Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fresh air and sunshine

    We didn't do much in the way of actual schoolwork today.  The boys all watched a few episodes of Wild Kratts and learned about the creature powers of the flying fish.  They also re-watched yesterday's episode about the black footed ferrets.   They then begged to play a few video games and Ian headed to the table to get his schoolwork done so he could watch a movie. 
     Alec asked if he could take the 9 times minute test orally and managed to pass with tons of time to spare.  Ian thought it would actually take him longer to say it out loud and decided to try writing his answers again.  He only has this test and the 12 times test and he's done so I actually thought it would give Alec a chance to possibly try and catch up to Ian (however Ian managed to get 20/21 right and I'm thinking he'll have it down pat by tomorrow morning).  I've decided to let Alec take them all orally since he still fights me so much on writing anything down.  After reading a lot of articles about kids who are really resistant to writing I've decided to back off a bit and only have him write when we're doing our cursive copy work or writer's workshop (so no more than twice a week); otherwise he can tell me all the answers-- to everything.
    After math I asked them both to work on some writing today.  I gave Ian the option of writing his own story, filling in a page in his new grammar/writing book or even reading a short story and filling out the comprehension questions in his other new book.  He's not thrilled with the new workbooks and frankly, neither am I.  After searching for a few days I had settled on these books, not so much because I loved them, but because they were the best I could find at tackling the two subjects with him that I knew he needed to work on.  I came downstairs after starting some laundry to find that Ian had done a page in each workbook; I explained to him that I had planned on him working on just one page so he actually did extra work.  He was a bit disappointed but cheered up with the thought that he was ahead. 
        It seems like I can never find the perfect workbooks that I'm looking for.  I don't even like their new math books.  They sure seem to enjoy them, and I have to admit that watching them easily and quickly complete 5 pages in one day is making me feel much less anxious about them not being on grade level (especially since I ordered them each a book for the grade they would be going into this coming school year).  However, while I know that there is harder work in these books that I will have to actually teach them at some point, I'm disappointed in how these books are organized.  The first page in Ian's 5th grade math book was about multiplying by 10, 100 and 1,000, the second page was about reducing fractions, and then half way through the book they take five or so pages Each to review the multiplication tables.  It skips around and doesn't seem to follow what I would think of as a linear progression for math.  Why teach multiplying by 10, 100 and 1,000 and then much later in the year teach (or re-teach) multiplying by 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.?  Why do one page on fractions and then skip to decimals and not mention fractions again for 65 pages?  By the time we get around to doing that page he will not remember how to reduce fractions.  I know that we don't have to tackle the book in the order it's printed (and we haven't been and won't) but I don't understand why they're made that way.  The curriculum series we bought for math last year seemed to have the opposite problem.  Once a topic was introduced it was carried throughout the next 20 lessons or so until the boys felt like it had been drummed into their heads.  I'm seriously thinking of scrapping this book and going back to teaching math myself.  I haven't mentioned it yet since the boys do seem to like it and it never hurts to review; plus I think with the promise of pizza party they're going to finish these books no matter what I say!  But I am thinking of it... It's so aggravating to see the money I've wasted on trying to find a series of "just right" books for the boys to work with.
     We finished up our morning work with Alec working on a new story.  He wrote one sentence in his Pok√©mon story from last week and told me he was done writing.  I explained that the beauty of writers workshop is that you have a set amount of time to write, re-write, edit or work on multiple stories. He did not agree.  He looked at the blank page in his book and I could just see a repeat of last week's writing meltdown about to occur.  I remembered a book of story prompts I had bought and offered to let him use them if he'd like.  Within minutes he settled on writing a story about a butterfly and a peacock (his favorite bird!).  He wrote quite a bit, used proper punctuation and pretty good spelling skills.  He had a great story and seemed to think writing wasn't quite so painless this way. 
    We packed up lunches and the older boys and I got ready to head out and meet up with our homeschool group.  Evan (who I still thinking is making up his symptoms) decided he'd rather stay home with his grandmother and since she was willing to babysit and I was fine with his decision.  We met up with our homeschool group at a local dam and a ranger took us around talking about snowmelt, rain and flood management.  We got to go inside the dam and see how they raise and lower the floodgates, how they read the height of the water, what they use to block sticks and trees from damaging the dam and so much more.  We spotted a bald eagle, many dogs and got tons of fresh air and exercise.  The boys played soccer, tag, tried climbing trees and got out lots of excess energy.  We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed some fresh air as well as some fresh new faces.  Two years later and we're still meeting new people each and every time we get together with other homeschoolers.  There are so many new people turning to homeschooling as an option nowadays and it's amazing to me that two years later we're somewhat considered veterans!  I'm happy to meet, help. and encourage new families who are just starting out.  It can be overwhelming and it's not ALWAYS fun and games, but it sure it amazing when the whole world is your school and you can share it with those you love the most-- your family!
water flowing out of the flood control dam

Learning how to read the height of the water

Checking out the inside of the dam 


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