Monday, September 12, 2011

Book reports!!

Yes, I did it. I made them do book reports. Writing is one of those things that is so important, that if you don't learn, well... you can't blog!! Who wants to read a blog with no paragraphs and no flow and no form? Well, apparently lots of people, lol, but I hate blogs without paragraphs. I hate people who use bad spelling and grammar on Facebook. I also hate when people say "libary" and "fustrated."

We've dabbled a little in Writing Strands. We play around with Mad Libs. But I truly, truly believe that good writing comes from reading good books. The reading is still coming along slowly here. I'm sure they're all "behind" grade level - though Cameron fakes it pretty well. (Actually, I gave them a couple of word tests about a month ago and both Cameron and Cassia scored at about where they should be on one test, but then kind of low on one that was supposed to test their ability to read alone.) But we do listen to a lot of good audio books and I read wonderful stories to them (finally finished the entire Harry Potter series! and have now moved on to Treasure Island). I know in my heart that hearing good prose will help them to write good prose.

And now I have proof.

Cameron's book report was so lovely! I just don't have another word for it. I mean, the spelling was horrific (and you can put that word on his vocabulary list because he asked me what it meant when I mentioned that, lol) but the content was divine. When I first assigned the task (in a spur of the moment, "This is what you need to do before you can play video games today," moment) I first asked them if they knew what a paragraph was. Cameron spit out the perfectly right answer, "A collection of sentences," though I'm not entirely sure where he picked that up. I must have said that before (?). Then we digressed into this silly tirade of, "Well, what are sentences?" A collection of words. What are words? A collection of letters. What are letters? A representation of sounds. What are sounds? A way we use our voices to communicate with each other. Etc., etc., etc. Yes, it went on for quite a bit longer. Eeek.

Anyway, after defining the paragraph (and the meaning of life) I told them the basic parts of an essay and that their book report should contain at least three paragraphs: an introduction, "I read X book by Y and it was about Z;" a body, "I (dis)liked X because ABC," but please use more than just one sentence here; and finally a conclusion, "I think people should(n't) read X because Q." I also told them that this book report should be at least a page long (knowing that Cassia writes bigger and occasionally skips lines). I was truly impressed by how little help they asked for and how comprehensive their book reports were! I mean, it worked!!! Just listening to good literature has given them good writing skills (not Hemmingway, obviously, but good for their age!)

Cassia's essay was a little sparse - her last two paragraphs were only one sentence each - but they did the assignment well and Cameron wrote quite a nice second half of his essay because he was concerned about filling a whole page, lol. Cassia just wrote bigger. ;) (Finding it hilarious that my paragraph about Cassia's paragraph being sparse is sparse. LOL.)

In conclusion, "I think that the Ghost of Blackhawk Island is a really good book and I think that every kid should get a chance to read the Ghost of Blackhawk Island at least once or twice in their life." And, "I like Molly the Pony: A True Story so much I read it 7 times. I really think you should read this book it is really good."

The End.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

It's that time of year again!

LOL, it's that time of year again: the weather is cooling, parents all over Facebook are posting their back to school pictures, homeschoolers start planning out the year, and I decide to give blogging one more try. We'll see how long I last. Last fall, I think I only made it one whole post before giving up.

But really, last year was a whirlwind. I had a 4-yr old and a 2-yr old... that's enough to do anyone in. I had too many classes and 4-H projects with the older two - we seriously had something going EVERY day of the week. Craziness. And I took up roller derby. I had actually taken it up in April or May of the previous "school year" but finally made the team in September which meant three practices a week and lots of weekend commitments.

Of course this year, I'm still doing roller derby and I'm an officer in the league (but hopefully only until December!). We're still in 4-H and I actually have THREE of them in it this year (but that should make it easier with more kids involved and fewer running rampant around the 4-H center) and somehow I ended up co-leader of our club... still not quite sure how that happened, lol. But this year, we seem to have three days "mostly" free and instead of a 4-yr old and a 2-yr old, I have a 5-yr old and a 3-yr old (next week) and I'm finding more and more moments of sanity and rationality in the two of them. (Oh boy, they are thick as thieves though and don't necessarily use their powers for good!) So, I have hopes and dreams of being more organized and in control and purposeful in our schooling, rather than haphazardly taking what we can get. Actually, with this leader thing going on I HAVE TO BE more organized and in control. These blogger mind-dumps usually help a lot with that, so here I am.

Anyway... today a friend posted a favorite article on Facebook about what kids should really be learning in the preschool years: things like knowing they are unconditionally loved and that there is magic in the world. And there was also a link for the World Book list of what a child should know for each grade. Guess what I zeroed in on? LOL.

Turns out though that we're not doing too badly (if you ignore language arts). Linus is actually pretty much ready to graduate preschool at two-and-fifty-one-fifty-seconds... except for the Social-Emotional Development sections. He is only three-ish, so maybe I'll cut him a little slack. ;) I noticed in the Kindergarten Social Studies section that it said Greyson should be "understanding and appreciating different cultures" so I pulled out our Children Like Me book, intending to read a couple pages with him. We read the w.h.o.l.e. book. A couple times he asked how long it was and how much more was left, and once he even said that he was done after this page, but then when I tried to close it he wanted to go on. (And when I say "read" I mean that we went over each page and talked about the things that interested him, not reading all the words per se.)

It was pretty awesome. He's really into wanting to learn right now. Not too long ago, he was balking anytime I suggested he do something or look at something. Now, he may not be 100% on board (like he had this really dubious expression when I said that I wanted to read this book with him), but he gives it a shot and will let himself be pulled into something that wasn't necessarily his idea.

And then there's the stuff that is his idea! Earlier we had been reading books and we took a lunch break from reading and he pulled out this dry erase activity board we have and started playing "tic tac toe" with Linus - except they weren't using just X's and O's, they were using lots of letters! So cute. Grey even ended up writing ZOO and then recognized it! And then that led, even later, to him asking how to spell a million different things and then trying to copy them. Did I ask him to do this?? No way. Would he had done it if I had?? No way.

P.S. The red letters are Greyson's and the green are Linus'.

Unschooling rocks. Just sayin'