New book! Buy it now!

It’s been a couple months since I updated this blog about what I’m doing with the boys, so here goes–subject by subject. The general method I’ve followed with H.’s education is unchanged: I read to him at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we usually do something educational after breakfast and after his nap (around 3:30 or 4 PM), and I read to him at bedtime. I’ve been following a subject-oriented schedule. For example, at breakfast, from Monday through Saturday, we switch between history and science. The schedule is designed with H.’s interests as well as my own priorities in mind. So H. rarely has any objection to studying a particular subject at a particular time, though sometimes he does, and then I rarely insist. As a result, I’m happy to say, H. has been well-exposed to a wide variety of subjects. How much of what he has read he actually remembers, I don’t know; he doesn’t like to be tested and is frequently cagey about stuff even when he does know it.

After a long phase (maybe six months) of not reading books as much, H. has started reading books more often again on his own–and I’m starting to have to clean them up again.  (It probably helped that we put away the Legos.  If he has access, it’s all Legos, all the time.)  He has been picking up books that are “age appropriate,” which is to say that they’re easy for him to decode and understand, such as Berenstain Bears books.  He has been rediscovering books that he liked a year or two ago, as well as carrying around chapter books we’ve been reading.

We started quite a few bedtime books, and it’s gotten to the point that I have to insist that we stick to a few, or we’ll never finish any.  Out of the big stack next to H.’s bed, the two that we’re mostly working on now are Julie Andrews’ The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, a book I greatly enjoyed when I was nine.  At first, H. wasn’t too keen on it, but he stuck with it and now likes it quite a bit more now that the kids are having experiences in Whangdoodleland.  We’re also now reading the complete anthology of Thomas the Tank Engine stories (this one, by the Rev. W. Awdry) and are now well over halfway done.  The last time we picked up this tome was when H. was two years old.  H. also brought up the big thick Beatrix Potter anthology and we started reading that, but I don’t know if we’re going to keep it up.

We’ve read quite a few other books too; I can’t remember all what they are.  H. is so crazy about Alice in Wonderland that when I asked what audio book I should download, he insisted on Alice and would not tolerate any other suggestion.  So we’re reading/listening to Alice for the zillionth time (in the car).  It clearly appeals to H.’s odd sense of humor.  He loves nonsense.

As to handwriting, we’re continuing to practice uppercase letters.  He is now able to write many words and even some easy sentences (if he’s motivated).  He is learning spelling easily.  He always knows when he has misspelled a word.  He can detect typos and British spellings with near-perfect accuracy, and his tendency to correct my misreadings of texts continues unabated and is increasingly annoying!  He is gradually learning things like punctuation (made a nice question mark yesterday), spacing between words, etc.  He had learned to write all his letters in a rough way by a few months ago, but since then his handwriting has become considerably neater, because we’ve been working on getting it just right.  He doesn’t especially like hard practice–do any 4-year-old boys?–but he tolerates it a few times a week, which has been enough to make progress.  Mostly we’ve been writing random things in writing tablet books, but we’re also going through an uppercase letters workbook which is just right for the practice we need (this one).  Yesterday, we actually started learning lowercase letters–but I don’t know if we’ll keep that up.

Generally, he’s been drawing and writing more in the last few months than he did before, I’m happy to say.  He’s finally getting the informal practice that he needs.

A month or so ago I found an old blank diary and wrote “Memory Book” in very big letters in the front, and made a big deal of saying that H. must not write in it, except to record things that he has memorized.  So we thought up all the things he had memorized and I wrote them in the book.  We’ve added just a few items since then; this is more my fault than his, he is amenable to memorizing things a little, it’s just that I take too long to find exactly the right poem or quotation to memorize.  I’m sure that this sort of “memory work” is something we’ll do more of.

In math, H. has continued to resist doing much work in Singapore Kindergarten Math B, and I haven’t insisted, so he hasn’t made too much progress.  I occasionally try other math-building exercises.  I made some flashcards so he could memorize the math facts 0-3 (so he knows 0+0 through 3+3).  He doesn’t like these much, and instead of memorizing them, wants to work through the problem every time.  Nevertheless, he does have them mostly memorized now, so soon I’ll add 4 to the set.  I’m thinking of using Two Plus Two Is Not Five, which seems to have some nice strategies for memorizing math facts.  I’m also thinking of finally trying out Saxon Math or Jones’ Geniuses math program.

Because H. saw some logic books and was requesting logic presentations, I got him Lollipop Logic and we’ve done about a third of that, on average every other week I guess.  In fact, H. did his very first bit of “homework” a few days ago.  I resorted to bribery.  (This is rare in our house, but it does happen.)  I said, “If you get Lollipop Logic and do a couple of pages, all on your own, and then bring it upstairs to me, then we’ll get you a small ($5) Lego set.”  He enthusiastically did as he was told.  The experience  was quite interesting.  He did all of the work 100% on his own, but he got about half of the items (it was a new type of problem) wrong.  He wouldn’t haven’t gotten them wrong if, as usual, I had been hovering over him and helping him.  So we went over all of his work, and I explained all the problems to him.  I’ll be curious if he can do the same sorts of problems again–on his own.  I’ll just try to get him to do so without a bribe…

There is one other subject that we are working through “systematically,” and that is Latin.  We’re using Rosetta Stone Version 3, and just a couple days ago H. finished going through Unit 1 (of three) in Level 1.  We always sit together while he does Latin.  He’s remarkably good at it–there’s no question that he is able to get through the program.  The software is intuitive to him partly because it resembles, somewhat, the sort of computer work we’ve done (with my presentations, Starfall, etc.).  Here I must confess that he wouldn’t be making this progress if I hadn’t made him do Latin (almost) every day after naptime, for 10-15 minutes.  I can see occasionally requiring H., now almost five, to do a few things, and Latin is one of them.  I just see such advantages to getting through this program relatively early, not least of which is the confidence he would have from knowing three languages reasonably well at an early age. He is mostly on board, and once we get started, he’s definitely into it.  We have also made a little competition, since I am going through the material myself.  But I’m not keeping up with him.  I lag behind him a little.  I say, “I’m going to catch up with you,” and he says, “No you won’t, I’m going to be working on Unit 2 before you even finish Unit 1!”  Any little thing to keep him learning…  Clearly, despite his occasional resistance, he’s proud of his progress, and can now be heard running around downstairs saying, “Puer currit!” (the boy is running).

Now, in most of the above subjects, H. has to practice something that is learned more or less systematically.  (By the way, speaking of practice, we started reviewing piano and he might start learning that again.)  This frequently requires cajoling and arm-twisting, but I am not enough of an Unschooler to leave his progress in these subjects to fate; I want to make sure he knows them, and knows them well.  In other subjects, it’s simply a matter of me reading to him, and as he is almost always amenable to reading something at mealtimes, we get through quite a lot of material.

In science, we continue to read books about how heavy machinery works.  We’ve finished reading one such book (quite a good one) already, and are halfway through another, and started a third (this isn’t nearly as good as the two from the “How Things Work” series).  These books introduce many principles of physics and engineering, which are interesting to him.  By the way, we are still semi-regularly building new circuits with Electronic Snap Kits (we have this one, but I wish I had gotten the 303), and he is almost able to build them to spec on his own.  He’s also getting quite a bit better at doing Lego kits on his own; he can do the slightly harder ones on his own with just a few pointers.  Also by the way, we saw a monster trucks show and he loved it, and of course then we re-read his book on monster trucks and drew a detailed picture of one, etc.  We’ve also continued doing experiments from the Janice VanCleave Chemistry book, occasionally.  Anyway, we’ve also read quite a few other science books, though we’ve stopped reading about animals so much; I think that’s become a little dull and repetitive.  We’re working through Everyday Science: Electricity, a very meaty book about electricity, and Discovery Kids books on Earth and Space (didn’t care so much for these), National Geo readers on Planes and other topics (these are better)–and various others, especially several about space, a regular topic for us.  Also, we went to the local science museum for a preschool science workshop on flight, which was kind of fun.

Geography, H. declared a month or two ago, is his favorite subject.  I took advantage of this by getting a couple (more) atlases and a couple of books about the state of Ohio, where we live.  We are almost done with a longish and meaty book about Ohio, suitable for 10-year-olds or so.  He even got through the history section, which I thought was a little dry.  The whole family now knows about Marietta, Ohio, and various other things about the state.  We visited the Ohio Statehouse, which is nearby, which made a very big impression on H.  (It’s quite an impressive building.)  We’ve also looked now and then at Google Earth, and various maps, and read out of First Book of People and Places (pretty lame, really), and read all of I Wonder Why Countries Fly Flags (which is more interesting, although by dint of including many entertaining but fairly useless factoids).

We do read some fiction at mealtimes too.  Among other things, we’ve read a few more Berenstain Bears books, which are still some of H.’s favorites–we must own over 50 of those books.  We’re slowly working our way through Around the World in 80 Tales and looking up the countries as we read the story that it is from.  We spent quite a few days reading The Adventures of Thor, the Thunder God, which is a really excellent, well-written and well-illustrated intro to Norse mythology.  I just happened to find it at Half-Price Books; thought it looked interesting, and I was right.  We also re-read The Velveteen Rabbit, and afterward watched this movie adaptation, which was really a stinker as far as I’m concerned.

In other subjects, we finally finished–after working on it approximately every other week for a year–the  Usborne Art Sticker Book. This is a great introduction to art, if your kid likes stickers, as H. does.  We also read How Much Is a Million, highly recommended, and started Millions to Measure, the sequel.  We’re halfway through this children’s Bible, which (as I’m agnostic) I’m treating respectfully albeit as a storybook; H. does understand that people in his family are Christians.  (When he was two, we read this one.  I guess, in a couple more years, we’ll read an even more advanced one, and then finally we’ll read the real thing when he’s capable of taking it in.  I’m thinking of hunting around for children’s versions of other religious classics.  I don’t spot a comparable “Children’s Quran” on Amazon–wonder why.)  We are still working our way through The Little Book of Big Questions–we don’t pick that up too often anymore, though.

Now, finally, onto baby E., who is now four months old.  I have a whole passel of iPad apps that I use with him.  I must admit I use them more than I read books to him, for no better reason than that the iPad is usually closer to hand.  Frankly, the content is not all that different; for babies, it’s mostly just a matter of showing single words and simple pictures.  Among the apps, we mostly do flashcard apps (of which there are many quite serviceable ones), although lately we’ve been using Tap Tap Baby, which is lots of fun, and a couple of other interactive apps.  Among the books, I’ve been reading That’s Not My Puppy and a few different ABC books, as well as some Dr. Seuss board books like The Foot Book, which was one of H.’s favorites.

I started showing Your Baby Can Read to E. something like six weeks ago (when he was three months old, I think), and since then I’ve shown it to him not more than twice a week.  His Mama objects to showing the same video over and over.  Besides, he starts looking away after ten minutes or so, so I stop.  I think we’ll probably start showing it more in a few more months.

Also, I made 4-5 presentations for E.  I took pictures of all sorts of items all around the house, and put the pictures with giant labels into PowerPoint.  These keep his attention.

E. is a very interactive baby.  He is very quick to smile and is quite ticklish–in these respects, very different from his brother.  He is also very vocal.  When I read to H. at mealtime, E. is usually in his mother’s lap, and watches us with rapt attention.  Occasionally, he babbles while I read or while we talk, as if he is participating.  Clearly, the situation for E. is going to be very different than it was for H.

Sometimes, H. reads to E., although not as much as I had hoped.  The main problem so far is that E. is still small and is just now starting to be able to sit up without assistance.  Soon, anyway, we’ll be able to sit them next to each other and big brother can read to little brother.