Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Learning to read naturally

Here is our story of how TJ (turning seven in May) has been learning how to read.  There are so many different ways to learn how to read and lots of research about those many methods.  Take time to figure out what works for your child and family.  This is what worked for our son and we are so proud of his accomplishments.

When TJ was around 3 or 4 we borrowed the Leap Frog Letter Factory movie from the library.  Something clicked after watching the movie a few times and he learned his alphabet and the sounds.  Oh sure we sang the alphabet song together, did a few work sheets and letter recognition activities but a lot of that felt like review for him.  It did help with his writing as he got a bit older.

Over the next few years we explored different methods of homeschooling and unschooling.  TJ did have some direct instruction, games with sight words and help sounding out words.  He always did his best and enjoyed learning from different people (mommy, daddy, my mom and my sister). To be completely honest though we didn't do any of these things consistently or too in-depth.

Part of our goal/hope for our boys is to allow their natural curiosity to lead them into learning what they need to in their own time.  We didn't want to pressure TJ into reading (he often backed away when he sensed that).  In my research I have learned that children learn best when they are interested and want to be doing a certain activity.  So while I'm sure my boys would pick up some great reading skills if I directed the learning I know that it would stick more if the desire came from within. Also because our boys are still quite young I wanted to give us all some time to explore child-led learning first hand to see how that would actually work for our family.  So we gave TJ time and space this year.

What we discovered was delightful.  My boys both love rhyming and often play with words and sounds during breakfast.  Even my 4 year old MJ is always asking me if certain words rhyme.  We also found that TJ's mind is more clear when he is moving.  One day when he was only about 5 or 6 he was swinging upside down on our rope swing and started sounding out words.  He spelled 'hand', 'sand' and a few others just for fun.  We have taken time to explain some blends to him such as sh, ch, and oo so that he can recognize them better.  Daddy also found a cool toy/game at the thrift store.  It is a spelling game that you twist the dial to spell words.  We gave it to TJ just for fun and he loves it.  He zips through several levels in one sitting.  The repetition is nice for him as he often starts at the beginning each time he plays.

Motivation is really something that we found key in letting TJ come into reading more naturally. This winter TJ has been playing on the Wii more (it's been really cold outside!!).  He wants to be more independent so he has figured out how to set himself up, select and play games and follow the instructions.  I hardly ever have to go in to help anymore.  I know he has figured out what a lot of the words on the screen say.  We also let the boys choose whatever topic they are interested in and support that through the internet, library books and field trips, and videos.  Seeing certain words repeatedly has helped with reading and going into more depth into a subject is increasing their vocabulary.

Fun spelling toy

A few fun things we've done have encouraged his reading, but none were enforced (they were available and just fun to do).  We've done scavenger hunts with words clues using simple words, we have a magnetic poetry kit on the fridge and make up funny sentences, we own a few word/alphabet puzzles and games, we have also watched several other Leap Frog movies that my boys love. I signed the boys up for the website "Teach Your Monster to Read', as I heard it was good.  MJ found manipulating the screen tricky but he enjoyed it. TJ zipped through all the levels quickly but the concepts didn't really stick.  He was annoyed by having to do the reading section again before getting to the games.  We also read constantly as a family using a variety of genres, and we have some sets of beginner reader books out that he can try.  TJ especially enjoys special time reading to daddy in the evenings.

My husband said to me the other day something to the effect that, I'm not sure what you are doing but it's working.  Giving TJ the time and space he needed to develop was jut the right thing for us.  Something has clicked!!  TJ is reading, picking out words, and reading simple stories to us.  As he reads he sometimes sounds out words, or uses the pictures to help him guess he word.  We will wither help him to sound out what he is reading or tell him the words (it depends on his body cues to know how to help him).  I happened to mention that when I was a teacher we used to keep track of the books the kids read and made a reading worm all the way around the room.  TJ was sort of interested so we set a goal.  TJ decided that he wants to read 50 books by the end of April and we'll take him to the books store to choose any book he likes.  He and I made an awesome chart (he has a Mars Rover moving across the stars from Earth to Mars) and spread the news for more encouragement.  On day 1 TJ read 3 beginner reader books!

TJ's reading chart.  His goal is to read 50 books by the end of April.

I am not going to compare TJ to other kids as everyone learns at their own pace.  Down the road in a few years no one will notice if he learned to read at age 5 or 8 or anything.  He is so excited with every new word he sounds out or recognizes.  Just the other night he ran out of his room with excitement to tell me that he knew what the poster on his wall said.  He can see the progress he is making with reading books together right on the family room wall.

Actually it isn't that he came to me and said he wanted to read, it has just become a natural progression.

MJ too is well on his way to becoming a natural reader in his own time.  He sounds out words as we work with big brother.  One night as the boys were settling in bed I noticed MJ talking to himself a lot.  Instead of telling him to be quiet I decided to sneak over and see what he was up to.  My little guy was trying to sound out and read the brand name on the toy he was holding.  After we worked out what it said he settled right down to sleep.  He is fascinated with word sounds and rhyming.  And as reading, writing and learning is just a regular part of our day without setting certain times for each thing I'm confident he'll pick it up too.

So this is how my boys learn to read.  We support them and follow their natural progression.  The same is true for all things like writing, math etc.  We do these things all day and learn from the world around us.

Here is another good article about naturally learning to read.  Do check out the Reading: How children learn link below too.

I'd love to hear about your journey and stories too!!

This post is linked up to
Hip Homeschool Moms

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Connect with us!!

Thank you so much for joining us today at Joyful Mud Puddles.  There are so many ways to connect our family and others who enjoy our blog.  

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Our Week: March Break

This week is March break for all the school kids.  For us it is life as usual but with some extra friends joining us for our adventures.  At the the beginning of the week we had some of the boys' friends join us for the day.  All the kids are so imaginative.  There was Playmobil, crafts, baking, dress-up and a whole lot of outdoor exploring.

MJ made a pregnant peg person
 The boys were able to feel their baby brother kicking in my tummy which was fun.  We are talking about him more and how he is developing.

The children all practiced climbing trees

Tower building

Pretzel baking
Mid week I got really sick so was out of commission.  The boys watched some documentaries, played Wii, and got outside a little too.  They were good about helping me get better so we took it slowly for a day or two. We did manage to check on our seed experiment too.  TJ and I drew pictures in our nature journals and the boys also checked on the progress of their snap dragons.

TJ thrilled to get moving again in the nice weather
At the end of the week mommy was feeling normal again.  We spent some time cleaning the house.  We joined our friends for out outdoor play group and had a wonderful time rolling down hills, walking along the board walk and exploring the beach front.  The children were all so careful and used great judgement near the ice.  They discussed their own safety rules for playing together and got a long wonderfully.  We can't wait to go again next week.  Later in the day my older sister came over with her friend's kids that she was babysitting.  We had a great time together playing, riding bikes, and playdough.

TJ's been continuing to work on his reading.  He is moving along nicely and even choosing some harder books to progress through.  We have also have been learning more about the Mars Rovers.  I am going to encourage TJ do be doing more with that next week.

How was your week??

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship with Facebook

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.  Some of you may not have any trouble and I'm not here to make anyone feel guilty about how they spend their time.  This is just how I feel (as do a few other's I've spoke with).

Facebook can come with a lot of drama!  When you comment or like a post that is public, everyone in your friends list can see that.  Not all your friends or family may agree with your point of view and chime in with their opinions too.  For me it has created some serious drama and relationship issues.  Maybe it would have happened without Facebook, but it certainly didn't help much.

Facebook for some can be a time sucker!  Do I seriously need to keep checking me phone every few minutes?  Where did my whole evening go?  Why am I looking at vacation photos for an old colleague's sister's trip?  What am I teaching my children through this addictive behavior?

For some time now I've been unhappy with my time online, how it is affecting my ego and relationships. After some personal reflection I was ready to just drop off line completely.  I Googled why people have deleted their Facebook accounts and came across some great posts including this one.  I posed my problem to my hubby, a good friend and a group in'm on who I knew would understand where I'm coming from.  Below are some of their suggestions.

THINK before posting consider the implications, is it worth it?

Spring Clean your account: Go through your friends list and unfriend people you don't even recognize. Do the same with other categories on your profile and leave groups that you don't follow anymore.

Unfollow people. This way their posts doesn't show up in your news feed but you are still connected as friends.

Organize your friends list into different groups/lists.  When you post you can choose which group will actually see what you've written.

Change your notifications.  You devices don't need to bing for every single post that goes onto Facebook.  You can turn off the notifications for different groups you are in.

Make two separate accounts a personal one and one for business or special interests.  You can change your name on one account posting freely as you wish since the unanimity is nice.

Change your account settings, clamp down on your Facebook securities and profile settings.

Manage your time.  If it isn't FB it'll be something else like Pintrest, twitter, intagram etc.In managing your time try to post less too.  Don't add to the FB clutter.  Some people have a set time each day for checking emails and other social media.  As a parent I love this plan because my boys constantly see me on my phone all day and I'd rather be connecting with them in person.

Remove the Facebook apps from your devices.  Keep it only on one desktop or laptop and stop checking your phone every five seconds.

Comment or Like as one of the pages you manage. If you have more than one page under your account, say for your business or blog did you know you can like or post as one of them instead of yourself.  At the bottom right corner of some posts (mostly public ones not those in closed groups) there is a little flag.  Click on that and comment as one of the pages you manage!

Set up a separate page under your profile and post away.  Only people looking for you will like it and see what you are up to.

Be confident in yourself.  Personally i think it would be too much for me to manage two separate accounts although I do like the idea.  But I am who I am and I'm not going to separate myself into two people.  If you don't like what I've posted or don't agree with me, then unfollow, unlike or unfriend me!

Take a break:  Just don't go on Facebook for a certain amount of time.  Some people do this for a week each year or even longer.  The world really will continue without you checking in all the time.

Delete your account completely.  From what I've read most people who delete their Facebook accounts are happy with the free time and less stress.

PS there are some really funny ecards and mems about Facebook out there if you do a quick search...

This post is also linked to:

Hip Homeschool Moms

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Our Week: So much fun!

Wow yet another super week!  Here are only a few highlights (although a lot of photo)...

Finally some warmer weather!  The boys got outside, down and dirty.

I wrote about this one day on our Facebook Page.  MJ takes much longer than his older brother to fall asleep.  We have given him some extra settling time to play and unwind.  With the time change he was up even later but instead of being frustrated I took time to see what he was up to.  MJ had built a pyramid from pattern blocks.  Later he added a pond for sharks.  When I went to bed I turned out his flashlight and discovered that he had added sharks to his pond too.

One day this week I pulled out the science kit TJ had received for his last birthday.  We did the last few experiments together.  After watching for a bit MJ decided he wanted to make his own concoctions.  This went on for a few days as he had them in and out of the fridge and freezer.

The next day was wonderful as we spent a great deal of time at home without having to rush off to lessons, playgroups etc.  I wrote a whole separate blog post HERE.

Even warmer weather came towards the middle/end of the week.  My boys had a water fight with ice cold puddles.  They splashed and ran around enjoying the sun!

At times TJ has expressed boredom.  Not with being home with us or anything.  He is going through a transition between being a little kid and becoming a big kid.  It is hard for him and we are patiently helping him through this time.  One day I gave him a few suggestions to get him started on doing something other than bugging his brother.  The two actually came up with the most crazy chalk drawings.  I believe one is of a skidoo with a door at the front, hay bail cab and volcano passenger.  There is a monkey on the back holding another volcano.  Volcanos and tractors have been a big theme for the past few weeks.  The boys have really enjoyed learning all about the different types of volcanos, their names and how they are formed.  They have expanded their vocabulary and imaginative play.

One day while playing farm MJ found his needle felted mouse and was using that.  TJ went on a search for his and our game continued.  Then TJ suggested that we make some more needle felted friends to add to our play.  Of course I said yes!  So TJ made this adorable bunny almost all by himself.

MJ made a tractor almost all by himself.  He was sure to include headlights, tail lights and wheels.  Although, it hasn't survived his rough play as well as I had hoped but he loves it.  He has shown it off to everyone he can.

This week we joined a book club that meets at the library once a month.  There was an opening for the last few weeks of the year.  I told the boys we' go this week just to check it out and then discuss what we thought of it.  Well huge success there!!  It was a group of homeschoolers (mot of whom we already knew).  The topic this month was aliens.  One of the moms had gathered several children's books and read a few to the group.  Next she had planed a fun craft for everyone to make their own space ship and aliens.  Even though we joined late in the year we offered to take on next month as they needed someone to lead it.  Not sure yet what topic we'll choose.

I love Pinterest.  I often find some really cool ideas and then forget to share them with the boys.  On morning I told TJ about these balloon powered Lego cars I'd seen.  He went off to build one but it didn't really go anywhere.  He was rather disappointed and frustrated.  I was disappointed too because all the blogs I checked out said it worked great.  So I made a few different designs for us to test.  It turn out that you need a car that really rolls well.  TJ had the bottom one go all the way down the hall!

After our last trip to the library we changed up all the books we had out.  MJ still took out some tractor books but since he'd read them all he added in some construction trucks too.  On the shelf across from him we noticed the human body section so he took out a book and video from there too.  TJ's new interest is space and he also got some motorcycle books too.

One of TJ's library picks was a movie about the Mars Rovers.  It turns out to be a documentary that he has been fascinated by.  He now knows all the ins and outs of the Spirit and Opportunity space missions.  This I'm sure will lead us to research more on Curiosity and more.  My boys often like to take what they have learned and build a model of it.  TJ wanted to make his own Mars Rover.  He's added great details such as brown dirt, a camera, satellite, and rock collection bucket.

While he got started on that I pulled out a robot kit the boys ere given at Christmas.  It has extra moving parts and things you can add to your own recycled parts robots.  Perfect timing!!  As you can see above the boys made some really creative looking robots.

We also had out play group this week which didn't last long due to a cold wind  But it was nice to get out and see everyone.  On the weekend Grandma and Grandpa Scott dropped by.  MJ helped to make the salad for everyone.  We also checked on the progress of out seed experiment.  We had a great visit and a nice long walk before Grandma and Grandpa headed out.

TJ's been reading a lot more in the past week.  I'll be writing a separate post on that soon.  After telling him how I used to track my student's reading when I was a teacher, TJ decided to do something similar.  He wants to read 50 books by the end of April.  His reading chart is a path from Earth to Mars for his Mars Rover that he drew.  We'll write the name of each book on a star as he reads to us.  In his excitement to get going TJ read 3 books on the first day!!

While out shopping one day TJ say a really cool net with a telescopic handle.  He had to have it!!  Daddy and I did explain that we already had three nets at home in the shed and the handle looked like it might easily break on this one.  But TJ locked on to the idea of having this net.  So we told him that if he had enough money of his own we'd take him to the store.  Surprisingly he had a whole lot of dimes and nickels in his jar.  Pleased with his purchase we went over to the thrift store for something we needed.  MJ wandered to the toy section and was playing for ages with a bag of parts that were open on the floor.  We asked at the front how much this toy was and since there was no price he lady rang it in at $3.  I also happened to get 30% off my whole purchase from all the purging we've been doing lately.  TJ became rather jealous of MJ's new toy.  Oh what a dilemma, what to do... on the way home we talked as a family and decided that as adults we often change our minds about a purchase and are allowed to return it.  TJ had given some more thought and can to the conclusion that he did have other nets at home and would rather spend hi money on something different.  After dropping MJ and I of at home, TJ and daddy went back out to return the net and choose something different for TJ.  
Not everyone will agree with our parenting choices here.  But we both feel it was a valuable learning experience for TJ.    He started with a jar full of money and all he got was a flimsy net, while his brother spend less on a really cool used toy.  TJ learned that we can sometimes return our purchases, but can not at the thrift store.  He and daddy talked about what might be a better use of his money and he is thrilled with his new purchase (he got a soccer ball shaped pillow and a tire shaped carrying case).  Next time I believe TJ will think more before jumping in and buying everything he wants.  He'll also have to wait a while until he saves up more money too.

Oh super awesome bonus:  I looked online to find out more about what it was ha MJ bought.  Turns out we scored two sets worth $25 each all in one bag.  So that's an awesome $50 construction toy for less than 3!  It really is cool and MJ has been building for hours (even in bed).

Our fun week ended with a joint birthday party for the boys cousins who are now 1 and 3 years old.  This Minion party was so adorable.  They made minion play dough, another fun minion craft, had a minion easter egg hunt and adorable baked minion goodies.  My sister knows how to add special details and a fun party!!!

So there you have it.  Another busy week from us.  What have you been up to?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A day in our life...

There is no typical day in our home.  We do not follow a strict schedule.  Today was actually one of those non-typical typically random days in our home.  We actually were home the whole day together without having an activity to attend. 

This year we seem to be out all the time despite my efforts to keep our weeks simple.  Each week the boys attend swimming lessons and gym play time at the YMCA (that’s two different afternoons out), we also get together with friends for an outdoor playgroup that we only manage to make one of the two dates each week.  I often get together with my family each week or every other week.  Add to that outings, errands, play dates, church group activities and appointments that come up less often and we could be out every day of the week.  I have found that my boys do best when we have only one thing scheduled out of the house each day.

loose parts provocation with pictures of nature mandalas for inspiration
Today the family we were supposed to meet up with all had the flu (I do hope they are feeling better soon).  TJ was so excited to find out that we didn’t have to go anywhere unless we wanted!!  I really think we need more days like this, so don’t be offended if we turn down an invite.

I decided to write down everything we did today for you.  Any other day of the week would be sort of similar to this except that half the day is taken up by getting ready to leave, driving, doing an activity and settling in at home again.

 I woke up to take out the garbage and recycling.  Then I stayed outside a little longer to mediate and pray.  It was not so cold outside so I enjoyed the silence of the morning. 

Mommy's nature patterns

My oldest TJ (turning 7 in May) and I had breakfast, chatted and cuddled.  We talked about how things are going, our days, what he’s interested in.

Younger brother MJ (turning 5 in June) woke up for breakfast.  They watched the rest of the movie they had started the night before while I got daddy’s coffee going and some office work done (I do all the paper work for our family business).
I had an urge to set up a creative provocation/activity for us that I’d seen on Pintrest.  I really wanted to try it for myself and to see if the boys wanted to join in. TJ and I made some lovely nature patterns.

MJ made his own version of a Lego photo we found online
MJ got out the Lego.  He had asked TJ to look at his helicopter to copy but TJ wasn’t really wanting that.  I suggested that I could set up the ipad with pictures.  MJ happily looked at pictures of Lego helicopters on the ipad.  He even used some of our pieces to make a similar scene to what he’d been looking at..  TJ got in on the action too and made a landing pad with Lego for his helicopter.

While the boys played I made some snacks.  We ate and chatted about what we wanted to do with our day.
MJ looking at helicopters to copy and TJ's landing pad
TJ suggested the garden centre to get dirt for the snapdragon seeds .  He also began counting his money to see if he had enough to buy some flowers.  At the garden centre we looked at all the flowers and plants.  We talked about what plants would last longer and their prices.  MJ found two small houseplants on sale that he’d like. TJ really wanted trailing ivy.  He tried to figure out ways we could hang it in our house and to let everyone know it was his.  The tiny plant on sale would take a long time to get to the size TJ was expecting.  I figured why not get the larger hanging basket if we spilt the cost.

Back at home we found the perfect spots for all the new plants.  We also planted the snapdragons into pots.  MJ wanted to cut his dirt and see the seeds so I mentioned an experiment we could do.  We put three different types of seeds into Ziploc bags with wet paper towels.  Then taped them to the windows.  TJ made some predictions and was excited to realize we had made mini green houses.  Let’s see what happens.

MJ wasn’t as into setting up the experiment.  He went to investigate the concoction he had made the day before.  MJ added a few more ingredients, then, set one on the fireplace and one in the fridge.

Our new house plants
I am becoming more relaxed with meals.  As the boys are getting older they can help me make meals and choose foods that they’d actually prefer to eat.  I still help out and make some suggestions that would better suite their food intolerances.

 Over lunch we talked about some friends that would be visiting over the March break.  That led to questions about how long until their baby was due.  I got down the calendar, abacus, and notebook.  We figured out ways to count the days to everyone’s birthdays and baby due dates.  TJ is awesome and great at skip counting.

Next we made a list of all the things we still wanted to do today.  First TJ chose something for us all to do (at this age the boys really like doing things together with me instead of being alone for the most part).  Dance party time!!  We watched fun Youtube videos, danced, jumped on the mini trampoline and had lots of fun.
Planting snapdragons and plant growing experiment
Next up MJ wanted to play Playmobil, so we all set up farms.  We played together until mommy got tired of sitting on the floor.  The boys kept going while I went to say hi to Daddy who was doing office work.

By then I noticed that the boys had lots of energy to spend and we’d been inside most of the day.  I suggested that we all head out to play.  TJ drove he tractor (we have taken off the mowing deck to our lawn tractor and added snow chains for the winter)  TJ is quickly learning how to maneuver the tractor and to pull over for the neighbours’ cars.  Luckily we are on a private laneway and have a large yard for him.  MJ had a blast digging in the muddy sandbox.  There is no point washing his outer wear, just let it dry and go back out tomorrow.

Back inside we settled some arguments and cuddled.  Then had hot chocolate and a snack.

The boys each chose a few books for me to read while we snuggled on the couch.  Today’s books were robots, under the ocean, and poetry.
One of MJ's concoctions...
We’ve (okay mostly just me) have been purging a lot recently.  I’m loving how uncluttered everything is becoming, and how freeing it feels to let go.  I took some time with each boy to go through the shelves in their bedrooms.  They did a great job of deciding what to keep, toss, donate and store away.  The room looks much better.

Opps we lost track of time and forgot to make dinner.  Daddy suggested pancakes and made them.  TJ helped daddy flip the pancakes while MJ and I played with their toy golf set.

After dinner the boys played with some newly discovered toys from their bedroom selves.  TJ had a shower while MJ climbed all over daddy.

Dance party and small world farm play
Every evening the boys watch some TV and have a snack as part of their routine.  Tonight they watched the Disney earth movie about bears.  With teeth brushed and PJ’s on the boys wanted to read stories (most nights I tell a story while they are settled into bed).  TJ was excited to read to daddy so he chose a Biscuit book.  MJ chose a tractor book and made up a story to tell me as he looked at the pictures.

The boys are settled into bed just looking at books, or playing quietly with their toys.  One of us usually stay in the room for a while.  Daddy is having a rest/nap while I’m tying.  After they fall asleep I’ll probably do some sewing or watch TV.

So there you have it, a random day of our life.  No set curriculum or schedule just my boys insatiable curiosity, spending valuable time together as a family and allowing the boys to truly get as much out of childhood as they can. 

TJ on the tractor and MJ enjoying the muddy sandbox
Just a side note for those wondering about ‘learning’ and academics: Did you notice the math in making patterns, counting dates, looking at calendars, counting money and paying for items?  Also the countless times we looked at the clock together during the day.  And there was science in gardening; setting up experiments, making concoctions.  We also read a variety of genres from poetry, fiction and non-fiction.  The boys each read/told stories to us.  Most days some writing occurs too.  These are just a few of the things we did today.  How about the discussions that took place, artistic expressions, critical decision making skills and communication, physical activity and interpersonal skills.  Even real life socialization with talking to the staff at the garden centre.  We also get together with other kids basically every day of the week for different activities. 

WOW!!  It seems like we did so very much today, but really it was a nice relaxing day for us to just do as we pleased and live life.  Don’t get me wrong we also very much enjoy the outside of the home activities we do each week and we have chosen ones that suit our family best at this time.  Those flow nicely with our days too (if only I could get us out the door a little more smoothly).

Thanks for dropping by, I hope you’ll share what you’ve been up to as well.

By the time this post was originally posted, we spent some time as a family at my ultrasound appointment.  What a wonderful opportunity for the boys to see the baby and all the details on the screen.  We are super excited to be adding another BOY to our family at the end of July.

This post is linked to:

How Do You Do It? Parenting Link Up Party