A Better Day

Today required a different approach.

Yesterday's school day was not as productive as I would have liked. Today required a different approach.

We started out math by doing lots of problems together. Actually, I did them just myself for a time, and then Charlotte started working with the blocks with me. That's not anything novel; it's the way Math-U-See is intended to be taught. Sometimes, I forget to slow down and demonstrate the concepts -- even when I think they're easily understood.

Sometimes, the kids will watch the video, and since they seem to understand the idea, I let them go on with the lesson workbook. Chris is often fine with that, but Charlotte, in reality, needs to practice with me first to feel most confident. It's not just about understanding.

It's the way Math-U-See is intended to be taught, but sometimes, I forget to slow down and demonstrate the concepts.

The same worked better with Chris. The prospect of writing a paragraph about things he likes to do with the family was driving him utterly bonkers. Responding to his frustration, acted out in a lot of different ways related to different things, with frustration didn't work too well. I don't recommend suggesting that your children are just being lazy either -- doesn't help matters. Usually, they can do better than they think or say when they get the I can't do its, but so can I.

We use Google Drive for a lot of our school-related word processing and file sharing. It makes it simple for the children to do paragraphs, vocabulary, or whatever with any of our computers and then share it with me (and Daddy too) without cumbersome disk drives. So, after Chris logged in, I logged in also, and I was able to help him along in real time -- and without barking at him about what he was able to do. At that point even gentle reminders, said aloud, would feel like nagging.

Usually, they can do better than they think or say when they get the I can't do its, but so can I.

I should tell you that he started out working on his own and spent quite some time staring at a blank screen and then whining in various voices about what am I supposed to do now? You should imagine the word now going on for a few bars. Apparently, the rough draft I thought he'd written the day before was -- ahem -- very rough.

Sitting beside him -- no, not literally -- I could see that his topic was just too broad, and therefore to him it seemed impossible. His assignment was to write a three-point paragraph on his choice of three given topics. He has to do this about once per week; it is the last lesson in each chapter.

The topic he chose today was Things I like to do with my family. I asked him some questions to help him get specific about what he liked to do. Then, based on his answers, I suggested he narrow his topic to Games I like to play with my family. With this, he was able to go on at a good pace, without much more help from me. I only chimed in with editing corrections to save him from having to do another draft.

Speaking of Curricula...

The math curriculum we use is Math-U-See.

The math curriculum we use is Math-U-See. In MUS the teacher and student watch a portion of video explaining a new math concept. The student and parent/teacher then practice what was explained in the video. After the student displays some mastery of the material, which is usually pretty quickly because of how incremental the curriculum is, the student continues practice on her own with the student workbook. Finally, the test is taken whenever the student has fully grasped the content of that lesson.

We are currently using three levels: Primer, Beta, and Delta. Only the eldest has done any other math program (Horizons level K from AOP).

The Language Arts curriculum I'm referring to in this post is Shurley English, Level 3. We also use Level 1 with my first grader. We purchase Shurley English from Veritas Press -- when we buy it new, that is. I think I scored the Level 3 teacher's manual and student workbook at the Used Curriculum Sale at the HEAV Homeschool Convention last year. I could spend all day at the UCS; the kids even found a cool Lego book there that was like finding buried treasure for them. It's better than the library.

Last year Chris used Switched-On Schoolhouse from AOP for Language Arts instead of Shurley. It was certainly helpful for me, as SOS requires no teacher oversight, unlike Shurley English which can take up a good chunk of time. With a newborn in the house, I expected that an online course would provide much-needed relief, and it did.

The jingles alone will probably stick with us for the rest of our lives.

Still, there were a few drawbacks. I found it very difficult to keep up with what he was learning. By the summer, although I looked through many of the tests and quizzes, I couldn't really tell what he did and did not know, and I missed the interaction in a subject I particularly care about. Further, when I asked Chris if he wanted to continue with SOS or go back to Shurley English for this school year, he said he wanted to go back to Shurley. He said SOS English was more fun than Shurley English and considerably easier, but he didn't think he was learning that much and remembered feeling like he was learning a lot when we did level 1 of Shurley English. The jingles alone will probably stick with us for the rest of our lives.

Right now he and Charlotte both have a couple of courses on the computer or online: Self-Paced Genesis to Joshua(from VP); Self-Paced Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation (also from VP); Spanish (from Instant Immersion); and Math-U-See daily practice drills.