A walk to the stables

A walk to the stables
Tamerin at the horses: we walked there on Thursday and talked rugby nearly all the way!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Long Overdue Update

Oops!  I have not written an update for so long and now there is this HUGE gap regarding what we have been doing.  It’s impossible to cover what we have done the first term, but here is an update of where we are at now:



We are concentrating on assimilating new vocabulary.  As we read a new word, which seems important, we underline the word.  Tammy later types the word in her vocabulary table, practises the word and looks up the meaning of the word in the dictionary.  Next step is to “insert the missing word”.  I provide the sentences with blanks and the meaning of the missing word in brackets.  Before she attempts this exercise, we practice these sentences orally, with me providing the missing word immediately, if she hesitates.  After one or two rounds, she fills in these words for homework.  Generally there are only a few mistakes, which she then corrects the next day.  After she has filled in the same word in at least four different sentences, at different intervals, she has to make her own sentences with these words.  (This is a totally new experience, but she seems to enjoy it.)  Again we first practice the sentences orally: she makes the original sentence and I correct it if necessary, before we practise saying it a few times.  The oral practice is very necessary to improve fluency and to “stick” it in her head.  I often write her sentence for her on the white board, so that she practises the oral sentence together with the written word. The white board gets wiped and her homework is then to type out these own sentences. 

Recent vocabulary had much to do with shopping, as we are currently also busy with the entering of receipts on an Excel spread-sheet.  At the bottom of the first receipt, was an explanation of the rules regarding the returning or exchanging of purchases and words such as  receipt, original, packaging, label, unused, purchase, merchandise, exchange, return, expenditure etc. made their way to the vocabulary table. 

Out of our Bible study book, we had words such as  devastate, commit suicide, anxiety, loneliness, comfort, sustain, temptation, resist, circumstances,  and out of her story book, words such as equestrian, invitation, injure, severely, surgery, insulted, hired, annoyed, date.  (Tammy did not understand what it meant to be asked on a date and assumed it referred to a question regarding the calendar.)

Example of vocab. practice:


The guests at the party had such a good time that they were …………………………….. (unwilling) to go home.

Tammy’s own sentence:

First attempt: My mother was  reluctant to let me go outside the cold whether to let me get sick.

My mother was reluctant to let me go outside in the cold weather, because she was afraid I might get sick.

Her ability to express herself and to remember new vocabulary is improving by leaps and bounds, but it is a slow and time consuming process.  The dividends are great though. 


Comprehension remains a high priority.  So we read a lot and, generally, I think, her comprehension is much better, but comprehension exercises are often a nightmare.  Questions posed are still very straightforward, e.g. “What clothes did she wear?”  (A lavender top and slim black pants.) or “What did she do after Mary-Kate had left?” (She bumped into a strange boy.) Other questions are simple “True or False”.  statements.  At the end of a chapter there is a summary of the chapter with blanks for missing words.  In all of this, however, progress is still very slow.  This is disconcerting, because how can you learn if you do not understand what you read or if you are not able to communicate what you have read? I berate myself for “too difficult” questions, but am at a loss how to make them even easier.

Computer Literacy

Tammy loves computer work.  She has compiled a budget and expenditure spread-sheet on Excel.  She had to type in formulas, drag them, copy pages, rename them and compile a Total Year summary of expenses with referrals to other pages.  (=mar!a1) Voila, the magic!  Great fun. 

Copying of text (Bible verses generally), has improved significantly.  She CAN do it!

Mathematical Literacy

Last term we concentrated on “party problems” (If one, then multiply, if many then divide type problems. E.g. If 10 guests need 2.5 kg of …., then 1 guest needs 2.5 divided by 10 =.25, then 30 guests need .25 *30)  We also did quite a bit of long division: she can do long division, but first has to write out the table of what she is going to divide with e.g. 16, 32, 48 etc.  She cannot make an estimated guess yet.  We will have to get back to long division until she can estimate, but I am not too worried about his. 

We have also done a lot of visual representations of fractions. I make a blank pie chart on Excel with different fractions and she then has to colour in 5/6. 3/8, 1/4, etc.  or she has to say what fraction the coloured “slices” indicate:

Colour in 0.33:      



What fraction does the coloured piece indicate?



The past weeks we were busy with simplifying and multiplication of fractions (E.g. 28/4 * 16/2) Tammy progressed from about 20% till 75% per set of 20 problems. 

At the moment we are busy with  percentages.  She has to calculate VAT (Value Added Tax) and add it to the given price. (14% of R100 is R14, so the inclusive price is R114).  Later she will work out what the VAT was on a VAT inclusive price – this she will do with a calculator though and then on Excel, as these problems will require dividing by 114.  Right now, it is not a bad exercise to multiply with 14 and to divide by 100!  That Tammy needs time is evident in how long she took to multiply with the ten!  (One time 9 is…… 9 and again, one time 9 is …….9)  Multiplication with 1 or 0 is not something quick or automatic, as it would be for you or me, but I keep on hoping it will happen yet.

Geography and Tourism

The grade 10 level was a bit much and although we had quite some success with Tourism in the beginning, this began to frazzle out towards the end of last term and I was ready to throw in the towel.  Tammy was tested at length by a professional, but in the end he could not advise as to whether Grade 10 was really feasible or not!  (Frustration for her parents as well as for me.)   Basically we decided to concentrate mostly on English (self-expression and comprehension), Mathematical literacy, computer literacy and tourism projects for fun.  Tammy will still be evaluated by an occupational therapist regarding her future.  We are dreaming about a placement in a workplace: perhaps somewhere where she could help to put out clothes? Or work with animals?  Or look up flights on the internet?

Please God, guide us to make the right decisions for Tammy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

To the zoo on her 16th birthday

Tammy turned 16 today.  To celebrate we had no school except Bible and then we went to the zoo.  The weather was great: slightly overcast,  but not too hot or humid.  We did not get to see all the animals as they were working in the bear’s and the tiger’s enclosures.  But we did get a good look at the lions!  The Pretoria zoo is one of the best in the world.  It is quite big and we walked A LOT!   I wish I had taken more photos.  (Tammy took one of nearly every animal, but of course I do not have her camera with me, so I can’t blog her pics.)  She did not flinch when we looked at the snakes in the reptile park, but said a firm “No thank you” when I suggested the critters.  I guess no one needs to look at spiders and scorpions on one’s birthday!

To go to the zoo, was Tammy’s choice for an outing.  At first I thought whom we could invite to go along (her mom works full time again), but in the end I decided it would be best if we went  on our own.  I’m glad we did, because in this way Tammy was really relaxed and we talked a lot.  When she is in a group, she is inclined to withdraw and not to participate in conversations.  I told the lady at the entrance that it was Tammy’s birthday, but when she asked Tammy how old she was, I almost had to prod her to answer.  Old habits do not die easily and I think she is just used not to answer immediately, unless I prompt her with an “immediately”!  

After the zoo we went to jewellers to have her ears pierced.  I asked her a while ago what jewellery she was going to wear for her big party ( a Hollywood dress up party this Saturday).  She wasn’t certain, but that’s when I noticed that her ears were not pierced.  I asked her whether she would like to have her ears pierced and she was very enthusiastic!  So after ensuring me again and again, that she was certain she wanted pierced ears, we went into the jewellers.  She was shown the different studs and again she was quite certain which ones she wanted: she immediately chose gold ones with shiny red centres. 

Next we went to Clicks to buy surgical spirits for her newly pierced ears and then we had a cold drink before heading to the beauty parlour.  What a fun day!  Happy birthday Tammy – only two more nights before your big night.  I can’t wait to see you in your evening gown! 

Here are some pictures of our day:


(PS.  Look closely at the last two pictures: can you spot the difference?)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting out of math’s mud

The past month hasn’t been much fun – we mostly did math – stole from other subject periods to finish the previous day’s homework… Tammy really struggled with most of the math we did – especially problems like converting recipes. But she has nevertheless shown much improvement in all areas. Here are a few examples of the types of problems we did:

Time calculations e.g.

  • On Saturday Tammy went to bed at 21:30 and she woke at 5:15. How long did she sleep?
  • Nick Jonas wants to phone Tammy on her birthday at 19:00. What day and time will it be in California then?” “Lana wants to phone Tammy at 21:00 on her birthday. What day and time will it be in Australia then?
  • The April holiday starts on 16 April and ends on 3 May. How many weeks/ days is that? (She calculates this without a calendar and then checks on the calendar to see whether she is right. These sums involved much subtraction, adding and division by 7.)
  • Why time calculations? Because it is important in every day life as well as tourism and geography – two of her subjects. Whereas other people just pick up these skills, Tammy has to practice a method for everything.

Adding or subtraction e.g.

  • Tammy invited 25 guests to her birthday party. 4 said they could not come. How many guests can she expect?
  • Tammy received 14 gifts. She has already opened 6 gifts. How many more gifts must she open?
  • Why? She still struggled with such basic problems, although we did a lot of them last year. I am convinced though that if we keep on practicing these, the ability to apply mathematical solutions to a variety of problems will emerge.

If one then multiply, if many then divide problems:

  • The following recipe is enough for 6 people. How must Tammy change the recipe so that it is enough for 25 people? (Divide ingredients by 6 and multiply with the number of guests. Round the answer – you cannot use 3.75 chicken or measure 7.33 ml salt or 990 ml sauce.)
  • Shaen will take 5 photos of each guest. How many photos will he take when there are 20 / 25 / 30 guests?
  • If one plate costs R25, how much will the dinner for 30 people cost – i.e. how much will 30 plates cost?
  • For the problems we whisked out the abacus and number line again. We drew pictures and real objects. And we practice and practice and practice. The conversion of recipes is part of lesson 1 of Grade 10 mathematical literacy, and both of us are determined to crack it – not only for the lesson, but forever!

Multiplication and division

  • How to multiply with 25: Since 25 = 1/4 of 100, divide by 4 and multiply with 100. These problems also took several exercise sheets, before she could do it. Once she got the hang of it, it was fairly easy, but then she would apply the same “recipe” when multiplying 10 x 25! Of course you can divide 10 by 4 and multiply the answer with 100, but it is so much quicker to just add a zero!
  • Besides the 1-12 tables, to also be able to count in 15’s and 25’s. To know the answers to 60/4, 4 x 15, 3 x 15, 45/ 3, 75/ 3, 3 x 25 100/ 4, 1000/ 4 etc. etc. This is much more fun and she loves it, if she “gets” me, i.e. if she can give the answer very fast!
  • Percentages: this is nothing new, but it requires continuous practice. Also to understand what it meant when you run at 50%, 80% and 100%! (Water aerobics)

There is still a massive elephant to be eaten and for Tamerin the bites can never be too small. I am just grateful for the few mouthfuls that she has been able to digest. Let’s pray that these skills will stick forever!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grade 10 has started!

As mentioned before, our aim this year is to start with Grade 10.  Tammy’s subjects are English, Afrikaans, Math literacy, Computer studies (not science), Geography, Tourism and Life Orientation.  Here is a summary of what we have done these past two weeks:


We continue as before: I tried to follow the handbook for about 2 days, realised it was no use, so we’re back to my method: lots and lots of verbal drilling of questions and answers.  These exercises are mostly based on the cultural subject of the week – either Geography or Tourism. At the moment she is transcribing geography statements as questions e.g. Statement: “The earth moves from West to East.” Question: “In which direction does the earth move?” Statement: “The 0 degree of longitude is also called the Prime Meridian or the Greenwich Meridian.” Question: “What are other names for the 0 degree of longitude?” “South Africa lies at 30 degrees East.” “At which degree of longitude does South Africa lie?”  and so on.

The forming of questions is still a major challenge, but there has been steady but slow progress.  By integrating the cultural subjects with English, she has a better chance to assimilate the new vocabulary and concepts.  Hopefully this will help her to better understand and answer test and exam questions.

Vocabulary and spelling practice also come from these subjects and her reader.  We have started with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis and what a joy!  She seems to understand it well and anyway she enjoys it.  I should just focus more on reading, but we so often get stuck in other basics and then the time for reading gets gobbled up!  (Maybe we should start the day with reading….)


We have started to read Afrikaans.  She seems to understand it well – laughs at appropriate places.  So far we have covered all the single vowels, double vowels and have started with diphtongs (oe, eu, ui) and some open syllables (oral, besig and a few others.)  My aim is to enable her to read Afrikaans as soon as possible – we’ll only worry about grammar, speaking etc. much later.  She still struggles so much to speak English that I really find it hard to switch to Afrikaans when speaking to her!   It feels counterproductive!  On the other hand, who knows, being able to speak Afrikaans, might just open up the communication gates for her!  We haven’t had many Afrikaans lessons, but she loved the ones we did have. 

(The rest of her family speak Afrikaans, but apparently Tammy preferred to speak English, when she was little, and the speech therapist suggested they stick to English because she struggled the Afrikaans r and g!  I’d rather not say what I think of that suggestion!  Whatever happened to mother tongue is best?  When I came into the picture, she could speak neither language understandably…)


We started with how to use an atlas.  She can look up a city in the index and find the right page and map position.  The introduction included a host of new vocabulary such as population, physical features and boundaries, but she was very interested en mastered the new concepts satisfactorily.  We skipped geography last week, when we concentrated on tourism. 

This week we focussed on latitude, longitude and time zones.  We had to begin with the earth’s movement around the sun.  As she had had very little geography before, she thought that the sun moved around the earth.  There are many gaps we have to fill somehow, and yet master the Grade 10 work as quickly as possible as well.  Today she had to calculate time differences – this involved very simple adding or subtraction and counting of time zones.  She seemed to understand what to do, but made many arithmetic mistakes e.g. 12- 8= 3.  She knows her combinations very well: we have drilled them in the past, and yet in new situations like these she “slips”. So math’s was spent in revising deduction instead of continuing with division… so that we can do “story sums”!


This is the “most likely to succeed” subject.  Tammy was very interested in what tourism was and the different types of accommodation, tourist attractions etc.  She looked up flights for an imaginary holiday, but struggled to understand what the differences in price really meant.  The flight times did not intrigue her – I don’t think she really understands, despite our having done lots of time duration calculations last year.  Time calculations remain a big must on our agenda! 

Computer Studies

I try to let Tamerin do more work on the computer e.g. insert charts on Excel, tables of contents on Word etc.  I must confess that computer studies is another subject that does not yet get all the attention it deserves, since the other subjects demand so much more effort.  I just hope that the work I do let her do on the computer, will later be enough to really master whatever is required for Grade 10, and more importantly what is necessary for life!  I am convinced that her computer skills are what will land her a job one day.

Life Orientation

As I don’t have a “handbook” yet, I just go with what her mother understands from Tammy’s cousins what it is all about: apparently mostly about HIV and sex.  We have talked about sex in the past and did so again, especially about sexual abuse and her right to say no and what to do if such a situation should arise.


The least favourite subject!  The curriculum started with rounding up and down of numbers.  We had done it in the past, so this was not really a problem.  But the first lesson also had “story sums” (with vocabulary she could not pronounce!) and here the old problem of not being able to recognise what formula to use reared its ugly head again…. and, as before, she struggled with basic division.  So we focussed much on division by 5, 6, 8 and decimals again.  I also printed out charts on which she had to mark .66 or .33 or .125, .25 etc.  (I wanted to share these charts with  you, but do not know how to copy them onto the blog!)

Visualising a fraction helps: she is becoming quite good at estimating .5 ,125 etc. of a container.  She loves it when I only show her the side of a measuring jug and she points to .375 and I turn the jug so that she can compare her estimate.  More often than not, she is quite accurate!  She can count in 125’s and I am very proud of this achievement – should help with cooking!   (With multiplication she used to make more adding problems rather than with the actual multiplication.  With division its usually the same: she makes more mistakes with deduction to work out the remainder, than with the actual division.

To do division by 7, I let her calculate how many weeks and days there are between certain dates. Any time related sum has always been difficult for her, and  she still needs much practice.  The problem this week was again deduction: “What is 31 – 25?”   “???” Last year she was well able to do this.  Why this slump?  But I believe its just temporary.  We’ll get the basics right (again) and then we try the Grade 10 work (again)….!

(It does not make sense to practise calculating  decimals when dividing with 7 – when we come to long division she could maybe do it, otherwise a calculator will be fine.)


Maybe I do not sound to positive in this blog, but actually I am.  It’s just going to take a lot of time and a lot of work.  But Tammy and I are committed and that is half the battle!  And of course I believe we have God on our side!

Sorry for this long post!  Will try and post more regularly and have shorter posts!  Next something about our very satisfying Bible study!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Next year – an Annie Sullivan year?

Last time I said that Tamarin’s Individual Education Programme had come to an end – but not our homeschooling.  (Drum roll) 

Tada!  Next year Tamarin is going to do Grade 10 (first year)!

The first year part is just to prepare for what I deem to be probable or inevitable: i.e. that it is going to take a few years to reach this goal! 

Is it attainable?  To jump from a more or less Grade 4 level to Grade 10?  It’s a leap of faith that’s for sure, but with the amazing progress that Tammy has made so far, anything and everything is possible.  Her subjects will be Grade 10 Math literacy, Geography, Tourism, Computer studies, English and Afrikaans.  Why Grade 10?  Her parents feel strongly that she should be benchmarked and that Tammy herself has an emotional need to be in a grade.  Grade 10 has fewer subjects than the lower grades, and much of the groundwork for these subjects have been done already. 

The math literacy book starts with fractions and decimals and rounding off: we have done this, so this should not be impossible.

Geography starts with learning to use an atlas and maps.  We have often used maps and the globe in the past, so this is not totally new.  The calculations of area, speed etc seem a bit “Wow!” ( Draw a cross-section of Koffiebus… Determine from the section whether tog station number 10 and benchmark 1237.9 are intervisible.What the…”?!!!)

My objective is to use the geography content as I have used previous themes: that is to use the content as basis for conversations and all grammar work e.g. to Rewrite sentences as questions.   I first want to skim through the work with her, and then later return to the same work and “dig the hole a little deeper”.  She first needs to just know the basic terminology in her bones.  (In the geography book there are more than 17 words on the first page alone that she does not know yet !)

Apparently computer studies deal with the use of a computer (it’s not computer science).  Tammy likes working on the computer and she generally remembers computer methods very well.

The languages will present the greatest challenges.  She is still a long way from writing essays and magazine articles and headlines!  And as for Afrikaans: we’ll have to start at Grade 1 level!

Her parents firmly believe that is the way to go and I am up to this huge challenge.  It will be a team effort between me, Tammy and her parents.  How do you eat up an elephant?  Bit by bit.  My job is to cut it up in small digestible pieces and to make the eating fun and to sustain Tammy’s appetite till the last mouthful.  Tammy’s job will be to swallow, chew and digest, swallow, chew and digest….. a big job.  Her parents’ job will be to cheer from the sidelines and to make sure she eats up her bit in the afternoons, so that she will be ready for the next plateful the next day.  (That is they just have to check that she has actually done her homework.)

If God helped Annie Sullivan to help Helen Keller, who is to say God will not help us?  We can only succeed with His help and with Him anything is possible!  We just have to be obedient, even if the going is tough!

Php 4:13  I am able to do all things through him who gives me strength.

Rom 8:14  And all those who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Rom 8:28  And we are conscious that all things are working together for good to those who have love for God, and have been marked out by his purpose.

Rom 8:31  What may we say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

To anyone reading this: Have a special, blessed Christmas full of joy in the comforting arms of Jesus.  May your  last day of the year be a time for reflexion and a time to receive fresh inspiration for the New Year and may 2011 bring many blessings, hope and fun!  Enjoy the holidays.

Friday, December 3, 2010

2010 Prize Giving

Can you believe it?  The highlight of our year has come and gone! The year has passed so quickly!  Tammy’s prize giving was on Tuesday evening.  After the superb pancake supper her mom had prepared so lovingly, all the family and friends moved into the T.V. room for Tammy’s presentations. 

She started with a Bible “speech” i.e. a power point presentation on the nature of God and why He created us, what went wrong and His salvation plan for us.  She stood still and spoke carefully and although her speech was still a bit staccato, it was much more fluent than before.  She barely glanced at the computer with the text and pictures.  She had typed out her prayer before: I helped her with sentence construction and grammar, but the ideas were her own. 

Next she talked about why one should drink water, which nutrients support digestion and which nutrients  improve or harm your brain function.  These presentations were ended with a rather lengthy question session: Tamarin asked the audience nutrition related questions, for example “Why must you eat fish?”  Practising to ask questions is very important for Tamarin, because she used to say sentences when she wanted to ask something i.e. “You can help me? “ instead of “Can you help me?”.  But besides being able to ask a question, it is equally important to listen  to the replies and to respond appropriately.   When we prepared for this section, I used to give correct, partially correct answers or wrong answers and she learned to listen more carefully: should she say, “Yes, but… “  or “Yes, and…” or “No..”.  Although asking question and responding to the replies have both improved much, we still have to work at these skills, especially at giving appropriate responses.

Sadly I have no video or picture of this part of the evening – it was in between camera swops – flat battery, would you believe!  Jan took the video clips – I said short clips, but unfortunately most were way too short to illustrate what her capability was. Won’t complain though, without him I wouldn’t have had any for the blog and the blog is the only way I can ensure the pics will endure, even if the computer crashes or is stolen, like last year! In the post below are  two pictures and two very short video clips of Tamerin doing her thing.

Then we played shop.  We handed “enquiries” re health issues (for example "What supplements should I take to maintain strong bones?”) as well as price lists to the audience.  Tammy responded to the queries with appropriate suggestions.  These we had rehearsed at length.  She astounded everyone with her ability to add up the prices mentally– up to three different amounts!   Then she subtracted the total from the “money” handed by the client and quickly picked up the correct amount of change. 

Next year, there will be less formal presentations, and more questions and responses, i.e. more interaction between Tamarin and the audience. 

Her final speech was an introduction to a slide show in Phuket. 

I gave her a certificate to mark the end of her three year Individual Education Programme.   (End?  I’ll tell you more about the new plans next time.) Her book prize was another Secret Seven book and an atlas.  (An atlas?  Also more about that next time.) It was a great year and it ended with a great evening. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Videoclip of Tammy's Bible Speech

Tammy doing her Bible speech.

Tammy adding up the prices of Shaen's purchases.

Tammy's introduction to her Bible speech - slide 1
Tammy responding to the audience's reply to her question "Why must you eat fruit?