Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pincer Grasp and Finger Counting - 3/31/11

Started the day more organized today :)  We had wood blocks to build with, big knobbed animal stampers form Lakekshore with big stamp pads, puzzles to do and books to read. I also got out (after much digging) my Montessori knobbed cylinder blocks. According to Parenting " This activity to designed to help develop the child’s visual discrimination of size. An indirect aim is to prepare the child for writing, through the handling of the cylinders by their knobs by the pincher grasp. Another indirect aim is to prepare the child for later work in Mathematics."  One thing I am really trying to work with Freddie on is his pincher grasp. I keep reminding him, "You're holding you're crayon like a caveman again! You're a smart boy. Hold you're crayon like a school boy."  He tries but struggles. He is going to need lots of different activities to retrain his brain to make his fingers do the right thing. Pincher grasp activities will help. Another things I did was break some crayons into tiny pieces. This forces him to hold them with just his finger tips instead of his whole hand. There are lots more things we can do. I'm hoping we can get it corrected before the fall when Kindergarten starts. It will just make life in K easier for him.

After our morning free play time, we started working on school stuff. Freddie and Flossie took turns either on the computer or working with me with the Montessori number tiles. These are used for number recognition, counting, and one-to-one correspondence. Both did well. Freddie was a little more able to work on his own, but Flossie isn't too far behind. Interestingly, for some reason, not only did Freddie need to count the tiles each time but he also had to count them on his fingers too. It was an extra step that sometimes got him mixed up. I'm not sure why he felt he needed to do that, but he did and couldn't be persuaded not to. I could tell that his brain was really working hard to complete the activity so when he got done and said, "Now what?" I said, "Do you want to take a break now or do you want to do some more work?" He wanted to do more work :)  Why was I not surprised? So I got out the accompanying worksheet I had for the activity. Flossie had been on the computer so I called her over to join us. She stuck in there for about half of it and then needed to bail, which was fine. Freddie finished his whole thing up, again with the counting out loud and on his hands, and lots of serious brain work, plus his little fingers having to use the tiny crayons and getting their workout. He did great and didn't complain once. Once again he was ready for more, but I told him it was time to give his brain a break and sent him outside to play with Jem for awhile. By this time it was about time to get ready to take Bella to work and go to lunch with Gramps anyway.

Lunch was good. Flossie was a grump for some unknown reason but came home and happily ate her lunch here. While the kids napped, the big kids worked on their Academic Fair projects. Jem was learning about ants, and Scout researched some of the explorers of the Mississippi river.  After that everyone had a fun afternoon just hanging out and playing, and then it was off to Winnie the Pooh rehearsals!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Playing Catch-up

Funny how one little thing can throw you off your game. I had to vacuum this morning. I'm sorry. The floor was a mess. After several days of playdoh and snacks and paper cutting, and general play, it needed to be vacuumed BAD. I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to get it done this morning. But that meant I didn't have time to get all my things laid out for the kids before they came. Somehow that threw off our whole morning. I felt like I was in catch-up mode the whole time. I couldn't keep up. No sooner did I get one kid set up with something to do, then the next kid was done and needing something else to do. I wasn't well-prepared. Bad, bad, bad!  We got lots done this morning, but it wasn't smooth or easy feeling. Really? Just because I had to vacuum?

Since I still had to eat breakfast, I set them up with something I thought would keep them busy for awhile. I gave Flossie several babies and dolls and a big bag of baby doll clothes. She was in heaven :) Freddie and Jem had a big stack of coloring books and crayons and that kept them going for quite awhile. Once I felt like I was ready to tackle the day, I set up Frogs and Logs for more color/pattern work, the painting easel outside, Some books including a new one Panda Bear,Panda Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle, the Lego puzzle for Flossie to try, and the large Cuisenaire Rods inside just for free building right now since this is the first time they are seeing them. 

The of course the big kids had lots to do too. Jem worked on his Handwriting, Insect study, Geography, and Math.  His sister participated in her live History at Our House lecture today, listened to her recorded Music at Our House lecture, read 10 pages of George Washington's World, did her handwriting, and struggled through her math. I figured out what her problem is there too today. She was working on rounding decimals. For the answers the book wanted her to round to the nearest 1 decimal place. So a number like 3.24 Would round off to 3.2.  A number like 2.09 would become 2.1.  She could not get past the fact that you would drop the last number. "What happens to it?" "You can't just get rid of it"  I finally figured out it was her OCD/Hoarding driving her nuts over not wanting to let those numbers go. :(   Well, crap.  Got through  today's work, but not without tears.

Then we finished our school day by finalizing our plans for the upcoming Academic Fair on the 20th of April.  Scout is going to finish her lapbook and map on Minn of the Mississippi,  and Jem is going to finish his insect study. We have lots of work to do for both, so we are going to put our other studies on hold for a week or two (other than History and Music which we can't really fall behind in) and just focus on getting our stuff ready for the Academic Fair. Sounds like I have a lot more prep to do. Now if only I had a lot more hours in the day!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Goodbye Van - 3/29/11

I feel like the day got rolling and took off like a flash but left my brain in the dust for awhile! It was a couple of hours later before I finally caught up! I was scrambling to get everyone fed, get activities out, get myself ready for the day, do the usual carb counting and bolusing for Jem's breakfast, and then on top of that I had to get the van cleaned out before the tow truck came - all before 9:00. Now if you know me, you know I should still be deep asleep at this time of morning! Still adjusting to my new schedule :) Anyway once I started doing the van clean-out, the kids started realizing that the van was really going bye-bye. Scout's OCD started kicking in BAD! She does not like getting rid of things. She gets attached to everything from furniture to candy wrappers. We got this van when she was a baby. She has made comment before about how she never wants to get rid of it. Knowing that it was getting towed away today just about broke her heart. She had to go in and be in the van for awhile and take pictures of it, and cry in it. :(  It was a hard morning for her. She mustered up a smile for this picture, but you can see her eyes are puffy from crying.

After that drama we went in to try to get some school done. While Jesse listened to her History lecture, Freddie and Flossie worked on matching color word and picture cards. Then Jem "read" them a couple of books. Again these were books he has memorized, so he is comfortable feeling like he can read them.

From there everyone moved on to some individual work. Freddie went on the computer and played Blues Clues Kindergarten. Jem worked on his spelling words and his reading book. He is using Learning Language Arts through Literature - The Blue Book this year. It is really working for him and he is slowly but surely learning to read! K worked with me on some parts for her Bears Lapbook. We did the 123 Count With Me cards, the Size Sequencing bears, and the Bear Anatomy minibook. Scout worked did her Caribbean geography online quizzes. When Flossie and Freddie got done they did some tracing at the light table. Then they traded places so that they each got to do the same work and have one on one time with me. Freddie got finished early so he wanted to practice some more with the Unifix cubes and pattern cards.

In what I thought was pretty brilliant timing, the tow truck man showed up right about when we were done!
Of course everyone had to stop and watch the excitement and wave goodbye to our beloved, wounded, dirty, and so I have been told, stinky, van.

THAT drama over, it was time for much needed lunch and naps! While they slept, Scout and I did spelling. We're using Phonetic Zoo spelling form Institute for Excellence in Writing. I love the program so far. We are only on Lesson 2, but so far so good. She seems to like it too. Jem worked on his math. He did another Evan-Moor math center and worked in his Singapore Math workbook. He is working in the 1A book this year, and it has been a good fit for him so far. Scout did some reading for History and both did their Calculadders.

Overall it feels like we are getting into a rhythm.  My sleep cycle hasn't adjusted yet, but our school days feel like they are normalizing. The key has been trying to be organized and stay one step ahead. That isn't always easy. My day goes no-stop from 7 to 7 and by then I am ready to veg out for awhile. Staying up late to do planning, printing, organizing has to happen sometimes, but that can get sketchy when you add in middle of the night blood sugar checks and a natural inclination to sleep late!  But, so far, it's working. I'm tired, but I'm doing ok, better than ok really. We're getting good school done, and that's a good thing!  :)

So while the weather is still nice we decided to walk down to the "grass park" at the end of the block for picnic and  storytime. We read Jamberry by Bruce Degen and Jesse Bear What Will you Wear? by Nancy White Carlstom  and Illustrated by Bruce Degen.

After that, the kids just had fun in the park, skateboarding down the hills, playing ball, and running around like nuts. My kids have grown up in this park. They have all learned to ride their bikes down these hills and have watched the seasons change here. The trees have grown so big. I'm thankful for this little private piece of nature.

But here's my favorite part of this afternoon:  I talked Jem through doing his first carb bolus all by himself. This is a BIG step. Someday he is going to have to manage is diabetes all on his own. Not anytime soon of course, but these baby steps are an important part of his independence. He was so excited and proud of himself.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Have Ride - Will Bowl - 3/28/11

     Well today didn't happen quite like I planned it. Last night my husband took my oldest out to practice some turns so she'd be ready to go get her driver's license today. Unfortunately, the night of practice ended in a car accident :(  Luckily both of them were ok. Of course lots of scenarios run through your mind when something like this happens. But trying to stay focused about being in the NOW helps. None of those awful things happened. So there is no point in dwelling on them. Of course I am concerned about what this will mean for the future, but none of the stories I am imagining in my head about the future are real. There is no point in worrying about them or wasting time and energy dwelling on them. Best to just deal with the moments as they come. As for now, I had 4 kids who wanted to go bowling and no car!

   After some scrambling around and some offers by various friends to help, we ended up getting Grandma to come over and give us a lift to the bowling alley. That made for 4 happy kids!  Before we left though we were able to get in a little bit of school. BUT, first things first! J needed a site change for his insulin pump. He only had 3 units of insulin left so he had to get a shot for breakfast, so we needed to get that done asap.

After that Jem and Scout worked on their handwriting and did watercolor pictures. Flossie and Freddie did watercolor paintings too. The good thing about us doing preschool now is that my big kids will get more art time. It is something we have done less and less of just because we have been needing to get more school subjects done, but art time is so much a part of preschool, that I know my kids will love joining in :)

Freddie and Jem worked side by side with pattern blocks.  One of the cool things about homeschooling is mixed age grouping. Sometimes you can get this in some schools, but not often. Today I got to see this in action. Jem has been working with pattern blocks for a long time and loves making intricate designs. Freddie saw what he was doing and sat down next to him and then copied his design. Then he went on to add to his own design . The ability of a child to observe and copy the work of older kids and then to move on and expand their work with their own ideas is an invaluable benefit of mixed-age classrooms.

 After that Freddie and Flossie did a little bit of table work on color pattern cards that I printed from here using fruit and farm animal sorters. Freddie also wanted to do a letter B worksheet from Tot School.  We know how he loves his school!

By this time Grandma's taxi service had arrived! Diabetes supplies packed. Car seats installed. Water bottles all around. Off we went.  The bowling alley was offering homeschoolers 2 hours of free bowling plus shoes rental. They had it all set up for us with bumpers and light-weight balls. They talked to the kids about bowling etiquette, and how-tos. They were really well organized, friendly and helpful. We of course got some bowling alley food and the kids had lots of fun. Freddie got a strike on his very first turn! Flossie needed help at first, but by the end was saying she would do it by herself and was doing just that. By the end of two games we were all pooped out and ready to head home for lunch and naps!

While the little guys were napping, Jem worked on his math. After working in his Singapore Math workbook, he pulled out an Evan-Moor Math Center. I love these because he can do them on his own once he knows the directions. He like to do them again and again and they are good for continued practice on a particular skill. Today it was subtraction.

Scout listened to her History lecture. We do History at Our House. We LOVE it! We have all learned so much. This year the subject is American History. The half hour lectures are given every day except Friday. On that day she does History of the Americas where she learns about the history of Mexico and Canada. On Thursdays the lesson is a History through Art one where they study a history related painting. On Wednesday she joins the group in the live phone lecture. The other days she listens to the recorded lecture.

After that both kids listened to their Music at Our House lecture. This is a new program this year. We are also enjoying this program. It is given twice a week. They are being exposed to music they would never normally hear, and are learning the history of the progression of music. Today we were listening to and comparing Renaissance music. Very cool!

After naps we had storytime. We re-read Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You Hear? by Eric Carle. Preschoolers love repetition. They love to be able to predict what will come next. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and builds their self-esteem. It is also great for early reading skills when you can point to the words in a book they have already memorized so they can see the words and seem to be "reading" it. We also read Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson - one of J's favorites.