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Category: Reading

I was a bit premature on my “First Week Back” post, and only when I realized that homeschooling forums/email lists are all talking about their first complete week back on Friday (not as early as Wednesday), did I decide to do a Part II!

I’m excited about all the new curriculum we are adding to our year (and leaving out things we never got to last fall). We’re starting the subjects Writing, Grammar and Vocabulary. Today I’ll cover the writing.

We are using The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals by Susan Wise Bauer. For those of you who don’t know that name, she’s the one who has inspired our method of classical education homeschooling, and we have all of her curriculum (reading, history, grammar, writing). Before you make the mistake I did, the hardcover book linked above is repeated in the companion Student Workbook. The lessons are totally scripted in the workbook, with tear-out pages for the student to write as well. In fact, the hardcover book isn’t as complete as the workbook, so it’s not needed. I actually downloaded the PDF file of the student pages ($9.50), so now all I have to do is print out using my printer, unlimited copies for my family! These worksheet pages don’t need to be downloaded or bought, you can make your own easily. Next time around, I’ve learned my lesson and will only download the complete Workbook 2 PDF file.

Each week covers 4 lessons to gently introduce a first grader to copywork and narration. Monday our copywork consisted of “Pa owned a pig.” This took Satori only a few seconds, so we just wrote it over one more time, focusing on proper capitalization and a period for the sentence. I am debating whether to use our StartWrite software in HWT font for her copywork pages…

The narration consisted of reading a short fable, and then asking several questions. Answers are required to be in complete sentences. I am going to try and speak in complete sentences more often myself, and minimize my use of contractions, to assist Satori in proper language.

We’re trying to keep lessons 20 minutes or less for the big subjects like Reading and Math, and under 10 minutes for the  easy stuff like Handwriting, Writing, and Grammar. Here’s my little reminder tool we’re using, I love it! As you can see, our Reading lesson (OPG) just took 8 minutes to complete, and since it is a Friday, I was okay with that. I do not require her to read every single sentence though, we do a quick review, cover the new rule, read all the new words, and then read a couple sentences.

Satori continued to make me laugh throughout the week…

We still have the occasional inversions on “g” and “p”, but I’m told this will be completely normal these first few years. We’re going over printing lowercase once again in Handwriting Without Tears, and this time we’re going through it very slowly.

One curriculum decision I was going to make was to ditch ETC workbooks completely (pictures shown above and below). However, Satori said she enjoyed doing them. Since we are so far behind in these workbooks compared to her actual reading level, we’re going to go through them at an even more accelerated pace. I’m choosing just two pages out of each lesson, and these lessons will cover a multitude of subjects – reading, handwriting, and spelling!

If we keep the accelerated pace up, we should be caught up in ETC Book 3 or 4 to her reading level by late spring.

For our reading program (OPG – Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading) Satori has been learning many different ways that long-vowel words are spelled. This time we actually did one of their games! (Usually we just learn the new rule, read the words and that’s pretty much it.) But once I realized that I could purchase and download a PDF file of their flashcards, I realized there is no excuse why we can’t do the games.


You don’t need to purchase anything, of course you can make your own flashcards. However, if you’re lazy you’ll never get to that! You could also order the flashcards for $5.95 and get them sent to you all printed out, you simply cut them up. Or, you can do what I did, order the PDF file of OPG Flashcards for immediate gratification for $4.75. Since I figured that was worth my time to print out 320 cards all nice and neat, I decided to do the splurge.


Satori had a great time in this game and eagerly read all the words correctly, and ran to tape them on any appropriate things! We now have flashcards taped to our wooden “rail” on the staircase, on the oven where we “bake”, the “place” where Satori sits for dinner…


But my favorite one was the word “great”. I found it taped on my back. 🙂

This very Explode the Code workbook was one of the very first workbooks I purchased last spring once I decided to homeschool Satori. If you’re new to homeschooling, it won’t take you long before you hear about this program. Once we got it, Satori did a few pages out of it, but then I decided not to follow a “workbooky” style and set it away for months.

Then, a reader of my blog mentioned them and out they came again! This time I got the 3 pre-books, which Satori whizzed through quickly. Finally, we are on the book 1, which is still too simple for us, but I love the review. I love the handwriting practice too. Here’s a sample page she did today.


Satori just turned 5 last month and the past few months we hadn’t done much schooling at all, but I am proud that she is finally to the point where she automatically writes in lowercase for most words.

Speaking of handwriting, we use Handwriting Without Tears program and have finished their Kindergarten book. I am going to go through the rest of December reviewing some of her problem letters and doing simple copywork. She still sometimes writes “g” backwords, and does a few letters incorrectly, which will slow her down in the long run. Letters like “p” she doesn’t write below the line sometimes. “z” is sometimes written backward as well. The rest of her letters are acceptable, but we also need to learn to write on the correct lines. We need to practice on the HWT’s special paper that has only two lines. We’re going to address these inefficiencies this month, and then start with HWT’s Grade 1 book next semester, starting January 2010.

I totally wish I found this program a year ago! I may have mentioned this program a few times, but here it is more in-depth. Progressive Phonics is a free phonics reading program. You can download and print out the stories/lessons or read online. Satori cracks up over the stories. Since they just released a bunch of new Alphabetti books, we started reading the stories again. Here’s one we read a while back, but one of our favorites anyway – Who Hid Ham?


The Alphabetti books are great for beginning readers. They are too simple for Satori’s current level, but she loves them anyway. I can’t resist hearing her giggling and cracking up over the characters and then begging me to read again and again. I love how they have print for the parents to read, and larger red print for the child to read. Woe to anyone who accidentally read’s Satori’s words, or who makes her read the black text!


Everytime I check the site now, more books have been added, so we still have a few to catch up with.  The second set is about Sid the snake and his friends Sis, Dan, Ham and more. Alphabetti Parts 3-5 are not up yet and I imagine that to take quite a while. But after Alphabetti books, are the phonics books which actually teach more phonics and reading. I think we will skip the Beginning Phonics books (short vowels, they look boring anyway) and move on to the Intermediate Phonics. These will last us a long time yet. These will teach blends, long vowels, vowel digraphs… which is more of the phonics level we are at now. The books progress to more and more “red words” that Satori has to read herself.

UPDATE 2 HOURS LATER: Satori and I started the Beginner Phonics Books – Book 1 covering the short vowel “a”. She didn’t hesitate reading any of these words, she can read these simple words fluently. If you’ve read my blog, I admit that I do not force her to read simple books so we haven’t worked on fluency at all. So it was nice to read a book together with her and know that it will all come naturally! We read 10 stories which I discovered are all short but cute little poems.

Here’s a video of Satori and Daddy reading “Who Hid Ham?” together. I apologize that in the middle she shrieks to make sure I got the current page on video, lol! (David says “swandwich” on purpose, that’s how Satori used to say it last year, and we can’t resist saying it that way now.) I love how Satori reads with inflection. 🙂

Satori loves to write letters. With her beginner/intermediate knowledge of phonics, she can sound out complex words and sentences that we are able to decipher most of the time. Of course, when she writes us letters, they are full of “luv” and little hearts. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to be able to spell “love” correctly, even though we haven’t covered that word yet in our reading or spelling. So I gave her the gift of Love.


I decorated it with glitter and heart-shaped gems… <3

I even gift-wrapped it so it was extra special!


Coincidentally, the same day I gave her this tiny gift, Daddy wrote on our whiteboard “Love you!” So the next time she started to write a letter, she actually ran to the whiteboard to learn how to write “love”. With both the love card and Daddy’s message, Satori has it totally memorized now on how to spell “love” correctly!

I made a few other cards to give to her on other weeks, these are all high-frequency-Satori-use words.


I got this idea from the book Games for Reading by Peggy Kaye. It was actually the first or second game in the book. We’ve also got her games for Writing and Math books. However, some homeschooling families will take offense in Peggy’s intro where she says that in general, she agrees that teaching should be left to teachers. I always catch those little snippets now. But her books still filled me up with great ideas, so I will let her comment slide, after all, she first wrote it 25 years ago.

Phonics will always have the  highest priority for us, but little games like this will help make reading fun. I imagine I’ll be sharing our final versions of some of her ideas in the 3 books, but if you wanted to check some of her games out, head to’s Game page!

We’re about to head to Wisconsin for a week, so I’m considering most of it vacation. All I have planned for the next 10 days is to get 4 reading lessons in, and hopefully do some nice read-alouds, both in the car driving (checking out now) and having David and myself read. A trip to my childhood library would be nice…

Here’s what’s happening lately at the “Fox Mountain Academy” (SatoriSmiles homeschool tentative name)!

If you couldn’t tell already, I’ve been painting many rooms in our house, most rooms are homeschool-related. In our basement I painted this wall orange-red. For this I wanted an energetic color as this is also a fitness gym (on the other side), yet also be rich and mysterious for our history timelines, and stimulating enough for our Science station corner. I like it! Hope David isn’t too horrified by it, it is quite a bold color! On our return from Wisconsin, I’ll be working on putting up our timelines (with their own picture light shining down onto them) and setting up the science station with microscope, magnifying glass and experiment books.

Basement wall

Basement wall

I’ll just give a brief update on how all our subjects are coming along, as we’ve now finished exactly four weeks of “kindergarten”! First off, Homeschool Skedtrack rocks. It is certainly keeping me on track, yet I love it’s flexibility. I need to dedicate a new blog post review on that free tool. Now for the subjects:


We’re now on lesson 75 in OPG, our main reading program. This program will take her to a 4th grade reading level, which at her pace, will probably hit sometime next year, all before the official Colorado kindergarten age! We’ve moved on past consonants/short vowels and blends, now we’re learning long vowel sounds, and digraphs such ph.

Here’s the pages we did today.


She picks up this stuff pretty fast, we learn a new rule, she masters it right away, we finish the lesson. I then review to make sure she’s got previous lessons still memorized and yep, she remembers. If that all takes less than 10 minutes, we might stop there or start a new lesson. Tonight we did two lessons. Here’s a sample of what she read tonight.

Mack, Mike and I will go on a trip.
With luck, Mack and I will get a snack of chips.

For fun, we’re whipping (literally) through our ETC workbooks. She should be finishing up the ETC A-C books which are just easy primers and should be starting Book 1. Still just a review, we’ll whip through that and then finally slow down when we hit book 2, which will be a review on blends. Not until book 3 will we be caught up with the approximate OPG level. For fun, we’ve read through the highly entertaining (and free) Alphabetti books and are sad to say our goodbyes to Sid/Sis and Dod/Bob. They haven’t updated that site with the rest of the Alphabetti books, so we will start the more boring real phonics books. No lovable characters to get to know, as far as I’ve looked…


We just have a few pages left in her Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten book, which means we’ve finally covered all the lowercase letters! The few pages left are practice with whole words/sentences/paragraphs. Here’s her writing the alphabet (upper and lowercase) tonight:


As you can see, she’s got it down pretty well. Sometimes she writes the lowercase “g” backwards, and I see that she totally left that off. She also writes the Z backwards, also left off conveniently… Hmm… We will take at least a month off before starting the first grade book, but still practice handwriting at least 3x a week. We will work on noticing those lines and getting the lowercase letters in the right places. 😉 I suppose I should mention that she is constantly writing books and letters, they are very entertaining!


This kinda goes with the above two subjects. She will sit down and want to have spelling  quizzes even on days that I do not plan for Spelling! She’s pretty good at  it too, for a 4 year old. She LOVES writing these on paper, and we haven’t pulled out the big whiteboard with letter tiles at all lately.

We’re on Lesson 15 in All About Spelling, which is covering initial blends. Here’s our spelling list for tonight.


Of these 10 words she spelled 8 perfectly. Every now and then she gets “i” and “e” short vowel sounds mixed up, even though she knows their sounds and can read them perfectly. So she spelled “sled” as “slid”.  The other word she spelled wrong was “trip”. She spelled “chrip” instead. If you can read the gray paragraph, it specifically says the child may spell “tr” as “ch”, so I should have read that and enunciated more carefully!

On these spelling quizzes, she reverts to capital letters and sometimes they’re a bit sloppy, but I’m not complaining – I know she’s thinking intensely while she writes and this is all new to her. Each lesson takes us anywhere from 2-3 days to complete now that we’re covering more difficult material.



We’re getting the hang of RightStart math level A and have hit a few of their games, which she loves. She has been waking up and after talking about her current favorite animal (Wooly Mammoths this month), she then asks to do a math game with her dolls. Tonight we played a game that reinforced Even/Odd. Her she is posing with her American Girl doll Danna, who played with us. Although it takes longer for 3 “people” to play a game, she insists to give Danna a turn too, in addition to myself and Satori.


Since we started all over with RightStart A after doing Math-U-See all spring/summer,  it doesn’t seem like we’ve made much math progress this year, but I know she’s really getting these new RS concepts. So glad we switched to RightStart. On Fridays I have Singapore workbook lessons scheduled, although we are not as consistent with math as we are with the above 3 subjects.


We’ve wrapped up Prehistory! I know I started off documenting this stuff pretty thoroughly, but we really had a blast all the way through. The next History we cover will be actual human-written History! It is killing me to wait to start Story of the World, but I really think 4 years old is too early. We’ll start after she turns 5. 🙂 I’m really planning on documenting the heck out of our history studies, look forward to our blog posts of Ancients in 2010.


We covered Gravity this week, which I can tell we will need to cover a bit more, so in Wisconsin, I hope to find some good books on Gravity and Forces. When I get all the science experiment materials out, it excites her so much that she has a hard time focusing on the lesson, lol. Our first 3 science lessons she mastered the concepts immediately, this Gravity force (our 4th lesson) is something that I can tell was hard for her to understand immediately.


We’re doing 2 pages a week out of our Lollipop Logic book. Going well. She could most definitely handle more than 2 pages, but I haven’t researched this enough to figure out where to go after Lollipop Logic, which covers K-2 and is for prereaders. I want her to be reading fluently before she tackles the next books.


We do art and drawing multiple times a week. The Drawing With Children book is a bit more complex than I anticipated, but out of all homeschooling moms, with only one child, I have the time and still plan to step up to that challenge! Other than DWC, we do Artistic Pursuits but the preschooler lessons are pretty simple, I don’t talk about them too much.

Okay, so it’s not an actual treehouse, it’s the playset my dad built in July. I thought we’d do two lessons in the “treehouse” today for fun. Every now and then we’d be enthralled with a beautiful hummingbird, a loud whirring grasshopper thingie, and a “whiff” of flowers (“whiff” being one of the words we learned today).


I love how the OPG book cover matches the sky here! I should have brought my camera up in the treehouse, the view was beautiful.

Satori has been learning so fast lately, I hardly feel I am “teaching” her. Here’s what we worked on for reading today, you may want to click the picture to see it better.

OPG Lesson 63

OPG Lesson 63

We use a small whiteboard for our lessons, we don’t use any flashcards that are optional to purchase with the book. Most days we use a little bit larger whiteboard, the size of the book itself. Then we can fit multiple sentences/paragraphs on it. It is magnetic and has a blank white side, and a lined side. Lately, we’ve been using this tiny one word/phrase lined whiteboard.

Satori is not picking up her own books yet and reading them, even though I have BOB and Nora Gaydos books laid out in strategic spots, but I am not worried. Just yesterday we were at Sam’s Club, and all of a sudden she was saying “Sam’s Club” over and over excitedly. On the shopping cart handle, were the words that she read. She continued to read all our groceries: GLAD, EGGO, and much more.

Here’s the All About Spelling lesson we did today. She’s learned SH, TH, and CH pretty well now. Normally we do most work on the 2’x3′ magnetic whiteboard, but we couldn’t fit that in our treehouse today. Besides, she loves to write on paper. Here I dictated words and short 2-3 word phrases and she wrote them on her paper.

AAS - Lesson 12

AAS - Lesson 12

She’s a pretty good speller actually, she masters everything we learn. The only issue she’s having is sometimes she spells “e” for the short “i”. I ask her to read what she wrote, and then she’ll quickly redo it with an “i”. Also, about 50% of the time, she will use a “z” for an “s”, like in the word “has”, but she’s getting better.

To non-homeschoolers, this stuff sounds pretty meaty for a 4 year old, but we only do lessons when she wants to, and keep them short. I simply introduce something new and she learns it and we practice it a few times. We don’t make lessons long and boring. If I can tell she isn’t enjoying herself, I stop. If I feel she doesn’t like the curriculum we’re using, I am not afraid to switch to something new, as we did with math by switching to RightStart.

Oop, I just got 10 letters, most of them asking to go to the library! We better go to the Boulder Creek Festival now and hopefully see our friend and her new baby girl! “Mom  Can you go to the library. You can get books. You better bring a list mom. – Satori”