If you need readers …

… for your dyslexic or emergent reader, look no further. Reading for All Learners has made their readers available online for free until the world gets back to normal. There are TONS of readers available at this site! Many thanks to these folks!

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Governor Wolf Signed!

What does this mean for you?

Graduating Seniors should still have an evaluation so that their credits, attendance, and transcripts can be finalized. For my clients, this will take place via Zoom with the hard copies of the PDE diploma and the transcript being sent to you via mail. As always, parents are encouraged to purchase a “pretty” diploma! Please do remember to celebrate with your graduate!

Parents of students in Grades 7-11 should at least plan to have a discussion so that we can tabulate credits and keep track of where your child is as far as their overall graduation requirements since these will still need to be met in the future. If you hold on to all the paperwork, we can do this at any time. If you like, however, we can do this via Zoom this evaluation season. Paperwork will not be sent to the school district since that is part of what has been waived for this term.

Parents of students in Grades K-6 really don’t have to do anything. If you want, you can do an online test if this is one of your testing years. That’s right, testing in grades 3, 5, and 8 has been waived, so you don’t really have to do it. If you do elect to test anyway, the results would not need to be seen by anyone–not even me. Although the computerized versions of these tests serve as the proctor, if you were to obtain a paper test, you could serve as proctor yourself this term. If you really are worried about overall progress, you can see how things go with this pandemic and move your child’s testing to the fall, thus putting it over to next term. I wouldn’t worry overly about testing, though!

The 180 Days (or 900/990 Hours) requirement for this term has been completely waived. There is no need to continue to count either hours or days. Certainly, learning will continue during this unprecedented time, but your need to keep track of samples, attendance, or a contemporaneous log have all been waived!

Evaluations have been waived. Except for the above reasons, you really don’t need to have an evaluation this year. If you want to still meet via Zoom, we can do so. No paperwork will be sent to the school districts to close out the 2019-2020 term, however.

The only thing that has not yet been addressed is the August 1 filing deadline of next term’s affidavits and objectives. Since we cannot do distance notarization at this time in Pennsylvania, obtaining a notarization may prove difficult. Don’t forget, the change to the Compulsory Age goes into effect for the 2020-2021 school term, so if your child is 6, you will need to begin to comply with our state’s regulations.

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SB 751

As many of you are aware, SB 751 passed both the House and the Senate. It now awaits signing by Governor Wolf. I’ll keep you apprised.

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So much for “more tomorrow” ….

I keep restarting this post. I just realized it’s been a whole week since I logged into this site and gave you another good read. I held Junior Book Club via Zoom on Friday, which was interesting–not because of using the platform, which I’ve been using all along this year for the older kids, but rather because someone completely new chose to spend time with me that afternoon. This mom and her two kids had never come to book club before, so the format of the discussion was new to them. You see, I don’t really talk about the book’s details as if they are trivia questions. Instead, I’m more interested in getting kids looking at the deeper things in book, the things that you find only when you read between the lines.

Everything you read has a stated or an implied main idea, but beyond that, there are also the things that the author isn’t coming out and stating explicitly, but rather you gather from the clues throughout the book. It’s as if there’s a formula at work: Story x is about Theme y because of Evidence z. In thee story we discussed on Friday, Shakespeare’s Secret, we learned that there was more than one mystery to solve. Not only did we want to find out what happened to the jewel, we also wanted to learn about the importance of friends and family. Loss was a theme in this story. Many, maybe even all, of the characters experienced loss in one sense or another. What we are trying to do in book club is figure out why the author chose to write about that, what she was trying to teach her readers. After all, authors make specific choices when they write. Those specific choices are made for specific reasons. As you read your next book, think about the deeper things that the author is trying to tell you. I have to sign off now because it’s time for GUM class. TTFN (That’s a promise I get keep!)

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Another good read …

Have you ever heard of the book Everything on a Waffle (Horvath)? What a fun story! What lends this one to being great for new homeschoolers is that after each chapter, the author provides an interesting recipe. I can’t recommend the one that the kid in the story says tastes like mothballs, but all the other ones sounded rather neat. If you can get to the store, or have the ingredients on hand, you could try whipping up a bunch of these items. This is a story about family and about perseverance, which is so helpful at a time like this. There’s a survival aspect, too.

If you think that textbooks might help you as you work with your child, check out the CK-12 website. They have “flexbooks” for just about every subject area. You can even go with grade levels if you like, so these texts will be similar to what you are used to thinking of when you think of “school.”

Another area that might be really helpful to work with your student is word problems. Yes, word problems. As someone who teaches reading and writing, I can definitely see the need for more practice in this area. One great old text for this is Ray’s Practical Arithmetic. You can use Ray’s Primary or Ray’s Intellectual with elementary kids. What’s great about the entire Ray’s series is that it is extremely heavy on word problems. The downside to using these books is that (1) you really do have to write the problems out on paper and (2) many of the problems are very dated, using nomenclature from the late 1800s when the books were popular. So, even though most of don’t figure out how many hogsheads we need of a particular commodity, and we don’t pay 11 cents per yard for fabric anymore, we can use the principles and problems in the book to practice those math facts in a deeper way. You can find free digital copies of Ray’s at Internet Archive. Try this link. Be sure to follow the “other people downloaded” links to reach the answer key and the test examples if you want to use those books with this one.

More tomorrow!

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Are you new to learning at home?

If you are homeschooling due to your child’s school being closed, you may find some good stuff here on these pages. You can skip right past the top half of the “Taking the Leap” page under the “Getting Started” tab with all the legalities since you are just going to be home for a short time. Reading the bottom of that page is a good idea, though, because much of what homeschooling really IS looks very different from doing packets of worksheets or even doing “school at home.” While some homeschoolers do use worksheets and a few do indeed try to recreate the school environment in their own homes, most homeschoolers eventually come to realize that this is more of a lifestyle than anything else.

Do you know how many dieting experts say that the key to losing weight and keeping it off is a following a healthy lifestyle rather than a strict diet? Well, the same can be said of homeschooling. Because it takes into account the natural ebb and flow of the day, the inclinations of each student, and the family situation, homeschooling is much more successful when you relax.

One of the first things I counsel new homeschoolers to do is to pick a fun book to read aloud that everyone in the family can enjoy. There are so very many available. If you don’t like to read aloud, Audible can be a boon. On the other hand, this can be a great time to learn to like reading aloud–and a great time to hone everyone’s reading skills! Recently, my family and I enjoyed Fish in a Tree (Lynda Mullaly Hunt). What a great story! I enjoyed it so much that I am going to have my high schoolers discuss it next year in book club. If you are having a hard time finding a good book, try this site, which has 1000 good ones.

Once you find a great book to read, stretch the story with other learning. In other words, use the book as a springboard to other learning. By way of example, in Fish in a Tree, the new teacher provided some puzzle boxes for the kids to figure out. Friendship bracelets are mentioned, too. Ally’s bother is a mechanical whiz and at one point, he rigs up a manual windshield wiper system. You could try to recreate any of the things that take place in the story. Every book has contains some tangential ideas that could work as educational endeavors.

There is no need to panic while your kids are not in school. Learning will indeed take place–even without worksheets! If you HAVE to do the worksheets to get credit, well, then you have to do them, but you can certainly engage in some real learning, too. The important thing is stay calm while you are home. Who knows, you may even enjoy it!

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Big Trouble in the World of Reading Instruction :-(

I don’t even know where to begin on this, so I’ll just link a few posts and then have you come back here to discuss the issue.

First, this speech from Dr, Allington in Tennessee (scroll down on the link for the link to a recording of the actual speech). Next, this letter from Lucy Calkins. More about Calkins and Common Core here. There’s also been some wisdom from Dave Kilpatrick in response. (I love his reply; I’m just looking for the text to link here for you.)

What does all of this mean for you who are in the trenches, working so diligently to help your struggling learner? It turns out, LOTS!

https://barneslab.weebly.com/research-blog/allingtons-talk-at-lat?fbclid=IwAR2ce2zm0DPcjAPkWcqIYI4GIIKGSHVnpQHoI67uO4TUkK4En3KpYJ9AGw8
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How Much Time Does It Take?

You know, this is just one of those questions to which there is no easy answer. It really does take as along as it takes! Sure, there are things you can do to speed up the process–and they work some of the time, but not all of the time, and certainly not all of the time for all kids. In the same way, there are also things that you can do that are detrimental to the process of learning to spell, write, and read–but these, too, do not always cause trouble for all kids all the time. You see, kids are unique. We all are! What a boring world this would be if we weren’t all different. As you let that thought really sink into the marrow of your bones, think about another one that is equally profound–you, as a parent, love your child more than anyone else on the planet does. You should! That’s part of the whole parenting “gig.” We want our children to succeed and it’s painful to watch when they don’t–no matter what the reason. I just want to reassure those of you who are in the trenches that success does come; however, the road to success is paved with hard work, some tears, and lots and lots of loving support.

“But, Chris, how long should this be taking us every day?” you might be wondering. “It seems like all we’re doing is reading and writing. There’s no time for anything else! And with two (or three, or four) kids, I am not getting anything else done!” you may come right out and exclaim. I hear your frustration. I’ve been there. I know it feels like NOTHING else is getting done. I know the laundry is piling up, you have no idea what’s for dinner, and the math book hasn’t been cracked in a week, maybe more. When you feel like that, I have to remind you that remediating dyslexia takes time–and lots of it!

It takes as long as it takes. You can go as fast as you like, but it’s definitely still going to take as slow as the student needs. I liken it to a baby being born. Intellectually you know that the baby is going to come out one way or the other, but when you are in that 9th month and you are just tired of being pregnant, you really can’t hasten things too much outside of the natural order of things–not without there being some serious repercussions. Then, too, that labor will take as long as it takes. You can do a few things to speed it up a bit, but short of surgically removing the baby (which, thank God we can do when lives are the line), there isn’t much beyond time (and pushing) that is going to get you over that finish line with a jubilant, yet exhausted, smile and a sweet little bundle of joy in your arms!

In my first O-G training manual way back when I learned how to deal with my own children’s learning struggles, there was a page that had a chart that included a graph of how to break down the time each day that I “should” spend on the subject of “Language Arts.” That manual and the chart inside were originally written for classrooms, where you know everything takes longer to accomplish than it does at home. Over the years I’ve asked lots of different people how they thought the hours correlated between classrooms and homeschools. I am still waiting for a definitive answer. No matter. What’s really interesting is that this chart called for 2.5 HOURS PER DAY for the teaching of the full strands of English. WOW! Imagine how far a student could go with two and half hours being devoted to JUST to language skills every single day. There’s no use feeling guilty if you can’t provide that. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do that and I’ve been homeschooling for nearly 25 years at this point. The point is just to imagine what that much time–focused time, I mean–would do for a child.

That said, there are only 24 hours in a day, which comes to 168 hours in a week. We have lots to do each day and more on our plates each week. Just because a goal might be out of reach doesn’t mean it isn’t worth at least trying to get closer to it. So, if 2.5 hours a day are far too much, do what you can, even if it happens in 10 to 15 minute increments several times a day. To put this in perspective a bit, sessions with my clients last about 50 minutes and I only see my students twice a week. I can’t do more with them because my case load is full. That doesn’t mean students shouldn’t be working on things at home! Remediation isn’t JUST about the time spent with the tutor working on spelling patterns, generalizations, or fluency. Language arts includes many strands. There’s the art of crafting legible letters, AKA, Handwriting or Penmanship. Parents can be reading aloud to their kids. Kids can read aloud to their parents, to younger siblings, or to the family pet. Students can write about their experiences. They can craft sentences using their spelling words. They can look up unfamiliar words or learn about vocabulary through the study of derivatives. They can read the words they have written. They can analyze the things they have written in order to discover more about how our language works. They can listen to audio books. They can talk about those books, too! There are tons of things kids can be doing to build up the time spent on the arts of language each day. If we remember that the strands that make up language arts all relate to communication and that communication includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing, the field is wide open for things we can be doing to fill these hours. You are probably doing more than you think you are, so leave guilt and accusations behind in the dust where they belong. Instead, I leave you with this encouragement: Don’t get weary of well doing, my friend!

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Check it Out!!!

https://iew.com/help-support/blog/“-real-gold-mine”-tutor-testimonial-christine-gurzler

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Dyslexia Awareness Month 2019

It’s Here! It’s Really Here! Dyslexia Awareness Month Is Back!

As a way of kicking off this year’s Dyslexia Awareness posts, I’d like to send you to Understood.org to see if the symptoms you are seeing in your child are likely dyslexia. While it’s true that markers for dyslexia can show as early as 4 years old, some of the things that people see in children that little that might be dyslexia can also simply be developmental. For example, letter reversals are quite common with all little kids. So, too, are skipping letters in words, otherwise known as “invented spelling.” It’s when these things persist that you might want to look into more extensive assessment. Because those things are so prevalent among very little children, a much better indicator of future trouble with language is the inability to “get” the concept of rhyming. Quite often speech problems are more likely going to point toward dyslexia than “just” reversals or missing letters. Definitely keep an eye on things, though. More to come this month on ways you can help with all these issues. Stay tuned!

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