Saturday, September 29, 2012

Allowing our Children to Make Mistakes

I listened to a talk by Tiffany Earl yesterday and something she said hit home. She had a corrected a child and later saw the child buried in the couch crying and saying she was in trouble. Tiffany went to the child and asked what was wrong. When the little girl said she was in trouble, Tiffany took her on her lap and said, let me tell you something. When you are at my house it is okay to make mistakes, you are not in trouble for making them, but I will help you to learn what you should do. It is a child's job to make mistakes and then learn what is right. I will be here to help you to learn how to act one million times if you need me to. That is what my job is. I loved this thought. It is a child's job to learn right and wrong, good and bad and true and false and it is my job to help them learn by talking to them about it, role playing, laying good examples before them and offering a million opportunities to learn. There is no shame in them making a mistake and I should never make them feel guilty for it, but I should reteach and reintroduce the correct concept.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

We joined a travel club and went on our first week long family vacation, where we didn't stay with relatives=). We met up with my brother and sister in law and rented a boat. We swam in the very cold lake, visited the bay, I drove a boat for the first time. We went on several very long hikes. Milly even walked the five mile one. We had a testimony meeting in the forest, we found hidden creeks, we played games in the game room. It was a lot of fun.

Cake Decorating

Since I have an interest in cake decorating around my house. I invited a woman who owns a bakery to come teach a couple of cake decorating classes at my house. The kids loved the first one.

Nature Journaling

When the older kids were younger we went on nature walks and kept journals. Through the years we have gotten away from it, but I wanted to get back to it. When I was planning for classes I came across a mom who did classes on nature journaling. I thought borrowing someone elses enthusiasm would be a great way to kick off our nature journaling. When I called Dana I knew I would not be disappointed. Her love of introducing children to nature journaling and of art and nature itself was infectious even over the phone. I would be asking her to drive an hour and a quarter once a week for an hour and a half class. I wanted to make it worth her time, so I opened the class and got fourteen other students, so our class was up to 19. I also told one of the moms I work with and so her group started holding classes on the same day too.
The first day she brought specimens that she had collected over this last summer, discussed them in her sweet gentle voice and then gave each child the exoskeleton of an cicada to draw and notice details about it.
The second class she brought a stuffed pheasant and let the children draw it.
In addition to our class we have gone on a few nature walks and have been reading "The Burgess Animal Book for Children," and sometimes drawing or modeling the animals.
I got a few sets of good watercolor paints and Aubrey has started exploring with them, usually by using the micron pen first.
We each drew birds from a book one day. This is Brennen's-he still usually uses pencil with little color.
This is mine, so far I am loving the watercolor pencils. I can get a lot of control and the blending. I want to try the watercolors Aubrey is using soon, because the colors are so brilliant, but I love the pencils.
Logan did a pond-top view. This is not from observation as you can probably guess.
Kamron drew a nice pheasant, then he painted and felt it really did not turn out how he wanted it. I was worried he wouldn't try painting again, but he did and it was pretty good, but he likes the control of pencils better. He told me he was glad to take the class though, because he doesn't usually do art but it was helping him to use a different part of his brain and be more balanced and he felt that was important. -Love that kid.
After almost every drawing time, Seth says, I need to practice drawing a tree. He has lots of trees in his nature journal. During the second class when they were drawing the pheasant Seth drew Japanese symbols with the micron and permanent markers. (She recommends these as they make painting over it easy without the smudging of line that happens with pencils sometimes). The teacher was so sweet and took several minutes to talk to me about how good Seth's lines were and that she felt it was important for a child to draw what they felt they needed to even if it was not a nature observation. I love how she only has positive things to say and there is little comparison.
This is another of Aubrey's from last week. They studied an ostrich's egg concentrating on observing the actual color and trying to make it.
This is also Aubrey's before the good watercolors came in, you can tell the difference.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I got the question about whether a family should finish current books they did not finish last year or if it was okay to go on to the next books. They are very concerned with their kids doing well on tests and getting scholarships. I know what it is like to try to finish a set amount of curriculum. I did that at the beginning, going into the summer etc. At this point I don't always. It does depend on the child and the class. For instance my younger children are finishing their math books from last year, but my older two are not finishing their Aleks classes-including pre-algebra for Kamron, because I felt he understood enough to move on to Algebra and I wanted him to move on with the beginning of the year. Aubrey just needed a different program and for confidence reasons needed to move on to a higher level. As far as history, art, music, PE, science, etc. these are not skills based and can be learned according to interest. If the family is interested in that time period, keep going. If it is just dragging you down, skip it. You do a lot of English programs. I might skip anything they already know, but don't skip if they don't know it. It is about increasing in knowledge, not completing the books. If moving on or mixing things up helps you to feel more excited about what you are doing then do it. It may not be the route you want to go, but sometimes having the kids use books as a jumping off place and not the controlling factor frees up students to get excited about what they are doing and connect with the material so they retain it more. From a public school perspective the rule is that students need to be introduced to 90% of the standards in each subject area. This typically means that teachers select a chapter here and there to skip and don't finish the book. It also may mean some information is taught in a quicker manner, watch a 20 minute video on the Great Wall of China, rather than read a chapter, draw a map and build it out of sugar cubes. The things you love spend more time on, because you want the kids to catch on to that love. Teach them to do the same thing, so they learn to go into depth in some areas that they want to. As far as how this would affect tests and scholarships-this does get tricky, which is why I know it is worrying you so much, but there are strategies. For instance, the kids are tested on math and English every year and you can get study guides for their weakest areas. Some teachers say focusing on middle areas actually bumps scores more, because it is easier to make a middle area strong and more likely the child will answer correctly if you take something they kind of know to become something they really know, versus taking something they don't know to only kind of knowing it. Also, as far as scholarships, many of these are given based on grades, essays and extracurricular projects and activities not tests. SAT and ACT tests are the only ones that colleges really look at and can help with scholarships (STAR will never be seen), but both of these tests need to be studied specifically, because there are things specific to these tests, for instance in the SAT kids need to know that answering wrong lowers their score more than not answering, while this is not the case with most tests. A test prep study is highly valuable for these. Also, another thing to know is that students who study Latin and Greek root words score on average 100 points higher than students who study Spanish. This does not mean-don't study Spanish (my family does), but it does mean study the most common Latin and Greek words if you want a high score on this test. I personally would not do this with a workbook-it needs to be repetitive and fun for retention. We use index cards with derivatives on the back. When I read to the kids at night I quiz them and we add a new word every few days-in this way they are up to about 70 words and even the 7 year old knows them. So to be shorter, I would pick the curriculum, because you want to, you want the kids to or the kids want to learn something. For tests, find out specifically what is on it and directly teach to the test. If anything is dragging you down, go on to something else, there is too many awesome resources out there to feel like you are stuck or you need to finish something you are not loving before moving onto something you might. Sorry, that was kind of rambly, but I hope it helps.