Last day with a Kindergartener

Lovebug and I continued our Mommy-Daughter weekend by spending Labor Day doing absolutely nothing except having fun.  I soaked up every minute I had with my little girl because the next day we were starting school and I wanted to enjoy my Kindergartener as long as I could!

Here is a little glimpse into our day, as we…

ate a little ice cream

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made deviled eggs

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Have a bite, Daddy!”

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created sentences with fridge magnets

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made mango flavored pudding

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played games on the Wii, and completely ignored the laundry behind me

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What a perfect day with my Lovebug!  I love you sweet girl!

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Night Night!

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Science Detective Camp

A couple of weeks ago, Lovebug attended a “Science & Detective Camp” at a local children’s museum.  I had come across an ad for it in a local publication and I knew it would be perfect for her! She’s always been interested in detectives, spies, mysteries, and similar adventures.  This was a half-day camp for 5 days, and she had a blast!  Every day she came home with a new story to tell, and a project they had done.

Lovebug also got an extra treat when we saw what was in the classroom where the camp was held.  The museum has pet snakes and rats!

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The rats were mostly there to feed the snakes, but a couple of them were there to keep, like that big white one.  She had just had BABIES!  They were these teeny tiny little creatures that the kids just couldn’t get enough of, especially my little animal lover.   Evidently Momma-Rat wasn’t too happy that the museum worker kept feeding her young to the snake (who was also pregnant!), but it’s the circle of life, ya know! After all, it IS Science camp!

The kids even got to hold the babies!

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It was pretty neat to watch that the worker could put down one of the babies on the counter, and Momma-Rat would go pick it up and take it back to it’s cage.  She was careful not to just leave those babies laying around.

Want to see?

 

Back to the camp…

They made detective badges…

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They made SLIME and learned about fingerprinting…

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They made little creatures…

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She even made “shrinky dinks” out of plastic cups (didn’t get a picture of that one), and of course made new friends!

They also got some play time in the museum where there are many different stations set up.  They have a grocery store, post office, dentist, fire station, Army area, etc.  Of course Bug enjoyed posing with the Army stuff and insisted I take pictures!

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She said “Look, just like Daddy!!”

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…then said “No, wait! I can’t smile! I have to be serious” (just like Daddy in his uniform pictures)

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Then she found a hat just like Daddy’s favorite one!

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It was a great week!  So great in fact, that I signed her up for another one! She just started it today.  This week she’ll be doing full days with half a day of Science and half a day of Art!  She was so excited to see so many of the same kids there again this time! I know she’ll have a wonderful week.

I cried over her misspelled words

Lovebug and I had a great day! We started the day with breakfast, and then some game time.  I wanted some one-on-one time with her because I knew I would be spending a lot of time unpacking today and she wouldn’t get as much of my focused attention.

First we played “I Can Do That!”. It’s a Dr. Seuss game and one of our family favorites. 

Then, we got out a new game that we had been given, but never opened – Cranium’s Big Book of Outrageous Fun!  We played the board game inside, and then I left her to play by herself with the rest.  It’s not really a single person game, but she just wanted to “play with” the game, not actually play the game.

Inside the box is a book.  On each page of the book is a question and a mostly blank page.  The idea is for each person playing to write their answer to the question along with a symbol that person has chosen for themselves so that once there are several answers on the page you can tell which answer belongs to which person.

While I went upstairs to rid our home of some more cardboard boxes, she went to work on the book.  I honestly figured that would last about 2 minutes before she moved on to something else since I wasn’t there to help her.

I WAS WRONG.

Much later she came up to me and handed me the book, asking me to read what she had done.  As I read through the book, I was fighting back my tears.  Many of the pages were short answers with correctly written words, but there were also several pages with longer answers and many, many misspelled words.

As I handed the book back to her, and she walked out of the room, I was in tears!

Not because she didn’t spell the words right.  Quite the opposite.  I was SO SO PROUD of her!!

You see, Lovebug is quite the perfectionist.  She often won’t even attempt something if she doesn’t know with all certainty that she can do it right.  Handwriting is one of those areas.  She struggles in this area as it is, but when it comes to writing words, notes, birthday cards or anything of the sort, I have to tell her how to spell EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD.  Telling her to “just try” or to “guess” gets us nowhere.  She gets so frustrated, and her self esteem just plummets because she feels bad about making mistakes – no matter how much we try to build her up.  She’s afraid to try.  I’ve told her countless times that she has to make mistakes to learn, that everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and that you only really fail if you don’t try.  It never seems to sink in.

I’ve been working with her for a long time on her writing & spelling.  When she wants to write a letter to a friend, or a card to a grandparent, then instead of telling her how to spell the words, I make her sound it out a sound or syllable at a time and we work through it.  It’s a compromise.  She gets my affirmation before she puts the pencil to paper so she knows she’s spelling it right, but I am satisfied because she’s learning how to do it. 

This time, she did it all by herself!!  She tried.  She didn’t ask me even once how to spell a word.  She just guessed, did her best, and went for it!  This is so huge for her. I wish I could make you understand just how big this is. 

Some of the words are close, but others are really really wrong.  So wrong that if I didn’t know better I’d think she didn’t know what sounds the letters make.  But I DO know that she knows.  I also know that she has auditory issues that make it hard for her to HEAR the sounds in her head as she’s trying to spell words.  Thankfully as I read the questions aloud to her, she said the answers so I didn’t have to ask her what she wrote.  Whew!  I was able to just praise her over and over for the great job and hard work that she did. 

Hubby and I used to talk about how we’ll never have those cute notes from our child with words spelled wrong like most parents.   Well, now we do and I could not be more excited about it!

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Translation: “Headphones”

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Translation: “Woods in the Middle Ages”

 

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Translation: “Jesus Loves Me”

 

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Translation: “What city does Sammy live in?”

A very out-of-sync morning!

We had a really rough time during school yesterday morning.  Lovebug had a serious meltdown!  We were working on schoolwork this morning, and she mentioned (nicely) that she didn’t want to do something we were working on.  I asked her (nicely) “Why don’t you want to do that?”, and she lost it.  She started crying and breathing hard and having what looks like a panic attack. She kept saying that she didn’t know the answer to my question.  It was such a simple question, but she was reacting as though I asked her for the square root of Pi.

She was SO frustrated with herself for not being able to answer the question.  Her brain was in serious overdrive and she just could not think. 

She was smacking herself on the head as if it would shake the answer loose.  She was crying and practically hyperventilating.  I had to make her stop trying to talk until we got her breathing under control.  She said at one point, “I don’t know the answer! You want an answer and I don’t know what to say!”.  She said she didn’t like feeling frustrated.

I’m not sure what set it off. The schoolwork wasn’t anything hard.  We did get out of routine this morning, but only because her Granny had spent the night and we spent part of the morning playing – something we’ve done lots of times.  Then, I did have a friend stop by to drop something off, and Lovebug went into hyper mode, so she might have been still going a bit from that.

This went on for over an hour.  I sent her to her room a couple times to sit in her swing and just try to calm her breathing down enough that we could talk.  I don’t know what triggered it, but somehow her brain was just overloaded and she couldn’t even put together a simple answer to a simple question.  I can’t imagine what that felt like for her, but it was heartbreaking to watch.  I know how I get slightly frustrated when something is on the tip of my tongue and I can’t think of the answer.  For her, this was so much worse.  It’s like she felt like she wasn’t smart, or she was making a mistake not being able to answer. 

The look on her face hurts me so much.  She looks scared, panicked, even terrified – like she doesn’t know what’s going on with her body.  Or she’s anxious and worried that she’d doing something wrong.  It breaks my heart to see her get so upset and mad at herself.  I hate to see her hitting herself in the head.  I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and hold her tight.  My poor girl.

But I can’t just do that, or I could set off another attack if she’s not wanting to be touched.  So, I asked her from time to time if she wanted me to hold her.  She did a little, but not much. 

When we were able to talk, we discussed using words like “I don’t know the answer right now” when that happens.  I told her it was ok if she didn’t have an answer.  Sometimes we aren’t sure why we feel a certain way about something. 

Once the episode was over, she calmed down and we talked for a couple minutes, and then she started slapping her legs and grabbing at her arms.  I asked her why she was doing that now, and she said she needed the pressure.  I was SO PROUD of her for telling me because then I could help! We were sitting on the bed, so I had her lay down and I put a pillow over her and pressed down on it giving her firm pressure up and down her back, then legs, and arms.  Like a really good massage.  After a few minutes of that, she was good as new!

We ate lunch to refuel her depleted body, and then we got out of the house for a couple fun errands and ended up having a great day.

I wish I could stop this from happening to her.  I was thankful I was at home, for both our sakes.  It’s things like this that cause the stares and judgment from people in the stores as they assume it’s all a behavior problem.  It’s times like this that made me speak up to that woman in Walmart. Oh, if it were only as easy as a behavior problem!

Some days are just hard.

Where was I?

I recently let an old domain where I hosted my old blog expire, so I was going through some old posts and reminiscing.  When I started this blog, I moved over some old posts from that blog.  I realized when I was going back through my old posts that I must have gotten distracted because I still had several posts that I hadn’t moved over, but had intended to.

I’ll be adding those soon, there’s some good stuff there.

I also realized that I posted a LOT more in 2009 than I did in 2010. 

Seems having a newborn foster baby around here this past year cut back on my writing time.  I was also focused on the fact that Hubby was about to leave to start his Army training and I was trying to get my mind wrapped around this new life we were headed into, and wondering if we were going to have a new baby in our family or not.  We were busy with the baby’s therapy appointments and visits with his mom and of course missing sleep – lots of it since the baby had awful reflux.

Boy, my head was in the clouds last year!

I stopped training for the 5K I wanted to run, I stopped writing as much, and I even derailed from the curriculum I was using for Lovebug’s school.  We still did school, but just the basic curriculum we use.  It’s great, but not enough for her in some areas, so I need to supplement.

Last year I started a “Letter of the Week” curriculum with her as a supplement.  She absolutely loved it and so did I, in fact we both thrived with it.  I made up the planning & schedule myself, pulling from various resources and printables around the web.  It would work great as a stand alone, but also as a supplement which is how I was using it.  It allowed me room to make each subject as intense as I wanted it to be, to work with her as she’s advanced in some areas and delayed in others.  It provided me a set plan for each week, which I love and it also gave Lovebug something structured to look forward to which worked awesome for her personality.  She loved planning things around the weekly letter and the way it all fit together.

Then, the baby came and for some reason I just stopped the LOTW program.  It doesn’t seem right that so much time has gone by, but we haven’t done it for almost an entire year now.  In fact, we stopped it in February – the same month that Little Bear came to live with us and that Hubby signed the paperwork to join the Army – what a month!

Last week, we started it again.  I am so glad to have it back!   Because she needs so much help with handwriting, we started at the beginning again with “Letter A Week”.  Focusing on one letter a week provides her a lot more practice tracing those letters!

I’m looking forward to working all the way through the alphabet this time, and sharing it with you as we go!

Bugs & Ice Cream

Tuesday was “Letter B” day here in school! After getting our other subjects done, we took science on the go, and headed to the local nature and science museum to watch the IMAX version of “Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure”. Just another reason I LOVE homeschooling! We got our work done in less than 2 hours and had the rest of the day for adventure.

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It was a great movie with a bug’s eye view of the circle of life in the insect world.  It was perfect for Lovebug because she loves studying bugs! Her favorite one in the movie was the praying mantis – we got to see it devour a fly & a butterfly! We were the only ones in the entire theatre today – so fun! It was also good because my sweet daughter tends to talk constantly during a movie as she notices every detail or asks questions so it was nice to just let her go without asking her to quiet down.

Of course, no trip to the museum is complete without one of these:

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Remember those? I used to love getting this every time I went to the museum on a field trip as a kid.  Now it’s even made with natural coloring (YAY!) so Lovebug & I can enjoy it together.  Sharing this with her is so sweet as I get to share a bit of my childhood with her.

What? Don’t you like your ice cream freeze dried?  Come on, doesn’t that look tasty?  Maybe not, but there is just something irresistible about it.

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After the museum, we stopped by Half Price Books to pick out a book on bugs.  My love of Half Price Books was reinforced yet again as I saw 3 different books on bugs there that I had just seen in the museum gift shop for more than twice the price!  I love discount books.  Lovebug picked out a Pocket Guide to Bugs that I can already tell will not leave her side anytime soon.

Homeschooling with SPD: Handwriting / Language Arts

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One of the hardest things for me when teaching my daughter is the huge ability gap between different subjects, or even within a subject.

For example, she reads on at least a 3rd grade level.  It’s likely higher, but I haven’t ventured any higher because it’s hard enough finding age appropriate content in a chapter book.  Thankfully, she still loves to read “easier” things like Dr. Seuss, and various picture books – but she blows through them in seconds.  She taught herself, and I can’t explain it.  I’m super proud of her, I just wish I knew the secret.

Her phonics and spelling ability are more on age level, which can be a challenge in relation to the reading.  She can read difficult words, but not sound them out or attempt to spell them.  She can read the word on paper, and she knows the sounds the letters make, but she can’t always *hear* them when trying to sound out a word to spell it.

This makes it hard to find a specific homeschooling curriculum for Language Arts.  She still needs to learn the Kindergarten phonics rules, but the readers that some curriculums use are way too easy for her.  Last year I tried to buy up a couple levels for one curriculum so that the readers (for the child to read) would be more on her level.  However, what I failed to consider was that the rest of the language art lessons were then much too advanced for her – especially the copywork. Some of the days had several sentences that they were supposed to copy.

We are still working on writing capital letters correctly.

Handwriting, is incredibly hard for Lovebug.  Her gross and fine motor skills are delayed so it’s physically difficult for her.  She’s also a perfectionist, so it’s emotionally hard on her as I correct her hand position or remind her to start her letters at the top.  Today we were working on the letter A, and she traced the capital & lowercase version 5 times each.  After that, she was to color a picture of an alligator. Normally, the coloring is relaxing for her & she loves it, but today it was extremely stressful.  Her fingers were tired from the letter tracing, her mind was tired from agonizing over her mistakes, and she was practically in tears trying to think about what color she wanted to color the alligator.  She said “I just can’t figure out where to start!”

It’s like her brain just says “I quit! I’m not thinking any more!”.

I use the Handwriting Without Tears program and LOVE it! It is a program created by an Occupational Therapist and uses a multi-sensory approach to writing.  It’s awesome for her and is definitely helping.  It’s just that when we take a break (like over the holidays), any ground we’ve gained…we lose.  I guess I need to stop taking breaks.  We are using the Preschool workbook right now, and once we are done with that we’ll move on to the Kindergarten book – even if she’s in 1st or 2nd grade.  I told her I don’t care how long it takes her, I will keep working with her until she gets it.

I changed one thing this year over last year that has helped minimize both my stress and my daughter’s.  When I am teaching handwriting, we spend 10-20 minutes on it and I correct her hand position, letter formation or pencil grip as needed.  Once the handwriting lessons are over, I’m done correcting.  If she wants to write a card for Daddy, or copy words from a book, or write in her adventure journal – she can do it freely.  This used to bother me because I felt like if she keeps practicing it wrong, it will be that much harder to teach her the right way.  However, that backfires too because if I spend so much time correcting her, she feels like a failure and hates writing completely.

I’ve noticed this year that she has many times initiated writing on her own.  She’s written a story, added words to a poster, and several other things that she would have never done if she had expected me to correct her every move.  This way, I can encourage her to enjoy writing, while also spending an appropriate amount of time each week teaching her how to do it correctly.

We’ll get there.  Eventually.  Then, she’ll learn to type and never handwrite anything again.

What have you found that works for you? Or doesn’t work?

Slow start returning to school

After taking a couple weeks off of our regular school schedule, I was looking forward to getting back to it today.  It’s funny because it’s so easy to get out of our routine and then it’s hard to get back to it.  Yet, both Lovebug and I do much better when we have a set routine and can plan ahead.

So, I got up this morning and was looking forward to having breakfast and getting started with school. Unfortunately, Lovebug seemed a bit “off” after getting up today.  She was very easily upset, and seemed sad.  I wondered if it was because I told her that something she’s wanting to do will have to wait until tomorrow. I kept asking her if something was bothering her, but she couldn’t find an answer.

I knew that I needed to adjust the school plan with her feeling like this.  Obviously handwriting is not going to work right now because she’ll get even more upset. When she’s “low”, her motor skills worsen which in turn frustrates her more because her perfectionism comes out stronger.

I’m thinking, “Ok, no handwriting practice right now.  We can focus on math & science first (her favorites)”

“We’ll start with a good sensory activity to help her body and her mood”

“Hmmmm, well, let’s eat breakfast and I’ll figure it out.”

Once we were at the breakfast table, she said “I think I figured it out…I’m tired!”.

Ahhh! Well, that will do it!  I was so proud of her for figuring out what was bothering her! That’s HUGE! She seemed to have slept ok last night and she woke up at a regular time, but obviously her body wasn’t done.  So, we made a new plan! She would her eat her breakfast and then go lie down on her bed and read for 30 minutes or so.  Then we’ll try again and see how she’s feeling.

Once she gets up from reading, we’ll do some exercises and activities to wake up her body too.

As she was finishing her breakfast, I read to her our family devotional for the day.  It’s from a great book for my animal lover and it’s called My Big Book of 5 minute Devotions – Celebrating God’s World.  Today’s story was about the 3-tied sloth and PATIENCE.

I guess I needed that as much as she did.  I felt God reminding me to just be patient, and to slow down this morning.  I don’t need to rush us back into routine.  Sure, we need to get there, but it’s hard for her to transition so we might have to ease into it.  Give her grace, just as God gives me grace, and pay close attention to her needs today.

So we start at 10:00 instead of 9:00 today – big deal! We don’t punch a clock.

As long as we don’t go so slow that we start growing algae on ourselves like the sloths!

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

A Colorful Day!

Lovebug and I have been having a lot of fun incorporating Christmas into our school work!  Many of our Christmas activities come from the 1+1+1=1 website! This is one of my all time favorite homeschooling/preschool/early elementary idea sites…EVER! I am so very thankful that she provides so much of her hard work for the public to use for FREE!  I love FREE!  She has an entire Christmas “Tot Pack” of worksheets and printables available as well as a Nativity Tot Pack – check them out!

At first I thought some of them would be too young for Lovebug, but she LOVES them! Even if she already knows the material, she’s getting practice with fine motor skills (scissor work & coloring), and building her confidence as I work the easier things in between her harder subjects.

We also love these Christmas math worksheets from Kidzone.  Again, FREE! Lovebug’s fine motor skills are weak, so handwriting is her biggest challenge right now.  These are a fun way for her to practice writing her numbers.

We started the day with some letter tracing (letters A & B), then she traced a few color words in a book she’s putting together.

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We followed those with a number tracing page.  Then we moved on to a math worksheet because she thinks that’s fun!  She doesn’t realize she’s still getting more practice writing her numbers, she just loves to add!  Shhh, don’t tell her.

After all that, it was time for some art.  Today, she was using her dot paint markers and working on her Letter J Dot page.

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After finishing the page, she wanted some free time to just create, so she got out a white sheet of paper and wanted me to give her suggestions for what colors to mix.  I drew some circles and labeled 3 of them “red + blue”, “red + yellow”, and “yellow + blue”.  Then, I let her do all the painting and she just went with it!  She came up with more ideas for color mixing, wrote a couple words all on her own (orange and green) and was so excited when she was finished as she announced, “I made a COLOR CHART! All by myself!”.

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She wanted to write the words “Color Chart” at the top, so I took that opportunity to work on her spelling and problem solving.  I asked her how she could find out how to spell the words she wanted to write.  She said “Ask Mommy!”.  Smart girl.  I told her that was one way, but I wanted her to think of another way.  She said “Use the dictionary!”.  So she got out one of her dictionaries and found the word “color” all by herself.  She can read on a 3rd grade level, so finding the word wasn’t hard for her.  Her struggle is hearing the letter sounds in her head and translating it in order to spell it.  She can tell you the E says “Eh” (Thanks to Tad & Leapfrog’s Letter Factory!), but she doesn’t always hear it.

The word “chart” was a big harder as it wasn’t in either of our “First” dictionaries.  So, we sounded it out.  First the blend “ch”, then the “ar” sound, followed by the ending sound for “t”.  She was so thrilled that she figured it all out.  Then I showed it to her in the bigger Children’s Dictionary so she could see that she spelled it correctly.  Spelling has been a big challenge area for us the past year, so it’s so exciting to see her making leaps & bounds in that area.