Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First day of school

I decided to start early, so today was the first day. The chagim are in a month, and I want to be able to take off some days for errands and cooking. My sister is getting married after Succot, and that means at least a week off. I think this earlier start gives me peace of mind to take off more when I need to.

It is funny to proclaim today the first day of school. The kids have been learning all summer long. They have been reading, going on hikes, doing projects, holding discussions, asking questions. Why is today different from all other days? Before you say, well, TODAY you did formal school work, yesterday 8 yo surprised me. I sent him to get his siddur and to daven, he came out with HWT script book, opened it up and started to teach himself script! He got through two letters before I reminded him that it is time to daven.

Yesterday, I had someone come and help me organize our homeschooling space, hence the reason we started on a Tuesday, not Monday. We homeschoolers can afford to be flexible like that. We put all art supplies in the sunroom instead of having them spread out all over the house. Almost all, I should say. I decided to keep Moon Dough and paint out of reach, as well as extra rolls of tape and glue. While we were doing this, a lot of supplies and crafts which were hiding came out. 6 yo picked up a weaving board, the one for potholders and decided to make one. Now, he tried before. Usually, he strung it in one direction, then got confused with weaving the cross ribbons, then got frustrated and then his brother would come and "rescue" his project, with him abandoning all craftsmanship. This time, he stuck with it and got it. He worked under-over with his fingers, and was ready to finish the edge, but it was time to go to tae kwon do ( which was cancelled, but we only found out once we got there). When we got home, I showed him how to finish the edge and he did three sides, with the last side slipping off and requiring some help. Overall, he did take ownership of his project.

So today was the first day of something or other. I made pancakes for breakfast ( to assure cheerful mood in kids) and we are going out for dinner ( to assure cheerful mood in mommy). After breakfast, we davened, but not before I almost made them unload a dirty dishwasher. 8 yo went first, after his davening, I called him over , opened up my planner and asked him what are his goals for the year. This is his list:

  • science: experiments, chemistry, density, physics, explosions, make your own experiments, electricity, anatomy, wildlife, being able to identify all animals and plants
  • history: early civilizations, ancient China, American history
  • surviving in the wild, camping
  • computer: typing, email, downloading and installing games
  • chess and checkers, Monopoly
  • opening a bank account
  • technology: mechanics, build your own train without instructions
  • cooking: make anything in any cookbook

Pretty ambitious, huh? I should keep on looking at this list any time I think he is lacking motivation.

Then, after 6 yo davened, I asked him the same.This is his list:

  • science: atoms, molecules, elements
  • geography: the world, China, Africa
  • chess: learn good moves

I think he overheard his brother, which is a pity. I think I will wait a week and sit him down somewhere separately, to pick his brain.

I wrote up plans for each boy. In hindsight, 8 yo wanted to spend much more time on each activity than I allocated, so I found myself telling him to drop what he was doing and move on to something else. I will have to rethink this. My goal is to be able to assign him certain things and then let him complete them on his own, just bringing it back to me to check periodically. I am aware that it might not happen this year or the next.

Here is what we actually got done with 8 yo: color in a political map of Africa, label different countries, do Rosetta Stone, cover another letter in script, write in his journal about dinosaurs, do Math Mammoth, do spelling with Spelling Power, review first two pesukim in 22nd perek of Vayeira and Rashi on "take your son", review Rashi script.

Surprises: he can add two digit numbers, but is still flimsy with addition facts up to ten ( grrr), he remembered the Rashi word for word from many months ago, he did not want to review but plunge right into the middle of the perek even though he did no remember some words, he much rather write about dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures than anything else, listing facts rather than descriptions, he is very eager to do script and write everything in script, he remembers all of Rashi's letters but forgot how to write Hebrew script.

Here is what we did with 6 yo: HWT print, reviewed frog jump capitals and he wrote his name, remembering to use lower case. We started Tefila Workbook, with the first words of every bracha, understanding from Baruch till Bemitzvotav. Math Mammoth kindergarden review of counting and number writing. Rosetta Stone and Yesh lanu Lama. Unofficially, he played with the scale and geoboards. He asked me, how do they teach math? I showed him how to make squares, triangles, rectangles, rhombus. I taught him quadrilateral and pentagon and octagon. He also stitched together a puppet.

Surprises: his handwriting has improved much more and he has more stamina, he even kept saying how all writing today was easy. He claimed  not to know the meaning of a single word in a bracha, except for Hashem, so I had to go much slower than I planned. He did not complain about Rosetta Stone. He completely melted down at Lama, so I decided to start all the way at the beginning of the books, to review reading skills and vocabulary. He did first five units quite speedily, so hopefully it will come back to him.

I was asked what am I doing with 2 yo while I am teaching the boys. Here is what she did: davened, hung out on the couch, sat at the table while the boys were writing, opened up base ten blocks and built with them, painted watercolor on the kitchen table while the boys did more writing, ate lunch with the boys, started on a puppet with 6 yo (he finished his, she did about half, never would have thought that she could do it, but there it is, she can sew through prepunched holes), napped.

It is 3 pm, we are done and ready to enjoy and nice quiet lazy summer afternoon.

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