Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reading Comprehension

I received a review copy of Jacob's Ladder from Prufrock Press a few months ago and started using it immediately. This is the first time that Ben has enjoyed a comprehension program. He and Shira ask to do Jacob's Ladder and are upset if it isn't included in a day's schedule.

So what is Jacob's Ladder?
Jacob's Ladder is a supplemental reading program that implements targeted readings from short stories, poetry, and nonfiction sources. With this program, students engage in an inquiry process that moves from lower order to higher order thinking skills. Starting with basic literary understanding, students learn to critically analyze text by determining implications and consequences, generalizations, main ideas, and/or creative synthesis.

Jacob's Ladder uses "ladders" to guide the children. Ladder A teaches the children how to draw implications and consequences from their reading. For example, the children read a story about a young boy whose father forced him to shoot a blue heron against the boy's wishes. The story goes on to deal with the what happened after the shooting and how the relationship between the boy and his father changed. Ladder A starts by asking the children to list the five most important events of the story in order. Then it asks why the boy receives a camera for his birthday at the end of the story. (this is because the father finally realizes that the son prefers shooting with film and not bullets). Finally, the children are asked to predict how the story would have been different had any one of 4 different events happened.

Ben and Shira love this final part of ladder A. They like to engage in "what if" scenarios.

Ladder B teaches children to make generalizations from the details in the readings. In the story I discuss when talking about Ladder A, Ladder B starts off by asking the children, "What are the reasons for Jon's father wanting to kill the heron?" and "What are Jon's reasons for not wanting to kill the heron.". They are then asked to classify their answers into positive and negative reasons. Finally they are asked to make generalizations about the following based on the story: a) Hunting, b) People who like to hunt, and c) People who don't like to hunt.

Ladder C focuses on themes. Children start by identifying settings and characters and then make inferences about the literary situation. In the story about Androcles and the Lion Ladder C starts off by asking: "How would you describe Androcles? Support your answer with evidence from the text."

It then goes on to ask, "Why doesn't the LIon eat Androcles? Did it surprise you that the Lion spared him? Why or why not?. Finally it asks the child to write a moral for the fable and to explain why her moral is appropriate, providing evidence from the text.

The final ladder, ladder D, focuses on creative synthesis by leading students through paraphrasing and summarizing activities. In Androcles and the Lion, Ladder D starts off by asking the children to rewrite the following quotation in their own words: "But as soon as he came near to Androcles he recognized his friend, and fawned upon him, and licked his hands like a friendly dog. The Emperor, surprised at this, summoned Androcles to him, who told him the whole story, whereupon the slave was pardoned and freed, and the Lion let loose to his native forest."

Then the children are asked to write the main idea of the fable from Androcles, supporting their answers from the text.

Finally the children synthesize this all by writing another fable about the main idea they identified for this fable, using characters, settings and a plot of their own choice.

Ladders A and D are Ben and Shira's favorite ladders. I should mention that not all ladders are done for each reading.

I find that Jacob's Ladder is easy to use and thoroughly enjoy how it helps light a spark in my children. They truly do not consider working on Jacob's Ladder to be school work, for them, this is a treat. This is in such stark contrast from the reading comprehension programs of my day. I used to be bored out of my mind. Many of the current programs I've seen mimic the ones of my youth and are simply multiple choice questions about facts within the story. Jacob's Ladder is an entirely different animal. It engages higher order thinking and takes the children far beyond the texts they are reading.

This is a good training ground for when the children finally enter the great literary debate when they read the Great Books of the Western World.

This is the first comprehension program that I've seen that I can wholeheartedly recommend. While it's targeted at gifted children, I think that all children will enjoy this program as you can guide the answers as deeply or as shallowly as you wish. If you have children, how like mine, love to engage in philosophizing, this is definitely a program they would enjoy.

The Carnival of Homeschooling

Welcome to this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. Compiling this carnival has been a welcome break from the remodeling we are doing. Homeschooling and writing about homeschoolers is so soothing to me compared to making all the choices about countertops, granite, faucets etc, that I have been making.

I am truly thankful that I scheduled the remodeling to be done from May to August. I can't imagine being stuck in the house with remodeling during winter. My brain is so fried by all the decorating choices I have been making that I could not come up with a theme for this carnival, so instead of having a theme, I broke the posts up into topics and have placed pics of my delightful offspring at random spots within the copy. We start this topic off with posts that recap this last school year.

Recapping the 2009/2010 school year.

Co-ops play a large part in the lives of many homeschoolers and summer is often the time when we analyze how well the co-op worked for us during the preceding year and what we want from the co-op for the following year.

These children were having fun pretending to be horses and charioteers at our co-op during their Aeneid class.

Homeschool Dad shares a video of that recaps his family's co-op experiences for the year. His video shows what a great experience a co-op can be.
My family attends the Homeschool Out of the Box co-op where my children took an awe inspiring literature class. Lydia, of Little Blue School taught the Aeneid to children from the age of 4 to about 13. (not all at the same time of course, she taught an enrichment class to the little ones and then had academic track classes for the older children). The children took part in gladiator games, chariot races and learned the Roman virtues. My favorite part of the entire endeavor was listening to the children recite the first 14 lines of the Aeneid in Latin.

Here are all the children singing some of the Aeneid in Latin.

Katherine of No fighting, no biting. speaks about her family's piano recital.

Home Economics.

Home economics is a topic near and dear to my heart. I believe that too many parents, homeschooling or not, do not give their children sufficient skills in running/caring for a home, cooking and needlecraft. It's good to see homeschoolers blogging about how they are going about teaching their children to be self-sufficient within their homes.

Mrs. White of The Legacy of Home has started an ambitious project with her 15 year, daughter. For the next 60 days, they are hand-sewing an apron a day. She sees this as a seamstress apprenticeship for her daughter. Visit her page to see links to her sewing and Facebook pages.

Mrs. White, you have my fullest admiration. Hand-sewing, when a machine is available, takes more patience and fortitude than I have. You are giving your daughter a great gift.

Roscommon Acres finds that homemade birthday cakes make celebrating birthdays much more special. The Thinking Mother teacher's her 10 year old son to make chicken fajitas.

Teachable Moments

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that it sensitizes parents to teaching moments.

I lived in the states for a few years before I realized the real purpose of Memorial Day. I never even gave the holiday a thought and if I did, I just thought of it as the official start to summer vacations. I was mortified when I finally realized that it was a holiday memorializing all those members of the armed forces who have given their lives to protect our freedoms.

Jessica of Teachable Moments found this Memorial Day particularly poignant as her brother is preparing for war with a group of young marines.

Summer Schooling

What are you doing this summer? Do you take the entire year off, or do you school year round? Perhaps you do something else?

I Capture the Rowhouse is taking a break from regular schooling and is studying movies.
I hope that this will be a little bit of the science of movies, a little bit of art and a little bit of culture. Classic films are cultural reference points the same way that plays, music, and other works of art are. However, I’m also hoping this unit will add a little more media literacy to my kids’ lives. We already talk about commercials and the way that things are sold. However, I think there’s more to media literacy than that. I’m hoping to work on Mushroom and BalletBoy’s ability to talk about how moving images, music and story can make us feel certain ways and how that works.

Charlotte Mason

Living Charlotte Mason in California gives details on how to run a Charlotte Mason study group. I found this blog post to be immensely useful as I've never been sure how to go about doing something like this. I like how her study group encompasses art, science and foreign languages.

Book Reviews

Kris of At Home Science reviews "Finding Darwin's God", a book that attempts to reconcile religion and evolution.
Evolution, Creationism, Microevolution, Intelligent Design, Materialism, Science and Religion...where does one begin to understand what all controversy is about? Start with Kenneth Miller's book, Finding Darwin's God.

Kenneth Miller is a Catholic cell biologist that clearly explains all of these subjects. He begins by taking us through the volumes of evidence supporting Evolution, including the scientific meaning of "theory" that is often misused by opponents of Evolution. He then gives the details of Creationism, Microevolution-only, and Intelligent Design, describing not only where these proposals are wrong based on the scientific evidence, but also where they are philosophically insufficient to explain God's relationship to His creation.

Alasandra reviews, "Love in a Time of Homeschooling".
Her experience with homeschooling seems very different then mine. Maybe it was because they knew it was only for one year. Also because she still had two children in public school her family didn't enjoy the same amount of flexibility that most homeschool families enjoy. At first it seemed as if what they were really doing was "school at home" although toward the end they did seem to grasp the freedom homeschooling allows and the creativity that can spring from it. I actually found the rest of the book slow going and didn't enjoy it as much as the first few chapters.

Homeschooling Creatively.

One of the reasons I homeschool is for the flexibility it affords me in how, what and when I teach my children.

Her Own Copy discusses how she has successfully used Journal writing with her reluctant writer.

Henry Cate of Why Homeschooling compares the time that is wasted in schooling out of the home vs. schooling in the home. Unlike Henry, our children do not go from the breakfast table into school. Our children go from bed to school. I only make breakfast about an hour into their school day. Lest you think I am a totally evil mom, my kids decided to do school this way. They wake up and start doing their assigned schoolwork. They often start school between 6 and 6:30am. I take my time getting, make breakfast for all of us and then we start with mommy instruction.
Shira doing a history lesson
Dwarves and Blokus discusses how a simple computer game Dwarf Fortress lead to huge amounts of learning. Her son started learning Python, magma flows and much more.

Quirky Mamademonstrates how she uses post card swaps to teach geography to her preschoolers.

Let's Play Math has written a brilliant post on 5th grade Hobbit Math. I can't wait to give my kids her worksheet on decimals, ratios and percents as it is written around "The Hobbit".

Little Blue School discusses why you should teach your child to write a novel.
In encouraging a child to write a novel, you're not just asking them to produce a book. You're promoting several important benefits in their education, and in their development as a person. Writing a novel, for kids and teens, really has very little to do with the final product, you see. While their books are fantastic and we love to read them, the true purpose of writing at this age is not to create the Next Big Book that will bring the publishing industry to its knees. It's all about the process, and kids learn much from the process of writing a novel.

My entry in this carnival is my review of Prufrock Press' reading comprehension program, Jacob's Ladder. I give this program a wholehearted thumbs up. It makes teaching fun (for my children at least). We all thoroughly enjoy working with this program.

Summer Reading Programs

Beverly Hernandez is one again running a Summer Reading Club for Homeschoolers.
The 12th Annual Summer Reading Club begins today! Get those library cards out! The purpose of the Summer Reading Club is to encourage students to read for pleasure, help the reluctant reader along and reward them for their efforts. Get your kids signed up and reading all summer long.

The Homeschool Buyers Co-op is giving away an iPad and 12, $15 Amazon gift certificates in their summer reading program.


Home Spun Juggling ruminates on testing and testing anxiety.

Rational Jenn discusses kids and money. In the first post she talks about her stance on kids and money and in the second she gives an update on how allowances are working for her family.
Explaining about financial constraints, and how to make purchases based on your values, has been really beneficial, for the most part. One of the things I'm doing these days is planning our dinner menu for the week in advance and then buying according to my list and plan. This helps me stick with eating right and keeps our grocery budget in balance, too. So when we're at the store and one of them asks to buy something, I feel free to say "No, I don't think I'll buy that today. I have enough money to buy the things on my list, but no extra money for extras today." Or when trying to make a purchasing decision, I'll speak out loud and often enlist their assistance:

Living Charlotte Mason in California discusses the differences between two graduation ceremonies she attended and how different teh homeschooled children were compared to the public schooled children.
This day was the perfect reminder to me to think about the other things. To remember the countless hours I've spent with my children doing so much more than school. To think about the relationship we've developed with one another. To remember the victories and triumphs we have shared.

Parenting Squad discusses the topic of behavior contracts with teens.


We end this carnival with two freebies.

Linda Dobson is giving away approximately 20 years of copies of Home Education Magazine.
Here’s the deal. These issues have been kept in a filing cabinet inside a closet. I have them all out, but I apologize that I just don’t have time to go through them to confirm how complete, or even when they begin. I did see 1986 in there somewhere…which would mean we’re talking well over twenty years worth of timeless information, resources, and personal stories that can help anybody get started homeschooling, or support anyone who is already on the journey!

iPad Weekly reviews a free app: This Day in History.
The application’s one and only feature is providing 4-10 historical events that happened on any specific day of the year. The application defaults to the current date. For example, Today (June 4th), Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, was born on 1808. The Dutch West India Company was chartered in 1621 and King George V was born in 1865.

This ends the this Carnival of Homeschooling. Why not share your blog posts and ideas in the next carnival. You can post your entries here