Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Reading Eggs Review

You know how sometimes you swear companies know exactly what you're thinking, and it's almost scary? That just happened to us with Reading Eggs.  We do love Reading Eggs, but we've always used it more as a fun, game time, Mom-needs-to-work-with-your-sister-so-leave-me-alone supplement, rather than a true part of our curriculum. The former reading specialist in me loves how beautifully it is set up to get kids hitting all those early literacy milestone, but we just don't do a lot of online stuff in the house. Well, they heard me, and they came out with workbooks. Real, written record of what they did, set up for a full school year workbooks. And because it lines up with the books and program online, it lets me use it as a real part of our paper and pencil curriculum. Both girls are already excited about Reading Eggs and now with the new workbooks we can solidify Madison's reading with 200 Essential Reading Skills for Third Grade.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

First of all, I LOVE the set up - it's EXACTLY how we work. Thirty six weeks, five pages a week. I don't need to count pages and divide things up. We do four day weeks, but can easily adjust. There is one story for the week (that you can find online) and you use that story to work through comprehension, grammar and spelling patterns. Every week you do a story with comprehension questions (the same story) for two days, spelling for two days, and grammar for one. I love any curriculum that organizes itself well.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

Now for the few cons, because nothing is perfect. I hate reading on a laptop screen and I really wish the stories were printed in the book OR that they used published stories that could be purchased or borrowed (they do print relevant passages FROM the books so that students can focus on certain areas). I'm all for e-reading and audiobooks - for myself AND my kids - but when you're teaching kids how to look back in the text and look for certain things, having a physical book helps. I also think that the spelling lists are very ambitious for only two days of study. There is no WAY a student could do twenty words a week in only two days of working with them, unless this was simply spelling review for them. BUT, we used it as a supplement for spelling patterns and continued using another spelling curriculum, so that wasn't a huge deal.

What using this workbook did, as well as provide a nice daily reading page for Madison, was encourage me to use the online program more. I had a subscription for both girls, but I'd let it lapse. I figured Madison was getting too old, and Reagan had an abundance of apps she loved. I really did forget that Reading Eggs, as a program, extends beyond the preschool years. Yes, they are great at those five early reading components, but they work with word patterns and spelling and vocabulary and fluency and comprehension all the way through the elementary years. Madison, as a third grade, has PLENTIFUL material to work through. Reading Eggspress (intended for second through fifth grade) isn't just a time killer. I had the girls re-do their placement tests to make sure they were working in the right "maps", and both were eager to immediately continue because the lessons are just FUN. Reagan, as a first grade, definitely benefits from the true phonics and phonemic awareness lessons you get at that stage. They also have a program called Mathseeds that Madison has outgrown, but is a great supplement for Reagan and her first grade math.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

Right now, by using this link, you can get FOUR free weeks to try things out instead of just the usual two. I don't know about you, but two weeks is tough to really know if you'll use a program, so this is definitely something to take advantage of. If, once you use it, you feel like the workbook is a key component to add (as I did, and do), use the code WK10VS4ZX5M for 10% off.

Online Reading Eggs Suite {Reading Eggs Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, August 20, 2018

Staying On Top of Life

There are some things that are really easy to keep track of. You know when you need to make certain appointments, either because you get that handy phone call or postcard in the mail, or because it's a timing thing.

Yearly check up around the birthdays.

Oil change every 3000 miles.

Chiropractor once a week.

Other things, I can't seem to get a handle on. I don't seem to recognize the need until it's literally smacking me in the face.

I am terrible at remember to get haircuts. Weird, right? Don't most women have that innate ability to know when to schedule a haircut? Nope, I don't. All of a sudden I'll think huh, it's been a while. Like...six months? Wait, no, what was I doing six months ago? Yikes. Ok, it's time.

And I don't know if it's denial, or simply that Adam and I have a high tolerance for things that are starting to break, but we'll live with minor annoyances for a REALLY long time.  

The car just bounces away because I never thought to get the shocks checked. 

We have a hinge that fell off one of the cabinets months ago, and we're just sort of letting it go.

Staying on top of life is hard.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

When a Teachable Moment Goes Wrong

So I'm going to tell you an embarrassing story. If you want to read the story in a short version, then read about the why I'm an idiot and what you should do if you ever find yourself in the same situation, then just go over and read it here. If you want the long version where I truly expound on why I'm an idiot, read on.

All good teachers know to look for those "teachable moments". That zone of proximal development. Those everyday "aha" moments.

Sometimes, they're exactly what you hope.

Sometimes, they go wrong.

A few weeks ago I was seriously worried about my car. Like, beyond the yeah, it has issues and I probably should lay off the hour long drives for field trips worry and crossing into the oh no, the salesman said my new car won't be here until September and I don't think my car is going to make it without expensive intervention worry.

It was bucking. Lurching. And definitely driving like it wouldn't be driving for much longer.

I was freaking out. I've had a few oh my God moments with this car in the past year where I'm certain that the timing isn't going to work out. Once was right after I got an oil change. Something must have jarred one of the pumps or plugs or something, and about 15 minutes after I left the shop it was stalling every time I stopped at a light and it idled.

This time, I knew in my heart, it had to be something with my leaking gasket. Had to be. I mean, I knew the car leaked oil, I'd just filled it the night before.

So I brought it back to the guy who'd managed to fix the idling problem for a surprisingly inexpensive amount and quick turnaround (this was after the place that did the oil change basically said, yeah, stuff is probably wrong with your car). I told him what was happening and what I'd googled and that I was super worried. He didn't look optimistic.

Then he came out to the waiting room and said, "you are WAY overfull on oil. Like, at least two quarts, maybe three over."

Wait, what?

"Have you added oil recently?"

I told him, yes, I'd checked the oil last night and it was dry! So of course I'd added oil. He gave me a weird look, said that was probably the problem, they'd drain it, change the filter, and add new oil and see what happened. And low and behold, an oil change fixed my problem.

Then he taught me how to check oil. Which I knew how to do. And I left, totally embarrassed and frankly, wondering how I could have possibly made such a mistake.

And then I remembered my teachable moment.

Mom knows car leaks oil. 

Dad is not home.

Mom decides, since it's been a while since she checked and topped off oil, to check and, if needed, top off oil.

But wait! Dad is not home!

Girls, come out to the garage!

Daddy isn't home, and it's important that Moms, and all girls really, know how to take care of their own cars. 

So! Here's how to open the hood!

Here's where the oil is!

Here's how you check the oil!

See! I dipped the stick and wiped it off and here's how you read it!

Oh dear, it's dry. Well, here's how you add oil! 

See! Girls can do anything.

Did you see? Did you see what I did? I dipped, and wiped, and, in my excitement over the teachable and I am woman hear me roar, forgot to redip before I read. So, yeah, duh, it looked dry. Because I just wiped it off.

And because I was super excited, I taught the task WRONG, and then I basically had to pay a lot of money and admit to the girls that, nope, Mommy couldn't do this after all.

But hey, I taught them that when they screw up to own it LIKE A BOSS.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Just Say No

So I'm pretty sure I'm about to ban two things entirely from the house. It's not that these things THEMSELVES are evil, it's just that my kids can't seem to figure out how to manage them properly.

1. Red drinks
2. Slime

It's funny, each girl has one particular substance that, no matter the training I give them, they just CANNOT handle. They can apply all sorts of rules and restrictions to other things, but they have an Achilles heel when it comes to that one thing. Yes, I've figured out how to clean these things out of pretty much anything. But it's just not worth it anymore.

Madison is the worst when it comes to anything that's red and liquid. Let me be clear - I don't keep fruit punch in the house. But when she gets the chance, she is ALL over it. We go to Sonic, and out of the gajillion slush flavors, she wants cherry. We get Gatorade at a competition, and she chooses red. We go to the movies, and she's all over the red icee. Italian Ice. Sno Cones. Fountain drinks.

So that's fine. I'm a big believer that if you go so far to forbid something, you make it all the more desirable and encourage devious behavior to get it. So I just don't have it in the house and I try to limit exposure.

But, BUT, the issue is that she's picked up on my habit of not finishing drinks. But she also doesn't like to waste what she thinks is her favorite thing. So she brings it home in the to go cup and INEVITABLY spills it. The cup could have a lid welded on, and she will find a way. She spills on her new clothes (even if she wasn't wearing them). She spills in the car. She spills on the floor. It's frankly pretty impressive how talented she is at spilling red drinks when she doesn't spill drinks of any other color.

And Reagan with the slime.

Good Lord, Reagan with the slime.

So I banned slime making from the house, because it's just a mess. And then they wash their hands and the gluey residue is all over the counter and sink and towels. And I banned Reagan from buying slime.

But slime finds a way to Reagan. She gets it in goody bags. From birthday parties, from church, from well meaning babysitters, from everywhere. She hops into the car on the way home from a birthday party, and before I can even ask all the right questions, she's "accidentally" dropped the slime on the floor of the car. And it popped open.

Or she got it, but she didn't KNOW she got it until she got her goody bag up to her room and opened the egg. And then she THOUGHT she closed the egg back up, but it turned out she didn't seal it and now there's slime oozing all over her dresser.

Again, it's pretty impressive.

As I inch closer to getting the new car, I'm realizing that I have to lay down the law. I may have chosen the black interior for a reason, but I still don't want the spills. So I've got to start saying no.

All goody bags ride up front with me, at least until I can verify the contents.

No leftover drinks ride in the car, unless, again, they're up front with me.

I can do this. I can beat these stain masters.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Crisis Averted

Oh, my girls kill me sometimes with what they'll totally ignore, and then what they'll totally freak out over.

They'll tip over a bottle and just leave it there leaking. They'll take shower after shower without telling me they ran out of shampoo weeks ago. They'll tip over a container of slime and just hope I don't notice it slowly oozing down the table and cementing itself to the floor.

Then they see an ant and freak out. Or condensation from my A/C running down the driveway after a brutally hot day, and the sky is falling and they're shrieking at me to come outside and see!

So sometimes it's hard to tell.

It gets me thinking. Sometimes the things we are completely freaking out about are non issues. There are things that I am embarrassed to admit that I invested so much mental energy in. And then there are things that I bury my head in the sand about, either because I don't WANT it to be an issue, or I don't want to deal with the fact that it IS an issue.

I mean, I hate conflict. So I'll ignore a festering problem because the resolution will involve uncomfortable conversations or doing something that I really don't want to do. I pretend the check engine light in my car is not a big deal.

I mean, quite honestly, car problems are my slime running down off the table. Piling paperwork is my empty shampoo bottle. The laundry chair is my leaking bottle.

But rumors at dance are my ant freak outs. A cluttered kitchen counter or family room is my condensation. It incorporates my focus and suddenly all I worry about is what's going on and who I can freak out to.

The solution seems so simple, doesn't it? Whenever I write it out, it's PAINFULLY obvious what I need to do.

Focus on what needs attention.

Let the little things consume less energy.

Crisis averted.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Changing it Up

Routine is great, until it stops working.

Routine is great, until you're in a rut.

Routine is great, until it's not.

Sometimes, change isn't necessary, but sometimes, it's exactly what you need.

When I was working, I found that when I was falling into a pattern that was more out of "this just how I do it" instead of "this is the BEST way to do it", I'd make a change. I would even step out of the box and change up how I drove to work, what I did for lunch, when I graded worksheets, how I managed choir attendance. Everything.

So now, I'm thinking forward to September. I know, I know, why put off until September what you can change tomorrow? But I'm a planner, remember? And I like the idea of new year, new start, so the start of the school year seems logical. As we got toward the end of last year, I'd been pulling work for the week and putting it in a folder, so they'd have the week laid out. That way, if they got more done early, they'd be ok, and if they got behind on Monday, they could catch up.

In theory, it should work. And it did for a while. And I was teaching how to manage your own work! Letting them have some autonomy! Teaching them, in a real way, what happens when you procrastinate initially. So it wasn't initially a disaster, and it really should have worked.

In practice, it was a pain in the butt. I was pulling work out on Monday mornings, stuffing folders, and we were NEVER making it through everything. They'd both seem to save their "I need help with this" work for the same times, meaning that I was pulled in two different directions. They were ending up with a huge backlog at the end of the week, and we were behind, and frustrated and struggling more than we should have been for such a simple system.

So now, I'm changing it up. I spent the summer going through ALL the curriculum. I plotted out every chapter, month, week and day. I'm using an actual lesson plan book and charting out everything.

It wasn't working, so I changed it up.

I need to be more willing to do these things in other parts of my life too!
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