Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reading Aloud is Now a Chore

It has become too challenging to find time to read aloud as a family. With the kids being nearly 11 and just 8 they are busy beavers and I'm running around trying to get a million things done each day. I've got to figure out how to build family reading time into our schedule. The kids are also reaching the point where they'll complain about reading time. Wasn't it just yesterday that they begged for me to read them same story 5 times in a row? I do find that once we get started they become interested and want me to keep going. How do we build family reading time into a busy school/work/activity/sleep schedule? Any ideas?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Educating Boys

With having a son I have become sensitive to understanding the emotional and educational needs of boys. Here is a link to a great article about educating boys:  http://booksandboys.blogspot.com/2010/02/because-you-care-about-boys.html.

I'll talk about this more extensively in another post, but I wanted to take this opportunity to promote one of my favorite ways for sharing great literature with children - the audio-book (available at public libraries). I am sure that having spent countless hours listening to exciting literary adventures in the car has encouraged my son's love for reading.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Expect Quality Work

One of my central frustrations with my kids' school is the low expectations regarding completed homework. For one, homework is not even graded (homework is not allowed to be part of report card grades believe it or not!). For awhile I tried to be hands off with regards to homework. I wanted it to be my kids' responsibility. I was also under the impression that the teacher was checking the homework and would correct mistakes and make kids redo sloppy work. I was very wrong about that. I had no choice but to become total hands-on with homework and I set a "Quality Work Only" rule for homework. On day one of this new policy I made my daughter erase and rewrite her answers to a few questions because the handwriting was awful. Before going off to do it she whined the following horrible words to me - BUT THE TEACHER DOESN'T CARE! Exactly, that why I am making you redo it!!!

I first heard this detestable sequence of words from a student I was tutoring who attended a local Catholic School. My student was correct - THE TEACHER DIDN'T CARE. I explained to her, and to my kids later, that my philosophy is that turning in quality work is about respect -self-respect and respect to your teacher (regardless of whether the teacher cares). Sometimes I get annoyed with the amount of time I have to spend monitoring homework, but if I didn't than who would know if they are learning math or spelling? The teachers literally do not check the work. For example, in my daughter's 5th grade math class the kids pair up and check each others work. My daughter tells me that they assume the answers are correct if both kids have the same answers. If they have different answers they can ask the teacher to go over it. So the teacher assumes that kids can't have the same incorrect answer? I think this is just lazy.

Part of a classical education is adherence to the principle of quality work. That does not mean perfection - an impossible expectation, but putting in the effort to show your best work for that time and place. Messy handwriting, incorrect answers, and overall sloppiness should not be allowed to go back to school, in particular if your kids' teachers do not correct it. I've found that if I am consistent with my expectation of quality work than the kids are more likely to do it right the first time so the amount of "do-overs" has diminished quickly.

Monday, February 15, 2010



President's Day

I didn't plan ahead for any President's Day extra-schooling, but the library had a collection of books about presidents and I was reminded of this educational opportunity. I decided to go with historical fiction rather than pure non-fiction. I've never tried the Childhood of Famous Americans series by Aladdin Paperbacks. We picked up Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom (Childhood of Famous Americans) I Got one chapter in last night (I called the kids down too early and they put up a fuss about leaving their games for family reading - best to wait for the bed time reading.).

This reminds me of an excellent audio-book about Abraham Lincoln that we all listened on a long road trip   Lincoln: A Photobiography (Houghton Mifflin social studies).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

5 Days of Snow = 4 Days of Extra-Schooling

Our town has been walloped by two blizzards so we've all been home and very cooped up. The kids became very sick of so much snow rather quickly, especially since it is hard to sleigh-ride in it. They did play outside for a couple of days though - a must for the classical child in my view.

As is my nature, I took the opportunity to fit in some extra-schooling. We spent maybe an hour each day on the following:

Copying Poems - we've touched on this in summer-schooling, but no where to the extent that I'd like so I dusted off a copy of The Children’s Classic Poetry Collection compiled by Nicola Baxter that I think someone gave us years ago and jumped into poetry for the week. Both my kids (DD is 10 and DS is 7) have not experienced copying great works in school unfortunately. This is one of those glaring gaps that I'm compelled to fill in. I've also taught both of them cursive (not taught at their PS) and this was an opportunity to copy poetry and practice cursive at the same time. They got to pick the poem - just a stanza or two was plenty. On the 2nd day I thought to throw in learning about the poet. We found a biography of Sir Walter Scott on-line and that lead me to getting Ivanhoe for myself at the library. DD wanted her own and it turns out there's a children's version so we put that one on hold as well.

Math review – 1 or 2 pages in the their math review books (Harcourt Family Learning series)

Independent reading for DS in French - teacher commented that he needs to spend more time reading.

Some communal reading – over a few days we read a wonderful book about liberty called Open the Door to Liberty by Anne Rockwell. It's about the life of Toussaint Louverture who led the Haitan Revolution. The story's ties with the French Revolution and American Revolution were perfect for some home history study.