Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adventures in Homeschooling

It started back at the beginning of the school year when I was literally fighting with Adam every night to get his schoolwork done. I felt like I was having to reteach him everything he was learning in school and not knowing how the teacher was teaching, or how to get him to understand it from my point of view was extremely frustrating. With 4 other kids plus all the kids in sports, I just couldn't handle the hours of arguing and fighting to get it done with enough time to feed the kids and get them to their respective practices, so I made the decision to homeschool sometime in September.

I pulled Adam out of school and set out with no particular plan in place. We started following the Easy Peasy Homeschool website and using to get him learning fast math skills. That was one of our other issues. He just wasn't remembering his math facts and it was making things even more frustrating.

We followed Easy Peasy for awhile, but the Christian aspect just was not for us. Xtra math frustrated him every day because he would get himself worked up over not getting the answers fast enough. We then started using Khan Academy for math and he seemed to like that one. For spelling we were using and it was fun for him. He breezed right through that and before we knew it, he was done with 300+ 3rd grade spelling words.

Then one weekend I found a bunch of workbooks at a yard sale and found a stash of them in one of my drawers and we started using those. A giant math workbook that covers numbers, operations, geometry, and algebra, a writing prompt workbook, and a grammar workbook. They were perfect for our style of teaching and learning. It was all "hands on." He could work on the different problems, with my help as needed, and then I would give him a test over the subject.

He finished the numbers and numeration portion of the math workbook shortly before we went home to Ohio for Christmas. While we were there I gave him a test over the material he had learned. He did great. Not perfect, but I'm not seeking perfection, just a general understanding of the subject at hand. We moved onto the operations portion of the workbook when we came back home and in less than a month he has finished that section. He has a solid grasp on addition and subtraction including carrying and borrowing. Then came multiplication and dividing. And while I cannot stand the Common Core way of teaching math, it has actually helped to allow him to see where the operations are working with a set of objects.

When the workbook started featuring more and more multiplication problems, I went on a Pinterest search for fun ways to teach him. We had already gone over some of the rules of multiplication and he knew how to multiply by 1, 2, 5, and 10. So I set out to help him memorize his facts without the use of flashcards and created a came using playing cards. We would start easy, with addition. I would flip over two cards and he would give me the answer. I only used cards 2-10 so as not to confuse him with face cards. We would time him and go through the deck three times, shufflng in between rounds, to see if he could beat his previous times. After three tries we moved onto subtraction, repeating the process. Then we would dive straight into multiplication. It took quite a bit of time at first, but still less than 5 minutes per round, but the more he practices them, the better he gets. He has learned how to do multiplication of 9's on his fingers. Anyone else remember learning how to do that? And he knews he can count by 5's to get that answer if he doesn't remember it off the bat. For now, I am okay with that. I know that memorization comes in time and after only a couple of weeks of playing card math, I can already see how well he is remembering his facts.

We have not gone too much into division but knowing his multiplication facts, at least somewhat, has helped him with the problems in his workbook that feature that operation. He knows that 24/3=? is the same thing as ?x3=24, so he can find the answer without really knowing/remembering that 24/3=8 because he knows 8x3=24. It really is fun watching him and knowing that he knows these things because of me.

I'm still not totally confident in my role as a teacher, and we still have a lot of whining going on when it comes time to do his work. Which is generally annoying since he really only does work Mon-Weds-Fri and for only a matter of a few hours, rather than sitting in school for 6hrs. When he finishes with his work he gets to play Minecraft, still semi-educational, and for the remainder of the day he is pretty much done unless I decide to verbally quiz him on things.

Like the other day in the car. I decided to help him memorize some multiplication facts with little hints on how to get the answer. For example, 9x9 is like 9+9 only in reverse, and 5x5 is a quarter. It's not conventional, but it seems to be working. Soon he won't even need to remember my hints, he will just know the answer off the top of his head and I cannot wait for that day to get here.

He really is a smart kid, he just likes to push my buttons and he is a procrastinator like his mama. There are days that I just cannot handle him. He likes to rush through his work and get it all wrong because he either didn't read the directions or didn't stop to think long enough because he thinks the faster he does it, the faster he will be done. He is learning quickly that doing it right the first time will get him done faster and after a little incident with compound subjects and predicates this morning, he dove right into his math without me having to remind him.

Speaking of grammar, he has flown through that workbook. He only has a couple more subjects to learn from it and then I will have to figure out a test for him to take based on the material. I think once we cover everything in the workbook I am going to focus on his writing skills. He doesn't particularly care for his writing prompts but you can definitely see an improvement with his grammar within his writing. It will be a good way to keep up on grammar daily and to help him with his writing.

On the flip side of writing, is reading, which we haven't been doing much of. We are a family of readers, for the most part, but we just can't fit it into our day as much as I would like. I was just browsing Amazon earlier today for more workbooks and I found a reading comprehension workbook, along with a reading test workbook, that I think will be perfect for him. It keeps it short and sweet but he definitely picks up on the lessons he needs to be learning. I'm also considering diving into a bit of geography too which we can turn into research projects since he has been asking when he can do a project. It's not really my strong suit, but I've managed so far.

This homeschool thing is a lot more rewarding than I had anticipated. I was worried I wouldn't be able to teach him what he needed to learn but so far it seems to be going well. It is still early in our first year and he has yet to take the state assessment to see if he has learned anything from this homeschooling adventure but I am pretty confident that he will, at the very least, pass. I am nervous about the geometry portion which we have not started in our workbook yet, but thankfully I have the internet to help when I need it.

I plan to send him back to public school next year because, while I think they learn a good deal being homeschooled, I firmly believe in the public education system. There is something to be said for the social aspect. He needs to learn how to listen to a teacher that stands at the front of the room. He needs to learn how to sit still in a chair while someone else is talking. He needs to learn how to hold a conversation with his peers. He needs to learn how to take notes on a subject to be able to study later. There are things at school that he just won't get in the home setting. I know there are ways to teach them these things, all while being homeschooled, but I think the public education system is important for so many reasons. Not to mention, I don't know if I could continue doing this as he gets older. Already I feel like I don't have the chance to get anything done and I am back with a child at home 24/7. My youngest went off to school two years ago and it was so nice being able to get things done during the day because once the kids get home from school it's Grand Central Station. On top of needing that time to recoup and take care of my regular mom and wife duties, I don't think I could effectively teach what they need to know past an elementary level. Some days third grade material gets me, like predicates... what the hell is a predicate?! LOL But I manage, and he learns, and while I am not the perfect teacher, I am a resourceful one and I continue to amaze myself with the things I am capable of doing.

It will be bittersweet when this adventure comes to an end, but being an Army wife, I know adventures have an expiration date. For this one, I am aiming for September. But also like the Army, nothing is for sure until it is actually happening.

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