Friday, May 24, 2013

School year is nearing its end--so looking at next year!

As I often start doing in May, even though we still have work to do in the school year (our school year doesn't technically end before the last Thursday in June), my mind is working ahead to next year.

My 15yo has struggled a lot with the change in learning approach this year and the perfectionism, high standards and frustrations that come with being (likely) gifted have reared their ugly heads very strongly. She is very behind in her work, something we have discussed we can't let happen like this next year. Some solutions we have come up with:

*She can't participate in Rangers (Girl Guides) evenings or camps if she's not on track (this would be a HUGE blow! but it's a logical thing to have as a consequence).

*She really wants a job. I have said that I haven't decided yet but either I will ask her to prove to me that she can stay on track with her work for a while before she finds herself a job or that keeping a job she finds will be conditional upon her staying on track with her work.

*I have had the thought that she ought to be told by teachers roughly how much she should have done each week; she will be expected to work on school work all weekend and forego some luxuries if she's not caught up.

Another part of her stress now is that I have ended up doing the bulk of the reading for her (it was a way for her to stay focused, be interactive since I stop and comment and ask questions of her) and she stresses so much with her writing assignments that I sit next to her the entire time and sometimes write down what she says, suggest things, etc. She is far too stressed to simply "figure it out" or "try it on your own"--she has more than half the course work to do in 3 core subjects. In less than a month. Her stress is understandable and with stress comes blocks in able to think. (Some of her issues are with her English course but to contact the teacher and ask for clarification or any kind of help has not helped AT ALL, and often just confuses or frustrates more, so I have had to take on the teacher/tutor job full-time with that. It's been a rough year for this course!)

With the fall semester, I want to have a morning meeting of sorts with her, sit down and look at what the teachers expect to be done that week (and if they haven't told her, we figure out something and commit to it), what her plan is for the day, what she anticipates needing help with, etc. We would have a check-in at the end of the day to see if she needs to do "homework" that evening. I think if she can find her flow, and learn to play the "school game" a bit, she could potentially be done ALL of her required daily school work by 2pm each day, even if she doesn't start before 9am.


For my son, I have finally admitted to myself that I can't rely on my own devices. I am going to find some programs or resources or something to use as part of our school days but still give him some "Montessori say"--give him flexibility of when he'll work on what, but still have accountability deadlines for a certain amount of work. Things like that. I know I've seen Montessori jr highs that have used things like Saxon math for their math--it's simply that the student had the option of going their own pace, but with the understanding that they would still get a certain amount done within a semester or some such.

Some decisions made/thoughts for his work:

*Math: Keep going with Life of Fred and supplementation as needed. He will finish the Fractions book by the end of June, although with a rather shaky grasp of certain fractions concepts and his multiplication and division tables, I suspect, which is where the supplementation will come in once fall is here (probably using the Key to Fractions books and/or the Ray's Arithmetic books we have). Yes, I've been skipping The Bridge parts--it gets too frustrating or overwhelming and I really do want to see the book done by the end of June. We have the Decimals and Percents book (WITH the Bridges) which I will set a deadline for him to finish, probably end of October given there are 31 lessons plus the Bridges. After that, we apparently have skipped some books and have the Beginning Algebra book as the next book. It doesn't sound like I should jump him to that. My thoughts at the moment are to go back to the local grade 7 text and make sure everything has been covered and then do whatever is necessary in the local grade 8 text. Or he can take his pick between that, Key to or Ray's. Or if he's really loving Fred, get the missing three books. I have hinted that we might work on times tables here and there throughout the summer.

*Language Arts (both English and French):
-grammar: We have a whole bunch of different French grammar workbooks. I don't know that we have what would be needed for him exactly, and there's always the aspect of starting a new book and having a deadline. In any case, French grammar will have something set for him to do. (Actually, I have an old workbook, one I actually did when I was in junior high!, that I can copy and have him do--you can't get this book anymore, so I have no qualms about copying! It's quite a good resource.)

-spelling: I have Sequential Spelling for English, which I'm toying with the idea of insisting he does. For French, a lot of French spelling work is accomplished through learning grammar. I think I can take a more Montessori approach with this and we can develop his own personal dictionary for French words that give him trouble.

-writing: I don't think he's written a paragraph in his life. Thoughts at the moment are to use the Writing Strands program we have for part of the writing (can alternate the overall assignments between English and French) and perhaps finding some sort of typical classroom reading resource with questions, something to do maybe once a week, to have familiarity with that kind of thing. (This thought has come as a result of my daughter's resistance to all this new stuff and not having a sense of how it's to be done--because she's never done it and had it evaluated--and feeling the pressure that comes with marks and credits.) Overall goal for the year would be for him to have had practice in writing various kinds of texts (short story, auto/biography, poetry, letter--both personal and formal--and his first essay.

-reading: I may assign books to read or give him a choice of books to read, in both English and French. He doesn't question so much how to write things in English, but he hesitates in French because he doesn't read enough in French. I think I'd like to have a minimum number of books he needs to read. And yet, maybe not: When he really gets into something, he'll read it very quickly and move onto another book right away. If I say, "At least 10 books, a book per month," I could see him reading a book the first week and not touching another book the rest of the month... Perhaps I need less structure in this regard and just keep connecting with the goal of having him read a lot in both languages. Although I am toying with the idea of doing a novel study in each of the languages. (Perhaps Great Books-style for one?)

-Shakespeare will be a must.

-Oral: He does not project his voice well. In fact, my husband and I are constantly after him to speak more loudly or more clearly. Then there's the aspect of being able to tell back things. His speech is not always fluid in this regard. I'm thinking a bit of Charlotte Mason-style narration and recitation (actually, I think many Montessori schools also do recitation). I'll need to think more about this. (Actually, CM could be a help in more than one subject area...)

My thinking ahead to grade 9 is that we actually follow our school's online course work--without actually signing him up (or perhaps we will? lol)--so he gets a feel of just how much of that kind of work to expect in grade 10. He's not easy to predict in terms of his adaptability to new things. ELA is such an important subject, I think I'd like to take extra care to really prepare him.

*Science: I have NO idea what I'll do for science. I tried seeing if there was a text in French for the local schools, so we could kind of do the same thing, but then I remembered that I have the grade 9 French science text and it SUCKS, for lack of a better word. They had two English texts to choose from to do the translation and picked the wrong one. lol. We have all kinds of science stuff in the house. Tons. That's untouched. Perhaps we could structure it differently and set up a schedule of when we're going to use what? At the same time, the grade 8 science program here has some neat topics... I may just rent the science text from the school board and we can use it as we please. I keep trying to remind myself that meeting local standards--and going beyond--is what many Montessori schools aim to do.

*Social Studies: Ugh. I like history and geography but not the typical social studies programs we have here. The texts simply seem to throw in large amounts of information. Yet, my brain is working again to say that Montessoris aim to meet and exceed local curriculum. I'm thinking I did a disservice to my daughter in my approach of not working through local topics and expectations. Part of me kept hearing stories of unschooled students who hopped into high school and did fantastically. I didn't click, somehow, that some of the issues we faced in jr. high when she would want me to give her work but then would get too frustrated with it would follow her into high school work. At the same time... There's a lot of new above. If there were one subject I'd willing to be lax on in terms of standards for his grade 8 year, this would be the one. I'd rather have it integrated with language arts, writing opinion essays and researching historical events and civilizations and people. The local program covers "world views" (so exciting and pertinent to a 13yo, no? (sic)), the Renaissance (now THAT could be interesting!), "Japan--from Isolation to Adapataion" (um...) and then current events. Heck, if we can cover one of the units and perhaps go as in-depth as we would like, that could be a good year. I had wanted to cover world history this year in a very brief fashion but my heart's not actually in it. Well, my interest isn't, so hard to figure out what to do with my son with it! The Renaissance, though... That could lead to a huge year-long study with all the interconnected things: the art, the science, the people, the literature... It could actually be a lot of fun!

*Other subjects:
-Physical education: He's not likely to take up a team or anything but I think we should do something regular for it. I'll have to think about this.
-Religion: We still haven't finished the Faith and Life books I had meant to finish! I think I need to put reminders in my phone or computer so that I get told, "Hey, have you been working on this?" lol. OR write out a full year plan and schedule, keep it in a binder that gets checked daily.
-Options: If he were going to school, he'd be required to pick some options, three, I believe. I'm going to require that he pick some options. He can have home economics, art (or specifically drawing, ink drawing and other things related to cartooning), music (that would be a super good choice for him) or I don't know what else. Computer studies. A third language would be another option. We could always do something where he has a single option for x months and then switch.
-Self-directed learning. My goal is not to fill his time during the day with stuff I've decided. I want to get him working more in part to plant those seeds and perhaps help him find some interests other than playing on the computer and reading books that are, in a way, too easy for him. I envision part of the day or week or something being an open learning time where he picks whatever is he wants to work on. I may need to inspire him and say, "Well, I'm going to do this (lapbook, notebooking, building project, whatever it is...)."

Ahh, it feels good to get some thoughts down. :) I feel like I have a focus again! (I ought to have my own plan: my own teacher preparation plan. When's the last time I read a Montessori book?)

No comments:

Post a Comment