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 26, 2009

Spelling that works for us

Tammy's reading is picking up - we have changed our method quite a bit from our previous sight reading method and it seems to work. We read a piece together and Tammy has to follow with her finger and read aloud too. In this way I immediately pick up if she lags behind. Sometimes I stop and let her read a word alone, especially if it is a word she has recently learned. We do not have a graded reader, but read anything that she fancies from the Bible to the newspaper to High School Musical and Zac Efron's annual and webpages. In this way, she becomes familiar with a great variety of words and expressions.

We stop our reading quite often too discuss what we have read. If I don't do this, she doesn't pick up the story line. New words or words she has forgotten are written down on a small white board. I often let her look up the word in the Oxford S.A. school dictionary. We make sentences to explain the meaning of the word e.g Tammy is a resident of M...... Minh is a resident of S..... etc. (If you are new to this blog: Tammy is mentally challenged and English is her 2nd language.)

When the board is more or less full, we go through the list again. I.e. she reads the words and words are explained again if needs be. Long words are broken up in sections to help with pronunciation. I try to use syllables that she knows well and add the prefixes and suffixes. For example today we had recently. I wrote down cent (a word she knows well!) and had her read it. Then I added re and then ly. No problem! We also had attended. I wrote down ten for her to read and then added the rest. Again no problem.

If she struggles with pronunciation, we add similar (known) words to help e.g. when she struggled with malicious, I added delicious; She struggled to remember the pronunciation of au words e.g audition and applause, so I added August with which she is very familiar. This works like a charm. She had some problems with long and short vowels, but here again, I would give her familiar examples like use and us, at and ate. We have never bothered about rules, bus she is "discovering" rules as we go along.

Then she writes the spelling as in a spelling test, but if she hesitates, I quickly show her the word again. There is absolutely no point in ever misspelling a word, merely for the sake of a test. I find that in the twenty words or so, it is very seldom necessary to show her the word again. She spells with ease words like immediately, atmosphere, dedicated etc.

Lastly she reads the piece all by herself. It is heartening to see how she "makes out" the words. Fluency and comprehension improve all the time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One of those school days....

For about two months now, Tammy and I have been very going to the water aerobics class at the gym every day at 8:00. It is well worth is, but it makes a big dent in our teaching time, so to save time, we put on our swimming costumes (yes that is what we call them here in South Africa) under our regular clothes. I was just about to leave for work when I saw I had an SMS from Tammy's mom - its that time of the month, so Tammy can't swim. O.K. so out with the cozzy and on with gym pants and tackies. I take a small towel and leave my big gym bag - I'm not going to need that....! I finally leave, but am now 5 minutes late.

Five km down the road, I realize my gym locker key and more importantly my access card are still in my gym bag, so I have to turn back, unlock the gate again and retrieve bag - now about 12 minutes late.

When I get to the toll gate 30 minutes later, an alarm rings: my E-tag was upside down, so it has not registered at the gate - I have to reverse and the irate official tells me I can't go through, because the gate has now been locked. (She unlocks it for the other cars, why not me?) Oh what embarrasment! I have to push my way in another queue! I can just imagine everyone swearing at the dumb woman who goes in the E-tag only lane without an E-tag! Another few minutes wasted!

Once trapped on the highway, the traffic moves at snail's pace: another accident. I try to phone Tammy to get going with some work as I certainly am not going to make it in time. (Fortunately today we do not have to be at the gym at exactly 8:00!) Tammy does not answer. I try a few times more: no luck. I can just imagine her sitting in front of the T.V., oblivious to her ringing phone, which is probably in the kitchen. I fume.

Once at their house I am not in a good mood and hate myself for being so grumpy with Tammy. She doesn't know where her gym record book is, she hasn't done the weather yet, she hasn't done her homework and I don't feel too good about this day!

But God gives me the grace to calm down. In the car I ask her some questions about Global warming that we discussed yesterday. She answers beautifully. I ask her what she would like to talk about today and she says "Parties". "What party?"... "No, political parties." (She struggles a bit to say political, but says it clearly enough.) Bless my soul! We have discussed them a bit before as we have an election coming up in April. We have a glorious trip to the gym, talking about Jacob Zuma and the possibility that the prosecuting authority will stop the prosecution. She remembers that he is accused of CORRUPTION! And that he is the leader of the A.N.C and will be the next president! What a clever girl you are Tammy! What a joy to teach.

At the gym I measure her waist for the first time in a long time: she has lost quite a few centimetres around her waist: she still has a long way to go, but the aerobics are paying dividents. When we do spinning she generally seems fitter than a month ago.

We pick up a free local newspaper on our way back to their house. She chooses an article to read - Kind hands save a dog. New vocabulary out of this piece are words such as dedicated staff, comfortable, treatment, resident.

During tea-time she reads a piece out of her Zac Efron Annual to her grandmother: she does us proud as she reads fairly fluently and with understanding. Between some more reading and multiplication, she practices guitar. Yesterday she was lethargic during her lesson and plucked the strings very halfheartedly. Today however, she manages reasonably well to alternate plucking with her index finger and her middle finger. And she counts of own accord 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4 A great improvement.

A bit of a dissapointment was when she no longer wants to practice a dramatisation of the cruxifiction. She has originally chosen this piece to prepare for Easter, but for some unknown reason she now backs off. I hate leaving a project hanging in the air, but also realize that it will be futile to persevere with something she has lost interest in. She is keen enough to just read the scripture and I am grateful for that. God will give us another theme for her to dramatize and to perform. (Dramatisation really helps with her speech, but I feel pushing her will be destructive.)

Thank you God for days like this! Even if it started off on the wrong foot! And please forgive my foul temper! Please grant me more patience God!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


This week we did some division with remains. Tammy struggled a bit with this, so we used the number line and piled the threes / fours onto the right spots: 3, 6, 9, 15 etc. She could then easily count how many threes there were in 28 etc. The remains were always expressed as a fraction e.g. 16/3 = 5 and 1/3. In the beginning she confused 1/3 and 2/3 but she soon caught up and "loved" this work.
However, I picked up that her tables were a bit rusty. This surprised me, because she really knew them exceptionally well: not only in sequence, but also when asked at random. Anyway to make "math" a bit easier we are back onto multiplication, but this time "longer" multiplication e.g.

We converted miles to kilometers. (1 Mile = 1.6 km). She liked this. This was necessary to understand High School Musical 3 better and also to help her prepare for the U.S. trip and in any case it is problem solving and practice in multiplication and decimals.

She is busy writing a letter to Zac Efron. Formulating questions is still very difficult for her, but we are working on it. Spelling and reading ability are improving by the day, but she still needs a lot of guidance with comprehension. (There has been a vast improvement, but she still needs considerable practice before she will really be able to read a book on her own just for fun.).

Other new activities include water aerobics and swimming lessons and guitar lessons. In all of these she shows promise. (I will blog about these activities later.) Right now we are waiting for her guitar instructor. She has just had her 3rd swimming lesson. After lunch break she came up to finish her Zac Efron letter, but since I started blogging during break (and thus occupy the computer), I asked her to start on the multiplication homework work sheet so long. Guess what she said? "I would like to do division by 3...!"

She has done 3 multiplication problems while I've been typing this paragraph, but she forgot to add the tens, so I'd better stop babbling and help her.

Homeschooling is great! Have a great week.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A visit to the U.S.?

Tammy's family might visit the U.S. in June. Even if they don't go, planning for it, is great fun and gives us lots of scope for learning themes.
The past week we spent quite a bit of time on converting U.S.D to South African Rand. The average currency last week was $1= R10. 50. How much is $6? Multiply with 10 and add 1/2 of the dollar value. Then check the answer on the calculator! What bliss! The exercise meant revising
  • what to do when you multiply with 10 (add a zero or move the decimal point)
  • odd and even numbers. 1/2 of an odd number means there must be a half (a .5), but even numbers divide cleanly - no half.
  • adding e.g. 70 + 3. (For a while she was a bit confused and would say 100 i.e. she mixed the ones and tens, but she soon caught up again.)
By Friday she was able to convert $1 - $10 to ZAR mentally - no more adding on paper! She was very proud of herself and I am curious to see how well she fares on Monday. "How much is $5?" "R52.50!" Without hesitation! Hurrah!

Reading exercises were found in the Disney World website. She searched for the website and then clicked on "animal world". We copied the text onto word and now she did comprehension on sections she chose e.g. discovery. (As I write this, I haven't got the info in front of me - it's on their computer, but I hope you get the drift.)

Other work was discussing (and watching) cricket and checking live scores. How much must S.A. score to beat Australia? (Subtraction) How does the coach indicate it was a four / a six?

For rugby (the Super 14 tournament is well underway and the Blue Bulls of Pretoria are doing very well so far), we checked where the different teams come from and how many points are awarded for a try, the conversion kick, and a penalty.

School is fun!