Friday, October 18, 2013

We're Learning Cursive

I've been pondering whether or not to teach cursive to my daughter. There are those who argue that cursive can be taught before manuscript writing. There are also those who say that cursive is dying, and there is no need to teach it. I decided against it until she started showing interest in it. Now, she wants to read notes sent home from the teacher, etc. So, I thought it would be good just to go ahead and teach her. We've only had one lesson. What I've decided to do is to break the letters up into combinations of strokes. The actual strokes, to me, are a little too simple. You can find the basic strokes for cursive, here.

I thought that we would have a hard time. I thought crying would be involved, but much to my surprise. We made it through the lesson without any drama. I think the key to success was that we didn't try to do to much, and their was an objective with a foreseeable outcome. Unlike our mini math lessons of recent, she enjoyed this one. Maybe it was because she's slightly interested.

The letters we practiced were t,i,c, a, d. The goal was to be able to write a and d, but in writing those two letters one can also learn to write t (without the cross), i (without the dot), and c. The pic is her tracing of my writing. The top a's are of her own doing before we even began the lesson. People take lots of liberties when writing in cursive. I had to look everything up to make sure I taught things the right way. Gee, I love google!

Brag Post

We've had a very busy week, but I had to take the time to congratulate Lyla on a job well done. She was very nervous about her cheerleading debut, but she got there and did wonderfully. She didn't want to leave when it was time to go. Last week was grandparents week or grandparent's day, or something, and we were all very moved by what she wrote about her grandmother. Usually, I would make her correct her writing, but I'll probably just let this one rest. Just know that grandma will be on a spelling list somewhere. Then, we learn that according to the STAR reading test, my DD is reading on a 5.3 grade level. Lastly, her fabulous report card. I don't know if mine ever looked this great. I am very proud. Check out the pics below.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

How I Taught My Daughter To Read/ Teaching Reading Advice

Just after Lyla turned two, I finally bought her the Teach Your Baby To Read program. We received the program. It looked great. We tried it out, and my DD hated it. It was boring as all get out. It felt like flash cards on video. We plowed through it a couple of times, and she was starting to memorize words, but we didn't do it often because it was just so tedious. If you choose to do this program I suggest starting at a younger age. If your child has played video games or enjoys watching and can learn from Sesame Street, then this program will probably be a snore fest.

Not doing anything, I noticed that Lyla had picked up a couple of sight words. Her first was lock. She saw this word everyday on our car door. She asked me what l-o-c-k spelled, and from there, her next word was toy which she learned from Toy Story. This was not unique to her. Others in her 3 y.o. class (I have always requested that she be put in a class slightly older until public school) were doing the same.

For about 6 months, we really didn't do anything. What happened next? My job let me go. Enrollment was low. The school had to make adjustments. They decided to get rid of the music department all together at the school (as well as security guards, guidance counselors, and academic coaches). So here I was back to staying at home which gave me time to do some research.

Out of Sight (Words)

I searched the internet for the best ways to teach reading. I was heavily influenced by youtube vids. I decided that we weren't going to do site words at all. I began searching for the perfect program. Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons kept coming up. We tried. Lyla didn't like. Five lessons is about all we could make it through. Actually we could have done more. I was a bit inconsistent, and my DD was happy to miss those reading lessons.

Although we only got through 5% of the book, I learned a lot. I had been trained on teaching phonemic awareness, but this program found a way to focus on phonics (blending of phonemes into words when reading) and phonemic awareness (ability to hear phonemes or the smallest units of sound represented by letters within a word) without having to segment the sounds at all. Our next venture led us to Teach Your Child to Read in Just 10 Minutes a Day." This stuck for a while. The book offers fun ideas for teaching reading, but I didn't build the wood toy that it suggested, nor did I tape letters to any blocks. I simply typed out words and letters and laminated them. Like most other phonics programs, you start out with a letter, learn it's sound, recognize the sound in words you here and then learn more letters. Once you have two letters you can start blending. This book starts with u then it adds p. The first word to learn is up. From there they add a c and then an a and the subsequent words that can be made from these letters. From doing these I learned that Lyla was already decoding words. I think that those five lessons from Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons really worked. We just needed practice reading CVC (consanat-vowel-consonant) words. We progressed but we kinda got hung up on what I call n-controlled vowels. For example, to my ears it's kinda confusing to teach ing to me the i sounds like a long e. The same is true for -ink or -ank. We hadn't learned any words with long vowel sounds. This was a bit confusing. How many people say a short a sound in bank? It's doable, but there is a bit of grey area there. Our relationship with this Kindle download ended abruptly.

What Stuck

What did we try next? Finally we did The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons. WARNING: You will not be able to sit down 20 times and teach your child to read. It takes more consistency. If you work hard, you can do a lesson a week. If you want a more fluent reader then take longer on the lessons and make sure your child repeats each page. Have your child work on each page until he can read it smoothly. Then move on. We didn't do that, and although my daughter can just about read anything, we're working to increase her fluency and speed. She can read a 5th grade book, but would she read it as fast (frequency) or as smoothly as a fifth grader? She does great, but there is always room for improvement.

It's All About the Process

While the process started at 3, we really didn't pick up a book (aside from decodable books) for her to read on her own until a month before kindergarten. She was 5 1/2. This is the normal time for most kids to read. However at this time she could pick up a 2nd grade book and read it, not as fluently or as fast as a second grader would read, but she could read these books and gather meaning from them. The month before school. We read like crazy.

Wait! Where's The Rewind Button?

If I could find that rewind button and do it all over again I would have started with Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes A Day or any phonics based reading program (you can design your own) at 2 1/2. No pressure- this would just be done in a fun, leisurely way, maybe a letter a week type situation. Then, at three I would make sure she could decode. The previous book should have given her decoding skills, but if she couldn't decode, we would spend our time learning. At this point I would introduce decodable readers (we made some of ours). If she decodes well at three, then I would introduce The Reading Lesson at three. If not, I would wait until she's 3 1/2. If the child is nowhere near decoding,then I would start with a few lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lesson and then continue to The Reading Lesson.

Back In Sight?

I personally don't think sight words are harmful. It's just better to learn to decode first. With that being said, I would try my hardest to teach my child to read before she starts kindergarten. Sight words would add to her reading, rather than take away. For kids with great memories, sight words may come easy. I personally (I am only a mother, not a reading specialist) would neither encourage, nor dissuade sight word practices. Let the child do what comes naturally to them in this regard. If your young child teaches himself to read by memorizing what words look like, I would immediately begin teaching letter sounds. I worked at a daycare where a genius four year old boy could read. I sat him down and asked him to read for me. I was blown away. His fluency was so much better than that of my daughter. Depending on what kind of reading he did at home, he probably could read harder books than she could, but he wasn't accurate in his reading. He would say what he thought some of the words and phrases were, rather than reading what was on the page. It wasn't a bad thing. I was thoroughly impressed. I am sure that as he embraces phonics in school, he will do well, but for some kids this is not an easy fix.

My Unsolicited, Yet Earnest Advice

My advice to parents who have a kindergartner who will be introduced to sight words? Let the school worry about sight words. You run a phonics program at home. If you have to help your child with sight words for school, do so, but try to relate it to phonics as much as possible. When your child starts school, the teacher does an assessment. I probably did too much, but everyday I would ask my child did the teacher call you up to her desk today? Did you read for her, today? Did anyone take you out of class, today? First grade is a bit different, but in kindergarten gather as much information as you can about assessments from your child. Ask your teacher what reading level your child is on. Ask to see how this was determined and what measures were used. Familiarize/ research the form of reading assessment and how a child is moved along from level to level. Ask your child's teacher for reading level information about your child. More than likely, they will not offer you this info. You have to ask. You don't want to be too pushy. As a teacher, I have seen how a parent's pushiness can affect how people treat the child. You always want to remain in good standing with the teacher (a lesson I am still learning), but let that teacher know that you know.

Once you have been given a reading level for your child, get books on an easier level (if applicable), on level, and on the next level. Can your child read books on the easier level? You want to give your child random books on random subjects. If your child can't pick up a random book at an easier level and read it, your child is probably not reading, but practicing memorization. Run you phonics program. If your child can read the easier level, keep giving them books to read. Use the easier and on level books to build fluency. Find a book your child likes and let them read it over and over and over again. Also make sure to model good reading to your child. Your child is on his way, but still run your own phonic and/or word study program at home.

If you're homeschooling, read up on Fontas and Pinnell or any trusted system for determining reading levels.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Word Sorts

Short a, CVVC Long a

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Short o, CVVC Long o
Short u, CVVC Long u
Short e, CVVC Long e
CVVC Short e, CVVC long e
CVVC Long Vowel Sounds

Again, you will have to access the links with a flash enabled device.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bad Mommy -- n. music teacher who hasn't taught her daughter music

I ran into these vids of me teaching a music lesson to my daughter and her friend. This was over a year ago, just before she began kindergarten. Her friend was going to the first grade. The ironic thing about it is I've been a music teacher in a public school. My preschoolers could do amazing things, but I never really did the lessons with my daughter. While we've shared lots of cool musical experiences, I really haven't had any formal lessons with her, except for the one below. The funny thing is she remembers it. She can still clap her quarter notes. We're going to do more. I have to remind myself that the goal is to raise a well-rounded kid, not just an academic.

Rhythm sticks are inexpensive and nice to have around. The make shift ones in the video were leftover dowels from a woodworking project. They were a little long. Over the years we've made a few instruments. Egg shakers are so easy. Electrical tape over a picture frame could make a nice hand drum. Also electrical tape atop of the widest pvc pipes of various legnths can make great bongos.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

+10, +100, +1000 Preparation

Adding 10 to any number is pretty straight forward for those who understand place value. RightStart, my preferred math curriculum for primary grades, starts developing base-5 and base-10 concepts from the very beginning. Initially, they even have different names for numbers larger than 10. Twenty is said "two-ten" and 54 would be "5-ten four." It's wierd but it really does help children to understand what the number in the 10's place means.

First Steps: Simple Addition

Before moving on to adding numbers whose sums are greater than 10, first make sure that your child is comfortable with numbers whose sums are equal to or less than 5. Can the student visually recognize up to three objects without counting? Does she understand what addition is? Does she have resources to help her find the sum of two numbers? Is she able to write and recognize numerical expressions of addition and subtraction? Can he name all the possible sums of addends less than or equal to 5? This is also a good time to help your child understand the commutative property (1+2=2+1.)

Once all of the sums up to 5 are a breeze, then help your student to memorize sums up to 10. Start by adding numbers to 5. This is a relatively easy concept because the child can use his hands. Once your child knows all the "5+..." facts, you can move on to other numbers. For all of this work, I really do like to make use of the abacus in general, but the alabacus specifically does a great job at helping your child to understand base-5, as well as 10 as a base. Any base-10 abacas will be helpful. When asked to show the number 8, with consistent practice your child will learn that instead of counting 8 beads to slide over, they can just leave 2 beads. The alabacus adds to this feature by changing colors every 5 beads, so in addition to leaving 2 beads, the student can use 5 beads of one color plus 3 of another to show 8. The alabacus, as well as the RightStart Math Curriculum, can be purchased at There,you can also purchase an app version of the alabacus. In addition there is an online freebie called Number Rack. Number Rack can also be found as an ios app. I have no clue about google apps. Lastly, you may decide to make your own abacus. Google can be your friend in this juncture.

The Fun Part: Place Value

Do all you can to ensure that your child has a firm grasp of place value to 1000. Several manipulatives are helpful. Probably the most helpful would be base 10 blocks. I've never owned these because they can be expensive. Instead, I have used the base 10 picture cards. I own the commercial set that came with my RightStart Math package, but I've also printed my own on card stock. In all actuality, I have used the printed version more. My favorite version of this free printable can be found HERE. You can find a virtual manipulative source HERE. If you'd rathe shell out the money for the actual blocks, and not a picture representation, they are easy to find. I won't suggest a brand, but you can find them by searching the internet.

Place value cards are also good to have. Again, I have the commercial and homemade sets. You can find my homemade set HERE. Feel free to purchase any of these products. If money and storage aren't an issue, I would definitely purchase the base-10 blocks, but the b10 picture cards work as well. I won't suggest a brand,so google away. The choices are abundant.

Definitely look up some place value lesson plans, but the premise is to start with the ones blocks. At this point your child can teach you all about the numbers to 10. Next show your child that 10 of the ones blocks equals 1 of the 10s bars. Continue on in this fashion until you get to one thousand. At the same time, help your learner to recognize and write these numbers as they go. The place value cards, as well as My Place Value Number Board. should facilitate this really well. The idea is not only will your youngster know the way these numbers sound and look, but also what they mean. This will help the child to understand that in the same way as 2+4=6, 20+40=60, and 200+400=600.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Run-In With GA's Vaccination Policies/ What We're Reading

This morning we've gotten off to a good start. We really didn't have to rush. My Lyla was all smiles, and we even had time to practice addition while waiting on the bus to take her to school. We are developing her mental math skills and currently working on adding double digits. She's coming along very well, but we can definitely use the practice for speed. I've learned from my years teaching in schools how amazing young students are. I'm amazed at how children are able to retain things. Things that I might have said once to my child are stored in her brain for later use.

As an example, when Lyla was 3 or maybe 4 she had trouble telling the difference between b and d. I simply showed her Bb and Dd and said that Dd's talk and Bb's walk. .Just the other day she wrote one of the letters backward, then she erased and I heard her say that same saying. I had to ask her from where did she get it, and she said that she got it from me a long time ago. Lesson learned. Children remember, so teach well.

Yesterday, my DD had to get a shot for school. I hate the idea of forced inoculations. My husband and I disagree about this one. He goes with the conventional way of thinking. I, on the other hand, am not here for putting those foreign substances inside of my child. I myself have never had a vaccination due to religious exemption. I really wished I had done the same for my child. Every time,except for the first one, I have felt like I, in some way, have let my child down by allowing them to put that stuff into her body.

Yesterday, I went to the health department (hadn't figured out how our insurance is accepted in GA, yet) to get an ear, eye, and dental screening. Then I am bombarded with the news that my child needs another Hep B shot. You know, the shot that she already had at 5 months old? Yeah, that one. It just so happens that in the state of GA, you have to get it after you've turned 6 months. When this very polite lady told me that, I couldn't help but sighing, "I officially hate the state of Georgia."

Is the vaccine given at five months ineffective? Is it only that way in the state of GA? Why does she even need a Hep B shot? I understand when you're a baby and can get it from your mother, but now? at six? It's basically transmitted the same way that HIV is. It isn't at all necessary in my view. I almost cried because here I am doing this to my daughter again.

Now do I really hate the state of GA? Probably not, but it does make me feel like there should be some consistency among states about what is excepted and what is not. I could link to lots of articles against vaccinations, but I will link to a rather mild one about over vaccinating.

This is probably where homeschooling would have come in handy. THE STRUGGLE within is real. One day I'll explain why I chose not to homeschool exclusively, but today I won't bore you with the details. Instead I'll leave you with some of the chapter books we've either read or will read soon enough.

Book/ Series Info Our Views

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Story

4 Books in Series

Make Way For Dyamonde Daniel
Author: Nikki Grimes
Grade level Equivalent: 3.7
Lexile Measure: 620L

Dyamonde Daniel may be new in town, but that doesn't stop her from making a place for herself. With her can-do attitude and awesome brain power, she takes the whole neighborhood by storm.

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Story
Grade level Equivalent: 3.5

In this fantastic follow-up to Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, Nikki Grimes tackles big issues like homelessness in a sensitive, kid-friendly way. Dymonde’s can-do attitude and lively spirit will endear her to readers.

Single parentdom seems to be trending in lots of these popular books by AA authors. I guess that it's a part of our communities, but it would be nice to show a two parent home with one of the characters. Also trending would be the snazzy attitudes these characters display. To this I can relate; however, because my daughter is such a young reader, I guard reading time carefully.

Dyamonde Daniel is a delightful character, full of stregnth. My daughter related well to her, being that she is the new girl at school this year. These were entertaining reads for my DD.

Nikki & Deja

Nikki & Deja: Birthday Blues

6 Books in Series

Nikki & Deja
Author: Karen English
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.9
Lexile: 670L

When an arrogant new girl comes to school, third-graders and best friends Nikki and Deja decide to form a club that would exclude her but find the results not what they expected.

Nikki & Deja: Birthday Blues
Author: Karen English
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3
Lexile: 700L

As her eighth birthday approaches, Deja's biggest concern is whether her father will attend her party, until her aunt is called away on business and a classmate schedules a "just because party" on the same afternoon.


This series of books is highly rated on If I'm not mistaken, Karen English is an educator. This made me excited to get one of the books for my DD.

We got the Birthday Blues book from the library and after reading a chapter, we decided to come back to it later. With this particular series I felt it best to read the series in order. It could also be that this book is a little harder than the others.

We're going to start the Ruby and Sassy series books first.

Brand New School, Brave New Ruby

Four Books in Series

Brand New School, Brave New Ruby
Authour: Derrick Barnes
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3
Lexile Measure®:700L

When Ruby Booker starts third grade at Hope Road Academy, the same school her three illustrious older brothers attend, she tries hard to make an impression of her own.


This has the potential to be my fav. The main character Ruby has three brothers, and guess what? She has two parents in her home. I love one of the scenes where her father is the one making them breakfast. My daughter adores Ruby. We are halfway finished with book 1 of a 4 book series.

Later I'll add Sugar Plum Ballerinas, Danitra Brown, and Sassy series to the mix.