Learning Opportunities Abound

A recent news article about a lost dog finding his way home after part of his human family perished in a terrible crash in New Mexico caught Emily’s attention and became a geography lesson the other day.

“Mama, tell me about the dog who was in the crash. Show me on this where he was and where he belongs.” Emily held her new globe in her hands.

“Well honey, let’s look at this map, it might be better with the details,” I steered her towards the United States map I have pinned directly below the whiteboard in my office.

“Tell me the whole story, Mama.”

And so I did, tracing the route that the poor pup must have taken to travel the long long miles from the terrible car crash in New Mexico, all the way to Kansas where his microchip was read, to the home waiting for him in Michigan.

“What a brave dog he is,” I said to Emily and she nodded gravely, staring at the map.

I am realizing rather quickly that, right now, Emily learns best through stories. She loves them to be read to her, or simply shown a path on a map that she can relate to, while hearing the story. Toss out the workbooks, forget the memorization, this is how she learns. And this is how I must teach her – one story at a time.

If this seems too simplistic, think about our enduring fairy tales, childhood songs, or the stories of our families that are passed down through the generations. They amuse, enthrall, and usually educate, all at the same time. In many senses, they often provide the basis of our moral choices and the direction our lives may lead.

Stories…work…

Homeschool Log for 8/16/11

Language Arts – I pulled out a Hello Reader! book The Lunch Box Surprise, pointed to the label at the top and said to Emily, “This is a beginning reader book. That means I need your help when reading it.”

She looked unhappy, “I don’t want to learn how to read.”

Dave was nearby, so we both talked about it for a moment, giving her some reasons why learning how to read is so important. “Besides,” I smiled at her, “You already DO know how to read (she has been sounding out short three and four letter words for weeks now). Now it’s just a matter of getting better with each day that passes.”

I read a little bit and then pointed to “Pam” and waited for her. She looked at it, did a double-take, and said with a tiny question in her voice, “Pam?”

“Exactly. And on the first try!”

She was quite excited. This excitement carried her through most of the book. She often still wants to guess a word, rather than sound it out, but she’s getting better. I think that it is a matter of building momentum and becoming more and more comfortable with the process. Which tells me this needs to be a daily, if not twice daily occurrence.

Social Studies – I made it most of the way through Rookie Read-About Geography’s The Missouri River. Emily has two modes – super-fidget and super-attentive. It is feast or famine with her. This book did not interest her and she made that crystal-clear. I’m afraid that the Rookie Read-About Geography series may be a) too advanced, and b) too boring. The rest are being returned to the library.

Science – We read Sid the Science Kid’s Why Did My Ice Pop Melt? which provided an introduction to water in liquid and frozen state. It didn’t go any further than that, which is a shame. I was hoping the book would cover fog or steam as well. However it was a nice, simple introduction. Emily loves Sid the Science Kid, so it held her attention.

Foreign Language – The English-Spanish Foundation Series are officially dead in the water. These are short little board books that give entire long sentences. Emily completely checked out during them. I’m returning all of them to the library and looking for other ideas for helping teach Spanish. One of my thoughts is to simply play the daily Pimsleur lesson while she is in the room working on crafts. I did this yesterday and she was curious and actively listening as I went through the exercises.

Mathematics – We pulled out another Hello Math Reader The Silly Story of Goldie Locks and the Three Squares. Again, this held her attention and I hope to build on it by drawing some shapes later. She knows what a circle, triangle, square and rectangle is – but gets confused with hexagons and up. We also read Footprints in the Snow: Counting by Twos by Michael Dahl which promotes counting by twos to twenty. Past about ten she just couldn’t keep up. I’ll keep the book instead of returning it right away and try hitting it every other day or so, until the act of counting by twos is a little more familiar.

Art – Emily encountered quite a bit of frustration with the modeling clay. We both assumed it would be the same as Play-Doh, and it most certainly is not. All of her Play-Doh tools and stamps did not work, instead they became gunked up with the clay. Then I got involved. “Perhaps we could make something out of the clay…like a person,” I suggested. That was on Monday. By Tuesday there was an army of creatures – people with long, spracked-out spindly arms and legs, and a small pile of animals. She’s been painting some of the ones that have dried enough, but I’m thinking we need to do better about limb integrity. The heads, legs and arms keep falling off. Which has led to long monologues from Emily on the nature of death.

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