Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summer homeschool - Whine 2.0

Summer brain-drain is a constant source of worry for teachers and is the reason why textbooks -- particularly math books -- have those first few chapters that are nothing but review. Students' minds have to be completely re-engaged when summer ends and it was one of the things that drove me mad about teaching, the business of having to start ALL OVER AGAIN with nouns and verbs and how we capitalize the first word of a sentence and put a period at the end, unless the sentence is a question, in which case we use a question mark, which is like a period with a squiggly backwards "c" with a line drawn down from....oh, it was just bad.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we can keeping going on with a little bit of schoolwork here and a little dab there, with no need to re-engage when we start on September 1. Our summertime deal is that if the girls will work on their math up to Lesson 36 in their Saxon books (these texts typically have 128 lessons for the entire year), my husband and I will reward them with $10. On the first thirty-six lessons, they only have to do the practice set -- usually around ten to fifteen problems -- as long as they're only missing one problem. Any more than that and they lose the practice set privilege and have to do the lesson set, which is more like twenty-five problems. They can earn back the practice set privilege, but last summer, both of them were convinced to just do it right the first time. Unfortunately, that is something that seems to fall by the wayside once September gets here, but whatever.

Last summer, Meelyn made it to Lesson 36 and was the happy recipient of $10, which I believe sheput with some money she already had and bought a pair of mules with three-inch wedge heels that make my feet ache just to look at them.

Aisling, who didn't take the whole math thing seriously until the last week of August, only made it to Lesson 28 and did not get $10, which put her freckled nose seriously out of joint. She sighed and huffed and flung herself down on various pieces of furniture and kept saying, in a high-pitched nasal tone, "But it's not faaaaaaaaaaaaiiirrrr! Sheeeee alwaaaaaaaaays gets things aaaand I nevvvvvvvvvvvvvver doooooooo."

I finally told her that if she didn't cut it out, she was going to pay me $10 for having to put up with hearing her dreary mouth going on and on and on. And I meant it, too.

Meelyn's new math book needs to be ordered so that she can get started (if she wants.) Aisling will be using a hand-me-down math book that Meelyn previously used. Hopefully, I'll be out $20 on August 31.

This summer, we're doing something new. I told the girls that I wanted us to spend 90 minutes per week learning; I was going to claim half an hour of that ninety minutes as my own to teach them something I wanted them to learn or brush up on and they were responsible for finding some subject of interest to occupy the other hour.

I was interested to see what they would pick. "Choose something that interests you," I urged them. "It can be something that you've always wanted to know about, but we haven't yet studied, or it could be something we have studied that you want to know more about. It could be a project of some sort, and if you need supplies or materials, Daddy and I will do our best, within reason, to get you what you need. We can go to the library and check out books and DVDs; we can go on a field trip. Just find something that interests you."

They ended up both choosing two things.

Meelyn got on the internet with a skill that I truly didn't know she possessed and looked up the prayers of the rosary in French, copied them to a Word document, printed them out, and has spent the last week murmuring, "Salut, Marie, pleine de grace..." and crossing herself. She also decided that she wants more of Shakespeare, and checked The Tempest (Folger Shakespeare Library edition) out of the public library, and then downloaded a character analysis, plot synopsis and some other things from the internet to assist her in understanding the play and the difficult Elizabethan English, emailed them to herself and printed them out. She's carrying The Tempest with her wherever she goes, and I credit her interest to the breaking of the drought we've been suffering from here in central Indiana; ever since she checked that book out of the library, we've welcomed some much-needed rain.

Aisling, who is working hard at the piano to learn the Mass music, has undertaken to learn the chord patterns for the major, minor and augmented triads, plus the dominant 7th, minor 7th and diminished 7th chords. She's already got to major triads (C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D and G) conquered on the piano, reminding me what a truly plodding and uninspired piano-lesson-taker i was, eleven years and who knows how many dollars spent on a big bunch of no talent whatsoever. Her second interest was in volcanoes and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which she learned about by studying for history bingo this year. We got a stack of books from the library, several of which she has already devoured. She's now expressed an interest in going back to the library and getting some books on the eruption of Mt. St. Helen, which is interesting to her mostly because her father and I can remember how weather patterns were affected more than halfway across the country by the force of the blast. We're not exactly like talking to the survivors of Pompeii, but we'll do.

For my part, I had the girls review our history/geography/social studies study cards that we keep in the van. We went through those together on our way home from Nanny and Poppy's house the other day and great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Even though ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS READ ME THE QUESTIONS, which I answered. Just to keep their hand in, so to speak. Meelyn sulked and pouted and whined until I wanted to throw the stack of cards at her head. Aisling, who decided, chameleon-like, to assume her Good Little Girl persona, sucked up to me by primly saying things like, "You know, Meelyn, if you'll just read the cards to Mommy, we can get through this much faster," and then, "MO-OOOOOOM!!! She has her MP3 player on her head, Mom!"

All in all, by the time we were done with that half hour, I was ready for them both to be upstairs, in separate rooms, far. Away. From. Me.

I turned on the floor fan, got myself a Cherry Coke Zero (very delicious, by the way) and did my own form of summer homeschooling that I call Improving My Mind, which means that I sat on the couch with a sturdy bit of informative non-fiction on the cushion beside me, but with a mindless bit of fluffy and inconsequential British chick lit in my hands until my husband got home. I love summer.

1 comment:

Kbg said...

Wow...you are all really focused in the summer...I could never get my boys focused on school in the summer...too much bike riding, roller blading, swimming, camping, running, jumping, sports playing, etc. etc. going on to focus on school stuff in the summer. Whoa...wait a minute...that also describes the school year...LOL! I got what I could get and that was pretty much it...fortunately both boys learn and retain fairly well and best of all, within a decent time frame to leave room for all that other stuff. Tell A. that she might want to read about the volcano that sunk half of Santorini, Greece...fascinating. And, can you have a mini-class for M. and I on The Tempest? I would play...and I would play nicely. Please???