Writing with Grandma

January 12, 2012

I know it’s quite normal for teens to think that Mom and Dad have no clue what they’re talking about.  Now that the girls are officially teens, they’re strictly following the teen code of conduct.  😛

This can cause a bit of a problem when you’re homeschooling though. As I adjusted the workload and expectations to match their grade level this year, they reacted as though I was being totally unreasonable.  They would complain, turn in work that was given only a partial effort and they outright ignored my deadlines despite whatever consequences we put into place.

Enter Grandma with a healthy dose of perspective.

At first the girls were quite happy to have Grandma help them write the biography reports I’d assigned.  Then reality hit.  Grandma isn’t joking around.  She has high expectations and no problem putting a big fat ‘F’ on an assignment if it’s not right.

Grandma broke down the paper into smaller assignments for specific outlines, notes and written rough drafts.  The assignments are emailed  to her to be graded.  Late assignments are an automatic failure.  And yes, one girl actually tested this out!  They’ve spent whole days at Grandma’s kitchen table working under her watchful eye.  It’s a drastic change from the freedom I usually give them when they work here at home.

They’re nearly finished writing the reports now.  Not only has their writing improved but their attitudes as well.  I think they finally realize that my expectations are not out of line for their age and grade level.  I think they see that they really do need to step it up, stop being lazy and do the work!  Perhaps they even appreciate the freedom I give them to work where and how they choose.

I’ve seen the difference in attitude reflected in their other subjects.  They’re putting in a full effort, the complaining has stopped and they’re treating both me and my assignments with much more respect.  They’re also displaying more confidence in their ability to handle the hard stuff.  They’re smart, they can do it.  They just need to put the work in.

I’m  so grateful that Grandma is available to share her time, knowledge, talents and passions.  It’s definitely a perk of homeschooling that the girls can learn so much from someone they love and respect.

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I’m pleased to say we’ve hit a nice groove in our schooling here.  What needs to get checked off the list, gets checked off most of the time.  The girls aren’t complaining about most of what they’re assigned.  Zee?   Well, Zee is Zee… and almost 8 years old.  I think that makes him legally bound to put up at least a little fight. 😛  Despite all that he’s still progressing in leaps and bounds.

Since we’re easily finishing all that work that makes that inner school teacher so happy, we’ve got time for all that other stuff. You know, the important stuff.

Gee’s been blowing through tutorials on programming apps using Corona.  Dad’s been heavily engaged in this also so the two are working together to share what they learn and show off their projects.  This girl has definite potential to be a computer programmer and I couldn’t be more thrilled. 😀

I sent Bee a link to http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ on November 2nd.  She jumped at the chance to participate.  I helped her set up her account, showed her how to use the forums and let her loose.  We went with the default 50,000 word count, what the adults use.  Several times she’s come asking if maybe we should reduce it.  I encouraged her to keep it, that she could do it.  A week or so later, she’s glad we left her goal 50,000 because she really thinks she can do it! 

And Zee?  Well, yeah, he’s still reading like a madman.  I wasn’t able to get the 3rd Harry Potter book from the library ( can you believe they don’t have copies which aren’t out or lost?!) so that’s on hold. Meanwhile he’s whipping through every other book we own. 

Many of the earlier chapter books he sorta skipped over.  He wanted to get to the ‘good’ stuff already!  So now that’s he’s a proficient reader, he’s going back  to check them all out.  He’s read every Junie B. Jones book we own and several more from the library.  He’s read each and every picture book we own.  He’s working his way through the chapter book shelf right now. 

His birthday is in a couple of weeks.  What does he want?  His very own Kindle so he can read even more! 

I know for a fact that if my kids were in school, they wouldn’t have this much time to devote to all these important things.   I’m soooo glad I can give them this opportunity to explore, perfect and enjoy their favorite things.  🙂

He Won’t Stop Reading

November 11, 2011

Zee is nearly 8.  He and I are constantly in a tug of war over his school work and chores.  The kid can debate you to death. 

So it’s really nothing new that it’s Friday night and his work for this week isn’t finished.  But this week, it’s not because he’s spent all his time arguing about whether measurement belongs in a math book or when in his life he’ll find a use for poetry. 

This week he’s addicted to reading.

Reading has always been one of the first things he finishes on his to-do list each week.  These past 2 months, he’d been hooked by the Harry Potter books. He took them in the car, read them on the couch and begged to stay up to get a few more pages in.  I can’t seem to get the next book in the series ordered from the library before he finishes the one he’s on.

But this past week, it’s gone over the top.  He’s devouring whole bookshelves.  Every hour I seem to find him somewhere else, reading book after book.  Everywhere I go I see him walking around with arms full of books.  Every time I pass the main hall, there he is, on the floor in front of the bookshelf  reading one after another. 

Each time I see him I can’t help but inquire if he means to finish his school work this week. 

“But I like reading, Mom.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

Quarter One Done

October 28, 2011

As hard as it is to believe, our first quarter just came to an end. 

It wasn’t a bad quarter.  We’re just about where we should be according to that silly plan that makes my inner school teacher squeal with glee.  Leaving the last 2 weeks of a quarter free for catch-up and review still works beautifully for us.  No idea where I first picked up that tip but so glad I did!  🙂

Integrated Algebra continues to be the most difficult thing to keep up with.  The girls don’t pick it up as quickly as I did as a kid and I admit, I often find that frustrating.  My brain works differently and it’s a challenge to find new and different ways of explaining it all.  I just ‘see’ how it works.  They need clear steps to follow, formulas to use, ….  and lots and lots of practice problems!

I’m soooo glad I bought a large whiteboard.  At the time it seemed like a bit of a splurge but now I can’t imagine how we’d get through this math without it.  Besides being able to clearly show both girls how to solve a problem, I make full use of the different color markers to highlight each individual step on the way to a solution.  They’ve found this helpful and the girls have begun to use colored pencils in their own work as well.

We’ve added a US History trivia contest to help review many of the different topics we’re touching on.  I ask the questions and Dad plays along to keep them motivated.  We’re pulling questions from this book.  They’re challenging but the multiple choice keeps it from being overwhelming.  I hand pick 3-5 questions that relate to the time period we’re studying.  I love that the book has explanations for the answers and an extensive review section so we can easily look up additional information right then and there.  The kids (and Dad too) love the opportunity to win a candy bar. 😛

Zee’s working through second grade.  I still occasionally find myself getting nervous about deficits here and there.  Handwriting is a great example.  Two months ago his hand writing was pretty atrocious.  We didn’t do much writing practice last year at all.  Yikes!  But I kept calm and reminded myself that we’ve got time.  I’m so glad I did.

His handwriting has improved by leaps and bounds these past couple of months with very little effort.  He’s also learning and enjoying cursive writing.   Slowly but surely his fine motor skills are progressing and his hand strength allows for longer and longer periods of writing without getting pooped out.  It’s all worked out.

So we’ll move right into the next quarter plugging along in algebra, picking up history here and there, writing and reading ….and checking off things on the list along the way.  Gotta keep that inner school teacher happy ;). 

 

Integrated Algebra is slow going.  The girls aren’t where they should be according to my perfectly scheduled calendar.

Of course, it just dawned on me a couple days ago that the girls don’t have to do each and every practice problem in each and every section.  Uh, DUH!

Yes, I’ve fallen victim to the demands of my inner school teacher… again!  “We’ll do this, all of this, exactly like this.  Because that’s just the way you do it!”

*sigh*

I was assigning 3-4 sections each week, making for approximately 120 practice problems a week.  Now that still doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but I’m starting to think maybe it’s just not necessary.  The girls spent the better part of the past 2 weeks doing nothing but math from about 10am till 9 or 10 at night.  They even had nightmares about algebra!  Yes, they woke themselves from slumber trying to solve complicated problems!  Yikes!

So this week, while I reevaluate the math assignments, we’re having a C.O.W.

I came up with the idea of Creativity Output Week (COW) last year.  The girls always have individual projects they want to work on.  But that pesky inner school teacher keeps them from having as much time as they wish to work on them.   During a COW, the kids are free to do whatever they want with their time so long as it:

1. is creative, meaning it involves original works using their imagination and

2. has some kind of output, or something to show for their time.

Needless to say, the kids ask for a COW a lot. 

SO this week we’ll have a COW and the kids will busy themselves with creative writing, computer programming, arts, crafts, sewing, science experiments, game making, photography, ….

And I’ll be busy trying to get that silly school teacher under control 😛

Sunday’s School Prep

September 12, 2011

Ok, ok. I know, it’s Monday.  But I started this post yesterday.  Honest 😉

US History – So much to touch on!  Morse code, Johnny Appleseed, the invention of the donut, the Oregon Trail, the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and Lewis & Clark.  The girls will be taking notes on their report topics too.  Bee will look at the invention of and early use of photography and Gee is investigating more details about the Oregon Trail. 

Science – In honor of the ‘Year of No Summer’ we’ve got books on the science of the seasons and weather.

Language Arts/Writing – The kids have a collaborative oral story they work on together.  Bee, our resident writer, has been taking much of her free time to type out many of their favorite episodes.  I could make them do the grammar books, the vocabulary workbook, the spelling lists and assigned essays…. OR I can take advantage of this very creative, highly motivational work of art and use it to teach all that stuff. 

Being the sneaky mom I am, I’ve announced we’ll spend our language arts/writing time this week working together to edit Bee’s rough draft.  They were bouncing around the house with excitement.  *sly grin*

Math – Still plugging along in Integrated Algebra.  The girls are getting better and faster at completing each section.

Social/Outings – I don’t usually go out of my way to record this type of thing but it’s going to take up a rather large chunk of our week this time around.  Tuesday is tennis with another homeschooling family (5 kids on her end and 3 on mine should make for lots of fun), Thursday we’re back to the homeschool co-op group and Friday we’re going to try out another, less structured homeschool group in the area.  All that and it’s time to end our summer break from music lessons, there might be a grandparent visit later in the week and we’re going to the community center to play in the gym and swim for PE.

That’s our week.  Thank goodness there’s a weekend on the other end cause I’m tired just thinking about it all!

Soft Start

August 25, 2011

Amidst the chaos of starting a difficult diet with Adrian, we’ve also begun our homeschool year.  I learned the hard way in years past that a ‘soft start’ is best.  Even the short vacation we take during the summer is enough to put everyone’s brains into hibernation. 

I’ve started the kids out with about 1/2 of what will be their normal work load. I’ll slowly bring that up over the next couple of weeks.  By September we’ll be fully up to speed.

So what have we been doing?  Well, we’re looking at US history between the years 1776 and 1800 this month.  Zee’s read biographies about George Washington, they’ve all watched several episodes of Liberty’s Kids and the girls have seen several of the lessons on this site.

The kids have undertaken several other projects that relate to this time period including building a suspension bridge (the first modern day suspension bridge was built during this time), eating cupcakes (the first mention of this treat was in a cookbook written around this time)  and learning to play Yankee Doodle on their instruments.

 The girls have started the Integrated Algebra course.  Already that Algebra Unplugged book has come in handy in explaining things in a different way. 

The girls are back to working on essays.  We’re reviewing good outlining practices together.  The girls are writing persuasive essays from either a federalist or anti-federalist viewpoint on a topic that would have been pertinent at the Philadelphia convention.

Everyone did some vocabulary/grammar workbook stuff, looked at the art of John Trumbull, made some things with clay and had several hours of PE time.

Beyond that we’re just trying to keep Adrian busy and calm till school starts back up for him.  That’s a job all by itself.