Friday, December 15, 2006

Officially Christmas break here!

Horray! We finished up the last bits of what I wanted to finish up before Christmas today, so we are officially taking a break. Well, we'll still be reading, and next week I have some great ideas for making our own Christmas ornaments, but any "formal" schooling is done for awhile.

We tend to school year round here, so we have fairly regular 2-4 week breaks. I find my children really need to have "brain breaks" in order to fully assimilate new concepts. In fact, J1 definitely seems to have hit one of his "walls". He finished up his Saxon 5/4 math book today. He so totally understands all the math concepts he's learned the last few months. But his scores are on the low side, because he's really been struggling with neatness, attention to detail, and diligence. (This issue extends past math, and he has been having particular trouble with - get this! Dotting his "i's" and crossing his "t's"!) I think in a whole lot of ways, that is a maturity issue, more than any sort of willfullness or even any lack on J1's part. We've talked to him a lot about strategies to use to assist him in being careful and accurate in his work, but at this point I think the best thing we can do is just let him take a break. We'll see how he does after we start back in January. I also suspect that part of his troubles could be that he is simply bored. After much thought and consideration, we are letting him skip Saxon 6/5, and I'll be ordering Saxon 7/6 for him to start after the Epiphany. J1 has done this before. He completed almost 3 years of Singapore math by the time he was 8 (technically end of 2nd grade), and then he hit a wall. He couldn't "get" long division, no matter how much we tried. Since he was already ahead, it was an easy decision for me to simply back off for awhile. He did no formal math at all for about 8 months, and then in the middle of "3rd" grade, he started Saxon 5/4. We've finished in about a year, long division is no longer a problem at all, and he's flown through all the other concepts introduced. I believe he's ready to move ahead a year. He'll probably run into a wall again in a year or two, and we'll take a break for awhile. That's what works for us!

Speaking of what works for us, things haven't gone so well for my middle two. I don't worry about S3 so much, as he just turned 6 and technically is only "kindegarten" this year. But I've been really pondering, and praying, about A2. He is just such a different duck, he really is. He has the most interesting take on life. To give you an idea of what I'm taking about, here are some A2-isms.

(referring to a semi-truck without a trailer) "Look at the truck! It doesn't have its box!"

"Should I take it to the table room?" (meaning, the dining room)

"I'm afraid of deep heights!"

and, perhaps the most famous A2ism of all...when referring to a friend's new baby girl,

"Mom! He's a lady baby!

He is not a fluent reader, not by a long shot, though he has such a stunning number of sight words he manages quite well. Phonics seems very difficult and completely meaningless, but he readily reads words like "Godzilla" and "Killer Jellyfish" (though he often mistakes simpler words, like "on" and "in"). In addition, lately I've caught him reading Japanese Kanji. I had 2 1/2 years of Japanese in college, and though I remember very little, I do remember how to read kanji. A2 has a deep, abiding love of all things related to Godzilla, and loves to look stuff up about the Japanese monster movies using Google. He also likes to watch Godzilla movies in Japanese, with English subtitles. The other day, something came up on some TV show we were watching that was in Japanese kanji, and Alex read it instantly (I can't at all remember exactly, but it was just some little comment, like, "Oh look, 'godutaku'!") - it took me a minute to realize what he had done, I thought he was talking non-sense. Then it hit me - oh my goodness, he just read that Japanese kanji perfectly! How did that happen??? He can't read English, but he can read Japanese??

All of which has really led me on some soul-searching, and lots of research. I've been reading up on Montessori, wondering if that approach would help him (yes and no, IMO - the method as a whole, not so much, but definitely some of the activities). I read more on "classical education", like "The Latin Centered Curriculum" and "The Well-Trained Mind" (is a useful reference for J1, wouldn't really help A2 at this point, at least). I've read some of Charlotte Mason's works on-line (interesting, definitely).

I've come to some very few conclusions. No one "method" seems to fit my family. I have such aggressively unique children! And, well, I guess that applies to me and my dh, too! The boys, though they all *look* alike, are not at all alike, mentally, emotionally, personality-wise (with the possible exception of the oldest and youngest, who do seem to be cut from the same cloth - J1 says they're "misplaced twins", because they look so much alike, and in many ways *are* so much alike!). I just don't have "one size fits all" children. Not in the slightest. Through much trial and error, I've discovered my own "system" of what works for my oldest. Bits and pieces of various curricula, a focus on good books, pushing far ahead in some subjects, grade level or even a bit below in some areas. Binders and checklists, that works for him. I actually asked J1 earlier this week, that if we didn't "force" him to do any kind of schoolwork, he could choose what he wanted to do, then what would he do? He went into a virtual panic, stammering that he didn't know, and really, could he just keep doing what he was doing? But - what is working for J1 isn't working at all for A2. Of course, when J1 was A2's age, I hadn't yet developed the "system" that is working so well for J1 right now. So, now I need to find what is going to work for A2. I've done some interesting reading on "visual-spatial learners", and truly, A2 shares about 85% of the traits of a visual spatial learner. I loved this article at this same blog: "How can you learn if you can't read?" So much of what I have read here and here also helps me understand A2 better. And I find myself really glad for these next few weeks off. I have so much to synthesize, so much to process and ponder as I try to figure out what is going to work for my dear A2.

I am just so very, very thankful that we are able to homeschool. More than any of my children, A2's beautiful, unique spirit would be absolutely crushed in traditional school. I'm somewhat intimidated about how to help A2 learn. I sense that even if - *especially* if, as I suspect, I ultimately end up somewhere on the "unschooling" side of the spectrum, it is going to be a LOT more work for me. Strewing, and collaborative learning...I can already feel myself being stretched, as a mother, and as a person. I love that!


WRyan said...

I love that, "He's a lady baby". LOL!
I enjoyed reading your thoughts on your children. I could relate to a lot of what you said.

Cindy said...

Oooh, I love your attitude! I also have a houseful of boys (and one girl :-) and like you mentioned, they are SO different from one another. And I, too, appreciate the opportunity they afford me to stretch, learn and grow through their journeys they allow me to travel along with them.

I hope to hear more about your right-brained learner journey :-)