Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Homeschooling update: How it's going part 2

So, Part 2.

Other homeschooling plans we made and how they've held up:

I had planned to have "weeklies"--a group lesson on a different topic each day.

I tried to have the kids take a typing lesson every Monday. No good. Their hands are too small for touch-typing. So that's on the list for junior high. It was supposed to be replaced with handwriting, but my kids (like so many gifted kids) almost categorically refuse to hand-write anything, and when they do they  use alternate methods of letter formation (like Caleb writes every letter from the bottom). It wasn't worth the fight for me. Their writing is legible and looks a lot like that of other kids their ages, so I'm not too worried. (Plus, Head of the Class is sneaking in cursive on them--reading it--so they're getting it). So we just kind of forgot about that.

We were supposed to have cooking lessons on Tuesdays. I learned that dry erase marker DOESN'T come off stove hoods (even if they are metal). The kids LOVED the few cooking lessons we had, but I haven't had the energy to plan out a lesson schedule, and cooking lessons are hard to throw together at the last second. So that's on the books, and is a favorite, but we haven't done it for a month (even though we talk about it every week).

Wednesday, the kids actually do make something.

About every other Thursday someone looks up at the list and says, "We're supposed to write something!" and they do. I don't worry too much about this because the kids do quite a lot of writing on their own, so I hardly mention it. I just kind of take note mentally and if I can't remember when I last saw one of the kids writing something, I suggest it. Since they all love writing so far, they just do it. No fights. No pressure. And no formality on this one.

Friday they're supposed to watch something, and the list I compiled isn't really compelling enough in it's structure. "More science videos" just doesn't cut it. The kids have watched a few, but they usually quietly skip this, and I let them.

As for the dailies:

I already discussed the Time4Learning issues.
They read every day anyway, so I have to worry more about making them stop to sleep than making them start. This isn't EVER on my mind in terms of organizing it. It just happens.

The group science and humanities lessons are fun (we made a telescope yesterday!), but they really only happen a couple times a week. I have pondered this a lot and I decided it comes from two things: me planning it wrong, and me getting in the habit of saying, "Just go to this website and learn something" instead of really teaching them something. In other words, I've been doing it all wrong. So I've started beginning school with Learning Lynx, before I take each child on my lap to do Head of the Class, and that works better. I've also decided to try a more exploratory approach, with a little less in-order structure, because the kids are capable of absorbing the universalities of it to a great extent.

PE is totally unstructured. It's more like the writing. I keep mental notes of whose been moving around playing and who hasn't, and every couple of days I suggest they get up and exercise. Caleb runs when he thinks, so he's started getting more exercise. Anda and Dan play all day, inside and out, so they're getting it. STOPPING Benji from running is more of an issue. And Anda and Dan have started to draw Caleb into their games. Everyone gets more exercise when we're awake during the day, even if they don't go outside. I don't know why that is, but I'm happy about it. The kids have also invented a game called supertag pro that they play a lot for PE.

Nobody has ANY trouble doing personal research every day. It was really more my way of saying, "I'm going to count for school anything you do for fun that I can reasonably justify as educational."

And the last thing of the 8 was the "click list".  I have struggled to make the click list appealing. There are TONS of cool things on it, but it's hard to sort through, hard to remember what you already looked at and liked or didn't like, hard to find things you liked to do them again. And I've been refining my ideas of what goes on there, so it's going to be completely reformatted again, taking off a bunch of the stuff (and moving it to my Learning Lynx blog) and focusing on putting on interactives that are educational on many topics. The point of the Click List was to introduce them to things they haven't thought to learn about before, and it works for that. But usually I have to play the game first. They really aren't interested in sorting through the list themselves--it's just too broad. It's actually kind of like asking my junior high kids to do a 5-minute freewrite each day. They HATED it for a long time, and some never really did get it, because kids are actively trained NOT to do things that are completely open-ended but not already a passion. They can't think of something to write for 5 minutes--they want a prompt. That's how my kids are with the click list. They want a prompt.  So I'm pondering this one--how do I make it both more accessible and more fun? I'm thinking the best approach may be to group the click list items into groups of 5 or ten and tell the kids they have to explore one from the assigned group each day, so that it's not quite so open ended.

It's not a total failure, though. Anda often returns to sites to "play" that she first was introduced to on the click list.

So overall, I'd say our homeschool model is working for us. It did not impose order or structure like I hoped, but it did make it so that the kids understand what's expected of them each day, I know what to keep records of (I use a google docs form each day that fills out a spreadsheet for me), and doing school is easier.

Oh, and I eventually went back and made a couple of long lists of educational things the kids do during the day that "count" toward the state-mandated 4 hours of learning a day that aren't on any of our lists, so that I can check the things they've done that count but weren't part of the 8 (like writing songs with Dad, or learning how to pick ripe bananas at the supermarket).

Conclusion: finally satisfied with our schooling.

Of course, now that I said that, everything is going to turn on it's head, right?


Brooke said...

Have you seen the cookbooks Pretend Soup or Salad People by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson? These are two of the best cookbooks for children I've ever seen. They are designed for preschoolers, with illustrated wordless recipes. The interesting thing about them is that they were designed with both families and classrooms in mind (lots of kids working together) and usually do not require sharp knives or other finger-slicing tools. Best of all, the premise is that with the kids "reading" the recipe, they become the cooks, with the adult relegated to the status of helper.

It's also noteworthy to mention that all of the recipes are for "real" food, not kiddie treats -- Jeffrey has loved making broccoli quiche, basil pesto, popovers, and quesadillas.

There's a companion volume, Honest Pretzels which is designed for older children who know how to read.

Also, believe it or not, but a lot of Waldorf teaching books contain good information on conducting group cooking classes -- especially group breadmaking sessions -- since this is traditionally a part of the Waldorf preschool curriculum. I know you're not the biggest fan of the philosophy, but the recipes I've found in A Child's Seasonal Treasury and such are very helpful when getting my kids in the kitchen.

Oh, and have you seen the kids on It seems right up your alley.

Good luck!

Becca Jones said...

Thanks for the resources, Brooke! Ironically, I have linked to Spatulatta on my own learning website, but didn't think to look at my own library of resources to help me homeschool!