Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wrapping up the School Year and Reflections

The school year, both for my home schooled son and my public schooled daughter, is coming to a close. I'm looking forward to summer fun with the kids, especially our outings to the pool. But we'll still be working - just in a much more informal way.

My daughter wants to learn cursive and will be entering 4th grade. With all the studying for the standardized testing, there was no time for cursive to be taught at school. So, I'll be teaching that at home this summer because I believe not having cursive writing as a skill is a big disadvantage. She'll also need to keep practicing her math facts.

For my son, we need to keep him writing and keep him studying his math facts. My son wants to continue our educational field trips and to continue to watch educational videos and to read. He's really loving to read and sometimes he goes to bed with a book.

Both kids want to learn to write computer programs. My son says he wants to program DS games. I explained to him that he just might do that someday but in the beginning he might be programming some smaller tasks. So, my husband will be looking into one of those kid friendly computer codes.

As we end our home schooling year, I am breathing a little sigh of relief. I would do it again if I had the decision to make again, but it was challenging working full-time outside the home and homeschooling one kid and keeping up our involvement in our daughter's education too. At the same time it was rewarding and both children ended up with some really enriching experiences.

Next fall, we will send my son back to public school and I'm hoping it works out better for him this time. If not, we're always ready here to home school.

If I was a stay at home Mom, I think I would have pulled my daughter out too when I pulled my son out, and we wouldn't be putting either back in this coming fall.

On a last note ... given that both my kids are now reading very successfully, I'm not sure whether to change the focus of the blog going forward or not.....

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Learning Behavior

The following is an interesting article entitled "Children are at School to Learn, not to Behave." It is about encouraging learning behavior and not focusing so much on "good behavior."

Learning Behavior Teaching

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Expecting too Much from Young Children: Common Core Standards

I mentioned my son not wanting to write stories in another blog post, but I did not mention that in addition to needing to write stories, the school was expecting my son to write with topic sentences and a beginning, middle and end to his stories. In the teacher's defense, she was only doing what was required by the new Common Core Standards. Here are a few articles about how the common core standards for the earlier grades may not be developmentally appropriate.

And, an article about the problem of creating tougher standards in general:

Education Reform - Graduating High School Early

The link above concerns a new proposal that high school students who are ready could graduate from high school at 16 and start college. I read about this originally on another page recently and I can't find that page now. On the other page, the proponent had suggested that for some talented high school students, it doesn't make sense for them to have to remain in high school for 2 more years just so that they are there for a prescribed period of time. Instead, the thought is that some of these students might be ready for higher study and why not let them start to work towards their college educations.

In researching home schooling, as I now am home schooling my son, I have discovered that in our state, because the compulsory attendance age stops at 16, home schoolers are no longer required to submit paperwork to the school district once a child reaches 16. I also have learned that some of these 16 plus home schooled children are actually attending community colleges and earning college credit. There is even a means for a 16 year old here to take the GED if it is needed in order to be accepted in a college program. This has made me start to wonder if I should pull my kids out at 16, help them get their GEDs and have them start college.

I don't have to decide now as I have an 8 year old and a 6 year old, but I do like that these ideas are being discussed and considered. I also like that under the proposal above, the students who start college early could be taking the courses at their high schools with other students their ages.

A Bit TIred But No Regrets

As a mom who works full-time outside the home, the home schooling regimen is a bit tiring. Probably about 90 percent of my time outside of work is now spent home schooling my son and attending to the educational needs of my daughter who is still attending the public school. The housework is a bit behind but everyone does have clean clothes and we do have food to eat thanks to the help of my husband who has done the laundry and gone on many grocery trips for me.

I just have 4 months to go before the end of our school year. I will make it and both my children will be appropriately educated. Some other things will just have to slide...

That being said, I have no regrets regarding my decision to take my son out of school and to home school him. The only regret I have is not having done it sooner. The progress my son has made with his education in the 3 months since we've started home schooling is wonderful. He loves learning and is progressing very well in his reading, which he now loves. My son's reading tutor who sees him once a week has determined that my son is reading at Level I. But when we go to the library my son is now selecting any book that interests him and will try any difficulty of book.

The one area that I wish was farther along with is his writing. That was a big issue for him in school and he had been refusing to write. We discovered on our own that he actually had some fine motor skills issues and was having difficulty crossing the midline. The school should have discovered it over a year before we discovered it on our own. It's no wonder that my son had built up a resistance to writing.

We have arranged for OT for him and we are working on a figure 8 writing exercise that it is supposed to help with the midline issues (Smart Kids Who Hate to Write, Dianne Craft). My son is writing words, and sentences without too much complaint but he still will not write stories. We decided, however, not to push on the story writing (he's only 6 after all) and to allow our son to work up his confidence over time by continuing to write and also by working out the midline problems. We are also teaching spelling, grammar and phonics - all necessary building blocks for writing.

Today, my son told me that he loves to write - he never said that before. So hopefully, this is a good sign that the writing problems are working themselves out with some appropriate instruction.

Btw, as you can guess, because we had reading tutoring with phonics for him right from the start, my son does not have the guessing the words problem that my daughter had. We did not rely on the school's methods only. We are fortunately that he did not have to go through the reading problems that our daughter had.

My daughter still occasionally guesses and guesses wrong, but its less and less and she is a good reader. But now I'm seeing that she has writing difficulties of her own and we're working on those too. Once again, however, what is the school doing to help - it doesn't appears as if it is limited to giving her a low grade and reporting the problems to me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Development - Home Schooling

I have not written for a long time because we had a rough fall. My son who just turned 6 in November and was in first grade was having a terrible time adjusting to school this year. To make a long story short, we decided that the best thing for him was to remove him from his public school and to homeschool him.

We've been home schooling for about a month now and it's not easy work, but it is worth it. We have our happy son back (school was making him miserable) and he is progressing very well.

I do not know yet what we will do in the fall with regard to his schooling but we're just taking things one step at a time right now. However, thinking about sending him back to that school in the fall makes me very anxious. But I'm also not sure if its just that he needed some extra time to mature and grow.

We are not using whole language methods but are, as you would expect, using phonics. Our son is reading level G through Level J books and loves to read. There was a time that he hated reading and was resisting it at all costs this past fall, but we have helped him get passed that.

Interestingly, before my son left school, the teacher had evaluated him as a level C reader even though he was reading much higher levels at home and with his tutor and even though she had moved him to level D a bit before that because she agreed that the level C books were to easy. When I raised questions about the reading test, I was told that he had lost points because he was looking at the words instead of trying to figure out the story using the pictures. He was also downgraded for his reading because he didn't read "smoothly." Honestly, I wanted him looking at the actual words and I don't care how he sounds when he reads. All that really matters is that he can read and understands what he's reading.

After pushing the issue further, the teacher agreed to let him have some harder books and that she would retest him. Later on he passed her level E and level F test "with ease" and she felt level G would be a good working level for him. So, it seemed that she had realized that my son could read better than she had thought, but then she decided although he could work at level G, somehow wasn't really "fluent" (smooth) enough with his reading to really be considered a level F or G. It's all water under the bridge now though, as I let him read any challenging book he wants to when he reads with me with no one to criticize me for having him read books that are not "just right" for him.

Our daughter, who is 8 and who is in 3rd grade is still attending the school. She's doing really well, although we're still working on her writing and spelling. We're still breaking old habits in those areas because they let her write and spell however she wanted with little correction. Her spelling has improved quite a bit but I'm still trying to get her to remember to capitalize the first word at the start of a sentence and to put periods at the end of sentences. In fact, I'm not sure that she knows when she has written a sentence. But then I wonder if I'm being too critical or if this will just take more time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When I'm President Some Day

I have not written for awhile not just do to the busy time we would normally have with two kids in school, but because my youngest, my son, has been having a bit of trouble adjusting to the school day. I'll save the long story, and just say that it is getting better and I think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

The reason for my title to this post, is that my son today told me that some day he is going to be the President of the United States some day, and when he's President, he will change some school rules. I asked him what he would change and he told me that recess must be longer every day and that kids should not get any homework. I would have to agree with him that a 5 year old who is almost 6 should not have homework every night. But I'm not in a place right now where I can stand up for that issue.

My son is reading D level books at school as the level the school finds to be "just right" or "good fit" books. But at home, he's reading levels D-J with me depending upon what book he is interested in any given night. The most difficult books are much more interesting to him as they have more interesting stories. And since he doesn't have to sit on a carpet and read these books to himself, I see no need why we can't work on more challenging books together so long as he's not frustrated. This, I think, is how he will move ahead.

My daughter is doing really well with her reading. She's reading everywhere. She reads in the car, on the bus back and forth to and from school, at daycare, and in her bed at night (past her bedtime.) So, I think my worries there are pretty much over. Just to be sure, though, I am continuing her reading tutoring. Her spelling and writing are getting much better too.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

School Right Around the Corner

School starts again in just a couple of weeks. My daughter will be going into third grade and my son will be starting first grade. I did not as much work in with the kids as I would have liked this summer. We had lots of fun swimming and playing at playgrounds.

But through the whole summer, I had a reading tutor work with both kids. My daughter is carrying books around with her almost everywhere we go and is reading very well. My son is starting to emerge as a beginning reader.

Because of my daughter's abilities, my focus is now on my son. My son will have a different teacher than my daughter did for first grade. I hope he'll be exposed less to the methods that allow him to guess words. But I will work with my son my way, and I will continue his tutor so that hopefully he won't have the same difficulties.

I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to the new school year or not....

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shame the Child - Meeting to Discuss Lack of Handwriting Effort

It's been awhile since I've written. I have been doing my best to keep up with school homework for my kids, which is never tailored to their specific needs, but instead keep us from getting to those areas.

Regarding the title above, I just discovered tonight that my daughter's teacher left me a note in the homework book that I must sign every night to verify that I did my job in forcing my daughter to do all the homework. The note, which my daughter could have read herself, btw, asked for a meeting with my regarding my daughter's lack of effort in having neat handwriting. The teacher further requested that I bring my daughter along to sit in on the meeting.

Regardless of intent, this to me seems like a way to shame a child who is not even 8 years old yet, and over something really truly minor. Overall, her handwriting is not perfect, but it is usually legible.

So, I wrote and told the teacher that I did not think it was a good idea to have such a meeting with my daughter present - that I thought it would damage her self esteem. I also told her that I would work with my daughter if she would point out to me in a return email those particular weaknesses that I need to work on with her. Although I wanted to write that I felt such a meeting would only result in shame to my daughter, I toned it down to avoid conflict with the teacher as much as possible.

I'm so frustrated... I already have a tutor for my daughter who tutors her for her spelling and reading to make sure there are no holes left in my teaching, which I had to do because the school did not teach phonics in any significant way.

Then I received a comment about my daughter not doing well in daily oral language. I was just starting to think about how I was going to address this issue, when I got the report card and saw my daughter marked at below grade level because she hadn't passed enough of the timed math facts tests yet. And, now as I mentioned, it's all about the handwriting.

As for the daily oral language, I decided to do some research and found the following page which goes into the reasons why DOL is a terrible way to teach grammar.

As for the math, I'm all for memorizing the math facts. But I could swear I was told at parent teacher conferences that the grade requirement was test 4 by the end of the year. And when my daughter started studying test 4, I slowed own a bit to focus on other matters. My daughter just passed test 4 this Friday, and I have requested that the teacher give me copies of all the other required tests ASAP, so I can have my daughter study those too.

Then there's my son in kindergarten (just 5 1/2) who is doing fairly well in his reading. He can sound out words, and they have not yet pushed the bad techniques on him too heavily. But he doesn't like to write because he knows he can't spell, and his teacher wants him to be able to write a two page story by the end of the year. The kids get up in front of all of the parents at the end of the year and read their stories to the parents. I don't think even if my son wrote a story that he would actually agree to read it to a group of people. And, getting him to do any homework is like pulling teeth most nights - so there's not much hope for me to get him to do anything extra.

Eight weeks left...eight weeks left....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

School vacation is here! Also, new books.

It's school vacation week, so there will be no homework. Yesterday we had a family day trip to an aquarium and a children's museum. Monday, my kids will have a play date with some other kids. But hopefully the rest of this week, I can get in some of my own teaching.

If schedules permit, I may also have my daughter's reading level tested by a phonics based reading teacher in our area and see if she can help determine what areas I should consider focusing on with my daughter to improve her spelling and reading. Although the school tested my daughter and found her to be above grade level (I'm not sure how far above), I want to make sure, with all the gaps I've discovered thus far in her education, that my daughter continues to develop appropriately in her reading. After all, studies show that the years before the end of 3rd grade are crucial for a child's ability to read their textbooks through the rest of his/her schooling.

New books - In my quest to find some helpful resources for my children for spelling, I have discovered an excellent set of books that can also be helpful with the teaching of reading. They are appropriately named "How to Spell" and are written by Laura Toby Rudginsky and Elizabeth C. Haskell. I'm not sure if these are still in print as I had to purchased as used.

There is teaching handbook and 4 workbooks. I have worked through most of the 1st book with my daughter. Although, most of that is review for my daughter, there were some very helpful sections. Generally speaking, the books seem to set out general rules with examples of the exceptions.

The second book has a review sheet of various phonics combinations with sample words, which can serve as a nice review. The second book also has instruction on how to break words into syllables to make them easier to read, Some of this book is still review for my daughter, but it has no many additional tips that are useful, and there is nothing wrong with a little review to enforce learning.

I had been using phonics books from Spectrum, which I still believe are extremely useful. But I think these books will make a good compliment for us.

As for my son, I am slowly working with him on his phonics. We have been reviewing the consonant blends and many of the vowel combinations. I will be using these new workbooks with him too. He has enough phonics to read some of the early readers with some help from me with the more complicated words, and he finds these much more interesting than the books they send home from school, which I still do read with him on using phonics. I'll try to squeeze in some letter writing practice with him too. But I do have to be careful because he's not as interested in sitting down and doing these things for a long period of time and I don't want to overwork it and lose him. I may have to resort to some bribery...oh, look at those cookies that we can have after we're done. (laughs)