Sunday, January 25, 2015

The McGuffey Primer

I'm using the McGuffey Primer as the Bat's primary source for learning to read, and I thought I'd share what we do with it.

In an effort to accommodate the Bat's energy levels and my own obligations, I dedicate one day of every week to each subject.  On Tuedays he practices writing using worksheets copied from a Dollar Tree workbook, and I read aloud an article for our letter of the week.

On Wednesdays I have the Bat read through a lesson from the Primer.  There are 52 lessons in the book, so my weekly lesson works out well.  In each lesson, I point to, read out, and have the Bat repeat the new vocabulary words, including word combinations.  We also discuss the diacritical marks included with the vocabulary words. When the Bat can identify the words without my reading them first and can identify them out of order we move on to the reading assignment.

As the Bat reads the assigned sentences, he sometimes has trouble recalling words, especially new ones.  When this happens, I silently point to other instances of that word on the page.  If there are none, I have him sound out the word--a concept with whch he still struggles.  If that still doesn't work, I point to the relevant part of the included picture and ask a leading question, but that is a last resort, as I do not want him to grow reliant on pictures for reading comprehension.

As he finishes reading each sentence, I repeat the sentence at a normal speaking pace. The pace of reading and level of comprehension are connected, so this step is important for helping him derive meaning from his reading, especially if he has decided to dawdle during the lesson.  Once he has read the whole lesson, I read the whole thing to him at a normal pace to connect the sentences.

At the end of the reading assignment, I allow him a few minutes to examine the picture.  He often develops a narrative based on the picture or asks questions about the motives of each "character" illustrated and discussed.

Finally, while McGuffey does not provide copy work for every lesson, I do require it.  I choose one sentence from the lesson, and have him copy it on paper ruled for early writers (purchased at Dollar Tree).  Right now, he does his copywork in capital letters out of personal preferene (I require lowercase in his writing worksheets), but we will add in lowercase as he grows comfortable with the work.  As he works, I take the opportunity to explain punctuation to him.

All told, the assignments don't take very long, especially if the Bat is feeling cooperative, and I can see real progress every week.  Thus far I have been thrilled with the McGuffey regimen and the flexibility it affords me as the teacher.  I am also using the printed alphabet in the front as the basis for teaching the Eel his letters.

This post has been linked to Busy Monday, WFMW, and Hip Homeschool Hop.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chicken Soup

I've written several times about cooking frugally with whole chickens, but sometimes certain cuts are less expensive than whole birds.  I recently bought a flat of chicken legs and thighs, because they were priced twenty cents less per pound than fryers.  There five legs (including the thighs) in the package.  I roasted four, but the fifth did not fit in the pan.  The fifth I used to make chicken soup.  Here is what I did:

Chicken Soup

1 chicken leg and thigh
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c rice
1 bay leaf
~1 tsp salt
~1 tsp curry powder
Ginger, to taste
1 c frozen peas

  • Combine all ingredients except the peas in a crockpot, and cover with water, filling the pot most of the way.
  • Let cook on "high" overnight.
  • Remove chicken leg and thigh from pot.  Remove skin, debone, and shred meat.  Return meat to pot.
  • Add peas, and lower heat setting to "keep warm" until ready to eat.
The same result could be achieved on the stovetop by boiling the meat and salt for at least an hour, adding the remaining ingredients (minus the peas), cooking for another half hour, processing the meat, and adding the peas.

This is lunch for the four of us this week (plus biscuits or crackers). A little meat can really go a long way.

This post has been linked to Busy Monday and WFMW.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eating on the Road and Other Travel Tips

I just returned home from a road trip to California from our home in Oklahoma.  As always, our road trip was educational.  For me, it was instructive on how to travel with kids in tow.

  1. The food hamper:  I bought a cheap laundry hamper at the Dollar Tree and filled it with picnic-type foods for lunch time.  We had dried and fresh fruit, bagels, spread, peanut butter, jelly, bread, string cheese, canned sardines, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, and individually packaged applesauce, along with some cheap spoons and knives.
  2. The jug: I bought a gallon of water and some flavor packets to put in it.  We used that to fill our water bottles at various points on our trip.
  3. The motel:  Our means are limited, so I tend to look for low-end places to stay.  I also prefer chains, so that I know what to expect.  This time, I skipped Motel 6 in favor of places ike Super 8 and Days Inn.  The price isn't much greater, but the rooms were generally nicer, and a simple breakfast was available at no extra charge.  Between that and the hamper, I only had to buy a meal once a day.
  4. School: Before we left, I photocopied all the work the Bat needed to accomplish during those two weeks and gathered the sources from which I needed to read to him.  I also gathered pens, crayons, and a clipboard.  I keep his workload deliberately light anyway, both to accommodate his short attention span and to make school fit into our lives more easily.  Having that work be both light and photocopied in advance meant that school could continue on the road without taking up too much space.
  5. Amusements:  When I bought the hamper at Dollar Tree, I also purchased some coloring books, educational workbooks, two dry erase boards, dry erase pens with eraser lids, and laminated work booklets designed for use with dry erase pens.  The dry erase stuff was a huge hit, once I laid some ground rules.  I'll post separately about that another time.  I also bought a plastic box to put all these amusements in, along with pens, crayons, the boys' favorite books, and the Bat's school work.  On the way out to California, this box rode shotgun with me, and I was able to distribute items as needed.
  6. Space:  I deliberately kept a little space available in the trunk.  While Caifornia is generally expensive relative to Oklahoma, its thrift stores are far superior--both in selection and price.  I wanted to be able to stock up on clothes for the boys while in the Golden State.  That plan didn't work out as well as I had hoped (wrong time of year), but I did buy a few things.  Knowing things like that and planning one's space accordingly is invaluable.
This post has been linked to Busy Monday, WFMW, and Hip Homeschool Hop.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Development of a Literary Omnivore

There was a time when the Bat hated books.  He burst into tears at the suggestion that I read to him.  The subject matter was irrelevant.  The length of the story didn't matter.  The illustrations held no interest for him.  Stories were an interruption to his own train of thought, an alternative world foisting itself on his own narrative.  They were noise.

I, meanwhile, wanted to introduce him to the wonderful imaginary places created in story books, eye catching illustrations, and the beauty of well written prose.  I wanted to read classic children's stories to him.  And I wanted him to discover the wonderful things that can happen when you stop to observe a story blossoming.

Part of the difficulty was that the Bat is a creature of the present moment.  He has little patience for the abstract.  He is also the quintessential boy:  he does not sit still,and he does not do quiet.  Another problem was that I introduced storybooks as part of the bedtime routine, and he quickly grew to associate books with that most hated time of day.

By eliminating the bedtime story and replacing it with a little reading around lunch and focusing on stories that played to his interests, I was gradually able to build in him a tolerance for certain books.  We went through a seemingly endless cycle of Thomas the Tank Engine, Little Toot, The Little Engine that Could, and eventually Harold and the Purple Crayon, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.  We reintroduced bedtime reading.  We encouraged him to incorporate his favorite stories into his play.  We made those stories part of his learning about the heavy equipment that so interests him, often playing him YouTube videos of operating engines before bed in lieu of a story.

Then, one day, as if under magical influences, the Bat brought me a book with a dustjacket that intrigued him, and asked me to read it.  He climbed onto my lap, and we spent the next half hour bathed in the children's poetry of A. A. Milne's When We Were Very Young.  Since at fateful day, we have made regular sojourns to the Hundred Acre Wood, reading both Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, and we frequently cavort with woodland and meadow creatures as we explore the world brought to life by Beatrix Potter.  Ben and Me was also a wild success.  Just as it ought to be, each reading session ends with pleas for "just one more." And the Tailor of Gloucester is the Bat's newest imaginary playmate.

The introduction of nonfiction has also been welcome.  Reading about a variety of topics --mostly scientific--has worked wonders in expanding the Bat's range of interests and his patience for texts he doesn't quite understand.  He has also begun flipping through books to see if they contain anything of interest.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Mess Painting for Kids

Like most kids, mine enjoy messing around with poster paints.  Like most moms, I don't enjoy cleaning up the mess that ensues even when I have the kids help clean.  So I made painting an outdoor activity.
  1. Put the paints in some kind of baking pan.
  2. Tape paper to the concrete outside.
  3. Put the paint pan and a water glass with brushes near the paper.
  4. Apron the kids.
The artwork stays outside until it dries.  The spilled and "spilled" paint stays on the concrete, ready for being hosed down at my leisure.  The dirty brush water gets tossed onto the grass or on a deserving potted plant. When the kids come inside, they go straight into the bathtub.  Best of all, I don't have to figure out how to clean paint out of the nooks and crannies on my chairs.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cups and Kids

Somehow, no matter how careful everyone is, we always seem to end up with a spilled drink at mealtimes.  Whether the glass is half full or half empty, the rest is on the table and floor.  Then I found a solution:

The five of us share one or two drink cups.  Those cups are controlled be me or dh.

I know it flies in the face of the basic conventions of sanitation, but the boys and I are constantly together.  As their mom, it's my job to referee their bodily fluids.  As boys, they enjoy being unclean.  If any of them are exposed to anything, they are all exposed to it and so am I.  Sharing a cup isn't going to change any of that, except that it provides an opportunity for them to get more direct access to any immunities I may have.

Having one or two large cups also gives me better control over what they drink and how much.  And one large cup is far easier to keep upright than five small ones.

This post has been linked to The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, WFMW, Busy Monday and MYHSM.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Future

A few weeks ago, I learned that I am expecting my fourth baby.  Last week, I was able to see the little one's heart beat via ultrasound. 

This is my eighth pregnancy.  Only three, thus far, have resulted in live birth.  For a few more weeks, my happiness will be moderated by caution, but I do have every reason to be hopeful: most embryos that develop a detectable heartbeat do survive to birth.  And no matter how cautious I might be, I resolved after my first loss to enjoy every pregnancy as much as I can.  I never know when it might end.

Every pregnancy is different.  Thus far, I don't feel particularly pregnant, and "morning" sickness is happening mostly at night.  We'll see how it all progresses.  This time I'm also faced for the first time with seeking a midwife outside of California.  Living within range of both Tulsa, OK and Joplin, MO, I should have several options from which to choose.

--> And so, assuming all goes well, I'll be welcoming Baby #4 sometime in the middle of July, 2015.

Today, I am 6 weeks and 4 days pregnant (baby is 4 weeks 4 days old).  According to, baby's spinal chord, brain, and eyes are developing this week, and is about the same size as a grain of rice.  Both arms and legs have started to grow.

This post has been linked to The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, WFMW, MYHSM and Busy Monday.