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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last day of 2008

December 31st 2008 - I love the idea that tomorrow I get to start over and try again. Not that anything really changes, but I like seeing a clean calendar, fresh to-do list and I honestly enjoy the sense of anticipation as I strive for that unreachable state of perfection that exists only in my mind.

This past week has been dedicated to lesson planning for our second semester. In order to do this I had to take a serious look back at what has, and has not worked for us over the last 4 months. I'm sure none of this is earth shaking for anyone who has taught a kindergartener before, but it was important for me to think it through. Here are the highlights:

We love attending co-op - the kids enjoy each other's company, and I appreciate the accountability of "Having" to complete my lesson plans and organize experiments and craft supplies in advance. Plus, it is nice to see how my kids respond to teaching methods that I may not have tried on my own.

Handwriting worksheets can be discouraging - Handwriting has been our struggle this year. My oldest is very aware of the difference between her markings and "perfect
" letters and can become very frustrated at her shortcomings. What has worked to encourage her has been to write in, and on, strange things. Pudding is by far our favorite handwriting tool (and snack). The kids also enjoy using their Aquadoodle water pens to trace over Mom's words, erasing them from our chalkboard. We use dry erase markers on the shower walls, chalk on the basement floor, and old eyeliner on each other. It's not something that you can file at the end of the day, but it works for us! Over Christmas we began with some basic copywork and she will tolerate it as long at she sees it as having a purpose (writing nonsense letters for the sake of practice is "silly" according to her) so I will try to expand on this.

Audio books are an easy way to sneak in lessons - My two are very auditory (as you can easily tell by the volume in our home on any average day) so books on CD have been a God-send. "The Story of the World" is their absolute favorite. We are doing volume 1 this year (Creation to the Fall of Rome) and I am amazed at how much they have learned about Ancient Egypt, China, Africa etc. with very little prompting from me. We have listened to many fiction books too. And I recently picked up a new skip counting CD. While these are fun, my clan just can't get enough about history. Thankfully, I love history too, so we have very quiet car rides on our way to and from the grocery store.  

"Learn to Read" books are dull and aggravating. - Beginning Reading has been a fun task this year. At first I was focusing on "teaching" them phonics and encouraging them to read little books (like the Bob Books set) but the kids were thoroughly bored with the story lines. (These two have huge attention spans and love LONG stories, so something that they can finish in less than a minute actually makes them angry). Instead we have created our own reading system. Mommy reads the book, usually a Five In A Row title that goes along with our science or social studies theme, and then we will re-read it with the kids being given specific words to sound out as we go. We play other phonics games too. Sometimes they will be given letters to search for on the page ("Who can find a 'q'), and phonics games ("where is a word that contains a silent e") Going through the book more slowly also gives us a chance to look at it in more depth and dwell on the artwork on each page, or the author's use of certain phrases etc. The key for us is that they are only willing to read if the reading material is worthy of their attention.

Sticking to a schedule is key - We do the same things in the same order every day with very little exception: Wake, breakfast, dress and chores, 15 min of free time (no longer or they get too absorbed in their game), Reading, Handwriting, Math. Snack time and another 15 minute break. A "fun" lesson, and then they are free to play (preferably outdoors). Science and Social Studies are saved for last because they are "fun" but we don't do these every day. Sometimes we will do an art project or craft just for fun instead. On the days that I stick to this schedule everything hums along smoothly - but if I get a phone call or try to check my e-mail before we have finished our lessons, forget it.

The math book doesn't know my kids - Although my oldest is capable of filling out the pages in her math book, and I really love the colorful simple BJ program we chose, she honestly hasn't mastered basic counting, so she struggles more than necessary. I've decided to ditch the book for a while and focus simply on numbers. Writing them, reading them, and quickly identifying amounts. The book is good, and we will get back to it after a few weeks off, but it was forcing her to rush past the basic comprehension that she missed which isn't helping her at all. This will also give me a chance to focus more on what my 3 year old needs. Bye-bye book.

2009 is going to be a busy year for us with our new baby girl arriving in April. I am really excited about our 2nd semester and I have confidence that God has great things planned for us. Here's hoping that my excitement will turn in to determination and perseverance as the year progresses.


Viktoria said...

You are such a good Teacher!!

Nate, Michelle, Trent, Dylan and Aliya said...

You are a great mom. It is so important to understand what doesn't (and does) work with kids. I love you and admire you!

Doris said...

Great job! You are doing a terrific job teaching the kids and it sounds like you are enjoying it all at the same time.