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!

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.