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.

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