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!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Next year – an Annie Sullivan year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 3, 2010

2010 Prize Giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Videoclip of Tammy's Bible Speech

Tammy doing her Bible speech.

Tammy adding up the prices of Shaen's purchases.

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Before meets After

Tammy has been going to the gym for a little more than two years and the last 14 months were spent doing water aerobics very regularly. It has been so worthwhile! Doesn't she look like a model now?

2008 2010

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DSC01420 - Copy P1010016

Keep it up, Tamerin! We are so proud of you!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Weekly Forms and Filing

Tammy has to fill in a form at least once a week – a basic one requiring full name, full names of parents, residential address, postal address – that sort of thing. The aim was to improve her handwriting and to drill basic self-knowledge.   Not once have I been completely satisfied.  Either her hand writing was not neat enough or she did not plan the space well and used lettering that was too big or she started in the middle of the block instead of flush left.  Or she left out something… or she used a lower case letter instead of a capital letter…. or she had some information wrong. 

But there has been steady improvement!  At least she knows her parents’ names and her address and telephone number.  Filling in a form is so simple and yet sooo difficult!  It has proved to be way more difficult than I anticipated last year!  We’ll keep forms on the weekly programme next year and hopefully Tammy will move on to different formats like filling in bank deposit slips.  And hopefully she will progress to using a pen instead of a pencil! 

Filing papers with names has also been on the weekly schedule.  I write names on separate papers and underline the surname and she then files the papers in her “Filing file”.  Tammy has known the alphabet for a long time, but filing the papers has proved to be a real challenge.  Even here at the end of the year, she still makes mistakes.  This is another skill that will remain on the weekly time-table.  Filing two or three papers alphabetically might just become a daily task.  I want to make sure that before our journey together comes to a halt, that she is really able to file 100% .  I think I can let her fill in forms on behalf of “other people”  (she can look up their addresses and telephone numbers in the telephone directory) and then file the forms in alphabetical order.  Filing according to date should also appear on the programme!

Speaking of dates and times: Tammy has been able to read a calendar for at least two years.  She knows a month has 30 or 31 days- and can even use her knuckles to work out which months have 31 days.  But when asked how many days are left between today and 3 December, or how many weeks are left until Christmas, she is totally floored!  More intentional calendar work next year!

Tammy has been able to read a clock for about three years.  She is pretty certain of international time and knows that 17:00 is five o’ clock p.m.  But despite lots of practice, she still gets confused when asked what the time was  x minutes before or x minutes or hours after.  I had really thought that we had cracked those: we did lots and lots of adding or subtracting minutes, with and without a physical clock at hand…. and yet her marks for this section of the exam paper was only 2 out of 7!  I could have cried!  Another skill that she will crack in the end, but I am preparing for a year of focussed effort! 

On a positive note: counting money was also on the weekly schedule and she CAN NOW COUNT CASH!!  Hurrah!  Praise the Lord.  For this section of her math exam, she scored 100%  Her measuring of lines and dividing them into three and four also got 100%  Drawing lines according to given lengths (e.g. draw 2 lines of 10 cm and divide them into 4 columns) was another weekly activity.

Weekly repetition pays dividends and we are going to crack the time, calendar, forms and filing challenges!  Among other challenges that will rear their heads! 

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some more about money and playing shop

Quite a few people have asked me about my teaching methods and then I refer them to this blog.  However, I realise that if I blog so seldom, it is not of much worth!  And it won’t be of much worth to me, should I one day decide to write a book about my experiences with Tamerin.  (I am trying to write a book about my views on child rearing in general and specifically about the education of pre-schoolers, but the going is slow.)

So here is more info on using money to teach math. 

I have been trying to get Tammy to count money for more than two years.  I remember that she said in her first end of the year speech “I have learnt how to count money.” Ha!  Yes, I had taught her that and at that stage (2 years ago) I believed she could actually count money.  Little did I realise that she would need much, much more, and continual, practice before she would truly be able to say “I have learnt how to count money.”! 

We practised more money counting the 2nd year, but the results in her math exams were very disappointing and I realised that a much more intentional effort was needed to be able to count money and to grasp decimals.  So this year, money counting was on the timetable and Tammy counted money at least once a week, writing down the amount. Many mistakes happened and it is only recently that I was able to say she could actually count money!  Conclusion:  to be really able to count money takes much more time and effort than is originally apparent.  (The same can be said for mastering metrics and understanding minutes and hours, and filing according to the alphabet “in your bones”. More about these skills later.)

Part of the normal curriculum is to add columns of three, four or five amounts with carrying over and to deduct with borrowing.  This we practised at nauseam in the beginning of the year with mediocre results.  She could do it, but too often made mistakes – especially with deduction.  She was inclined to deduct from the bottom to the top instead of borrowing e.g. 35-29 would be 14: 9-5 =4, instead of 15-9 = 6. 

How to get her to understand what deduction is, and not to just do it without any real insight?  Out came the number line again!  I found that she was better able to do mental arithmetic than she was able to do on paper!

1.  She had to practise to deduct 10.  (e.g. 40 –10 -Nothing is easy for Tammy – everything has to be drilled first.)

2. Then we added ones to the ten and this is how she went about it to work out difference e.g. 35-11

5-1= 4

so 35 – 1= 34

and 34-10= 24

so 35-11 = 24!   Hurrah!


3.  Next we practised deducting from 100.  

100 – 10, 100 – 20 etc until she could do that easily.  She had known her combinations e.g. 3+7 or 10 – 7 well, but could not make the transition to 100 – 70 without intentional practice.  Of course, once the penny dropped, it was plain sailing. 

Next was 100 – 31 =

10 – 1 = 9, so 100 -1= 99

99 –30 = 69

so 100 – 31 = 69!  TADA!

(Interestingly, at first she really struggled with “easy” subtraction e.g. 100 – 1 of 100 – 2.  NOTHING  is easy for Tammy at first.) 

4. Next step was to set up a “shop”.  As we are busy with nutrition, I ask Tammy a health related question e.g. “What supplements could I take to improve my brain function?” (Vit B-complex, Omega 3, Calcium, Zinc)  She then talks about what foods contain these nutrients and suggests supplements. She rounds the prices (R45.99 = R46), adds up the prices as in 2 above, deducts the sum from the money given to her and hands out the change.  That is the fun part: the working out of the change! 

She is so thrilled with herself when she manages all this!  To me this is far better than a lot of work sheets, that were anyway mostly meaningless to her!  One could always use a calculator to add and subtract, but in the end one has to be able to COUNT OUT THE CASH!  No calculator can do that!  Right now, Tamerin could, in my opinion, get a job as a cashier!  Praise the Lord for this progress!

(Posts to follow: filing, time sums)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Last few weeks of the year!

I feel guilty that I have blogged so little about Tamerin this year! Looking back we’ve had a good year of consolidating: we started with prescribed Graded books for English and Math in the first term. She did reasonably well with those, but there was not enough practice, practice, practice for her. A few exercises do not cut it! Also there were many , to my mind, “unnecessary” stuff eg “Fill in can or may.” If you cannot communicate properly, how important is “can and may”? How many people use can instead of may anyhow, and we all understand they mean.

The rest of the year we focussed much on speaking: all work (grammar, spelling, themes etc.) was drilled orally, and I do mean drilled! Now we are reaping the results. When Tammy recently wrote out her prayer for the end of the year, she included “Thank you for helping me to speak fluently!” For Tammy to be able to speak well remains the main objective for both of us. We are not “there” yet, but the improvement has been vast –not only in ability to absorb and say new words, but to understand spoken language. The first time I ever heard her say a 100% correct sentence of own accord was in September and how we high fived! Since then good, correct sentences have become much more frequent. Drilling pays dividends!

We did not tackle a new theme this term, but revised “nutrition” over and over again. Tammy is very interested in nutrition and I believe it to be a very important life skill theme, so I do not think that we have been fiddling away the time! We have prepared questions and answers on various nutrition questions e.g. “Why do you have to eat fruit?” “Why do you have to drink water?” “Why is animal protein not a good idea?” Tammy knows a lot about essential fatty acids, Omega 3, essential amino acids, free radicals, anti-oxidants, cholesterol, fibre, low G.I. food etc. etc. I am so proud of her! I have learnt a lot about nutrition along with her!

The trouble now is to know what to talk about at her prize giving: digestion or how to improve brain function or how to improve your immune system….. Decisions, decisions!

For math we play shop: I (the client) come to her with a health query e.g. “What can I take to prevent weak bones?” (calcium, magnesium and zinc, Vitamin D and omega 3.) She then looks at her price list and rounds the prices:

Caltrate: R123:99 = R124

Omega 3: R97.90 = R98

Magnesium: R68.99 = R69

Then she mentally adds the figures: 4+ 8 = 12, so 124 + 8 = 132 and 132 + 90 = 222 and 2+ 9 = 11, so 222 + 9 = 231, and 231 + 60 = 291!

I give her R300 and she mentally deducts the change and then the greatest fun of all is to pick up the change and work out the cents 99c = 1 c + 10c + 1c = 12c =15c (We haven’t got smaller coins than 5c in South Africa.)

This combining of theme and math works so well for us: adding and deduction are interrupted with short spells of conversation re nutrition.

As we plan to play shop on her prize giving night, please pray that everything will work out well. I hope to blog soon about her other endeavours for the evening and to add a photo of the new slim Tammy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Phuket, The Jonas Brothers, Spelling and Speaking

I see I have not blogged in a long time!  In the meantime we had other themes like building, because they were building next door and it provided us with “something to talk about.”

But the best recent themes, by far, has been talking about… PHUKET!  The family are leaving for Phuket soon, and Tammy and I have had a great time preparing for this event:

We looked at different activities and tours that are offered there and concentrated on snorkelling and elephant treks.  I only provided very skimpy information, but Tammy practised a wealth of new vocabulary, spelling and grammar. 

This is how we have been going about it for the past eight weeks:

On Fridays, Tammy writes a spelling and vocabulary test.    Over the weekend she inserts a table in Word , on a page set on landscape.  The table has a column to enter new words in, and others to “practise” the words in and one column each for synonyms and  antonyms.  Any corrections from Friday’s  test are transferred to this new list. 

I prefer that Tamerin practises her spelling on the computer, to prevent her practising mistakes!  She can use the spell check, but Friday tests are definitely hand written!  She finds synonyms and antonyms from the thesaurus or the dictionary.  

Starting on Mondays,  she adds new words to her list as we discuss a new theme e.g. what to expect when going on a speed boat cruise to Phi Phi island.  (New vocabulary included words such as discover, explore, guides, legends, tropical, coral reefs, spectacular, scenery, price per person  etc.)

On Tuesdays all these words are used in a grammar exercise e.g. “Rewrite in reported speech.” (Not that she rewrites the sentences, we just drill them orally – over and over.)   Example:  My brother asked, “Dad, can we go on a speed boat trip while we are in Phuket?”  Reported speech:  Her brother asked whether they could go on a speed boat trip while they were in Phuket.

Then I try to make the exercise practical by suggesting possible conversations  e.g. “Dad, I wondered whether we could go on a speed boat trip….”   This drilling has helped her to form sentences and questions:  to be able to speak remains our number one priority. 

On Wednesdays, I will have the same or similar sentences, but this time as a “Fill in the missing word”.  Next to the blank spaces, I provide the synonyms with which she is familiar.  Before giving her this exercise for homework, we again go through all of the sentences orally, and Tammy often has to repeat the sentence on her own, i.e. without reading it.    As on the two previous days, she again practises her spelling, by retyping each word twice.  New words, acquired later in the week, have to be practised more. 

On Thursdays, we do similar drills as well as dictation on computer.  Dictation is  a typing exercise, but it also requires punctuation (still a big problem) and of course spelling! 

On Fridays she writes her spelling test  and fills in vocabulary again – but this time without a list to choose from! Her average score has gone up from around 40% to 78+%.  Once she scored 95%!

Our new “reader” is “Burning up”  by the Jonas Brothers.  We read it together and new vocabulary is added to the list.  Today’s section dealt with Joe’s working out.  Questions were “Why does he work out before a show?” “What exercises does he do?”  “Who is his trainer?” “What exercises do you do in water aerobics?”  “Which exercises do you like best?” Etc. etc.    I also get her to ask the questions to an imaginary friend e.g. “Did you know Joe Jonas can do the splits?  I wish I was as supple …”

Whatever we do, is connected to real life situations and possible conversations.  I now realize that creative speech can only happen, if you have the “tools’ (language patterns and vocabulary) with which to express yourself.  For most children, this happens spontaneously, but for a child with a serious language (speech and comprehension) impediment, it takes a far more dedicated and focussed effort to acquire these tools.

So far, I am very excited about our results of our newest concentrated efforts to improve Tammy’s language in totality.

Math concentrated on converting Thailand Baht to Rand.  She has to round prices and then divide them by 4 – mentally!  It has taken considerable effort, but we are getting there: B 14 = R3.50, B140 = R35,  B1400 = R350, B14000 = R3500 …. !  Calculation speed and insight are picking up fast! 

  • Other math included time sums: What is 21: 30 in ordinary speech?  (Half past nine p.m.) 
  • Adding hours  to departure times to work out arrival times.
  • Deducting hours to convert Phuket time to S.A. time.  Can you phone your ouma if it is 7:00 in Phuket? 

Please God, let everything work out well for the family, and let Tammy feel free to participate in conversations!

      Monday, August 9, 2010

      A History theme, grammar and speaking

      With Nelson Mandela’s birthday in July and our “recent Bible study re forgiveness and loving peace, I talked quite a bit about this wonderful man.  Tammy was interested in history and chose it as a theme.  “Safety” was once more put on ice. 

      All her spelling and vocabulary for the week sprang from this theme.  She was very interested in the unfair laws of the apartheid era. 

      We also watched Invictus together.  I stopped the D.V.D. every now and then to explain the why and where.  Afterwards she practised sentences to tell her family and friends about the movie e.g.  “Invictus is a movie about Nelson Mandela and how he encouraged the Springboks to win the world cup in 1995 – the year in which I was born! “ 

      All grammar exercises also came from this theme: she had to rewrite theme sentences as questions and write questions as sentences. 

      Grammar examples:

      Sentence:  F.W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.  (When?)  When did F.W. de Klerk release Nelson Mandela from prison?  

      Or Did Nelson Mandela ever want to take revenge? 

      Nelson Mandela never wanted to take revenge.

      Tammy struggles with tense and concord.  Strangely, she makes fewer mistakes with did, does and do, when she speaks than when she writes!  We do all grammar orally first and often she has no problem with that, but when she writes, mistakes like “Did he wanted…” and even “Did he was…” often occur. 

      I believe that the grammar and vocabulary practices are helpful in enabling her to speak better and to remember the history facts better as well.

      Apparently she did tell her mother and father about the movie.  She gave me several hugs and thanked me for teaching her “this”. It just makes more sense to bombard her with the same facts, vocabulary and sentence construction over and over again.  And comprehension is not just about what you read, but also about what you see and hear!

      Someone warned me not to “bore” her.  I don’t think there is much chance of that.  I find that children are bored when the work is too difficult or when they have to chew off too much at the same time.  This integrated approach makes the work easier, and therefore more fun, for her to digest. 

      Her spelling has improved dramatically – time will tell if this has a lasting effect or if it was just a short term co-incidence.

      Wednesday, July 14, 2010

      Third Term 2010 Plans and Good news

      We have just started the 3rd term. After all the excitement of the World Cup, we (and many other people) experience a bit of a "Now what?"
      Tammy and I made some plans for this term: she wants to learn about Phuket since her family are going there in September. I am trying to gather enthusiasm for another important theme that we had just started on before World Cup fever gripped us: SAFETY! Last term we discussed sexual abuse (hardly an exam or speech topic, but very important nonetheless!) What to do if there is a fire in the house, what to do if someone chokes, bleeds and a few other basie first aid topics, and improved usage of her cell phone are some of the safety topics that I planned, but that we have not yet got around to them.

      First priority now is to evaluate reading, speed of looking up words, typing tests etc. - its report time again!

      Yesterday at 12:15 Tammy asked me whether I wanted some tea - her hint that she wanted a break. As it was still 15 minutes from lunch time, I said "Let's first finish the chapter." We were busy with the last chapters of "Friends Forever" (A My Secret Unicorn Book). We both read the book out loud together and Tamerin follows with her finger. When we came to the end of the chapter, her finger of own accord moved to the next chapter, so we kept on reading. After a while I suggested we break for lunch and Tammy said "Let's first finish the chapter!!" This is a first! She has never asked to continue reading in lunch time! After lunch, she asked if could go on reading!

      When I asked her questions about the story, a few 100% correct answers came out: "Why did they all shriek?" "Because a pine had fallen across the track." Wow! Tammy has never been able to put together a sentence like that. What a big improvement!

      Something is happening language wise and this is what I have been praying for these past 3 years! Praise the Lord with me!

      What shall we read next? Tammy wants to read "High School Musical 2", but I'm not so sure: on the one hand yes, because she is so interested, but on the other hand, the vocabulary is just a trifle too difficult and the language is not always the best. For example sentences with question marks pose as questions. This is a problem as I am trying so hard to get her to form proper questions, starting with a verb and not the subject! I am inclined to want to read another Unicorn book, just because she will be familiar with most of the vocabulary and should be able to follow the story easily.

      And math's? She got 95% for her long multiplication homework of yesterday! She only made one small mistake: 0+ 4= 5! Oh Tamerin!

      Thank you Lord for such progress! Thank you for the hope that you give us to keep us going! Thank you for helping Tammy! Thank you for her love.

      Saturday, June 12, 2010

      Video Clips of the World Cup Speech

      Here are some excerpts out of Tammy's World Cup speech - click on previous post for more pics and info on this speech.

      Speaking is very difficult for Tammy, but practice makes perfect and practising speeches is a very good way to master pronunciation and sentence patterns. I am very proud of her and very thankful for the way her speech has progressed the past two and a half years that we have been homeschooling.

      To understand more of what we try to achieve (and have achieved) with these speeches click on here.

      Tammy sharing some background of the World Cup.

      Where in the world are all the countries?

      Tammy explaining the different teams in their respective groups. We cut out flags and pasted them onto different sized containers to represent the different teams's rankings.

      Tammy’s World Cup Celebration

      Tammy’s World Cup Thursday finally arrived.  About ten friends and cousins and five other adults attended. 


      Tammy setting up the 32 different teams in their different groups.  Part of her speech was to explain which teams were mostly to go on to the next round (the large containers) and which ones were rated low – the small containers… and South Africa was one of them.  As Tammy said: “It is predicted that South Africa will be the first host country to lose an opening match!  But miracles can happen.  Bafana-Bafana have won their last 12 matches. ……What are our chances?  Not too bad.  We rank 25th out of the 32 teams and Mexico ranks 18th and Uruguay 19th.  It will be difficult,  but not impossible to win.”  (True words – the opening match between S.A. and Mexico was a draw!  Bafana-Bafana did us proud!  They were ranked 83rd in the world and Mexico 16th!)

      The guests were warned to listen carefully to her speech as a quiz was to follow: After the speech they divided themselves into 2 groups and then had to match the 32 flags to the names of the countries, fill in a world map with blank call-outs pointing to the 32 countries and complete a questionaire with questions like “How many teams participated in the qualification phase?”  “Which country has won the cup 3 times?” Tammy helped one group and felt quite important.  The other group “cheated” and checked on her notes and props.  I feared that both groups would have full marks, but not so!   Many said afterwards that it was interesting and that they have learnt a lot i.e. where Honduras was.  (The live writer I am using here, cannot publish my video clips, so I’ll try to  publish a clip or 2 in a next post.)

      The next competition was to decorate two ring cakes as stadiums.  (Tammy’s mom’s and her brother’s idea and a huge success!)


      This team inserted stadium lights, but the other one was much neater. 


      Adjudicator Tammy listening intently to the presentation of one group’s cake project.  (He was pretty convincing and Tammy had no hesitation in appointing the winner!)


      Tammy announcing the winners of the cake decoration competition.


      Afterwards the team played “soccer” in the pool room – it was quite cold outside!  Hamburgers and a big plate of French Fries completed a wonderful celebration.

      Thank you God for helping Tamerin, and thank you for kind friends and relatives who made the day special for her.

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      Monday, June 7, 2010

      More World Cup Theme News

      Two days to our own World Cup celebration and three days till our end of term... and Bafana-Bafana's opening match against Mexico!
      Tammy is working hard on her speech and painting (colouring in ) lots of flags. Today we cut out all 32 medium sized flags and matched them with the names of the countries. Many flags look very similar, so to help along memory, we made various associations between the flags and the countries: Here are some:
      • Honduras: the stars in the middle look like an H.
      • Slovenia: Venia sounds a bit like venue (one of Tammy's latest vocabulary words) and there are mountains (i.e. places/ venues) on the flag.
      • Slovakia: The flag looks like Slovenia's flag except this one has crosses in the emblem. A cross in Afrikaans is a "kruis" and matches the k in Slovakia.
      • Serbia: Similar flag colours as Slovenia and Slovakia, but white is at the bottom. A SERvant serves the king. There is a crown on the flag. (Servant = Serbia)
      • Côte d'Ivoire: The orange elephant has white ivory and he eats green leaves.
      • Ghana, Cameroon, Chile, Algeria: Ghana is in Africa and has a black star, Cameroon a yellow star and Chile a white star. Algeria has both moon and star (ALL evening lights -ALgeria)

      It was great fun and in no time, Tammy was able to name all 32 flags.

      Thank you God for her happy face and cheerful giggles. Please help her when she types her italics for Romans 1: 13- 15.
      (For Bible homework she is going to write how she would explain Jesus and why we should believe to a non-believer. She did it verbally verby spontaneously and understandably this morning.)

      Thursday, June 3, 2010

      Tammy and the World Cup

      This past term we spent much time on long multiplication, forming of questions and reading. Two weeks ago her mom suggested we have "Football Fridays" - the whole South Africa is preparing for the FIFA World Cup. and for a long time people have been wearing Bafana-Bafana (national soccer side of South Africa) shirts on Fridays.

      We are really rugby people, so I have not paid much attention to all this, but when Tammy's mom said how much fun the school children had, I warmed to the idea, and now we're very much into the World Cup!

      We learned a bit about FIFA, when and where the first World Cup was held (1930, Uruguay) and about the qualification phase and of course the final phase - now I too know why this part of the tournament is called the World Cup Finals. The most interesting part, however, was of course the different countries: 13 from Europe, 6 from Africa, 3 from North and Central America, 5 from South America, 3 from Asia and lastly Australia and New Zealand. (31 out of 204 teams qualified and South Africa is the 32nd country. We did not qualify, but may participate because we are the host country. The team has improved much, and who knows? A miracle might just happen!)

      Tammy remembers all the teams fairly easily and she has no trouble pinpointing them on the world map. When she names them she cites them more or less in geographical order: France, Spain, Portugal, England, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia. She had trouble pronouncing some of the names, but we're quite adept at breaking up words and practising them syllable by syllable until she can easily say them. The word "participate" was also a hard nut to crack, but now she says it confidently. We now work on speaking phrases fluently e.g. to say participate in and not participate.... in.... Today we spent minutes practising to say "Welcome to our....." (She had said .hmmm ...Wel.....come....to)

      I am a bit afraid that my hammering on fluency, will be counterproductive - make her too anxious to speak. On the other hand, this very, very slow, clipped way of speaking with lots of throat clearing, seems to me to be a habit. If people ask her a question and she takes forever before she answers, they just assume she doesn't know or doesn't want to speak and then they talk about other things. That is why I try to get her to respond immediately.

      Her mother has invited friends and cousins over for a "Football day" next Thursday - a day before the actual World Cup opening game. Tomorrow Tamerin will colour with paint as many flags as she can - there are 32 flags! These we'll use as decorations.

      She will also cut out printed flags to paste onto empty pill containers. These containers will represent the different teams in their respective groups and the sizes of the containers will be an indication of the team's rating. Brazil, Spain, Portugal etc. are big containers, and New Zealand and North Korea (31st and 32ne) are very small containers. She will use these containers as part of her "World Cup Speech", when she welcomes her friends and shares her knowledge of the World Cup with them. I bet most of them won't even know where the different countries are, or what their ratings are.

      We have been very busy practising questions and answers about the World Cup, e.g. "Do you know which teams from Africa will participate in the World Cup?" "Which country has been the most successful so far?" "Who do you think will win the World Cup?" She can ask me these questions correctly, but she is very slow. She has to think about every word. I do not think other people - even her family - realize just how difficult it is for her to ask a question. When she asks them a practiced question during break, they try to make normal conversation and she just clams up.

      Although mastering the language has, as usual, been our main focus with this theme, it has also afforded us enough math's practice: Some of the problems she had to solve were:
      • If FIFA was founded in 1930, how old is FIFA now?
      • If the World Cup is held every four years, when was the last world cup?
      • If there are 32 teams, and there are four teams in a group, how many groups are there?
      • If 2 teams out of every group move onto the next round, how many teams will be in the next round?

      The last two problems were not too diffult, as she had the pill containers ("teams") to work with as well. Tammy can do basic calculations quite well, but word calculations are tough! We have been working much on "If 1.... then 3....." (You have to multiply) and If 5.... then 1....."(you have to divide), but more on this another time.

      Please God, help Tammy to master her World Cup speech in time, and help her not to become too nervous. And please God, it will do South Africa the world of good, if South Africa can at least beat Mexico in the opening game... And how about South Africa moving onto the next round?... Please?

      Saturday, March 20, 2010


      Tammy now types out imaginary conversations instead of writing her diary. Conversations challenge her to formulate questions and to use present, future and past tenses, wherease "diary"only required "telling sentences"and the past tense.
      Before she writes out her conversation, we orally practise conversations she could have - from imaginary dates with Nick Jonas till possible ones like telling her brother about antioxidants!
      I am quite excited about her progress in this regard. She still struggles, but boy, has she come a long way!!
      Now the biggest hurdle is to get her not to be too shy to speak to real people. On Friday I told her that the gym coach would like some feedback from us, and I suggested she tell her which exercises she likes and which ones she doesn't like so much. So we practised a possible conversation on our way to the gym:
      "Gill, I really enjoy water aerobics. I like the floating exercises a lot, but I do not really like the kicking exercises. Thank you so much for helping me." (Gill is the first and only instructor to really pay individual attention to each of us, including Tammy.)
      And on Friday, Gill really paid a lot of extra attention to Tammy, showing her how to improve and giving her positive feedback whenever she succeeded. At the end of the lesson she said to me that Tammy had really improved. It was the opportune moment for Tamerin's conversation with Gill, so I urged Tammy to speak to Gill and then moved away. It was to be between her and Gill.... On her way out Gill said to me that she thought she had understood Tammy....

      Praise the Lord that Tamerin finally got the courage to say something more than "Hello" to a "stranger". Please pray that her tongue will be unleashed much more, so that she can be free to communicate. How frustrating to have to "practice" such simple conversations! But how thrilling for her to slowly (finally) overcome her inability to speak coherently and to "wow" herself by being able to express herself and answer questions - no matter how simple the topic.

      Friday, March 5, 2010

      Reversed Comprehension and Money

      Anyone, who has been following Tamerin's progress, will know that speaking and comprehension are her biggest problems. Following the success she had with formulating and verbally asking questions at her birthday picnic (see previous post) I decided to expand the method further.

      When we now read anyone of her books (Jonas Brothers, a High School Musical based book, and a Secret Seven book), I get her to ask questions and I answer. In this way she
      • Reads with comprehension
      • Gets grammar practice
      • Practises speaking

      She finds formulating questions very difficult and often does not know where to start, so I still often give her clues e.g. "Jack grabbed Susie by the arm and dragged her home." "Why....?" Most of the time she is then able to complete the question, but often gets the grammar wrong e.g. "Why Jack dragged Susie home?"

      She so enjoys this new way of doing comprehension, that I have expanded it to her current theme as well. The latest theme is "Money". We have been talking about employers and employees, salaries, wages, working hours (parttime, overtime etc.) business, profit, stock, cash, interest rate, credit and investments. She types a conversation she could have with her dad about these things. "Today we went to the shops and I compared the prices of products. A 1 kg packet of Viennas costs R30. A packet of 500g of Viennas costs R21. So two packets of 500g cost R42. That is R12 more." Etc. etc.

      This theme has been a huge success! Besides the general knowledge and vocabulary, she gets to practice her math skills as well. We look at advertisements of shops. Some have (in very tiny print) the number of installments, the installment amounts and the interest rates below the advertised cash prices. Tammy works out the total amount payable on the calculator. To work out the difference between paying cash or buying on credit, she does the deduction on paper. She was enthralled by her discovery that sometimes you end up paying nearly double for an item. After school she immediatly took the advertisement to show her mother!

      We also went to the bank to read the notices and get forms to fill in. (A part of our weekly schedule is to fill in forms - basically to practise neat lettering, but also because it is a very necessary life skill.) Tammy was intrigued with the delayed opening security doors. Afterwards we went to Pick n Pay to revise vocabulary such as "Dairy" and "Bakery" (Food theme), but also to read prices and to compare them. Measuring has also a weekly activity been a weekly activity for months and she had no trouble understanding how to compare 500g, 1 kg, 2.5kg and 5 kg.

      She is beginning to remember the methods for calculations e.g. if you know the price of one and you want to know the price of more you must.... MULTIPLY and if you want to know the difference you must TAKE AWAY! We compared the prices of viennas, sugar, flour, pens and wshing powder. In the case of sugar, flour and washing powder, the medium packaging was cheaper the the bulk packaging! "Mom you have to compare prices of products!"

      Thanks God for a really fun week! Thank you also that Tammy can finally count money.

      Monday, March 1, 2010

      15th Birthday!

      Tamerin turned 15 last week. She has grown so tall and is slimming down very nicely. She has lost about 5 kg since last year. Water aerobics seem to be paying dividents - even though she still has bit of a spare tyre around the waist, it is so much better and I am really proud of her. A major goal is now to improve posture: she and I are inclined to slouch. I let her stand with eyes closed in front of the mirror. When she opens her eyes, I let her focus on a pelvic tilt to see what wonders that does to her posture and how much better her clothes look. (She is to remind me to stand up straight, but she has never done it. None of us wants to look like an old woman!)

      I could not attend her birthday party on the Saturday, so I packed a picnic on her actual birthday and her mother, her grandmother, Tammy and I had a lunch in a park.

      One of the gifts I gave Tammy was a book by the Jonas Brothers. In it there are interview type questions to each brother e.g. "What type of ice-cream do you like best?" "What is the best movie you have ever seen?" Before we went on the picnic Tammy practised some of these questions. Asking questions is just as difficult as formulating answers! She asked us these questions at the picnic. At first she was hesitant, but soon warmed to the idea. This could become an annual event!

      You might have noticed that she no longer blogs. That is because, all of a sudden, she can no longer copy and paste her diary onto her blogs. It is quite a shame - she has kept a journal (with my help of course) for two years and her sentence construction, spelling, typing etc. have improved much. However, the diary thing has become a bit boring: its always more or less about where they went and what they ate, and perhaps about what school work we did. She never writes of own accord about how she felt.

      I now want her to write dialogues. She is still inclined to have conversations with imaginary people. I do not want her to "speak to herself" because she does this in front of other people and other children, especially, just think she is "mad". I do recognize her need to express herself in conversation though, and therefore creative writing will now be "conversations".

      By the way, the PACE she has to do this week is just about homonyms: underline the correct word: e.g. flew/ flue. (Who needs to know what a flue is? Certainly not Tamerin.) This goes against all I have tried to teach. I believe these exercises will just confuse her in the long run. She did a few of these underline exercises and did them quite well, but I think that is because she has known these words in context for a long time. She has never confused "eight" and "ate". Generally she even gets her "their"and "there" right.

      Anyway, I have made a list of the new vocabulary in the book and will teach these words to her separately - I am convinced if she learns earn and urn at the same time, she is bound to use the wrong word! Who needs to know about homonyms anyway? As long as you know the words and can spell them and use them correctly in context.

      God, please help me to make the right teaching decisions for Tamerin!

      Friday, January 29, 2010

      Tammy and Spelling

      A quick review on Tamerin's spelling: Yesterday she spelled "Hydrochloric Acid", "duodenum", "enzymes", "pancreas" (Guess what theme we are busy with!)

      The reason why she could spell these words is because she struggled with the pronunciation of them. Every time she struggles with pronunciation (which is still very often), I break up the word and write it, syllable by syllable on her little white board and then we practise to say the word syllable for syllable e.g. "Hy...Hy...Hy (add dro) hydro, hydro, hydro..... (add chlo) hydrochlo... " etc. I find that by the time she can say the word - even long words - she can spell it too. In her theme test, she could not spell stomach, although I could see that she had tried to write it. She never struggled with the pronunciation of stomach, so we never practised the word!! (I'll make sure next time, that we practise all the words, before giving her a theme test again.)

      Copying lists of words is not really effective for her: she often makes mistakes and to practise a mistake is just unforgivable! The only lists she ever has to copy are lists of new vocabulary that comes from her reader, and it works best if we practise them together - pretty much as we would do with words that she could not pronounce.

      Words that sound the same, but are spelled differently (e.g. there and their), must also be learned in context and totally separately from each other, otherwise she gets very confused. In the ACE paces that we do now, she often has to underline the correct word (two, to, too). In the beginning this was terribly hard for her to do, but she is getting there. However, I still don't believe this is the best way to go about teaching these words. She has never before written to or too when she meant two! I believe these words should be learnt naturally and separately to minimize confusion.

      Thank you God, for the 70% Tammy got for her test on digestion yesterday. Please help me to know how to teach her, so that she will do even better next time. Thank you that her speech has already improved soooo much! Thank you that her writing of sentences has improved. Please keep on unlocking her tongue Lord, so that she can be free to express herself.

      Monday, January 25, 2010

      Ode to a time table.

      Our school computer has crashed! And with it the CASS file - i.e. the Continuous Assessment File as required by the Department of Education. I last printed it out in July 2009! My own home computer was stolen in December. It is quite frustrating to have lost so much work. Weekly backups are a must!! Anyway, I just pray the department won't come snooping around. If they do? Well, tough luck. At least there is a thorough descriptive report of her progress Aug - Nov.

      Up to now we have always had a sort of a timetable - but we did not really stick to it. Very often followed our noses: did what Tamerin was interested in at that moment. We usually wrote down an "agenda" for the day and ticked off the items we had dealt with - but at the end of the day, there often were several items that we did not get to like practising posture or looking up words in the dictionary.

      But now I have made a new weekly timetable!! It took me quite some time to set it up for this year. I thought we would fall behind even on day 1. But we did not! I showed it to Tammy and she seemed happy enough to follow it. Obligingly come after break which now ends 5 minutes earlier, has lunch at 12:30 and then continue with after lunch lessons until 14:00. (We start at 7:20, but leave for gym at 7:55 and are usually back by 9:30)

      We will now do ACE math two days a week, and ACE English the next two days. I made sure that we leave enough time for the activities I believe in like regularly counting money, filling out forms (to improve planning of writing - if the space is small, you lettering must be small, you have to start as far left as possible ), filing papers, looking up telephone numbers, practising of conversations etc.

      I found it also gave me a sense of security - when the math time was finished, I said "Time to read now", knowing that we would get round to all the other activities as well. The homework timetable is attached to the morning schedule: E.g. on Mondays she has to write her diary, do reading comprehension, ACE math and do some theme work (Social studies).

      When I checked at the end of the day - that is exactly the homework I wrote in her homework diary as we worked through the timetable.

      Long live timetables!

      Sunday, January 17, 2010

      First week of 2010

      The first week went very smoothly indeed. Tammy works hard in her Ace books - math and English. She will finish the last of Grade 3 work in math soon and then start with Grade 4! This week she had to count money again and that was fine, but when I scored her measuring of pictures and drawn lines, the answers did not match those in the score book - only to find that the drawn lines in the book were not accurate at all! A line of 12.3 mm is given as 12 1/2 cm. I find this pretty shocking - should write to ACE. The lines they draw in the book, should be very accurate don't you think?

      English is still Grade 2 level, but we are getting there. She is much more keen to do creative writing e.g. to write sentences with given words. On Thursday I stayed the afternoon while she did her homework and she really battled with making sentences with "isn't", "wasn't" etc. It is not that she doesn't know what the words mean, but to have to think up sentences is still hard for her.

      On the grammar side, I find that the ACE books do not give enough drill work - she needs much, much more before she really grasps a concept. When she has to chose between three words e.g. to / too/ two and underline the correct one, she is usually able to do it, but when it comes to chosing the correct form of a verb, e.g the children is / are at school the alternatives seem to confuse her. I now try to get her to give the correct form of the verb, by simply writing the verb e.g "eat, ate, eaten" at the top of a couple of sentences with blanks where she has to write in the appropriate form of "eat". I also underline the timewords or auxiliary verbs to help her choose the correct form. So far it seems to work.

      For reading we are busy with two books. I want her to read a Secret Seven book by Enid Blyton all by herself - I just give her monkey puzzle type questions on the story, which she has to score herself. The idea of the questions is just to make sure that she understands the story. I wrote meanings of new words in pencil above the few words that I thought she might struggle with, but they are few and far between. So far she seems thrilled with the book and that is my aim: to let her experience that reading by yourself can be great fun! For speech we practise asking and answering these questions orally.

      The other book is another "High School Musical" story: this one is about school elections - a fun way to revise the whole voting process and the vocabulary that goes with it. (If we hadn't done Elections as a theme last year, I doubt whether she would understand anything of the story.) We read this book together: We read aloud together and she follows with her finger and we discuss the story as we go along. My aim is to keep on improving fluency of reading (eyemovements) as well as her vocabulary.

      May the rest of the year be as much fun as the first week!

      Sunday, January 10, 2010

      Long overdue news

      The 2010 school year starts tomorrow for Tamerin and me. I cannot believe the summer holidays have whizzed past so quickly and I cannot believe that I never commented on her end of the year success either! Her prize giving evening was really fantastic. My husband took some short video clips of her speech so that I could put some in the blog. I was so sad that we had not done it the first year. (We have been doing homeschool for 2 years now, so this was our second prize giving.)

      And now there are not going to be any video clips either: we had a burglary and my computer - with the precious downloads of the video clips and pics of the speech - was stolen! FRUSTRATION!

      Anyway, here is an account of a very successful evening. Tammy's mother had invited about 20 friends and family members for a delicious supper followed by Tammy's speeches.

      Tammy was too nervous to do her introduction (welcoming her family etc.), so I told her to skip the intro and get going on the power point presentation. This went very well. She first spoke about the government and the elections.

      Tammy found the "strange" mouse of her brother's laptop a bit intimidating, so she stepped up to the projected images instead and explained them by pointing with her finger. E.g. she pointed to the pictures of some cabinet ministers and told the audience of which departments they were. (Most have difficult Xhosa or Zulu names, so we did not bother with names, but she can recognize the different ministers when they appear on television.)

      After each theme the audience could ask her questions they had drawn from a box full of questions. I had marked the different types of questions with matching icons e.g. government questions had the state emblem, wild life questions had a cheetah and so on.

      Tammy answered the questions very well and then she asked the audience some questions e.g. "Which state department looks after the poor people?" We had practised the questions and anwers before of course. She had to be able to say whether and answer was correct or not and to give the audience the correct answer to her questions without looking at her paper! She loved this - especially when they did not know the answer!!

      The next two themes, "Blood circulation" and "My favourite carnivore, the cheetah" were dealt with in the same way and were equally successful.

      Then is was math's time: the audience asked her "sums" that I had typed out beforehand. Tamerin had not practised the exact same "sums" before, but lots of similar ones. Questions included "What is 1/2 of 25?" "What is 50% of 60?" What is 80% of 50?", "What is 85-14?" "How much is $4 if $1 is R7.50?" "Can you read this? 6,528,945?" She answered all these very quickly and very easily. I was so, so proud of her.

      The next item was her "High School Musical" speech, where she gave the audience the outline of the story with the help of power point pictures. She also showed them where Albuquerque and Stanford were on a map of the U.S. I'm pretty sure her cousins had not known that!

      It was time for her to do her musical part and she played two songs on the guitar. There is nothing like knowing that you have to perform in front of others, to get you motivated to practise!

      The last speech was her The Holy Nation of Heaven speech -another power point presentation about Bible verses we have dealt with - mostly out of Matthew. She illustrated the calling of Matthew with toilet roll puppets. I had helped her to make Jesus, but she had made Matthew completely on her own.

      She illustrated "First seek the Kingdom of Heaven and all these other things will be given to you too" with ping pong balls and rice: If you fill a bottle (your mind) first with worries about daily needs, there is not enough space for Jesus (the balls), but if you first concentrate on being right with God and on loving others, God will see to it that you get everything else that you need too. (If you first put the balls into the empty bottle, there is enough space for the rice also.)

      After receiving her certificate and book prizes, she prayed. She had written out the prayer herself some time before and practised it, but still I knew her thanks were heartfelt.

      Please pray for us for this new year, that we will make the right decisions regarding programme and content - that we both will be obedient and follow His will for us.