"Mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them." ~Charlotte Mason

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Exam Thoughts

We are gearing up for exams this coming week. Preparing for exams always helps me to regain focus. I have been writing exam questions all week. Next week, I will take each child, one at a time, and we will sit on my bed and they will answer exam questions while I type out their answers. The purpose of the exam, of course, is to celebrate all that the children have learned this semester. Our exams consist only of open-ended questions. Some of our books - math, for instance- have pre-written questions, so we will use those questions for those subjects. Normally we do exams after week 12, but this year I started a bit early so we are doing exams after week 15 so we can use Thanksgiving Week as exam week.

Preparing for exams always makes me sit back and think about the past term. I am writing my thoughts here, more for me than for you. But you are welcome to read them.

As I look back across the past 15 weeks, I am excited about the level of independence the younger children have developed this term. I am working part-time in the mornings, and the girls come with me and do their work while I teach Mother's Day Out. This means that they have been doing their written work on their own with very little instruction, a very big step in the right direction. The ability to work independently is a highly desirable trait!

Thoughts on education, aka Why Am I Doing This?:

1. I want my children to learn to think. I do not want to cut information into bite-sized chunks so their education can be easier and more palatable. I do not water-down the material or give it to them in bits-and-pieces. I give them difficult material, books that make them think about life and the world and the Lord who created it all. I want them to wonder, to explore, to ponder and, yes, to THINK!!! I want the children to be able to take hold of their own educations, to fight for them and work for them. I want them to wrestle with their thoughts until they reach clarity. I do not want to spoon-feed their thoughts to them.

This new method of learning/education was very difficult for my new girls at first. They, honestly, were not accustomed to forming their own thoughts with regard to schoolwork. They wanted me to tell them what everything meant, what their projects should look like, etc. Developing independent thought has been a huge step for them. And it has been so much fun to watch! They are learning so much, and so excited about it! I have been very pleased with all of the children's progress this semester. I am excited to see their exam responses.

2. I do not believe each child should be educated in the same manner, either. Each child is an individual, and what works for one, may not work for another. What interests one, may not interest another. Where one struggles, another will thrive, and vice versa. We do not believe in playing the "it's not fair" game, and sometimes intentionally make things "unfair" because we do not believe that what goes to one should automatically go to every other as well. The same goes for education. Each child is a masterpiece, uniquely created by God and given especially to us to raise and love and train to love and fear Him. We do not take that responsibility lightly. We are responsible to the Lord for these children.

3. I do not believe children were made to sit in desks all day. This is why so many of them must be drugged in order to do so. My new girls were 3 of the drugged ones. I have taken them off of said drugs, and they are THRIVING!!! Because they come to Mother's Day Out at the gymnastics center with me, they spend 2 hours of hard play/workout every single day! I believe children need to work out their bodies just as much as their minds. Growing bodies need to move! They need to run and jump and climb and fall. They need to skip and hop and roll and dance. The physical development of my new girls in the past six months has been absolutely amazing.

Reflections on this term:

1. I would like to schedule a Bible time with each of the kids individually. I need to work that in next semester. We did this before we got the new girls, but I haven't yet figured out how to do it with six.

2. We really let our fine arts slip this semester. This was intentional, as I was easing the new girls into homeschooling and easing myself into homeschooling six kids. I let the things slide that I felt comfortable letting slide. We will work on Christmas music in December, then start up our full fine arts schedule again in January. This includes Artist Study, Composer Study, Hymns, Folk Songs and Foreign Language Songs for next term. I will also try to start up Piano Lessons again. I can teach the younger ones myself but would like to get the olders back into lessons outside the home. I would also like to get Baloo back into guitar lessons.

3. It's not just the songs, I have let all of Foreign Language fall by the wayside with the girls. Baloo is taking High School Spanish outside our home, so that's taken care of. The girls sometimes go to Spanish at the gym, where we offer it as part of our Afterschool Program. But we are not usually there on those afternoons. I either need to make a point to be there or I need to get back into doing Foreign Language at home. Or both. We usually do French and Latin, too.

4. Memory Work. The older kids have done a good job keeping up with this, with very little intervention from me. I have only recently gotten the new girls started on this. I need to be sure to schedule specific memory work next term. I have found that the differences in ability and training makes it impossible to memorize the same things all together. I need to think more about how I want this to look next term.

5. I need to be better about getting our scheduled readings done. We did not get as far in our readings as I would have liked. The children have done well reading the books they read on their own, but the ones we read together have not been read on schedule. We really fell behind early in the semester, but have gotten better in recent weeks as we got into our groove. (Translate: "... as I figured out how to homeschool six kids at once.") I think we will be able to stay on target next term. I have discovered that I really need to schedule these times, something I really don't like doing. I like to have a "to-do" list, but not a schedule that tells me I have to do this thing at this time. Too stressful. The Rebel in me immediately thinks,

"Says who?"

"Oh yeah, me..."

6. Math Facts - Severely lacking in the new girls. I am going to pause our regular math studies, and work on memorizing math facts instead, at their appropriate levels. Normally we do not stress about memorizing facts, they tend to do it on their own when they recognize the inconvenience of not knowing them. But, because the new girls are a bit older, I don't have time to wait for them to figure this out so we just need to work on them. I also need to work with the new girls on conceptualizing the numbers - they don't seem to understand what a number really is, as it relates to objects. I need to talk to my mom and do some research as to how to make this more concrete for them. We use manipulatives every day, but it's just not clicking yet. For December, we will work on these things. Maybe we will do a page of review each week, as well...

7. We will take some time to study Christmas in December. I'm not sure how much the new girls understand about Christmas and its symbols, and I doubt they know any of the Christmas songs that are so dear to our family. Now that co-op is over, we have a lot more free time and can work on some of these things, as well as catch up on the readings in which we are behind. Then we will start up full swing again in January.

8. Scrapbooking. Most of the children really want to get into scrapbooking. I told them we may be able to do this after Thanksgiving. I have everything I need, I just need to print out the pictures I want. The new girls have never had photo albums of themselves, not even baby books, so this is very important to them. And Lil Yoda's scrapbook is pretty sparse, so it is important to her as well. I need to find a way to make this happen, I think it will be fun to do together.

I'm sure I will have more thoughts on this as we go forward. For now, let me just say...

I love homeschooling.

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