Thursday, October 27, 2011

The value of the dreaded Christmas Toy Catalog

Every year, the arrival of the numerous toy catalogs to our home is a big event. Many parents dread the ensuing materialism that accompanys the catalog. There is inevitably endless whining and begging for the toys that look so appealing to little eyes.
However, I have realized how many ways we have (accidently) used these catalogs for educational purposes over the past two weeks:
*Isaac has added up the totals of the toys he wants, and has had great practice for triple digit (yikes!) addition.
*As he adds up the items, Isaac can see how much the things he wants costs, and we can compare that to the Christmas budget we actually have.
*Graham has used fine motor skills to circle the items he wants.
*Isaac has used penmanship skills to write out his very extensive list (writing is usually something he hates to do).
*The boys have learned to take turns with the catalogs, and have practiced sharing skills.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Five in a Row: The Rag Coat

We are really enjoying our Five in a Row curriculum. This week, we started reading "The Rag Coat" which is a sweet story about a little girl whose father works in the coal mines and cannot afford a coat for his daughter to go to school in. The "Quilting Mothers" get together and sew little Minna a coat out of the scraps of fabric they have. Each scrap of fabric contains a story. When the kids at school see Minna's "Rag Coat" they initially make fun of her, until they realize their stories are a part of Minna's coat.
Today Graham and Isaac each made a paper quilt from scraps of scrapbooking paper that I had on hand. Isaac chose his colors and patterns carefully, and named his quilt "Grayson's Quilt." Graham chose a blue color palette (his favorite color). We talked about how the colors you choose for any piece of artwork you are doing influence the overall feeling of the artwork (warm colors=warm feelings, cool colors= cool feelings, etc.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

A time to re-evaluate

I feel like what we have been doing lately is NOT working. It's not working for me, and it's not working for the kids. There have been too many days with tears recently, and too much arguing and fighting. I have felt like this is too hard for me lately.
Knowing that this is NOT how God would probably want me to spend my days homeschooling my children, I have decided I need to take a close look at what is not working (and come up with some solutions) and also to look at what is working.
What is not working
Problem #1: Isaac is reading well and both him and I are bored to tears with the phonics portion (which is a HUGE portion) of the curriculum I purchased for this year.
Possible solutions: Drop the phonics portion of the curriculum, with periodic testing to make sure he is still grasping phonics-related concepts. Focus more on language arts (workbook), spelling (workbook and tests), and reading. I may find a supplemental reading curriculum to implement. I would really like to take his reading to the next level, and help him develop a love for reading. I may need to do a little research, and ask fellow homeschooling friends for some suggestions.
Problem #2: The boys are still fighting like crazy, even though I have tried to implement a behavior modification system.
Possible solutions: Implement a new system that is easier for the boys to attain rewards. With the last behavior modification program, they were never reinforced because it was too difficult for them, and they eventually just gave up. The new system will focus more on immediate punishment for fighting, along with easier to attain rewards for not fighting.
Problem #3: I need to be spending more time focusing on letter identification with Graham.
The problem with the Letter of the Week curriculum I am using now is that it requires me to print, laminate and cut out activities every week for each letter. This takes me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half each week, and I find that I avoid doing it. Also, the activities for each letter are all repetitive (the same activities, different letter). I think we are both bored by it. I need to either spend one day preparing the entire curriculum so we are ready to go each week, or I need to scrap this curriculum and find a new one. Graham needs lots of help on letter identification right now.
Problem #4: I feel like there are too many "holes" in our schooling right now...we are not focusing at all on art, music, science, history, etc. Too much time is spent on things we have already mastered, not enough time on the things that we haven't or would like to.
Possible solutions: Implement one craft activity per week for Graham. Find a science or foreign language curriculum for Isaac. Post an ad on REACH classifieds to see if I can get Isaac affordable drum or guitar lessons.
Problem #5: Not a consistent Bible/prayer time daily.
Possible solutions: This is apathy on my part. We need to begin each day in prayer, regardless of how crazy it is.
Problem #6: The school room is always a mess at the beginning of the school day.
Possible Solutions: Dave needs to work with the boys to clean up the area each night before bed while I am editing. We need to be able to wake up, have breakfast and begin our school day instead of spending a half an hour cleaning up toys from the day before.
Problem #7: Isaac's penmanship is still horrible.
Possible Solutions: Take some of the time we were wasting on phonics and apply it to developing and improving Isaac's cursive and printing skills.
Problem #8: There are portions of our Geography curriculum that are pointless and a waste of time.
Possible Solutions: Because overall, I feel like Isaac is learning about each state, do not scrap the entire curriculum. Just get rid of what is not helpful and is a waste of our time.

Things we are doing well

*Isaac is reading exceptionally well, and is at least a grade ahead of the curve in reading. He is also an excellent speller.
*Graham is still enjoying what little school time I do with him every day.
*Isaac is in a regular routine of doing chores around the house, and is doing them without complaint.
*Graham is also better about helping to pick up his toys.
*Isaac is improving in mathematics significantly.
*I am still really enjoying the "Five in a Row" curriculum, and like that both boys enjoy it. It is one of the portions of our school day that is (usually) calm.

Friday, October 14, 2011

This hasn't been a good school day, nor a good school week.
I feel like I am not doing enough with my kids.
I feel like we just survive, and get through the school work for the day so we can be done and do other things.
I feel like I have zero creativity right now, and zero ambition to do anything other than just what has to be done.
My kids are fighting, and it's driving me crazy.
The behavior plan I started a few weeks ago...well, not working so well.
I am overwhelmed and tired a huge portion of the time.
I need some strength to get through the days from someone other than myself.
I know who my help needs to come from...and I cry out to Him...
This is not easy, no one ever said it would be.
I guess I just didn't know how tough some days really would be.
I do virtually everything myself...I don't rely on anyone to educate and raise my children, take care of my home, run my business. For just once, I want someone else to take over for me...even for just a little while. Like a relay race, I want to hand off the baton and catch my breath.
Then, I will be able to run again.