Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday Commonplaces 9

I wish you could have seen my little ones one morning this week. JJ (3) and MM (1) sat down on the couch together with some of SA's books. JJ carefully arranged a pillow behind their backs and a blanket over their toes, and they "read" aloud for about ten minutes. JJ had Bears on Wheels, and MM had Put Me in the Zoo. JJ especially is very keen to read now that SA has taken off with reading. I had to make him his own reading ladder (a paper where we record the books SA reads on his own). He mostly "reads" from memory, but if he doesn't remember, he runs his finger along under the lines and has me read, and he repeats after me. I don't really think he's ready yet for phonics lessons, though. I don't think he'd even realize the connection between phonics and reading. It's not about the words for him. It's about the stories.

SA (5) is still reading very easy-to-read books, but he is making progress all the time. Last week I had a few moments of self-doubt. I noticed SA was starting to be a bit resistant to my having him read a book a day. Maybe I just needed to go back to the reading lessons. I decided that I would not suggest any book for him to read this week, and see what happened. What happened was that most days he came to me on his own with about three new books that he wanted to read (I'm so thankful for the library!). We filled up the new reading ladder we started just last Friday. I'm going to have to get a poster board to make a gigantic ladder, because these dinky construction paper ones are filling up too fast. For phonics this week we talked casually about words with a silent E. I have been second-guessing myself when it comes to phonics...should I buy a phonics program? Am I doing enough? I think I will wait to see where he is at the beginning of Grade 1 next September, and pick up there.

I have also been second-guessing myself when it comes to math, which is his real love. There are so many options out there, and I guess it's natural to wonder sometimes if there's something you're missing. We are doing Miquon Math and Peggy Kaye's Games for Math. The games are wonderful. I pick one out every Monday and we do the same game again any time my children ask for it that week. Miquon is great, too, but it seems a bit slow for him. I think for next term I will try something new. As soon as he gets a concept and has reinforced it for a week or two with rods and games, I will move on to a new concept. He can continue to do worksheets on the old concepts as he pleases. I have started to do this already. I allow him to choose his worksheet from anything we've learned already. (We do worksheets two or three times a week.) This week he chose to do worksheets on addition and subtraction, though our "concept work" was in multiplication. He does the worksheets on his own, and uses or does not use the rods as he pleases. There was a "trick question" on one of the sheets this week, and I fully expected him to come to me for help. But when he showed me the paper, it was complete, and correct. (The question was 2-3= -1) I didn't know he knew how to do that, so I asked him about it. He said the answer was one less than zero. This is why I sometimes don't think I'm giving him enough challenging work.

I have been looking at MEP as well (a free program), which is totally different than Miquon. It seems more puzzle-oriented, but slower when it comes to concepts like addition, subtraction, and multiplication. It also has more variety every day. So I think SA might be bored with some parts of it, and greatly enjoy other parts. It is also more worksheet oriented, which I do not necessarily like, and which he may not be quite ready for. I'm thinking I may experiment with supplementing a few pages from MEP next term and see if he likes it. I'd probably have to start in the middle of year one in order to challenge him.

I read another good book this week. It was a bit too good, actually, since I could not help reading it in one day (if you have three or more children, you'll realize why having this kind of book in the house is not a very good idea). However, I did better than my husband, who came home from work in the wee hours of the morning one night, picked up the book, and didn't put it down until it was done. (Don't worry, neither of us make this a habit...) The book was The Spark by Kristine Barnett. She's the mother of an autistic genius, and she tells the story of how she followed her mothering instincts in order to help her child.

I noticed that parents of autistic children do not tend to rate this book very highly, as this woman's son is quite unusual (He is a genius, first of all, and he began to function more normally when she gave him the resources to follow his interests.). I was inspired as a mom of ordinary children, though. Every child, no matter what their gifts or their shortcomings, is a born person and should be treated as such. She saw how all the therapy her son was taking was about what he couldn't do, and determined to allow him to do something he could do (and well!). She also saw how the hours and hours of work they were doing were taking away his childhood. So she made a focused effort to take the time to play, make friends, and do the things childhood memories are made of, even though these things are quite challenging to find ways to do with an autistic child.

I did find myself wondering about the details of this it all true? Everything is so highly coloured. My take on it is that the author is a very intense woman, and so you see everything through her dramatic viewpoint. Since my own natural tendency leans more towards downplaying things that happen, this sometimes felt strange to me. But even with that, I highly recommend this book.

MM has taken to clutching cars or other hard toys while I nurse him. As soon as I realized this, I got out some stuffed animals (they had been put away because they were not played with). But it was too late. He seems to like holding the angular, hard shapes better than the soft, squishy ones. Yesterday I called him to nurse, and as usual he bustled around first, finding things to hold. There were no toys around at that moment, so I found myself cuddling with a duster (stoffer), a pen, and a scrap of craft foam. I love this toddler so much!

And that's all for this week! Have a good week, everyone.