Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fiction Book Report/Literature Guide

This week I realized that Autumn needed a literature guide/book report to go with the book she's about to read.  I looked around the web to see if I could find a free one, but I couldn't.  So, I decided to make one.  I've been working on it the past two days and I'm very excited.  Here's the contents of what will be in her lit guide (that can be used with any fiction book).  I've included links below.

Fiction Literature Guide/Book Report:
(for realistic or historical fiction, myths/legends/folktales, humor, legend, science fiction, fantasy,
1: Title Page (included in my file)

2: Book Info (included in my file)
On this page, include the title, author, illustrator, copyright date, publisher, number of pages, and genre.

4: Summary Page
Write down one sentence to summarize what each chapter is about.
When you’ve finished reading the book, write a summary paragraph to tell someone else what happens in the story. (included in my file)

A.      List the characters as they are introduced and who they are
B.      Pick your favorite Character or the most important character and describe  

G. 3-4  Describe and draw a picture of what you think this looks like.
G. 5-6  Identify both the physical place and the time of year, time period for the story.  Answer the questions:  Why are these important to the story? 
You may 1) draw a map  or 2) draw a picture of one (or more) place(s) in the story.

Keep a storyboard and draw a picture or add events to it as they happen in the story.
For a mystery, substitute mystery page instead of plot page.

9: Theme of the story
I found two worksheets on for this topic.  You have to log in to download it for free.

10: Vocabulary
Keep a running page and write down words you don’t know as you’re reading and your best guess about what they mean.  After you’re done with the chapter, look those words up and find out what they mean. 
For each chapter, choose 1 word that you find interesting and would like to use when you write.  Complete a vocabulary diagram for that word.  (included in my file)

11:  Complete a project about the book.

Optional Pages:
B.      Style/tone  (older grades)
C.      Figurative Language (included in my file)

I'also planned a non-fiction book report and one for biographies and autobiographies.  I also found or wrote individual worksheets for each genre.  But, it takes a lot of time to post these links so I will try and post them later.  

I began putting this unit together because I couldn't find what I wanted for sale, but now I'm very thankful I followed through.  I got down my comprehension guide from Veritas Press for The Chronicles of Narnia.  Autumn completed the unit for The Magician's Nephew back in January, but I have to admit that I didn't analyze the questions closely.  Today I realized that every question I read was a literal, on the surface type question.  None of the questions would be able to help lead students to a deeper level of thinking as Bloom's Taxonomy explains is important.  I would definitely not recommend the Narnia guide.  The other thing I noticed is that the questions never explicitly explain or ask students to identify the elements of a story.  It is very important that students understand all the elements of a story that I've included above and learn how to identify them.  In order to analyze literature when they are older, they will need a strong grasp of each of these parts of a story and why they are important.  

How many pages you include in your unit will depend on your child and how long you want to spend on a book.  Once addressed in a particular book, you can use a more all inclusive page from or to gather that information, but not go indepth if you don't want to.  These worksheets will work for 3-6th grade.  I found simplified worksheets for my daughter to use in 2nd and 3rd grades, which I have to post another time.  I need to get back to homeschooling!  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Training Up Our Daughters

A friend of mine gave me a book to read yesterday because she wanted to know my opinion of it.  I knew she had some concerns, but I wanted to try and read it without any bias.  So, I sat down and began to read.  I read some and skimmed some.  I started to notice some commonalities in the way the author wrote about different topics.  I found that I had some concerns, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what they were.  I read a passage to my husband and he thought it was fine.  Still, something didn't seem quite right.  So, this morning I called my mother in law and explained that I wanted to talk through something with her.  I apologized beforehand and explained that it might not all make sense the first time it came out of my mouth.  She was fine with this.  Then, I told her what the book was about.  It was about teenage girls and inward beauty.  She said she really wanted to talk through this with me.  So, we began going back and forth.  I explained some of the ideas in the book, read a passage to her, and we discussed our concerns.  I'm going to try and summarize what I learned through our discussion and what came out in light of this particular book.  

The book that was given to me is Leslie Ludy's book The Lost Art of True Beauty.  The book was written for teenage girls to encourage them to focus on inward beauty rather than outward beauty.  She addresses having social grace, dressing modestly, being hospitable in your home, and guarding your heart.  She talks over and over about inward beauty and being selfless.  These are all good things to desire.  She goes on to give many examples of young women she's seen who profess to love Christ, but don't act "Christian".  This was interesting to me.  God knows our hearts, but as an outsider we can't truly know what's going on in the heart of another.   I began to notice that Ms. Ludy makes a lot of blanket type statements.  Here are two examples from page 45: "I've seen many Christ-professing young women...I've known many..." about how the hearts of young women operate.  She also makes a lot of assumptions based on her experience of the world.   We all do this, but I think we need to be careful about what we assume.  Later on page 45, she says that "Very few of us understand how to behave socially in a way that truly brings glory to Jesus Christ..."  I didn't catch that statement the first time I read the book.  But, now as I read it again, my heart hurts.  We have to be really careful about how we share the lessons we've learned--especially as an older woman wanting to share with a younger woman.  

When anyone presumes to teach it is a grave responsibility.  Because God doesn't teach us the same lessons in the same order, we can't presume what a younger woman has or hasn't experienced and learned--or what they think or what motivates them.  We have to understand that God teaches us each different lessons at different times in our lives.  Generally, I think we shouldn't assume that we have learned something that someone else hasn't.  A lot of what Ms. Ludy says has a lot of truth in it, but as we get older I think most women, including myself, realize that we only have experienced a little part of the world and that God doesn't work in all of our lives the same way.  

Leslie Ludy and her husband, Eric, wrote the book When God Writes Your Love Story, a guide to relationships for Christians, and When Dreams Come True, about their own story.  I began to realize that Ms. Ludy talks about her own story as if she and Eric have gotten it right.  But, the problem is that there is no "right" formula.  It is a blessing that God has given her the marriage and family that he has.  It's interesting to realize why she advocates that young women focus on being selfless and working on themselves rather than focusing on boys.  As a mom, I realize that the wounds I have from my childhood are opened afresh when I watch my children get rejected or struggle.  I have to set them aside and think about what's best for them.  Ms. Ludy was hurt as a teenager by boys.  And her husband regrets his relationships when he was a teenager as well.  I can understand them feeling like the answer to not having those regrets is to just not think about the opposite sex when you're a teenager and wait until your prince or princess comes along.  Why not avoid all that pain?  

It's a good question and an important one.  I realized that there is an underlying assumption in this book that all teenage girls think about is teenage boys.  There is also the message that they shouldn't.  Instead, they need to focus on Christ and inward beauty.  

I have a couple of concerns about this.  

Here's the first...  God created us as men and women.  God says in Genesis 2:18:  The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."  In Song of Solomon and multiple scriptures throughout the Bible, we know that marriage is a good thing.  The love between a husband and wife is a good thing.  So, the attraction between young men and women is not in itself a bad thing.  It's a completely natural part of life.  The key is helping our daughters learn how to talk with young men--how to relate to them, what are wise boundaries, how to understand them.  And I am not on the same page as Ms. Ludy.  I think it would be difficult for a young woman to suddenly figure out how to do this when she's twenty-five and meets a young Christian man that she wants to get to know better.  

I have this crazy story that I share with people about when I moved to Denver after college.  I went on 22  first dates in the first two years that I lived there.  I only went on one second date.  It was a blessing.  I learned how to talk to guys and how to listen.  I think I learned a lot.  Then, I had a boyfriend for four months.  I thought I loved him, but he said I was unlovable.  I was wounded.  But, there was a silver lining--I learned that I could love someone and when I met my husband three years later, I was able to trust God when the relationship didn't look the way I expected it to.  My husband is four years younger than me and I never expected that one!  

Do I think every young woman should go on 22 dates?  No way!  That's not at all what I mean.  But, do I think it's okay to go on a date?  Yes.  I think going on a date can help young women and men learn about how to relate to the opposite sex and it also helps them learn about themselves and how God created them.  

Being married to my husband has taught me many things, but one of the biggest is that marriage and life is not a formula.  We want to do it the one "right" way, but there is no one "right" way.  I don't know any adult who could say that their life is just what he or she thought it would be.  What's important is that we seek God, trust Him, and walk with Him.  

My second concern is about the goal of this book.  The purpose of the book is to help young women learn how to be ladies.  This book tries to give teenage girls the maturity of a thirty-five year old woman.  The problem is that you can't just do that.  Growing in maturity doesn't work like getting well with the help of antibiotics when you're sick.  Maturity is gained from experience and happens in the process of growing up.  Teenage girls aren't thirty-five year olds, nor are they supposed to be.  They're supposed to be teenagers who are figuring out how to talk to boys, how to dress modestly, what their style is, how to take care of themselves, how to love people well...  But, all of these things come from one's heart.  In James, we learn that faith without deeds is dead and deeds without faith is dead.  

         James 2:18 "But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

We can't just tell teenage girls how to be and who they should want to be.  I believe we'd be wiser to talk with them along the way about who they are, how they dress, why they dress that way, and pray.  As moms, we need to love our daughters well and walk with them.  Again, there's no formula to this.  God gave these daughters to each of us individually because of who He created them to be.  He matched us purposefully.  As moms, we can help them understand what's going on and love them well.  What I have said here is not just from my heart but is gleaned from the wisdom my friends who are several years ahead of me and some who even have grandchildren have shared with me.  My girls are young.  I have not walked through the teenage years yet with them.  But, I am excited that the Lord has prompted me to consider all of this now.  I feel as if he's preparing me.  

A few weeks ago, I was teaching my kids a science lesson and Autumn questioned why something was true.  Science is not my strong suit and so I answered "because it is".  I was frustrated because I just wanted her to believe it, but even as I replied to her, I had a yucky feeling.  If I tell her what to believe without discussion and without allowing her to sort out what she thinks, it won't become her own thought.  I've known of many kids raised in Christian homes who go wild when they leave their parents' homes.  Many simply walk away from their faith in God.  I hear a common theme about these kids-- that they are questioning.  What would happen if we allowed our kids to respectfully ask questions when they have them and let us help them sort things out as they are growing older instead of telling them what they have to believe?  I don't mean that we should stop teaching our children the truth of God.  On the contrary!  I believe it is vital.  But, I also think that we need to help them understand the world too and answer questions they have.  As a teenager, I was so afraid to be judged that I wasn't a Christian because I had questions.  God did bring someone into my life when I was 21 who showed me grace and listened to my questions, but I spent several years troubled about my questions.  I believe that my daughters, Autumn and Sami, love God and His Word.  Eli seems to be still very much figuring things out.  They all have questions.  I heard a speaker once say that compliant children are actually harder to parent than strong-willed ones.  This is because it is easier to steamroller over them.  I have to be careful not to steamroller over Autumn and force her to comply.  I need to let her think, question, and discuss--respectfully when it comes to matters of her heart.

Lastly, to address the question of avoiding pain.
As parents, we want to minimize the pain our children have to go through.  We love them so much.  But, we also parent out of our own issues.  I have seen the hurts from my childhood surface when my children get rejected or struggle.  I guard my heart and try to be very careful to be aware of my issues so that they won't bias me in my parenting.  Just a few weeks ago, my husband brought an issue to my attention and explained to me where he felt I was going wrong in what I was teaching our girls.  It was rooted in my desire to help our girls avoid the pain of social rejection and knowing how to handle it.   

Pain is a part of life.  Suffering is a part of life.  In many ways, it is the wounds and God's healing of them that constantly remind us of His love, mercy, and grace. Pain comes in the process of maturing as girls make decisions that are not easy and sometimes make decisions they regret.  And when that happens, they need us, their parents, to walk alongside them.  

There is a lot of great information in this book.  Good, solid suggestions.  But, we need to be careful about how we approach young women about these topics.  They not only hear, but they see, too.  In the case of this book, there are some inconsistencies which concern me that I think young women will notice.  The focus of this book is on inward beauty and yet, every young woman in Ms. Ludy's online magazine or on the cover of one of her books, or is a part of her ministry in Colorado Springs (as identified on her website) is all thin with medium to long hair.  That sends a certain message without ever saying a word.  I don't know if Ms. Ludy realizes this.  Ms. Ludy herself is a beautiful, trim woman.  We need to be aware of how what we say and do can affect people. 

So, those are my thoughts in a very, very large nutshell.  Thank you for bearing with me as I sorted them out on paper so to speak.  I did review a similar book a few years ago, which I'm going to reread, titled Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild.  You can read my review here if you're curious.  I gave away my copy so I ordered a new one this morning and I am looking forward to reading it in light of these reflections.

If you have any thoughts about what I've shared, please comment.  I'd love to discuss this with you.  I don't pretend at all to think I have all the answers--not in the least!  I have reread this several times, so I hope it is clear, but if it is not, please let me know!  

Friday, March 22, 2013


Yesterday, Sami was working on syllabication.  I have my children go through all 8 books of Explode the Code and the 1/2 books as well.  In many ways, Autumn is a very easy student to teach.  But, some of her strengths lead to weaknesses in me.  She needs very little correction on her assignments, especially Explode the Code.  It clicks for her.  So, I never went over the instruction from the book on all of the syllibication rules.

Sami is a different learner.  She is a kinesthetic learner, so although she does well when learning visually and auditorily, what she's learning doesn't click as quickly as it does for Autumn in the Explode the Code books. Sami is at the end of book 4 and I sat down with her to make a chart of the syllabication rules so we could both figure out together how to divide the words at the end of her book.  I have to admit that I never memorized the rules of syllabication, though I don't have any difficulty reading.  So, I needed learn them with her.  I did search online and found this site with the rules on it.  I printed them off, combined them on 4 pages, copied them, and put them in Sami's binder for her and I to refer to when we need them.

After going over the rules, I wondered why?  Why does she need to learn these rules?  Well, there are two schools of thought.  1) Kids don't need to learn them.  2) Kids need to learn them because it makes it easier for them to break down, read, and comprehend longer words.  The theory is that this leads to better fluency and reading comprehension.

When my children finish How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, we continue on with Phonics Pathways.  I like this second book a lot, because it gives extra practice sounding out syllables that 100 Easy Lessons is just beginning with at the end of that book.  My child reads 2 pages aloud to me each day until we've finished the book.  If they read more than 1 or 2 words incorrectly on a page, I correct their reading and we repeat those 2 pages the next day.

Explode the Code does an interesting after it introduces syllabication in book 4 (and reinforces it in book 4 1/2), it reinforces it implicitly in the spelling exercises in all the books which follow.  For example, in book 6, the word birdbath is split into two parts: bird and bath, which students must then combine to write the complete word.  Lantern is split into lan and tern.  Students must choose between tern and torn and then write the complete word.

I remember the first time I was given the hand me downs from a former homeschooler of a few Explode the Code books.  I thought they looked so boring!  The book didn't make sense to me because I had never taught reading from start to finish with one child before and seen the progression of how children develop phonemic awareness and become fluent readers.  I think a lot of people pass Explode the Code by like me, because it is black and white--and the pictures look a bit old fashioned.  It was first published in 1976!  But, in reality, it is an amazing series.  It teaches and reinforces spelling, phonics, syllabication, reading comprehension, and the importance of paying attention to details and careful reading.  I also let it count for our spelling in first grade.  I have my children complete 3 pages a day in kindergarten and first grade and 2 pages a day each year through fourth grade after that.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Second Must Read This Year

I am very thankful for the way that God weaves books into my life.  Back in January, I was blessed to read Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp.  God used that book to heal a wound in my heart that was there because of a hard experience we'd had with a church we'd once attended.  I realized that my wound was not a failing in me, but came because of a pitfall our pastor at the time had fallen into.  That book gave me compassion for that man and has helped me to remember to pray for him and other pastors in their weaknesses.  Pastors are human, just like everyone else, and they make mistakes that affect others.  They have a difficult job.

This weekend I was blessed to read a second book that I know will have a huge impact on my heart and life over time.  I described this book as "an awesome book about PTSD" (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to my Bible study on Sunday night.  The looks on the faces of the other people in the room told me they were a bit stunned to hear me use the words "awesome" and "PTSD" in the same sentence.  One of the men had a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and so I next explained that it was awesome because it pointed the families living with PTSD and TBI straight to the Lord.  The counsel in the book was biblical and encouraging.

The book is Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell and Kelly K. Orr, PhD, ABPP.  Ms. Waddell's husband is a retired commander who served in the US Navy and lives with PTSD.  Mr. Orr was her counselor.  He is a Christian counselor who served with the USMC and Air Force until 2004, when he retired.  Ms. Waddell began a ministry, Hope for the Home Front, to reach families coping with PTSD and its effects.  The ministry conducts retreats for families who are learning to cope with effects of war.

Ms. Waddell previously self published When War Comes Home in 2008.  She also published a digital Bible Study titled Hope for the Home Front with New Hope Digital Publishing, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.   This book is her first book published by a major book distributor.  I previewed When War Comes Home on Amazon.  It looks like this book is an updated and revised edition of When War Comes Home.  There is a different organization to that book and it includes different appendices, but the focus and topics of discussion seem to be very similar.

Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home begins with Ms. Waddell's story and an explanation that living with a family member who suffers from PTSD is like a living Grief.  As a spouse, when your life is so completely different than you expected and your spouse has changed so drastically, due to PTSD, you have to grieve the death of the life you hoped for and lived.  The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and finally acceptance.  She talks in her book about each of these stages and the difficult parts of these stages.  She addresses each with strong biblical support and grounding.  I appreciated her addressing what the average woman does to offset anger and how she can do that.  She makes some very wise statements like this one on page 68, "A warrior's hurtful words and actions are not excused, but it helps to know that usually soft targets are not to blame.  Refusing to take your warrior's anger personally is a key step.

When she goes on to address the need to forgive one's spouse, she wisely starts with the wife.  Susie Larson says in Growing Grateful Kids that we cannot give our children something that we ourselves don't have.  Ms. Waddell's addressing of forgiveness is similar.  "We can't forgive others until we realize how much God has forgiven us through His Son's sacrifice, the only offering that turns away God's wrath that we fully deserve...When I stop to think on this, even for just a few seconds, I feel my heart swell, expand, and take on a greater capacity to forgive others." (p. 77)

From there, she begins to address how wives can and need to take care of themselves in order that they might be able to take care of their families.  I appreciated what she said and felt it was wise, but not over the top.  There is a lot made in our culture of "Mommy time" and what Moms have to have--whether it's undisturbed pedicure and manicures or weekly "girl time".  It is talked of as if it is something all women deserve.  The feeling of deserving something is synonymous with entitlement.  We are not entitled to a certain life or doing certain things.  Nowhere does God's Word tell me when I read it that I am entitled to breaks from being a mom.  In this book, the author wisely addresses instead the need for spouses to take care of their minds and bodies so that they can take care of their families.  She identifies five things women need to do plus a sixth--and that's to be in relationship with the Lord.

The rest of the book focuses on what this new life needs to be maintainable.  Accept change.  Find friends and a support network.  Keep people in your life.  And there will be a spiritual battle in the process.  But, Ms. Waddell's encouragement is to put on the armor of God and fight that battle.

There is only one area that I was surprised to find missing in this book and that was an addressal of the issue of abuse--physical, emotional, and verbal.  This is a very real issue for families living with PTSD.  There are several websites that have some great practical information for wives.  The first is a VA Site.  The second is found on family of a vet.  A final source is on About(dot)com.  None of these sites are Christian and I think they should be seen in the context of faith in the Lord.  A mom needs to protect her children.

As I read through this book, I was deeply encouraged for several reasons.  The first is that Ms. Waddell and Dr. Orr point women squarely to the Lord.  Scripture is threaded throughout the book.  Ms. Waddell is honest about her struggles with anger.  You can tell in the beginning of the book that she still struggles with her life, but that she is taking it to the Lord.  Ms. Waddell doesn't encourage women to feel sorry for themselves, yet she acknowledges on every page what an immense struggle it is to live with and love a warrior with PTSD.  This book feels like a large dose of solid, biblical counseling bottled up in a book!  Many moms are not able to go to counseling, whether because of time constraints, guilt, or financial reasons.  This book would be a wonderful resource for the wife who needs it.  Secondly, this book can help not only those who live with a family member who has PTSD, but friends and extended family.  It can give you some insight about how PTSD affects soldiers and their families--and how you can support them and stand by them when they need you.  Finally, and most importantly, I think this counsel in this book is applicable to not only spouses who love someone with PTSD, but to those who love someone with mental illness or substance abuse issues.  Wives in all of these situations are facing a life and a love that they did not expect.

I think this a wonderful book and I am very thankful that it has been published.  I hope it will be helpful to many women.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishing for review.

A Classroom Homeschool Teacher

What I hadn't realized at the beginning of the year is that I am a classroom teacher who homeschools.  What I usually hear when I tell someone I have my master's degree in education and that I homeschool is "it must be easier for you."  

It actually isn't.  It's just different.  In some ways, I think it does make it easier, but in many ways it also makes it harder.  I've learned more from homeschooling my children about how children learn and how to teach than I did when I was a classroom teacher.  

How is it harder?  Well, homeschooling isn't classroom teaching.  You don't have the positive peer pressure of twenty or thirty students doing the same assignment at the same time and staying on task (hopefully).  You don't have daily, studentless planning time (even a little), because your kids are always there.  You have to juggle the needs of your home, friends, family, and homeschooling at the same time.  There's always something that needs to be done.  You have a lot more distractions to deal with.  You don't get paid, so it is not seen as a full time job by most people.  I had one gal say to me at church once that of course I should be able to serve because all I do is homeschool.  All I do is homeschool?!  Anyone who's homeschooled knows how much energy and time it really takes to do it well.  Also, switching between mom and teacher can be tricky.  The person they're going to get corrected by when they get a problem wrong is me.  They're also going to be corrected when they don't pick up their room by--me.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

How is it easier?  I get to really observe my kids.  I know when something doesn't click and can switch gears because one child doesn't get it.  I get to be concerned about whether they are learning, not whether they are able to pass the state's standardized test.  I get to spend time with my kids and have the opportunity to daily encourage them.  I get to choose my curriculum and figure out what connects with my kids and what doesn't.  I don't have to put my children in a box.  I get to pursue what they're interested in.  If a family emergency comes up, I can take care of it during the day and be flexible with our school day.  

What I hadn't considered until recently was how being a classroom trained teacher could help my homeschooling.  From the beginning I gravitated to public school curriculums, because they were what I was used to and already loved using.  Over the years, I've been able to see how being a teacher helped me plan and select materials.  My understanding of schema theory framed how I taught our kids and what I expected of them.  Yet, I stayed in the homeschooling box and kept classroom teaching in a separate box in my head--until recently. 

I keep up my professional teacher certification because I feel like it's good for me.  To do this, I have to take two college education courses every five years.  Last summer, I wrote two literature units for a class.  I enjoyed it and it reminded me of what I did when I taught middle school.  This past Christmas I wrote a photography unit for my kids.  Again, I enjoyed it.  I felt like God wanted me to get more engaged with my kids.  I realized that I could supplement with worksheeets I found online to fill in gaps and in the case of Eli, to keep him busy.  I put together a U.S. Regions study for social studies for Autumn.  When I taught in school, I didn't have curriculum, so I had to write all of my lesson plans and any materials I needed.  The schools I taught at had very limited resources for textbooks.  Writing these materials made me think more about what I could do with what I learned in school.  I also began to feel like a classroom trained homeschool teacher.  

I am not a natural teacher.  I have met many homeschooling mom's who are.  As I listen to them, I realize all that they understand about how to teach and how children learn that they simply have picked up through their homeschooling experience.   I am a learned teacher.  My master's gave me a solid foundation and it helped me learn how to teach.  Once I have a foundation, I can go from there.   I do love to teach my children. 

What we bring to homeschooling as moms is the unique experiences we each have.  In my case, I bring my teacher education and classroom teaching to homeschooling.  It has helped me understand how to adapt a lesson to multiple ages.  It has helped know how to observe my children so that I understand what they have mastered and what they haven't.  It has helped me understand how to challenge them, but not overwhelm them.  

I am thankful I was a classroom teacher before I homeschooled.  But, I am a better teacher because of homeschooling.  I have a much better grasp now of how children learn to read.  I have an idea of how a pre-reader becomes a fluent reader.  I have come to grasp what and how children learn in kindergarten all the way through fourth grade so far.

In the next few weeks, I'm going to try and explain how I observe my kids and some basics of schema theory.  I am also going to try and explain how I adapt lessons that I teach.  My mother in law has encouraged me to do this.  I hope it will be helpful in some way to someone who reads it.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

More Musical Math

When I started looking for some math facts music, it was easy to find lots of multiplication music, but it wasn't as easy to find an addition cd that I liked.  A lot of the music either super "pop" py or is rap.  I did finally come across an addition album that my family likes.  The group who published it also published a multiplication album.  

Jandie Jams/Kid Clever has two great albums.  The first is Listen in Addition.  There's a cute little board book that comes with the album.  One page is for each song.  The first ten songs cover zero to nine.  The next song is all the numbers that add up to ten.  This is a helpful song, because kids really need to have these facts down pat as they add double digits.  The next song is adding doubles and the last song wraps things up.  
Amazon doesn't have any samples of the songs, but the Kid Clever site does.  You can find it HERE.  There's a spot where you can hear samples from both the addition album and the multiplication album.  I think this music is best for kids in grades K-3.  Adding 0s, 1s, and even 2s is introduced in kindergarten.  
If you upload the album to your computer and transfer it to an ipod, you could make a new playlist with only the songs for the facts that you're working on.  

The second album is Multiplication Sensation.  Each song tells a little story that goes along with the pictures in the book that comes with it.  It's a small book, but my girls could look at it together.  As they listened to the songs, they pointed to each picture the song was telling about.  They definitely preferred the faster, upbeat songs.  The fives song was a little slower, more laid back and they didn't enjoy it as much.  I asked them if they could sing along to the faster songs and my oldest daughter definitely said they could after a few times listening.    

This cd can be found on Amazon and in specialty kids' stores across the country.  There's a list here of the stores that carry these cds:

I like these two albums because I think they're fun.  My kids enjoy them as well.  I'd recommend giving them a listen if you're looking for some fun ways to help your kids practice their arithmetic facts!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of these two albums for review from Jandie Jams

Friendship, Rejection, Fiction, and Life

One thing I hate is getting rejected.  I really hate it.  Really, really hate it.  My husband actually says that when I fear rejection or think it's going to happen, I start to act like a porcupine.  I bristle and start walking in the other direction.

When people reject me, my inward response is to tell myself to walk away.  Walk away FAST.  In the other direction.

But, there's another part of me.  This super, duper strong willed part that won't give up.  It's that part of me that doesn't want people to think things of me that aren't true.  I don't want to be criticized for things I've done right, but that they think I've done wrong!  It's a horrible feeling to realize that sometimes you won't be able to help someone understand that you didn't do anything wrong.  Does that mean they're wrong?  Why does it have to be me to take the criticism that I don't deserve?

That strong will also makes me persist even when I know people don't want to hear what I have to say.  Over the years, I've come to do this less and less, but I have to admit that I still do it sometimes.

My husband says that I have to love people the way they are and not expect people to love me the way I am.  That doesn't always feel very good.

Does that mean that I'm not loveable the way I am?  My first serious boyfriend told me that when he broke up with me.  It helped two years later to learn that he said the exact same thing to three other girls after me.  "I tried to fall in love with you, but I just couldn't..."  Yuk!  What a horrible thing to say to someone.

I'm trying to face this fear and get over it.  At the end of the day, I'm just me.  Imperfect me.  I try to love people well.  But, I do that imperfectly because I'm a sinner like everyone else.

Instead of saying "I tried this great new curry recipe, would you like a copy of the recipe?"  I accidentally say "I should give you this curry recipe that I tried this week.  It was great."  A lot of people wouldn't be bothered by the second statement, but I know I rub some people the wrong way when I say it that way.  Why do I do that?!  I know why, actually.  I just get so excited about sharing something I've tried and learned that I get carried away and don't think to say it the other way.  

We all have lots that we can learn from each other, but we also have pride.  Bearing with one another in love is such a hard thing to do.  It think it's hard for everyone--including me.  John Piper describes it as bearing with one another in our strangeness... not getting bothered by what seems strange to us because it's not the way we think or do things.

But, my husband has been challenging me to think about what friendship is really supposed to be.  As Christians, we aren't called to love some people and not others.  We are called to love all....even when they reject us.

Wasn't Christ rejected?  Yet, He continued to love.  He continued to reach out.  He persisted.  The Word tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 14:27) and also to love our enemies.

The Word also says:
English Standard Version (©2001)
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you."  

So, we try and reach out.  We try again.  We pray.  We try not to feel hurt and remember that God loves us.  We seek to Love God and Love People (the #1 rule in my house).  

Something happened this week in my world.  Something that surprised me.  Miscommunication, lines crossed.  But, all of it doesn't directly involve me.  As I sit here this morning, my heart hurts because I think that what happened might have started with one person not wanting to be rejected.  Watching from the outside always makes me reflect.  In this case, it is making me realize that I have to be careful about how I react to my own fears of rejection.  Do I let them overtake me?  Am I putting on the full armor of God?  Fear is not of God.  Fear is of Satan.  Satan wants us to be afraid.  God, on the other hand, tells us that if rejection does happen that he will take us through it.  (Psalm 23)

The children's song is very wise when it says these words:  

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died,
Heaven's gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! loves me still,
When I'm very weak and ill;
From His shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He will stay,
Close beside me all the way;
He's prepared a home for me,
And some day His face I'll see.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Despite any rejection here during this life that we experience, we are assured that Jesus loves us.  We are loved and loveable.  We will experience rejection, but we cannot let it overtake us.  I cannot let it overtake me.  We need to put on the full armor of God each morning.  I need to put on the full armor of God each morning and love people again and again.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Musical Math #2: Multiplication Mountain

We've been pressing on with our memorization of math facts.  Autumn just finished up her addition facts on  and was excited to begin her subtraction facts.

A month ago, I posted a review of a skip-counting cd, 100 Sheep and Counting, that my family has loved.  Today I want to post a review of a second cd:  Multiplication Mountain by Hap Palmer.

Hap Palmer has been making educational kids' albums for many years.  Multiplication Mountain was published in 2009.  Many of his cds are a mixture of different concepts, but this one focuses solely on multiplication.  The cd has two tracks for every number.  The first fills in the answers for each multiplication fact.  The second song leaves a blank for children to fill in the answer to the multiplication facts.  My daughter likes this a lot.  Each song is a different tune--which I think matters.  A child is trying to remember the facts and the tune will run through his or her head. But, if it is the same tune over and over (like rap), the songs would quickly get confused together.  And then it wouldn't be very helpful.  Amazon doesn't have any samples of the tracks on this album, but cdbaby does.  You can hear them here:

It was hard to find a good cd with multiplication facts that weren't rap.  And I found two!  This cd by Hap Palmer is the first.  I'll be reviewing the other in another post soon.  

Do I think this is a great teaching aid for kids learning their facts?   Yes. Definitely.  I used to think Hap Palmer's music was very old fashioned.  I had bought into our culture's idea that newer is always better.  But, it isn't.  Hap Palmer's music is very kid friendly.  It's easy sing along with and listen to.  It sticks in your head--which is exactly what you want with a cd like this one which is intended to help kids learn their multiplication facts.  

I've talked to a lot of moms and learning the arithmetic facts is something that most kids struggle with.  It's a long climb up a big hill.  They'll get there, but I think that anything we can do to help them on that journey is a good thing.  Simply looking at flash cards doesn't work for a lot of kids.  Especially if a child is an auditory learner.  Music is a great teaching tool that sometimes I forget to use as a teacher and as a mom.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cd for review from Hap Palmer.

Is it Working?

My last post was about critical thinking and I realized that I forgot to mention why I began integrating logic into our curriculum.  What prompted me?

I have three children who are extremely creative.  My oldest is compliant and my second and third are extremely strong willed.  Yet, I realized early on with all three that one of the most difficult skills for children to acquire is the desire to not give up!  To try, try again, and then try again.  They need to learn to keep trying.

I remember watching my oldest daughter learn to ride a bike.   I went about it all wrong.  I didn't recognize the disadvantage she was at.  We lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks and because of how cars drove down the streets, she had to learn on the sidewalks--narrow sidewalks.  It was hard.  My second daughter and son learned in a wide driveway and then a large parking lot.  They learned more quickly and easily.  But, for all three, they struggled with the drive to not give up.

Last year, I saw how my oldest daughter was struggling in math to grasp the idea of looking at a word problem and asking herself what she should do.  How could she solve the problem?  What strategy could she use?  In school classrooms, there are lots of posters intended to remind children of how to do this.  But, they have to learn how to put those strategies into action.  

My solution was to introduce logic to our curriculum.  My girls were thrilled.  They love puzzles.  The logic puzzles and exercises have helped them--my older daughter more than my younger one because she's been able to understand and apply the lessons she's learning.

Last week, my oldest daughter was faced with a word problem in her math book and I reminded her of logic and how we look for a way to solve the problem they're asking.  It's the same with math.  What can she do to solve the problem?  It clicked.  I could see it in her face.  Yippee!

That is why I am using logic puzzles and critical thinking exercises this year.