Sunday, September 28, 2008


Hurray!! He has finally finished his tenth grade work. He took his last test this afternoon. It took us 13 months, for several reasons. One reason was not finishing Algebra I during ninth grade. He didn’t do well with the complicated math. He knows his basic fact for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. I made sure of that. I have been teaching and working with Rueben since he was in fifth grade. That is how his dad and I started talking and dating.

Rueben has a lot to do with our being together. Rueben rode the bus to church for many years. Finally his dad started coming with him. Gabe got saved after a couple of years of attending church here. I moved here from Florida to teach in the church’s school. Gabe and I went to the same church for four years. We rarely spoke because Gabe thought I was too good him, and I thought he wasn’t interested in me because I’m not Navajo. But, once Rueben was in my class we had to talk. : - )

When Rueben came into my class from public school his reading level was very, very low. He got a very poor foundation in reading from the public schools. Parental involvement is really needed in the area of reading. In Rueben situation, his mother had left and his father was working a lot so he was with his grandparents much of the time. We have worked on his reading over the past few years, and it has improved greatly, but he is still behind for his age and grade.

It is very hard to make up for time lost in the area of reading. If there is one message I could send to parents of young children, it would be do everything you can to give your child a good reading foundation. Start when they are babies and toddlers. Read to them. Let them see you reading. Teach them yourself. Don’t expect some school to do it for you, because it probably won’t happen the way you expect it to. In just about every student that came into my class from public school, they could not read well. The only exception to this was one family where the mom made her kids read to her and had worked with them on their reading. It was the parent that made the difference not the school, and she was a single mom working as a nurse.

The other evening Rueben’s younger aunt needed help with her algebra homework. Rueben looked at it and said he knew what to do. I was very excited to see him helping his aunt. It was great practice for him, and I could see that he had really learned something from the algebra that we struggled with for two years.

Rueben is my helper with the young ones. I try not to put too much on him, but is nice to have a back-up when it a tight situation. When I need to get all three out of trouble, it is nice to have an extra set of hands. When running errands I can take one child with me into a store, get what I need, and quickly get out again without unloading and reloading every one. He also is a great help with grocery shopping. I shop at the same store every two weeks (I don’t like to shop, so I try to do it for two weeks at a time). I have a list that I created on a spreadsheet that has all the aisles of the store and what items are on that aisle that I use. I make the items needed write in the things that are rarely bought, but needed that week. Then I can give Rueben half the list and one child, and he will get the items on that half while I get the other items. He does carry a cell phone so he can call if he has any questions.

We are taking the month of October off of school. Rueben will go to work with his dad for about five weeks. This will give me time to order his eleventh grade work, and he gets to learn more about surveying from his dad.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The baby of the family (for another four months)

Josiah is my fun loving, very, very active little boy. He has Robert’s looks and Abby’s outgoing active personality. When happy he runs around the house yelling and chattering as loud as possible. He is very vocal, but unfortunately I do not understand much of what he is saying, yet. He does have a few words that we understand, but most of the time we have to guess what he wants by his pointing. Over the past few weeks I have figured out a few more words he is saying. He uses the sound /bo/ to mean several things like; ball, book, bottle. I have tried to teach him signs like I did with Abby and Robert, but he doesn’t seem to care to use signs when his pointing works well enough for him.

He loves to follow the twins around and get into their stuff. They will be playing with something like Robert’s train, and Josiah comes and starts taking the pieces to what they are doing. They start chasing him to get their stuff back and he runs away laughing. He loves to be chased. When he doesn’t get his way he will hit or through a fit. Abby calls it “taking a fit”. They all can play well together – unless Josiah is tearing apart what they built. For that we have nicknamed him Hurricane Josiah.

When I do ‘school’ with the twins he enjoys going from seat to seat and bothering Abby and Robert. I got him his own desk, but he never sits in it for long. When I tell Abby or Robert to go make their bed, Josiah will run ahead of them and crawl onto their bed. Then they come out and complain that they can’t make their bed because Josiah is laying on it. I have learned to keep him busy collecting trash (which he loves to do) while they do their chores. He loves to try to help, but they don’t always understand him or appreciate his help.

He also loves the animals. He gives weeds to the rabbit and chickens. He spreads cat food all over for the cat, and will hold them as long as they put up with it.

He is learning to use the potty. After waiting too long to start to train the twins, I decided to start sooner with Josiah. When I remind the twins to go potty, Josiah will lift up his shirt and head for the bathroom. The lifting of the shirt has become his ‘potty’ sign. The month of October we will work on going potty more often, since Rueben will be on break from schooling.

When I first got pregnant with Josiah I was worried about how to handle a baby and two year old twins. I am glad God gave me Josiah, and I am looking forward to our little girl. Since Josiah and the twins are learning to do chores around the house they are becoming big helpers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The second butterfly

Today the second monarch hatched. Robert was awake and got to watch this time. I let them stay up from their naptime so they could watch. All three were awake when we released the monarch.

Monday, September 8, 2008

We have a butterfly!

Last night after we got home from church I noticed that the chrysalis had started to change colors. It was no longer green, but black and orange.
Then this afternoon shortly after lunch Abby and I got to watch the butterfly emerge from the chrysalis!
It hung upside down, resting, letting the wings dry for a while.
Then it climbed to the jar rim. I got it to climb onto my finger and I took it outside to release it.
The other chrysalis should hatch tomorrow!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Our Phonics Journey...

... started when the twins, Abby and Robert, were about 2 ½ years old. Abby started pointing out “a, b, c, d’s” I was surprised that one so young would recognize letters. However, I took it as a hint to start teaching the letters and their sounds. I believe the sounds are more important than the names, so that is what I stressed. If you ask Abby to spell her name she will give the sounds /a/, /b/, /b/, /y/. Now you can name a letter and ask them to point to it or give its sound and they will, but they rarely give me the name of a letter. To teach the letters I started making my own signs on the computer. Here is a photo of what I did.

Each week or so – when I felt Abby was ready to learn new sounds – I added two new letters. We would go over the sounds usually once a day. I would point to the letter, say the name, say the sound and the name of the picture that illustrated the sound. For example “A says /a/ apple”, “B says /b/ bell” and so on through the letters they knew.

Robert at first used the /d/ sound for every letter, than when we did the Rr he switched to the /r/ sound for every thing. I could say point the letter that says /g/ and he would point to Gg. I knew he understood the sounds, but he wasn’t making them. Then one day he started using the correct sounds for all the letters.

By the time they turned three, they knew all the sounds, and my question was “What do I do now?” I asked several different people. The most helpful people were a home schooling mom and our school’s kindergarten teacher who had home schooled her daughter. They both liked the Abeka system, so I dug out my Abeka charts that I saved from when I taught at our church’s school and tutored reading.

I felt like there was too much on one chart for mine to learn all at once. I didn’t want to overwhelm them. I broke down the charts and made my own individual pages with one consonant per page. I found a cute ladder in my clip art and used it as the back ground. Then I put “ba”, “be”, “bi”, “bo”, “bu” in the ladder spaces. At the bottom of the page I took the verse that the Landmark Freedom’s curriculum uses for that letter. (Another friend gave me the teacher’s guide for K3) For Bb they use “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31) Here is a photo of how they look.

I made up a little song, which they love. I use their names and names of people they know in the song. For example the song for Rr goes “The R says /r/, The R says /r/, Robert ran round and round, /r/,/r/,/r/” All the songs follow the same pattern. I just make up different phrases for the middle.

Abby started doing the ladders perfectly from the beginning, and Robert went back to his same-sound-for-all-consonants trick. He would sound out /b/,/a/ then say /ra/. He likes his /r/-Robert letter. Then all of a sudden he started using the right sounds, just like he did for the alphabet.

The next step was to get them to read consonant-vowel-consonant words. I tried with Abby on several different pages and styles. At first she would sound it out correctly, but couldn’t seem to get the word put together. Then she started getting a few right, but she still struggled with it so I only would do a few at a time. On evening during bath time I took foam letters that I bought for them to play with in the tub and arranged them to form words. Abby started reading them one right after another. I was so excited. I called in my husband to hear her read. After that night she has been reading any consonant-vowel-consonant word we show her, but she has a limit of how many words she will read at one sitting before she gets tired of it.

They are almost 3 ½ right now. We do a school time on most days. When I went home to visit my family in PA in July I went to my favorite book store. It is run by Mennonite people. They have a large collection of used school books and several new workbooks. The prices are great. I spent about $25 for math and phonics books for the twins, even though I had to buy two of each. We are well into each of the books that we bought. I also print off free worksheets that I find on the web. Mostly for handwriting right now, since I don't have a workbook for that.

I am excited to see them love learning. I hope I can keep them enjoying learning and "school" work. I am also excited about each new concept they learn. I always thought you had to wait until they were five or six to teach them to read, but the twins keep surprising me with their hunger for more knowledge.

I keep "school" time to about 30-45 min. They don't sit for very long. The third desk is for Josiah (18m). He kept getting on Abby or Robert's desk, so I went and got him one - not like he stays in it, but it gives me a place to move him to when he is pushing his way onto the other desks.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Our Labor Day

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day. I did. Our day started with Abby coming into our bedroom and announcing, “Mommy it’s daytime now!” We got up and spent our day laboring. Our project for the day was to finish building a chicken coop.

Labor Day was always like that when I was growing up. I remember often canning peaches on that day. In fact my mother went into labor while at the orchard buying peaches. My sister was born on Labor Day, and my dad went home to can the peaches by himself. I called my dad yesterday and he was installing a door for someone. My dad can not sit still. He is over 65 and can work circles around anyone I know. He makes me feel lazy at times, and I am a busy mother of three children under 3 ½.

After a big breakfast, we got socks, shoes, and hats on all the kids, and went out to work on the chicken coop. We had started the frame of the coop last week. This is how it looked when we started.

It is small so we can move it easily around the yard to give the chickens fresh ground to scratch and peck at. I can not let them run free here. I have lost many chickens to stray dogs that come through our property. Hopefully, this will protect them from the dogs, and protect chicks from cats. Our cat recently killed one of my chicks. I knew that could be a problem after I saw her bring a squirrel for her kittens to eat, but last week she somehow got out of the house while I had the chicks running loose in the garden. It didn't take her long to find and kill a chick.

Abby loved handing Daddy the screws. We soon put and end to it because she was playing with them and losing them for us.

Shortly after we started, some of Rueben’s relatives came by and helped us. They were looking for help with algebra homework, but Gabe put them to work first. The more help the quicker it went.

The kids thought it was a play ground for them. They were constantly climbing in and out of the coop.

They did help hold the plywood while Dad "made noise" (cut with the saw). Rueben was back home by this time. He had spent the day with his mom. What is it with teenagers and wearing black? Rueben and his teenage relatives were all wearing black shirts and working out in the bright sun.
Robert here is helping Dad hold the board while he cuts. Robert took his job seriously. He is wearing his sisters hat. She was still napping inside, so she didn't care. I was glad he put one back on. I was concerned about them getting sunburned. I was the one who got slightly sunburned, not the kids, but then I am the one with the fairest skin.

Abby is awake and they are back at it, climbing in, under, and through the coop. Josiah is busy trying to keep up with them, but Mommy left some wire in his way.

We got as far as the ramp for the coop. We still need to make a door for the chicken's entrance and a gate for me to have access to their yard.