Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"'s chances of survival increase
with each book one reads."

"If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. 
Or better, one's chances of survival increase 
with each book one reads."
-Sherman Alexie

Between this time last year and now, SC's reading skills have really taken off.  I distinctly remember the energy she expended about this time last year to get through even one chapter of the fun Mr. Putter and Tabby series books.  We read together every day, and she would be drained after just a few pages.  Now, however, she is decoding words at a mid-4th grade level, and comprehending at a mid-3rd grade level.  (Have you heard about the DORA test?)

She cannot get enough of books, and we have had to deal with the quandary of her sneaking books past bedtime.  I cannot bring myself to in any way tell her "no books" or "you shouldn't be reading."  So, when we catch her reading past bedtime, I just take the flashlight or book light away and tell her that she needs her sleep, to have enough energy for the next day, and that the book will still be there in the morning.  It is hard for me, though, because I understand the need to finish, and how wrapped up one can become in a good piece of writing.

At the beginning of last summer, and into the fall, I had a "reading challenge," and we diligently wrote down each book she had read, tallied points, and she earned prizes.  Very quickly, however, we had to adjust how points were calculated (away from number of pages to reading level), and then again (to extend the reading level).  We ended up just tallying minutes, and finally stopped keeping track.  I am not sure if the challenge helped give her that push she needed to become a reader or not, but she is just as likely (if not more) to closet herself away in her room, in her "reading chair," as she is to ask to play video games or watch the TV.

I thought it would be interesting to put together a list/progression of the books she has read on her own over the past year.  Once we stopped keeping written track (because I just couldn't keep up!), I may not have them all or be in the correct order, but this is most of them.  I have previously written about the first ten books she read here, so I will start after that.  I am also only going to link to a few of our favorites, rather than each one, for expediency.  

This first part of the list is the one I diligently kept track of, June through November.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Mo Willems
Almost Richard Torrey
Born to Be a Butterfly Karen Wallace
Should I Share my Ice Cream? Mo Willems
I'm a Caterpillar Jean Marzollo
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Bill Martin, Jr.
Sid's Surprise Candace Carter
Going to the Sea Park Mercer Mayer
Welcome to Royal Prep Lisa Ann Marsoli
Mr. Putter & Tabby Walk the Dog Cynthia Rylant
Penny and her Marble Kevin Henkes
Mr. Putter & Tabby Ring the Bell Cynthia Rylant
Bear in Underwear Todd H. Doodler
Mr. Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn Cynthia Rylant
Hop on Pop Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss
Just Lost! Mercer Mayer
The New Baby Stan & Jan Berenstain
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath Nick Bruel
Mr. Putter & Tabby See the Stars Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race Cynthia Rylant
I Want my Hat Back Jon Klassen
Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch Cynthia Rylant
Just a Little Music Mercer Mayer
Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty! Nick Bruel
Missing Molly Lisa Jahn-Clough
The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein
Bad Kitty Meets the Baby Nick Bruel
Princess Posey & the First Grade Parade Stephanie Greene
Play, Mozart, Play! Peter Sis
My Trip to the Hospital Mercer Mayer
Mr. Putter & Tabby Write the Book Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Fly the Plane Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans Cynthia Rylant
Pete the Cat: Rockin' in my School Shoes Eric Litwin
Mr. Putter & Tabby Make a Wish Cynthia Rylant
Lily's Purple Plastic Purse Kevin Henkes
Princess Posey & the Perfect Present Stephanie Greene
Hamster and Cheese Colleen AF Venable
Madeline Ludwig Bemelmans
Princess Posey & the Next-Door Dog Stephanie Greene
Princess Posey & the Monster Stew Stephanie Greene
Cardboard Doug TenNapel
Princess Posey & the Tiny Treasure Stephanie Greene

This part of the list is not in exact reading order, but rather alphabetical by author.  I also do not list the various picture books she has read because I cannot keep track of them all.  Our usual take from a library trip is 20-30 books, and we also go to Barnes & Noble to sit and read picture books a few times a month.

by Jorje Aguierre
Giants Beware!

by Annie Barrows
Ivy and Bean
Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go
Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record
Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter
Ivy and Bean: Bound to Be Bad
Ivy and Bean: Doomed to Dance
Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea?
Ivy and Bean: No News Is Good News
Ivy and Bean: Make the Rules
Ivy and Bean: Take the Case

by Nick Bruel
Bad Kitty for President
Bad Kitty School Daze
Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble

by Kazu Kibishi
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Explorer: The Lost Islands
Amulet: The Stonekeeper
Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse

by Mary Pope Osborne
Dinosaurs before Dark
The Knight at Dawn
Mummies in the Morning

by Ashley Spires
Binky the Space Cat
Binky Under Pressure
Binky: License to Scratch
Binky to the Rescue
Binky takes Charge

by Doug TenNapel
Bad Island
Tommysaurus Rex

The list also should include all the Berenstain Bears and Little Critter books she can get her hands on, plus anything Star Wars related that the library has.  I still feel like I am forgetting some, but oh well.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Happiness can be found
even in the darkest of times ..."

Over the past school year, we have really gotten into listening to audiobooks.  I am horrible at reading aloud, especially books that have more than one main character, who all need to sound different.  In fact, I struggle with this issue even when reading silently to myself.  (On a side note - I have found that watching a tv/film version of said book helps immensely by giving me the voices in my head, though of course I cannot reproduce them aloud.)

Enter: audiobooks!  The first audiobook we listened to, about a year and a half ago, was The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, narrated by Rob Inglis, and from then both SC and I were hooked on having a professional read to us.  As SC's reading skills began to develop, she even began to follow along with her own copy of the book, which exposed her to more words (and what they look like) than just listening alone would have.  Over this past year, she has gotten to where she can follow along without getting exhausted (which frequently happened when we started out), and we have found some great books that we love.

Many of the books we were able to find on, which is a monthly subscription service.  Each month we get 1 credit toward the purchase of any digital audiobook (they have larger packages), and considering the 1 credit costs only $16, and most of the audiobooks are $20-$30, it is a great savings.  We have also been able to find some at the public library (like the Harry Potter books), because they are not available digitally.

So, in reverse order of listening, here are our "read-alouds" for this past school year.

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale(currently listening)

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

5. The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, narrated by Del Roy

6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Anne Hathaway

7. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author

8. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle, narrated by Hope Davis

9. Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston, narrated by Alan Cumming

10. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweilernarrated by Jill Clayburgh

11. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

I should note, SC is very interested in fantasy/sci-fi stories, especially the darker ones.  In fact, the book from the list she liked least was From the Mixed-Up Files.  While these books are appropriate for her (and we spend quite a bit of time discussing them), they may not be appropriate for all 5 year olds.

*Are you making a list of the books you have "read aloud" this year?  Join me, as I will be adding this list to the "List it Tuesday" link-up here:

**This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure statement. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Without deviation from the norm,
progress is not possible."

"Without deviation from the norm, 
progress is not possible."
-Frank Zappa

According to the typical school calendar, our first year of homeschooling "for real," and SC's kindergarten year, should be almost over.  Yet, after all this time, we will do school through the summer, with a few adjustments for the water park and other summer activities.  See, we have only been keeping a "regular" school schedule (like the one I laid out here, though not really) for just over a month.  Though kindergarten technically started at the beginning of September, after the first few weeks of struggle (during which I absented from blogging), I forced myself to adapt so that school wasn't such a miserable experience for both of us.  

On top of starting school that "counts," SC was also dealing with AC's travel becoming more frequent as well as less structured, which resulted in outbursts of anger and an attempt by her to survive through control.  We dropped back to only going to her twice-a-week private kindergarten, which was normal for her, and worked on the homework they sent home.  We spent time going to the local science museum, and signed her up for a few classes there.  We met other homeschoolers for park days and field trips.  We listened to a large number of audiobooks, and spent hours at the various local libraries.  We watched PBS Great Performances stage shows, ballets and operas.  We baked together, and had tea parties, and discussed the arts.  Plus, we traveled with AC when we could, including spending two weeks this spring in London and Belgium.  We had a wonderful "school" year.

However, we still needed to get a real routine going for school.  Much of the past year has been up to SC with regard to what she wanted and when she wanted, which isn't real life.  Eventually there will come a point where it may not be best for her to be homeschooled, either because I cannot keep up with her (like in math or science), or because the services offered by the district we happen to be living in at the time can do as good a job at teaching her on her level.  We are aware of at least two local districts that have full-time gifted programs, and while we don't live in one of them currently, moving isn't out of the realm of possibilities for our future.

So, when we returned from our European vacation, SC and I sat down and talked about school.  We talked about the things that had to be in our daily schedule (math, language arts, handwriting practice, spelling), we talked about the additional things she would like to do (Spanish, history, art, breaks), and we worked together to plan out a schedule that worked for both of us.  

The first few days were a bit tough to really get into the schedule, but now I am excited for the next stage of school, over the summer.  I am also really excited that we will be done with the private kindergarten, because it is opening up our schedule so that we are not having to cram things in.  We are looking at potential extra-curricular activities for the fall, like a Broadway class that teaches acting, dancing and singing, and maybe a class at the local zoo.  So many of the local museums and places that offer after-school activities now offer classes during the day for homeschoolers, which means we don't have to be out late into the evening trying to get things done.

Finally, for the time being I have decided that instead of calling this year "kindergarten" and next "first grade," which is the way the US public schools do things, I will just call this "Year 1," and the next "Year 2," and so on.  The work that SC has been doing, even the work she has been doing at the private kinder class, is at least on the first grade level, so to call it "kindergarten" is a fairly large misnomer.  For organizational purposes, it just makes more sense to call this "Year 1," and I will be changing the labeling on the blog.

I hope to get back to writing blog posts at least weekly, because I love to write and I have missed it.  I am not going to work to write posts just for weekly "link-up parties," though I may join if the content fits.  Also, I want to continue writing the What 2 Read Wednesday posts, because I enjoy writing book reviews.  I want to get back to this blog being a refuge for me, rather than the chore it had become, and hopefully others may be able to take something from it as well.

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