Monday, 30 November 2009

The last few weeks ... in brief

Gosh, I started this post over a fortnight ago but now look at me! The last day of November '09 and I'm finally publishing it. Because I've run so far behind, I'm sure I'll be leaving out vital chunks (as usual).

I am definitely finding it difficult to keep up with the blog because when we're home, our entire day is school-oriented and any so-called "down-time" is busy with little ones, tidying up and feeding everyone. If I'm not feeding them then I'm washing dishes afterwards etc etc. Then we're back into school work. But I'm sure you know exactly what I'm saying, huh?!

Tama 2 turned five on Friday just gone and he officially starts school today. Although he doesn't have the same schedule for school work, he does account for a little attention to introduce him into the wonderful world of continued education. So that's three students, two toddlers and the 'bump' of course who can, by himself, make my days uncomfortable.

My girlfriend asked me recently if I'd be purchasing another computer and I jokingly replied I could do with buying a laptop because I find being downstairs too tiring at night. If I had a laptop I know I would happily tap away upstairs as I lay in bed. Considering I wake up most nights and can be awake for what seems like hours, I do wish sometimes I had a laptop. I could easily while away my time doing something constructive ... like plan the next school day, draft a blog post, or simply surf the net, lol.

But then again, it's not long before baby arrives so I really should be making the most of my nights ... be they unsettled or not.

What I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry I haven't been able to post as often as I would like, but my days really do race by too quickly hence big gaps between each post for a while longer.

Anywho, let's get the ball rolling with the kids progress over the last few weeks ...


Tamāhine 1 read the following (Cat on the Hill by Michael Foreman) from the Big Universe

while Tama 1 read (Migrating Animals of the Air by Jacqueline A. Ball) also from Big Universe.

We discovered there was a quiz to go along with the Migration book which was great so we gave that a go too. Although I've recorded the questions and answers, I don't think I can post it to the blog because I'd hazard a guess I'd be breaching a copyright law for sure.

Actually, it would seem quizzes were a bit of a recurring theme the other week (ie 16-20 November). Let's think ... we did a Moon Quiz and a Meteor Quiz. Tama 1 and Tamāhine 1 also worked together on a quiz about The Hubble Space Telescope. They took turns writing out answers - Tama 1 cursive and Tamāhine 1 printing. Very tidy writing from both of them.

Observation: That particular week, Tamāhine 1's writing was better when I dictated to her than her copywriting. That's not to say there was anything wrong with her copywork. I simply noticed how much tidier it looked. Perhaps she finds it easier writing on a single sheet of paper than writing in an exercise book, ie she doesn't have the uneveness of the middle joining found in an exercise book?


Tama 1 steadily worked on Lesson 27 over the last fortnight. I'll provide two examples to give you an idea why we spread the workload over the fortnight:

Example 1
Write in words: 318,611,353
Tama 1 then has to write out: Three hundred and* eighteen million, six hundred and* eleven thousand, three hundred and* fifty-three.

whether you use the word "and" like we do or not I don't know, but this is one thing I really can't change. Our kids aren't confused when we say "and", so I choose to keep it that way. I understand what MUS uses, but we can't change that one ... not yet at least!

Example 2
Write each number in place value notation: 321,618,818
Tama 1 then has to write out: 300,000,000 + 20,000,000 + 1,000,000 + 600,000 + 10,000 + 8,000 + 800 + 10 + 8

uite exhausting just looking at it huh?! You have to make sure you have enough zeros eh?!

Tama 1 has moved on to Lesson 28 this week and completed A&B today. All going well, he will finish through to the Test lesson by the end of the week.

Language Arts

Tamāhine 1 worked on :

(1) Spelling exercises
(2) Reading comprehension called Max the Dog
(3) Synonyms and antonyms
(4) Nouns
(5) Similies
(6) Differences between dashes and hypens
(7) Sequencing of events

Tama 1 and Tamāhine 1 worked together on a few Language Arts lessons. One in particular we really enjoyed was Smart by Shel Silverstein. You may recall we learned the American coin currency the other week? Well, there was a reason for that ... Smart by Shel Silverstein.

Having spent the time learning pennies, dimes, nickels etc we were able to come to the conclusion the boy made a big mistake trading his money. I really enjoyed that lesson and at 43 I have actually learned how much a dime etc is worth. I bet you anything that if I wasn't teaching the children myself then it would have taken a major win on Lotto to take a trip to the USA before I'd ever think to know the American currency. What a hoot!

Last week we finally picked up a copy of Mercy Watson to the Rescue from the public library. This was a book I tried getting out of the Mobile Library WEEKS and WEEKS ago. Well, it may have taken us a month (if not longer) to get our hands on it, but we finally got it. So, Tama 1 and I have read it and started our exercises for this book.

Firstly, Tama 1 worked with Tamāhine 1 and Tama 2 to make a simple booklet about their favourite food/s. We then completed the sequence of events and have started a discussion about emergency services. There's still a lot of work to do with it but I'm glad Tama 1 enjoyed reading it. I wasn't sure if he'd take to the story at all ... don't ask me why?! Perhaps it was because we'd waited for such a long time to check it out of the library that I wasn't sure if I was making too big a deal over it.

Tamāhine 1 read Soup and the Sandwish and wrote a little story about celebrating a special event and what kind of food was part of that celebration. She used her knew terminology of "firstly", "then", "next" and "finally" and illustrated it also.

Tama 2 read "Go, Go, Go" and "Big". These books were very simple (24 words each). I'll ease him gently into things and stick to what we have been doing pre-school but introduce writing etc in coming weeks. I could be wrong, but I'm sure he's daunted at the idea that he might be working as much as his older siblings.

Tama 1 worked on "The Neighborhood Mystery". Just like Tamāhine 1 they tried to predict the story and as we progressed through the reading we discussed if their predictions were correct etc.

Last Thursday the children and I were heading into the city and were driving past the Rotorua Airport when Tama 1 excitedly called out, "Wow! Look at that big plane! It's an Airbus A320-200" ... he honestly did say Airbus A320-200!!! [I could remember Airbus but flag the rest of it!!!!]

I turned the van around and pulled into the parking lot. If I'd known the plane was going to be here I'd have arrived a lot earlier to take the kids into the terminal, but because I could hear the engines going, I knew I didn't have enough time to park in the "paying carpark", and get everyone into the terminal quickly enough. So we stayed where we were and watched it taxi out. It wasn't long before it came roaring down the runway and we were all like, "wow!" when it lifted and was in the air within seconds.

I really wish I'd known it was here so I could've brought my digital camera, but at least I had my mobile phone I guess. You'll need to use your imagination to count the "crowd" of 4-6 people standing by the fence. There was another guy with his camera on a tripod to our left and two other guys in their car as well. Quite a crowd eh?!!! Well, I'm sure there would've been more indoors (perhaps) but we felt quite privileged to watch the new plane. We did see a group of at least 20 or 30 official looking people walk out onto the tarmac to watch it leave too.

My brother who works at the airport was saying it was meant to be on the down-low because the plane was here more for the staff to familiarise themselves with it. My mum said there was something in the paper the night before ... but we don't get the paper, so I was none the wiser.

The official trans-tasman date is 12 December 2009.

Before I finish off, I simply had to share our discount card from The Mad Butcher at Te Ngae. The plan was to leave using it closer to Christmas but it was a case of needing it today. It felt great walking out with "free" meat - it really did!!! It took weeks to build up the stamps, but I was ever so grateful to have it today.

This deal is only available at the Te Ngae branch, but no doubt other meat shops have their own loyalty systems. I always went to the Ti Street branch straight after the supermarket but they don't have a loyalty scheme so it's Te Ngae for us now. And anyway, Te Ngae is heaps closer to home so it makes more sense eh?!

I'm quite sure I've missed out some good stories about school, but if I don't hurry up and publish this post then it'll be another week down !!!

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Sunday, 15 November 2009

What a week!

Now that we've made it to the weekend and can relax I'll try to record a few [schooling] moments because although we experienced many interruptions, we did manage to accomplish some things.

Firstly, Math-U-See. As you know, Tama 1 is working through Gamma. We're steadily working through Lesson 25 at present and we're making tremendous progress.

A Big Thumbs up for Steve Demme's method

Honestly, it is just wicked! Once I sat down and figured out how to do it myself, it was incredibly simple to implement. In a matter of minutes I understood the workings of it and I have only word to describe it - awesome! Yes indeed, for my little non-mathematical brain to have understood it is jolly impressive.

(double-click to enlarge)
[When you see how tidy he is in his approach to writing things out you can see why we're only doing one page per day at the minute.
I realise that in the new manuals, MUS have printed on both sides of the pages to cut down on the bulkiness and cut down on paper wastage. Speaking for ourselves, we actually prefer these older-style manuals because the kids do all their workings out on the left-hand side. But that's just something we will have to adjust to. I guess it won't much matter now that Tama 1 is actually working on larger equations because there's not enough room in the manuals to do his workings out anyway.]

In all fairness, I can say that Tama 1 understands both the 'traditional' method and the 'Math U See' method, so he's flexible enough to move between the two if need be, ie recognise different methods. The problem last week had nothing to do with using the traditional method, but rather, it was the fact that he had bigger multiplications to do, ie not just single or double digit numbers. Now that he's advancing into triple digits and upward thereof, he was simply daunted by the amount of work to do; or more to the point, the amount of work to do on his own. When I sat with him (acting as nothing more than his study-buddy) he managed the equations all on his own because simply by having me nearby he was able to relax. I can relate to that. I can remember being quite frightened being wrong in front of my fellow students and teacher when I was his age because it was at the multiplication stage of my short enjoyment-in-life-of-math that everything went pear-shape for me. In my case "embarrassment equalled failure."

Returning to last week again, I figured out quick-smart that one of the problems for Tama 1 when doing the bigger multiplication problems, is the fact that there's no columns or ruled lines across to act as an aide for the child. As soon as I drew lines down and across, hey presto!, he mastered each equation. Once he's run out of room in the manual, he moves to writing on a pad of paper [... hence the photo included above]. Tama 1 takes pride in his presentation, which I freely accept he gets from me! lol. In order to keep his workings out with the manual, I think I'll trim the sides to fit and glue along the top of the workings page then pop it in the manual that way. He prefers to draw the lines as opposed to mum printing out the grid pages and that's fine by me. Whatever makes it more enjoyable and understable for the kids then that's the way we'll do it.

The main thing is, Tama 1 is doing fine with his multiplications. It's still rather intimidating to look at more numbers for him and I know he is daunted at the prospect of working on even bigger equations (having glanced further along in Gamma). However, I know we have worked out a way to assist him and if I'm honest, I'm actually quite keen for him to do more than one page per day so we can get to those bigger equations already!!!! (tsk tsk mum! So much for learning some patience, lol).

Saturday, 8 o'clock at night

Tama 1 takes a pad of paper to whaiāipo and says, "I think this is how many hours there are in a year ... and this is how many in a leap year." He was absolutely correct on both accounts.

Then he decides to calcuate how many minutes there are in a year! Now THAT was a big equation so I helped him out just a little, ie indicating it was a two-part equation and explaining he'd need to add an extra zero when calculating as he would be multiplying by three digits. (There's probably a technical term to explain this, but I'm sure you'll understand what I'm saying. I know it's to do with place value, but if there's a special term I apologise, but I can't think of it right at this time.)
  1. There's 60 minutes in one hour and there are 24 hours in a day. He multiplied 60 x 24 without a problem. Total = 1440
  2. Now for the biggie - 1440 x 365. That's where I needed to teach him to add an extra zero:
Now, if you aren't familiar with MUS's method or you haven't reached Gamma yet, you may or may not understand how this works. It's a neat way of carrying over your figures. You write them in the body of the equation as opposed to placing them at the top of the equation. Such a simple yet very effective method!!

SOTW Volume 1

It's been an eternity since we did any History studies and I feel dreadful about that.

If I had an excuse as to why we haven't done SOTW for so long, well, I would probably say it's because I've allowed the children to actively pursue their interest in other areas. For example, Tama 1 loves engineering so for weeks now he's devoured the books at home here on engineering structures, machines and such like. He has drawn so many inventive plans of buildings, aeroplanes, ships and goodness-knows-what-else that I've not for a moment felt he's fallen behind with studies. Considering History is chock-a-block full of inventors, who's to say our son won't be in the history books himself one day?

(double-click to enlarge)

But anyway, this week I dragged out SOTW Volume 1 and the above photo is what we worked on this week. We discussed Hammurabi and the Babylonians. I asked him if (next week) he'd like to type out his notes (1) for his typing practice, and (2) as an alternative method of note-taking. He likes that idea, so I'll be sure to include a photo of him working on that next week. One point he enjoyed learning about the Babylonians is the fact that they were the first people to divide a year into 12 months, divide a day into 24 hours, and an hour into 60 minutes.

Tamāhine 1 has been working well this week on all areas of her schooling. There is one area though that I have neglected a little and that's her handwriting practice. I got a little lax about practicing daily, so over the past few weeks I have made a more committed effort to re-establish it into our routine. I'm sorry the photo below isn't as clear as I wish it could be, but I was trying to provide an example of how she's come back to it like a duck to water. It took her a lot longer to produce her work, but once I reminded her to sit straight and relax her arm, she found it easier. The tendency to lean onto the forearm initially certainly exhausted her so I sat with her and with subtle yet encouraging reminders of what to do, she soon found her feet again and as the days passed, all aspects improved.

(double-click to enlarge)

Tama 1 and Tamāhine 1 worked together during the week to learn US currency. So far we have learnt about American coins:

Penny = 1¢ - Abe Lincoln on the front, Lincoln Memorial on the back
Nickel = 5¢ - Thomas Jefferson on the front, his home of Monticello on the back*

Dime = 10¢ - Franklin Roosevelt on the front, torch on the back
Quarter = 25¢ - George Washington on the front, Eagle on the back*
Half-Dollar = 50¢ - John Kennedy on the front, Presidential Seal on the back

* For us to distinguish between the two we noted that Jefferson had a wig with no curl and Washington has a wig with curl.

We had a lot of fun learning the coins and adding up with the American currency. Okay, so it's not quite so relevant living all the way over on the other side of the world for us, but at least we'll be prepared if we ever get the chance to travel over there, lol.

And finally, just a quick reminder to any whānau members checking in. Hopefully you have sent in or voted online (like I did).

I thought it was pretty flash to receive the form with secret code to vote online. Tumeke alright.

I cast my vote on receipt of the form on Friday rather than wait because (1) of the ease of convenience to vote online; (2) even though I have until 10 December, I already knew who I would vote for; and (3) we have a busy few weeks ahead what with two birthdays within six days of each other and getting myself organised with baby clothes etc for our new baby arrival. Besides, it's a good feeling knowing I've got another task out of the way (albeit small).

So there's a quick wrap-up of our week. I've tried to include everything that was achieved and hopefully I haven't left anything out. Time to get a coffee me thinks! and get outside with the kids and whaiāipo.

Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Plans are all very well and good, but ...

... experience teaches me that things won't always go according to plan.


As I stood at the kitchen making breakfast I looked across at tamāhine 1 and thought to myself how much I take for granted not having to rush the kids off to school. It's 8 o'clock in the morning, and tamāhine 1's relaxing with a good read of her choice. Mum's not saying, "quick, into the car kids or you'll be late for school!!"


Today I sat down with tama 2 while tama 1 worked on Gamma Math-U-See Lesson 24 and tamāhine 1 did online MUS exercises. [Tamāhine 1 completed Beta on Friday 30 October, but I won't be moving her into Gamma just yet as I want to practice certain math facts for a while longer, hence online practice.]

Unfortunately it didn't go well with either boys. Tama 2 became hoha about reading, so I ended up letting him step away and play after less than 20 minutes because I knew he wasn't going to cooperate. I just wish I'd been quicker about letting tama 2 go because I probably would've avoided a little meltdown from tama 1.

Being the intelligent, deep-thinking and probably over-analysing son that he is, tama 1 can easily become upset when he gets something wrong.

Experience has taught me how to manage these moments, but today no amount of coaxing, cajoling, inveigling was going to work. So, I ended up sending the kids outside to play and said we'd come back to school after a long break. [Again, that's experience with our kids talking.]

I knew it meant a two hour plus break. During this period I too could take a breather and figure out what the underlying problem was. After much thought, I realised:

One problem: They could all be tired. I suddenly remembered tama 1 went to sleep at a very, very late hour last night. No wonder he couldn't focus. Of all days to try moving him into bigger multipication equations. Nope, today was possibly not the best day to have him work on it.

Another (possible) problem: I was teaching tama 1 to do the equation in the traditional method of multiplying, and not the Steve Demme way. I now blame myself that I hadn't used the new method; after all, I have followed the philosophy of Math-U-See all along, but I was uncomfortable changing the method to multiply simply to suit myself! I don't like to use the expression, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks,' but it kind of rings true for me at this juncture. My head swirled trying to change to the MUS method, so I stuck to what I knew.

If you're familiar with Gamma Lesson 24 then you'll know what I'm talking about. I wasn't taught to do multiplication this way at all and yet, my reasoning to use the traditional method is because whaiāipo and I have used our method in front of, and with the children, on many occasions, yet I made the terrible mistake of thinking tama 1 was comfortable with this method.

Once I left tama 1 to it, he got himself bamboozled. I'm sure his mind would've been swirling with questions like ...
Do I add this carry-over number to that digit?

Do I multiply the totals? ...
When he did the first few examples with me, he was fine, but he obviously wasn't ready to move on alone. Throw into the mix a double-dose of tiredness and a big dollop of "I don't like to get things wrong" and voilà you have the perfect recipe to become upset.

Needless to say, when we did finally return to school work, we left maths and did other subjects instead. Everybody was a lot happier and able to concentrate.



I started the day with a photo of tamāhine 1. I'll end with a photo of her as well. Our beautiful 6 year old lost her third tooth as she cleaned her teeth getting ready for bed tonight! No, she's not singing ... I had to ask her to open her mouth for the photo because when she smiled you couldn't see where she'd lost her tooth, lol.



Today we had success with Lesson 24 multiplications. I was happy enough for Tama 1 to complete one page, but said if he wanted to try two pages then we could give it a try. We took our time and I sat back watching him work. He needed the occasional guidance but overall it was all him. We will take our time and if tomorrow he doesn't do so well, then that's okay. Patience is one of the greatest gifts I am learning as a homeschooling mother. That's not to say I've perfected the art of patience by any stretch of the imagination! but I have at least learned how to read the signals from each of the children when to stop, slow down or pull back altogether.

Tama 1 used the following website for his spelling.

{Actually, there are quite a few good teaching tools disguised as games aren't there?}

Yesterday the bulk of my attention was centred around the boys. I tried to move across to tamāhine 1 and help her also, but it was more in the form of sitting at one end of the desk and asking, "are you doing okay tamāhine 1?" and that sort of line of questioning. When I did finally get to sit with her, I could see she was doing fine, and I just thought "that-a girl!!!"

Today it was important I did something with her, so while tama 1 had fun practicing his spelling on Wordcentral I sat with tamāhine 1 as she worked on her math lesson. She'd already completed the Venn Diagram lesson by the time I sat with her, so I made sure I was there as she worked on Patterns.

One of my aims with tamāhine 1 at the moment is to improve her spelling. Phonetically, yes, she's fine. By building her love of reading I know she will pick up many words so it's a two-fold process. Keep the reading up and build the spelling. Tamāhine 1 probably has more language arts in her daily work than she may like, but at least I'm finding different things for her to use to keep her interested. Two of the library books she read today were:

It's always nice to have a 'real' book to read, as opposed to reading from the computer, nē rā?!

She made a good job of reading these books. Words she found difficult:

fromage de vache ... any surprise there? ... hardly
Juanita del Zorro - I pointed out Juanita is my friend's second name
Dolores del Zorro


Thanks for dropping by
ka kite ano