Homeschooling Update: Back in the Groove. Maybe

Homeschooling October updateSince my last real update in August we’ve:

  • Started back at Awana (yay for that! Thank you all Awana volunteers, you are so appreciated.)
  • Made more “official” progress than I expected as far as our schedule goes, and that’s the whole reason I got an early start on it. We did school almost all summer long, so a mid-August to mid-September break is no big deal, and still keeps us on track to finish this year well before we need to.
  • Finished All About Reading Level 1, and are about a quarter of the way through Level 2.
  • Began All About Spelling (and so far, it’s a hit).
  • Started RightStart Math (the first edition, level B).
  • Passed the halfway point of our Sonlight core.
  • Had a baby, the reason for bullet point #2. πŸ™‚

We’re now getting back into our school routine. We’re doing better when I just give G a handwriting page and tell him to work on that while I get ready for whatever we’re going to do next/finish cleaning up from breakfast/feed the baby/get H started with something/take care of some other need of the moment. He does it, and then we move on with the rest of the routine.

I’ve been trying something new as far as the rest of our routine goes – prompted in part by something I read on the Sonlight forums, which gave me an idea for how to modify it for us. I took five index cards and labeled them “reading,” “math,” “spelling,” “table work,” and “mama reads.” G gets to pick the order, and while we always do “mama reads,” the others may vary. He has to pick two cards for each day we do school (usually he picks three if not all four), and we do each one for at least 15 minutes. Some days it’s a lot longer than 15 minutes for each area, but that keeps him from getting aggravated/bored/what have you when all it has to be is 15 minutes.

(And he can’t continually pick the same two – whatever gets picked is “retired” until he goes through all four areas, then it’s up for grabs again.)

We’ve been trying out a new math program, so lately that’s been the first thing he wants to try, whenever it’s an option. Then it’s spelling or reading. Table work (which is the Developing the Early Learner workbooks and his geography workbook – things he does like once he gets started on it) is his last pick. The DEL books used to be his first choice, so it’s funny to me how things change.

Read alouds (a.k.a. “mama reads” happen on the couch, and the timing is almost entirely baby-dependent. It’s a lot easier to read while feeding/holding her, so when she’s napping is when we’re trying to do the other areas. I’m sure this is the sort of thing that will change as she gets older and becomes mobile.

We’ve done science projects once since having the baby, and that’s something I do hope to get back to semi-regularly soon. Right now the weather’s still been nice enough for the kids to play outside most afternoons with the neighbors, so I’m encouraging that. I can imagine some of that time will go to science and art projects once the weather keeps us inside later.

I got away from a true afternoon quiet time during the pregnancy, instead relying on the television to keep them occupied while I rested. I’ve got energy back now (usually) and am working to re-establish that habit. It’s going better than I expected! While I do have to police them a bit, generally they play quietly in a room for 45 minutes now. We started with 10 minutes, so stretching it to 45 has been good progress! I’m hoping to get it to 60, and have that really be 60 minutes of quiet time, not quiet time with lots of “is quiet time over yet?” questions plus interruptions where they fuss at each other in the doorways/stealth raids into the other’s room when they should be in their room etc. We’re getting there! And if I can someday get their quiet time to coordinate with the baby’s nap time, that would be glorious. She doesn’t have a good routine yet so I’m not even trying to match them up yet. I’ll just concentrate on getting the big kids to an hour of true quiet time first and then try and get it timed to M’s sleeping times!

Homeschooling Update: Teaching Reading with All About Reading

All About ReadingI wrote before about three books on teaching reading, and my favorite of the bunch.

So why did I switch from that approach and begin using All About Reading? Originally I had intentionally avoided this program, but ultimately ended up giving it a try when G stalled out with the reading book I was using.

The results? It’s been fantastic. G loves it, it’s working well, it’s easy to use – it’s absolutely great. Great, but not perfect…

What do I not like about AAR?

It’s expensive. Level 1 is $100, plus you have to buy an interactive kit for another $22. Level 2 is another $100, and Levels 3 and 4 are each $120 (at least you only have to buy one interactive kit). The Pre-Reading Level is “only” $80, or $120 if you want the deluxe version. That’s … a lot of money for one subject, albeit a very important one.

It’s only partially reusable. I mean, I buy Sonlight for my son, and that’s not the cheapest homeschooling option out there, but it’s almost completely reusable. With two other children following, suddenly that Sonlight price tag seems a lot better when I think about using it three times. With AAR, some parts are reusable, but I have to buy each child their own activity book: that’s $17 each for the Pre-Reading Level and Level 1, $20 for Level 2, and $30 for Levels 3 & 4. Adding it all, it’ll be $542 for G, and another $114 for each of the girls. For all three kids, that will be $542 + $114 + $114. That’s almost $800 just for reading instruction. Ayi yi yi.

Update: Heather noted below in the comments that the activity books include permission to copy for household use, and that means that you could reuse everything. It would mean lots of little pieces to keep track of until your next student needed them, but it’d definitely save some money.

I hate having to pay for shipping. I am so used to places offering free shipping if you order over a certain amount, but AAR doesn’t do that. So when I ordered one level, it was another $10 for standard shipping.

They don’t include the stickers with the student packet – you have to remember to buy that separately. The activity book includes a chart set up to use the stickers to track the student’s progress, but the stickers aren’t automatically included. They’re only $1, so really, could they not have included them already? That’s super annoying – just include them in the student packet already!!

What do I like about AAR?

Everything else. No, seriously, it’s a fantastic program. It’s fun for G – he went from not wanting to do reading from that book to LOVING reading lessons. We flew through level one because he’s enjoyed it so much.

It’s also super easy for me to use. I began it in earnest when I was in my final weeks of pregnancy, feeling brain dead and exhausted. I did not have the energy to come up with ways to make learning more fun and engaging, and wanted an open-and-go program. This is that. The most challenging part was keeping the kids out of it until I got it all set up – magnets on the letter tiles and phonogram and word cards separated out and put into their box.

G loves the word cards, and the stories in the reading books – they’re just hard enough to push him a bit, but still all very readable as it’s so incremental.

He loves the stickers. I am continually amazed at just how motivating it is for him to be able to put a sticker on his chart when he finished another lesson.

He loves the variety of activities in the book – there’s lots of cutting which he adores (and any coloring is optional, which is perfect since he hates coloring), and then every option has been fun for him. Making word flippers, feeding the monster, even flipping the eggs have all thrilled him. No joke.

(The only thing he doesn’t love? The fluency sheets. We do them all, but that’s the only time I’ve had to start thinking of ways to make it more interesting for him / break them up a bit. And apparently we’re not alone in that, since AAR’s blog recently posted some ideas for fluency sheets.)

So, do I recommend AAR? Yes, absolutely, with some caveats.
  • Yes, I recommend it in that it has been fantastic for us, and is working well to develop in G a love of reading.
  • Yes, it’s been so easy to use for me (a huge priority right now).
  • Yes, it’s piqued H’s interest and she’s excited to try it herself.
  • Yes, because solid reading skills are one of the most important things I want to develop in my kids – not just skills, but a love for it too – I think it’ll help with everything else school-related through the years if they’re excellent readers who also read for fun.
  • Yes, because even if you have no phonics background (ahem, that would be me) you can still use the program and teach your child using that method.
So why the hesitation to give a wholehearted recommendation?

I wouldn’t say it’s a “MUST HAVE” because of those drawbacks to it. It is expensive, and you don’t NEED it to teach your child(ren) to read. If you’re creative you can come up with lots of ideas for ways to make reading lessons more engaging and appealing. Scan Pinterest and you’ll see tons of suggestions you can adapt to your own situation.

If you’re not a crafty mom, and your mental energy goes other places than towards coming up with literacy-type games and all of that? This program is wonderful. I hope it continues to work this well, and if it does, I imagine I’ll be getting all the levels.

Disclosure: Unlike virtually every other review post I’ve seen online regarding All About Reading, I did not get mine for free. I bought it and we’ve finished Level 1, and have just started Level 2. I plan to buy Levels 3 & 4 if 2 continues working so well and they seem necessary. That said, I did sign up for their affiliate program and this post contains affiliate links. If you decide you’d like to try the program and click on my link, I’ll get a commission at no extra charge to you. And then I’ll use it to buy more books or homeschool supplies. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: Ready for a Mid-Year Break (and a bit about our current routine)

Homeschooling Kindergarten First Quarter UpdateJust in time for most people to go back to school (it starts next week here!), we’re looking at a break from schooling. It’s almost baby time!

I have tentative plans to do one more week of school, just to keep us occupied next week. We’ll see what actually happens however. Friday my parents arrive to help out, and that’s when the break will definitely start. After they leave, my inlaws will hopefully be here to occupy G & H and let me finish recovering. While G will probably be happy to show off his developing reading skills to anyone who will listen, I think that will be the extent of anything school-related while we have guests. Either right at the end of their visit, or right after they leave, my brother-in-law and a friend return to hopefully finish replacing our windows.

Once all of that is over, I have no idea when we’ll get back to what we’ve been doing, but I somewhat suspect it won’t be all that long. The kids seem to be thriving with the daily structure it provides us, and I may be desperate to get back to that sort of a routine!

Or, we may just go with lots of reading aloud on the couch for awhile, and figure any and everything else can pick back up whenever I’m more recovered. That’s the biggest advantage to me from both it only being Kindergarten, so I’m not worried about meeting a certain number of education days for the state (K is completely optional in Indiana), and also for having started it early.

Our Current Routine

I’m curious to see how our routine changes now. So far, a typical “school” day (not all weekdays are school days – appointments and other events are regular occurrences right now) begins around 9, with G starting off with handwriting. I’m usually finishing up a cup of tea, and getting H settled with a coloring book or something else she can do at the dining room table. After handwriting is over, we’ll keep going with other table work: math or DEL books or reading. Mix it all in with some cutting practice or maze and dot-to-dot books, then we’ll head to the couch with our big tote bag.

The tote bag includes all the books for our week’s read alouds. One of the best things I’ve done is get the kids used to taking turns picking what we read. I go first, then G, then H, and then we start over with another pick for me. I always start with the Bible story book, and then sometimes G picks one of his school books, and sometimes he picks one of our books or a library book. It’s totally up to him! H is unpredictable too – some days she wants one of G’s school books, but she’s just as likely to grab a favorite board book. We’ll read on the couch until my voice gives out, it’s lunch time, or it’s time for taekwondo. My picks are almost always the Sonlight books, but occasionally I’ll go with something else, especially if the kids have been picking those already!

Afternoons are quiet time (not the most successful around here; we’re working on it) and play time. Sometimes we read more, especially if we didn’t do a whole lot of that in the morning. On Fridays if the kids have cooperated all week / done what they were supposed to I try and do something fun – like meet a friend at the nearby splash park! Fridays are also our science project day, and if I have the energy, arts & crafts. That hasn’t happened all that often lately, but I do hope to get back to it eventually. πŸ™‚

Looking ahead

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where we’re going with all of this, and what I’ll want to use with the kids as they get older. While I’ve loved Sonlight so far, I do have some concerns with it when I think about using it in years to come. And then I remind myself that right now, it’s working well, and it’s manageable for me. In this season of life, ease of use counts for a LOT, so I’m going ahead and making plans to continue with Sonlight Core A for what will be G’s 1st grade curriculum. It’s already ordered and everything – waiting on a bookshelf in my closet/office. Looking it over, I think it’ll be another good fit for us, and as for what we’ll do for 2nd grade? Well I have plenty of time to consider that.

Not sure if I’ll have a homeschooling post next month or not – as there may not have been much at all in the way of homeschooling between now and then. πŸ™‚

Homeschooling Kindergarten: the First Quarter with Sonlight Core P4/5

We’ve just finished the first quarter of the school year, as laid out in Sonlight’s P4/5 core schedule. That seems like enough time to give some thoughts on the books we’ve read, and the Sonlight experience. I’m really pleased with how easy it’s been so far. I do realize that right now I’m only really working with one child for Kindergarten, so we’re not talking hugely demanding academics here, but still – it gives me hope for the future to continue homeschooling with three children. And short-term, it gives me confidence that I can manage it with a newborn.

Core P45 IGFirst, a big success as far as I’m concerned is the instructor guide itself. I’ve loved having something written and planned out, to give me a general idea of what a reasonable amount to cover in a week is. If I was an experienced homeschool mom, I don’t know that I’d care, but as a newbie, I love it.

That said, I don’t follow the schedule religiously, and I have never once followed it day-to-day all week long. Generally, I try and keep us on one week at a time, but during that “week” (which may take anywhere from 2 to 10 days to finish) we jump around and do things in our own order. I also rarely use the discussion questions provided – I find it easy enough to ask my own based on what we’re reading.

For this first quarter, the books we’ve been using:
Developing the Early LearnerDeveloping the Early Learner
Perhaps my son’s favorite item from the entire package. He loves loves loves these sorts of activities. This is one of the main reasons I keep us on a week-at-a-time schedule, or else he’d want to finish the entire book in one week. As it is, he does a week in a day, and then impatiently waits until he can do more.

The Lion Storyteller Bedtime BookLion Storyteller Bedtime Book
Both kids like this one a lot, especially the stories that feature Rabbit and Tiger. (But our copy doesn’t look like the one linked; the cover is different. Apparently they’ve got the same content, just a different cover.)

Stories from Around the WorldStories from Around the World
They like this one, but not quite as much as the Lion book, although they have referenced these stories later, so clearly they’re listening and paying attention. I think Rabbit and Tiger just captivate them so much they’re inclined to favor that book.

Eric Carle's Animals AnimalsEric Carle’s Animals Animals
They’re mostly indifferent towards this one. The short poems don’t seem to catch their attention, but they do like the illustrations. However, I have noticed a difference in the last two weeks when we’ve read this one. My son is much more interested in it, so perhaps it was just a maturity thing, as my daughter still only cares about the illustrations.

My First Picture DictionaryMy First Picture Dictionary (Part of the Language Arts K package)
They love looking up the new letter each week, and were sad during the week with no new letter. It’s been fun for me discovering some words that both kids already know, and sometimes I have no idea how they know them. Some of them my son has told me I’ve said, but I don’t remember using them.

A Treasury of Mother GooseA Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes
They’re big fans of this one – we tend to read lots extra in this one every time we open it, so we’ll likely end up reading the entire book at least 4 times during the year, assuming our current pace holds steady.

The Children's Book of VirtuesThe Children’s Book of Virtues
Somewhat indifferent, leaning towards liking it. We’ve only read 3 or 4 entries from it, so this one is a little more “still to be determined” as to whether or not it’ll be an overall hit.

Uncle Wiggily's Story BookUncle Wiggly’s Story Book
They HATE this one. I stuck with it for two weeks, but I hated reading it too, and decided to ditch it instead of torturing us all. I may try it again in a few months. Or I may not, since I didn’t like reading it myself. πŸ™‚

101 Favorite Stories from the Bible101 Favorite Stories from the Bible
They aren’t really fond of this version. They liked the The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His NameThe Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones I used previously, and I keep debating whether or not to try another one instead of sticking with this one. It’s not such an obvious thing as the Uncle Wiggly one was, so for now we’re sticking with it. At least each day’s story is short!

Things People DoThings People Do
They like this quite a bit, but they never protest too much at only doing one entry a week, so it’s not the most compelling book I’ve read to them. It’s still a good one, and leads to interesting discussions with one or both of them.

Language and Thinking for Young ChildrenLearning and Thinking for Young Children (Part of the Language Arts K package)
Eh, doesn’t do much for me, or them. I think if you’ve read a lot on early childhood education, and pay attention to every day learning opportunities, much of this will be a repeat. At least it’s all seemed that way so far!

Berenstain Bear's Big Book of Science and NatureThe Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature
I already mentioned this one last month, but I can’t leave it out as it was definitely a highlight of these weeks. This one will definitely be read through multiple times they like it so much. There was no way we were able to limit ourselves to the listed amounts for each week – instead I’d just read until we came to a good stopping point, and then pick up again where we left off.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

What We’re Doing Now: Homeschooling Kindergarten

Homeschooling kindergarten first quarterIn my last post about homeschooling, I shared what we had been doing, and promised a future post about what we were going to do for what I’m calling G’s Kindergarten year (he turns 5 in July). H turns 3 this month, so she’s mostly just tagging along with whatever big brother is doing. πŸ™‚

As I write this, we’re wrapping up our seventh week of the Kindergarten curriculum. Which really only means anything as far as the Sonlight instructor’s guide for the P4/5 program goes – everything else I’m just winging it as far as how much to do in a week.

We got an early start on the year, because of the baby arriving in August. If I tried to follow the local school calendar I’d be starting right as I’m having the baby, and that seemed like a bad idea. So we started earlier, and will take a break for as long as I need. The advantage of it “only” being Kindergarten!

So, anyway, the basis of the plan this year is Sonlight’s P4/5 core. That’s history, reading, and even science.

Science – he loves it!

Science is technically covered in the core, and the first book from it they’ve both loved – The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and NatureThe Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature (Dover Children's Science Books) by Stan & Jan Berenstain we read way faster than the schedule called for, but they both were so excited by it, so we sped through it, and now we’re reading it again. I say “technically covered” because that was all I was planning on doing with him, but as I’ve mentioned before, he loves learning about the solar system and planets, so I got him the Apologia Exploring Creation through Astronomy book (in addition to several library books), and we are slowly working through that text.

Math – so far it’s all lots of fun to him. Will that continue??

For math G’s already finished Singapore Early Bird A, and is cruising through Mathematical Reasoning 2. I have Singapore Early Bird B and Miquon Orange and Red waiting for him, but at his current pace I may need to get something else before with finish the P 4/5 guide.

Geography

I also added in some more Geography – another topic he’s fascinated by. I got him the Basic Geography workbook Timberdoodle includes in their Kindergarten core, and he’s enjoying it. I keep forgetting to get a globe, but I think he’ll love that if I ever do. He loves looking at maps, and I’d also like to get a huge one we can hang on the wall for him to examine as much as he’d like.

He raced through the Lift-the-Flap Picture Atlas, which is what prompted me to go looking for some more geography items. He still likes going back to that atlas and finding places on the map.

Reading and Language Arts – I may be doing too much?

We were doing the All About Reading Pre-reading level, but set it aside without finishing it. We went through the upper and lower case letters, but skipped the letter sounds section. G already knows them all, and was getting so bored with it. He loves the games, and playing with Ziggy, but it seemed somewhat pointless – he’s ready for Level 1, and it’s on the way. It should arrive next week and we’ll get started on it. We were still using The Reading Lesson, but AAR is more fun for him, and that’s very motivating. I’ll probably let The Reading Lesson disappear off the shelf once AAR Level 1 arrives.

Another very recent addition is First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1 (Second Edition)  (First Language Lessons) by Jessie Wise. Maybe this is totally unnecessary? I kind of have an obsession with Peace Hill Press materials and it’s by them. It was also inexpensive enough I didn’t mind getting it to just look at and consider. It’s supposedly a first grade level book, so I’m not sure if I’m being overly ambitious with it or not. I am going on the assumption that trying it can’t hurt, and I can always put it aside if it’s not working. Looking ahead, I think the biggest potential issue with it will be the handwriting, so it may require modification if not completely delaying it. And that’s because …

Handwriting is definitely his least favorite subject. He’s never liked coloring either – wonder if that’s related? His fine motor skills are good when it comes to things like using tweezers to pick up small items and doing mazes or dot-to-dot puzzles; he just hates to write. We’re working through Handwriting without Tears, following the schedule Sonlight included with Language Arts K. It’s one letter a week, and that’s manageable for him.

The hardest part isn’t very. At least right now.

The biggest challenge right now is juggling two children with it (I’ll pause while all the moms with 3 or more children laugh and laugh at me.) H is too young to do much for school, but she WANTS to, because she sees G working on it. Readalouds are fine – she sits with us and listens in. I can generally keep her happy with her own version of math and handwriting, but there are times when she really wants to do it just like he is. And she can’t quite manage that.

She has an area of the bookcase that’s just for her materials – lots of coloring books and sticker books and preschool-level workbooks. She loves them all. Making patterns with some of G’s math manipulative is another big favorite for her – that’s what’s in the box on the right on the top shelf, although the pattern book is mixed in with her workbooks.

Really, though, it’s not bad – it’s just the rest of it is going so smoothly that by default it’s been the biggest challenge. I’m a tiny bit scared that after writing all this down, I’ll have jinxed us. I’m feeling somewhat hopeful that homeschooling with a newborn won’t be too bad, at least once I’m out of the postpartum fog that I’ve had both times previously. Once the baby is older and no longer is content just being held/nursed all the time, I can see that getting a lot more difficult. No point in worrying about it right now though, so I’ll just enjoy the stage that we’re in for the rest of the time that it lasts.

Coming up in my next update

The next update I plan on sharing about some of the specific books from the Sonlight program that we’ll be in the midst of reading or will have finished. There have been some definite winners, and one that is not a hit. At all. So much so that I’ve stopped reading it entirely, and just skip it on the schedule. Mostly though, I am loving their program, both the books and the structure their Instructor Guide provides.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

What We’ve Been Doing: Homeschooling

What we've been doing for homeschooling: SonlightWhat we've been doing for homeschooling: Timberdoodle

It’s somewhat embarrassing, the amount of time I’ve spent online looking at various curriculum ideas and offerings. I mean, G is not yet 5 and his needs are not that specialized that it really requires a lot of searching to find something that will work.

But it’s just so much fun looking ahead and daydreaming!

There are so many options that I love the *idea* of them, but don’t really think they’d work for me. Doesn’t matter if the kids would like them, I know my limitations. I’m figuring out what does work, and work well for all of us.

This post is a bit of a look back, as we’ve recently made some changes to our daily routine, but I want to note what we we’ve been doing for homeschooling, before jumping into what we’re doing now and plan to do for the 2014-2015 school year. It’s been a mash-up of Timberdoodle’s Preschool and PreK offerings, and Sonlight’s P3/4.

Does that seem ridiculous? Don’t worry, we’re not doing everything from all of those links. Well, I did buy the entire Sonlight package (because it was a better deal that way, and they don’t allow customizations if you want the package discounts), but Timberdoodle let me customize their packages and did I ever customize them. Timberdoodle also provided several Christmas presents for G that aren’t included in this post, and I love that educational items are so much fun for him that he was *thrilled* to receive them as gifts. I might even do some birthday shopping for him there πŸ™‚

So, what are we doing? Well, we don’t do everything on every day (except for reading books – I think I read to them every day unless I’m sick), but since the fall these are the highlights of what we’ve been doing:

Reading and Language Skills

The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy LessonsThe Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons by Michael Levin and Charan Langton
I wrote about this one already, and it’s still working really well for us. Love it. We’re also taking it very slow, because I want it to stay fun for him.

Big Book of Things to Spot
This has been so much fun for G – he has a blast finding the things. We’ve almost finished it, so I’m on the lookout for another book that’ll be similar for him. (I’m counting it as language skills because we talk through the pictures so much, and because it didn’t really fit in any of the later categories I have.)

Bob BooksBob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers
These are very satisfying for him – they’re so short that he can read an entire book at once. We’e just started using set 2Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners for these, after slowly working through set 1.

Math

Building Thinking Skills and Mathematical Reasoning – G adored these books. Raced through the Preschool versions in less than two months, and that was with me trying to get him to slow down. You would never convince him these were school – to him they were just fun. He’s also having fun now helping H with the books. That is unbelievably cute watching him assist her with the tasks!

Singapore K math. He loves this book. He loves the pattern book included with it. He does page after page after page of it – there is no way this set will last him a full year.

Fine Motor Skills


Handwriting without Tears
(K). We’re doing it really slow – one or two letters a week. He likes it but doesn’t love it like he does math. My guess is he’s probably doing about as well as an average kid his age, I just don’t think I’m good at helping him. I’m not sure if I am being too picky / not picky enough about what he’s doing.

The “I Can!” series – lots of colorful practice on cutting, tracing, pasting, coloring. The tracing book didn’t last long as G raced through it, but the other 3 have lasted. He’s not really a fan of coloring.

Beleduc Colorful Caterpillars Lacing Beads.
I got this in hopes of another game the kids could play together, and it works. Also, H just likes playing with the beads. She’s only just started lacing them onto the caterpillar, so we might try again to play it as a game soon.

My First Scissors
So much easier for little hands to use than the other kiddie scissors we have.

Games

The Teddy Mix & MatchRavensburger Teddy Mix & Match - Children's Game and Mighty MindMighty Mind games that were included in the Sonlight P3/4 package have been favorites of both kids. They’ve gotten a tremendous amount of use, so even if you’re not ordering Sonlight books, I’d highly recommend these – they are fantastic.
Wedgits
Both kids think these are awesome, and their biggest complaint is that they’d like more so they could build bigger towers and other creations. This is another one I debated where to include it but settled on games, because that’s how they think of it.

Bunny Peek-A-Boo. I thought this looked so simplistic, but it was a great challenge for him. I could almost see his spatial reasoning improve as he played it! H currently plays with the pieces but doesn’t do the challenges.

Castle LogixCastle Logix Another one where I can see G’s spatial reasoning developing as he working through the different levels. H mostly ignores it for now.

BrainBox My First Pictures
We’ve yet to play this the way you’re supposed to, but it’s still been a fun game with G. H just likes flipping the timer over.

Link n Learn Links
I really debated on where to include these – with math, fine motor skills, or games? I settled on games, but they’re not exactly a game. No matter, they both love these. It’s got pattern recognition, sorting, and counting all while playing. (Hint: there are sets of 500, and 1000. It is nice having lots so we can make patterns and replicate them without issue, but 500 is plenty for us. 250 probably would have been, but I didn’t see a set of 250 when I ordered.)

Extras:

Both kids are doing taekwondo – G is getting close to his first anniversary of it, and H started in early December. G participated in his first tournament in November, and they both got their orange stripe belts last week. They both love it and are disappointed on Friday when there is no class. G is actually ready to move up to the regular classes and out of the tot class, but I’m happy to keep him there so they’re both always in class at the same time. So much easier on me. πŸ™‚

Both kids are finishing up in Awana – G is a Cubbie, and H is a Puggle. In other words, G has verses to memorize and H doesn’t, but just goes and plays with her friends and does a Bible-related craft while I’m at Bible Study. It’s fantastic for all of us, and big thanks to Sarah for getting us involved in it last year. They’re both already looking forward to doing it again next year, when they’ll also both move up to the next level. They’re going to be really sad this summer when we don’t have it to go to on Wednesday nights!

This summer I’ve also got them both signed up for swimming lessons. It’s a local family where the college kids teach in their backyard pool, and I got them signed up early enough to snag slots where they both can get their lesson done at the same time. Which, just like at TKD, makes life much easier for me. They’ll wrap up their lessons about a week and a half before their sister is scheduled to arrive, so that timing works out really well too.

We do lots of reading too – see my monthly roundup posts for the newest books we’re reading, but we also reread books we own or have out from the library. And reread them. And reread them… And though I said we have it, I haven’t really mentioned the books from the P 3/4 collection from Sonlight. But that’s because we’d already read them all! Both kids love many of the books, and like most of the rest. There are only a couple that we’re not crazy about, but overall it’s a really good collection of material that we have read over and over and over and over the last year (I got it in January 2013, when the kids were 1.5 and 3.5).

And now for the negatives:
What hasn’t been so successful for us? Language Lessons for Little Ones 1. Not worth it. Maybe because reading and then asking questions about what we’re reading is something we already do regularly, and he knows his letters, and that seemed like about all it was. Sure, there were pictures with prompts about what to ask him, but I do that too as we read (albeit, most of the pictures in that book were new to him. Still not worth it.)

The Sea Turtle Maze. Way too easy for G, and went very quickly from being too hard for H to too easy. They’ll both do it once or twice every so often, but it’s not been a toy that’s gotten a lot of repetition.

Twisty Droppers
Didn’t last a week – the squeeze tops pull off and then won’t go back on without leaking air, rendering them useless as a dropper.

One thing I’m not so good at is arts and crafts. I have to remind myself to pull the things out for the kids. Also, they love to do “science” and I kind of hate it, and it’s gone on the back burner lately as I haven’t had the energy to do the referring and cleanup it always seems to require. We tend to do the science reading from Sonlight, but not any of the experiments from the Timberdoodle science kit. I need to figure out a way to make this doable for me, or outsource it eventually. Maybe just them getting older will help though.

Disclosure: The Amazon links are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Comparing Three Books on Teaching Reading

Teaching Reading ComparisonAnd an update as of May 2015: After stalling out on using The Reading Lesson, I went ahead and tried All about Reading Level 1. In short: We love it! It’s fantastic! I’ve written about Levels 1 and 2 already, and will eventually share my thoughts on Levels 3 (which we’ve just finished) and 4 (which we’ve just started).

So I mentioned on a recent library haul post that I’ve been looking at some of the “teach your child to read” books available from my library. It’s been nice that I could borrow them all and examine them without having to commit to purchasing one of them and hoping that it’d be a good fit for us.

The books I examined were The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching ReadingThe Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy LessonsTeach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, and The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy LessonsThe Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons by Michael Levin and Charan Langston. From reviews, blog reading, and forum stalking, I expected to like the Ordinary Parent’s Guide most, then Teach Your Child, and The Reading Lesson the least.

Instead, I vastly preferred The Reading Lesson to the other two. It was easy to use, and my son is enjoying the lessons from it. He quickly worked through the first three lessons and was very enthusiastic about his new abilities to sound out short words.

The Reading Lesson has a short introductory section, and then each lesson itself has an introduction for the parent. The rest of the pages in the lesson are visually uncluttered, and easy to use with my son – I don’t have to write flashcards or pull together any other materials; the book itself works as the teaching material.

Teach Your Child has a fairly long and dense parent’s guide at the beginning, including an explanation of the Distar orthography that’s used in the rest of the book. My biggest complaint with it, and why it didn’t work well for us, is that it is so scripted that each page is filled with tons of text for the parent. It was distracting for my son when I’d try to point to the parts that he was supposed to pay attention to. The arrows used under the letters and words also distracted him a lot more than I would have expected. It wasn’t a matter of me just skipping their script; it was that the pages themselves were so full that it became hard for him to focus on what was the specific lesson. I suppose I could have rewritten each lesson on its own sheet of paper, but realistically? That’s a hassle.

Ordinary Parent’s Guide is less visually cluttered, but it’s still not as appealing to use as a lesson book on its own. The book has big chunks of text, and the detailed scripting that is provided was not helpful to me. It also expects that the parents obtain a magnetic board with alphabet tiles, and other supplies (most of them very simple – I think yarn, magnets, and a dowel were the only ones I didn’t already have on hand, and I am not well stocked with craft supplies). Despite this not really being a big deal, it did again add to the appeal of The Reading Lesson where the book itself was the lesson, and nothing else was needed. No cards to keep track of even! If I didn’t have a younger child around who likes to run off with things that might not have been as big of a plus as it was for me.

Neither of the other two books are bad, and I’m sure they’re successful for a lot of parents. For us though, after being convinced that I’d love Ordinary Parents, and really only grabbing The Reading Lesson because it was the one recommended by Timberdoodle (one of my new favorite resources for educational items), I was fairly astonished at how clearly it was the winner for us.

I feel like I need to add some disclaimers, or additional info before I get comments questioning some things. No, we haven’t finished the book, so my opinion might change. Yes, I understand the potential benefits of the Distar program. No, I’m not saying that everyone should use this book – I can easily imagine the other two working well for others. For us though, The Reading LessonThe Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons by Michael Levin and Charan Langston has been (five lessons in) a great fit, and is working well to give my son confidence as he learns to read.