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This spring Satori noticed cursive writing somewhere. I don’t know where, but all of a sudden her handwriting was looking strange and she was touting about her new “writing”. Finally it dawned on me what she was trying to do – write cursive! I wrote her name neatly in cursive and she copied it. This page was from over a month ago.

She continues to try to write cursive, although I haven’t given her any instruction except to write her name that one time and explain that it is cursive. Here she wrote what I’m assuming to be “grocery store”.

I promised we would start her Cursive Handwriting (HWT) book once she’s finished her HWT Grade Two Printing Power. At our rate, we should finish this book in August, so we’ll be starting Cursive way sooner than I originally planned. We always went fast through these workbooks, Satori couldn’t wait to learn how to write.

She also mimics calligraphy or serif print sometimes.

Our Grade 2 book covers helpful concepts in Language Arts, such as this mini-lesson in word spacing.

And this lesson yesterday about apostrophes, which thankfully we covered last week in our reading program.

It also inserts mini-lessons in science and art. Today she copied a paragraph on art.

It’s a beautiful summery day on the weekend and while we wait for Daddy to finish up some work, we decided to write to Satori’s pen pals. Here she is at her desk, sporting a carrot mustache. We have been making fresh juices every day and this one had carrots, apples, celery, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts and orange. What a delicious way to sneak in vegetables!

We’re excited to add a new pen pal today! The past half year we’ve really only been going back and forth with one little girl who lives in California. We’re adding a little boy today and this letter is heading out to the same state.

A bit about this particular letter. We are using our new Handwriting Without Tears “Regular Double Line Notebook Paper, where the lines are spaced 3/16″ apart. Her handwriting has been getting smaller and she started her 2nd Grade HWT printing book last month, so this paper is going to be great! The Wide Double Line we used to use was 5/16″ spaced lines.

I really wanted her to write this all on her own, mispellings and all, but she was adamant that she spell everything correctly. So she asked for help on which “OW” sound the word “mountains” had. After I said to use the “ou” spelling, she then proceeded to spell “how” as “hou”, hehe. She still needs reminders to use periods at the ends of her sentences. But she tried very hard to use her “proper grip” and write neatly for her new friend. 🙂

Hmmm… That last sentence, let me explain. This weekend, Daddy is going to sleep in the bottom bunk of her big dollhouse bed, and she will sleep on the top bunk. She gets so excited about “sleepovers” like this, and she even packed Daddy’s toothbrush/toothpaste in her bathroom and his pillow on the bed.

We are now well in our Kindergarten Spring 2010 semester so I feel qualified to muse on Satori’s progress and to reflect on new curriculum choices. I want to start off giving myself a pat on the back for staying on top of our homeschool schedule and getting most lessons done by 11am everyday, considering my spontaneous personality. Huge hugs to Satori for participating with such joy, and for going along with some lessons that I know aren’t the most exciting.

READING

We’re using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and the more I read about other homeschoolers and books on reading, the more glad I am to have chosen this book as our main reading program. It’s so systematic and thorough. Within our allocated 20 minutes, we easily cover a lesson a day, and a thorough review of recently covered lessons and then touch a few lessons covered months ago. Every 7-10 days we take a thorough review day, although our reviews are already thorough, so we’ll be stopping review day. We’re on lesson 118 now, in Section 13 “Common Spellings for Other Vowel Sounds” like AW, AU, OO, OU, OI, EA and so on.

Aside from the 20 minute lessons five days a week, I do not push Satori to read on her own. I want her to learn to enjoy reading and am afraid if I push it, she might get burned out or turned off by reading. Only until last month did I encourage her to read off her easy readers, which are totally below her level, but gives her the confidence of reading. So we do try to have Satori read a few books, then mama read a read-aloud, but I haven’t been consistent.

One milestone we have finally reached is Satori’s eagerness to read books. Monday night (2/8) Satori just could not get enough of her Nora Gaydos books, and read an entire set in one sitting. In 24 hours, we read both Level 1 and Level 1 Advanced sets of Nora Gaydos. She loves the stickers and laughs at the stories. (Ah, the simple things…) We’ve started Volume 2, with sentences like “The gray ape places the cake to bake on a tray.” and “The crazy snakes danced into the lake.”  This is more her level. She also started reading the Biscuit books. I’m so glad that we got this far in our reading program, it has given her the confidence to tackle beginning reading books with ease. I’m afraid she might be getting a bit too over-eager, as she sometimes wants to try to read “my” books, lol!

On a final reading note, last week Satori went gung-ho with her ReadingEggs.com online reading subscription, which we recently renewed after several months. I think she went through several maps in one day! She does this completely independently, which is a nice break for mama. She’s now on Level 2, Lesson 64, although at this point, I think she could get through all of level 3 without learning anything new that she hasn’t already learned through OPG. She is using her math skills to earn her eggs. For example, she wanted to purchase a piano for 84 eggs, but only had 24 at the time. So she worked extra hard and saved up all her eggs until she could purchase her piano. 🙂

MATH

Again, I think we chose the perfect program for ourselves. We’re on RightStart A Lesson 39 today. Recently she’s been learning how to estimate, add, write equations, money, even/odd, and dozens of other things. She is not using the abacus to add things like 7+3, but she doesn’t have it memorized either. I’m trying to get her to use the abacus, but she’s doing her addition fast and without mistakes, so we’ll see how it goes. Last night we revisited a Memory Game from Lesson 9 and she wanted to do it over and over. She has a great memory, so she kicks my butt.

I love how learning our coins – penny, nickel, and dime, it reinforces the concept of grouping things in 5s and 10s. She has no problem paying me for an apple worth 87 cents, in several different ways.

HANDWRITING

Last week I posted about a handwriting emergency, letters getting sloppy/careless. We hadn’t been focusing on handwriting at all for such a long time. My mistake! As I posted a few pictures of Satori writing, I noticed a weird pencil grip. I then launched myself into researching grips and discovered I myself have an incorrect grip. I use 2 grips, both are incorrect. Satori uses a combination of Quadropod Grip (which HWT says is okay) and sometimes something totally incorrect. So both mom and daughter have been practicing using the more commonly suggested Tripod Grip.

Satori knows exactly how each letter should be written, right down to its shape and  how to write it. When people write lowercase “e” wrong on TV, she’ll catch it and tell me how they wrote it wrong. If I forget the tiniest little detail on a letter, like forgetting to come back down on lowercase “u”, she’ll point that out and correct it for me. So daughter does teach Mama sometimes!

To get back on track, we’ve started Handwriting Without Tears First Grade book, and are using StartWrite software to make practice handwriting sheets, and are constantly checking our handwriting grip. HWT has a few tricks on  how to get a correct grip, and we’re working on those.

SPELLING

One more Step left in All-About-Spelling Level 1 and we’re on to Level 2.  I couldn’t ask for more from a program, but I think I talk about AAS enough so I’ll leave it at that.

Satori has been writing books about 10-15 pages long. The classical education model doesn’t start “creative writing” until Grade 5 (the Logic stage), but this kindergartner sure loves to write stories. Using her phonics and spelling she knows so far, these are fun (and funny) to read. I really need to take a picture of these books, they come complete with cute pictures! She’s been writing a story about a cat named Liz and her adventures with Gest her friend, and her babies. Here’s a few pages of one story (some misspellings corrected):

Liz met a male. The owners of the cats are mad. (picture of happy cats with collars and mad owners)

Liz saw her owner and she ran fast. The 2 cats got home. The people left Liz and Gest home.

Liz and Gest had a idea. They ran to the cat bed. (Hmmmm….) In the mornin the 2 cats be friends.

Gest and Liz got mayed (married). (Picture of Gest with a top hat and bow on. Liz with a fancy gold collar.)

The End

OTHER SUBJECTS – WRITING, GRAMMAR and LOGIC

Not much to say about Writing, Grammar, and Logic except they’re going well and only take a few minutes a day. Nothing too exciting about these subjects, but there are some Logic problems Satori loves of which she cannot get enough. Satori wants to do several lessons of vocabulary a day. She picks up on unknown words all the time and demands a definition. She attempts to use new vocabulary in her conversation. So cute!

History is amazing, I talk enough about that, so no big updates here. I did plan on going much slower in history, but we are doing one chapter a week, which is what’s recommended. Love SOTW audio CDs to listen to in the car so we can review stories already  covered. I had no clue Satori would enjoy history so much.

SPANISH

We just started using Discovery Education streaming Elementary Spanish which rocks! Satori actually asked for Spanish videos so she can learn on her own, so I simply introduced her to these. They come with a teacher’s manual PDF file. We are only on our first week, more to say about this later.

MAJORLY SLACKING ON…

Science and Art big-time. I think the prep-time of these is daunting to this perfectionist mom. We have however, been watching lots of science videos on Discovery Streaming. I keep meaning to spend an entire day to pre-prepare lessons in these 2 subjects, and then doing several in a week (I schedule these once a week).

Satori zoomed through her Handwriting Without Tears books and last fall we took a two month break (from everything actually). She continued to write letters and books, so I figured that her handwriting wouldn’t suffer too much. This month we started up Spring Semester and started only doing handwriting in our HWT Grade 1 book two times a week (we used to do it 3x a week). We’re doing one letter at a time, just a few pages.

However, I’ve noticed that her handwriting is not improving, perhaps getting sloppier, and showing some inverted letters. Lowercase letters are not on the proper line, they rarely descend below the line and sometimes aren’t tall. In HWT lowercase is either tall, small, or descending. I’m seeing this in our ETC workbook and all of Satori’s creative papers that she does on her own accord.

Time for some emergency practice! I’m using the StartWrite software which features HWT fonts to generate worksheets with all lowercase (we’ve actually never done this before). With this software I can specify not only the font, but the shading, letter type (dotted, dashed, or solid), starting dot, directional arrows, guide line options, and so much more. Our favorite is the lightest shading in solid, with a red starting dot, and only the middle and bottom lines. Just like HWT recommends.

This colorful worksheet Satori all the tall letters are circled in red, small are in blue, and descending are in green. I hope this will help her remember these if we do this worksheet now and then.

We will be adding these StartWrite worksheets everyday until her handwriting improves. We’ll also slowly go through Handwriting Without Tears, letter by letter this time to make sure we’re forming our letters correctly.

I’ll list a few examples of our worksheets generated this week. Below is Upper and Lowercase letters with directional  arrows.

Here’s an example of just the starting dot.

This day we covered “d” in our HWT book. They have clipart built-in to the software, how convenient! As you can see, Satori likes to add her own embellishements (nex tim sing wis me). We’ll be working on her pronunciation so she can spell correctly, lol!

Here’s some pages out of her HWT book, we’re reviewing the lowercase letters which we learned in the fall.

She’s pretty good at writing numbers, but 8 is a bit awkward. On these pages, Satori will make her own checkmark box and check it off if her HWT book “forgets” to include it. 😉

Satori learned all her lowercase this fall and after a quick review this past week on how to write them all correctly, we present to you, Satori’s very first penpal letter showing off her lowercase letter skills! Satori told me what she wanted to write to her new friend Aspen, and mama dictated the spelling.  Coincidentally, this was also our very first time we actually tried to “properly” use Handwriting Without Tears Wide Double Line Notebook Paper designed for K-1. For her first letter, not bad. You can see she sometimes wrote capital letters in the same small space. She’s also trying hard to write her “e” correctly, so she redid that a few times.

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I didn’t realize until recently this was indeed the perfect paper for Satori’s level. I had all kinds of “beginner” lined sheets, but all the lines are confusing. Which one to start on? What’s that dotted line for? What about all the colors – blue, red, green, black… Confusing! She ended up just ignoring lines altogether. But with the HWT paper, there is only the bottom line and the midline, which is all she needed to start improving on her lowercase handwriting. Plus, it has lots of room to write.

After we finished our HWT Kindergarten book, and before we pulled out the above paper, Satori and I spent two days practicing lowercase on HWT’s Blackboard with Double Lines.  Some letters took a few tries, but eventually she did some pretty good work. Below is a quick word I just had her do, but she was distracted and wanted to work on her computer, so she didn’t focus on perfection. But I wanted to show this word in particular, with a tall letter, a small letter, and a descending letter.

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We have one more week of review, and then a short Christmas vacation, and then we’ll start in on  our HWT First Grade book.

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.

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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.

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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.

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 AudibleKids.com 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:

READING

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.

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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) ProgressivePhonics.com 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…

WRITING

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:

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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!

SPELLING

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.

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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.

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MATH

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.

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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.

HISTORY

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.

SCIENCE

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.

LOGIC

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.

ART

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.