I know we are only four weeks into school but so far this year I am really pleased with all the curriculum and products I have purchased for school. Gess seems to be adapting to them well and they are offering lots of opportunities for her to do some things hands on.
Her Beginning Steps to Reading Program is really great although at this point it has been all review. We haven't gotten into word blends yet, we are just learning the sounds letters make. While Gess is reading extremely well, she mostly reads by sight. She knows her phonetic sounds and she has successfully sounded out some words and makes some good tries with others. Still we haven't quite gotten into blending sounds very much and she can't do that in any consistent way, but we are getting there! So far we have just gone over her short vowel sounds (which we knew from last year) but this time she really seems to be getting the differences between them. She always could tell A from the others, but lets face it people, it isn't that easy to tell the difference between a short I or a short E sound in the middle of word, especially when you have slight hearing loss in one ear, but she is starting to get it. She can definitely tell you what sound each letter makes or what sound you are making if that is all you are doing, its putting it into practice at the start of a word that is more difficult, but she can do it fairly well! This is the part of the day where she has the most seat work but she likes it. Its still pretty interactive where she will have to listen for answers and then write the correct letter or match objects and such. They also have some worksheets that require cutting and gluing to help reinforce the concept and she loves those.
I am just introducing the concept of spelling by having her play Boggle Jr. While we are learning that letters make sounds and will soon be doing blends, since she has learned most of her words by sight I am just now starting to show her how those words are spelled, emphasizing the need to break it down to sound it out. Yes, we are doing this backwards from the way most people approach reading but it is working for us and that is all that matters.
We are loving Math U See as well. She has her green unit blocks and can build any numbers 0 - 9. She could probably build them larger, but that is all we have done so far. Their method is to have the child build it, write it, and then say it. So for example, she will have 10 squares and a number beside it and have to put that many blocks there. After she puts the correct number of blocks in the spaces she removes them and colors in the corresponding squares. It really is helpful for her to use her hands to build it first, she loves that part. Then she traces the number and says it. There are some that just have pictures that she has to count and it will have the choice of two answers. She traces the correct one and crosses out the other and we say this is "seven" it is not "six." Now this too is all review, she can recognize and build up to almost 20 but we are starting from a 0-9 number system instead of a 1-10 which will be a bit different but does make a lot of sense. Here is one of her finished pages.
I got her Bible, Science, and Social Studies workbooks from Christian Light Education and they are pretty basic. For Bible it just has the story with a coloring or activity sheet for her to do. That is simple enough and is followed with prayer. That is how we start each day. We have started in Genesis and so far have learned about the creation, Adam, Eve, the garden, and Cain and Abel.
I alternate Science and Social Studies each day. These books have some fill in the blanks and I usually do that writing for her or let her answer with a letter instead of a word. For instance to answer which picture is big or little she wrote in L or B. She doesn't always write the letter well but its good practice. When they ask her questions where they want her to draw an answer I usually have her go and actually find something instead. For instance they wanted her to draw something that had each shape it in. That meant she was supposed to draw four pictures one for a circle, square, triangle and rectangle. Well her writing skills won't handle that so instead she went and found me things with those shapes and I just wrote down what she brought me. This makes it a more hands on experience and lets her move around a bit. It also makes it a lot more fun. We do that sort of thing so much that she now stands up when I get the book out because she knows its a time when she gets to move around. So even when we are just reading from the books sometimes she does that standing up. There is nothing wrong with doing a lesson on your feet instead of in your chair! So far in Science we have learned about how colors, shapes and sizes help us to sort and learn about objects. For instance they used a banana to tell how its different colors let us know if it is good to eat (green is not ripe, yellow is good, brown is rotten). In Social Studies we are learning about our families and different ways in which we communicate.
We are also using Handwriting Without Tears but I did not get this years curriculum because I did not think she was ready for it yet. She was still struggling with last years. Well, she sure has matured a bit over the summer and our activities seem to be strengthening her motor skills because she is doing a pretty good job of keeping the letters in the lines. So the other day I went ahead and ordered the latest books and we will start fresh with them when they come in. In the meantime she is getting some practice while doing her other workbooks and we are using her blocks to make the letters we study each day in her reading program. She then writes it on the chalkboard. I am anxious to get the new materials in though!
We also go the library every Monday and of course there is Ballet on Tuesday. I also have a ladies bible study that I attend each week so that gets her a couple hours of playtime with other kids (some ladies have kids under 5 and some also homeschool and have kids her age and older). We try to get the park as often as we can (I am so glad it finally stopped raining so that we can) and Grandma babysits her on Friday afternoons while I do some volunteer work at an afterschool youth center in town. I hope to one day eventually bring her there with me.
I plan to enroll her in AWANA at church but she has such a hard time waiting for her turn during game time and stuff that I am waiting until things calm down a bit. The first few weeks are pretty hectic. I know she will do good with the memorizing, I just want to make sure they have enough hands to handle her (she has a tendency to wander off). They of course encourage me to bring her on in, I just want to make her transition in as smooth as possible. For those who do not know much about AWANA it stands for Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed or something like that and it is a Bible club that encourages bible memorization. They earn awards every time they get so far in their books and they have uniform vests that they wear and such. I got really excited when I found out that they offered help for children with special needs! For the younger kids they have all the verses shortened to make it easier for them to memorize. They have it so you can get some labels and print the shorter verses up and just place them over the original verses inside the book. Once I saw that I knew that Gess could not only attend and have fun, but be able to do the work too! For the older kids they have a leaders guide that helps the leader find ways to make their inclusion a success.
I tried to get her into Brownies but apparently no one else in our town with kids her age are interested. There is no Brownie troop at this time. I even offered to lead if they found others to join but I guess they had no luck. Maybe when she gets older she can start up in Girl Scouts.
So that's where we are at after one month of school. I am having a blast preparing my lessons each week and teaching them each day. Gess is just a sponge, she loves to learn when you offer the information in a fun and interactive way. Once she puts her hands to something it generally sticks with her!