Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homeschooling Progress: starting out

I wrote the draft of this post way back in August, before we started our first year of homeschooling, and never got around to editing it! I guess it's about time to make note of where Basbusa started out, since it's almost time to write about how things have gone during the first semester.

So, here's a quick summary of what Basbusa was doing as of last August, when she had just turned four.

  • Favorite Interests: Reading, being read to, pretend play, and making up stories (for hours and hours).
  • Quran: memorized up to Surat Al Nasr al7amdulillah. She's not very solid on most of it when reciting alone, but reciting quite smoothly and confidently along with me.
  • Reading: Everything, independently. Typical chapter books she reads alone are House at Pooh Corner, and Milly Molly Mandy. She's completely at ease if she already knows the plot; a bit slower if it's new to her.
  • Writing: can write her name, "Mama" and "Grandma" without thinking about it; asks for spelling for everything else. Still writing in all capitals. She mostly uses writing to label her drawings to show who they are presents for; she writes some "letters" and notes to friends.
  • Art: draws all day long, with a pen. Not very interested in coloring in her pictures, nor in exploring other art media (even markers or color pencils or crayons), although she'll sometimes paint if it crosses her mind.
  • Arabic: Knows the alphabet, more or less. (Speaks fluent Egyptian Arabic with us - al7amdulillah, it has never even occurred to her that she could try talking to her sister in English - but her language is pretty much stuck at the very-good-non-native-speaker level that she hears from me. Oh well.)
  • Motor Skills: Finally enjoying jumping off things, more willing to test her own abilities, less hesitant in playgrounds.
  • Social Skills: Getting better all the time at the art of playing with one other person (whether a new or existing friend); more willing to start up a conversation in playgrounds with children she doesn't know. Still learning how to go about joining other children's games-in-progress. 
  • Science: Hmmm.... Interested in gardening, but I think hanging out with Grandma is more of a draw than the garden itself. Not really into collecting things from outdoors; not particularly excited about nature walks etc.
  • Math: In Arabic, counts to 10. In English, all the way up to 100 if you tell her what's after 19 :) Can do simple addition and subtraction (such as, "If Grandma had 5 candies and gave you 3, how many would she have left?"). No problem with patterns like ABAB, AABAAB, ABCABC.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What's Kunafa Reading?

Yet another much-too-long silence! But during these first few months of "real" homeschooling, I've been focusing more on doing it than on writing about it.

I have a million books to write about, but just to start off with, here are some books that my younger daughter, who just turned two, has loved lately. She's truly moved beyond board books now; these are all picture books that I think are perfect for kids who just at the stage when they can follow and enjoy a simple plot.

I Can Help! was a hit with Kunafa for about two months of daily readings. The story-line is simple, plausible and charming: on each two-page spread, an animal gets into trouble, and his helped by a friend. On the next page, that friend runs into problems too, and is helped by someone else. And so the pattern continues, until the chain of helpers circles back around again to the curious little duckling who started it all in the first place. Kunafa loved this one partly because the plot was so easy to grasp, and partly because the animals have difficulties that are very familiar to two-year-olds (like getting lost, getting a splinter, or falling off something). She also still loves looking at animals, so she liked this cast of characters too. I thought the illustrations were delightful; appealing without being cutesy.

Fluff & Billy is my least-favorite of the five I'm reviewing here, but Kunafa loves it. This is the story of two penguins going about their day, which entails doing and stating the obvious (twice over, for each activity: "'I am jumping up!' said Fluff. 'I am jumping up!' said Billy.") Kunafa, however, seems to delight in the predictability of Billy's echoing every dull sentence of Fluff's, and finds the climax - the one time when Billy says something slightly different from Fluff - correspondingly exciting. What Billy actually does at this moment is to throw a snowball at Fluff, and Kunafa seems to find deep meaning in the fact that he hurt his friend, but that he didn't mean to. All is happily resolved and the friends reunite, repetitively. Two thumbs up from Kunafa.

Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy, like Rhyming Dust Bunnies by the same author, never fails to have both Basbusa and Kunafa collapsing in giggles. In fact, this one is an even bigger hit with Kunafa, because its humor doesn't rely on a kid's ability to understand the concept of rhyme. The plot is simple - a scardey-cat cowboy keeps needing to be reassured by his cows that nothing is sneaking up on him while he tries to sing them to sleep - but it still manages to end up with an unexpected twist. Kunafa loves chiming in with the cows as they say, "No, Cowboy, it's just a flower!", or "No, Cowboy, it's just me!" and both girls love how the cowboy keeps interrupting his lullaby to say, "Eeeeeeeek!" instead of "Good Night."

I read Each Peach Pear Plum with Basbusa when she was three, but she wasn't wild about it. I think maybe it was a little young for her at the time? It's just perfect for Kunafa, at two, and she has this one memorized, even without the book in front of her as a prompt. Each spread has a sentence describing the main action of the illustration ("Mother Hubbard down the cellar"), followed by a hint pointing to you find another character hidden in the picture ("I spy Cinderella!"). The "hidden" characters are just visible enough to make the challenge interesting rather than frustrating for a two-year-old, and there are lots of interesting details to look at in the pictures beside the main subjects, like the frog who rescues Baby Bunting's pacifier or the sheep eating a slice of plum pie with Bo Peep. Each scene can stand alone, but all the "I spy" scenes actually link up to describe how all the characters are preparing for a picnic together.

When I read this with Basbusa, I think I felt that the subject-matter of this book was a bit awkward: I thought that children who would love the simplicity of this language and plot would be too young to have much acquaintance with the storybook characters who crop up in this story (Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Hubbard). And it's certainly true that Kunafa has no clue who Mother Hubbard or Baby Bunting are, outside the context of this story (hmmm, nor do I, now that I come to think about it!). But it doesn't seem to bother her in the least, and she's just as interested in "spying" them in the pictures.

One monkey finds a Banana, a second monkey wants it, and eventually they both realize that sharing it will make both of them happy. The only word used in the text is "Banana!" (oh, and one "please"); the expressions on the monkeys' faces explain whether it's meant as a cry of jubilation, a plea, or a full-fledged tantrum. Kunafa totally got the concept of wanting to share but having to ask nicely, and she liked acting this one out as we read it, mimicking the monkeys' faces and gestures. A fun read.

If you're looking for other books for this age-group, I have reviewed four others here.

Linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday and The Children's Bookshelf.