Friday, April 4, 2014

Back to the Basics

     After having taken most of the week off and relaxing on our schooling I was once again panicking.  I hate to point blame but mostly I was freaking out because the boys wrote, in chalk, on our driveway yesterday, "I hate schoole."  Yes, they put an e on school.  I was a bit upset thinking Alec spelled school wrong but was horrified when I learned it was Ian.  My soon to be 5th grader can't spell school?!  He used to have good spelling so I was forced to ponder what happened.  And by ponder I, of course, mean that I was up tossing and turning most of the night.  Envisioning a horrible future for him in which he could barely red, write or spell and no one wanted to give him a job.  I know I'm over reacting, I KNOW it, yet I can't seem to help it!  Ian has always been my struggling student.  My unsure, stumbling, student that needed constant reassurance on how to complete any "school- like" task.  Always!  Even in public school he struggled to keep his grades up, to remember spelling words from one week's test to the next, to comprehend and keep everything from reading to spelling to writing to math straight.  It's just the kind of kid he is.  But, I do think that means we need to be working just a bit harder.  But I didn't want to jump back into lessons upon lessons and have all the kids balk again either. 
     I needed to run a few more errands this morning so we all piled into the car and listened to some more of The Lost Hero.   It's the final day of our heroes quest and they're battling giants.  It's so gripping the boys didn't want to get out of the car again! 
   Once home, Alec finished reading his Horrible Harry chapter book and we all settled at the table.  The older boys started with their math minutes but since neither one bothered to practice all week they didn't do any better than they did last week.  Ian went on to pick a page in his math workbook while Alec drew a very detailed picture on the back of his math minute test.  Ian picked a page on shading fractions and I thought it was pretty basic, especially since it was at the end of his book.  Come to find out; he was using Alec book!  Both boys were really upset by this-- Ian because he now had to do another page and Alec because his brother wrote in his book and I made a giant "c" mark on the page after I finished correcting it (which Alec HATES).  Ian finally pulled out his own math book and we worked on a page about lines of symmetry.  Even though Alec did 5 extra pages last Friday and didn't have to do any pages today he decided to do another 4 or 5 pages today so  he could have next week off too.  He told me he'd like to do this every week.   I told him as long as his work is getting done I don't care when or how he does it. He looked through his book and picked out a page where he had to figure out the pattern.  For one of the patterns he ran into some multiplication facts he didn't know but he figured them out.  Thinking out loud he told me that 3 x 13  was simple because he just had to think that 3 three times was 9 and then adding up three ten's was  3 so the answer was 39.  He then figured 3 x15 was 45 following the same pattern of thinking and carrying over the ten's column when needed.  He moved on to finish a few pages about the fives times table and the tens times table.  The work was so easy and so basic for him I'm starting to wonder if I should have gotten him a 4th grade book instead of a third grade book.  But I'm sure there will be harder lessons in there and he's just picking out the easy ones to work on for now.


     While the older boys were working on math Evan was watching a video and listening to a song on YouTube.  Apparently the song was too babyish though and he was horrified that I had picked it out for him to listen to and sing along with.  I offered to print him out a dot to dot or something else to do but he rolled his eyes, sighed and said he'd watch it.  I lost count of the amount of times he rolled his eyes during the song and he was embarrassed to have his brothers hear or see it.  If you have younger kids (or kids who like to have fun!) here's the link to the song.  It was cute and catchy and worked on counting by 2's up to thirty and even showed them the patterns in numbers.  I had hoped he'd be more receptive to it and perhaps even sing along but I guess not. 
    From the computer, Evan went to sit at the kitchen table and I pulled out play dough, my alphabet stamps and his sight word cards.  He practiced spelling his words in the play dough and read them out loud to me.  He had lots of fun, and out of the 8 sight words I pulled out to practice with today, he only didn't know three of them.  We then sat together and read another book.  He's just about finished with the level "b" books and they're getting quite challenging.  I talked with him the importance of looking at the words and trying to remember them from story to story.  We'll keep working and if need to take a step back instead of continuing on, but as long as he's reading, comprehending and enjoying it we'll continue forward.  I don't want to keep pushing him forward though unless he really is grasping it since we have plenty of time and I want to keep reading as fun as possible. 

   Once Ian finished his math I had him pull out his journal and I told the older boys that once a week we're going to be having a writer's workshop.  They can write about anything they want but they have to write.  We'll work on spelling, punctuation, adding details to story and making them nice and long with a good flow and story to them.  Ian wasn't thrilled but he set to work and wrote a great story about logging and building a tree house.  His spelling was atrocious but usually once I pointed out a misspelled word he could easily correct it.  Neither boy balked too much but they obviously weren't jumping up and down with joy.  I offered to buy them copywork books instead if they felt better writing that way.  Alec absolutely did not want to work on any copywork but Ian asked if he could sometimes work on his own stories and sometimes work on copywork.  I said sure and set to work scouting websites trying to find a good copywork workbook.  I couldn't find any I liked but I did stumble upon a writing workbook and a reading comprehension book for using with Ian that I hope he'll be receptive to.  As much as I don't like worksheets and traditional schoolwork I have learned that Ian really does.  He doesn't love schoolwork or anything but he likes seeing that he has these three or two worksheets for the day and knowing he's done when he's finished them at his own pace.      
        Alec asked if he had to do writing on a set/ certain day or if he could write whenever he felt like it.  I told him that much like math and reading, writing is one of those skills that I'm  never going to tell him not to work on.  But I warned him that if he wants to be in charge of making sure he does his math and his writing and his reading every week he needs to find a way to hold himself accountable.  If, come Friday, none of it has been done he will be forced to sit and do it all on Friday.  I've been trying for two years to get my kids to be independent learners so if Alec wants to give it a try I'm all for it!  Then he proceeded to procrastinate, whine, cry and never wrote anything until late afternoon; I did not take that as a good sign. 
    During lunch we watched a movie; Families of the United States.  We learned about a 5 year old boy's life in South Dakota on a farm and a 10 year old girl's life in the city of Wilmington, Delaware.  We have a few others in the series we'd like to watch and I'm constantly requesting a movie or two.  It's a very engaging way of learning about geography.  We also watched a movie called Donald in Mathmagic Land.   I saw this movie listen on Amazon last week and thought it might be a fun and engaging way for the boys to learn a bit more about math.  It was pretty cute and not so boring that the boys didn't want to sit and watch it.  We learned all about math in nature and science. 
   Once our movies were over we finished up our day with a quick Peeps science experiment.  First up, the boys each wanted to taste a Peep.  I can't say I agree that they've never had one before but I know better than to bring anything edible into our school day without planning on extras for snacks.  Once they all gobbled up their bunny we talked about the different experiments I've seen on Pinterest.  The boys wanted to try melting the bunnies in the microwave.  They hypothesized that the bunny would turn to marshmallow goo like Fluff when heated.  They did not expect the bunny to gown and expand first though.  They thought it was so awesome that they wanted to try the experiment again using two bunnies and see if they would grow into one another and get stuck.  I let them sample a small piece of the melted bunnies too and they assured me it tasted just like Fluff. 
our before picture

Our during picture-- sorry it's not the best, but it's not easy to take
a picture of a shiny microwave!  And I wanted to capture the Peep
in mid- puff; they quickly deflate once the microwave goes off.


    For our final experiment the boys wanted to try dissolving the Peeps.  They wanted to try vinegar, hot water, and vanilla extract; the three top contenders from our dissolving candy experiment we did around Christmas time.  Right away we noticed the hot water turned pink and the bunny had a rim of foam around it.  The boys had already decided that hot water would work the best and used this as evidence that they were right.
our peeps at the start of our experiment

the foaming bunny in the hot water

by late afternoon we swapped out the soggy paper bowls and
turned the peeps over to see if there had been any change; some, but
not much!  We found most of the sugar had come off the
outside but the marshmallow part stayed the same. 

    While Alec sat down to work on his story the other two boys went back outside to play.  It was painful!  I tried to help and he finally got into writing the story, but by that time we had to clean up and get ready for karate.  We had a long talk about working, focusing, and trying.  I reminded him that we'll be trying to have a little writer's workshop time each week so he can keep adding to this story if he'd like. 

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