Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Read a Zillion Books with Jerry Pallotta

Oh wow! My kids and I were BLOWN AWAY by the presentation by author Jerry Pallotta today at the local library. 4th graders from the local elementary school and a preschool class attended, as well as at least 4 homeschool families.

My kids react:
"I thought he was funny. Everything he told us was funny! I like his books because they give you facts - a bunch of facts about the thing in the picture. I bought the Jet Alphabet book because I really like drawing jets and stuff like that. The thing that made me buy the book was a picture of a jet engine that is cut in half so you can see how it works." David, age 11

"I liked the part when he showed us all his books, especially Dory Story. I like that book because it's funny. The little boy was standing on a rock and he had his mouth open." Emily, age 9

"He put those fang things on that kid. That was funny! He put a kid in front of the screen and then the shark was going to eat him. That was
the funniest. I learned that he made all of those books!" James, age 6

Mr. Pallotta is an author of fact-filled, fun to read children's books such as Icky Bug Alphabet Book, The Dinosaur Alphabet Book and The Hershey's Kiss Addition Book. Visit his website at

If you have the opportunity to hear him speak, TAKE IT! He is doing a "Read a Zillion Books" tour right now.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

"I can read this whole book!"

Today David and Suzy had doctor's appointments at 9 am, so the only school we managed to accomplish was Reading and Math. However, David and Suzy both had Health class, too! :-)

I wanted to post about a moment that gladdened my heart! I signed out a couple of easy reader books at the library the other day. You know the kind - Mat the Rat sat on a cat.... Anyway, I knew James could read them, but I just put them on the library shelf with the other books, instead of pointing them out and calling them "school". That was last week sometime.

So, today, he brings me one of them and announced proudly "I can read this whole book!" He was SO pleased! I would not have taken away that moment for anything.

He loves the Explode the Code workbook I got for him at the conference - it is book 2, which adds blends and digraphs to short vowel words. He is really on his way to reading well! I am so pleased that I waited until HE was ready and excited about learning to read. We have not had any problems at all about it; he has enjoyed it from Day One.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Convention Purchases

Well, from my report about the convention (below), you can probably tell that I don't go to conventions for the shopping, although I realize many people do. I like to look in the vendor hall, but more often than not, it overwhelms me.

I go to seminars for the "experience" - the seminars, the friends, the night out, etc....

That said, I did find some things to buy! Here they are:
  • "markerboard" number line marked 0-25
  • soda bottle bird feeder adaptor
  • Trees of Michigan field guide (our summer "unit" will be tree identification)
  • Zeta Math U See complete set (David has already started it)
  • Beta Math U See student books (for James when he finishes Alpha)
  • Discovering Great Artists: Hands-on Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (to replace the art we are doing now)
  • My First Book of Cutting - Kumon (for Suzy so she stops cutting hair, pants, etc...)
  • Explode the Code book 2 - for James, since I don't have Alphabet Island 2A right now
  • Jonathan Park Volume 1 audio CD's
  • Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends: How to Fight the Good Fight at Home! by Sarah, Stephen and Grace Mally
  • You Can Paint Watercolors: A Step by Step Guide for Absolute Beginners by Alwyn Crenshaw
  • a paint with water book (for Suzy)
  • My Book Report Journal - ELP (for Emily next year)
  • subscriptions to Hopscotch for Girls, Fun for Kidz, Boys' Quest (bimonthly magazines to replace God's World News, which none of us really find too enthralling)
  • a place marker thing for James' reading
  • a DeVos for Governor bumpersticker :-) (actually free!)
  • Dover coloring book - Warriors of the Ages
  • Dover coloring book - Landmarks of the Ancient World
Stuff I had hoped to find but didn't:
  • Analytical Grammar (have to SEE it before spending that kind of money, but after hearing Andrew Pudewa, I am pretty much determined to not do any formal grammar at this point)
  • How to Write Book Reports (Resurrection Resources)
  • Writing Step-by-Step (Builder Books)
  • Greek Alphabetarion (Trivium Pursuit)
  • Piano for Quitters
  • Scripture Memory Fellowship books
  • Fun Projects for Hands-on Character Building - Boyer
  • More Rummy Roots card game
  • Lyrical Life Science
  • Even the Sound Waves Obey Him
  • ArtWorks for Kids
  • Student's Guide to Keeping an Art Journal
  • Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw set
  • Teaching History Through Art
  • Alphabet Island 2A workbook
I wouldn't have purchased all that, but I wanted to see it before ordering.

Stuff I looked at and decided not to get:
  • Wordly Wise
  • Considering God's Creation (still plan to get it, but wanted to wait to spend the $$ or see if I can find it used)
  • Hittite Warrior/God King and other historical novels (just can't spend the money on that!)
  • Diana Waring tapes or CD's (again, still want to get them eventually)
  • Homeschool in the Woods timeline figures (too expensive, and I like how we do our timeline just fine right now)
  • Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children (beautiful book, but I needed something more in-depth)
  • Jensen's Grammar (wasn't impressed)
  • Progeny Press and Total Language Plus literature guides (Maryann has a bunch I can borrow! lol)
  • Rosetta Stone (just can't spend $200 on it right now!)
  • Squire and the Scroll (will get it someday)
  • 100 Top Picks - Duffy (will buy it eventually)
So, there you go! My adventures in convention spending. :-)

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Convention Report

Friday and Saturday I attended the state homeschool convention! I rode over with 3 friends (Pam, Vicki, and Darlene) and we stayed the night in the hotel. AWESOME trip!

About 25 families I know were there. Hundreds of people attend this conference, so we were a very small portion, but when I went in 2004, I didn't know ANYONE from this area that was there! So, that's a huge improvement, eh?

We arrived just in time to check into the hotel and head over to the first seminar. There are 7 time slots for seminars, and I had chosen a seminar in each slot, but I only ended up attending 4 of them. I did not attend either general session (Friday night/Sat am) so I did not hear the keynote speaker.

The two seminars I attended on Friday were fine, but the content did not match the description of the seminar very well, so my expectations were not met. One presenter was one I had heard several times before, so I was disappointed that she had not included enough fresh material in this new seminar, which was titled Managing Multi-Level Teaching. The other seminar, Developing Independent Learners was too general. I wanted MUCH more specific details on how to develop this trait at every age.

I spent an hour or two in the vendor hall and bought a few things that night. Then eleven of us decided to head out for dinner instead of attend the general session that night. We walked to a nearby restaurant that was highly recommended but the wait time was very long. (There were many graduation celebrations in Lansing that day, due to MSU graduations.) So we went back to the hotel and decided to drive out to Olive Garden. Most of us were STARVING, so the drive over was torture. We demanded breadsticks as soon as we walked in! lol Dinner was WONDERFUL - both the food and the company. We took a very long time at the restaurant and didn't get back to the hotel until about 10:30pm!

At a convention, you can tell the night owls from the earlybirds very easily! :-) Some people headed right off to bed as soon as we returned, but others of us stayed up VERY late playing cards, talking, and getting reprimanded by hotel security! Yep, I guess we are a wild bunch of homeschool moms - not a denim jumper in any of OUR suitcases!

About 2am, Vicki, Darlene and I finally turned in for the night and didn't set a wakeup call since the first seminar wasn't scheduled until 10:20 (since we were planning to skip the 8:30 general session!). However, Pam, who was staying in a different room, had OTHER plans for us. At SEVEN AM, a sharp knock sounded at our door, and I blearily answered it to find a perky Pamela greeting me. What did she want? NOTHING except to wake us up! Very funny, Pam! So, none of us in our room got more than 4 hours of sleep. But that's to be expected, I suppose!

We headed over to the convention center eventually and tracked down a muffin for breakfast and then headed into our first seminar of the day. Andrew Pudewa, director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, was speaking on the topic Nurturing Competent Communicators. This seminar blew us all away!! I highly recommend him as a speaker and if you can get THIS seminar on tape, I would do it!

He said that a wrong, but common attitude is that if children are good readers, they will be good writers. This is not true. He said that children need to build "linguistic databases" in their brains that they can draw on for writing and speaking. Reading current children's fiction is not usually effective at this.

He suggests several things. First, throw out the TV or severely limit it. This would also include DVD's, video games, frivolous computer time, also. Second, read aloud. A LOT. To all ages. He suggested that 2-3 HOURS a day would not be too much. He specifically suggested fiction from 1850-1930. Third, have children MEMORIZE. Poetry. Scripture. Literature. Use the "Suzuki" method to memorize. Start with a short section and add to it as children master the parts. Work up to being able to say LONG sections. He gives this seminar across the country from time to time, so watch the website. You could also order a tape/CD of the seminar from INCH.

I was so glad to have attended THAT seminar, but needed some time to process it, so I didn't attend the next seminar I had planned to hear. I headed into the vendor hall for some more shopping. Then 8 of us headed over to the hotel for lunch in their restaurant. A yummy buffet featuring stroganoff and chicken looked great, so most of us had that. We relaxed upstairs in our room for a bit before heading back over.

Vicki and I went to a seminar entitled "Top 20 Products Used in Over 20 Years Homeschooling" but as soon as we walked in, they handed us a detailed handout of the top 20 products. Since we had the handout, we didn't really think we needed to attend the seminar, so we snuck out just as it began. :-) MORE shopping followed!

The last seminar we attended was the same woman, Donna Reish, who was giving the top 20 products seminar, but the one we went to was entitled Training Children to be Diligent Workers. Another EXCELLENT seminar! I highly recommend this speaker as well - she was funny and practical and had a TON of ideas!

Well, sadly, that marked the end of the convention, or just about. One more walk through the convention hall, some goodbyes, and leaving the hotel room, and then we were driving away. Again it was Pam, Darlene and me, but we swapped Vicki (who was staying one more night with her family, who had driven up to join her) for Tammy. We stopped in Flint at Don Pablo's for dinner, had some great Mexican food, shared some thoughtful conversation, and then started dropping people off one by one.

I can't believe it is over!! Can't wait til next year either!!

Will post my purchases separately. :-)