mentioned in the movie earlier that day, but never was the word Washington written out.  The phonics first method seems to produce astounding results linking the verbal and written aspects of language.  I wish I could take credit for it.  Starfall has been the main resource teaching the boys to read.  I will write more in detail later about what we use for Phonics.  You may wish to look at Levi, Reading and Starfall.

Levi still insisted George Washington was riding on that bus.

Resource Review: TumbleBooks Library

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I know that some in classical homeschooling circles are not fond of electronic media.  Some materials can be the equivalent of intellectual “junk food.”  Junk food is OK in moderation, but what about using electronic resources as an everyday part of your curriculum?  The Internet is an inextricable part of daily life in our family–in fact, our family wouldn’t be here without it!  I firmly believe content is much more important than format.  That’s why I really appreciate when I find a quality e-resource.  TumbleBook Library is one such resource.

TumbleBook Library is free to me (and to any of you who live in my hometown), since it is offered on the website of my local public library.  I’m not sure how it authenticates, but you may be able to access it from the link on the Marion Public Library’s home page.  If not, ask at your own library.  If they don’t have TumbleBook Library, chances are they offer some great alternatives!

A screen shot showing an e-book in the Tumblepad interface

TumbleBook Library includes interactive fiction and non-fiction titles for kids in the elementary grades.  If you’re looking for classics, there aren’t many in the collection. However, it does include many good quality selections from contemporary children’s literature.  Also included are several fun modern-day interpretations of classics, such as the version of of The Tell-Tale Heart pictured here (this one includes tell-tale beets).  Really, this fits right in with the classical education concept of introducing basic ideas to build on later.  When we get around to Edgar Allan Poe in later years, the story will sound familiar.

Once a book has been opened, the electronic interface is easy to control, even for young children.  Levi can easily navigate through a book on his own.  He isn’t able to handle searching and browsing yet, but an older child should be able to do so.  The stories engage children’s interest with animation and sound effects, but maintain a literary feel by providing the entire text along with the narration.  As the narrator reads, the corresponding words are highlighted in the text.  Some books even provide reading help, which allows users to click on a word and hear it pronounced.  Users can watch the book on “auto” mode, or navigate the pages manually.  So far, I have mostly used the e-books, but the database also includes games and puzzles that go along with the books.

TumbleBooks provides an excellent choice for entertainment and recreational reading.  I find it especially helpful these days when most library materials I bring home end up having helicopters drawn inside the covers.  TumbleBooks are delivered through a web browser, so we don’t have to worry about lost or damaged books.  I like to cue up several stories and play them for the kids while I’m working.  Of course, e-books are no substitute for sitting together as a family and enjoying a good, old-fashioned traditional book, but TumbleBooks gives us yet another way to enrich our home with literature.

D is for Digging Into Curriculum

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I haven’t mentioned much about Slow and Steady Get Me Ready lately because honestly, we just haven’t gotten around to doing it. We made a few letter puppets, and Levi, being the little wordsmith that he is, enjoyed playing with them. We also tried digging for letters in the sand, which was fun but didn’t do much for him academically. Covering one letter per week just isn’t working for us. Both boys have already learned this content from Starfall.

Since we don’t “officially” start until October anyway, I’ve decided to approach this differently. We are going to sit down one day and make the full set of letter puppets. Perhaps the kids can color them while I’m doing my work-at-home gig. Then we’ll go through the book and work on the activities that teach concepts they have not already learned.

I’m also going to flip back to the three-year-old section, since Isaac will be there in November. I’m hoping to find more of the life skills type of activities, which is where Levi could use the most work.

This whole situation highlights yet another reason I love teaching my children. I don’t have to worry about them getting bored with curriculum. I remember standing in the corner in third grade because I was caught twiddling my thumbs. During the same year, I remember feeling lost when we covered long multiplication. If at some time we need to take it more slowly, we can do that too. I’m just grateful that I’ll be close by to monitor progress and adapt to their needs.

Free Resources: Letter Puppets

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I mentioned in Saturday’s post that I do not intend to follow Slow and Steady Get me Ready to a T.  This week’s activities are a perfect example of how I might adapt the ideas presented in the book.  I opened up to “Age 4 — Week 12″ and found that the week begins by introducing the letter D.  Thanks to Starfall, Levi has been able to identify all of the letters and their sounds since he was two years old.  Two years later, he is beginning to put words together using alphabet blocks.  Last week he even wrote his name on his magnetic writing board!  You will see in the picture at the left that he has an issue with spelling: he does not understand letter order.  We wouldn’t want him to go around signing things “Vile” or “Evil,” now would we?  One activity suggested in the text is to look through magazines for words that begin with a particular letter.  I think this could help.  We may also try cutting out the words and making a collage?  Too ambitious?  Maybe.  I’d also like try digging in sand for letters, mostly because it sounds like fun.

To introduce each of the letters, Oberlander asks parents to make “letter puppets.”  When I think of a puppet, I think of the figure of a person or animal; I would generally describe these as “flashcards on sticks.”  However, I will refer to them as puppets to prevent confusion.  While I don’t find it necessary to introduce each letter, the author suggests other activities to do with the puppets, so I decided to go ahead and make them.  Being the nerd that I am, I made them electronically.  If you’d like to save some work, or aren’t particularly fond of drawing, you can download my version from the Resource Center.  Just cut the sheet in half between the two letters and have your child color it.  Then, fold it in half and glue the sides together with a stiff cardboard “stick” or a craft stick in between.  Voila!  Instant letter puppets!

I’ll report later this week about how the activities work.

Levi, reading and Starfall

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Levi watching starfall.comLevi is watching Starfall.com on our TV. It has everything from letters to small books. Levi and Isaac both have enjoyed and learned from this web site. It has helped Levi in his love of letters and in starting to read.

I would call it like an interactive Sesame Street. Not only does it teach letters in language in a fun way. But, it also provides small game “quizzes” that make the learning fun.

Levi really loves his letters almost to obsession. One of his favorites is the silent E video. Starfall uses songs and games to teach phonics and exceptions in a fun and memorable way.

Starfall pumpkin

Another favorite of both boys is the the Pick a Pumpkin game. It gives them different options to make their own pumpkin. This game specifically teaches the short U sound. I still can hear it sing “uh, uh-uh, uh-uh-uh.” Yeah, I have heard it that much.

In closing, Starfall.com is an excellent resource for teaching children to read. It requires Adobe Flash Player, so it may not work on your smartphone. It should work on your Mac or Windows based PC.