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!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tamerin's Prize Giving: Her End of Year Function

The prize giving evening was a huge success!

Tamerin's biggest challenge is to communicate properly. Her comprehension has been improving steadily, but her spoken language has been a handicap all along: from pronunciation till sentence construction. To stimulate spoken language we prepared a speech which she practised for her prize giving. This was held on the eve of the last day of school. (The school year in South Africa runs from January till beginning of December.) So instead of an end of the year concert, she had an end of the year speech on her year's work. I believed that as a ballet or music exam or an Eisteddfod or an gymnastics competiton motivates children to polish their year's practice, this speech would motivate Tammy to give her all. And boy, has it ever!

Her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins attended and all were most impressed. Best of all was that Tammy really enjoyed it. No-one, except me and the Lord and in a way her mother, knew just how much her speech has improved through this effort. If you have been following our blog, you would know that this speech preparation has gone on for a long time, but it has paid dividends: her pronunciation has improved and pattern sentences has been drilled in a meaningful way and skills such as reading the thermometer were also fine tuned.

The speech was presented as a show and tell and covered most aspects of her school work such as her reader, numerical skills, geography, history and life skills.
Tammy ready to start - the stack on the left table were mostly pictures which she lifted and discussed one by one and then put them on the table on the right. The stack also included her reader and her dictionary!

It took a lot of guts to stand in front of an audience and speak, but she did it well. She stood reasonably still and did not fiddle too much with clothes etc. (We practised this a lot too!)

"I understand prices. The price of this milk is R13.99, but it actually costs R14."

The temperature right now is 24 degrees (Celcius)

"I also know the map of South Africa, especially the road to Durban..."

"The Voortrekkers were farmers from the Eastern Cape, who trekked north..."
The Southern Right whales come all the way from Antartica to our coasts every spring..." It is the first time she was able to pronounce "Antartica" correctly! (The Southern Right whale was part of our curriculum because the family went to the whale festival in September.)

Between her speech and her Nativity puppet show, she passed round a box with sums and problems - the audience asked her tables, division etc. and she answered without hesitation .She loved this. In the meantime I set up her puppet show. I was the narrator and Tammy did the dialogue. We ended with a discussion as to where Jesus is now, what He is doing in heaven, how you become His child and what will happen when He comes back. I asked her the questions and she answered them.

"Don't be afraid Mary. God thinks you are special. You are going to have a baby boy and you must call Him Jesus."

The setup.

Tammy's puppets: crib and all were made out of toilet roll tubes - got the idea on the internet. (I cannot edit my posts once I leave this page, so I can't add the link now. Does anyone else have this problem?)

The angels were another internet idea.

"Thank you for my book prize Teacher!" (She also got an Excellence Award with a gold sticker on which I first embossed an A+ with a ball point at the back. She was most thrilled with the A+)

I am just sad, that due to a misunderstanding, we only have photos and no video clips to share. Fortunately her Oupa made a full scale video for the Durban Ouma to enjoy when she comes to visit in December. The enthralled audience had tears in their eyes and were full of compliments and praise. However, all this is God's work: He brought us together and made all this possible. All praise to Him!

Thank you, thank you God for a wonderful year.

As we now have our summer vacation, this blog will sleep for a few weeks. We'll be back early in the new year. Tammy might come to the farm for a visit, so you might hear from me next week, but in case I have no homeschool news before Christmas:


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratitude... Tagging others

As you can see in the post below I've been tagged by Nicole. So now I tag Dorette, Thelwyn, Lora, Jen and Beth:
Rules are easy. Name ten things you are grateful for, it can be anything! Funny, serious, whatever. And then tag five others. Spread the gratefulness around!

Gratitude tag.

So I have been tagged by Nicole to name 10 things that I am grateful for. As this is our last week of school, it is an excellent time to think of all the things that I am truly grateful for. Since this is a homeschool blog, I'll concentrate on the blessings of my homeschooling year.

1. I am grateful to God for providing this job for me - I am homeschooling a very special child - not my own. Two years ago, I was principal of a very busy pre-school and on the brink of collapse, last year I was teacher of the Special Needs class in a private school and exhausted and frustrated. This year I am teacher of only one and loving every bit of it. Thank you, thank you!

2. I am grateful that my husband supports me in this. I live 50 km from my job, so it costs a lot to go to work. But Jan never complains.... he has ALWAYS supported me in whatever I did. After 33 years I am still very grateful for the coffee in bed and the breakfasts he makes every morning and for the coffee for the road... Jan I'll keep you! (The coffee for the road is actually only hot water, but it does make the road shorter!)

And I'll keep my son Hendrik too! (And the rest of my family: Frans, Thelwyn and Martelize and Gert, Dorette and Franco. Read more about them here.)
3. I am grateful for Tamerin's parents for believing in me.... I was her teacher last year, so it was quite a compliment for me, when they asked me to homeschool her.
4. For Tamerin of course: She tries so hard and she has shown such wondeful progress! She is a sweet loving girl who is keen to learn. And she is a GOOD girl - it is not difficult to be patient with her!
5. For her aptitute for computers -she took to it like a duck to water! Much better than many adults.
6. For her improved academic ability: language, mathematics and history and geography (Well...the last two sounds a bit grand but we did do some, with good results! At least she now knows what an election, a goverment, a law, a court, a president etc. are!)
7. For her improved muscles: I don't see it, but many other people have remarked how well she looks. And the express abs classes do me the world of good as well!
8. And her abililty to sew with a sewing machine: she is able to really control the pressure of her foot on the pedal. The beginning of the year, she could hardly pick up a pin, let alone stick it through material and now she has made a skirt and a T-shirt, albeit with a lot of help. She really did stitch it on her own, even though I stood behind her shoulder like a policeman watching her with a hawkeye.
9. The lovely view from the classroom. It is magnificent! However, it also gets very hot in there as the windows can't open.... but (big gratitude here), my hot flushes are now nearly non-existent. I am back on hormones and I can live again and the heat does not really bother me!
10. Hackneyed expression or not: last but not least - definitely not least - Tammy now knows Jesus so much better: she knows about salvation and grace and forgiveness and..... and..... And she can read the Bible!

God I bring to you Tammy: you have used me to plant seeds. Please God, let them grow in abundance! Please bless Tammy greatly! Please loosen up her tongue so that she can speak freely - especially tomorrow night!

11. I have to add another gratitude: my blog friends! Thank you for friends who encourage and support and for their great ideas. Thank you for the internet, for bringing me in contact with wonderful people all over the world!

Thank you God for a GREAT, GREAT year!

I'll tag others in a separate post - for some reason I cannot edit my posts, so I cannot go out of this one to copy the "rules". Does anyone else also have this problem? I can click on edit, but can't change a thing... (Sorry! I should not moan in a gratitude post!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some statistics for her end of year report and "The Speech" progress

When typing text out of her reader, Tammy types about 4 words per minute: She still makes many mistakes, but she corrects them herself. If only I could get her to use the delete button or select and retype method more. She spends a lot of time getting the cursor in the right place, then she backspaces and only then does she type in the correction. I have never given her a computer test before, but wanted a "statistic" for her end of the year report, so that we can gauge progress next year. She thoroughly enjoyed it, and wanted a test for homework.

For her Excel test I gave her a few number to enter and to add and to change to Rand. (Our currency.) She used the autosum button with ease and went to Format, but there she got stuck. However, when I told her to click on "Cells", she immediately went to "Currency" and clicked on R.

She reads 28.5 words per minute. (Maximum score was 35 words.)

For her math's test she scored 100% for multiplication and 57% for adding with ones and tens. She knows her bonds, but she makes many mistakes with carrying over.

In October she pedaled 1.5 km at level 1 in 10 minutes. Now she pedals more than 2.5 km at level 2 in 10 minutes.

She started to stutter again....! I felt so dejected this morning when we did the Nativity puppet show, and she stammered so. (She looked happy enough?) We prayed and then had break and then I really prayed....

After break, she did some sewing before I suggested we practise her speech again. (practise spelled with an s in S.A.) She was very slow and uncertain in the beginning, but became more cheerful and self-confident as she progressed. AND SHE DID NOT STUTTER! And what's more, she did not want me to cut anything from the speech, in fact she wants to say more! Instead of saying "I enjoyed seeing the whales at Hermanus", she wants to say "I enjoyed seeing the whales in the Indian Ocean at Hermanus". Instead of saying "the story of how Jesus was born", she wants to say "the story of how Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was born."!!

Thank you, thank you God! PLEASE help Tammy on Thursday. It will be so humiliating for her to cancel the whole speech now, and it will even be worse, if it does not go well on Thursday. Please free her tongue and her mind. You can do anything!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Speech Progress 3

Tammy is still speaking very slowly, but she is progressing well. The speech is too long, so from tomorrow, we will start to cut out sentences and probably whole sections. I have been reluctant to do it, but we have to make sure there is something well rehearsed for the big night. She likes the nativity play better. I tell most of the story with Tammy handling the puppets and the dialogue. The puppets are dressed up toilet rolls and we found a pattern for the angels at Christmas Paper Angels, but today the website did not want to open!(?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To practice (practise) spelling or not?

If you have read the previous posts of this blog, you will know that I have given up on formal spelling practices early in the year. Tammy found them boring and I wanted school just to be fun and meaningful. Besides her name, she could hardly spell any word at the beginning of the year. Spelling was mostly "practised" through regular (first daily, lately weekly) updates of her Diary, through copying of Bible verses and other (irregular) computer lessons like typing a recipe, a cash flow spreadsheet, emails etc.

We never write tests, but this week I let her write a spelling test to satisfy my curiosity as to how good or bad her spelling is.

Test 1: No specific preparation, words taken from Grade 3 spelling and My Secret Unicorn:
Score: 32/ 60 = 54 %
(Reading alone does not seem enough to improve her spelling. She has to type or write these words regularly as well, as she succeeded better with the words that she has regularly typed before.)

Test 2: Same test after correcting mistakes and practicing them by typing each word 4 times:
Score: 51/ 60 = 85 % (!!)
(Practice makes perfect!)

Test 3: 25 words taken from text that she has typed before – mostly her diary
Score: 12/ 25 = 50%
(Sigh.... Oh dear!... There goes my original theory!)

She could spell Wednesday, but forgot to use a capital letter. She typed drew for draw - the diary is usually in the past tense so she has written drew more than draw. She could spell words like monument, picture and express (from Express abs class). However letter order confusion still occurs a lot e.g. baver for brave, stirk for shirt, who for how and vice versa.

Conclusion: Typing a diary is also not enough although it certainly has helped a GREAT deal! Next year we will continue with the diary and Bible verses, but I think practising spelling will now become a regular part of homework as well - as the Grade 3's do in regular school. I will make sure however that they are not just meaningless lists of words, but words that she needs for her diary, a theme or whatever.

About her diary: it is not entirely her own work: she first writes an entry in a file called Diary Originals and then she copies it to Diary and then I help her to find and correct her mistakes and to expand - i.e. to help her to express what she wants to say. My aim with Diary was to improve both oral and written language and typing. It certainly has helped. We started with her diary at the beginning of the year with me dictating letter for letter. She started her Diary Originals in June - before then she could not string 3 words together on her own.

Her first entry:16 July 2008
We have walk houses ride
We the to Kim possible
I do blog

Her most recent entry: 18 November 2008
On Friday we went to Durban.
On Saturday we played with Caelen, Robyn, Tayle, and I.
On Sunday We went to the show.
(The "show" was actually a funeral service. Her vocabulary is still limited, but still...)

Thank you God for letting me be part of this wonderful journey of PROGRESS! Thank you for Tammy's cheerful face! Keep on blessing this child God!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Speech Progress 3

We have two weeks before Tammy's prize giving and still a lot of work to do before this gala event. She is now able to say most parts of her speech ( a "show and tell") correctly and without help, but she still speaks hesitantly and softly. So we have two weeks to practice to make sure she can speak confidently, fluently and clearly! Progress has been very good - for both her "speech" and the Nativity puppet show. Through practising the speech, she has internalised "pattern sentences" and new vocabulary with its sometimes tricky pronunciation (she struggles with words like ability, illustrate, rowing). The best part. however, is that her comprehension of both written and oral language has improved drastically.
She still sways a little when she practices her speech, but usually she corrects herself: she really tries to stand still and to hold her pictures still when she speaks. We still have to work on speaking with a smile and enthusiasm though.
Please pray that all will go well. So far, so very good! Thank you, thank you Jesus!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Speech Progress 2

Tammy's speech for her "Prize Giving" is coming along just fine! To make it more interesting and to make it easier for her, we have added a photo for each concept. E.g. a printout of the Excel weather chart for when she speaks about the temperatures, R5 and R2.50 coins for when she talks about fractions. There are pictures of S.A. history and old themes like Hermanus and the Southern Right whatles, but also current history ones like Obama, Mugabe, the inflation in Zimbabwe, the farms etc. To explain how unemployment spirals, she uses carton people and empty containers as businesses.

The important thing here is that her speech has improved much, but also her comprehension. Her homework comprehension this week was about her speech. All her answers showed understanding, even if the written answers were not 100%. For instance, in answer to a history question "What happened to Louis Trichard's people?" She wrote "Sickness malaria mosqito" instead of "They died of malaria". BUT SHE UNDERSTANDS! Halleluja!

Her mother says that Tammy took an old diary with a world map along when they visited a friend. There she showed them the different countries and talked about them. For someone who had not even known that she lived in South Africa at the beginning of the year, this is quite an achievement and I am so so grateful. The Lord is really helping her.

P.S. She was quite upset when Obama won the election - she even phoned me! This is the first time she has phoned me to tell me news. Her mother thinks it is because Mc Cain looks like her grandfather.

Here are some gym photos I took for her speech. We'll print them on their colour printer on Monday.

Tammy now pedals 2.5 km in 10 minutes - a big improvement over her 1.5 km in 10 minutes a month ago!
Abs exercises. She still struggles but does them without a complaint!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Speech Progress

We are practicing Tammy's speech for the end of the year function. At this stage we just read it together, but I already see signs of improved fluency in speaking and comprehension has definitely improved. When she "boasts" about her multiplication ability, I first ask her random sums (adding, division, multiplication etc.). We intend giving the audience time to ask her sums. When she talks about the weather chart, the hottest day etc., she is also to say "The temperature right now is...." This part reminds us to check the classroom thermometer every day, so as to make sure she will really be able to read it easily on the big night.
When talking about history, she has to refer to the earth globe and the map of South Africa. She does this quite well. We also talk about present history e.g. the election of the U.S. president, the problems in Zimbabwe, what causes economic problems. (Nogal!)

The second part of the programme will be a Nativity "play". I will be the narrator and Tamerin will do the speech parts of the different characters. The different characters will be portrayed by toilet roll puppets. Tammy still has to make them, but we have started with easy cut out angels.

Please pray that all will go well. I am not sure how well she will handle stress in front of an audience. I do not want to put pressure on her, but on the other hand I do want to give her a chance to show off her abilities.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Outings and New Plans

Tammy, her brother and his friend in the door of the Voortrekker Monument

Tamerin in front of the circle of wagons around the Voortrekker Monument.

Last week Tamerin's brother's school closed for 2 days (Jewish holidays), so I took them to the Voortrekker Monument. It is a huge monument erected in memory of the pioneers of Dutch and French descent who trekked northwards between 1835 and 1850. Their history is depicted in a frieze on the ground floor and in beautiful tapestries in the basement and in displays in the museum.
We discussed the history at length before the outing and Tamerin seemed to understand much of the history: their daily lives e.g. why they had to make biltong (dried salted meat) and bake bread in ant hills, but also the bigger issues: why they moved out of the Eastern Cape, why Piet Retief talked to the Zulu King Dingane, why they had to trek out of Kwazulu-Natal again... History and geography go hand in hand, so to explain the Great Trek, I often referred to the map of South Africa and in this way we revised earlier "geography" e.g. Mozambique (her father went there in the beginning of the year, and that is where the first Voortrekker leader died), the Drakensberg Mountains that the Voortrekkers crossed with great difficulty and which Tamerin got to know on their trips to Durban.
There are only a few weeks of school left. We are planning her prize giving evening. We envisage an evening with her family and possibly my family. We are working on a speech that Tamerin will make on her year's work. My idea with the speech is to get her to practice pronunciation and "pattern sentences" in a meaningful way, i.e. she practices speech on subjects which she might want to discuss anyway. Today she really struggled to say "ability", but in the end she could say: "This year I have improved my ability to read." I pray that her ability to speak will also improve drastically.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Today we had 10 1 minute "fluent" reading sessions: Tammy read out of My Secret Unicorn for 1 minute exactly, then we counted the words and deducted the ones she did not have right. Between the 1 minute reading sessions, we discussed what she had just read, to make sure she understands the story. After the 10 sessions, we added up her scores and divided it by ten. Her average today was 24.8 words per minute - not too bad considering that she was reading "new" work, i.e. it was unpractised sight reading.

We are now on page 94 , but are now going back to practice the underlined (unknown) words from pages 74 - 85. Tamerin inserted a two column table and typed all these words twice. (23 words to a column). We printed these on carton and cut out the words: one set for her and one for me. We printed another sheet: this one has blank spaces next to the words. She will place her cut out words in the spaces.

After break I will get her to match the words (Put "hesitate" next to hesitate), then to choose (find) the words (Can you find "hesitate"?) and finally read the sight words (What is this?)

This method works well for her. When we started the book in January, she needed a set of words for every page. Gradually the number of unknown words per page became less and less and now we are down to 1 set of words for 10 pages! Praise the Lord! I am convinced that we will have finished the book before the end of the year and fulfill the promise we made at the beginning of the year i.e. that Tamerin would be able to read the book independently by the end of the year.


This week we went to the gym every day except Friday. Although we still take it slowly, Tamerin is already showing signs of increased fitness. We just have to keep at it. I have not yet spoken to the "bio". She took the abs class on Monday and was going to show me more apparatus after our workout on the floor (cardio), but I must confess: I was just too bushed after the cycling, rowing etc. to go and look for her to do more... Next week we will let her show us around first and then we'll work out!

None of us has lost weight yet: in fact I have gained!! But it does leave us with feeling good about ourselves.

The trips to the gym are spent doing oral math's. Tammy asked to do 1/4 fractions. She gets confused at times, but understands that to get to a 1/4 you have to divide into 2 and then into 2 again. She generally gets it right and even knows that 1/4 of 10 is 2.5: with R10 one can buy four items of R2.50 at our old school's tuck shop.

Sometimes Tamerin has to buy groceries or stationery. She has an excel file marked "Daddy's Money" where she keeps record of expenses, what the balance of the cash box should be and then of course we have to count the money. She thinks it is so cool to drag formulas. Excel is real fun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Going to the Gym

I have joined Tamerin's gym so that I can take her there in the mornings. This week we have done 2 "Express Abs" classes and 2 sessions on the floor apparatus: cycles, treadmills, steppers, rowing machines and another stepper/ walker thing - not sure what it is called. Tamerin enjoys spinning most. Once or twice, she hinted that she would rather practice at home than go to the gym, but generally she is quite eager to go - even to the 2nd abs class. She has not yet complained of any stiff muscles. This is surprising because I don't think those classes are a joke and at home Tammy soon complained when we did tummy exercises. She does much more there that when we practice at home, but it does take quite a bit of extra time, what with changing and travelling there (10 km there and back).

Next week we will speak to a "bio" or physiotherapist to make sure the exercises are good for her. (Her muscle tone is very low and she has some back problems.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We're back!

Tamerin did get to see whales and visited a wine farm during their holiday. Yesterday we spent a long time discussing their holiday and she wrote her diary with my help. After writing it, I suggested she copy it and get the modem started while I quickly went to the bathroom. When I came back, she had already connected to the internet, opened her blog, copied her diary inscription and published it with her own heading (albeit without a capital letter). The "big thing" is that she did all the actual blogging totally on her own! I am so proud of her.

Her reading is getting more fluent by the day. Comprehension is also improving steadily. I have not started the 1 minute reading programme again, but remembered about it today and will do so again. (Thanks for the tip Jen!)

After all the theme projects in preparation of the September holidays (Whales, Hermanus, Wine Making, Jan van Riebeeck etc.) we are back to her My Secret Unicorn. The book has helped to expand her vocabulary. Before she knew about 3 emotions: happy, sad and proud. Now she often uses "disappointed" and today "dejected"! I still let her often look up words in the dictionary e.g. today she looked up "suffering" and "wise" during Bible lesson.

Some planned projects for this term: Revision of the route to Durban as the family plan to go there again this weekend, some more history, sewing of bags for gifts, lots of physical exercise, a speech about meerkats (a type of mongoose). (The family has just got a baby Meerkat for pet.) A very special project should be to plan for a prize giving / concert evening towards the end of the school year. All I can do, is take these plans to Jesus and get guidance from Him as to what to do and when to do it. He has proved to be so faithful this year and I believe He will continue to do more miracles in Tamerin's life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Holiday Preparations

School holidays started today for me! Tammy and family fly to Hermanus to see the whales today!

After the successes we had with the discussions, reading and comprehension exercises on the Southern Right Whales and Hermanus, we did similar exercises on three different Cape Town themes yesterday. At least we only discussed the themes and read through the papers on the themes. Tamerin will do the "Fill in the missing words" exercises on these papers the rest of the week with her Mom. (Schools officially close for a week on Friday, so if she does school work this week, they can still count as school days - a requirement by the Department of Education.)

The themes we chose were Jan van Riebeeck and the Castle of Good Hope (the oldest building in South Africa), The history of the winelands, How wine is made and Parliament. Hopefully the family will visit the Castle of Good Hope and at least have a look at the Parliament building - even if they do not do go inside. I know they plan a visit to a wine farm. Tamerin should be able to understand most of what goes on and hopefully be able to talk about her experiences.

I have written the papers mindful of her reading vocabulary, i.e. I tried not to use too many new words. When writing about the castle for instance I wrote about the 5 corners of the castle instead of "bastions". When writing about Parliament I wrote Department of "Money" instead of "Treasury".

It is not about the facts being 100% correct, but about reading with ease, reading with understanding and being able to talk about it. There was not enough time to really practice talking about these themes, but she practised questions like "Daddy can we please drive past the Parliament?"

The whales are a different matter. It seems our speech practice worked: according to Tammy's mother, she told a friend all about the whales - something she had never done before. This shows me we are on the right track! I am so proud of Tammy.

She understood the story of Jan van Riebeeck very well even though she struggled to say his name! When I asked her (as part of the comprehension exercise) whether the Castle of Good Hope is the one that he built, she answered "No, his castle was destroyed." (Destroyed nogal! The word did not even feature in my article! I think she picked up the word, when we read Kim Possible) Anyway, her answer was correct. Jan van Riebeeck's castle did not last because he had used mud and wood to build it!

I pray that the family will have a safe journey, that Tammy's sick grandfather will get better and that Tammy will be able to use her basic knowledge of the holiday destinations to enjoy her holiday more! Have a wonderful time Tammy!

Please email me at miekie@nes.co.za if you are interested in the theme worksheets. It is not so much about the facts, but the method used to encourage reading with understanding.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hermanus, History and Outings

Tammy at the Union Buildings
Tammy at the Monument of the Unknown Child in Salvokop.
In preparation of the family holiday next Tuesday, I copied a website of Hermanus and edited it e.g. I changed "champagne air" to fresh air, "meandering cliff paths" to cliff paths and "historic village" to old village. There was stilll plenty of new sight words for Tammy to master in the usual match, choose and name method. This took only a few minutes and then she could read the "website". It included several words that she would not find in her reader e.g kilometres, breathtaking scenery, coastline. After reading it, I asked questions about it, e.g. "Why is Hermanuas a well loved holiday destination?" "Is it an old town or a modern town?" "What can you see if you go walking on the paths?"

My aim was to get her to read fluently, to read with understanding and most importantly to be able to converse about a topic that is very current in her family! Speech is still slow, but it is improving by leaps and bounds. Tamerin amazes me!

On Thursday, there was a power cut and we could not use the computer. So instead we discussed the history of South Africa! Starting with why Jan van Riebeeck came to South Africa, to the Great Trek and after the Great Trek: the beginnings of Pretoria and the Anglo Boer War.
I drew pictures to explain as we went along. Later we looked at History in Picture.

I had to attend the unveiling of the Monument of the Unknown Child in Salvokop the next day. I planned to take Tammy to the Voortrekker Monument afterwards, but time ran out and we'll do this outing next term.

Anyway, we still did some history: we went to the Union buildings where President Mbeki's office is. It gave us time to again talk about government and paliament: the place where they make laws. At the Union buildings we had a view of all most places we were planning to go to: the Voortrekker Monument and the City hall and even The Freedom Park in Salvokop. We drove down "Church Street" and revised the story of how Pretoria started around a church.

At the city hall, we looked at the statues of Chief Tshwane, Andries Pretorius and his son Marthinus Pretorius after whom Pretoria was name. Then we drove down "Paul Kruger Street" to go to church square - where there no longer is a church, but a statue of Paul Kruger.

(What a pity the powers that be, want to change the street names! They are really helpful in reinforcing history!)

Tamerin seemed intrigued by the history, but could not easily recall the names of the people (statues) she saw. The word "statue" made a big impression however! (What did we see at the City Hall? Statues!)

I plan to make a few worksheets on South African History in Cape Town. There will be very little time to do the base work on Monday, but hopefully we'll be able to cover enough so that she can do a history sheet on Jan van Riebeeck's castle (fort), one on the winelands and one on parliament. We have touched on these subjects, but need to revise. If she does work sheets the first week of their 2 week holiday, these days will be counted as school days. She will have to take along her weather chart and register as well!

Why history? Well history helps with a sense of identity. In Tamerin's case, the facts are not important, but understanding where the family are, what they are looking at and why they are doing that, will help her to really feel included when the family goes on outings during their stay in the Cape. If she can join in the conversations, it will enhance her self- image. I am convinced that these discussions stimulate her to think and to consentrate. We will continue with "speeches" (like the one we had on the Southern Right Whale) once they get back.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sewing a T-shirt Sewing and Speech Progress

Tamerin is busy pinnng the sleeve to her T-sleeve. Today she has sewn so neatly, I am very happy. Yesterday, she had to unpick quite a bit. Pinning T-shirt material is not easy: she struggles to get the edges of the material to meet and yet, she succeeds surprisingly well! After the sleeves, she has to do the neck line. Please pray that this will come out neatly! It will be a big dissapointment if the shirt is an embarrasment to wear! So far it looks OK - not as neat as the skirt, but not too bad.

She is not keen on sewing, but was nonetheless very proud to show her work to her Grandmother when she visited on Tuesday. The idea is that the T-shirt will be finished in time for their holidays at the coast, so I am putting on a little pressure here. (Besides I need my sewing machine at home!) We had better choose an easier project for the last term, but the way she is working now, we might consider another "easy" garment.

Her speech on the Southern Right Whale is coming along very promisingly! She really tries hard.

What a joy to see her progress! Praise God for such an obedient, eager child.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Southern Right Whale Continues

Tamerin is still very keen to learn about the whales. I combined the facts we have learned so far into a "speech" which we are now practising - i.e. she must not only read the piece, but tell it to an audience. To do that, she had to decide which word in each sentence should be emphasised. Was I pleasantly surprised: she pointed to the main subject of each sentence! There is real understanding here. After we had underlined the main words on the first version, she had to make these words bold and colourful on the computer, before we printed the new "speech" version. Besides practising computer skills, this exerise forced her to read with attention.

After practising "telling" the facts, I asked her to form the questions on the piece. Although the questions were not grammatically correct, she had a good idea of what to ask and how to ask. I gave the answers and sometimes asked her to answer her own questions and the oral results were quite good.

Her homework for today is to type the answers to the questions on the computer. I am looking forward to see her efforts, although I know that written work is often still a problem. Nevertheless God, a big thank you for her progress here!

We have started to read for 1 minute periods and to count the words read and deduct the number of words that she did not know. She enjoys this and I think it will really help her with fluency. Thanks for the tip!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Southern Right Whale

Tamerin's family are going to the Whale Festival at the end of September. The Southern Right Whales come up to the South African coast to have their babies in Spring, before journeying back to Antacrica and are often seen from the coastal towns around Cape Town - especially from Hermanus, where the Whale Festival is held annually.

Tamerin is very interested in the whales, so instead of continuing with her self chosen reader, My Secret Unicorn, I looked up basic facts about the whales and wrote short, simple paragraphs about these interesting creatures. We then looked at videos and pictures on the internet, read and discussed the pieces I wrote and finally she did comprehension on these pieces:
a) Filled in missing words in a copy of the essay e.g. The Southern ...........Whale is found in
the oceans of the southern ...................................... (She knows the words hemisphere!)
To do this she has to read with attention and if she does not the word look it up in the
original paragraph above.
b) Answered questions e.g. "Where do the whales live?" "Do they eat big fish or small
This method has really helped her to read with understanding and to improve her ability to answer questions. (At the beginning of the year, she did not know the difference between question words like Where, when, why etc. There has been a vast improvement since then, but she still finds it a challenge.) I loved her answer to "Why don't they hunt the Southern Right Whales any more?" They must have babies. If she took the answer from the paragraph, it would have been something about the law prohibiting hunting. Her answer showed real understanding of the whole issue and an ability to think. A new milestone has been reached!

Interestingly the Southern Right Whales were so called by hunters, because they swam slowly and had a lot of blubber. This made them easy to catch and when dead they did not sink. To make sure Tammy understood why they did not sink, we had experiments with margarine and oil in water.

We also measured off how big the whales are: as big as their swimming pool room. One baleen plate is as high as a door (2 m) and as wide as a ruler (30 cm). A whale eats about 400 kg of plankton a day! That is about 7 Tammy's a day (if Tammy was made out of tiny, tiny little fish).

I suppose knowing facts about whales are not really important for a handicapped child, but she was so keen to learn more about them, that it made the whole project very worthwhile. When given a choice she would rather read about and discuss whales, than My Secret Unicorn.

As always, life itself presents the curriculum for Tamerin. I pray that this whale project will enable her to understand more when they watch whales and or exhibitions at the festival and that her interest will be in the whales and not only in what there is to be eaten. I am convinced that her family will be pleasanty surprised by what she knows....!

Unfortunately I was sick for four of the five days this week, so we are a bit behind schedule.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A disaster at Tammy's Tea Party

Yesterday Thelwyn and Dorette came to visit Tamerin. She had invited them and spoke to Dorette over the cell phone. I realised that she struggled to explain the route, so early yesterday we practised explaining the route from different directions, to her house. Then she made some scones and fish bites. (She is still afraid of the oven since her burn at the beginning of the year, so I took the baking trays out of the oven. Otherwise she did nearly everything herself.)
Tamerin set the table in the swimming pool room where there is a lovely view. When Dorette came Tammy showed off her bedroom and the rest of the house. Tamerin is obviously very proud of their house. When Thelwyn arrived, Tammy was ready to serve the goodies she had prepared and was about to ask what her guests would drink, when she tripped and fell in the water! She was so shocked and complained bitterly that her ankle was broken. So it was a question of trying to salvage her cell phone, getting dry clothes and getting her foot attended to. Quite a commotion. Otherwise the party went well and this morning she still remembered how baby Franco smiled at her.
Organising a party certainly has educational possibilities and it is also socially beneficiary for a lonely homeschooler! We should do it again, but next time not so close to the pool!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mastering 10 + and 9+ and the 10 and 9 times tables!

We have not progressed much in terms of sewing, but at least the side seams are sewn - one little unpick here: she generally sewed nice and straight. We pinned darts in the sleeves (yes, the sleeves - not your ususal type sleeve yet!). Hopefully we'll get to sewing them today.

Tamerin's back hurts - it is a pity, because she has finally been showing some progress with the exercises. The exercises are very low key. Today we should go for a walk, but for some inexplicable reason, my feet hurt! What a pair of old crocks! Maybe we'll just dance a little bit. It is a glorious almost spring day, and we really should get outdoors.

In terms of school work: We practiced a lot of 10 + and then 9 +. (10 + for her was not just easy or natural as they are for other children. Adding with 0 is always part of her sum revision sheets!) Anyway she showed good progress here. We also did the 10 times and 9 times tables. I am very proud of her.

Her reading is becoming more fluent and comprehension is also improving. Sometimes she gives great answers and other days she seems not to understand the obvious. We just have to go slowly and patiently up the hill and we will get there. God is so good and faithful!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Progress in typing and general activities

Although it is nearly spirng, today is bitterly cold. It is cloudy and rather miserable. I was hoping to go for a walk, but don't feel like it in this weather. Tamerin also opted for "exercises". It is break right now, so I quickly want to update.
Tamerin's typing is improving much: she types her diary on her own in "Diary originals" (usually for homework). Then she copies it onto her "Diary" file where I help her to correct it and to add news that she has shared with me verbally, but not in writing. I always let her read what she has typed and more and more she finds her mistakes herself: e.g. where she has left out a word or a letter or where her word order is all wrong. When the diary of the day has been completed, she copies it to her blog. (See bloglist). She has really come a long way from the beginning of the year: she can type simple sentences on her own, but I cannot yet say that she can write her diary on her own. She also enjoys copying Bible verses. Ability to copy and to understand what she has typed has also improved much. Slowly but surely she masters spelling without formal spelling sessions. Ordering words or "license plate" letters in alphabetical order is also a favourite activity.
Her speech remains a problem. She likes to "practice" pattern sentences though and it seems to help. We have also started to dramatize a monologue - adapted from her reader "My Secret Unicorn." She loves this.
With the Olympic Games and Tri Nations Rugby going on, we are practising the National Anthem. She sings it with me, but not on her own yet. (Whispers when I try to get her to sing it on her own - with the words in front of her.)
Last week she cut out a top for the skirt she had sewed last term. The pattern stated stretch fabrics only, so we got T-shirting, but it was far more difficult to cut out than the skirt. Hopefully we will start to sew today. Tamerin is not too keen on sewing, but I believe such life skills are very important for her, so we try. Pray that the top will be a success and completed before the family leaves on holiday at the end of September!
Next week we will try to organise private horse riding lessons. When we tried last time, the roster was full!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Rugby, the National Anthem and the Olympics!

Tamerin's adding ability has slumped a little - when she works on paper, she usually does fine, but she is not really able to transfer her adding skills to every day life. She told me that she and her father were going to see the rugby test between S.A. and Argentina. I explained the game to her in very simple terms: How many members in a team, how they score a try (goal), what a conversion kick is, the basic rules and what happens if you break a rule (scrum / penalty kick). We then pretended on paper that there were two teams playing and added up the scores: The Springbucks scored a try and succeeded with the conversion kick: i.e. they got 5+ 2 = 7. points. They made a mistake and the Pumas (Argentina) succeeded with a penalty kick between the poles= 3 points. Which team was ahead? Then the Pumas scored a try and the Sprinbucks another try and so on and so on.

A lot of adding, but more importantly practice in the concept of more / less. Which team is ahead? How many points did the other team need to score to win? Tamerin has always been struggling with more, less, higher, lower (temperature/ price), etc. and subtracting is not her strong point. The rugby exercise gave us the opportunity to revise these basic calculations. I hope it helped her also to understand and enjoy the game more. Will talk some more about the rugby on Monday.

We also practised the National Anthem a little bit, but we did not have enough time to really learn it well enough to be able to sing along freely. We will continue with this: hopefully South Africa will get a gold medal in the Olympics, and hopefully we get to see the prize giving. Our anthem has four verses: one is Zulu, one is Sotho, one in Afrikaans and only the last one in English!)

This week we also talked a lot about the Olympics. Tamerin knows the alphabet and with a little help succeeds to find a word in the dictionary. However, she struggles to put words into alphabetical order. Last week I gave her six words (names of countries) each starting with one of the first six letters. (Angola, Brazil, Canada etc.)She easily ordered these alphabetically. This week we continued with the alphabet, but now I gave her two counties starting with the same letter, so that she had to look at the 2nd letter too e.g. Mozambique and Madagascar. She struggled a little more with these, but showed interest. She then looked if she could find the countries on the globe. Usually she found them quickly. I had thought that she would enjoy the Olypic parade when the countries come in in alphabetical order... only to find the came in in Mandarin alphabetical order! Oh well, I took her to play with a cousin on Friday, so I doubt that she even watched it. But at least, she had interesting practice in the alphabet and she knows about the Olympics.

I think it will be fun to watch some swimming or gymanstics with her next week (one of the perks of homeschooling), as long as we can combine it with numeracy (Who scored most points? Whose time was the fastest?)

We are also revising her Bible verses - a time of great blessing for both of us.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Understanding highest and lowest, more, most, less and least.

Tamerin enters the weather of the day on her calendar every morning. At the end of the month, she types in the highest maximum temperature of the month, the lowest max, the lowest minimum, number of cloudy, party cloudy, rainy and sunny days on her weather chart on excel. Every month she struggles to determine which temperature is highest / lowest. She knows the number line very well, so this is strange - until I realized that she struggles with the concepts of higher, lower, more, less. Her problem here is more a language problem than a math's problem!

Today after struggling to determine which day was the coldest and the hottest, I made tables for her where she simply had to determine between two numbers in a row, which one is the highest and mark it with red. Then we did the same with lowest number, but this time she had to mark the answer with blue. She seemed to grasp this easily enough, but I plan many more exercises with more and less and higher and lower numbers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Booking tickets for Cinderella

Tamerin and I will go to see a show tomorrow morning. We booked seats yesterday on the internet. Tammy typed in Computicket in the search block, then searched for Cinderella, pulled down Gauteng for the area etc. She had to type in her email address, her card number etc. so she had losts of practice in filling in a computer form (again). She also had to do that when she started her blogs, so she is getting quite an old hand at it! The only dissapointment was that Computicket only takes credit cards and not debit cards, so her booking attempt was rejected and I had to do the paying. Nonetheless it was a good fun exercise.

Her typing for her blog has improved a lot. She is retyping all her verses from the beginning of the year - today we finished the Easter verses. I was rather upset this morning when I came to school and found that she had not done her typing homework - she was supposed to have typed three verses. She switched on the computer, but at the end of the file (where I expected to see the newly typed verses) there was nothing. I was really cross, because she had said that she had done it! I let her do the typing in class and went out to fume a bit. I came back and was delighted with her typing and she was very sorry etc. But.... when we went through the whole file with her to make some changes to the headings so that she could insert a table of contents, I found all the homework verses - typed here, there and everywhere among the previously typed verses! So she had done her homework, but not in the right place. This has happened before with paper homework too: she files it anywhere and then it is a big search to find it! I think after today she will be more careful. At least I hope so!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reading progress

Today Tamerin did a lot of typing again. She read 3 pages out of My Secret Unicorn by Linda Chapman and that before we practised the words for those pages! She got stuck on about 3 words on a page. Up to now we've concentrated on sight reading e.g. we would match, choose and then only read the words, before she tackled the page in her book. Her sight reading has now expanded so much, that we no longer have to "practice" 20 words before trying to read a page. The book is a little bit difficult, but that is the one that she chose at the beginning of the year and her motivation is quite high. She really tries hard. I am excited that soon she will be able to read the other books in the series on her own. At least that is what I am hoping will happen.

Thank you God, for Tamerin's progress in reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tamerin's own blogs

We are back after the holidays. Most of last week was spent in Tamerin creating her own blogs. She enjoyed writing her profile, choosing her favourite books, music etc. I sometimes had to give hints e.g "What C.D do you always play in my car?"
Making the Diary Blog was easy - she just had to copy her diary she had typed so far. The Bible verse blog was a different matter, as she has been copying her daily verse by hand, which meant she has had to retype them all. She types slowly, but with less and less help. She types her written work, without me having to dictate. When she has finished, I get her then to read what she has typed and she is usually able to see where she has left out a word or a letter. This is a major step forward! She has retyped the verses we did in January and February, so there is still a long way to go before we get to just our daily verse again. Usually these verses were taken out of the Bible story we read that day, but sometimes they were verses that just the Lord just gave us. It has been benficial to revise our Bible "work" of the year again.

The past week we have spent more and more time in praying together. We have a schedule based on the Lord's prayer that we use. Praying does not only help her in her relation with the Lord (of course) but also with her speech. (Generally her speech is still indistinct, but there has been a slow by sure improvement).

Tamerin now writes her diary for homework on her "Diary originals" file. The next morning she copies it onto her "Diary" file and I help her with corrections (i.e. from present tense to past tense) and to expand it (i.e. to write about important happenings she has left out). I can really recommend keeping a diary. She enjoys it, although it is still tiring. In the beginning of the year, she wrote very short sentences and these were more or less dictated letter by letter. Now she can write simple sentences independently and is usually able to correct her own mistakes. She is so proud of herself when she remembers how to spell a word or "worked out" how to spell a word e.g. "pram".

I hope that later in life she will read her diary again and enjoy remembering this time. My vision is that her diary will become more and more a mirror of what she has done. I also hope that the practice in typing written script and generally working on the computer will lead to a job one day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Our Real Names

With Tamerin's parents' permission, we now blog under our real names: Miekie and Tamerin. When the schools reopen in July I'll have a photo taken of me and Tamerin, so you can see what we look like. Except for deciding to go public, everything in the blog remains the same. I'll publish Tamerin's (alias Amy's) diary next week and after that, she will do it herself. I think she will really enjoy having her own blog. She loves writing her diary. She still does it with my help, but her own input (content, sentence construction, spelling etc.) improves steadily.

This is our winter break. I use the time to catch up on some home chores and to prepare for my daughter Thelwyn's baby. The baby is due the end of July. Dorette's baby, Franco, my first grandchild, was born in April and I have offered to make his clothes for his "christening". (The child will be blessed and not baptized, but to me it is more or less the same thing.) Anyway I started with some trepidation.... it is a long time since I have sewn for a baby!

I also plan to work out some conversations for Tamerin. Communication is still the biggest stumbling block and I have some new ideas to deal with basic expression. Will let you know....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Climbing on the rocks

Yesterday afternoon Amy did not have friends so I wanted us to go for a walk again. She said she would rather play ball! I was rather baffled because neither of us is good with a ball. We played "rugby" i.e. we had to pass the ball backwards and in running. After passing you had to run forwards so that you could pass the ball backwards again. It meant more running than Amy has done the whole year.

We saw a balloon in the air and it seemed to be tied to the fence of an empty space next door. I was intrigued and wanted to see what was next to the fence. (On Google earth it looked like a reservoir) There's a heap of rocks in the back of the yard and I climbed on it to see better. Amy also climbed on it, but had to do so on all fours in the beginning. She really struggled to keep her balance and nearly fell. (I got quite a fright!). She then held my hand and I taught her how to walk on the rocks: make sure one foot is very secure before you move your other foot. She improved much and I think rock climbing will soon become part of our weekly routine.

I can get so caught up in "academics" that I forget the basics of learning and concentration i.e. balance, co-ordination and body imate still apply.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finished skirt and Father's Day.

Amy has finished her skirt. Despite all our measuring and lengthening of the original pattern, the skirt would have been too short with a conventional hem, so I just let her sew in the hem with the machine. Folding over a cm, stitching it and then folding again and to pin and stitch it again, was difficult enough. Here and there she had to unpick to sew closer to the edge, but she is actually capable to sew very close to the folded edge! She seemed very proud when she put on the skirt, but on Monday it still lay on the school table. She never showed it to her Mom. ?? I wonder why. She still has to hand sew on tapes for a hanger, but at the moment we have a more pressing concern: the Father's Day Card!!
For Mother's Day she copied (by hand) verses out of Proverbs 31. For her Dad, she copied 1 Cor 13:7. At the end of the verse she wrote: Thank you for loving me like that! Her Dad is crazy about her and by employing me to home school her, it is obvious that he has hope for her, so I think the verses are appropriate. She practices to read the verses out loud to him. (Her reading lesson for the day)
She is now busy to type a letter to put in the card. Here are her reasons for loving him:
I love you because you always shower and smell so nice. You look so cool in your jeans and T-shirt. You brush my hair. You talk to me about shops and Wimpy. You call me when it is weather forecast. I am so proud of you because you work so hard and you pay for everything we need.
She did not come up with this all by herself, but through me guiding her thoughts with leading questions e.g. What makes your Daddy so special? What does he do? What does he do with you? Would you like it if he did not work and sat at home to watch T.V. all day?

After typing all this, of course she has to read it too!

We have focussed a little on how to draw - she is past the stage of spontaneous drawing (I always believe one should not teach little ones to draw, but just guide them through discussions and experiences). However, Amy's drawings are not going to improve of own accord. She is a sensitive child and drawing and painting can be outlets for self-expression. There are wonderful short videos on the internet giving guide lines on how to draw a face, a body etc. She has drawn some faces facing sideways and this is quite new for her. Today she is going to draw her Dad - not her usual pictures, but a special new one, using guidelines.

We also plan for her to do photography as another expression outlet. The plan is to insert a photo of herself in the Father's Day card as well.

So although Father's Day is still four school days away, we have had to get cracking already. This means other school work is standing still for a while, but we will catch up.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Success with sewing!

Amy is busy making her skirt and so far she is doing fine! She threads the machine with a little help and she can thread a needle: both the sewing machine needle and an ordinary needle. I am pleasantly surprised. At the beginning of the year, she could barely hold a pin or a needle and now she can thread it and baste with it! She can stitch fairly straight with the machine, but I have to stand close by and watch, otherwise her mind wanders and she does not always look what she is doing, so we have had a session with the "Quick unpick" as well. She has had to measure the width of the casing and fold it over herself. She needed a little help here, but I think she has the basic idea. At the moment she is busy threading the elastic through the top of her skirt and the great moment of fitting it on is nearly on us! However, then she still has to put in the hem!!

Learning to stitch a seam and to put in a hem are some of the life skills I planned to teach her. Our homeschooling aim is to teach her the basic life skills she will need to live on her own one day. Mending or altering clothes seemed more important to me than being able to embroider or knit - skills that are often taught to special needs children but for what? Embroidery is often expensive and if not well done, no one wants it. However, I admit that such activities could be relaxing and we will hopefully get to them, once Amy can really sew. I am convinced she will be able to sew clothes on her own one day and not only be able to put in a hem or sew on a button!

I am so proud on what she has achieved so far.... will blog about the finished skirt.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fractions and dress patterns

Going to the shops, reading prices and counting money have been regular school activities. Amy knows that there are 100c in R1, that 1/2 Rand is R0.50, a 1/4 Rand is R0.25 etc. She also knows that if you have to divide 7 in half the answer is 7 1/2 or 7.5.

Part of her life skill plan is to learn to sew with a sewing machine. She has sewn a little: she practiced stitching without thread on lines on paper. She has also made a couple of bags - usually to put in Mother's Day cards etc. She is not fond of sewing because she dislikes the noise of the machine, but once we get started she actually enjoys it.

Amy and I went to the shop recently to search for a simple skirt pattern that she could make herself. She was not very enthusiastic, but agreed to a long A-line skirt with an elasticized waist. Her mother had long before bought material for a skirt, but they never got round to making it. I planned to let Amy use that material for making her skirt.

Today I let her read the back of the pattern to determine how much material was needed for the long skirt. (First I had to explain the difference between inches and cm and yards and meters and why we had to read the French side of the pattern. Fortunately my measuring tape has inches and centimeters) Anyway she could read that she needed 2 m for the long skirt. We then measured the piece of the material: 130 cm. It was not difficult for her to "translate" 130 cm into 1.3 m, since she is used to converting cents to Rands. She then had to see how much extra material she would need to make the long skirt: a subtraction sum and a visual measuring of 70 cm on the measuring tape. Once she realized that the material was not enough for the long skirt, she seemed quite happy to make the short one, and even showed her brother which pattern on the packet she was going to make.

Then we measured the width of the folded material: 72 cm. As the material was folded she had to add 72 + 72 to get the total width. The material is not the required the 150 cm, but what the heck, we cut out the paper pattern and tomorrow we'll lay it out on the material to see whether
the short skirt pattern will fit.

Once again I was amazed to see how much math's and reading go into a life skill like sewing a skirt. She had to measure and read the tape, she had to understand fractions, she had to subtract, she had to measure again, she had to add (double) and then she had to cut! There are so many opportunities to apply class room math's to every day life and each time it is fun. I can see how Amy blossoms each time when she succeeds with a new life skill!

I pray that the skirt will be a success and that she will be motivated to keep on sewing!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Using a dictionary

Amy knows the alphabet and can order loose letters in alphabetical order. She learned this through the alphabet song, a child computer she used before that taught the ABC, and by matching the loose letters to a printed alphabet.

I recently got her to look up words in the dictionary. She is used to look up the date in her homework book (a small diary in which I jot down reminders for her), as well as Bible verses, so "looking up" something, i.e. paging forwards and backwards, is not new to her.

At first I had to help her a lot to look up certain words, but she soon caught on and needs little help. We started with s combinations e.g. sc (scatter), sh (ship, shop etc.),sk (skin) sl, sm, sn (snorted). Later she looked up new sight words that she did not understand (English is her second language!) e.g. concern and suspicious. Quite difficult words, but because they appear in her storybook, she has to recognize them. I found that by looking up the different phonics as well as the sight words, her memory of these words has improved much!

She enjoys looking up the words, but the best part is that this activity has really improved her reading and spelling. We use The Oxford School Dictionary. More often than not, Amy is able to read the meaning of the word. And to think, my aim originally was only to get her to know the alphabet, so that she could file things and look up telephone numbers! She is showing me, that she will be much capable to do much more one day! In the meantime, we will continue to regularly look up words - it is a fun way to learn phonics!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Progress in math's

Amy knows most bonds very well and yet she can sometimes get stuck on something simple e.g. 8 + 6. If she does get stuck, I ask her which bond she knows (usually the double e.g. 8+8) and then she has to work backwards or forwards until she gets the answer: i.e. 8+ 8 = 16, 8+7 = 15, so 8+ 6 is.....! She is grasping this method more and more and it is rewarding to see how her insight improves!

We have also started with carrying over - both working out the sum on paper (counting the ones and then the tens) and by doing mental arithmetic. We started with adding 0 + 3, 10 + 3, 20 + 3, 30+3, 40+3 etc. until 100 + 3. Then we would take another set e.g. 3+4, 13+ 4, 23 + 4 etc. I always asked the sums in sequence and never skipped a set! She soon caught on and can now mentally calculate how much is 18+ 7, 58+ 7 etc. I no longer have to ask them in sequence. She understands!! She sometimes forgets to carry over (58 + 7 = 55), but such mistakes get less and less. It is so wonderful to be able to help her discover math's at her own pace. It is so much easier to drill sums verbally, than to only do worksheets. Homeschooling is the best!!

We have also done some fractions: 1/2 and 1/4. I focus on practical fractions e.g. of 100 and 50 and 60 and 30. The reason for this, is for general measuring and also for understanding time better. I have started to teach her to read the time last year, and she is quite good at it, but we until this month, we always read time in full minutes e.g. it is 8:55 (eight fifty five). We have now started to use the terms "past" and "to" e.g. 8:55 is five to nine. (8:15 and 8:45 involve "quarters" and therefore the focus on fractions.) When she asks the time I give her both versions of saying the time. On some days I leave at 13:15, and she now asks if I am leaving at "Thirteen fifteen" instead of "One fifteen". International time still requires some thinking, but she knows what it is all about!

Today we focussed on measuring again. How long is a metre? We measured from her right shoulder to her left fingertips (nearly a meter), the window (99 cm), and her steps (75 cm). We tried to give one metre steps: we put the measuring tape on the floor and stretched our steps. In the process, she lost her balance and we had a good laugh. I think she now has a better idea of what a metre is though. (It all came about because of an E-mail she received about a 17 foot shark that befriended a man. How long is a foot? How many "rulers" (30 cm) are there in a metre etc. )

I find often that opportunities for math's and reading present themselves as life itself happens. Amy is usually very interested - I believe it is because she senses the importance of such skills or knowledge. Weighing herself and measuring her waist are important to her. She is a bit overweight due to the fact that her medication stimulates her appetite too much. Weighing herself has two functions: to be aware that if you drink out 2l of Coke all by yourself, there will be consequences, and to become familiar with measuring concepts.

Homeschooling is fun!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A new term!

Long time no blog!
Amy came back after the holidays full of beans, but it took a few days to really settle down, back in the old routine and to realize that we were not going to count the days till the next holidays (starting 20 June) from now on! We are going to enjoy each day and each week as they come. She has written about the holiday in her diary and then we had to get ready for Mother's Day.
She copied verses from Proverbs 31 by hand and typed her own message for her mother. Compiling her own sentences is still very difficult for her, but she is better able to see what word is missing when she reads aloud what she has written. I especially did not want to help her too much with sentences for her mother's card, but guided her with questions: why do you love your mom? What does she do? Is she special? Why? What makes her special? Thinking about her mom as separate from herself was difficult. Amy generally has a hard time figuring out reasons. I love my Mom... Why? I like my Mom, she is nice.

After making the card, she practised reading the verses from Proverbs 31. I had to make sure she understood what she had written! There were "long" words like instruction and surpass, but she managed them.

Because so much thought went into the wording of the card, there was not much time to make a gift, but she did sew a bag on the sewing machine. She learnt to do this when we made things for Valentine's day, and did not want to make anything else. I suppose it is better to do the same things again and sort of consolidate what she has learnt. So many little things one takes for granted e.g. to thread a tie through the top of the bag, are difficult for her. But once she has succeeded, she simply beams!
Progress is slower than at the beginning of the year, but she is still doing great.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Holiday preparations - computer skills put to use

Amy's family are going to the coast next week. Besides counting the "sleepies" on the calendar each morning, she also worked out how many weeks there were i.e. she had to divide the days into 7. Besides the 2 times table, Amy does not know any tables yet, but with the abacus she was able to work out how many 7's there were in 18 etc. The 2nd 7 on the abacus (i.e. 8 - 14) is of course divided, so she had to remember that the group of 3 + the group of 4 make up one 7. She understood this quite well. We looked on the map where they are going and she looked up on the distance chart, how far that is (638 km). Then we worked out how long it would take to get there if one drove at 80 km/h, 90 km/h, 100 km/ h.

The next day we looked up the road on the road atlas: she had to look up to which page to go, find the route, follow it, and then see to which page she had to go next. Amy typed the different towns on excel and the distances between the towns as indicated on the atlas. We also worked out how long it would take for each distance more or less. Afterwards she added up all the distances and times with excel - the minutes had to be divided into 60, to work out how many hours the minutes made. Because we worked with estimations, the minutes came to an exact 180, so it was not difficult to work out the hours! Of course she also had to work out what time they would arrive: if they left at 6:00 it is 6+ 7= 13 , if they left at 12 it would be 12 + 7 = 19. Then of course she had to work out again what time 13:00 is on her watch. She looked thrilled when she started to remember without calculating that 17:00 is 5 o'clock etc.

Amy also typed in all the different toll gates (5 between Johannesburg and Durban would you believe!). If we can find out how much each one charges, she can work out how much cash her Dad should have ready. It would be good for her to count out the money - she loves doing this.

Amy also used a search engin to search for things she hope to see (dolphins and whales), as well as the place they are going to stay. I am amazed at how well she can read words like "search", "print" "back" etc. on the internet, yet takes her time to read the same words in her story book. I have tried since the beginning of the year to make Amy aware of road signs. She took note, but not as much as I have hoped. Yet when she saw lists of road signs in the atlas, she was clearly more intrigued. Today we drove a short distance on the highway and noted many different road signs - also that the routes have numbers - then we checked on the atlas again, and so on and so on.

These holidays have given us much opportunity to learn. How wonderful not to be bound by a curriculum, but to use life itself as it happens, as the curriculum.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The 3 R's: progress this week

Yesterday Amy suddenly grasped that 8+2 = 10, 2+8=10, 10 -2=8, 10-8=2 is the same combination, just in different forms. I let her write out all the bonds of 10 (i.e. 5 bonds) in this way and since doing that she's been her old self again. She loves it if I ask her sums. We walked to the shops and back (more than 5km all in all) and she never complained. We discussed many things we saw along the way, but also spent much time asking and answering sums. The "new" sums of the day were 8 + 3 and 9+3. She still remembered them today, and answered without hesitation. She has known all her doubles e.g. 8+8 and the uneven bonds between the doubles: 3+2, 4+3, 5+4 etc. for some time, and she knows how to work out 9+ (work out what is 10 +...and then go one less.) For a child who could not grasp how to add +1 without counting blocks last year, this has been a major achievement. I am so, so encouraged by her.

This morning I could see that she was not in bright spirits and when we started. It turned out she was angry with her Mom... Why? Because she did not like school! I was rather taken aback, but I realised, it is not that she does not like school, it is just that she likes watching T.V. more! We talked about have idols again and what God wanted of us. We read 1John1: 8-9. If we tell God about our sins, He forgives us. What a relief to be able to confess these things. After Bible and prayer, she was much happier and we had a very good day of hard work.

Amy's reading and writing ability is progressing well. I do not bother any more with phonics and spelling - we just do our sight reading routine and comprehension routines, but I am amazed at how much she remembers - also when she writes or types. She types her diary a few times a week. In the beginning I had to spell out letter for letter for her to type. Now she types many words without me having to spell them for her. I just have to remind her not to leave out the little words e.g when she wants to write "I like computer", she is inclined to want to simply write "computer" without the "I like".

She enjoys typing her diary and e-mails her updates to her Mom. It still takes a very long time to complete her diary or a short e-mail, but I have seen tremendous progress here. (I still dictate most, but her own input in what to write is increasing steadily.) I think it is because the diary and e-mails are about what she does every day. The words used, are the important ones in her life. The copying of Bible verses have had the same effect - she can now write a word like "forgive" without my help.

Tomorrow we are going to cook and hopefully read the road map to the coast, where her family is going the end of the month. I hope there will also be time to surf the web. I hope we can make a blog of her diary.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Language comprehension

We are back in full swing after the school holidays and my mother's funeral. Amy did not seem keen to start school work again, but once we got going, she was fine. Her sums were disappointing. I had planned on doing adding with ones and tens, but she was not too sure of her bonds , so new work had to be put on ice for a while. She made many mistakes with last week's homework. (I think she did it in front of the television!) We have to do a lot of revision again, but I am confident that she will quickly pick it up again and then we can go on. I believe math's should always be easy and fun.
Reading was good, but what especially made my day, was the way she responded to verbal questions - both when we discussed what she did this weekend and also when I asked her questions about the story we read. She definitely listens better to what is asked and seems to understand when and why better. She also attempted to ask me questions and I helped her to formulate them properly. She loved "catching me out." We still have a long way to go as far as comprehension is concerned, but there has been promising progress! We do a lot of comprehension homework i.e. the filling in of missing words from the text and answering simple questions.
Both Amy and I were rather disappointed that she gained nearly 4 kg during the school holiday. However today she had lost 1 kg again and 1 cm around her waist. Tomorrow we plan to go for a long walk again. She needs the exercise and it is a good time to talk. We need to talk and talk and talk - at this stage it seems the most pressing need.
For fun, and improved understanding, we searched for horse farms in the Blue Ridge mountains on the internet. Amy's book, My Secret Unicorn is about a family on a farm near the Blue Ridge mountains. She loved finding the pictures on the internet. We still have to find Carolina etc. on Google Earth.
Teaching one special child is great! What a priviledged teacher I am.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Discovering the Bible has great meaning for Amy and me. We read the Bible stories in My Favorite Bible Storybook for Early Readers by Carolyn Larsen and then we read the relevant passages in the "real" Bible (New Life Bible - a very contemporary version). We choose a relevant Bible verse, which she painstakingly copies by hand and then illustrates. In this way, she understands the stories better, but also realises that they come out the Bible and are not just stories. We try to choose verses that have relevance on how we should live. For instance, yesterday we discussed how we hurt Jesus: if we, like Judas, love money more than Jesus, if we like Peter pretend we do not know Jesus and lie, if we, like the crowd, do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. (Matthew 27: 4, Matt 26: 74, Matt 27: 22, 39-40). Amy enjoys looking up the verses. (Going to the index, finding the right Bible book and verse.) The repetitive writing of Bible verses has not only helped her understanding, but her handwriting and spelling have improved much as an extra benefit. Not only are her Bible files a joy to look at, but we often refer back to previous scripture and meanings that she has written down in them e.g. the ten rules, what obedience means, what sin is, what love is (1 Cor. 13). Amy is growing spiritually. In the beginning she was to shy to pray and if she did, she whispered inaudibly. Today after talking about why Jesus died on the cross (John 3 : 16), she asked that we pray... Jesus is faithful! May we all have a blessed Easter!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mastering sight words with ease.

Before we started homeschooling in January, I asked Amy to give me a book that she would like to read. She chose "My Secret Unicorn: Dreams come true" (I do not have the book in front of me and cannot recall the author now, but anyway it is a series of books about a pony, Twilight, that can be turned into a unicorn.) Amy loves horses and fairy tales, so the story is just right for her. However, the vocabulary is quite difficult to master: to read it, to understand some of the concepts and to pronounce many of the words e.g. managing, exclaimed, electricity. (English is not her homelanguage.)

The first day of school we made a "deal" that we she would be able to read this favourite book all by herself, by the end of the year. I was concerned because the book seemed a bit too difficult and I was afraid she would become discouraged. However, so far, so good. We manage to read about one new page per week. This does not sound like much, but compared to what she was able to read last year, and what she is able to read now, it is considerable. (It helps that she is not ADD - she can concentrate if she wants to!) We are now on page 14.

Our method:
1. New words: I go through the new page and make three identical lists of all the new words + old words she still struggles with. One set of new words is on paper with an open space next to the word. The other two lists I print on different coloured carton and cut them up: one set for her, and one for me.

2. Matching: I then show her a new word e.g. "totally" and ask her to put "totally" next to "totally" on the sheet of paper. While she searches for the word, I make up oral sentences with the word e.g "Everyone totally agrees that you are a very good cook."

3. Choosing: After she has matched all the words (about 26 words per page), I again show her my flash cards one by one and ask her to find the word on the paper. Then I ask her to find the words without me showing her the flash card. I continue with this until she can indicate the words easily. (If she gets stuck, I quickly show her the flash card again.)

4. Naming: I then show her the flash cards one by one and she reads (names) them. The ones she can't read, go on a separate heap and we revise them again. She also writes down the difficult words to improve visualisation and memory.

5. Practicing reading: Then we build sentences with the new words and previous words. In the beginning we used the actual word cards, which were sorted into an alphabetical "dictionary". It was fun, but a bit time consuming to find the right words. Now I just make up sentences with the words on a white board. I use the same words over and over until she remembers them easily. She loves reading these sentences and ask that I write about "Amy". A typical sentence would be: "Amy's mother expects her to be ready at 16:00 for their visit at the nearby farm." (New words: expects, ready, visit, nearby, farm.)

6. Only when she shows that she can read (and understand) the new words in context, do we read the actual book: first together (i.e. I read and she follows with her finger) and then she reads it aloud by herself. By this time, she can usually read it reasonably fluently.

7. Homework: The last exercise is a comprehension: I type the whole passage, but leave out words for her to fill in from the text in the book. The words to be filled in are mostly high frequency words like "ago", "again" etc. rather than difficult words. Then I ask a few questions to determine comprehension:"Why did the family move the farm?" "When did they move to the farm?" Amy finds these questions still very hard, but we are getting there. I think it is very important that all reading should be linked to comprehension as well.

I know this method works - not only for Amy. I also did it with small groups in my class last year and then words were vere basic. First set of words: fat, cat, mat, hat, man, sat. With these words we made sentences like" fat cat sat on man" "fat man sat on hat" (Who sat on the man? Where did the man sit etc.)

Isn't teaching just the greatest job? Especially if there are no playground duty and staff meetings!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Life Skills and motivation to learn academic work

The advantage of home schooling is that there is no set time table or curriculum, so we can adapt learning to Amy's specific needs of the day. The day after she learned how to send an email, she said she ate chips (crisps) for breakfast. This lead to a discussion of the food groups. To corroborate my hastily compiled chart, I got Amy to use a search engine to find an article on food groups. Amy was quite keen to work on the internet again. Her reading ability is not good enough yet, to really search through the various options, but just to get the search engine to search was in itself is a good beginning! (She printed the chosen article and we'll get back to it, when the need arises to talk about food groups again.)

The day after we practised international time i.e. that 16:00 is 4:00 pm., her mom emailed that she would be seeing her at 16:00. I don't think Mom even thought for a minute that for a child who has only been reading time for about 6 months, 16:00 does not automatically translate into 4 o'clock. Fortunately, we had been practicing how to convert international time to "ordinary" time and vice versa, so Amy could work out when he Mom would be coming home!

The point I am trying to make is that by concentrating on the specific math's and reading needed for life skills like reading the calendar, the weather forecast, the clock, recipe measurements etc., the child is motivated to master them. Once the child turns on his/ her own motors there is no saying how far one could go. Finding that what you learn and practice in the classroom, is actually used in the shops, in the kitchen, in the car etc. makes you feel you belong in the real world.

Homeschooling is great! Thank you God for giving us this opportunity!

Electronic communication is really thrilling!

Last week I helped Amy to open an email address - she had to do everything herself, from plugging in the modem to opening "compose" to type her very first email. Her mom was thrilled. For a child who struggles to read, it was amazing how fast she could she find terms like "inbox", "send", "subject" etc. on the screen! She sent her first email to her Mom. Subject "Surprise!". Mother, me and Amy herself were all surprised by how well she could do it. Her homework of course was to send an email to me! Amy also enjoys SMS's, but Emails are far more satisfactory. At least they do not disappear as eaily from the screen as have happened in the past with painstakingly typed SMS's. (Mom and Dad, she typed a grand SMS to you, thanking you for her birthday party, but something went wrong when she tried to send it - what a dissapointment.) It took us much longer than the usual reading of math's lesson time, to get the email up and running, but the amount of reading and typing she did was the same (or more) than she would have done in a "normal" reading lesson. The big difference here was, that she was really motivated to master this. If a child is motivated, there is no saying what he/ she could achieve. Last year Amy was an emotional, stuttering "mentally handicapped" child. (See background, posted February 2008). This year she is just a bundle of untapped potential that is waiting to be discovered. God has a very special task for her and it is for us to discover what it is and how to get her there!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Going for a walk

Today we walked 2.4 km. As homeschoolers do not walk to school (even from the carpark to the classroom) they miss out on much physical activity, so we have started to "walk to school" - often within the family's big yard. Today we walked on the sidewalk to the main entrance of the complex. We took 45 minutes, but at least Amy walked all the way without a sour face and without lagging behind! While walking, we discussed street signs e.g. how fast one may drive, the reasons for speed bumps etc. Amy aptly interpreted the cul de sac sign that looks like a T as "Turn around". We also revised math's: she added double figures and almost double figures e.g. 3+4 as we walked.

Amy tried to tell me the news of last night. Apparently the family went out for supper while the son had choir practice and somehow the uncle and Grandmother also played a role in last nights happenings.

When she was in my class in school last year, she also liked to tell news, but for the greater part I could not make out head nor tail of what she did - all I could make out, was that she and her mom often went to buy groceries. In class there was no time to really listen and to help the children express themselves: there was barely time for each child to share his news, and one had to prevent boredom. It was difficult to help a child to communicate and still keep within time constraints.

Today however, we could speak without interruption (except for traffic noise - next time we'll choose a quieter road). I am strict with her to answer only what I ask e.g. if I ask "Where?" she must name a place and not a person and if I ask "When?" she must give a time. We have focused on simple answers to written questions in class, these past weeks and I already detect better comprehension. Grammar is still poor - especially tenses. She also leaves out the "little words" like prepositions. She is inclined to repeat herself often and often makes use of onomatopoeia to express what happened. I verbally interpret what she has said (or rather what I think she has said). I hope that by repeating the correct word order, tense etc. her speech will gradually improve.
In the meantime, going for a walk is a good physical exercise and a time to really communicate without feeling that we are "wasting" time.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Adding + 9

Amy succeeds well with doubling numbers e.g. 8+8= 16. Last week we started with the uneven numbers e.g. 7+ 7 = 14, 8+8=16. therefore 8+7 comes in between = 15. She practiced these combinations (1+2, 2+ 3, 3+4, 4+5, 5+6 etc.) in sequence until I was sure that she really grasped what it was about. We also did it with numbers written under each other, so that she began to grasp ones and tens and even carrying over. All the while we checked answers on the number line and she was thrilled every time the sum she worked out on paper, proved to be correct when we counted it on the number line.
Today we practiced 10 + (i.e. 10 + 2 = 12, 10 + 4 = 14 etc.). Thereafter we did 9+ sums. When you have to add 9, first add 10 and then the answer must be 1 less. What fun. Can't wait to see her homework tomorrow!