Wednesday, September 12, 2012

He makes me smile!

My dear son... What can I say but that he makes me smile! And when I'm trying to work with him and his innate interests and tendencies, it's easy to get to the point where he makes me smile. :D

I've still been rather slow about getting him going with work. We have not finished the Great Lesson on  The Coming of Life (which, incidentally, he did not count as work last week lol) and I decided yesterday I wanted to get him going on math. My plan had been to work with him in the afternoon, but I was exhausted after not sleeping enough, he was tired and grumpy and it got forgotten. I remembered after supper when he asked for his usual after-supper video game turn. I said I still wanted to do a little work with him before that. He was very agreeable.

My plan had been to start with just checking his number concepts a bit, so I gave him a little whiteboard and took a little whiteboard myself and wrote down the number words for various numbers. He got them spot on. I was going to move onto teaching him about 10^___ for all those different place values when he got up and found a Pearls Before Swine comic book he has out from the library, found the strip with the basic algebra question (yes, he knew exactly which book had it) and wanted to know if we could do that. The question:

3x + 4 = 13

Sure, why not? Even though he has not really done questions like x + 4 = 13, but we could go for it if that's what interested him. He really has almost no experience with variables, so he originally thought 3x + 4 was 7x and then x would be 6, because 7 + 6 is 13. I explained that the 3x meant he had the same number 3 times and I drew 3 little boxes. He took another stab at it and guessed 2. I showed him how we substitute 2 into x and that it worked out that 3x + 4 was 10 when x was 2, so it couldn't be that. He then decided to guess 4, but he did the substitution and realized it wouldn't work. He then figured out that it would be 3.

I asked him if he wanted me to show him how we would do it without guessing. He said yes. So I drew out 4 little circles next to the 3 boxes, put an equal sign and then 13 little circles. I then drew a sort of balance underneath. I explained that the left side always has to equal the right side when we have the equal sign. I took one circle away from each side and asked him if I could do that, if everything would stay equal if I did that. He said yes. So I removed 3 more from each side, leaving him with 3 boxes equalling 9 little circles. I asked how much each box would have if we split the circles up equally. He has not really done much division, so he guessed incorrectly and I then drew arrows from the circles to the boxes and he saw that each box would have 3. So, x = 3. I normally don't move onto the symbols right away, but I instinctively felt I should with him and showed him how we wrote each step.

He then moved onto another question. I rewrote the sample question in the corner so he had a model to work with and he did the next question on his own. And then another question. I asked him why he was doing certain things and he completely understood it. At some point, it came up that it was something done in grade 8 in the schools; he's in grade 7, so this impressed him. He asked if he was good at math. (lol) I said he was, but that he wasn't able right now to do all the things that kids in grade 7 can because he hadn't worked on math nearly as much, but that he was able to understand it easily, which made him good at math. This whole conversation, just him asking the question with a little smile on his face because he was feeling good about the work he was doing, made me smile. :) And to add to the smile is the fact we did "school work" that he was happy about doing, did easily and is likely to want to do more of.

Of course, this now throws my well laid out math plan out the window a bit. :p

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sucking him in ;)

My "evil" plan is working! Ha ha ha ha ha! (lol)

I started reading the second Great Lesson yesterday, the Coming of Life, and it led to my son pulling out one of his books on... hm, either pre-historic life or specifically dinosaurs, not sure which... and bringing up all kinds of things and tying in this and that and so on and so forth. Yes, he loves animals, including prehistoric animals and just about anything, to the point that last night he and I were watching "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and at the part where we see Uncle Monty's animal room, he said something like, "I'll probably have a room like that when I'm older. " lol. In any case, we didn't manage to finish reading through the whole lesson yesterday, what with the little related interruptions/discussions and other stuff going on, and I was going to finish it today, but reorienting ourselves, he was reminded that I had said we should go outside and measure just how long 70 feet is. So, since it was beautiful weather at that moment and since the weather's been blah and even changed from nice to blah very quickly, we went ahead with measuring distances. We took some sidewalk chalk and a metre stick and I calculated how many metres 70 feet is on paper. (Ha, can anybody see a potential math lesson to suck him in with here? :D) We picked a starting point and marked every metre. He decided he wanted to see other measurements, too, so we took note of 14 metres (the wingspan of a particular dinosaur; I can never remember the names; the bucket is at the starting line):

21 metres, the length of a smallish apatosaurus (I tried to take a picture from the side to get a real feel, but I would have had to get on someone's roof! lol):

and 40 metres, which was the length of I can't remember what.

When we told my niece about it being the length of some dinosaurs, she kind of looked at us like we were nuts. lol.

I, incidentally, had initially written down 70 m and when we went outside and I said something about 70 m, my son gave me a look and asked what we were measuring that was 70 m. I said the apatosaurus. He said it was 70 ft. I was silly enough to have to go check; he is always right with these kinds of things!

In any case, he was a happy camper with the school work this morning and recognized it was school work and he was enjoying himself and decided he would stay outside with my 4yo niece (kindergarten starts for her next week) to "do phys. ed." (jump rope and then ride around the block a few times on his bike).

Dd is doing okay getting started with her online school work. She's a tad behind in math because it wasn't really made clear ahead of time where she should be in her work by now and what exactly she was supposed to be doing, so she ended up doing some work she didn't need to do at all (oops) and she just needs to learn about not being too perfectionist when doing certain school work--especially stuff that isn't being handed in! She'll catch on with the pacing. She finished her English that has to be handed in, but that first English assignment is always so hard because so much of how something is marked depends on the teacher, regardless of how many rubrics they give you about how they will mark. She's done some stuff for phys. ed., hasn't started religion yet, hasn't started art (the last two are full-year and just because of the nature of the courses, won't be a problem to catch up on) and we have no clue what's going on with her German course yet, so that's not touched at all either. But she's got the mandatory stuff done and is now enjoying having the afternoon free to do as she wishes. :)

All I can say is: TGIF. :D

I, incidentally, had written down 70 m at first and when we went outside and I said something about 70 m, my son gave me a look and asked what we were measuring that was 70 m. I said the apatosaurus. He said it was 70 ft. I was silly enough to have to go check; he is always right with these kinds of things! lol.

In any case, he was a happy camper with the school work this morning and recognized it was school work and he was enjoying himself and decided he would stay outside with my 4yo niece (kindergarten starts for her next week) to do phys. ed. (jump rope and then ride around the block a few times on his bike).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day Complete!

Well, and second day almost complete by now! lol. I did the subject for this post last night and never got a chance to actually write out my thoughts.

Yesterday was a very low-key day. I didn't end up doing anything specific with my son, but that wasn't non-deliberate. See, the day before I had been reading "In the Middle" by Nancie Atwell and she said something about getting rid of her structured plans and evolving with the kids. That really struck me: these highly structured plans do not work well with my son and so it's better to be able to flow with things. So I wrote down on Monday a page of different subject areas and some things to ask or mention with the idea that I would pick as things seemed to fit best. In the end, I only ended up bringing up about studying Canadian history like they do in school for grade 7 but that ours would be better, I thought. (He quipped that Canadians never did anything interesting, the little rat. We are so inundated by the many US battles and prominent figures and never really learn much about Canadian history and figures. I mentioned about the battles, that we tend to not to want to bring up the fact that we had this battle and that war and people got killed and he said it wasn't just that, but we didn't have interesting people like Benjamin Franklin. Aha! He's just provided a "key" to me as to what kind of focus I need to have: he's more interested in specific people and what they have accomplished than he is just general knowledge.) He spent the bulk of the morning reading from a Pearls Before Swine (his latest comic book passion; I really wonder if I'll be able to convert this passion into writing comics or something).

My daughter had her first day of online school. It took us an hour just to look through all the intro math stuff, look at the website and other things we were supposed to check and then email the teacher because a link didn't lead to where she said it would... We did end up looking at all the courses, although not necessarily as thoroughly as I had intended, but the brain can only handle so much. ;)

After that, we went out and got a Subway sandwich for my son and Tim Horton's sandwiches for me and my daughter (they were 3 doors down from each other :D) and came home and ate lunch and my daughter and I watched a recorded episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Then I let them have an hour turn for the day of computer/PS3 games, then it was take the dog to the vet at 4. It was not an exciting day, but it was a decent, gentle start to the school year.

Now it is pretty much the end of the second day. It's about 2pm. With my son today, I review part of the first Great Lesson with him and finished reading through it. I stopped every so often to really connect with what was being said, like thinking of the number of atoms the Earth contains. (Oh my!) My son made a comment yesterday that clearly showed he associated school work with "boring" math. The only thing I required of him last year was some handwriting here and there and a tiny bit of math. Now it's clear he finds math boring. (Well, I don't blame him: most of what I gave him was pretty boring!) And "school time" boring because of the things I expected of him. I'm completely reorganizing my thoughts with him and not going to go with expectations right now. I feel my job is to plant many, many seeds, to engage him in a variety of activities. Will he ever hit a point of actually choosing to do math? No clue. Not my concern at the moment. I know one project will be a stuffed animal sewing kit he got months ago that we haven't worked on yet.

I am reminded, sharply, of Maria Montessori's quote:

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”

 I've been clearly not using a very correct educational procedure with my son!!

The above was written on Wednesday and I didn't manage to post. I think I'll just post it even though it seems incomplete. lol

Monday, September 3, 2012

School starts tomorrow!

My 14yo is a bag of mixed feelings. She's excited, sad, scared, nervous... High school feels like such a big deal, what with having to do credits and getting marked and doing tests and all that. She's also had years of seeing two older kids who were here struggling to get all their work done and stay on top of things. But there were many factors involved with those kids having a tough time staying on top of it, including the fact that they weren't mine, which meant I couldn't say, "Well, no, you can't go to such-and-such this weekend because you aren't caught up." I really don't think she's going to find the semester that hard nor is she going to find the work load too much. She is doing a sort of online program and will have grade 10 math and English to finish this semester; she can easily get the daily work done in those in the morning. Her other courses she has all year to finish, which means that while she has what seems like a lot of courses to her, she has a ridiculous amount of time (well, until the end of May/beginning of June) to get everything done for: religion, art, German and phys. ed. I think that's all. Then 2nd semester, same courses except instead of math and ELA, she'll have science and social studies.

Anyhow, she'll have all year for German (assuming we ever actually get the things for it) and that means she can probably spend about 3 hours a week on it and still finish in time. Three hours may even have her finish early! Religion is probably no more than an hour or two per week; she could pick one afternoon to do it all. Art... Art's a little trickier since it can take time to get things the way you want, but she already spends lots of time on art; this stuff will just be more guided, so it's not like she's going to have to find more time to do art! Phys. ed. is partially covered with her dance class and the rest ought to be easy enough to cover with us visiting a rec centre here and there to play sports, swim, skate... She has all year to get all the necessary hours and the few written assignments done. But she probably doesn't realize it. I've told her a bit, but she hasn't gone in and looked at the courses herself. This week will hopefully help her relax a bit!

I know what she will be doing tomorrow:
*log onto the online system
*check the intro information for all the courses and see if there's stuff she needs to send right away (phys. ed., for example, needs us to sign a form and send it in before we can start counting her physical activity hours; religion requires her to plan a schedule and send an email in)
*get her binder(s) set up
*work out a rough schedule for the week
*make a list of tasks to get done this week
*if there's time after all that, get started! (a couple of the courses have quite a bit of intro reading to do and I know at least a couple teachers ask the students to send them a message and/or a plan)
*yoga or Pain Free (I'm leaning toward Pain Free--we've both been having some issues with our backs; we could technically do both...)

Now, for my son. I know I blogged about this already, but I'm still feeling a bit like I don't know what to do. Why is this so difficult? Grr. I think it's because, like me, he finds it hard and uncomfortable to get out of a routine. So, not only am I facing my own difficulty in changing routines but I know I'll be facing his resistance! Even if he doesn't say anything, I can feel it! I see tomorrow as an organization and brainstorming and making checklists kind of day. No lessons, just a look at everything, discuss things, figure out things together, looking at meal planning and snack prep... Actually, we might do some religion, but I think that might be it. It will provide a transitional day with information up front about what we will be doing the next day, my expectations, etc.

To add to that, we have to go to the library tomorrow, I believe I'm picking my nieces and nephew up from school and I need to try to get a vet appointment for our dog. We thought she was just having allergies or something with some mild gunk at the corner of her eyes, but this past week, it's become real goop, especially this morning. Time to take her in.

You know, I feel kind of weird about tomorrow: first school year ever for my kids where it's just us!!! So, another change in routine pushing us out of our comfort zone!