Monday, 20 April 2015

How Kiddo learned to read

When we were thinking about education and the possibility of home education, I admit, I had a few wobbles, worrying that I would not be able to teach. I soon realised that my job is not to teach a curriculum, but facilitate and provide opportunities for him to learn what he needs to, in a manner that is appropriate to his ability and interests.  When people ask when Kiddo is going to school and I explain (or more often, he does) that he's not going to school but instead being home-educated, one of the first questions is usually about how he will learn, and almost always "how will you teach him to read?" Well, he already reads. And reads very well.  I did not set out to teach my then 4 year old to read, but rather followed his interest and that meant helping him to read the words in his books.  He asked, I helped. But I didn't teach. I would say he kinda taught himself, once he had the tools, the time, the desire and an interesting topic with which to learn (dinosaurs).
So what tools did we use? In no actual particular order (apart from the first one, that was the motivation behind his initial interest in reading):
  • He loved (and still does) jigsaws and puzzles. My mother-in-law had bought a wooden board with the coloured letters to play with, slotting them into their corresponding places on the board. Very quickly he was identifying the different letters, then started putting the letters together, copying the words underneath the individual letters i.e. behind the letter L was a picture of and the word 'lion'. We used to spend ages copying different words, then trying to spell his own. At times it was more frustrating for him as there was only 1 of each letter, so trying to spell 'mum' or 'dad' proved a little tricky... but he could spell his own name and was extremely proud of this achievement.  In line with progress and his want to make words with duplicate letters, out came the scrabble tiles and so his learning/playing continued.
  • I'm not quite sure how we got to this one (or why), but Youtube have about a million videos all singing the ABC's, some are quite entertaining, others deserve a place in Room 101. There were moments when it was useful to distract him for a few mins and this was it! He liked the 'songs', learned his alphabet and can now also turn on an amazing American accent at will. 
  • Reading with me, his Dad, and his grandparents. My Father-in-law doesn't keep well and getting down on the floor to play is not something he can really do. He can however, tell a winning story. A true Jackanory. As a result, Kiddo has spent many an hour in his 5 years, sat on his Papa's knee either listening to stories or being read them.
  • It's not all about the stories. Kiddo also has a love for reading encylcopedias! Any factual book about animals, marine life, or of course dinosaurs, is fair game reading material.  Bedtime stories run the gamut from Shirley Hughes' Alfie stories, to any of the Julia Donaldson books (The Gruffalo, Tidddler, Tabby McTat and Zog being favourites here), to an atlas, to a comic, to traditional bedtime stories (Goldilocks and the 3 bears, Princess and the Frog and The Boy Who Cried Wolf) to an Animal or Dinosaur encyclopedia.
  • For his 4th birthday, he received 4 books from different friends and family members, all of which were read cover to cover. Repeatedly. Every. Single. Day. I admit, I had dino fatigue, but this enthusiasm to find out more meant he had to be able to read. And read he did. Pouring over dino books, trying to remember the words, asking what certain words were, reading and rereading sentences.  At one point we were at the stage where he could read ridiculously long names of dinosaurs but stumbled over little words like 'sit' or 'from'!
  • He wanted to use the laptop to play the games he saw on cbeebies. Again, he had to be able to read to follow some of the instructions - sometimes he asked, sometimes he either guessed or figured it out.
  • I bought the Letterland books, which follow the phonics path, Annie Apple and Harry Hatman. Initially there was interest, but it quickly waned as the stories weren't exactly leading anywhere, nor captured his imagination.  Had the Letterland characters been based onboard the Octopod and the stories been about Octonauts, it would have been a different matter entirely! Subject matter was really important when learning and maintaining the interest.
  • Seeing words and letters in everyday life : shopping lists, road signs, recipes (as he loves baking and cooking, this one was a no-brainer; providing both reading and mathematical learning) shop names, newspapers, food packaging, mail (including junk mail), posters and flyers all provided opportunities for reading and questions about what 'something' says.
  • When reading anything, and being asked "what are you reading" I always offered to read a bit.
  • When he started noticing words and letters, I tried the practice of following the words with my finger as I read, but more often than not, it got swatted out the way with "I can't see".  Also, when reading stories, and read aloud a word that was either unfamiliar or he couldn't see it on the page, he would and still will ask "where's 'that' word?".
  • Playing games. One of Kiddo's fabvourites is finding rhyming words. Just while I am typing here, he has brought to my attention that "bricks and sticks rhyme!" He LOVES rhyming words.
These cards were bought in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum last year. 50 cards all about different dinos. These have been invaluable, both the expanding a growing dino knowledge and enhancing reading skills

This is not meant to be a definitive guide or a how to learn to read, merely an observation of how my child learned.  A fellow home-educating mum, blogger and friend has written 2 excellent pieces about learning to read :
How to learn to read and How NOT to learn to read that are both helpful, informative, well written and when reading them I found myself sitting nodding in agreement with everything.
Reading; letters and words, are fascinating to Kiddo. He loves reading and will read everything in sight, or at least attempt to. It's his thing. Numbers too, he loves numbers and often pipes up out the blue with "what's 4+2?" or "Is 5+3 the same as 3+5?" and other simple sums.  This is not how I envisioned his learning to go, at all! I had plans of following a more Scandinavian path with no academics until he was around 6 or 7 years of age, instead focusing on play, but Kiddo had other ideas. Unfortunately, not everyone thought that following his lead was the best thing for his education. When he was in his ante-preschool year at nursery last year, his teacher acknowledged that his reading skills were good and that he was starting to" recognise words", ehm, no, he had already been doing this for almost a year by that point. It was clear to me that the nursery would only allow his progress to go so far, so as the children would all be a similar level upon commencing primary school.  I have lost count the number of times people, well meaning I am sure, advised me not to "let him get too far ahead" - why? Surely not encouraging him, or  restricting his love of reading would be far more detrimental to his love of learning in the long term.  And too far ahead of what? His peers? Why does that matter when all children learn different things when they are mature enough to understand them.  I am very confident that Kiddo's drawing skills and writing skills (with his 6ft letters, ok an exaggeration, but they are huge) are not inline with some of his peers; Kiddo's would definitely be deemed immature, but I'm not at all concerned by this. When he is able to, he will write properly and will or will not be able to draw. Having seen the handwriting of many an adult over the years, this is most definitely not a cause for concern at 5 years old. A love for reading and learning (through reading and being able to find out and discover for himself)  now and in the future is, by and far, the most important thing, in my opinion. As I mentioned, this is not a how to, it is also not a route that all home educating families take. It is purely the route that we followed, lead by the one person who wanted to learn to read.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Hallway Project pt2

I wrote about the redecoration project that was our hallway, back in February.  I am happy to say, it is now 99% complete! Have I already mentioned that I won the wall paper debate?
The before pics can be found here.
And here's the after pics, Tadaahh!:

 What is a home without a laughing Buddah?

The shoe rack has been re-homed as I felt it was too bulky in the narrow hall. Instead it has been replaced with a Lack shelf from Ikea (which resulted in the use of every expletive known in the Western World, when trying to hang the bloody thing!):

The mirror belonged to my Great Aunt, who passed away  just after Kiddo was born.  I love it and think the brick background really shows it off. (Plus it's in a great light for putting on make-up)

This vintage coat hook I found in a charity shop about 10+ years ago, is perfect for holding my handbags.

Kiddo is particularly happy with this light shade since he picked it!

The front door needs a coat of paint (actually, it's perfectly fine the way it is, but I want to give it a coat or 2 of paint). And this is the colour I'm thinking of:

All that is needed now, is to decide which pieces of 'art' to hang on what will become my 'gallery wall'. I have collected over the years pieces that I have created, paintings that Kiddo has painted, prints and postcards we have bought/received, or just some cool images I have found online and printed (sorry to any artists out there...) as well as some motivational words/phrases and a large framed Desiderata to find a 'space' for. Oh, and a rug, preferably a circular one. And then we're done.
It is taking a wee while to complete the decorating, especially as it has now been 2 years in the making. But I am happy to say that taking our time is well worth the wait, as we are delighted with the results.
Next room for the project treatment is our bedroom.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Dear Westminster, It's Political

2014 was a year of begging and pleading:
"Don't go, we love you."
200 'slebs wrote us a letter about
the bonds of citizenship they wanted us to renew.
"Stay! WE LOVE YOU, Scotland."
And stay we did.
Not all of us exactly happy about it,
but understand where we failed in our bid.
You called to us.
Promises made, vows broken.
The Smith Commission;
a mere token.

7 months have since passed.
The General Election is drawing near.
Stop! Haud oan! I've got deja vu;
The lies. The hate. The fear.
It's the Indyref #2.
But honestly, it's really not.
This time we're fighting for the people of the UK,
for a life better than what we've got.
Call in the cavalry:
BBC at the ready, Sir!
The SNP are coming
and we must do everything in our power to stop her.

Our family of nations
and equal voice.
A shared identity and democracy,
free to vote for our choice
(of party or politician.)
So long as its right or far right.
None of your Greens, Plaid Cymru or SNP.
Those pesky lefty parties and the 'Most Dangerous Woman in Britain'
leading a country too poor too stupid too wee.
The Old Boys Club is under scrutiny.
Family money, misogyny, expenses fraud and paedophiles no more,
Your cover is blown.
Time to step aside, the Westminster politics of old is rotten to the core.

Why, Westminster,
do you hate us so?
What's with the bitter contempt and scorn you pour upon us
when you were the one begging us not to go?
Why the regular diatribe being broadcast,
pontificating the abject horror and revulsion
that Scotland's opinion is one of matter?
We're a part of this union! Unless you grant us our expulsion...?
Ahh, but wait; I remember now.
You need our money, simple and plain.
Yet you call us the subsidy junkies?
Aye right, you may now alight from this gravy train.

So what's next on the agenda?
More austerity. Swingeing cuts. Poverty wages.
Renewal of Trident. Privatisation.
Tell me, the modern work house must now be past the planning stages!
Here's an idea : lose the ego!
Listen to what the others are saying.
Nicola, Natalie and Leanne have alternative plans.
You may have missed them on the telly debate; too busy braying.
Anti-austerity. A real living wage. Investment in growth,
NHS, education and services - for all our folk.
We've had enough of your like, in it for yourselves and your pals.
You work for us, get your shit together. This union is a joke!


Lissa Orr, 2015

Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter Weekend

mThis past weekend has been a rather mixed bag of events.  Starting on Thursday at our Home-Ed group in Fife, our theme was of course Easter and Spring. As usual there were crafts to try, stories to read, toys and pals to play with. Kiddo enjoys the playing and the stories, but not so much the crafting side (no surprises there). Except this time he sat with my friend and banished me from the table (no problem, I was more than happy to play a game with my friend's daughter). He then made me...actually, by Easter Chick!!!!  I am completely blown away, both by the fact he made this  and that he made it for me (cue big hugs and a lump in my throat). As if this was not enough, he coloured in a stained glass picture and potted seeds to grow cress.  3 different activities, as well as the hunt for the chicks outside and normal playing and stories.  It was an awesome afternoon.

Good Friday passed by without event and less than Spring-y weather. Time in the house was put to use - making our banner for the Bairns Not Bombs, Scrap Trident rally and march in Glasgow :


 Easter Saturday was a glorious day. The sun was shining, Kiddo and I were off to Glasgow and my hall was finally getting papered.  I am happy to report that in the end, I won the wallpaper debate.  Our hall is now beautifully decorated in the paper Hubby initially said "Oh. Hell. No" to:

So off to Glasgow we go, banner in hand and Kiddo with his peace flag that he made last year, on the train, sporting my new Vote Green t-shirt.  The bloke in the station ticket office asked if we were going to the rally, as half the town appeared to be going!


The march was great, Kiddo did well. He joined in on the "Bairns Not Bombs, Scrap Trident Now!" chant, and told the lady beside us that he's a bairn and that bombs are bad as they could really hurt the whales.  I saw a fair few faces I "know" from the world of twitter and facebook - Hello to Zara Kitson and Sarah Beattie-Smith! I can say hello here, but I would have felt a bit of a wally going over and saying hello in person. Then, in a bout of 'fuck-it', I boldly (and rather excitedly) asked Maggie Chapman (Scottish Greens Co-Convener) for a picture!   I did meet a fellow Home-edder and twitter pal at the Rally, who recognised us from our banner.  Turns out I have already met her daughter and husband at a Home-Ed meet up last year.  It's great to actually meet the real person after chatting away on Twitter for so long.  Saturday night I was rather sad (not sad as in upset, sad as in political science geek) and while everybody else was cheering on Stevie on The Voice (well done, by the way - I watched it on catch up on Sunday evening), I spent ages reading about the rally, the speeches from Patrick Harvie, Nicola Sturgeon and Cat Boyd, and looking at all the photos on-line. I spotted our banner in a couple of pics, including the one above from West Dumfries branch of the SNP.

 After an exciting day Kidd and I settled down for some bedtime stories.  Just before he dropped off to sleep, his last thoughts of the evening were: "I can't wait for tomorrow. I hope the Easter Bunny brings me and egg and I can go on a hunt to find it".   Right. So just because I'm not all that bothered about Easter, turns out that Kiddo is very much bothered about Easter!  I had a bit of an accident with his egg, but didn't think it would really matter. WRONG!!!   When hubby went for his dinner break at around 1am on Sunday morning, he was greeted by a text from me along the lines of :
"If there are ANY Easter Eggs or choc anything, remotely Easter-like (I don't care how shit it is), please buy it!"
In a moment of emergency, I had to 'borrow' my nephew's egg (sorry Sis...), remove it from the box (it was a Creme Egg, Egg - Kiddo hates Creme Eggs) and hide the wrapped choc egg somewhere for him to find in the morning.  In lieu of a garden, household plants came to the rescue - thank you, cheeseplant.  I am actually so glad that this was where I chose to hide it, as according to Kiddo in the morning, the Easter Bunny like to hide chocolate eggs among the roots of trees and bushes (!!! Really? I never knew that!).  Thankfully Kiddo slept in on Sunday morning, which allowed Hubby to get home with his secret chocolate stash, undetected.  Now, what I haven't shared before, is that it is not only me who loves a bit of a Blue Peter crafting session....Hubby does too!  All the Easter decorations instore had been taken down on the Saturday night, so with an odd bit of shelf stripping and a couple of pieces of bunting, scissors, sellotape and a stapler, (and to the amusement of his colleagues on shift), Hubby spent his lunch hour making an Easter basket filled with an assortment of chocolate goodies - all eggs and easter 'animals'.  He is my hero! Oh, and did I mention he bought me a big chocolate egg too - has had it hidden for the past few weeks!

Easter was saved and all was well.  Kiddo went to his Grandparents fuelled wholly by a chocolate breakfast and I went off to work, missing the blue skies and sunshine. 
Surprisingly enough, the weather was still beautiful today. Spring has finally arrived. Everyone seems to be in a better mood when the weather is in a better mood. I hope it decides to stay awhile.