Assessment of Term 1 2013, and looking forward to Term 2

Term 1 went well. Hooray!

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Particular successes from last term:

  • Day trips to the Maritime Museum and CSIRO for workshops loosely based on the Gold Rush.

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  • Samba drumming workshop with SHEN.
  • Both boys scoring 100% in a spelling test
  • The homeschooling athletics carnival

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I’m going to keep all these things the same in Term 2:Freewriting, Poetry Teatimes and Movie Night from Brave Writer; Sequential Spelling; Maths at Dinnertime; Life of Fred; project time on Tuesdays; homeschooling meetups on Thursdays (SHRIMPS)

I’m going to change these things: Maths with Pokemon Boy; exercise; handwriting; History; new nanny; work with Reptile Boy; possibly English with Drama King; more time on creative arts (music and visual art).

I’m not very good at keeping things exactly the same. I’m reassured that the Japanese have a name for my approach (kaizen) but I’m still not sure if it’s a good or bad habit.

Maths

We haven’t been doing enough Maths. I try not to worry about the BOS guidelines but I’ve realised we aren’t spending even half the time in Maths that we are supposed to be doing. I suppose I had hoped the boys would work things out with general everyday maths (how long it will take them to save up for certain items with their pocket money, how to divide four jam tarts between the six of us etc.) plus Life of Fred, Studyladder and intensive sessions with me on particular topics. All these approaches definitely help. But what I’m finding is that Pokemon Boy, in particular, has some real sticking points. I know that a lot of this is to do with his learning style, and I’m trying hard to find activities and solutions that work for him. Nevertheless I can’t escape really putting in the time to make sure the concepts go in. Practice makes perfect, after all.

We are starting Term 2 doing some sample lessons from Math-u-See and Teaching Textbooks. Whichever approach seems to work well for him, we will buy the material and go with that. He loves Manga High and so we will carry on with that on Tuesdays (our ‘screen day’). Drama King is whizzing through the Life of Fred elementary books and also loves StudyLadder so I see no reason to change either of those. Maths at Dinnertime works well when we remember to do it.

Exercise

Little Athletics has finished, and the boys were not particularly inspired by Family Time Fitness so I have stopped doing that for now. I’ve registered the family for a few fun-runs, and we are joining in with some cross-country sessions organised by Richard Sarkies at Hooked on Health. My man (must find a pseudonym for him) is taking Pokemon Boy cycling at the weekends, and possibly playing some soccer with Drama King. I’ll also carry on going to Manly Pool with them once a week.

Handwriting

Last week I somehow dropped this from our weekly schedule. Even if the boys spend more and more time online, using keyboards or touchscreens, handwriting practice is still important for fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and simply for producing legible handwriting. Both boys have a handwriting workbook to work through, and I think I’ll print out some mazes and colouring for alternative activities.

Projects

We are carrying on with project time set aside on Tuesdays, but I want to make this more of a focus in our homeschooling. Now that I am becoming more confident with covering the Key Learning Areas, I want to make sure that I encourage the children in their own interests.

I have been particularly inspired by Lori Pickert’s book and blog Project-Based Homeschooling. It’s all about authentic, deep learning. If I let them concentrate on things they really want to do, I hope they can find the joy of pursuing a project right to completion, develop real problem-solving skills and skills in working and learning. There’s loads I haven’t done (particularly organising our space so that it encourages them to work on their projects) but already I feel we are moving in the right direction.

For the last two terms both boys have worked together on the Youth Digital Game Design courses. I was pretty impressed by how they sorted out this relationship. Pokemon Boy went into the Game Design 2 course with more prior knowledge, so they arranged that he would take a back seat while Drama King answered the quiz questions. However, I feel this is Pokemon Boy’s area of interest more than Drama King’s. I asked Drama King to choose a different area to work on. He chose to do music with me. We are going to mostly use the keyboard (borrowed from another homeschooling friend) and the recorder. I want to try the video instruction from Simply Music. Drama King plays by ear a lot of the time and I like the approach, which builds up a repertoire of pieces without having to read musical notation in parallel. I’ve also started sending him to the children’s choir at Sydney Vocal Arts Centre, run by Margi Cohen. Drama King always enjoys Margi’s holiday programs and I think she has a great knack of encouraging musicality and vocal skills in all children. I have really seen his vocal technique improve in the past two years.

New nanny

We now have a wonderful new nanny, Sarah Fletcher, or Sarah Mermaid as she is also known. Her varied portfolio is displayed on her website: eco mermaid; organic stylist; belly dancing and kundalini yoga. Sarah has also trained as a Steiner teacher. She was recommended by another AP mum and fits right in to our household. On her first day here even Pokemon Boy was persuaded to go outside and do a beach clean up (see the Two Hands Project website). Having Sarah at home one day a week will allow me to exercise, plan my science clubs and set up new baby signing classes. The boys still have a bit of bookwork to do on Wednesdays but if they get it done pretty quickly they can spend more time outside looking after the environment. Sarah and I would both love it if they did some eco art and craft activities. I have plenty of items at home that I can’t bear to throw away and they will pick up loads more if they do regular beach clean-ups.

Reptile Boy

Reptile Boy loves his time at Ivanhoe Park preschool but is also increasingly keen to learn in slightly more formal ways. I have picked up some second-hand kits for All about Spelling and Math-U-See so we can do a few minutes now and then. He already has a Handwriting without Tears book and a whiteboard with the lowercase alphabet on it, and he likes doing Blobble Write on Pokemon Boy’s iPad. I might also start looking at Dogs and Birds with him on the keyboard. I am happy I have all these resources but I’m only using them when he’s keen as there’s no need to hurry any of this.

English with Drama King

I have been so encouraged by using the Brave Writer approach with Pokemon Boy. He has gone from writing barely even a sentence in response to worksheet questions, to writing long pieces on his own blog, and even considering ‘author’ as a possible career! The two elements which helped Pokemon Boy the most were me acting as his scribe (separating ideas generation from the physical action of handwriting) and making sure he realised that freewriting meant starting from whatever interested him.

I have been disappointed by Drama King’s response, especially with the freewriting, which is one of the key Brave Writer elements. Even scribing for him didn’t help; in fact he told me that it was harder when I was there writing down his words. I looked into various writing packages and I was tempted by Writing with Ease or by WriteShop Junior. The second package looked like it was well structured but would be a lot more work for me at a time when I’m trying to get the boys to be more self directed. Luckily we have just tried using Notes on the iPad for their freewriting and (after much hilarity about the mistakes it makes) this was very successful. For now, we are sticking with Brave Writer and I’ll assess the situation again at the end of this term.

Creative Arts

Drama King has all his music as listed above, and Pokemon Boy has another set of workshops coming up with the Hundred Monkeys Project, run by the wonderful owners of Desire Books. I’m scheduling in a little bit more creative time on Friday afternoons, so Drama King can create visual artworks and Pokemon Boy can switch to a musician’s hat for once. Artventure and Garage Band for iPad are good options when I’m not feeling inspired or need to spend time without giving them direct instruction. (Artventure currently have four of their videos up for free if anyone wants to try them without subscribing.)

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About scimumsam

An ex scientist living in Australia, currently tutoring maths and science and homeschooling my own children. I blog about science and maths education on NurtureLearning.com, and homeschooling (infrequently) on lookingslantwise.
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