Sunday, May 29, 2016

More Books

Last Friday we wrapped up our school week with an outing to the local used book store. We were in hopes of finding a copy of Redwall, & while we didn't accomplish that task we sure did find a load of other fun books.

While scanning the children's fiction section we found a plethora of children's Australian literature. I tend to snatch these up as it's insanely hard to find Australian literature in our library. I know, kinda weird right? In order to read many Australian books one has to travel a great distance & can't check the books out of that particular library, so it's always a really exciting moment when we find Australian books. 

Someone was clearing out their Horrible History Stash & we just so happened to be there in order to snatch them all up. We own a set of Horrible Science & Horrible Geography & love them both. The books are written with kids in mind & are really fun to read aloud. I've found that my kids remember more from those little books then some of the other choices we've made. 

As for the crazy The Glorious Book Of Great British Weapons, I had a complainer on my hands who wondered when we'd be leaving to catch up with Mr S for lunch. I told him not until he found a book. There was an audible groan & then a whispered, "But there's nothing good here today!" I picked up the first book I saw & said, "Oh yeah, then what about this!" It just so happened to be that book. It's actually a really neat little book, & includes things like horse & cart, castles, etc. It'll be fantastic for the Redwall study I'm working on for Term 3. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Helping Make Independent Learners

I’ve been asked a few too many times how we accomplish so much in our weeks. Is it that we do it all very day? Do we dedicate one subject to each day? How do you do it? In all honesty these types of questions scare me a little bit.

I think every homeschooler is a bit afraid of not doing enough for their child. I don’t feel I’m failing my children, I know they are receiving an education that is more then worthy. I know they are learning, progressing, & they’ve proven time & time again that they can keep up with their peers with little to no trouble. Yet, I do harbour that fear.

I harbour the fear that when all is said & done I might have missed something really important & that it will come back to bite us all in the bum. I worry that what we will have accomplished might not be good enough, deep enough, strong enough. Yet, I also know that what we’re doing works, & that’s enough to quay those fears & remind myself that God’s got this whole thing under control.

Here’s the other reason that question scares me a bit. I don’t do it all. Morgan is 15 & totally responsible for all of his own work getting accomplished in a day. This kid is an incredibly hard worker & he’s dedicated to his education. Like clockwork he’s generally up at 730 to have a little quiet time before he starts his day. He generally wants a goofy 20 minute programme, follows up with a shower, & “hangs out” with his USA grandmother until Mr S heads out the door for work. Then this kid is all business.

He works methodically through his planner in the way that best suits him. I don’t dictate when or even how he does his work. He knows what has to be done & he deals with it. If he has questions, concerns, or gripes I see him. He surfaces for help with his writing if he doesn’t have an audio lecture to rely on. With his SSS/VPD he doesn’t always have the brain power to read the longer lessons & then complete the writing sessions without over taxing his brain. Literally. He will break down with dehydration, tiredness, & headaches. 

Aside from that, & a few minor things he does all the rest on his own. Now, I’m not going to lie, this kid puts immense pressure on himself & sometimes I feel the need to step in & say, “Why?” His reasonings are generally well thought out, but after chatting about it we find a way to remove the excess stress & he continues forward.

This wasn’t an overnight happening though. It was a step-by-step process. Starting with just one subject & slowly adding more & more onto his own plate until he was off on his own. Our 12 year old still relies on me a bit, but not totally.

Jayden is capable of doing half of his subjects on his own & we are slowly working on turning the other half over to him. Each bit of curriculum I pick I do so with a few thoughts in mind:

Is this worthy or our time?
Can my kids do this on their own?
How much of our day will this eat up?

These are important questions for helping my kids start out being independent, & also maintain that down the road. All though as they get older & take more of the workload on I also ask & hear their opinions on curriculum. They know, that over all, Mom & Dad have the final say to what is purchased & used. However, we really hear their opinions because ultimately it’s up to them that the work gets accomplished. 

There’s no set schedule for how I progress my kids to independence. Sometimes it happened intentionally, like progressing a child to reading on their own. Other times it wasn’t intentional, but they rose to the challenge. Such as when one was impatiently waiting for help with math & was urged to just go watch the lecture on his own & come back to tell me about it. These days they don’t report back in on their math lectures, they just do the work.  Each time an opportunity arose we jumped on it & they ran with it. I think it’s far easier to underestimate their ability to accomplish things.

A couple of resources I’ve used over the years to help us along are: The Self-propelled Advantage & Teaching Students To Work Independently. Both have great points in how to help you get your child working independently. The former takes an all or nothing type approach while the later takes a more incremental approach.

One big question I hear a lot, when I mention my children being independent learners is, “But I want to learn alongside my children.” Here’s the thing, Friends.. Sometimes Mamma is holding her kids back. I’m not saying that to be mean, I’m saying that to be honest.

By the end of the day my independent learner has accomplished Math, Assigned Reading, Writing, Science, History, LA & generally at least 1 elective, & all his chores. When he use to wait on me there was always at least 1-3 subjects that regularly ended up on the rotating wheel of “will we get to them today..” Not because my dedication was less, but because balancing your time between children isn’t an easy task.

Here’s another thought, Children will only rise to the expectations we have for them. If our expectations are low because they can’t do things without us, that will extend into other areas of their life. The more independent each of my children become the more I see them stepping up in other areas too.

Offering to help without being asked, seeing a job that needs doing it & dealing with it. Now, I’m not saying this is a perfect solution. My laundry room is often my biggest angst as my children have been known to use it as a personal dressing room. My kitchen is often home to hockey gear & countless books that don’t belong there. 

On the other hand, when my kids see me cleaning up they ask if they need to do anything. When they see someone struggling they jump in. The other night my eldest weighed the odds of throwing wet laundry in the dryer & possibly having that wake me up vs leaving the wet laundry in the washer & possibly be smelly in the am. The idea of the dryer waking me out worried him less so he threw it in the dryer & I woke up to discover my workout gear was clean, dry, & ready for my morning walk. Talk about grateful!

Yes, some of that can come with maturity, but Friends I’m telling you right here, right now, I’ve seen more maturity in my children blooming since handing work to them & saying, “Here you go.” It’s okay to let go & watch the efforts of your work unfold.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016 Week In Review: Weeks 15 & 16

I'm behind on our weekly wrap up posts, I didn't realise how far behind I was until I went to verify how many weeks of term were left. I thought we were on our 5th week of term last week, but as it turned out we were in our 6th week. Pretty big difference when you consider we only do 10 weeks. We were all dragging a little & realising we were at the halfway mark rather inspired us to keep going. Imagine the delight when they realised they'd crossed that point!

Things have been crazy busy around our place so here's hoping my photos actually match up with that we've been doing, learning, & enjoying.

Our book basket is always brimming with good finds. Our current reads are above. The top left book has been a huge help to our anxiety ridden child. In fact, we'd spent some time working through various tips for helping him learn to overcome some fears. The base line of the book is to address your fear & ask yourself "What's the worst that can happen."

During a recent rain storm I noticed he wasn't coping well so I pulled him aside & started going through the list of questions in the book. When we got to that key question he shouted, "WE COULD ALL DIE!" Okay, he had me there. However, we worked through why he felt that way & were able to alleviate his fear enough that the following evening when a thunder storm rolled in he pulled out his aides & set up camp sleeping the night through while the rest of us were on edge wondering if he was okay.

We've crossed the halfway point in our devotional & are both excited & saddened. We've spent the last 2 years working through our AIO devotionals & when we finish that one that's it. While we are aware of the third one, it's more activity based so we're not intending to use it.

We swap between poetry books. Last year we had a lovely thick poetry book that we read every day. This year our poetry book was only a couple of times a week. I pulled out an older American poetry book & just read a poem or two from that on the opposite days.

It Couldn't Just Happen has been on our list to read for a while & the time seemed right considering the topics in both kids science books & the fact that our newest family read aloud is Journey To The Centre of The Earth. We'll see how we go, we've been working very slowly through ICJH, but our current read aloud is in audio format as I've been dealing with an on again off again sore throat.

My ever artistic child is in the midst of making yet another board game. I saw him scratching out the design for a new game & getting frustrated with keeping all his lines nice & even, which led me to ask him if he'd ever considered using Numbers for making the board. This was a new concept to him so I opened up the programme & showed him how quick it was to make everything the same size. From there I showed him how to drag the images into the programme to be sure when printed out they'd fit exactly into the boxes like he wanted. The cards are things he's making himself. The game board is huge, but everything is stuck down with blu-tac in hopes of reusing the board later down the road.. His idea, not mine.

Speaking of games, Mr Jayde has been itching to own A House Divided for a long time, but the game shop we often buy from is always out of stock. I spotted it on Ebay & purchased it for him. We all managed to keep the surprised despite his constant yammering & telling us about this game he was hoping would come back into stock ANY day now. Funniest part is he hasn't actually played it yet. He's determined to learn it himself, & is holding out refusing to allow anyone to help him figure it out. We'll see if the changes or not.. In the mean time we're all eager to see this game in action after the long wait!

Despite ordering the other game a week prior, a game I purchased for Morgan showed up first. The Hobbit game was on special through our normal game shop for more then 50% off. He's eyed this one up a few times debating purchasing it, but was always worried that the $50+ price tag might not be worth the outcome of the game. When I spotted it on sale & saw we had $11 with in-store credit I picked it up for him. He was delightedly surprised! They've played this one several times over & taught Mr S how to play it over the weekend.

Both boys are moving steadily forward in math. Jayde made it through 2 days of math before I realised he hadn't quite grasped the lecture. The upside is that it allowed him to learn the lesson in smaller bite sized bits which worked out perfectly for him. Morgan's reached the point with MUS where he has short lectures & then 15+ minute lectures. Regardless he's doing fine with it all & set to finish his book a few weeks prior to the end of our year if he has no set-backs between now & then.

We wrapped up our beloved Pinocchio book. It took us a while to really pick a steady pace with it as we had a fair amount going on, but once we did the kids were captivated. They still have questions about Italian bedtime stories, but they truely loved Pinocchio's story. Our copy was illustrated by Mr Ingpen, aren't his drawings beautiful? One of the lovely things about his books is that there's a quip about the author of the story in the front. We learned that Mr Collodi wrote the story in installments for a children's newspaper/magazine & he set it to end with chapter 15, but readers were so horrified they begged for more! Can you imagine ending the story with the naughty puppet hanging from a tree?

We had an interruption in our studies 2 weeks in a row. Mr S hung out with us for a little bit one day while he waited for confirmation that his office had power. The following day, as he was about to head off, I broke the news that the heater in our learning room wasn't working. It resulted in having to have a brand new one installed. Not exactly planned for, but we took our books to the other end of the house while all the work happened in here. Then delighted in curling up in a lovely warm room with our read aloud that afternoon.

We wrapped up Book A in our LA. We had a few hiccups with the book, but have decided to terry on & see how we feel about Book B. There are some areas the boys need work in & then a larger area where it's such simplistic review that I wonder if we need to move into something a bit harder. This has led me to some research, but more on that later.

Our beloved Art Club was back up & running this month. We were meant to meet 2 weeks ago, but the weather was insanely crazy & it was called off. We met the following week instead. The project was based on cubism, which resulted in a lot of laughs as each child tried to follow the instructions. Both boys are "okay" with their final project but decided that while it was fun to see their project unfold before them, cubism is still not their thing.

Morgan has wrapped up another module in his science scoring a 100% on the module test. He was really really nervous about that particular test because he felt that all the things he'd learned sounded so similar they were crashing together in his head, but in the end he did fantastic. The photo above is one of the few experiments he was able to try out. We've had a few issues getting some supplies for the various experiments which as resulted in relying on YouTube. If you happen to be one of those homeschoolers who records your science experiments: THANK YOU, we've had to rely on many of those!

Jayden is still plugging away with his Civil War study. Slow & steady wins the race, right? He's still very much in love with both books on the left. He's enjoyed the bottom right book which is read with a southern twang that I can turn on & off on a whim. It cracks my kids up. The top book is his current assigned book. He should have finished it by now, but he hasn't. I've had some issues finding books he really enjoys as his tastes are very unique compared to his brothers. In the end I've decided, for now, to have him use the same course Morgan used last year. The books are solid & ones we have no issues with. I told him that he doesn't have to love EVERY book & I won't make him read every book, but the practice alone will be good for him. Morgan piped up reminding him that after reading all those books {which he loved} Dr T was astonished to see he'd progressed 2 or 3 grade in reading. We'll see how it goes.

Morgan is back in hockey again & delighted. He absolutely loves the sport & is delighted that this season is played in the evening when it's dark. This kid can see amazingly well in the dark without lights. Unfortunately his first game was rained out & his first practice/training session was spent darting between the field & shelter. However, it hasn't dampened his spirits any!

He wrapped up another week in Robotics & found that it's getting increasingly more in depth as each week goes along. He had a minor issue with the assessment in Week 2 which taught him that going back & studying is a needed skill. Thankfully he realised it before attempting the assessment 3x. He has one final week of the programme to go & if he passes that assessment he'll gain a certificate for his efforts. He's really enjoyed this professor which has helped him really enjoy this course.

Morgan's books are in the photo above. He wrapped up Vol. 3 of SOTW last week, which is amazing but shocking. We've been using SOTW for the past 18 months so it's kinda crazy to think he's finally in the last volume! He still deals with the Encyclopedia on his own & then tells us all about the insane things he's learned. I'm not sure that book will make it to Jayden's turn as it's taken a real beating! He absolutely loved Sherwood Ring & is dying for me to finish it so he can chat all about it. He's worried if he talks about it before I finish it he'll give away a few secrets. I started reading Only The Names Remain with him, but he found it quicker to do on his own. Our progress with the European History book has been so slow the past 2 weeks, it's all most painful. However, at long last we wrapped up the chapter we were on & are moving into the Industrial Revolution with it.

The Island Of Dr Libris is one he's reading. It came from the list of books I put together to have him read as "assigned" books for school. While this kid is great about reading in general it's important to me that they have assigned books. It allows me to keep an eye on their progress & to know if a visit with their specialist is in need of happening NOW or if they can wait until our normal annual appointment. He's absolutely in love with the book, & it's inspired him to read a few classic's we've net yet gotten to. Others that we have he's dug out & double checked scenes after references to them in his book. He has another book by this author on his list for the year {next actually I think} & I hope he loves it just as much!

Spelling & writing happened as well. We were a little less consistent with spelling as I found the kids had no issues with the words for those two weeks. Instead we'd review the one or two words they'd stumbled with & move onward. Morgan wrapped up the halfway point in his writing book last week & is pretty excited about it. While he doesn't dislike the book, once he finishes it for the year he gets to play with creative writing & he's very keen for that. I'm debating letting him do a year of creative writing next year & then the year after going back to expository writing. I'm undecided though..

And that rather wraps up our past 2 weeks. They've been crazy busy & full, but they've also been cold & wet which has kept us inside & busily working..

Sunday, May 1, 2016

2016 Week In Review: Week 14

Week 14 in our school year, or the 4th week of Term 2! Wow, time is flying by. I actually had to count that out 3 times last week to be sure I had the numbers right.

Last week started with a long weekend due to Anzac Day. As per our normal traditions we paid of respects at the local family service in town. I was all for going to the Dawn Service this year, but I was out voted 3-1.

The Family Service is really quite lovely. We heard from a Military man with more credentials than I can possibly remember who shared a fun story that the last living Anzac shared before his own death. The short version is that the young man went through a nightmare of battle, escaped alive, was brought back to health, & then captures as a POW. Years later he managed to escape & make it back to home soil & upon arriving in Melbourne had no idea what to do with himself & thus went to the nearest Red Cross tent & upon seeing the nurse said to her, "I was a POW & have just returned." Her reply was, "So, I suppose you'll be wanting a cup of tea then, won't you?" It may be the first year there was a sputter of laughter amongst the snuffle of tears.

Morgan enrolled with Swinburne University again this term to try out a Mobile Robotics Class. He's really impressed with this class compared to the last one he took as he finds the instructor much more engaging. Not to mention she shared her high school {or was it college} accomplishment in regards to building a robot & he was highly inspired & awed. It's a 4 week course so it was great timing for him to enrol, & he's pretty pleased with his scores for the first week.

We continued with the majority of the books in this basket. Excuse the cloth it's for glasses which often seem to be fingerprinted up or something odd like that. It's actually a great cloth & works without any form of spray.. As for the books we continued with It Couldn't Just Happen which we're reading at an incredibly slow pace. Pinocchio which has left my kids wondering exactly what kind of bedtime stories Italians tell their children; I suggested they ask their cousin or better yet their Uncle what type of stories he reads to said cousin. We're still plucking away through our lovely devotional. It'll be a bit sad to come to the end of it to be honest as this is our second year with an AIO devotional We only read from The Oxford Poetry book this past week as we were ahead in the Classical Poetry book. Morgan & I are still reading European History & The Emperor's Shadow & enjoying them both.

Jayde worked hard all week on a board game that stretched across four of those pieces of A4 paper. He designed some type of battlefield that he sketched out, coloured in, & then laminated. It's in his room as he continues to work on it adding various items to it. I was pretty impressed with the final board, but it was squirreled away before I could snap a photo. He's been after the board game A House Divided for a long long time now & it's just never in stock. I suspect he was making his own version, which made me chuckle because I finally found the game in-stock & secretly ordered it for him.

He also caught up on some notebooking pages we hadn't tackled last week. We're moving at a snail's pace with his Civil War study. I'm not entirely sure why, all though in week 13 he was so caught up in Iron Thunder it was difficult to get him to come up for air to do much of anything else. We have a bit more of Week 2 to wrap up before we head into Week 3. He's also requested a new audio book about the Civil War, so we need to drum up one of those as well.

He wrapped up Grace's Letter To Lincoln this week, but was less then impressed with it. I have him write a summary {on occasion} about books, but I knew this was unlikely to be one where he'd find the task enjoyable so instead I asked him some Lit questions about it, & really really enjoyed his answers. The final question I asked him was which friend he'd recommend this book to & without missing a beat he declared he'd only recommend it to me because it seemed like my type of book.

Morgan plunged right into a new math lesson this week which seemed a bit like review work for him considering how quickly he moved through it. I promise Mr Demme is now scowling or bearing his teeth at the children in video, I just snapped the photo at an inopportune moment! Morgan is really pleased with both his comprehension, but also his pace with his current math book. While he started it during Term 1 instead of at the beginning his goal is still to finish it off by the end of the year, & at the pace he's going he should meet that goal.

Morgan wrapped up Module 2 in his science book this week. He was worried he wouldn't make it because he was exhausted on Friday morning. The lack of sun all day Friday certainly didn't help with that, but he wrapped up his studying & passed the test with flying colours. He was really nervous about taking the test via VHSG, but has since decided he really likes it because if he does end up getting a problem wrong it explains which one & why.

Jayde tackled science, it's still one of his favourite parts of the day. I'm really glad we put together a science kit during Term Break as it's made it so easy to say, "Go get.." & know that it will be in the box. It's probably the only downer about the science we are using for both kids is that I could not buy a supply kit & have it shipped to us. Yes, one can easily round up supplies, but it never fails the one supply we don't have is the very one we need.  If your'e wondering, Jayden is actually answering a few questions from his science book in his science journal & then sketching out the why behind his answer. He requested new coloured pencils for science; they were granted.

Morgan is moving along in his writing at a good clip as well. We've had a few weeks where some of the projects have taken a bit more time, mostly to him feeling overwhelmed with the topic, but he managed. This past week he was suppose to write a description of a person in our home but felt rather nervous about it for fear whatever he wrote would annoy the person. I gave him free reign to pick a favoured character & complete the task with that character instead. He was delighted, until he realised he was 30 words short. He did come up with 30+ words, but it was a great experience for him to dig a little deeper.

This boy, this one who spent the end of last year & the beginning of this year swearing he hated math. The same boy who told his specialist he despises math because it's the worst subject in the world has finally come to grips with it. In fact while adding & subtracting fractions this week he turned around & said, "I'm confused why math is suddenly so easy when it use to be so hard." We burst into laughter which only confused him a little bit more. In all fairness, I'm equally impressed with how quickly he's moving through his new math book, but all the memorising he's always done in the past {no help required} is benefiting him big time with his current book.

After wrapping up his studies on Friday & realising there wasn't any luck in heading outside unless you wished to be blown away in the wind or swept away in the rain, Morgan decided to pull out his EV3 & build a robot. What he really wanted to do was build a fighting bot, but then realised he only had the supplies for one. We discussed ideas on how he could use his Edison Bot to make something comparable, but he's worried that the weight of Ev3 might cause an issue. He's probably right, but knowing him he'll come up with something anyway..

Morgan wrapped up Week 13 in his history studies. I seem to have no photos of him busy at work, mostly because he vanishes with both his books & my phone to tackle it. One of his books happens to be in audio format on my phone.. We also tackled spelling & grammar this week which I'm also lacking photos of, life happens. I do have a grammar video though which was rather amusing to all of us.. Maybe I'll share it at another time. It was more a video to share with Mr S about the insanity of our children, but Mom enjoyed the laugh as well as a friend or two. That's our rather busy week!