Thursday, March 25, 2010

Catering to a Learning Style

Today was a fun day. I mentioned before that textbooks are not JW's favorite way to learn. So I went to the library last night and found a cookbook with recipes associated with time periods from every US war (revolutionary times, colonial days, civil war era, etc.) The index was filled with reference books for each time period. I pulled those books from the shelf and we spent two hours today reading about the Western Expansion. We started with Daniel Boone then read about the Lewis & Clark expeditions. Because these books were juvenile books they were very entertaining but historically accurate. It really brought the material alive. One book even had activities like making a buffalo head, an indian dancing stick, and pioneer stew. You know I'm going to try and make that stew but I'm going to leave out the bison meat :) maybe add chicken instead. I can't believe how exciting this was for me because history hasn't been the easiest thing to teach. This really made me realize again how important it is to teach to your childs strengths and get out of the box. It really helps me when a book is available to lay out a plan. You know creativity isn't one of my strengths. Spring Break is next week so maybe all of us will do the buffalo head and eat pioneer stew. I'll be posting pictures!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Week 11, Day 2

Whenever I sub in the school system, I am more encouraged in my decision to homeschool. Are students damaged beyond repair after graduation? Probably not, but do they thrive? Probably not. Here's what I witnessed today:

* a 5th grade math student who couldn't add simple whole numbers in a class that was going over converting fractions into decimals.

* class instruction interrupted by constant "sit down, raise your hand, no more outbursts or you will leave the room, etc. etc. etc."

* failed attempts to keep children on track and paying attention.

* repeating directions over and over again.

* very little silence even during a test.

* with every interruption children who look to see what's going on, consequently, not finishing their assignments.

Only the strong can survive in this environment. If you are a student who can stay on track regardless of what's going on around you, you'll be fine. If you don't need one on one attention because you always understand the instructions given, you'll be fine. I was speaking with a teacher who was given me instructions on how to do a project for her, and I had trouble understanding her directions. Her ability to thoroughly explain was somewhat lacking. How much more her 2nd grade students? I see how students fall between the cracks. Add to that parents who don't check assignments, who aren't in communication with the teacher regarding their child, or who has a teacher who isn't very interested in staying in contact with you regarding your child, and its just a volatile mix all the way around with the students in the middle. It tugs on my heart everytime I work one on one with a child who doesn't get it and then walk away knowing I won't be there on a consistent basis to help that child out. I was helping that child who couldn't do simple addition and she asked "are you going to be here all day?" I know teachers do the best they can, they have 20+ kids in a room but what is the solution? I guess that's what principals try to figure out day after day, year after year. But they can't save everybody either. It's not a perfect system. Okay I'm rambling but it just really concerns me. I actually asked God "Lord what can I do on a larger scale? You have given me mine and I try to do all I can by them." Perhaps the days I am there I'm able to encourage to the point that maybe a one time encounter with a child makes a huge difference in their life or just a huge difference for that moment.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coming out of the Matrix

I read on a blog somewhere in blogosphere that for a first year homeschooling parent it is hard to convince them that homeschooling is not so much about the curriculum or even academics. I first realized that at the homeschool retreat I went to two weeks ago. These veteran homeschool moms knew something that I am beginning to realize -its really not about the academics at all. I'm sure those who are experienced in homeschool know exactly what I am speaking about; and those who know very little about homeschooling, that statement probably feeds their doubts about the whole endeavor. The more I walk down this road less traveled I realize God's hand on all of this. This isn't just about the kids getting into college or a high paying job. It is about seeking the one who created them and knowing what his will is for their lives. Believe me this takes a complete mind switch for me. To completely trust God with their future. My traditional mindset does come into play as I plan out their studies but I have to train myself to be flexible that God may be leading us in a different direction.

I often characterize this homeschool journey as coming out of the Matrix. Remember the movie? That is what I feel like. I'm going to have to watch that movie again just to make sure it truly encompasses what I'm thinking. I feel like I am living in a world I never knew existed and that through this experience I'm getting closer to a destiny I never knew I was destined to live.

As I continue to plan for next year with more than one homeschooler, I get a little overwhelmed. I have to bring myself back to - God is in control. He will always provide for his purpose. I can relax and rest in what he is doing.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Week 9 Complete

Whew! What a week this has been. As I am planning ahead for Week 10, I was looking over the last 9 weeks to see what we've accomplished and how much more we need to cover. Anyone familiar with Alpha Omega LifePacs know that each year's study has about 10 packs. Since I started mid year, completing 5 Pacs is probably a good goal. We've only completed one. It was a good in depth study but still one in 9, well really 8 weeks. I notice that JW needs more time to go over lessons so some things I just can't rush through. I knew she learned the Human Body unit when she had a cut on her arm and said "come on white blood cells do your job!"

We've done quite a bit in Math as Saxon does an excellent job of giving plenty of practice in each lesson for concepts learned in previous lessons. So as we are building in new material she doesn't lose what was learned in previous lessons. I don't think we will have much of a problem completing this book by summer.

As I become more aware of the way my child learns I have to change the way I do things. One day this week I stopped mid way through a history lesson, somewhat in frustration because I couldn't understand why she couldn't remember what we had just read. She has to re-read sections of text to understand what she's reading. I notice she only does this with textbooks. If she is reading a storybook (novel) she is engrossed in the text to the point where she doesn't hear you talking to her and she remembers the content. This was a huge "aha" moment for me. I don't think you can learn about the constitution in story form so we put all the facts from our text on flashcards to commit this information to memory. When possible we use biographies to learn about the founding fathers and other notable people in history.

Speaking of the founding fathers, we had an opportunity to visit Monticello on Wednesday, the home of Thomas Jefferson. What a wonderful trip and the weather was beautiful. I was able to envision Thomas Jefferson standing on that mountain looking at the wonderful landscape all around his home. No wonder he never left Monticello in his retirement. If I had thousands of acres on top of a mountain I wouldn't leave either. Thoughts about slavery on that plantation wasn't far from my mind either as we walked the underground passage ways "the dependencies" of this great house. I spoke with my mom who accompanied us on this trip about how their lives must have been. We discussed the children of Israel and how their slavery in Egypt compared/contrasted with slavery in America. That would be a good high school paper to write. I didn't realize James Madison lived not far from Monticello at Montpelier. Umm maybe another trip at another time. I can't believe all this history is in our backyard. All the kids went on this trip and learned a great deal. I don't think they'll soon forget the lessons learned on this trip. Neither will I . . . how about I didn't even realize Thomas Jefferson was on the back of the nickel along with a picture of Monticello! I love my 2nd education.

I forgot the battery to the digital camera on this trip so we took pictures using the cell phone. I will be creating a page titled Monticello to post the pictures we have.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homeschool Support Group

To say today's retreat was a blessing would be a major understatement. Words can not begin to describe what I received today by being a part of this retreat. I gleaned so much from the ladies in attendance. The day reminded me of what we (Christian women) should be doing in the lives of one another. Whether homeschooling or not we should be encouraging one another in our lives. The hospitality was unreal, the conversation, the ambiance, the food! I just soaked it all in. I left feeling encouraged, supported, and excited about the future. I wish I had taken my camera but I should probably get to know this group before I began taking pictures and posting them on my blog :)

I am so on fire for what I'm doing. I know the fruit of my labor will be forthcoming and what I am doing is not in vain. I can't begin to post all that took place today but I am so glad I attended and look forward to many more such events.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Week 8, Day 4

It's been a pretty productive week this week. I've even started planning for next year. As I come across different resources in my reading I jot down notes from those things that are of interest to me. I'm going to teach JW and jw(rising
4th grader) the same subject matter in History and Science next year. I was researching different ways to do this as they are on different grade levels. They will both participate in Classical Conversations (CC) next year so this will direct a lot of their lessons but I have to supplement and incorporate other subjects in some areas.

Since posting last time I did join a local homeschool support group and will be going to a day long retreat on Saturday. There will be approx. 30 moms in attendance, I'll post after the weekend how everything turned out.

JW starts swim lessons tomorrow. Eight, one hour sessions once a week. We really need to incorporate physical activity in our day. We were mall walking but that got old for me. I would love to join a gym but the price tag on the local recreation center is pricey. I'll have to plan that for down the road. I keep a list of all the things I want to take advantage of and purchase and the list gets longer and longer. Of course I feel like I need it all NOW! I guess I need to think outside of the box. I need to find a text for teaching writing. JWs writing needs some guidance. I'm looking to try Elegant Essays from IEW to get started. I would love to hear from any who has experience with this program.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 8, Day 1

March 1, 2009

Today begins week 8 of the homeschool journey. I spent a lot time over the weekend reading homeschool blogs and was a God send. Video of their homeschool day was awesome. I got a great idea from this blog on constructing a paper skeletal system. Maggie had video of her and her son putting it together and it just so happens that we are studying the skeletal system as part of our human body unit. We just finished it, and I'll upload a picture shortly. Because JW is so visual and hands-on this was a great project and we had lots of laughs as we were putting it together. It was such a simple idea but remember I'm not very creative so I may have never come up with the idea on my own. Thanks Maggie!

Yesterday we all played Monopoly after church. I sent my husband an email on Friday asking him to stop by our storage unit to get the game because I wanted to play. Now monopoly is one of his favorite games and I would never play with him in the past because I hate it. Well since homeschooling, I realized it is a great teaching tool so now I'm all for it. We had a blast! JW was the banker in addition to playing her own hand. I wanted to grasp her mental math skills. MW (5th grader) had to use her mental math skills as well. I think this game will be a staple in our routine as I want to see their math computation skills increase; not to mention persuasion and negotiation skills are used heavily. It is hard to beat my husband in negotiating real estate. The kids were a little intimidated by our negotiation tactics but they held their own as we tried to make side deals with them for their properties. Of course hubby won but there is always next time.


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