Tag Archives: School

The trouble with reading

It is the middle of August. That means it is time for me to freak out about school planning and get all anxious and crazy. The anxiety and craziness came way early this year.  At the beginning of July I had a complete and total homeschooling mom breakdown. From time to time I do second guess my homeschooling decision and wonder if the kids would be happier in school and then I remember why we are doing this and go back to being really happy with our choices. This time my melt down was far worse. Within 2 days I went from my typical second guessing to actually calling the school district to find out how to enroll my kids in school and calling the department of special ed to get Ulka evaluated. I was a mess and spent most of those two days in tears. Andy calmly looked on and let me go through my craziness without saying much. He knew that I would come around back to where my heart really lies.

The forms came from the school and I sat down to fill them out and got completely overwhelmed by that process. SO MANY FORMS. Wow. Who knew it was so complicated to enroll your child in school? Then, I saw my more sane and stable friend Sarah who so patiently listened and nodded and agreed. When I saw her two days later, she talked me off the ledge and reminded me of all the benefits and pluses of homeschooling and offered encouragement and support and suggestions.

So, the back story. Ulka has really been “struggling” with reading. By this I mean that she isn’t reading where she “should be” if she were in traditional school. As a homeschooling mom it is sometimes hard to gauge the children’s progress and I fall prey to all the school standards that I am so desperately trying to avoid. I looked up reading  by grade level, researched how to determine fluency, measured her reading in words per minute and basically made myself and Ulka crazy. I convinced myself that if there is a problem it would be best to find out sooner than later so I decided to have her evaluated by the board of ed. Every single homeschooler that I talked to said clearly “DO NOT DO THAT”.

I know that every child learns at her own pace and I knew that in my heart I was not convinced that Ulka had a “problem”, but that she is just taking her own time. I didn’t get her evaluated and am so thankful that I didn’t.  She has been practicing a lot recently and has made some good progress. I know that schools have to have standards to measure students progress. There are certainly kids who really have a need for intervention and it is great that those resources are available to them. But some kids are just ‘late bloomers’.

Some kids potty train at 2 and some at 4 . Everyone tells the frustrated mother not to worry, that she will do it when she is ready and that she won’t be in diapers when she goes to school. Some kids learn to ride without training wheels when they are 3 and some not until they are 8. If a child is still riding with training  wheels at 7 nobody freaks out and says that there must be some sort of problem and that the kid should be evaluated for a physical problem. It is similar with reading. Ishaan read Tom Sawyer in the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and Ulka is still sounding out words. But she will get there, I know she will.

So now onto the fun of planning the school year. I have lots of fun ideas, trips and projects in the works and am looking forward to this year. More on school planning later. Now I have to go and do it!

Mondays revisited

You might remember my post a few weeks ago with a desperate plea for suggestions on how to make our Monday school days less painful, and even a little bit fun! Thank you to all of you who responded with great ideas. My hope is that this blog isn’t simply a way for me to post pictures of my kids and “our perfect life”, but to be part of a supportive community that shares ideas, so thank you!

Last Monday I was sort of off the hook because it was Ila’s birthday and we had a day off school.  Yesterday was my first Monday with my new approach. I have decided to not even attempt to sit down at the table for school first thing.  I asked that the kids be completely ready: dressed, breakfasted, beds made and rooms tidied, and chores done by the time I got home at 8:30.  To my surprise they were actually ready so I took them out to Five Rivers Nature Center. We go there often so it is a place they are all very familiar with.

It was chilly and I wanted all the kids, including Kairav to walk the whole time, so we chose the short 1/2 mile Beaver Trail, which is loop around a pond, and then headed into the education center to watch the birds and look at the owl and the turtles.

We headed home around 10:00 to start the “school” day. I had laid out all of their materials before we left so the transition would be smooth. They had a quick snack  and got down to work with no complaining.

I think the fresh air and running around was a great way for everyone, myself included, to start the week.  We had a great Monday which I think will set us up for a good school week. The kids are excited to have a good week and keep reminding each other about staying focused so that I don’t yell. Even the little ones amused themselves and stayed (mostly) out of trouble.

In addition to starting the morning differently, I also spent about 1.5 hours at the library on Sunday afternoon laying out the whole week. If I start the week off with a solid, yet flexible, plan everything goes much better. I know exactly what I want to cover and have realistic expectations of the kids.  I decided to have a week of some inside reading and writing work, but a lot of outside hands on stuff.  The kids haven’t had a break week since Christmas, and I think we are all feeling a little bit burned out and ready for a break- which comes next week!

So this week we started the farming and gardening block with both Ishaan and Ulka. Ishaan will do a more detailed study of seed development, plant and flower structures, and pollination and both kids will keep a gardening journal and help with the planning and preparing of the garden. We started some seeds inside yesterday. Today we will turn the compost and start getting the garden ready for planting the greens and peas.

I am hopeful that this new way of entering into the school week will continue to work well for us. I feel bad that it took me so long to recognize that Monday mornings were a problem, but at least now I know and we can try to fix it.

Happy Spring to all of you.  Go plant a garden- in your yard, on your fire escape, on your window sill- where ever you can!

Indian summer

Last week we completed our first 4 week school block and it went better than I had hoped. The kids maintained that new excited-first-week energy for the whole block. There were only a few tears and  those mostly when I was having a bad day!

Ishaan’s main lesson block was Old Testament stories. We looked at the stories not from a Biblical or religious perspective, but more as one might study Greek Mythology or Norse Myths.  As part of this block I had Ishaan learn to write out the Hebrew alphabet.  I found lots of practice pages online with little arrows showing how to form the letters. Clearly I don’t expect him to read Hebrew or even remember the letters, but it was more an exercise in form drawing of sorts and also just to learn a bit about another language.  After practicing on gridded sheets, he painted watercolor paper in plain blue and we cut each sheet into 4 parts. On each part he wrote out one Hebrew letter and its name.  We are stringing them up across the dining room (school room) and it looks great.

Ulka’s main lesson block was Reading.  She knows all her letters and most of the common sound combinations so now it is the exciting part of putting it all together.  She is ready and eager to read and it seems to be coming quite easily to her.  We are using the Autumn Story from The Four Seasons of Brambley Hedge by Jill Barklem as our base.  Each night I read her a segment and the next morning she tells it back to me.  I pull out and paraphrase a small section and write it out on the board for her to read.  I like this way of doing it because she gets to hear a story that is brand new to her and she loves it. She has to listen carefully so she can tell it back to me the next day.  When she reads from the board she  knows the story so she can sort of guess at the more difficult words to help her along, but she isn’t prompted by pictures.  I think this method is working well for her.  To practice her hand writing and letter formation she has to copy out what I wrote on the board and then she does her own illustration.  The whole process takes quite a while and she gets pretty tired out.  She is also working on a mini Math block learning counting by twos and threes and regrouping numbers using little glass gems and stories about Princess Ulka and her gems and how she shares them with her friends.  She likes math and begs to do it, so it’s not really even like work for her- especially if she can do school in her leo.tard  so she can take a quick break to work on her back walkovers!

when you go to school at home, you can wear your leo.tard to class

We have also been working a lot on coloring with block crayons, and all three of us are showing great improvement! I love starting the morning with 20 minutes of drawing with the kids. I think that is part of what has really helped our days to go smoothly. It is a sweet and pleasant transition from morning outside time to school time.

Since I didn’t know how the first block would go, I scheduled this week as a catch up week and I am so glad I did!  Ishaan has some drawings and Hebrew letters to finish up.  Also, we are having an incredible Indian Summer and the weather is amazing so we are taking advantage of that and having more time outdoors, working on the clay oven, playing, gardening, and of course lots of apple picking.

collecting rocks from the creek for our clay oven base

cheaper by the bushel

apple abundance

apple heads