Thursday, November 19, 2015

Teaching the Difficult Child

Question: How do I teach a difficult, strong-willed child?

Answer: I've learned many lessons the hard way.  Some days I buckled down and played "tough guy".  "You will do this, whether you like it or not!" Some days I was exhausted from fighting the good fight for the zillionth time, and decided to sit this one out.  Whatever the case, I have two teens that can read, write, and do math, and far more than that.  I'm quite proud of the people they are becoming.  I have a 6yo coming along; though we have some of the same bumps in the road.  Here's what I've learned:

Lessen the Lesson
Some things are really hard and not fun at all!  Sounding out eh-ver-eee s-t-ing-ken sound borders on traumatic for a child learning to read.  Can you imagine if you had to sound out every word you came across?  If something is downright hard for a child, their focus is only going to last so long.  I learned from my strong willed oldest that shortening the phonics lesson is better than hitting us with longer lessons.  It'll come when it comes.  Make it easier.  Focus on one small thing that it is important for the day, and then call it a success!  Rome wasn't built in a day.

Recognize learning bursts
When my youngest was counting anything and everything she could find, her phonics skills were lagging.  She sure could count, though!  Now that she's trying to read random words throughout the day, her addition skills are in no-man's land.  I don't stress: once her reading excitement has run it's course, she'll be back into numbers again.  It comes in fits and stages.  Growth happens in bursts, with a long stretch of dryspells in between.  There's a whole lot of developmental stuff going on in that brain of hers, and its miraculous - I'm just not always able to see it.  So I give it time and trust that it'll show up eventually.

See the *real* lesson and focus on that
Sometimes I might call an unhappy, unfocused, undisciplined child back to the table to finish one more thing, and sometimes I might let her off the hook.  What gives?  Sometimes I know the real lesson is getting her back on the bike one more time after she's fallen down.  Sometimes I know she's overwhelmed and frustrated, and needs to cool off, a bit.  Sometimes the lesson is dedication and stick-to-it-tiveness; other times it's taking a time out.  Sometimes the lesson is about getting that last math problem done and celebrating together, and sometimes it's about cuddling and reassurance.

Model, model, model
Just when I think things are going swimmingly, we hit a brick wall, and a child will not do the required lesson - no sir!  If I know they are capable, I know it is a reasonable request, and I know that they are putting up their own brick wall, I will model.  And, when in doubt, I model.  I sit down and study the same thing alongside them.  Or, if they leave the table in a huff, I might sit down all by myself and tackle the lesson on notebook paper.  Last year, my daughter was supposed to copy English Grammar charts for her CC class, but I couldn't seem to inspire her or require her to do it.  So, I sat at the table one morning and copied a chart.  My plan was to proudly announce - "see?  I spent 5 minutes and I have a chart". But it didn't actually work like that.  Instead, I trudged through copying a chart in 20 minutes, and my hand muscles were burning at the end of it.  I still required charts after that, but I recognized that it took more than 5 minutes, and that what she was suffering was real.  Whenever a child is not doing the workload that I expect, I first try modeling the behavior myself.  Eventually (give it some time!) my child will pick up the slack and start working again.

Teach from a state of rest
There are some excellent resources using this phrase: "teaching from rest".  Go look it up for inspiration!  In a nutshell, know that this is something God has called you to do and rest in that.  It isn't easy - but there is peace in knowing that you are doing God's work in the lives of your children.  Love them and be Christ to them.  Sometimes the lesson isn't math, afterall, and it's about showing kindness to each other, or not kicking your sister, or having patience.  Rest in knowing that this work is good and you have been called to it!  Focus on wherever God has called you that day, or in that moment.  Every moment is a teachable moment.  Model Christ's example to his disciples.

There is so much more going on behind the scenes when our children are acting disobedient, lazy, willful, or unfocused.  Our job isn't necessarily to make learning fun (...I've tried that, and it didn't go so well!).  We can't force our children to learn (have you ever heard the expression, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink?)  But we can walk alongside our children, and give them this rich opportunity.  And someday, they might even thank us for it;)

**Sidenote: use your Mommy intuition.  If you suspect a learning disability is causing the behavior, or if a delay is significant enough to cause you concern, by all means, pursue it!  Get an evaluation or seek answers. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thank you, CC!

My 6yo's math today shows evidence of CC at work. She skip counted her 2s through 24 and then finishes the song. Translation: "Do you want to hear some more?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Week 8 Update

Although not weekly, I am updating my 6yo's school progress.  It'll be fun to look back in a few years and see all the leaps and bounds that happened.

Georgie is really enjoying the CC skip counting songs, and particularly likes 2s and 5s.  She has completed the Math U See lessons that include adding 0, 1, 2, 9, and 8, and solving for the unknown...but, according to MUS, I probably should not be passing her through these. There are a few concepts that she really struggles with.  I think that she'll get past it with age and maturity, so for now I'm just plodding on.  At some point, I'll probably back up and review with flashcards, so that she gets quicker with her addition and stops trying to use her fingers.  It might be a good idea for me to do this now, but it's hard to put aside a workbook - especially when she pulls it out proudly and wants to complete a page or two. But I also know that when one area of growth is stagnant, another is taking off exponentially.  This would describe her reading:)

She has liked picking out picture books and trying to read to me for the past year.  I would tag-team read with her (like, I read most of it, but let her find words she knows, or I'd point to a word I thought she might know).  This seemed to fuel her desire to read, and everything was working underneath the surface.  One day, I thought I'd try Frog and Toad, which was definitely too hard for her.  Lo and behold, she tackled far more of it than she or I thought she could do!  It exhausted her, but it also spurred her on to reading other books.  Now, she reads 1-2 books to me in bed each night, and I read to her another book.  She is reading Dr Suess type books like Green Eggs and Ham, a Wocket in my Pocket, and Wacky Wednesday.  I also pick out level 1 readers for her when I find them. 

Although her reading skills are bursting, her phonics skills need a little work.  Even so, she's catching on visually to sight words, and adopting them into her reading vocab.  Still, we're working through phonics, because decoding skills are important.  She's currently working on Explode the Code 3, with the silent E words and long, lonely vowel words (sky, fry, try, go, no, hi, he, me, etc.)

Like her reading, she's taking off with writing, too. She has a little address book that someone gave her, and every day she fills it with an ongoing story about a cat:)  It's really adorable!  She also frequently writes us letters about how she feels about us.  It's so sweet.

(Sidenote: this is an update post about this particular child:)  Just a reminder that every child grows on their own timetable.  I'm not doing anything especially grand in order to have a reading, writing, and skip counting child.  I remember being eager for my 1st child to read and write, and did everything I could to give her "the right environment".  I had checklists of all the things I should be doing, and I did them faithfully.  Friends offered advice, and all I could answer was, "I AM doing those things, but thanks for sharing what worked for you."  Yes, setting a good example and creating a positive reading environment IS important, but it isn't 100% foolproof, either.  The whole process always seems like a mystery to me.  It goes like this - "struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle - then POOF!" with some plateaus and new struggles that pop up after the initial POOF.  I do not have the secret, I've only been a (surprised? sometimes frustrated?) observer in this process.) 

Geometry Topics

For the record...

Text completed: Math U See Geometry copyright 2009.
Date finished: Nov 2015.
Topics covered:

  1. Points, lines, rays, and line segments
  2. Planes and sets
  3. Angles
  4. Types of Angles
  5. Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
  6. Supplementary and Complementary Angles
  7. Transversals
  8. Perimeter; Interior Angles
  9. Area
  10. Constructing and Identifying Triangles
  11. Regular Polygons
  12. Geometry of a Circle, Sphere, and Ellipse
  13. Area of a Circle and an Ellipse
  14. Volume of Rectangular Solid and Cylinder
  15. Volume: Pyramid, Cone, Prism, and Sphere
  16. Surface Area of Solids
  17. Radicals
  18. Pythagorean Theorem
  19. More on Radicals
  20. Special Triangles: 45, 45, 90
  21. Special Triangles: 30, 60, 90
  22. Axioms, Postulates, and Theorems
  23. Corresponding Parts of Triangles
  24. Proving Triangles Congruent: SSS and SAS
  25. Proving Triangles Congruent: ASA and AAS
  26. Proving Right Triangles Congruent
  27. Proving Triangles Similar with AA
  28. Transformational Geometry
  29. Trigonometric Functions
  30. Reciprocal Trigonometric Functions
Each lesson consisted of a week of practice and review and practical application with story problems.
Final grade: 92% A-

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Middle and High School Review

Two days ago, I posted a review of my 6yo's school. I'm adding a review of the other end of the spectrum - the 12 and 14yo, simply for posterity; to look back and remember the crazy-goodness of it all.

The 12yo is in Challenge A. This will be my 2nd time through as a mom. This student works differently from my 1st, so I wasn't sure what I would get this year, but I had my suspicions;) She is doing an amazing job of tackling all of her subjects. At first, I needed to do much of her subjects with her, to guide and to model. In fact, modeling is my greatest homeschool and parenting tool. I rely on it often, and it eventually pays off big. So, in faith, I modeled those 1st few weeks for her, and she caught on. She's now handling Math, Rhetoric, and Science on her own, although I proofread and edit science papers. She dictates Latin while I write, and we correct as we go. We seem to be the only Challenge family working Latin this way, but I believe it's best for her, at this time, given her own unique sensitivity and frustration. I help with LTW essays; the planning and writing. She is a fantastic soul to discuss issues with! Geography is mostly independent, but I have to remind her often. Catechism is something we fall behind on, but then I stress it's importance and I work with her.

Challenge 1 is a different animal. My 14yo is working on Latin independently and seems to be keeping pace, even though she skipped B and is in uncharted waters. I'm having to use my Essentials charts to tutor her through the grammar side of Latin. Irregular verbs, Principal Parts, Mood, Voice...these are some of our intense grammar discussions prompted by Latin. She needs some of me for Government - those tricky documents and writing summaries. She needs me, sometimes, for LTW. She needs me for a big chunk of debate and we're both a bit lost! I'm needed once or twice a week for Math. She's got Shakespeare under control. And praise God, she handles Physical Science 100% independently, except I hand pick a lab for her to write up. Challenge 1 is designed to be completed independently, but the curriculum seems to write in a lot more parental involvement in choosing and discussing topics with our students. For instance, we both were assigned Dred Scott vs. Sandford, had discussion questions to answer together, and the book required my signature. No small task for a busy, homeschool mom!

I love what we're doing, but it is *intense*. When I say "independent", it creates a vision of children working while I leisurely fold laundry, cook, and keep house. This is false. Instead, I'm working like a Windows 95 computer, processing my requests amongst 3 separate commands and calling it "multitasking". Chores? What chores? We'll catch up on a break week. Maybe. I'm exhausted by Wednesday evenings.

But life is good. Seeing the interests of my older children bloom, seeing them make connections between their schoolwork and real life, seeing them grow into responsible young adults...I wouldn't trade it for a "relaxed" homeschool, any day**. I will not complain about the busy, exhausting aspects of the day to day, because I know what comes next. In a few short years, my older two will be gone, working jobs and earning college credits. Next comes an empty house, and I am not eager for that day. Instead, I treasure each moment I have with my kids. It doesn't last forever.

**sidenote: we've tried "relaxed", but personally, I do not see the same growth in my kids. This is not a slam against relaxed homeschoolers, as I've seen some amazing relaxed families. This is simply an observation that it didn't work for us.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Week 4 Update

Georgie has finished through Lesson 8 in Math U See Alpha, which includes solving for the unknown (2 + what = 8?). This week, we've introduced +9 facts through 9+9.

She's finished the Bob Books K Sight Words books, and worked through all the double consonant blend words and stories in Reading Reflex. Now we're working through Bob Jones 1st grade readers.

Handwriting: finishing 1st gr HWT.

Awana memory verses - earned her badge, almost earned 1st red jewel.

Learning about animals and plants at CC. Our classes made these big posters of classification and sorted lifeforms into categories. Our awesome campus director put a symbol key on the backs of the pics so tutors could better teach this subject:) It was a great discussion, and some happy supplemental learning happened this week. Georgie and I found 2 turtles on our nature walk about the yard. We also picked up some welcome cattails and some unwelcome picker seeds that attached to our clothing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Trifold whiteboard

I made two trifold whiteboards to use with all the different classes I'm teaching this year. It is mostly for Essentials at CC, but I might find it useful for the HTML class I'm  teaching at our co-op.

I tweaked sizes I found online to match Home Depot' 4x8 ft size. Home Depot was awesome about cutting each board to my requested size.

1st, he cut 1 ft off along the long, 8 ft side. This gave me 3 x 8 and a scrap 1 x 8 size.

The 3 x 8 was cut into 1 ft, 1 ft, 1 ft, 1 ft, and 2 ft, 2 ft.

At home, I duct taped all edges, and tsped 1 ft and 1 ft to the sides of the 2 ft board. I had enough for 2 trifolds.