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!

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!

Updating Diary

3 March 2008
I must let my light shine so that other people will honour God. I practiced tennis. I hit the ball with the racket 7 out of 12 when teacher threw the ball at me.
I practiced new words for page 11 of My secret Unicorn. I learned +9 sums.