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, 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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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!