Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Project: Daily Bible Reading

I have been utilizing to read the bible in a year. I am actually following two separate plans, one to read the Old Testament and the other to read the New Testament. The daily readings are emailed to me and I read it right here on my computer first thing each morning. They offer a large variety of reading plans as well as bible versions.

Lately Gess has been getting up while I have been reading and sometimes reads it with me. So as we enter the new year I thought I would have Gess read with me intentionally from now on. Beginning tomorrow I will have Gess join me with the New Testament readings. With this plan you simply read 1 chapter a day Monday - Friday and have no readings on the weekends. This will lead perfectly into our schooling each day.

I have been searching for a large print bible for Gess as she still seems to read better with larger print. I have not found one that is suitable for our needs yet. Because of that I have found reading the bible online a great way for Gess to easily follow along. Especially since we added the Readability feature to our browser.

I learned about Readability from a blog I follow called Free Resources from the Net for Every Learner. His blog Readability - Without distracting Web Page Clutter shows how to install it and how it works.

So using Readability takes this page:

and changes it to a more reader friendly and larger print page that looks like this:

There are ways to increase font size without using Readability such as hitting Ctrl + several times but this is nice because it only takes one click of the button to get it readable and it focuses the page only on the text you are looking for. To get back to the original page you simply click the button on the top left hand corner. So it just takes one click to a large print simple format and then one click back when you are done.

This will be a great exercise for Gess in many ways. She will practice reading, learn how to make pages more reader friendly and of course learn the Scriptures. Gess and I usually alternate turns by each reading a paragraph or verse, which ever seems to work best for each passage. This way we are both participating and interacting during the reading. It's about sharing and learning what we are doing, not simply reading it. Hopefully we will stick with this and at the end of the year Gess will have read along with entire New Testament! There is nothing like starting good habits while they are young! I hope this is one she learns well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas is about giving

I really want to teach Gesserine that Christmas should be more about giving than receiving, so I always try to have her give to others. We started by participating in Operation Christmas Child which is something we have done for a few years now. All you do is choose whether you want to give to a boy or girl and decide what age age group you want to buy for. Then you fill a shoebox full of presents and goodies and Samaritan's Purse sends them around the world to children who are in need. It's really a great program and an awesome way to teach about giving. Gess enjoyed helping me pick out the gifts, I added some essentials and then together we packed our boxes. This year we chose to do both a boy and girl ages 5-9 since that is the age bracket Gess would be in.

Next we tried to find things to do for our personal family and friends. This year we decided to make homemade Christmas cards. We found some Christmas coloring pages online for her to decorate them with. I found these ones at Kaboose to be perfect for what were doing. After she colored the picture she glued it onto a piece of cardstock and then decorated the rest of the card with stickers or cut out pictures from old Christmas cards. We even cut out of some the words to add greetings to the cards. (I did the cutting, Gess did the coloring and gluing.) She made close to 20 of them and I think they turned out pretty good.

We made cookies for Christmas last year and they were simply too much work and too much mess for me. So this year I found an easy recipe at for Delicious Pumpkin Bread. One recipe made 8 mini loaves of bread. Gess helped me mix all the ingredients, stir and pour them into the pans. That's all there was to it. Now we had little loaves of bread to give out with some of the cards!

Gess also bought some gifts with her own money which we wrapped together and put under the tree. She is really excited about Christmas and getting toys and now hopefully she also realizes that Christmas means you give gifts away as well as receive them. (See our blog Christmas Tree to see other Christmas activities this year.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Seasons, Holidays and Calendar Activity

We study each holiday as it rolls around and each day we do our calendar so that we know what the date is including the month and year. We have also studied the seasons and what each season brings such as summer is warm and sunny and winter has snow, etc. So as we start this next year I want to really focus on tying it all together. I started by making the following activity.

I divided a large piece of paper into 4 sections and labeled them Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Then I printed up the name of each month and cut them out. I had Gess pick a month and try to place it in the correct block.

She actually did pretty good and got at least half of them right. Of course, since this was her first time I helped her until we got them all right.

We then added our weather symbols from our weather board so she could visually tie in the weather with the months that belong in each season. I wasn't really certain how to symbolize fall, but those were all we had left anyway. I don't have a leaf on my weather board! Anyway, in the end it looked like this:

Now I wanted to delve even deeper. While Gess found the first part of this fairly easy, this next part was quite a challenge for her. That is alright though, I plan on spending the entire year next year working this one out. As we celebrate each holiday we will emphasize the month and season it is in rather than just the purpose for our celebration. This will be a good visual tool to help her see the connection. Maybe by this time next year she will know where more of these belong.

We did the same thing as before. We had her pick a holiday and try to put in the corresponding season.

This time though we had the months under each title so we placed them in the correct season and month. After we were finished I would just quiz her. For example I would say, "name a holiday we celebrate in the fall," "name a holiday we celebrate in November," or "What season (or month) do we celebrate Groundhog Day" etc. She would use our finished board to help her find the answers.

As we start the new year I will have something like this but on a larger scale. We will have something marked with the seasons and a card for each month. As we celebrate and study a holiday we will put a picture for it on that card and place it in the correct season. By the end of next year I think she will have a better grasp on how our year is divided and know which seasons and months go together.

Another game that my speech therapist recommended is to use the cards with the names of the months and simply practice putting them in order. First have a board/paper that has the months listed in order and just have them match the cards. Once they get good at that remove the list and stop matching. The next step is to place the cards in order but leave a few of them out and have them place them in the appropriate blank. Leave more and more out until they are putting them all in order on their own. We already do this with the days of the week but will be doing the months soon.

Another great tool is the My Calendar Book by Christian Light Publications. For each month you have something that you keep track of every day. It might be the temperature, the strength of the wind, the rainfall, or other things related to that season and month. At the end of the book they get to graph the results. There is also a coloring page for each month that says the season on it as well as questions for each month such as what month it is (3rd, 4th, etc), how many days does it have and what season is it in. I really liked it this year but lost track of it in the summer. I am getting another book and starting over again in January. (This is a book that goes from Jan - Dec rather than following the school year so if you want to use it you should get it now.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Tree

Gesserine was so anxious to put up our Christmas tree that she suggested we do it before Thanksgiving was even here. It was so cute, as I was sitting at my computer one afternoon she came up to me and said, "I have an idea, let's do Christmas!" I reminded her that we needed to Thanksgiving first and to that she replied "Oh, ok." Well, each day she kept asking for the tree, so the day after Thanksgiving she finally got her wish.

I wrote a poem when my boys were younger that shares how each part of the tree is a reminder of the time when Christ was born. Here is how it goes:

A Message From Your Christmas Tree

As Christmas nears there is a lot to do,
shopping, cooking and decorating too.
With all this bustling it's easy to leave out,
what Christmas time is really about.
So this year when you put up your tree,
tell someone the secret meaning of me.

I'm an evergreen tree that you choose to use,
like Jesus' love you will never lose.
The lights on me that sparkle and shine,
tells that Jesus is this light of mine.
From my branches hang ornaments, shiny and new
like the heart that was changed inside of you.
As the wise men followed the bright shining star,
mine reminds us that Jesus is never far.
The angels sang praises on Jesus' birth,
mine symbolizes that day he came to live on earth.
And as the presents lay underneath it all,
remember that Jesus is the greatest gift of all.
We also had some lessons in our ladies bible study group that had some neat ideas about using the advent calendar, candles and other traditions as hands on ways to share the message of Christmas and keep us mindful of the reason we choose to celebrate it. A book she shared that was a great resource for her was the ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Welchel.

I was very unfamiliar with anything that dealt with Advent but I learned that there are many neat symbols we can use as tools to help teach our children about Christmas and what it really is all about. Having a child that is very much a hands on learner, I think I will start implementing these ideas in a greater degree next year. For this year I decided to start with the Advent Calendar which will do two things for me, help my daughter see for herself how many days until Christmas (so she will stop asking me every few minutes!) and offer us a lesson and Scripture for each day.

DLTK is a site that I often go to for very simple craft and coloring pages. Having remembered seeing they had some advent calendars and other activities I went to the DLTK Advent Activities page and started searching. I found two things we are doing this year because they were simple and easy to implement without any planning. One is the simple printable Christmas Tree Calendar Craft. That is how we keep track of the days. Each time that we do this I also print up one of the Christmas Story Advent Coloring Pages that has a picture and bible verse for each day from December 1 to Christmas day. That keeps our focus on the meaning of the holiday. At the end she will have a nice book with the entire Christmas story in it that she made by herself.

Here you see Gess between the tree she helped put up and decorate and her advent calendar on the wall. She is holding one of her pictures of the coloring book. I think she will truly have a better understanding of our Christmas heritage after all this is said and done.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tool Time with Daddy

With Gess down with Strep throat and the holiday this week I thought this would be great time to share some pictures my husband took one day when he took Gess out to the garage with him. She loves to play while daddy works but this time she wanted to do what daddy was doing, so daddy let her do just that!

Here is how I think it went down.

"Daddy, I want to hammer too." Daddy says, "Ok, here is a hammer, a piece of wood and nail, have fun!"

While she is enjoying herself, she looks up and says...

"Daddy, I need more wood."
Daddy, says "sure, come here and cut some."

"Perfect! That's just what I needed!"

That's probably not exactly how it happened, but either way you can see she had a great time! Working with dad sure is fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Activities 2009

We are, of course, preparing for Thanksgiving by implementing it into our homeschool activities. Below are the things we did to study Thanksgiving this year. (For more Thanksgiving ideas visit my blog from last year titled "Thanksgiving.")


Gess learned about the founding of America in our Christian Light Education Social Studies Unit. In these lessons Gess learned all about the Pilgrims, why they came to America on the Mayflower and how the Indians helped them to learn how to plant corn among many other things.


To build on that we added additional activities. First we checked out books at the library. I really liked the books we checked out last year so we checked out the same ones again this year. We also got a Thanksgiving craft book that has several crafts that are fairly simple. It is called 175 Easy-To-Do Thanksgiving Crafts.

Crafts: Pumpkin Pie Game

The craft we chose from the book 175 Easy-To-Do Thanksgiving Crafts was the Pumpkin Pie Game. I thought this would be a great way to not only do a craft but to practice her calculator work for math.

To make the Pumpkin Pie Game you will need: a paper plate, orange and brown paint, scissors and a marker.

First you paint the center of the plate orange (we used a mixture of orange and red).

Then you paint the edge brown to make the crust.

After your pie dries you cut it into six slices and use a marker to number each slice 1-6. Now your game is ready to play!

To play the Pumpkin Pie Game you need: pumpkin pie made above and one die

To play the game you have each player roll the die two times (the book called for three but I wanted to simplify it for Gess). After each throw the player removes the numbered piece of pie that matches the number on the die. Add the numbers of the pieces removed and write the total on a score sheet. If the player rolls a duplicate number their turn is over and they get no points that round. After each player's turn put the pie back together. The player with the highest score after four rounds is the winner.

It's that simple. This is a fun way to practice simple math. Gess is learning to use a calculator so I let her use it to add the numbers and write the total down on the score sheet. We will play it as a game taking turns, but we also plan to use it as a simple math activity without keeping score or taking turns. Gess will simply roll the die two times, add the pieces on the calculator, find the answer and repeat several times.

The pie game will be in season throughout the entire holiday season but the game will keep as long as the pie stays in shape. You can always make other pies too. Regardless of the time of year, this is a fun way to work on basic math skills with a game you created yourself!

Crafts: Thankful Wreath of Leaves

Another craft we chose was from Enchanted Learning where we got our craft for Thanksgiving last year too. This time, instead of the turkey we chose the Thankful Wreath of Leaves. With this craft she got some cutting work in as she cut out the simpler shaped leaves. (I cut out the more detailed ones.)

Then Gess wrote down things she was thankful for on them. Next we cut a half circle out of the center and wrote "I am thankful for..." in the remaining center piece. Finally she glued the leaves around the outside to make the wreath.


We used this along with our study through the week of things we are thankful for. One day in school I wrote on the chalkboard "Thank you God for..." and had her name things she was thankful for. Some of these I had to help remind her of by saying things like "what do we thank God for at meal time?" which of course reminded her of food. Some she came up with on her own. She also looked around for clues and read John 3:16 which we have posted on the wall. That is what made her think of things like eternal life, Jesus and love. We prayed and thanked God for many of these things. We referred back to this list when it was time to write on the leaves in our craft. Here is what Gess was thankful for this year.

Gess and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading 1 - Spelling

I really love the way the Phonetic and Spelling book is laid out in the Reading 1 - Bible Blessing Readers curriculum. It is set up in a way that encourages success, especially for children with special needs. We start with phonetic spelling. Each lesson has at least two vowel sets. For example it might be a short e and long e vowel set like the one you will see below. Because there are two sets in a lesson we make sure we do each set on different days. I do not want to confuse Gess by doing two rules at the same time. (Remember that some of these are review from Beginning Steps to Reading that we completed last year)

I start by showing her the rule on the chalkboard and then share examples of how they are used in words. When we are ready for her to spell on her own we go to her workbook and have her write the vowel set at the top of the page. (The book has a "basket" of apples at the top of each row to write them in). This of course sets up the work in a way that encourages success. She knows what vowels we are focusing on and can therefore worry about "hearing" the sounds of the consonants. Even though she knows what vowels we are looking for, she is still learning how they belong in the words. Here is a page after we have completed both days.

Next we do more work with sentences. Like the lesson from last week where we Used Words in Sentences that were from our story, we take our vocabulary words and place them in sentences. However this time the sentence is already written for us, we just need to plug in the proper spelling word. So now she is not only learning how to spell a word, but also to define what it means. You really need to comprehend the meaning of a word to use it in a sentence. Again, this is set up in a way that makes it easy for her to succeed because she does not simply have to pull words out of her memory, but instead has the words written on the page next to it. (I will also have her read them off to me and write them on the board before we do this step so she can see them better.)

At the bottom of this page is a section for her to mark whether the vowels are long or short. I was not going to worry about this section but I changed my mind. We do this together and again I usually write the word on the board so she can see it better. It is a good exercise to remind her when a vowel is short or long.

Of course the thing I love the most about this curriculum is that Gess is really becoming a tremendous reader. She can pick up a book and read it to herself and you will find her doing that an awful lot! Not only is she reading books and understanding them, but she is reading everything she sees. Signs, items on the shelf in the store, banners, bulletin boards and even what I type on the computer. This Reading program from Eastern Mennonite Publications has been a tremendous asset to her success.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reading 1 - Using Words in Sentences

We finally started on Reading 1 - Bible Blessing Readers which is the curriculum that follows the Beginning Steps to Reading that I previously blogged about. (You have to write Eastern Mennonite Publications for a catalog they do not have a website)As I have stated before, this curriculum was meant to be done all in one year. Beginning Steps to Reading is used for the first semester and Reading 1 for the second. Since my daughter has Down Syndrome I have slowed this material down tremendously and am using each one of them for an entire year. I used Beginning Steps for Kindergarten and am using Reading 1 as 1st grade. (While Gess would be in the 2nd grade based upon her age, socially and academically we are calling this her 1st grade year even though it is our 3rd year homeschooling.)

I am really loving Reading 1 so far as it too progresses at a slower pace. It also still offers multiple choice answers to some questions which really gives children with special needs an opportunity to not just know the potential answer, but to know what they are looking for. Often times children with special needs get the answer wrong because they are simply confused as to what the question means. This material seems to help my daughter in that regard. While my daughter is now writing all the answers to the questions, it does allow the child to simply circle the answer if their motor skills are not yet ready for all that writing. The spelling section does however require lots of writing, but that can always be adapted to other methods like using a keyboard or magnets as I have done in the past (see my Spelling blog for more about that). I will post more about the spelling with this curriculum in a future blog.

For each lesson we have a Bible story that we first teach by emphasizing key words. They also have the story in their reader. There are two sets of workbooks. The first one is for answering questions about the reader and also has activities related to the key words. The other is for spelling and it has one page to spell the words and one to use those words in a sentence. There are also several activities that we do to supplement the workbooks. I want to focus on one of those today.

Each bible story has key words that we focus on. One of the activities we do each week is to have the child use some of those key words in a sentence. I thought that would really be a challenge for Gess but by week 5 she is beginning to come up with sentences all on her own! Sometimes I have to help her restructure the sentence but she is at least telling me a sentence or two that utilizes the key word. I was so excited that this time I had her actually write it down so daddy could see. I wrote the sentence for her and had her fill in the key word. However, these were sentences that Gess came up with herself!

Generally though, it is an oral exercise and no writing is required. The first word we had today was "friends." I started by giving her an example of using it in a sentence by saying, "My friends came over for dinner." I then told her to tell me about her friends and use it in a sentence. She said "I went to the store." Well, I encouraged her to use the word by saying "with?" and she added "my friends." So we wrote that down as a sentence. The next word was night and she came up with that sentence immediately! The word "now" was a bit tougher for her. She came up with "now is school." Usually I tell her each morning "It's time for school" so we added that wording with what she came up with to make it a proper sentence, "Now it is time for school." The yellow she got on her own too. She first said sun after seeing the word yellow. I let her talk it through and reminded her to say it in a sentence. Eventually she said "The sun is yellow." I find that letting her talk it through to be important. Sometimes it seems as if she doesn't have the concept and is babbling about nothing and then finally the word will come out. She simply was telling me a story about whatever it was rather than just one sentence!

Of course we had to begin by first teaching her the concept of what I was looking for. I began the first couple of lessons by explaining that we wanted to use a word in a sentence. I would use it in a sentence for her and then ask her to try too. To show her what I meant I would use it in a partial sentence and have her help me fill in the blank so to speak. For the word "little" I would say "the what is little?" She would say "dog." Then we would say "The dog is little" and I would write that down on the chalkboard. That way she could see we were looking for a way to talk about little. Even now after I say "use it in a sentence" I will sometimes explain that by that I mean for her to "tell me about the word." "Tell me about your friends", or "tell me something about the word yellow", etc. She has come along in the 5 weeks since have started to work on this concept. I can not wait to see how well she can use words in a sentence by the end of the year!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gess' 8th Birthday!

Gess is now 8 years old! I am so excited because this means she can finally get in a car without a booster seat! I am also glad because each year reminds me just how far we have come and just how blessed we truly are. I knew nothing about Down Syndrome when Gess was born. We have been through open heart surgery, feeding issues and Gtube placement surgery, ear tubes, vision problems and constant patching, reflux issues, various therapies like OT, PT and Speech. With all of that I can only say that our lives are the better for it all. Regardless of the trials and hardships we have faced, the blessing that Gess has brought to our lives and the lessons we have learned about prejudices, fear and the sanctity of all human life are more than worth any cost we could have paid. We actually do not see these things as hardships, merely challenges to overcome. And overcome them we do! Each new milestone, each new lesson learned, each new discovery made, brings an abundant joy that we would have never known otherwise. We count them all as joy. The Lord has used the life of my little girl to teach many others the joy of His love. May he continue to bless and use her life in that way for many, many years to come!

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy , my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Gess and I on her Birthday!

She put the decorations on all by herself!! She also helped bake the cake.

8 Candles...get ready and blow! (No it took several tries, she did not blow them all out at once!)

Opening her presents. The CD Player was funny, she read that it was a Boombox. I asked "Do you know what that is?" She said, "A box!" as though that was cool enough! She now has a CD Player in her room and loves it!

We cheated and got her a costume for her birthday. We don't really do Halloween but they are wearing costumes to gymnastics this week. She picked this one out and we got her a kit to go with it. She loves playing Doctor, maybe it's because she spent the last 8 years visiting them so often. She still loves going to them though, so that at least is good!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Parental Rights Amendment - Video Contest Winner

Recently held a video contest for people who wanted to make videos promoting parental rights. Here is their winner in the adult category. I try not to get too political on this blog, but I do not believe protecting the rights of parents should be political. I do fear there are real threats to my ability, not only to homeschool my children, but to simply raise my children according to my own belief system. If you too feel that parental rights are at stake I encourage you to visit and support the parental rights amendment. Together we can keep the government from interfering with the most basic of relationships, the foundation of every society, the family.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kids Health: How The Body Works

Gess was down with a cold a couple of weeks ago and we used that time to discuss some things about germs and what happens when you are sick. We talked about the importance of proper hand-washing, covering your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze. She does these things most of the time, but we really stressed why it was important. To support what we were discussing, I went online to look for a video that taught about germs. I found one at

At they have a whole series called "How the Body Works." This covers many areas such as the Heart & Circulatory System, Brain and Nervous System, Bones & Skeletal System, Digestive System, and many others.

Gess and I watched the one on the Immune System. It taught her how a cold virus tries to attack the system and what the body is doing inside to fight it off. She has watched it several times now and really likes it. It is pretty detailed so younger children may not really grasp all the information (I am not sure that Gess does either), but it is still entertaining and good for them to get out of it what they can.

We plan on trying the other movies in the How the Body Works series as well. However, I do want to warn you that I am not real familiar with Kids Health so this is not an endorsement for everything they say on their website. I just think this series looks really helpful,especially for home-schoolers and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learning Our Address and Phone Number

A few years ago I set Gess to memorizing her address and phone number. I started by teaching her what city she lived in. I found a state map of Kansas and had her locate our city on the map. Eventually she could point to that general vicinity, even when the city was not marked on the map. After she learned the name and location of her city, I had her start memorizing her address.

The reason I wanted her to understand her city first is that we travel out of the city quite often (mostly for doctor's appointments). While she is improving now that she is older, when she was younger she was quite the wanderer. If she got lost and someone asked her what her address was, I wanted her to be able to clearly tell them where she was from. Whether or not they could understand what she said was another issue but practicing this quite often really helped her articulation to improve.

After she knew what her city was called and where she lived I had her memorize these two sentences (one at a time, but eventually spoken together). I always have her memorize by reading the words. She really does well with visual helps rather than simply repeating words I say. She actually did not know most of these words until we did this, so it helped enhance her sight words as well.

Then I would ask her, "where do you live" And she would repeat the entire thing. If I asked her, "what is your address" she would respond by saying just the second sentence. I believe this was enough to help if she were to find herself lost and a police officer asked her where she lived.

The only problem is, those are the only ways she knows to answer those questions. When asked what street she lived on the other day by her gymnastics coach, she answered "gymnastics." He told her that was a great street to live on! However, it was inaccurate. So I figured it was time to teach her some various ways to respond to these questions. So what I have done is made this chart with her address listed on it. (Of course I am not posting our actual address for you all to see, just using a generic example)

Now she is visually seeing which category each part of her address goes in as she says it. Then I will ask her, "what is your house number", "what is your street name", "what is your city", etc. This way she is realizing that each part of her address has a particular reason for being there and she will know what that is. Once she gets this down, we will take her address out of the equation and make her place each one in the appropriate spot using cards like this.

After that we will place each category in random order such as State, House Number, City, and Street and see if she still places them correctly. I might also make a house, and draw a street to put it on. I will place that inside a drawing of our city which we will then place on a map of our state. I am not sure exactly how that will pan out but you get the idea.

Our goal is to have her be able to answer each part without any visual cues. I think this will be a fun and more visual way to learn not only how to say her address but understand what it all means. I am hopeful that whenever she is asked about her address in the future she will understand how to communicate the information correctly, no matter how she is asked. (Then we will have to teach her to not share that information with just any stranger! Boy, the lessons just never end!)

We memorized her phone number in the same manner. I had her memorize the sentence "My phone number is 123-4567." Then when I asked, what is your phone number, she would repeat the sentence, not just the numbers. This was tougher because keeping the numbers in order is tricky! I also cheated and had her say the last part in 2 double digit numbers. Let's say it was 1345 she would say "thirteen forty-five." I know I will have to undo this as she learns to actually dial our number but I have three digits that repeat themselves in a row and it was just too confusing for her! We are starting to work on dialing it now but it is going slowly. We found a cute Fisher Price Phone that helps you do it though, so hopefully this will make it more fun!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...