Sunday, January 13, 2008

Homeschool Open House Week in Review: Week 19

Homeschool Open House Week in Review
Week 19: January 6-12, 2008

Older son is aged 10 and in 5th grade.
Younger son is aged 7 and in 2nd grade.

This is our first week home from vacation and going back to homeschooling after the Christmas break.

The week started out with me hearing results from testing done on my older son. The testing mainly was about reading and reading comprehension but in that testing he was checked also for various components of language arts such as phonics, grammar, vocabulary words, word roots, writing composition, spelling, visual memory recall, math, verbal communication skills and general knowledge. I’m feeling a bit paranoid about seeing not every single thing on or above grade level. I have decided to do some remedial, review work of things already taught and that I felt were mastered, as well as making sure we do all that I had planned out and even adding in more work in some other areas.

Additionally I spent time finding providers and working out insurance issues for that son to be tested for vision, vision tracking and hearing based on the test results.

And I spent mental energy and time thinking about the purpose of academic testing and the validity of it.

We have a new video game console in the household for the first time ever in our parenting journey. I worried how this would affect homeschooling. I told the kids they can play it for one hour on a weekday only if ALL of their schooling was done. This has turned out to be the best motivator and if I had any clue that it would work out so great I’d have bought one years ago.

Due to me slowing down out outside activities and feeling so pressured to focus on homeschooling we hit the books pretty hard this week. The kids did every lesson that I told them to do, and for a number of days there was not one single complaint, whine and even no eye-rolling. Hooray!

A short-term goal in math for my older son is to finish mastering memorization of all of the math facts. This child has always had a hard time memorizing math facts. He spent time this week using the math fact practice games on the computer: Timez Attack and Math Blaster ages 8-9 (that covers multiplication). He also began the next level of Math-U-See. I also made him do some flash card work which he hates. Older son complains that the boy whose voice is on that computer game Math Blaster ages 8-9 is nasty and mean. He said at one point he had not answered the question in time and the boy made fun of him for being too slow and did a horrid snarky laugh. What are the educational computer game companies thinking by putting that in the game??

For Language Arts my older son began a new book to read which I stumbled upon at a library book sale, The Time Bike by Jane Langton (Lexile score 810). He loved it so much he finished it in less than three days. He went above and beyond his quota of 45 minutes of reading practice each day to get that finished.

I added to his vocabulary and word root lessons, the playing of Rummy Roots. I taught myself and the kids to play it. If you have not played it yet here is a tip. Rummy Roots II version of the game (in the directions) is easier than Rummy Roots I, and I’d advise to start off with that. Frankly the game was harder and boring with that first game.

I began using a book that I’d found at a used curriculum sale for reading comprehension: Reading Detective level A1 (for grades 5-6), published by Critical Thinking Press, with my older son. I can see right off the bat how he did not fare well on all the reading comprehension tests as he is not very cooperative with that type of reading comprehension work (read the passage and answer questions). I think he is doesn’t care and is being lazy. I’m not using that as an excuse, but am stating a fact. I think that it is about time he learns that sometimes you just have to do certain academic work that society demands of you and learn to do it and just do it. I can see I am going to have my work cut out with him if I am to teach him how to read and take tests in this manner. Well, he will need it for the SAT and for college one day so I guess we’re going to start the ‘training’ now.

I am now questioning my past theory and practice of teaching grammar. I am researchign options to teach grammar to my older son. This week I am testing out using First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind level 3 (which covers grades 3 and 4). I like it so far. He doesn't like it. Then again who cares what he thinks of it, because I can already see that he doesn't want to learn any of this so no matter what I do I will be met with resistance. Well, I'm the parent and I say he has to learn it so he has to just do it. I could drive myself nuts tying to find some one, perfect, fun curriculum but to be honest I don't think one exists. These lessons are short and so even if he doesn't 'have fun' doing them, it is not torture, he has to 'just do it' which is what he'd face if he were attending a school!!

Regarding our use of Spelling Power for spelling, I am patiently working with my older son (the spelling challenged one) to show him that some simple grammar rules or forgotten phonics rules are the cause of some of his mistakes. He focused on remembering those and suddenly he is doing much better! He is not rushing through spelling the word to get it over with but instead is taking his time to think about what he is writing and then is getting the words correct. I hope this continues. For the record this sone says he hates Spelling Power because he doesn't like being told what words he does not know. I also feel this is being lazy because he'd rather practice learning words from a set list, some of which he's already mastered therefore he'd be doing easy busy work. Well that to me is not learning, that is just doing busy work. So we're staying with Spelling Power.

By the way my younger son LOVES Spelling Power and he finds the daily pretesting fun. He is very competitive and wants to achieve 100% every day. He is also a natural speller and learns quickly when he makes an error, usually mastering it after one practice session. (It is so nice to have a child who learns quickly, easily, and enjoys testing.)

Younger son finished up yet another Droon book (#22, is he not yet bored by this series?) for his reading practice. I talked him into reading a biography of Helen Keller which he at first resisted (it is an older Dell Yearling version that I’m guessing is at about grade three reading level). He actually is enjoying the book and declared that he’d never known a person could be both deaf and blind! What interested him the most was to learn more about her because I explained that she was a famous person with an incredible story and that she lived and died in a home near where we live.

My younger son continues with Math-U-See Gamma and is flying through that. I let him also spend time playing Reader Rabbit ages 6-9 computer game which oddly I just found in a very odd place; it had been misplaced for about two years! So he is happy to be playing it again.

Next week I will resume with my younger son, First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind Level 1-2. Now more than ever I want him to learn grammar and I'd rather have him learn it early and keep practicing it. This is a change from my prior philosophy.

I bought the Story of the World Volume 2 and 3 audio books, read by Jim Weiss. We began listening to Volume 2, even the parts that I’d already read. Next week we will restart reading the living books aloud, doing coloring pages and mapwork.

Penmanship continues with Getty-Dubay’s Italic handwriting curriculum for both kids.

Next week we will jump back into writing composition using Institutes for Excellence in Writing with both kids.

This week was our county’s homeschoolers Geography Bee. I ran the Bee and was the scorekeeper. I had hoped my older son would participate but he has zero interest. We also didn’t prepare for it. I obviously didn’t force him into doing it. I do wish I had kids who did Bees and succeeded at them.

It is impressive to see what the Bee participants know and to see them do well in the Bee. I did note one general thing about the students. They were in grades 4-8 and one thing was consistent between all the kids regardless of their age/grade. For the multiple choice questions they fared better. Then all didn’t do as well at all with the open-ended questions. My interpretation of this is that there is a 25% chance of guessing the right answer. Plus if they listened to the multiple clues in each question it would be easy to do process of elimination to get the right answer or at least to narrow it down to two possible answers, even if some guesswork was involved. Yet to answer an open-ended question accurately, they really, really have to know the right answer and to ‘know their stuff’.

I was hoping my older son would watch the Bee and get interested. My main concern was that since I was scorekeeper and had a job to do that he be quiet. So he read a book the entire time. It is a non-fiction book about facts and ways to improve playing a video game that we got for Christmas. So there is a perfect example of how he reads on his own for information that is relevant to his life and that he puts into immediate use and demonstrates that indeed he did comprehend what he read.

The kids keep playing with the Talking Globe, this week also.

They are also staying up later than usual reading in bed, on their own. They are reading chapter books of fiction, magazines, and the book on how to play the video game better. The boys are talking together to make strategies to play that video game better. My older son is going to use the video game in a way to customize and make his own lands and layouts.

We had two playdates this week with homeschooling families. I tried to set up playdates with some schooled kids but their mothers said they were over-scheduled and they were not available. (That’s interesting to me.)

It was a good week for doing the homeschooling and keeping the house tidy and clean. The kids and I sorted through some of their toys and games to weed them out further and to get some packed up and ready to give away. I’m caught up with laundry post-trip. The rest of the Christmas decorations were put away by me and the kids. I’m finding that I can cook and clean and do the homeschooling just fine and well if I don’t have a lot of outside commitments. I’m still trying to find that nice balance of all that I want to do versus what is actually do-able.

Something very good happened this week that I cannot yet share on my blog. Stay tuned.

General Information:
Homeschool Open House’s Weekly Reporter blog post project is a concept devised by Jessica of Trivium Academy. For more information, see the Trivium Academy blog entry dated 9/04/07.

Graphics which I am using in my Homeschool Open House and Weekly Reporter were designed by Jessica and are available on her blog, again in the same blog post dated 9/04/07.

For information about how you can become a Weekly Reporter or to view a list of other Weekly Reporters, read the information at Trivium Academy in the 9/04/07 blog post or see the information in her right sidebar.

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