Friday, January 31, 2014

Teaching my girls to read...

A lot of parents cringe at the thought of homeschooling because the thought of teaching their child to read is daunting.  I've found the opposite to be quite true... it is one of the most exciting and thrilling things I've ever done!  It is such a joy to finally see all those sounds click in my preschooler's mind and see the light come on.  The excitement is so contagious!  I've learned a lot and used many resources in teaching my first 2 children to read so I thought I would share the books that helped my girls the most.

1. The Reading Lesson Book:
Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading -- this book makes it easy.  It teaches all the rules as the child needs to know them.  I will admit that it wasn't my girls' favorite initially (because reading is hard work at first and the font is small) but they grew to like it.  It calmed my worries because I was afraid that I would forget to teach something important.


Alphaphonics -- this book has bigger letters so my girls usually like it more initially.  It takes a while to get through the first page, but after that, reading has begun!  We usually start with this book for a while, but then it gets monotonous so we switch to Ordinary Parents.  Once reading has begun, I usually do one reading "lesson" and have them read one "real" book to me each day as well.

Note: These simple reading lesson books are sufficient for teaching reading in most cases, but if you really desire a step-by-step hands-on program, the All About Reading program is phenomenal.  I haven't used it with my girls, but have reviewed it and have friends that highly recommend it and it is the best reading program I have seen.

2.  The first "real" books we love:
Bob books -- these are fabulous little books that the child can read as soon as he starts blending sounds.

Dick and Jane books -- these might seem "old school" but they are seriously the best books for sight words.  I have never ever drilled my girls in sight words because they pick them up easily when reading the Dick and Jane books. They also start out super easy and get progressively harder which is great.  My girls love the silly stories as well.

Dr.  Seuss Beginner Books -- we love them!

3.  Once those are mastered:

You Read To Me; I'll Read To You books -- My girls beg to read these with me!

Ready, Set, Read! by Cole -- A great collection of simple children's literature

4. Now ready for anything!
The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury by Schulman -- My 6 year old is currently reading through one story a day from this book with me.  Her vocabulary is really expanding while reading great children's literature!

Another great resource:
Explode the Code:  These inexpensive workbooks are fantastic for phonics practice.  My second child actually read for the first time the day she begged to do Explode the Code like her big sister.  We still had more work to do before everything clicked, but she began sounding out words immediately!  I will say that with my girls, their brains were ready to read long before their fingers were ready for a lot of writing, so I didn't ask them to write out a lot of the words in ETC until much later.  They did all the circling exercises and x-ing out and we just did the writing part out-loud instead of on paper.  I did not want to slow down the reading process because writing was still difficult for them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Our "Table Rules"

Food battles.  I never thought I would have them.  My first child was an easy eater and I thought I must be doing it right.  She loved everything I put in front of her and we have videos of her asking for more veggies right around the time most kids get picky.  She would eat taco soup with extra butternut squash and spinach added in and I could put absolutely anything in her home-made tortilla and she would gobble it up.  I didn't understand when other moms talked about food battles they had with heir children.  But then I had my second child.  She had major texture issues and then had to go dairy and gluten free for a while.  It wasn't pretty.  My first easy child took a clue from my picky eater and found her voice.  And then adding in a third very strong-willed child only made dinner time that much more exciting.  My husband had a crazy schedule for a while which meant that we didn't really have a family dinner time and I suddenly found myself with 3 adorable demanding little girls who had horrible table manners.  Something had to be done so I came up with these 6 rules and they have helped tremendously.  They aren't perfect rules for every family, but they have worked for us and I thought they might be helpful to others:

1.  Wait until we pray to eat.
2.  Before beginning, say "Thank you for the meal; the _______ looks delicious."
3.  NEVER say, "I don't like..."  Just quietly leave it on the plate.
4.  Try a bite of everything; pick at least one thing to eat completely.
5.  Do not ask for a treat unless you eat all your meat.
6.  When finished, say, "Thank you for a good meal; may I please be excused?"

Friday, January 3, 2014

My New Year's "Natural Learning" Goals:

As I learn about natural ways to help my family stay healthy and recover well from illnesses, I keep hearing more about homeopathy and essential oils.  I've used them a bit over the years, particularly oregano oil as a natural antibiotic, tea tree oil for cleaning and ringworm,  Nux Vomica for tummy trouble, and Arnica Montana for bumps and bruises.  I've really been wanting to learn more, however, so this year, I used all the money I received for Christmas to purchase a thorough homeopathic kit and a nice diffuser to use with the essential oils I already own.  I also purchased a blend of essential oils for respiratory problems because I think my 2 year old has a bit of fungal pneumonia because we didn't realize the room she was sleeping in had a mold problem (we currently rent a house).  We moved her out a month ago, but her cough has remained.  I am also treating her with collodial silver, a special blend of herbs and oils to rub on her chest, and oregano oil on her feet.  I've been doing the natural remedies for about 5 days and the diffuser for 2 days and I already notice a tremendous difference in her cough!  I am definitely inspired to learn more.  I will write more on the topics of homeopathy and essential oils as I learn more.  I have downloaded a great homeopathic workbook to study now and hope to take an actual class on essential oils in the spring or summer.  Essential oils can be dangerous if not used properly so I don't want to do too much without proper education.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Battling low milk supply

A friend recently emailed me about ideas for increasing milk supply. I've struggled with low milk supply with all 4 of my babies. Right around the time they start crawling, they start drinking more milk and my body just has a hard time keeping up. Unfortunately, I finally figured out that for me, the best solution for me was to nurse at least twice during the night. I have a lactation consultant friend, and she told me that those middle of the night feedings make the most difference in milk supply. So I always feed the baby before I go to bed (she hardly wakes up but will happily nurse) and no longer try to get my babies to sleep through the night at all. I apparently just don't have enough milk during the day but they make up for it at night. My 3rd baby woke up every three hours every single night until she was a year old and decided she didn't want to nurse any more. Then she suddenly slept through the night perfectly. It was an exhausting year but she was my chunkiest baby so it was worth it to me. My first two slept through the night early on but were all underweight. I'm certain those night feedings made all the difference. I also fed more often during the daytime with my last two babies. I've thrown all my "scheduling" books out the window... none of my babies ever could make it 4 hours between feedings! A lot of times I feed as often as every 2 hours during the day even with older babies just because they seem to need it and it keeps my milk supply.
I've also found that I cannot exercise at all while breastfeeding because it drops my supply. I have a hard time eating enough for both of us, I guess, and if I burn many calories my milk suffers. I also try to drink as much whole milk as possible. I don't always have time to eat a lot during the day, but I can always drink so I try to up my calories with healthy fat in the milk instead of just drinking water. I always drink a large glass before bed as well.
When I first struggled with milk supply, my holistic doctor recommended fenugreek, alfalfa, and blessed thistle herbs. And she told me to eat at least a tablespoon of coconut oil every day. Oatmeal and quinoa are also supposed to be good for increasing milk production. And I do believe those helped. But what worked the most for me was more feedings and lots of milk.
Here is a fabulous website for breastfeeding advice and support: Nursing Nurture