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The Psychology of Bob Books

Keeping track of Bob Book progress

Keeping track of Bob Book progress

I have no research or data to back this theory up, but I think that 17 is the magic number for Bob Books.

The 17th book was when it all started coming together for my four-year-old daughter Jenna.  Before that, she needed a lot of scaffolding.

The first set of Book Books was the hardest. Then she started set 2 and stalled right around “Up Pup”.  At that point we purchased the Bob Books Sight Words set from Costco, along with a Princess Book for motivation.

Bribery works!

Bribery works!

Each Bob Book “unlocked” a Princess story. Jenna was incredibly determined to make this happens. She white-knuckled it through the first 5 books of the new set.

Then something magic happened.

After reading her 17th Bob Book, three times each, it became easier for her. Independent reading became enjoyable. Most importantly, Jenna started seeing herself as a reader. She started pointing out words everywhere and sounding them out.

Does this mean she’s polishing off the rest of the Bob Books yet? No, not at the moment. But Jenna’s reading the books she’s already mastered over and over and over again.

We have Bob Books floating around all over the house. It’s actually getting kind of annoying.

Two sizes of Bob Books

Two sizes of Bob Books

A funny thing is that Jenna is convinced that the bigger Bob Books are easier than the smaller ones, which isn’t necessarily true. The Bob Books Sight Words: Kindergarten set is on par with Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners. The larger format is from Costco, the smaller format is from Amazon.

But since things started “clicking” for Jenna with the bigger, Sight Words set, she thinks the larger format is easier. I bet if I went back to Costco and bought the larger version of Set 2, Jenna would think they were super easy too!

The take-home message here, is that if you’ve been using Bob Books at home, be patient, be creative, and be persistent.

Hold on until the 17th book! Then drop me a line and share your story. Was #17 magic for your child too?

Princess Bob Books

Bribery works!

Bribery works!

My 4-year-old daughter Jenna and I have been doing what we call “Princess Bob Books” every day this week.

She really, really, really wanted to get Princess Bedtime Stories (Storybook Collection)when we saw it at Costco. Frankly, it made me want to gouge out my eyes. But then I noticed that Costco also had Bob Books Sight Words Collection – Kindergarten and First Grade (Bob Books, Sight Words Collection), which we didn’t own.

So Jenna and I struck a deal. We’d buy both.

This week, every new Bob Book Jean reads “unlocks” a new princess story from her collection.  This has been very motivating.

Some phonics-fanatics freak out when they see the term “sight words”. Not me, because I’m a Balanced Literacy proponent.

These Bob Books still have a ton of phonics. If I had to guess, I’d say 95% of the words are decodable.  So if you’re afraid of sight-words, calm down! 😉

In terms of difficulty, BOB Books: Sight Words: Kindergarten seem to fall somewhere between Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers  and Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners. It’s a great fit for Jenna, and a great opportunity for me to read about my favorite Disney princesses–not!

 

Building Words from Bob Books

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A dollar’s worth of pipe cleaners is all it takes to make phonics hands-on.  Right now my daughter Jenna(4) has been having fun building words from Bob Books.

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We don’t build all of the words from each book, but one or two seems to be doing the trick. It’s an easy way to pre-teach new words.

For more ideas about Bob Books please click here.

Bob Books and Fingernail Polish

A special treat...and a captive audience!

A special treat…and a captive audience!

My four-year-old daughter Jenna is on the very last book in Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers.

She had been cranking away at Bob Books, and filling up her chart, but then she decided to take a break, and I honored that.

But today we cut a deal.  She’d work on the last Bob Book if I brought out the nail polish.

Jenna loves having her fingernails painted, but I’m not a fan, even though we have the supposedly eco-friendly polish.  Sitting around and waiting for fingernail polish to dry is the worst…but it also presents a very captive audience!

Next time I think I might have her Kindle charged, for a special showing of Meet the Phonics – Blends.

Bob Books with Cookies

Bob Books with cookies.

Bob Books with cookies.

Here’s a not-so-perfect idea to make Bob Books, Set 1 more exciting.  Pick up a tub of Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies from Trader Joe’s, and practice making words with cookies before your child even opens the book.

Why is this idea not-so-perfect? There’re several reasons:

  1. The cookies are uppercase.
  2. They’re not enough vowels.
  3. You have to be very careful with cookie management.

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I tried to solve #1 and #2 by using an M, and turning it on its side to become an e.  I’m not exactly sure why I thought that would help.  Sigh…

But cookies or no cookies, seven minutes a day of Bob Books is completely doable.  Jenna(4) and I are cranking at it, and she’s almost done with the first set!  Whoo hoo!

Keeping Track of Bob Books

A quick little note means so much.

A quick little note means so much.

I know you aren’t supposed to compare children. I know, I know, I know!

But I’m so glad that four years ago, I had the foresight to jot down a few notes on the back of the envelopes I made to store each homemade Bob Book game.  Most importantly, I wrote down the date when my son Bruce finished reading each book.

Now, four years later, I have a rough idea about what track my daughter Jenna is on.  They both finished the same Bob Book at approximately exactly the same age.

Will she be reading Magic Tree House Books in Kindergarten like her brother Bruce?  Will she be cranking through Harry Potter at age six?  Who knows.  What I do know, is that at the moment, Jenna’s reading development is almost identical to her brother’s progress.

Is this related to my teaching strategies?  Again, I have no idea.  I wish I could tell you.

Bob Books Alternative

We’ve really been having fun with dot-stampers!

Here is yet another thing you can do with them: make homemade phonics books.

Jenna is 3.5 years old now, and can sound this book out if she’s feeling cooperative.  But no matter how she’s feeling, she likes to criticize how Spot the Dog turned out.  (He does look a bit like an elephant.)

We also have a set of Bob Books Jenna is working through.  But Jenna seems to do be more inspired by books in color.  So I really need to get the dot stampers out again, and make another book.

(For more on the how and why of homemade books for children, please click here.)

Bob Books, Boring But Brilliant

What do you do when your child already knows their lower case letters and sounds? The next step is to start teaching them simple Consonant Vowel Consonant words, and showing them that yes, they are readers. A great series for introducing CVc words, is the Bob Books.

You can probably check them out for free at your local library, but we bought a set for our family’s use to make things easier.  If you do go the library route, make sure that you check them out in order.  That’s very important!  Series one, book one etc.  You can look up the title list on the website, so you know what to get.

Before I introduced each book to Bruce, I would teach him how to sound out the words that were going to be presented.  I made an envelope for each book, with all of the words listed on it, plus little letter flashcards to go with each word.  Note that the vowels were in different colors.

Introducing the words first was critical, because that way when Bruce started reading the book it was really easy for him.  Even still, Bruce found the Bob Books incredibly boring.  He started reading set one when he was three, and didn’t finish set six until a year later.  By the end there, I had resorted to bribery.  Every six books he read earned a brand new Star Wars book.  As a teacher though, I knew that the Bob Books would give him the skills he needed to read whatever he wanted, and that it was important to push through them.

DIY Bob Book Games

Bob Books; boring but brilliant.

That’s one one of my blog’s original posts almost two years ago.  Back then, my son Bruce was in Kindergarten independently cranking through Magic Tree House books.  Part of that success was due to his solid understanding of phonics, and the confidence he gained by reading Bob Books, by Bobby Lynn Maslen.

It’s not rocket science; it’s just phonics.

(Check out my Where to Start page if you are intrigued.)

Fast forward to the present and my daughter Jenna is now 3.5 and beginning her own Bob Books adventure.  The original games I made for her brother are a bit dog-eared, but sill in working order.

This is how they work:

This is the envelope I made to go with Set 1, Book 8, Muff and Ruff.  Inside the envelope are all of the letters you need to make every word in the book.  Vowels get their own color.  The sight-word “for” gets its own color too.

The envelope is not a game piece!  It is just to remind me of the words my daughter needs to spell.

This is how you play:

Find the letter that says “ttttt”.

Find the letter that says “uh”.

Find the letter that says “gggg”.

Put them together “t-u-g”.

What does that spell?

We do this for each word on the list.  Once I know that my daughter can read all of the words from the story, then we get out the book.

I’m showing envelope #8 here because that was the cleanest.  (I did say they were a bit dog-eared, right?)  But right now, Jenna is still on book #4.

Here’s where it gets really interesting.

On the back of some of the envelopes I wrote when Bruce had read each book!

I know it’s wrong to compare your children, but I’m finding this really fascinating. This tells me that Bruce read book #6 when he had just turned four years old.  Meaning, he and his sister are roughly on the same track, even though they keep reaching different milestones at different points.

This is important information, because it shows me that my methods are working! 

Yeah for Bob Books!

Princess Pat Books

I have always said that Bob Books are boring but brilliant. They worked like a charm with my son Bruce when he was three and four years old. While attempting to introduce set 1, book 1 of the Bob Books to Jenna(3) however, I just felt like I needed something more “princess-y” to grab her attention. So I got out some paper and crayons while she was taking a nap the other day, and tried to see if I could come up with something pinker.  Princess Pat books were born.

Admittedly I am THE WORST ARTIST EVER! By sharing this, I’m exposing myself to PUBLIC HUMILIATION! But since the mission of my blog is to help you ensure that your child is academically advantaged regardless of age, ability, or socio-economic level, I figured that I ought to post this latest endeavor. When I’m done with my Princess Pat books, I’ll have created a free set of easy phonics readers for you to print out on cardstock.

Of course, if anyone would like to take pity on me and actually draw some real pictures for this project, please email me jpgegs at: teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com. 🙂

Princess Pat Book #1

Princess Pat Book #2

Princess Pat Book #3

Princess Pat Book #4

Princess Pat Books

I have always said that Bob Books are boring but brilliant. They worked like a charm with my son Bruce when he was three and four years old. While attempting to introduce set 1, book 1 of the Bob Books to Jenna(3) however, I just felt like I needed something more “princess-y” to grab her attention. So I got out some paper and crayons while she was taking a nap the other day, and tried to see if I could come up with something pinker. Princess Pat books were born.

Admittedly I am THE WORST ARTIST EVER! By sharing this, I’m exposing myself to PUBLIC HUMILIATION! But since the mission of my blog is to: help you ensure that your child is academically advantaged regardless of age, ability, or socio-economic level, I figured that I ought to post this latest endeavor. When I’m done with my Princess Pat books, I’ll have created a free set of easy phonics readers for you to print out on cardstock.

Of course, if anyone would like to take pity on me and actually draw some real pictures for this project, please email me jpgegs at: teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com. 🙂

Princess Pat Book #1

Princess Pat Book #2

Princess Pat Book #3

Princess Pat Book #4

Homemade Books

Why Make Homemade Books?

When I was in teacher credentialing school I was taught that one of the best ways to help emergent readers  was to work one-on-one with a child creating books together.  Back in the classroom, I discovered that being able to work one-on-one with a child is a teacher’s dream (or fantasy).  Still, I found ways to make it happen with my neediest readers, and used this activity in Kindergarten all the way to third grade.

Usually, I’d make homemade books with a child during my Reader’s Workshop hour, where the other children were in small groups with parent volunteers or busy doing “Working with Words” games in spelling and phonics.  The point is, making homemade books with a child is a powerful tool to helping them learn to read.  When children feel ownership of a book, and invested in it’s creation, they are more interested in paying attention and figuring out what those words say!

Materials

In the classroom, I would make homemade books by stapling copy paper together. This is how I made books with Bruce when he was little.  But I’ve found that three, four years later, those books are all destroyed.  It’s too bad, because I would have liked to use them with Jenna.  Then, when I started this blog and tried printing out one of the first books I posted (Duck, Duck, Goose), I saw that the pictures were really little. So I tried making a little book using the sides of brown paper grocery bags and masking tape.  It turns out that these little books are durable and perfect for small hands.  You however, can make books however you want!

18months to 36 months

At the younger end of the spectrum, or for a child who is not yet sounding out CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words, you want to make books that are patterned, predictable, and full of picture clues.  Generally the pattern should go something like this: Title/Pattern sentence #1/ Pattern sentence #2/ Pattern sentence #3/ Pattern sentence #4/ Pattern sentence #5/ Different last sentence/.  Good homemade books should also include picture clues, which is teacher speak for when the illustrations tells the child what the words say.

Here are two examples of predictable pattern books I have made for Jenna:

Jenna’s Doggie Book

Jenna’s Summer Book

36 months to 4 ish

Once a child is able to sound out CVC words, then you want to start phasing out the patterned sentences and picture cues, and start writing text that will required your child to use his or her new found phonics skills.  Don’t abandon the picture cues altogether; the key idea is to use scaffolding.  Start out easy and work to something more difficult.  It’s like you are going to be writing your own version of Bob Books.  If your child likes drawing, you can have your son or daughter be in charge of the illustrations.

Here is an example of a CVC book I have made for Jenna:

-op book

4 ish onwards to Independent Readers

Older children take an even more prominent role in making homemade books.  At this age, you are the secretary and your child is the author and illustrator.  Your son tells you what to write, so that the story is his own idea.  Even still, you may need to fudge it a little.  Make sure you are writing sentences that your child will be able to read 95% himself.  This is a great activity for the summer between Kindergarten and first grade.

Another idea is to make Homemade books that recap vacations or special days. Here are some examples of what that looks like:

Jenna’s North Cascades National Park Book

Jenna’s Summer Book

Final Thoughts

Each time you make a homemade book with your child it should be cause for a mini celebration.  You are so excited, your child is so excited, your husband is so excited, the dog is so excited… You get the idea!  You could even call grandma or grandpa on the phone to tell them.  The other part of this is, that you want your child to read the new book to each and every family member as part of the celebration.  “Wow!  Look!  Jenna has a new book.  Can you read it to Bruce?”  etc.

You could print out the books that I make with Jenna at home if you want to.  I encourage you to do so because they are easy readers and good practice.  However, books that you make yourself will be 100% more meaningful to your child, and therefore more engaging.  That’s the whole point!  You want your child to be super excited about reading his or her very own creation.

Be sure to collect your homemade books in a special box so that it will be available during Independent Reading time.  Older children could even decorate the box.  Keep it next to a special chair or cozy corner for reading.  At 23 months, Jenna does Independent Reading time about 5 minutes a day.  Older children should be able to do more, especially with their very own homemade books.

More examples of homemade books:  https://teachingmybabytoread.com/category/homemade-books-2/

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Why multisensory learning is awesomesauce

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In the past two weeks, Jenna has made mind-blowing progress in her RUN, BUG, RUN! reader. I need to buy more star stickers!

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Most of these stories are at a Guided Reading level of A or B, but a few of them, like “Get the Moth, Meg” and “The Sad Hog,” are at level C or perhaps D.

I apologize for sounding like I’ve drunk the All About Learning Kool-aid, (full disclosure: I am an affiliate), but committing to our All About Spelling materials twenty minutes a day has really made a difference.

As a former K-4 teacher, I’m still scratching my head about what’s going on. I’ve taught Jenna phonics since she was two years old. We’ve done multisensory lessons up the wazoo. (For a list of everything I’ve tried, click here.) All of my methods worked with Jenna…up to a point. Then she got glasses, which made a big difference.

Now, my daughter is presenting me with the opportunity of becoming a better teacher.

With my son Bruce, I could teach him a spelling pattern like “th,” “sh,” or “ch” and he could generalize that out to basically every word in existence. We could practice with 10 words, and he would be able to read 100.

With Jenna, I’ve discovered I need to explicitly teach all 10o words. Not only that, but it makes a big difference how I teach the words.

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Flashcards are the least effective way for Jenna to learn new words.

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Multisensory activities are a lot better.

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Dictation helps too. She has exceptionally strong auditory skills, and can almost always sound out words properly–even though her handwriting is the subject of another post. In this picture, we are using raised lined paper and that helps a bit.

Too many words doesn’t help. Jenna does better when she can learn words one at a time. Then, if you present her with text where she knows almost all the words, she will be successful.

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By the time Jenna has spelled out a word with tiles, and then written it down on paper, she does fine with the flash card version. When she encounters this word in text, she can sound it out.

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Another thing that is really helping is the reading focus cards. I’m not sure if reduces eye-strain, improves tracking or what. But for Jenna, they were really worth purchasing and a lot better than the homemade versions I had used with her previously.

Reading windows make Bob Books pop.

My homemade reading windows didn’t have colored film, plus the scalloped edges were probably distracting. For Jenna, they didn’t work very well, although I’ve had them work beautifully for other students.

As a mom, I have 900 kid commitments I’m responsible for right now. As a writer I have a book coming out next year and a sequel following. As a newspaper columnist, I have a deadline every week. So unfortunately, tinkering with my blog is low on the list of my priorities.

Ideally however, I should go back through all my old posts and tag them as “visual,” “auditory,” or “kinesthetic.” I would also go through my main list of ideas and organize them differently. I think Jenna would have had more success earlier if I could have pinpointed her best-practices-learning-path. “If your child is a visual learner, start here.” “If your child is an auditory learner, this page is for you.” etc.

In the meantime, here’s a very cool visual from All About Learning.

 

Spelling Can Be Easy When It's Multisensory

My daughter’s breakthrough with “All About Reading”

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Last Saturday my daughter ran around the house saying “Pinch me. Is this a dream? I can read!” It was the cutest thing ever, but it also broke my heart a little bit. Two months ago we realized “Jenna” needed glasses. Now, we’re still regrouping.

First self portrait with glasses.

First self portrait with glasses.

One thing I know for sure is that Bob Books weren’t working for Jenna. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bob Books and have blogged about them often. But they weren’t working for Jenna, probably because she had developed an aversion to them because her eyes were hurting.

Since we already owned All About Spelling I decided to buy the All About Reading readers. (Full disclosure: I am an All About Learning affiliate.) All About Spelling and All About Reading are based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which means teaching kids phonics in discrete, multisensory lessons that build upon each other. It’s the gold standard for helping kids with dyslexia. To be clear, I’m not supposing my daughter has dyslexia, but if she did, All About Learning products would be a recommended intervention.

Doing All About Spelling with my daughter has been a completely different experience than working through the program with my son.) You can read about “Bruce’s experience here.) Bruce blew through each step in a couple of days. Jenna does better spending one or two weeks on every step. She is fabulous at spelling out words with the tiles. Dictating words on paper is also a strength. But when it comes to flashcards, or simply reading the words from the book, she needs more time. I have to be patient.

So honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when we first opened RUN, BUG, RUN! Would this be a good fit?

It turns out, it wasn’t only a good fit, it was a home run. (And yes, I’m mixing metaphors!)

Every time Jenna reads a story we give her a star sticker. This picture shows how many stickers she’s earned in five days. Forty stickers!

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There is a combination of things going on that are contributing to Jenna’s success:

  1. She finally has glasses!
  2. The stories are at the exactly right level for Jenna. They don’t include any spelling patterns she hasn’t learned yet.
  3. The illustrations by Matt Chapman, Donna Goeddaeus and Dave LaTulippe are beyond charming.
  4. Reading focus cards seem to really help.
Fanciful pictures delight.

Fanciful pictures delight.

 

Reading focus cards help words pop-especially for a little girl who has struggled with her vision.

Reading focus cards help words pop-especially for a little girl who has struggled with her vision.

The other thing I should add is the $1 I spent on those star sticks was totally worth it Getting a star sticker is incredibly motivating and we’ve been celebrating every time Jenna earns ten stars.

As a mom, I feel a tremendous amount of relief to have a program that works. Sure, I have my whole litany of free strategies to teach kids to read but for some reason Jenna needed something different. I’m not sure if it was the undiagnosed vision problem, or something else. But now I feel like we are solidly back on track.

Go ahead and pinch me. I’m living the dream!

How I realized my daughter needed glasses

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This is a hard post to write without sounding like a Tiger Mom. My daughter “Jenna” is 5-and-a-half years-old and reads at Guided Reading level D, which is roughly 1st grade. She is witty, articulate, cheerful and loves to draw. Jenna has been immersed in language since she was a baby and learned her letters and sounds by 20 months.

The thing is, my son “Bruce” was reading Harry Potter when he was five-years-old. With both kids I followed the same reading plan.

These past few months I found myself wide awake at 1 a.m. and wondering: “Am I doing something wrong? What is happening? Is this just a case of two kids being developmentally different?”

I understand about developmental difference. I taught K-4 for six years and saw it every day. Some kids learn at different rates and that’s okay.

But my “mom radar” kept telling me that something was odd and I couldn’t figure out what.  Jenna has an abundance of natural intelligence and profound reading comprehension. With Bob Books however, she was hitting a wall. Even so, she was technically reading above grade level. For me to be worried about her progress made me feel like a scary Tiger Mom. I kept pushing my worry down and it stressed me out.

Then in piano Jenna hit another wall too. Her teacher was concerned because she couldn’t tell the difference between line and space notes. She’d keep Jenna on the same boring song for three weeks in a row and not let her move on. I knew that if I wrote the letters in clear handwriting next to each note, Jenna could play the entire primer book on sight. However, her teacher was not onboard with this accommodation.

So I did three things: #1 I canceled piano lessons, #2 I started teaching Jenna piano myself, and #3 I took Jenna for a complete vision examination.

To be clear, we don’t have vision insurance and that appointment cost $250. Basically, I scheduled it on a hunch. Something is wrong … I think.

As the appointment loomed on the calendar I had a lot of self-doubt. So many mothers would be thrilled if their kindergartener was reading slightly ahead of grade level. I on the other hand, was bothered that she wasn’t extremely ahead of grade level. What type of sick person was I?

Yet I had this nagging worry that wouldn’t go away and I was willing to spend $250 to put it to rest.

As it turns out, the eye exam revealed that Jenna is farsighted, both eyes see differently, and she has extreme difficulty tracking. The verdict? She needed prescription reading glasses ASAP.

When we got the glasses the change in piano was immediate. Jenna now loves to play.

Reading has been a bit slower but Jenna’s eyes are growing stronger each day. I purchased reading focus cards to help her track. We also use the cards and glasses when we do read aloud. I want Jenna to be able to focus on the words as I read them to her. She’s probably been missing out on this important learning opportunity for years because she couldn’t properly see the print.

No wonder her auditory reading comprehension is so high!

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Another thing we are doing with renewed vigor is All About Spelling. We are on Level one Step 13. (Full disclosure, I am an AAS affiliate.)

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The beauty of All About Spelling is that it is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. If you were to Google how best to help kids with dyslexia, the Orton-Gillingham approach is mentioned over and over again. I don’t think Jenna has dyslexia, but it’s interesting to note that if she did have some sort of processing disorder, we’re already using one of the best methods to help.

I’ve ordered the Level 1 readers that go with All About Spelling so that we can try something different than Bob Books. I love Bob Books, but Jenna is tired of them. I can see how Jenna might have developed an aversion to them since she has struggled to see the print this whole past year.

Which brings me to guilt. I have a lot of guilt that I didn’t recognize Jenna needed glasses earlier. I have guilt that I have been asking her to read each day and her eyes were hurting. When I look through her glasses I get an instant headache. I have guilt that my child was silently struggling and I didn’t understand why.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months. My primary focus is making “mom school” fun and doing a little bit each day in a systematic sequential way. Right now on February 25, 2015 Jenna is reading a Guided Reading Level D. Check back with me in June and let’s see what happens!