Why the Tree of Life?




Kirven made a pair of mocassins for our Apache cultural block. I ended up ordering Dunagan a kit and well, but I put them together for him. Now, they both have mocassins. Watch out deer. We're ready to stalk you.
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Ken Robinson



Kirven had the camera this week on our hike....

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Reading Improvements

We've made some big changes in reading instruction around here that I thought I would share.

I've always been on the pure phonics side of the never-ending reading method debate, and it was what I planned on using with my kids. I have also *not* hopped on the Earlier-is-Better bandwagon. I think beginning reading instruction at age 7 is perfectly fine, if not better, for numerous reasons (which I'll spare you folks from enumerating).

When I found Enki, I thought it would be the nice blend of phonics with a more playful approach and delayed instruction I was looking for. It is definitely delayed instruction, and the Enki approach to reading seems to work awesome for kids who come to first grade already knowing how to read. It also seems to work for families who don't have toddlers who tear up the language arts manipulatives or who allow you to play games without interruption (such as peeing on the couch, asking for the fifth cutie orange to be peeled, throwing the game pieces across the room, eating the game pieces...). And it doesn't work to play the games during nap or after bedtime. Tried it. Everyone is too tired.

After having gone through first grade and having a good taste of second grade now, I can say that there is not enough phonics in Enki for my tastes. Kirven was not gaining any insight into how to read from what we were doing with Enki. BUT! in all honesty, I have not been able to give it a fair shake. Kirven doesn't want to do the academic movement verses and activities, and he either doesn't like the games or we can't play them with Ayla. So there has been no real "Enki" work with reading that we have been able to do. So, I don't actually blame the Enki approach, and no one should take this post as that because I have seen it work for plenty of families. This is just where we are right now and our personal experiences.

Like math, I like the language arts stories for introducing concepts, but we needed something more for the strong phonics foundation that I want for my kids. Enki has a strong element of discovery learning, but watching Kirven struggle with reading as I waited for him to make phonics discoveries on his own was like watching him in the pool learning to swim without any instruction. It was frustrating for both of us, and I didn't see any love for reading developing; quite the opposite, in fact, plus a good dose of insecurity--- the opposite of the confidence it is supposed to instill. The argument for this discovery learning approach is that it is empowering for kids to teach themselves to read without any direct, explicit instruction. I have no doubts that it is empowering for some kids, but I don't think every approach fits every kid, and I don't think this particular approach is empowering for all kids. It hasn't been for Kirven.

So, the changes....

For several months now, we have been using the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I even have the pre-printed index cards that I can just cut out and don't have to write out. I *am* that lazy. It is scripted. It is dry. But it is thorough, and it has a logical progression (something that is very appealing to me, and which is lacking from Enki). Kirven is willing to do it, though he doesn't love it. He is making vast improvements in reading and his confidence is growing every day.

We are mixing in the Enki stories (1st & 2nd grade), and that is what I thought I would share specifically for anyone interested.

The OPGTR has 25 sections with a total of 231 scripted lessons. Here are my lesson plans:

Section 1 is Short-Vowel sounds. Skip this section.
Section 2 is Consonant sounds. Also skip this section, and do the regular Enki 1st grade Hidden letter story cycles instead.
-Play easy games (whatever) to drill on consonant sounds
-Do the 1st grade Enki vowel block (True Name of the King, Vowel Secrets & Vowel Friends)
Do OPGTR Section 3 Short Vowel words
-Do Story cycle with 2nd Grade Enki story Night Twister
Do Sections 4 Two-Consonant Blends, 5 Consonant Digraphs, 6 Three Consonant Blends
-Do Story Cycle with 2nd grade Enki story Helpful Elf
Do Section 7 Long Vowel, Silent-E Words
-before Lesson 77 Do Enki 1st grade story Mischief Comes to Alpha-Beta
Finish Section 7
-Do 1st Grade Ail/Ale Family with Town Board
-Do 2nd grade The Royal Camp
Do Section 8 Common Spellings for Long-A Sound
-Do 1st grade Eap/Eeep Family with Town Board
-Do the 2nd grade Royal Letter Guard before lesson 92
Section 9 Long-E
-Do 2nd grade "I's" Pride
Section 10 Long -I
-Do 1st grade Oat/ote Family
Section 11- Long O
Section 12-Long U
-1st grade Ool/Ule Family
Section 13: Common spellings for other vowel sounds
Section 14: Other spellings for short vowel sounds
-1st grade ight/ite family
-2nd grade Sneaky Sailors
-2nd grade Ghosts and Goblins Have Their Say
Section 15 Silent Letters
-2nd grade Royal Islands
Section 16: R-changed vowels
-2nd grade Anastasia Story
Sections 17-25

I don't have Enki 3rd grade yet, so I don't know what the Language Arts stories are in that grade. If there are any, I will mix them in if it makes sense, too. This is just one way of doing things, and it's how we're doing things these days and with great results. Cue words like "helpful elf" or "vowel friends" help Kirven when he is having trouble sounding out, and he is being exposed to all the phonics patterns that I think are important. Oh, and besides the scripted lesson, we are not doing any other reading practice. It is really all he is doing right now. I have felt like he is getting enough daily practice in the script itself.


Math Improvements

The Enki math stories have been great for introducing math concepts, but when it has come to daily practice time or academic movement verses, Kirven and I have done nothing but wrestle. The pattern has been an hour worth of whining and tantruming (and not always by him) for 10 minutes of work, and then a couple of days of good cooperation and then back to whining. And the things to be memorized, such as counting by three's, were just not sticking.

Changes were needed.

Here's what's working awesome now (Fates, I am not tempting you):

For written practice, Kirven likes to use the white board. Instead of me handing him a worksheet of problems, I am writing five problems of one function (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) on the board, he works them while I do something else, and Ayla gets to erase them. It's a win-win for everyone. He does a set of problems from all four functions each day, Monday through Thursday, and he gets to pick which functions he does in what order (usually he chooses: multiplication, then subtraction, then division, then addition). He seems to like this level of control over things. I am taking my mathematics problems from the Kumon series, by the way. They are completely straightforward and perfect resources for this kind of practice work. Nothing but problems.

Beyond the white board practice work, second grade involves beginning to commit math facts to memory---at least exposure (counting by and multiplication tables, for example). In Enki, academic movement verses and activities facilitate this memory work, but they only work if you are willing to do them. Which apparently, we are not. At all. We slowly abandoned doing any of the Enki suggested activities and fell to just straight out reciting while jumping rope or trampoline, but progress has been slow and painful.

But look what I found: Multiplication Unplugged For the longest time, I have been looking for a cd of math songs, with no real luck. I had been able to find raps of times tables, but I just couldn't stomach it and they seemed to have lots of extraneous verses without just getting down to business. Finally, last week, I found what I was looking for. The thing that makes this cd great is that, not only does it have the multiplication tables to music without a lot of extra words, the chorus is counting by that number. Also, each number is set to an appropriate musical time signature. 2's are quicktime, 3's a waltz, 4's 4/4...

And the beautiful thing is that Kirven listened to it for two days in a row, I didn't have to do anything, and he recited 3's cold to Dad this morning. AYLA can count by threes. And Kirven keeps playing the cd (much to the annoyance of Dunagan) because he *likes* listening to it. The tunes are catchy. Dunagan has 'em down pat; better than Kirven. One reviewer on amazon actually complained that they got stuck in their heads. I thought, are you kidding me? That's exactly what I want! Once we got past the binge listening the first day, I have been putting only one number song on repeat for three repetitions while we're driving somewhere in the car. Multiplication tables are going to be cake. (Ok, that's probably tempting Fate.)
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Stamp Carving

We carved stamps for crafts yesterday. It was a really fun project, and it captured all the kids' interest, especially Dunagan. He started on a second one today. Speedball makes a beginner carving kit that includes the wooden handle, two carving blades and the soft, pink stamp material. Avoid the stuff labeled linoleum. It is too hard to cut. A soft white easer will do, too.

Dunagan's first stamp is the big dragon. Kirven's are the ladybug and the thing I am assuming is a ghostie. Ayla wanted a kitty, so that was my attempt at the top which she improved upon later.
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Mini S'mores Night

tea lights (1 per person)
tooth picks (same as above, preferably frilly ones)
mini marshmallows (lots)
teddy grahams (see mini-marshmallows, only double)
Hershey's miniature chocolates (to taste)

tummies whose food sides are full, but desert sides are still empty

teddy graham torture, I mean, roasting, optional
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Paper Stars

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Stalking Wolf

We're currently in the middle of our Apache cultural block, studying the sage Stalking Wolf. We read a bunch of Coyote trickster tales before the holidays, and we started the chapters about Stalking Wolf this week. Kirven did his first picture and summary from the story today. He chose to draw Little One stalking the wolf and touching it (his is below plus his summary, mine above).

We missed the annual Pow-Wow, which is in November, but we're going to make fry bread, and I found a mocassin kit in Kirven's size. Tonight, we played Ine Ichi Chaio, which is a stone passing game (and a lot of giggling fun), and Dunagan *loved* it. He wants to "play it everyday." And he wants to go stalk something--- preferably a wolf. I should have gotten *him* a mocassin kit.
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