Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week Two

So, I don't think I have it in me to maintain an exhaustively detailed update of everything we do. Especially since I am kind of cutting back for now, seeing what we can handle, and then will add back in "extras". Some notable things from the week, thus far:

Spud has done REALLY well this week with his lessons. He has only had one "poor attitude" incident, and that was today. I tried to help him shake it, but in the end, I asked him to go to his room until he felt ready to continue with a happy voice and happy face. He came down and did just fine after that. I talked to Noodle about the importance of responding to him with kindness, as I think her rudeness earlier in the morning had put him in a bit of a funk that he just wasn't shaking. During lunch prep, we had a nice conversation about how you can always look for things to be angry about. I said, "You could wake up every morning and think of a new thing to be upset about, and NEVER run out of things." We went through a number of examples, mostly ridiculous like, "Today I'm upset that I don't have my very own horse to ride," and "Today I'm going to be angry that I don't get to eat all the chocolate I want," but I think it made the point. Not that they'll remember it, but I plan to revisit the lesson in the not-too-distant future. I said that we can also look for things to be happy about, and told them how people who look for things to be upset about aren't as healthy because their bodies spend so much energy dealing with the bad emotions that they get worn down.

One thing that seems to work really well with Spud is explaining the why behind some of the parts of his schoolwork that seem pointless. He is definitely not a kid to do busy work. Also, when he asks me if he has to do something a certain way, or at all, I will explain to him what the idea is, and allow him to do it "his" way as long as it accomplishes the same goal. For example, in his Explode the Code book, yesterday he said he couldn't read the sentences because they were too small. I am pretty sure that his eyes are fine, but I know that smaller print can be hard for beginning readers, so I didn't push it and allowed him to skip that page. I asked him if I could type the sentences up and print them larger so he could do the page, and he said he thought that would work. So I did, and he did the page without problem today. Also, today he was supposed to "X" the box that went with the correct sentence, but he only wanted to do a slash instead of a full X. Since this is something that obviously doesn't matter, I allowed it. Also, I haven't been requiring that he do the pages where you have to write the words out, since his fine motor skills are not quite there yet. But he has chosen to do them, after asking me if he has to write in lowercase letters. I told him that it is preferred, as most of our writing is, in fact, in lowercase letters, but that he can use capitals or a mix of capitals and lowercase if he wants. I figure this isn't a penmanship exercise (no way I'm touching that right now), so it really doesn't matter. He is sufficiently exacting upon himself that I really don't feel the need to be at all critical of his writing attempts. He has been very good at asking how to write the numbers he doesn't know, and has been amenable to my gentle suggestions that he might find it easier to do them in such and such way.

Today we did something that I've been wanting to do for a looong time and we've just not really done it before (at least not quite so thoroughly). Noodle picked up the most recent National Geographic magazine that was on the counter since it just arrived this week, and asked about something on the cover. We started looking through it, and we looked through THE ENTIRE MAGAZINE together, reading photo captions, answering questions, etc. It was awesome! And it was interesting to all of us. We learned about the oil spill in the gulf, talked about kids born with cleft palates (there was a Smile Train advertisement in there), talked about mountain climbers on Everest, a paternal mouth brooding fish, Jane Goodall and what she's helped discover about chimpanzees over the past 50 years, prehistoric animals of New Zealand/Australia, and problems of overfishing in the ocean. Pretty fabulous science/geography/current events lessons, methinks. I know they won't remember all or even most of it, but I love the analogy of the grammar school years giving kids "pegs" to hang future information on. They need exposure to a lot of information, and they will be able to start to organize it and develop interests. I am actually amazed at how much they do remember.

One last thing, then I've got to get to bed. Noodle is doing a karate class with a couple of friends at a local charter school two afternoons a week. After talking to David, I realized that I really need to give Spud more attention. So on Tuesday, after Noodle left, he asked (as he always does) what he could do while she was gone. He's usually hinting around to watch extra cartoons and such, but this time I said, "Why don't we start reading your Captain Underpants book?" He was pretty excited about that, and he chose to read it up on his bed. We read the first 14 chapters (they are short chapters) and the next day he was so excited to read more. On Wednesday, we also went on a walk to collect cans from the neighbors and came home and made pudding to eat after our reading. It was a lot of fun to spend some quality time with him, and I look forward to continuing it. Captain Underpants is a pretty fun series. Noodle started reading it at bedtime tonight because she wanted to be in on the story, too. I'm a fan of all things that promote reading!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week One - We survived!

Monday was rough, as it seemed that whenever I was in the middle of something with Spud or Noodle, the only thing that kept Sprout happy was wreaking massive destruction. The older kids did well on their lessons, but I was beyond frazzled by the end of school that day.

Tuesday was good but crazy and not super productive. We hosted Boys Club that afternoon, so we had the house to tidy and things to get set up in the backyard for that. It turned out really well, so I'm excited. The plan is for the Boys Club to have an activity and a field trip together every month. I am so glad it all came together, as it was hard to organize something with a bunch of people that I'd not met before. I think it will be a good mix, though. All of the parents who came seemed like pleasant, agreeable, fun people. Spud seems to me making connections with some of the boys, which is my primary goal, so hooray!

Wednesday was AWFUL. For reasons unknown to me, Spud is the sort of kid who really needs expectations spelled out explicitly. David and I had talked about this, and I was trying to implement a system of using a script to spell out expectations with our various school activities, but I didn't have one for one activity, and I don't know what triggered it, but he kind of went nuts. I could re-post what I wrote on a homeschool forum I'm a part of, but I don't feel like rehashing it. Suffices to say, he was very determined to NOT do a certain part of the lesson/exercise, and went crazy, screaming that I was torturing him. Then, after getting to the point where we finally completed the lesson, we had another explosion during lunch preparation. So, a couple people recommended a book called The Explosive Child, so I ordered it used from Amazon. It's gotten a lot of good reviews, so I hope it will have some specific strategies that might help me. Most of the time, Spud is really easy-going, but when he gets "stuck," it's terrible.

Thursday and today were both good days. We discovered today that Noodle definitely needs to do her math in the morning, as today a single assignment took over an hour, and she made a lot of errors. Most of the week we'd been doing it first thing, so I think we'll set that as the standard.

For Spud, here's what we are doing for Kindergarten:
Explode the Code Book 1 - I am requiring a page per day, but I think somedays he will voluntarily do more. One day this week, he did three. I think ETC will work well for him because it allows him to learn/review some material on his own. I did get the teacher's manual (I didn't have it when Noodle did Books 1 & 2, but found it was useful when I ordered it when she started Book 3), so I do hope to be able to do short instructional lessons with him (if we can avoid future meltdowns), but it's nice that it is fairly independent. His writing ability is really lagging, but I'm not worrying about that at all. He is trying to write, and doesn't seem too bothered by the fact that he can't make all his numbers/letters correctly, so I'm not going to stress it. I did print out and make a handwriting exercise book for him. I'll see if I can interest him in it eventually. We are doing Treasure Hunts from this book, though I've typed them up and made my own. We do one every morning, he earns a sticker, and at the end of the week, he can trade in his stickers (though I don't actually require him to give them to me, as we put them in his sticker book) for a "Mystery Car" (a hot wheels wrapped up in decorated butcher paper). He really likes these. For the early ones, there are a lot of pictures, so they don't actually HAVE to read, but he is learning some new words and being willing to try sounding them out, so I figure it's a major step forward. We are also doing Math U See Primer, a page a day. Finally, we are doing "Reading Activities," which is a bin I put 5-8 different activities in (beginning readers, flash card sets, things from Happy Phonics, Talking Words Factory DVD, Phonics Concentration (a simplified version of this game, and other stuff as I find/come up with it). He can pick 1, 2 or 3 activities. Two activities/day puts him on the "Yellow Track," three/day puts him on the Green Track, one is on Red Track. For Yellow or Green (or in between) he can earn a special prize at the end of three weeks. For Red, nothing special. I am doing a similar thing with Noodle's math to help her feel motivated to work independently and at an increased pace. He has been quite cooperative with the Reading Activities, so that's been nice. He is also doing lessons on Road To Reading, and he likes those as well. I figure we'll keep working on those as long as he is interested and enjoying them.

So, that's our Kindergarten. He also joins us for Story of the World, Vol. 2. We didn't start Science this week, but he'll join us for that as well.

I'll post Noodle's studies later. I'm tired of thinking about school.

Friday, September 10, 2010

First Day of School, take two

So, after a less than auspicious beginning a couple weeks ago, I decided to bag it all until after my niece's wedding (where I was the photographer), wait for David to come home to help me strategize some things, and just let the kids enjoy the tail end of summer. So, we start afresh on Monday. I'm frantically trying to finish the last of my preparations, mostly some motivational things and whatnot to help them track their progress and stay on course. I'm hoping to get Noodle taking more charge over her math and hopefully coming to like it more. We'll see.... Main goal for Spud this year: READING! As soon as he feels confident and/or sufficiently motivated, I really feel like he'll be able to take off like crazy. It's just a matter of finding that motivation.