Summer Learning

We have been so busy lately we have not been keeping up with our record keeping or any other blogs.

So here is what we have been doing:

Clubhouse: Cassie and Eric are working with me to build a clubhouse out of 2x4’s and plywood. They are learning about tools, doing things in order, measuring, and a thousand other lessons. There is also the important lesson of “imagine it, plan it, work the plan and watch your dream become reality. This is such an important lesson for our family and our kid’s education. It started as an idea and they watched and helped as it became a reality.

Reading: Cassie is reading more and also writing notes. Writing to communicate is a milestone. She still gets flustered at pages of words, but can read short messages quite confidently. Eric plays a lot of video games, but he knows he needs to take a break and read daily. He usually has a few books going at any given time. Stephanie reads every day and also plays video games that require reading. She has really got Eric into Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney. He is interested in a career in law at this point.

Games: Eric likes his new game Wario DIY (Do it Yourself). It is a game that lets you make up your own mini-game and create and play it. He loves anything that helps him create instead of just enjoying others’ creations. He loves Scribblenaughts, powder game, flipnotes, and now Wario’s DIY. He is excited to show me his newest game and I am excited to see it!

Math: I have been putting math questions to the kids whenever I can, which is every day. I get them to think of how to formulate a math question so they can use a formula to get the answer. Eric is getting more confident in his math skills as he finds he has the ability to think things through and get the correct answer. He needs confidence boosters.

We are learning places (tens ones and hundreds) at the same time as the basic concepts of subtraction, addition, multiplication and division. Eric is behind in math so it works out real good that Cassie is learning things and Eric can get his remedial learning done by tapping into her lesson, thereby allowing him to learn without embarrassment. He is ahead of her in some conceptual areas, but they are really close in terms of math ability. Some of the problems we do in our heads as we drive, and some are done with paper and pencil as I show them the places and try to present carrying without hurting their heads or mine. Sometimes I would like to turn them over to a math tutor. That could still happen—later.

Stephanie still dives and learns about running the spearfishing shop while we wait for word from the bank. We have business discussions and strategy sessions. I value her input and she will have some influence in decisions if we end up running the store.  She has plans to play paintball with youth group on Saturday.

She and I have conversations about history, literature, music, science, current events, math and other relevant subjects. I am deliberate about asking her things we have talked about to test her comprehension and retention. I guess she retains about 80% of what I teach her and the remaining 20% she needs a nudge. But she remembers theories and concepts especially well. So some facts fall between the cracks, but the ideas are rooted in fertile soil. 

Life goes on and learning is not segregated from living and doing.

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Jack and the “Pea” Stalk

As part of our get healthy kick we’ve been planting vegetables. It makes sense to try to grow our own, rather than pay for sub standard vegetables that go bad two days after you get them home.
So we have planted tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, eggplant, dillweed, swiss chard, peppers (red mildly hot ones), and two pea plants. The pea plants were started in pots in my office. And actually are still there. The cantaloupe we planted around the same time was moved home and is quietly taking over its corner of the garden. But my two lone pea plants were growing very slowly. Apparently beans grow well on Guam but peas need cooler temperatures. We tried putting them outside but they wilted fast and almost died. So I’ve been coaxing them along in the front window of my classroom.
Last week both plants grew a yellow flower. I was very excited, because flowers mean fruit (or in this case, vegetable). And today, there was a pea pod! I snapped a few pictures with my iphone and this is what came out.
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Looks to me like the top of the bean stalk with the giant’s castle up on the hill in the background. I can just imagine Jack poking his head out of the ground as he climbs that “pea” stalk!
Cassie and Eric have been actively involved in our gardening adventures. They helped me pick out seeds at K-mart. They’ve gone with dad to the Dept. of Agriculture to buy tomato and pepper plants. They’ve accompanied us to Home Depot for soil and other gardening supplies. They’ve helped dig and plant and water the plants. When it comes harvest time, they are eager to reap the harvest. So far we’ve been able to eat cherry tomatoes and eggplant. But it looks like peas are on their way!

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On Friday we went with my good friend Bernie and another homeschooling family for a hike to Talafofo Caves. These caves are located on the highway up from route 4, heading into the village of Talafofo. We parked our cars in the grassy parking area, donned our backpacks with water bottles and snacks, grabbed our walking sticks and started hiking. I was a bit nervous because of my knees. Would I be able to climb the rocks? Would I be able to go down steep hills? It turned out to be not that difficult of a hike. My knees survived. it was hot though and next time I attempt this I would wear a hat, bring more water and take more rests!

Cassie is a little trooper and had a great time climbing through the caves, going into dark scary holes and out the other side. Eric did well too, but opted not to hike through the 3rd cave (I too had to opt out as the way down looked too steep for me). This apparently was the best cave of all. Perhaps next time we do this hike I’ll brave it! There were three caves we visited and one look out point where we saw a WWII marker, indicating that this was a spot that either the Japanese or the Americans used as a look out point.

One of the things I really appreciated about this hike was seeing the wide variety of jungle vegetation. We saw many wild mandarin orange trees, several wild papaya and avocado trees and another native fruit tree that bore a nut like fruit that resembled a mango.

Here is a photo album of our adventure hike!

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Eric about to enter the Cave….

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The view from the top of the cliff. Ms. Bernie, Cassie and friend Adrian.

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Cool rock formations and freaky vines.

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Cassie climbs through the cave!~

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Cassie’s Adventures in Reading

Cassandra took a huge leap into reading yesterday.

I had made a book with stories about our pets. Each chapter was about six sentences about a different cat. The book was lost for some time and we were trying to get her to read age-appropriate material that is also her reading level, which is currently quite a bit lower than her interest/maturity level. (That’s the biggest problem I see with late readers; most of the easy readers are for 4 and 5 year-olds, not seven or eight.) Well, we found the book. I opened it and Cassie jumped up onto my lap and started to read.

She read the first story and even got the word dangerous without tripping. There were some other tough words that no longer intimidate her. The second story was about a cat named Pineapple, who was tragically struck down by a car speeding through our village last week. So Cassie enjoyed reading about Pineapple as a memorial. Eric joined in for this part. (Pineapple was his pet and his friend.) The word Pineapple was repeated. And here is where Cassie made a quantum leap. She had just read “Pineapple” and the next sentence started with the same word. So I told her. I said, “Look. This word is the same as the one you just read. So you do not need to sound it all out and figure out what the letters spell. All you got to do is remember what this word looks like.”

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AH-HAH! I didn’t tell her to memorize this important word. She gets scared by that. No, I just said that she knows what this word looks like so she always knows what Pineapple looks like. In this case, the word was in the paragraph above, and on the same page. But the concept of sight words means she doesn’t have to decode every word she reads.

I explained that when we (as in the rest of us) read, we do not sound words out—we know what the words say. Just like a face. I actually used this example: When you see Stephanie, you don’t have to think to yourself, “Let’s see, it’s a girl, and she looks kind of like her mom and you can see her dad in the eyes and chin. Her hair is like her mom’s. And add it all up to figure out it must be Stephanie.” No! You just look at her and know who she is, ‘cause you know her!

In this way we know words. I don’t try to learn how to memorize faces, I just get used to the ones I see the most and know who they are. Words are the same. Sometimes you have to figure it out, but the more you read, the more of these words become your friends and they are easy to recognize.

From then on, she read four more stories and was able to refer back to repeated words and also realized she has a stable of sight words, more than she knew!

As she read story after story, she needed help with the occasional word that would elude her. One word was “friend”. The vowels are confusing. I told her that the word friend is like a friend; you know that friend without thinking about it. So be sure you know your “friend”. Then next time you see the word, you will recognize your friend. And Eric pointed out that Pineapple was his friend and we recognized both the word and the cat.

Sight words are the short-cut she always wanted. Spelling it out is too hard, but memorizing is also too hard. So recognizing old friends is the way to go! Cassie will very soon be reading books. I am delighted to announce this unschooling victory.

A kind of funny story: When Kevin was about 2 or 3, he was reading words. He made us explain letters and their sounds to him. He ate up books. So soon he was reading the books by himself. He would hold the book, look at the pages and read the words. He knew exactly which words were on which page and he read the entire book in this manner. Colleen’s mom was not as impressed as we were.

“He has simply memorized the story,” she said, “That’s not reading, its just memorizing.”

We knew better than to argue, but as I just pointed out, sight words are the secret weapon of reading. If you look at a page and you know what words are on it, or you look at a sentence and you know what the words are, if you look at a word and you know what word it is, then you are reading. Isn’t that what reading is?

Kev had to learn phonics to help him with words he did not yet know, so he was motivated to learn phonics after his sight words dried up. This happened when he desired to read something that mom and dad had not yet read to him.

So I figure that each beginner reader has a different ratio of sight words to sound-‘em-out words, but if the person knows what the word says, she is reading. Kevin had to learn phonics to supplement the gaps left with sight words. Cassie had to be taught that it’s OK to have a few sight words so you don’t have to sound out everything! They both read. And their reading is a function of their desire to read, end of story.

I think reading should be taught in the home before a kid goes to school. That would save billions. Oh wait, that’s not the intent of school is it? School is about convincing the average parent that only professionals are able to do these things and that’s why we have to give billions to the system and all these jobs for textbook writers and DI salesmen and teachers and many many layers of administration and blahhh….

If it were about teaching kids to read, all they gotta do is read this blog. But my guess is they are too busy trying to figure out how to convince the taxpayers we need more money to figure out how to teach kids to read…..

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We have decided to start this journal to keep track of our children's life lessons learned in our homeschool journey. We believe that as parents we are accountable for our own children's education. It is up to us to make sure we prepare them to be active and responsible citizens, not a drain on society. So this blog will be a place where we can share our daily lessons and activities that we incorporate into our homeschool.

About Me

Mother to 9 children, 5 on earth and 4 in heaven.
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Christian Unschoolers
Unschooling is learning as you live life. All of life involves learning. This is what we "teach" our children.


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