Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Big News in Finland!

Well, not really big news. But I'm tickled to report that Finland's largest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, has just published a piece on homeschooling featuring me, Nini, and Desmond, by journalist Anu Partanen.

Apparently, homeschooling is almost unheard of in Finland, so readers were intrigued to hear about this growing practice in the United States. I tried running the piece through Google Translator but, alas, it was a bit much for their algorithm to handle.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Puppet Pantheon

I wrote earlier about how hand puppets were helping my kids, especially Nini, tackle handwriting.

As we've worked our way first through the upper-case and then the lower-case alphabet, the cast of the daily puppet show has steadily increased, to the point where I'd need to be an octopus to handle them all.

First there was the Magic C Bunny, inspired by the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. She helps kids not just with the letter c, but with any letter involving a c stroke, like lower-case s or d.

Then there was Hop Frog, who assists with all those letters where you make an initial pencil stroke and then hop up to complete the letter, like capital P and R.

Next came Line Lion, a general purpose sort of puppet, who helps with everything from holding the pencil correctly to making simple letters like L or t. He was joined first by Pointy V, a loud sort of a monster guy with a sharp beak, who assists with v and w and k and so forth, letters where you have to stop your pencil completely and then start again in order to get a nice sharp point. After that came Sneaky J, another monster fellow, who tries his best to trick children with the letters j and q, and the numbers 6 and 9. Finally, there's Diving Dolphin, who helps with lower-case n and m and r -- although he really hates r, because it leaves him hanging in mid-air.

So, to have the kids write something like, say, "Our pet rabbits are named Patches and Snufkin," I have to juggle all six puppets in rapid succession. Nini barks out orders like a cranky stage manager -- "Oh Mommy, we need Hop Frog ..." -- but we usually end up all giggling, with Magic C and Pointy V squabbling over whether round or sharp is more lovable, while Sneaky J comes and tries to eat all the pencils.

It's often raucous and sometimes draining, but it's been really effective. And while we've just finished learning all the letters, I've promised Nini and Desmond that the puppets will stick around our home school for as long as they like.