Sunday, July 10, 2011

More school thinking

I've written down quite a bit in a notebook about my daughter's ed plan ideas for next year. I don't really want to rewrite them here at this time; maybe once I've somewhat finalized things. Some things I didn't really cover were the approach.

How are we going to approach her studies next year? She wants to cover everything a "regular" grade 9 student would cover. Do I encourage her to have a schedule? Do I simply list out the work that ought to get done during the week and the lessons she needs to see me for? Do I give her even more freedom and have the work for the semester laid out and then she goes her own pace? Do we set up a time for subjects and she goes her own pace? Different things to discuss with her about what she feels would work best for her. I know Montessori likes to integrate studies at that age; I'm not quite sure how to go about that, other than not treating French like a separate "class". Reading and writing can be incorporated with other subjects. I suppose grammar and literature could be "French class", or even separate classes in themselves.

I do really like the Charlotte Mason approach of using living books, learning to narrate orally, then written. The tough part will be for me to find suitable books for science and social studies topics (grade 9 social studies is about our federal government; uh...). And in French, to boot. I think this will be key to her starting to really feel comfortable reading and writing in French. It's ironic, isn't it--here's this francophone girl who would prefer to avoid reading and writing in French. Well, the reading has come along, but for novels, French novels don't interest her. The literary language is something she's not used to (neither am I) and she can't connect with the stories the same way. Translations from English can be horrible, too. But, I have to try to find something.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. With a muddled brain. ;)

For my son, he's technically going to be grade 6. If he had to go to school for some reason, he would find it VERY hard. There is so much he hasn't done--his handwriting is worse than my 6yo niece's, I don't think he's ever written more than a sentence at a time in English and never that much in French, all kinds of math that he hasn't covered... He's hit an age where he's much easier to work with in this regard and I really need to get him to do more this year than last year. He made some reasonable progress in math, although mostly just focused on math facts--but he didn't even cover them all, so really, it's not reasonable. I've had the thought of making a checklist by grade level of things students in school learn, but that could be hugely demoralizing. I suppose I could do it by division--a set for grades 1-3 and a set for grade 4-6. Or I could just do up a list of things and tell him that students in school, like his cousins who are the same age, are pretty much capable of doing all these things by the end of grade 6. Maybe that will be enough for him. I don't want to pressure him to get it all done; I just want to see him doing something.

Part of that will require me being consistent with our routines. I'm getting better at pushing through any foggy brain or lack of energy on my part and sticking with the plan for the morning. I suppose my first real aim with him would be to get him to the point of working 3 hours in the morning! I've done it before, worked out a list of "school activities" with him and insisted that he spend his mornings only on things from that list. I could do it again, while including in some specific lessons. I think the lessons will have to be first thing in the morning before any people have arrived. Then he will be free to keep working on what we've covered or picking things from the list. I recall doing folders in the past of work or exploration areas my dd and another girl I was homeschooling could do in the order they wished, but it had to be done sometime that week. Doesn't feel very Montessori, but it worked.

What are the main goals for my son this year? Writing--both handwriting and in general--and working. I do want to see him continuing to work on his math, and perhaps have him increase the amount of time he spends on it (he would happily work on it, but didn't like if it took more than 5-10 minutes!), but the writing and the plain working are key this year. With the writing though, I'm going to step back a bit and use Charlotte Mason non-written narration with him at first, get him thinking about things and how to say them. This is actually a kind of a struggle with him--he doesn't always find his words or says things that we go, "What do you mean?" I do sometimes wonder if they would label him as mildly LD if he were in school, but maybe it's really because he's spent years pretty much just playing--and reading English books.

For all the kids, I do want to bring into our school days picture study, nature study, music study, etc. All the enrichment-type things. Present things to them, ask them questions, have some follow-up ideas prepared for work... Kind of a mix of CM and Montessori. I have decided to read or find an audiobook of A Tale of Two Cities for this coming semester. The 17yo will be covering the French Revolution as part of his social studies work, so it ties in nicely, and I think it's my favourite Dickens book. If I could find a good audiobook of it, I think the kids would like it more than if they tried to read it on their own or if I read it. Another advantage of an audiobook is that I can play it in the van or while we're eating lunch--and I can eat and listen rather than read while they eat and eat afterward.

This reminds me: Daily schedule. I've decided that our lunch hours will only be 30 minutes long. And I will be using a timer. I haven't decided about the daily silent reading. My kids read all the time, so that's fine, but my idea of having daily reading as a way to get the 17yo to read more didn't really pan out. I don't know if I didn't stick with it long enough or what. He will just sit there and do nothing. Mind you, that's not really different from how he has approached his course work, is it? An alternative could be 30 minutes of lunch, then 30 minutes of A Tale of Two Cities (or whatever book we're on), while following along in a book. Hm, that's an idea.

In any case, the 17yo has English (grade 12), social studies (grade 11), science (grade 11), Career and Life Management and phys. ed. (grade 11) to work on first semester. He typically gets here at 9. I'm thinking of insisting on a 9-12 work morning for him, which, for the first while as he adjusts to me not reading and taking dictation from him, could mean he only gets one subject and a bit done during that time, the 30-minute lunch, then maybe, actually, just get right back into work rather than reading: 12:30-3:30. If he gets all of his work done for the day before 3:30, then he's free from work and I will continue the read-aloud (if we followed this plan, we'd do the audiobook during lunch time) or maybe we'd all go for a walk or do nature study or handwork or something. I'm suspecting for the first while that he won't have all of his work done, which means he will have to take it home with him and try to get it done there. At the end of the week, a message will be sent home to his father about the work that was supposed to have gotten done that week, what's left to get done that weekend. I've avoided telling his father much because it just seems to make things worse, but I think this format could work. Really, there's nothing for him to do for phys. ed. at my place, and Career and Life Management ought to be easy enough for him to do at home. He has plenty of time in the 6 hours set aside for work to get his English, social studies and science done. I will be adding in a daily math question--first thing in the morning--as a way to keep some of his basic skills up and possibly even to preview certain things he will cover in math 2nd semester. It still gives him pretty much 2 hours per subject each day. I know that could still be tough for him, especially since things will be very different this year.

Have I shared my plan with him here? I'm not sure I have. Even if I'm repeating myself, I'm going to share because it helps sort out my thoughts and firm it up in my mind that this is what I'm going to do.

The past two years, I have done a large part of the reading and writing for him. He is coded as having a learning disability, but he was supposed to have learned to use programs to read things for him when it was too much for him to read on his own (his reading itself isn't too bad; the pace is horrendously slow) and use MacSpeech to dictate to his computer for his writing. He must, must, must get used to this this year, especially with diploma exams coming up. There will not be any interacting with someone, get feedback with someone, etc. There will either be a person simply reading things or a computer reading things to him. For dictation, a person is going to write exactly what he says--he needs to be in a habit of saying "period", "comma", etc., and then to reread what he's written to decide if it makes sense. While he's had the advantage of being challenged to think through things more as he goes through them, he does need the experience of having to do it entirely on his own. That's what he will do this year. He is doing correspondence/online for all of his academic courses, which takes me out of the picture for lessons and assessment.

So, what will my role be?

First of all, as a guide to how to be independent with his work, someone to monitor his time management skills, help him define goals, stick with it, etc. Second, as a test prep person. I will orally quiz him on science and social studies things, give him little practice quizzes for all three subjects, give him English diploma exam prep things, etc. Also, I'll teach him how to actually learn this material throughout the semester, rather than trying to cram it in at the end. Third, as a tutor in the sense of helping build the weak skills or explaining questions he doesn't understand. And as someone to review work he's about to submit, go through the marking guidelines with him, or sample responses with him, and have him self-assess--did you explain enough? does it flow nicely? does it make sense? did you defend yourself with several reasons? etc.

There is plenty for me to do with him without being the actual teacher! He does already know that I'm changing things next year and I've explained how I will not be reading nor writing for him. I've said it more than once. It'll still be an adjustment for him. I've wondered now and then why I didn't do this earlier, but you know what? He wouldn't have cooperated earlier necessarily. Next year is his last year. He knows he needs to do things differently to be able to do final exams at the school and the diploma exams. He knows, too, that nobody will be sitting by his side for post-secondary courses, the way he's had someone up until now. It's his last chance to learn this before graduating (and actually, if he doesn't learn how to do it, he might not graduate this coming school year), and he knows it.

I think I've written a novella. ;) It's maybe time for me to stop. lol

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