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Reading has been our number one priority this past year. We’ve been using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading as our main reading/phonics program. I chose OPG as I wanted a very systematic way to go through all the phonics, and it was just the most thorough program I could find. I even started pronouncing some of the tougher words correctly after going through this! For example, I always pronounced “cordial” with a d, not a j sound. Even though I was taught phonics when I grew up, I don’t think it was as complete as this. Combined with our spelling program, I just see words in better clarity now (if that makes sense).

There are 231 lessons, although we did the first 30 lessons in one day. Satori had learned all her letter sounds in one evening by watching the  Letter Factory DVD. So we got to breeze through the first section, as she could already read/spell CVC words. So that leaves 200 lessons that we did one lesson per day, so it took us 14 months to complete the book. I think it was designed to take a few years. The last lessons were tough, we took two days per lesson to finish the last section, which consisted of 7-syllable words. This is one of the shorter pages from these last few chapters. Talk about tongue twisters for a 5 year old girl!

And our final lesson – a fourteen syllable word!

One of my next posts will talk about what we’ll be using next for our reading lessons – Beyond the Code. I talk about the good and bad for our experience this month with it.

My goal this summer was to have Satori reading chapter books. We took a pretty long spring break, and still have about a month of our reading program to go. Even taking two weeks off, we should be finishing Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading around mid-August. After that, we’ll be reading for fun, improving fluency and vocabulary.

I took this photo a few weeks ago, but thought I better post it now before it becomes seriously outdated. But here’s her lesson from a few weeks ago and an example of what she can read. She’s now into 3-syllable words and learning new word endings.

Just out of curiosity, I did place an easy chapter book in front of her and she read the first chapter no problem. Most of you will probably be familiar with The Magic Tree House series. I took a video of her reading, I’ll try to post that soon.

I am so tempted to get their 28-book Boxed Set, they come with a timeline and world map, but I’m just not sure as anything could happen. She might not get into these books, could find them boring, she might move past them quicker than anticipated… Some people consider them twaddle, but they all have some kind of useful lesson in them.

We’ve also started our Nora Gaydos readers again, we’re on Level 4 (the last level before the Independent topic books). I have the Science book lined up next, it looks pretty neat. These books come in a set of 10 books in a magnetic binder and have stickers in the front, 4 for each story. They’re cute and colorful and make Satori laugh, so I’m glad we have them.

I really want Satori to love reading as much as I do, but she doesn’t pick up books to read as often as she sits down to write a story. I do not push her to read on her own, and we’ve never really focused on early readers, as I want her to read books that are more exciting. This fall, after we finish OPG, we will start practicing our reading until she’s fast and fluent. Here’s my methods:

  1. Mom continues to read-aloud good literature.
  2. Satori works on Explode the Code workbooks as long as she wants for phonics practice.
  3. To take the place of our 20 minute OPG reading lessons, she will read 10 minutes of reading that I’ll select to be a bit of a challenge.
  4. At night she will read material that is easy for her, to build confidence and speed.

I haven’t been the best teacher this spring. We skipped several subjects for entire months, unfortunately, all the creative and fun ones. Science, history, art, music, and math… yes we consider math creative and fun when we use RightStart. I am excited to  start in again on the fun activities and projects, and of course photograph and blog accordingly!

My excuse for slacking this time – I am on a mega huge health kick this spring, and it seems that all my energy went towards that. On the plus side, I weigh less than I’ve weighed in at least the past 7 years! Satori has been such a great sport and is eating very healthy too. We hike a lot and are just having a blast this year.

Here’s some updates on how our lessons are going.

RightStart Math A

Last month we finally learned the “proper” names of numbers. One of the most appealing aspects of RightStart is that they emulate the Asian way of naming numbers: “ten 1” (11), “ten 2” (12), “5 ten 8” (58). This makes so much more sense, and comes in handy in understanding place value and visualizing math concepts. Now that Satori understands numbers in this way, she now can also say them in the normal way – eleven, twelve, thirteen… twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and so on. I loved the lessons that taught her the new names. Now I know how we came up with “eleven” (left one) and “twelve” (two left) and so on. We still use the special AL Abacus every day we do our math lessons.

We’re also in the middle of learning clocks. Here’s our little gear clock that came with our RightStart A kit. I love how they taught these lessons as well, such a great job! As we move the longer blue minutes hand, the short orange hour hand will move as well. Behind the blue hand, is a display that shows night or day, making it easy to show if 12:00 is midnight or noon.

Of course we finish up math lessons with a fun math card game, they have clock cards, time cards, hour cards, and Satori is totally thrilled to play these games.

Every now and then they have her do a short worksheet, which is no problem…

Reading

Reading is one subject we finished all our lessons in this spring, as some days we’d do multiple lessons. My goal was to have her reading chapter books this summer, we shall see on that, but she can read any children’s picture book. It surprised her that she could pick up any of her books and read them to us!

This summer we will have finished all of Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and then she will have the tools to tackle reading her favorite chapter books like Roald Dahl, Avi, and so on (right now we are reading Ragweed).

The past month she learned to tackle two-syllable words, and so much more. Here’s what we did today – Lesson 190: The Soft Sound of the SC Blend. A short and sweet lesson, which is great on a day like Saturday when we don’t even plan to do any lessons!

Reading is becoming more and more effortless that she can read her own workbooks and answer them. How fun! Here’s her Geography workbook:

We are almost finished with Lollipop Logic. Most of this workbook was so easy, we probably could have done it all in a few weeks easily. But I’ll be progressing her logic work to be more challenging for her now. Here’s a page she did yesterday, this is one of the easiest pages. But I show it because I think her coloring is getting so neat.

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).

Chugging away at our reading program, Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (OPG), I have gotten a few emails asking how we’re using it. Do we read all the sentences? Does Satori still sound out the words? I also find myself writing the same things over and over in the homeschooling forums I frequent. So here’s just a little update on our reading!

We just finished all the sections on the most Common Spellings for Long vowel sounds, like AI, EA, EI, EY, EE, EA, IE, OA, OW, UE, OO as some examples. Silent-E words are easy to figure out (Section 7), but all these vowel pairs (Sections 8-12) could get confusing! Here’s an OPG game we played this week as a review for all the different long vowel pair words we’ve learned so far. Coincidentally, it was about “Cross the River”, so we made that river the Nile (tying in with our Egypt lessons), and used a crocodile to hop across the stones. Here, her crocodile is hopping on all the long-U words to get to the other side of the river.

Our lessons are only taking 8-10 minutes.  This includes the 2 review, where I’ll write down sample words from the previous 2 lessons. I have said in the past we didn’t do all the sentences in each lesson, but since the lessons are going faster, we’re starting to read more of the sentences, and will probably start reading them all.

Lately we’ve also taking 10 minutes to do thorough reviews of lessons we’ve done long ago. So, in addition to our main lesson, we are doing 2-3 lessons way back in lessons 58-60. We’ll continue to do this to make sure that she doesn’t forget how to read any words. This intense review and thoroughly doing each lesson will take up the 20 minutes a day we’re allocating for Reading lessons.

Satori looks at a word, sounds it out quickly in her mind, and then says it. The above photo of words she does not have fluently memorized, she’ll take a moment to say each word. Some like “break”, she might pronounce “breek”, as normally “ea” has a long-e sound. It’s challenging to keep them all straight! By including all the sentences in each lesson (which is a review in itself), and intense review of past lessons, and having her read books every night, hopefully this is a good start to reading fluency.

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.

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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.

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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…

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

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.