Friday, November 14, 2014

I Got Them To Write Stories!

     Some days it's like pulling teeth to get the boys to do anything around here.  We started school promptly at 8 this morning.  I wanted to make sure we weren't slacking off on schoolwork again and I was leaving for a good portion of the afternoon.  Since Ian was the first one ready, and Modern Marvels had finished (I wasn't going to interrupt a show about history), I started school with him first.  We did half of lesson 4 in his Verbal Math book and we dealt with adding two digit numbers together.  He did awesome and took off to do another drafting drawing in his room, following his father's instructions.
    The day was off to a good start and I was happy.  Evan was asking me to start school with him and I was glad that he was so eager.  Unfortunately he was completely unable to concentrate on ANYTHING today.  We started with his Verbal Math book and within just a few short minutes I asked him if he'd rather be writing down some math problems instead.  Basic questions like 6-2 were stumping him beyond belief.  He was completely antsy and kept distracting himself by playing with the pillows and couch cushions or looking out the window.  It was torture!  He kept calling out random numbers not even trying.  But he refused to try any other form of math today so we continued on.  I had to stop two more times and we had a nice long talk about focusing, THINKING before answering and not just randomly shouting out numbers, and applying ourselves to our learning.  We tried for a third and final time to get through the lesson.  We made it and he did much better after our talks but I hate when all I can say is we got through a lesson.  I can't help but wonder if he really learned all that much today when he obviously wasn't focusing on the task at hand. 
      I'd like to say it got better but it didn't.  He wanted to move onto reading and we read My New Friend Is So Fun!  I knew that was going to be today's book choice and I was happy that he was eager to find out what happened.  Unfortunately he couldn't sit still long enough to read either.  He was on the couch, on the floor, lying sideways, etc.  At first I tried holding the book and running my hands under the words for him but as he moved he ended up moving so much he couldn't really see the book anymore and was just making random guesses as to what he thought would happen next in the story.  I finally handed him the book-- he did so well yesterday when he was in charge of reading and I was to busy to track the words for him.  I also noticed he was much more likely to correct himself when I didn't jump right in to correct him.  So I tried backing off today.  Um, yeah, that was a big mistake.  He couldn't even keep the book still.  He just kept right on reading; mistakes and all.  I finally hauled him back to the couch, took the book back and gave him another talking to.  We finished the book and there were pages here and there where he did great.  Reading right through words like sometimes and friend and I'd feel elated.  Then we'd come to a simple word like "a" or "at" and it would take what felt like hours for him to come up with the right words and sounds.  It was torture.  I was starting to think it was me and my attitude. 
   Not one to give up, I convinced Evan to work with me a bit more in his reading lesson book.  We've taken a pretty long break from the book but I've noticed he definitely needs more practice with letter/ sound correlation and he has really enjoyed working with the book in the past.  We reviewed each letter and it's sound.  We reviewed the sight words found at the end of each lesson and we worked on the next two pages.  Slowly and painfully, yet again.  I finally took pity on us both and told him he could play for the rest of the day.  We were done. 
    Ian had finished more than half of his drafting assignment and wanted to move on to some other schoolwork.  We had talked about writing today.  I told him I wanted to see him writing something, anything!  I gave him tons of suggestions; his cursive book, one of the Draw Write Now books, a story starter, or even any of the ideas on my board of pictures and story prompts on my Pinterest page.  He settled on a story starter about what his tree house would be like if he built one.  I asked for 4 complete sentences.  Other than some major spelling mistakes and a few punctuation errors he did a really good job.  I held myself back from correcting all but the simplest spelling mistakes (were instead of where or owen instead of own- that kind of thing).  We had a mini lesson in the right use of their and there.  I showed him that here, there and where are all "places" and have the same word here in it.  We compared them to hear, wear, and their and talked about when to use each word.  He told me that made a lot of sense to him; hopefully he'll remember which one to use next time.  I was careful to make sure our mini lesson was very mini since I wanted to focus on his writing and his story and not necessarily on English and grammar; something I'm pretty bad at when asking the kids to write.  Really, it's no wonder my kids hate to write.  I mark up their papers so much with all the little mistakes that I often loose sight of the actual story.  Today I had vowed to focus on the story itself and try to help them enjoy the writing process.  So I held back from correcting overly much and listened to his story.  He ended up with 5 great sentences.  He wrote a paragraph!  We went from hardly writing one or two words to a paragraph!  I was thrilled.  Of course there's always room for improvement but for us, this is a huge step.  Want to hear it?  Of course you do!
   "The tree house would have a bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, deck and two fireplaces.  It also has a small second floor which has a soft carpet, bean bags, a mini fridge, and lots of outlets.  There is a bridge from the tree house to a private lab where I made a hover board and a boxing robot that is indestructible.  I built the tree house to get away from my parents.  Since it is mine, I can make my own rules." 
   Ian went up to his room to read a chapter in his new book Mrs. Lane is a Pain!  We picked up this latest book in the My Weirder School series the other day and Ian and I read chapter 1 together last night.  He enjoys these books so it's not complete torture for him to read a chapter on his own.  I love seeing my boys read on their own but I did have to know what was happening next in the story so I asked Ian to fill me in when he got back down stairs.  He quickly read all about Texas from our postcard that we got in last night and then went to happily play with his trucks. 
    This whole time Alec was upstairs showering and getting ready for the day.  I have no idea what took him so long but it was pretty late by the time I saw him. He had practiced his flash cards and was ready for his math minute.  He passed his 7's today and will move onto his last set of facts next week.  He really did not want to move onto the 12's until I told him he had no other choice since those are the only ones left!  He started drawing a nice picture on the back of his math minute and I let him be for a bit.  He stopped drawing and we did the same Verbal Math lesson Ian and I went over earlier.  Alec did great but he was extremely reluctant to move onto writing.
      He tends to be my most creative but hates the actual act of writing.  I told him I found a story prompt I thought he might like about being a zoologist and discovering a new animal species.  He got to make up his own animal and tell me all about it.  His eyes just lit up and I thought "yes! I finally found something to motivate him." He had great ideas and told me all about them in such details... but still he didn't write anything down.  He started coloring his picture on the back of his math minute and procrastinated until we were just about out of time.  He was in tears as I was telling him that he had less than one hour and I needed at least 4 sentences from him.  He had the ideas-- he just needed to start writing.  It's so hard to get him to actually write.  It's sad because he used to love to write his own stories and I'm not sure when (or where along the way) that all that changed.  Once we got him started he had a great beginning to his story.  He managed to get all 4 sentences in by the time we had to leave-- barely.  Want to hear his too? I know you do!
   " I am a zoologist and one day I found this amazing creature.  I thought it was a griffin at first but it was not a griffin.  It had the legs of a leopard, the tail of a hawk, the wings of an eagle, the head of a lion, and the body of a tiger.  I found the animal when I was walking at the edge of a savannah and a jungle..."  I can't wait to hear about what happens next! 
   He brought his Wings of Fire book in the car and started reading part 2 of the story on our way to my husbands my work.  I passed the kids off to my mother in law and she took them to her house for lunch and then back home for the afternoon.  They watched a Tinker Bell movie all together in my bed (quietly and getting along!).  They had a fun afternoon with my mother in law and were very well behaved.
   The boys checked on the cats next door a few times throughout the day since it was pretty cold today.  We got a dusting of snow last night and it seemed like winter crept in while we were sleeping.  The younger boys played Wii, Ian watched an episode of The Edge of Alaska and then we played Life together. 

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