Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sierra’s Reading Chapter Books!!!

I used to wonder if this day would ever come. There were times when it was literally like pulling teeth to get my daughter to read. She would look at a word, realize she didn’t know it by sight, and start hollering that she couldn’t read it. Words like "get", and later words like “print” would send her into a total melt down. We’re not talking that long ago either.

Only a year ago, she would agonize over reading a simple book like “Hop on Pop”. We’d been using “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”, and she would sulk every time I brought it out. It was dry (no pictures) and put a lot of pressure on her to perform. We kept at it anyway. I didn’t know what else to do.

Last fall, however, my sister who works at an elementary school offered to let us use an on-line reading program through her school for free. I jumped at the chance. Headspreout turned out to be a lifesaver. Sierra was able to review all that she knew in a non-pressure environment and even go on to learn things she didn’t already know. She played games that helped her sound out words, taught her a number of sight words, and took her through sentence structure and reading comprehension. In a matter of weeks, she went from hating reading and thinking that she couldn’t read to actually enjoying herself. She flew through the program, completing it in just a couple months.

Sierra was now at a second grade reading level, but she was still lacking in confidence and fluency. I still worked with our old book (which she now accepted and sometimes wanted to do), but it wasn’t enough. I started having her read a book a day. “Hop on Pop” was a good start. So was “Ten Apples up on Top”. She knew these books well because her Daddy had read them to her a number of times. The hard part at first was making her actually read instead of reciting from memory.

I eventually dropped the reading primer when it started teaching all of the strange words in our language that we borrowed from other languages. At that point, it started to feel more like memorization work, and I was bored with it. Instead, we focused more on her book a day. Sierra was getting braver and reading longer and more complex books of her own choosing. Again, she would read books that Daddy had read to her, so they weren’t scary. She was learning fluency, which is all I was asking for at that point.

During Math and Spelling, I would make her read the instructions. She hated this at first, especially when I made her sound out a word that she didn’t recognize, but now she does it routinely. She’ll even read the word problems on her own without asking for help more often then not now. Occasionally, she would branch out and read short stories that she hadn’t read before. I also stated pointing out to her how well she could read and what she could do with a little more practice.

Well, it worked. Daddy has been reading the Tinker Bell books to the girls at night, and I’ve been telling Sierra that she could probably read them if she wanted. They’re just longer then the books she’s used to reading. That’s all.

She took my word for it, and last night, all on her own, she got out and started reading one of the Tinker Bell books. She’s read three chapters already, putting it down when she’s had enough, and picking it up again later. Daddy and I are thrilled, and that makes her want to read more.

We’ll still continue reading a book a day. It’s just good practice, but seriously, she made my year. All of my hard work hasn’t been for nothing. That’s good to know.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Son Wants to Be an Arborist

Our neighbor had his old, dead cottonwood tree cut down today. It was really fun to watch. They had a big crane-like claw attached to a huge dump truck and another truck with a crane arm ending in a bucket. They used the claw to grab the branches while the man in the bucket chain-sawed his way through the dead wood. It only took them about 2 hours to cut down a seventy foot tall cottonwood and haul off the waste.

We all sat in out backyard to watch as they worked. The kids were mesmerized, especially Blake. At one point, he was sitting in my lap watching, and I asked him if he wanted to be an arborist and do what those guys were doing. He paused, thought, and said matter-of-factly, "Yep."

My husband came home while they were in operation, and we decided to ask if they would haul away all of the branches and stump pieces we had piled up from our two cottonwoods that had been cut down last winter. They were happy to oblige, with pay of course, and they cleared off all of the wood in our side yard in a matter of 20 minutes. (It would have taken us hours.) Again, Blake stared and watched from our front window as the claw lifted and dropped the stumps and branches into the back of the dump truck. He wanted to go outside to watch, but we wouldn't let him.

Arborist, a boy's dream job! They get to work with trucks, cranes, claws, trees, and chain saws and get paid for it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Preschool Graduation

My four year old graduated from preschool last week. Her class had a little ceremony where they sang songs, danced a little, and paraded around wearing graduation caps. They even got a little diploma. It was really cute! Their teacher does an absolutely wonderful job. I honestly don't think I could have found a better preschool.

Even so, I'm glad it's over. I'm such a snot. I like doing things on my own time frame, and I really got annoyed at having to plan my day around drop-off and pick-up times. If Sierra got her school work done fast, we'd be sitting around for a half an hour with nothing to do. Sometimes Sierra took too long and she wasn't done by the time we had to get Bailey. Then we'd have to break off and pick it up again later. Not as easy as it sounds. Then there were those days where Bailey had preschool and we didn't have school at home. A couple of times I just kept her home.

Really though, I'm glad Bailey got to have the experience. She got to make her own friends away from her sister, explore, have fun, learn songs and do projects. Best of all, Teacher Wilson worked her though the beginnings of handwriting, counting, cutting, pasting, and so forth, and Bailey always came home with a huge smile.

It was a good year, but it's time to move on.

Thank you Marilyn.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Update on Mischief

With the warmer weather, my two year old has moved most of his energy outside. He no longer plays with knives (though he does like to bring them to me so that I can put them where he can’t reach them). He usually doesn’t wake us up in the morning with the sun (currently before 6am) anymore. Instead, he grabs a box of cereal and feeds himself while “reading” a book. He usually knocks or opens the doors slowly instead of barging in, and he doesn’t even try going out the front door without Mom or Dad. (He can’t reach the screen handle, so he got locked out when he did). Oh, and we fixed the egg problem too. We now have Easter Eggs all the time so that he can tell which ones are boiled. The kids love it.

Now, he just climbs the back yard fence so that he can see the dogs next door. He can’t climb all the way over (thank goodness), so it’s not too bad. He’ll stand there for half an hour at a stretch sometimes just watching. It’s kinda cute actually. Makes me want to get him a dog. . .

He also likes to swing. He’ll lie down on his stomach on the swing, super man style, and push the ground with his legs. He can really get going that way.

Indoors, he has taken to stealing my bras and hanging them around his neck. Then he’s strut around the house like he’s the coolest thing until Daddy or I take them away. That’s about it.

I think I can handle that.

Say “hello” to Spring!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eviction Notice

The house across the street from us has been bought, and they want the foxes out. Apparently, the burrow is making the cement front porch weak.

It's been interesting watching pest control personnel as they have tried to get the foxes to leave. First, they placed a bunch of wire cages around the main hole in an attempt to relocate them. They ended up catching three of the pups (there are actually six total), but because they didn't catch the mom, they had to let them go. Mamma fox was freaked out after that. She would jump at any car that passed by, and hid when people walked down the street. Papa fox wasn't as jumpy, but he was a little more protective.

Pest control tried a new tactic. He wired the cages open, hoping to get Mama accustomed to them. He also hoped that she might have gotten freaked out enough to leave. Neither worked. She wouldn't go near the cages (though the pups played all over them), and she wasn't going to leave her fox hole either while the pups were still nursing.

Well, our neighbors decided to try a different pest control. A couple days ago, we saw them dig up all along the porch. we thought that they were trying to dig out the burrow, but it turns out we were wrong. They were placing a wire fencing under ground so that the foxes couldn't dig out through the front. The had to dig out through the side where their main hole was located. That spooked Mama again. I haven't seen her since then. Yesterday, we saw an addition to the wire fencing. Over the main entrance to the burrow, a metal cage was placed that would let the foxes out, but wouldn't let them back in.

It seems to be working.

We've been seeing the pups roaming all over the place. They can't get back into the burrow and have fallen to exploring. Luckily, the pups are now old enough that they are starting to hunt for themselves. I haven't seen Mama or Papa fox. Looks like this last plan worked.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Count down

We have three weeks left of this school year! We only have four weeks to do it in though. This is the first year that I've actually kept track of the days, and it's been a little more difficult then I thought to fit them all into one year.

Colorado law says that you have to school for 172 days each year. That's about 35 weeks worth. Considering that there are 52 weeks in a year, that may not sound like much, but it can be. I've been sick a lot this year (because my forever sick two year old keeps giving me his colds). There are also unplanned visits, vacations, and so forth. I cut it a lot closer this year then I meant to. We've been behind since last summer when we took an extra week off because I miscalculated our vacation time. If I'd followed my original plan, we would have only had about a week left right now instead of three. Oh well. It's one of the benefits of homeschooling. Things are flexible.

But flexibility has it's limits. Sigh.

Three more weeks. We can do it! Just three more weeks.

Then we have a two week break before second grade starts. Oh well. Enjoy the break while it lasts.