We started our homeschooling adventure on Monday of this week since that's when the local public schools start. We started with a bang because we all woke up sick. Sigh. Them's the breaks.
Here are just a few thoughts from our first few days.
The plan was that Grace would work on math on the computer while Olivia worked on writing and handwriting and then they would switch. The execution of this plan isn't quite as smooth as I imagined. Grace is very independent working on math and Olivia is very independent with writing, but both need a little handholding on the other subjects. In short, neither need my help at the same time and then both need my help at the same time.
Olivia needs help reading the math problems and talking them out for understanding so I need to basically sit with her while she works. Grace is having trouble deciding anything about writing. She says she doesn't know what to write. On Monday, she wrote a short essay on tadpoles, but it has decreased in output and increased in despair since then. I am not sure if I should wait this out or try to give her more structured instructions. I printed out several handwriting pages which she does enjoy, so maybe that's good enough for now. I am also thinking about giving her the psalm from Morning Prayer to copy as a standard alternative if she continues with the writing block.
The only problem I am having with Olivia's writing is that she desperately doesn't want me to look at it. Should I force the issue or just glance to see if she has written something and then let it go? She is very private and secretive so I don't know if it embarrasses her or what.
Grace has been reading her own books constantly. To the point of maybe having to implement "consequences" if she doesn't get her nose out of her book and do something else occasionally, like come to dinner when she is called. Olivia does not seem to be reading much beyond environmental reading. She reads signs and over my shoulder and as much math as she can, but she really hasn't set down to read on her own.
I want to do more readalouds than have happened this week. I have read to them exactly once. I think this is more a matter of finding a rhythm. I am still carrying the fog of work fatigue with me so I hope when I am home for good, I will find a way to accommodate the reading. I have an energy lag after lunch which is right when I planned to read. If I can push through that, maybe I can have an hour of 'leave me alone' after that? Or maybe I should schedule in some time to myself right after lunch and read a little later in the afternoon during Marian's nap? Any thoughts here?
I got some pushback from Grace about the readalouds because she is now unaccustomed to being read to and she seems to have the idea that if she can read it herself, it is vaguely insulting to have it read to her. Lots of sighing and grumblings, but she listened attentively after getting over the hump that first day and objected when I put the books down. The first books are about frogs, toads, and tadpoles and also The Secret Garden. I want to explore narration more, but that will have to wait until September or October.
One problem we will need to address is getting them off the Khan in a reasonable amount of time. Grace has spent over an hour everyday powering through the math and Olivia wants just as much time. They work until they are fried and then get really grumpy about moving on. I need to set a timer and enforce it, but I am not sure how much time to give them. If I limit it to 30 minutes, they might mutiny. Do you think 45 minutes is a good compromise?
We are currently amusing ourselves sharpening pencils thanks to the sharpener recommended by Mrs. Darwin. Who knew children would argue over who gets to sharpen the next pencil?
On the housekeeping front, I don't think my dresser is going to get done this week, but I have started to hit at the kitchen. It makes me so happy to have a clear spot to make my cup of coffee in the morning. Looking ahead to next week, it is going to suck bad going back to work. I've gotten a taste of freedom this week so going back to the grind is not going to be fun. BUT! I am submitting my resignation on Monday so the countdown is on!
I do tend to sit with the kids while they're doing Khan. I don't know if it's the most efficient use of my time, but it does help me to see real-time what the problems are and to help correct them before bad habits get set in stone. The older ones I have been leaving alone more. We have the Khan time problem too, so sometimes I get around that by requiring a certain number of subject modules, say, three topics and a mastery challenge. Then they can watch the fun Vi Hart videos together. Make sure you catch the hexaflexamexagon one.
I would, as Rebecca mentioned on Facebook, require Olivia to write at least one short thing that you can read, so that you can be checking her grammar and spelling. Give her your reasons, and tell her the point isn't to critique her ideas (yet) but to make sure that she can express them well. A set topic should help with that, or you could simply go with some good copywork and point out the grammar and spelling. I think the practice of writing will be more valuable now than fighting over original content. Maybe she could write you a letter, or write it to someone else so it will be public anyway.
It will probably take longer than you imagine or feel it should for Grace, well either of them really but you know what I mean, to get in the habit of allowing herself her own ideas and then allowing herself to act on those ideas. So maybe some starter prompts in the beginning would not be bad. Like maybe she can write a poem with the same meter as a poem she is memorizing. So it's kind of open ended but still gives her that push she's accustomed to. Or ask her to write something that seems simple but really turns out to be tricky, like directions for how to do something. She can pick the thing, write the directions herself, choose the format, etc, but the main idea comes from you, at least in the beginning. Eventually you can wean to maybe a list of types of things to write and she chooses one and then after that maybe she will be over that hump and will be ready to allow herself to write what's in her head.
Good luck and do not push yourself! You have SO much time. The first entire year is going to feel....weird. How can it not with so much change?
Try the method of reading her a short story or fable -- very short, to start, just a few sentences -- and then having her retell the story more or less from memory. This is a good means of practicing all aspects of writing without having to introduce any pressure to think of ideas. There's still room for creative embellishment if she wants to make it more her own, and slavish adherence to the original is totally okay too, because that's like taking dictation and doing memory work at the same time.
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