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!


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