Monday, April 30, 2007

The Fates are Conspiring

Yes, it's true. The Fates are conspiring to make me an unschooler. School went horribly today. We did the spelling test that we never did last Friday and Cameron only got two out of six right. Yes, that is 33.3%. He couldn't even remember how to spell them after writing them three times. I mean seriously, he had just finished writing them and then couldn't spell them! I decided that this week is review week and his spelling words are going to be all the words that he missed on all the previous tests. That gives him 8 words.

Then we moved on to math. Again, it was a nightmare. He was doing Review 4 and couldn't figure out 20 + 14 even with a picture. The picture had 3 groups of ten and 4 singles drawn and I guess he just couldn't conceptualize that the picture went with this particular problem. It was part of a Related Problems Set: 20 + 14, 34 - 20, 34 - 14, 14 + 20. Anyway, we finally made it through the four pages but it was pretty bad. He was struggling with 11 - 9 and 8 - 5 and I had to tell him to count it on his fingers. Why should I have to tell him to count on his fingers??? It was so frustrating for us both. This is totally stuff he whizzes through on most days.

I moved on to drawing for our next subject and that went much better. First we did the Mirror Imaging Warm Up from Drawing with Children and Cameron did much better at it than I was expecting. It was a tough concept, but once he figured out what he was supposed to be doing it went well. Cassia, on the other hand, could not figure out the concept. Cam was thrilled with himself for doing so well and wanted to do another "harder" exercise. I traced the 'Wow! I Can Draw' exercise for him which is just copying simple line drawings of things like ice cream cones and teapots. The goal is for the student to visualize the components that make up each object as they draw: ice cream cone = triangle + irregular round shape. He did ok. I think the scale was too small for him. Cassia couldn't do this exercise at all. It was way too hard. I am amazed at some of the art work in the book that is done by four and five year olds. We've got a long way to go! But progress is being made. My drawing is improving too, I think. I drew some sample pictures for the next couple lessons and they didn't turn out too badly!

Once schoolwork was finally over, the real learning of the day started. I found a cool board game application on my new iMac and so Cameron spent a very long time playing backgammon, checkers, tic-tac-toe, chess, 4-in-a-row, and reversi. Several of those games he had never played before but he started winning in just a couple rounds. After a while, he wanted me to get out the real backgammon board (which I had forgotten we even owned) and we played three or four games. He even won once (though I was sparing his vulnerable pieces quite frequently). It is so nice that he's at an age where we can start playing games that I actually enjoy. I just wish he'd hurry up and outgrow Old Maid, lol. I hate that game.

A little later the kids wandered outside with the sidewalk chalk and ended up drawing an entire universe on the concrete out back. It had our solar system as the center, with all the planets in order, and then several other suns and rockets and comets and lasers, lol, and things I can't even describe. It was so cool! We had to leave before they were finished and go to t-ball, but as soon as we returned they were right back out there drawing more suns and more space explorers.

T-ball went great too. Cameron was focused and really on his game. The coaches had all the kids move back when it was his turn to bat. They kept saying things about him "really having an arm on him" and made him play 3rd base because he was one of the only kids who could actually throw all the way from third to first. He's also got a small group of friends that he always plays tag with after practice. He's just really in his element there. *grin* Yes, proud Mommy bragging away - but it's my right. ;)

So doing our schoolwork today got us frustrated and miserable. Living life got us some great knowledge in logic, strategy, math, science, outer space, creative stories, art, team sports, following instructions, interpersonal relations, etc., etc., etc. I totally believe that a Classical Education is the "perfect" education. It's the one that I wish I would have had. Life seems to be screaming to me that it's not perfect though. Maybe I should stop putting so much effort into my Master Schedules for next year and more effort into ways to keep things as child led as possible...


G said...

I know - it's hard, isn't it? Every time I think we're getting back into the groove of homeschooling, something goes awry, and we end up basically unschooling for the next few days, or week, or so. I've noticed too when I push the seatwork, the kids, especially CO naturally, get frustrated and start making more and more careless mistakes. Then I back off, let them lead the way, and presto... learning!

Maybe it is a sign?

Love the chalk drawings though! My kids have been big into sidewalk art for the last couple of weeks - thankfully our apartment complex managers don't mind chalk everywhere!

Pixilated Mum said...

Hm. About the spelling? Essie sometimes needs a little extra practice help than what is in Spelling Workout A. (That's what you're using, right?) Every now and then, the words in the unit do not seem to flow well together, so she needs some extra fun spelling exercises rather than just the seatwork.

Speaking of seatwork, I do think that it's a balance. Just my bias, I know, but I really believe there are some things that a child will not naturally gravitate to, so they do need some seatwork. For example, Essie does not naturally gravitate towards math. It just doesn't happen. Not even when we lay off the books for a while. No child-led math there. Not even anything that remotely could be considered math! So we do need seatwork for that just because I don't want her to be a sixteen-year-old girl who cannot do basic math! But with reading and writing, she naturally goes with that, so the seatwork is less because she just does so much on her own. I am a big fan of the classical education, but a more relaxed version of what TWM proposes. We're like Classical Ed Lite. ;-)

Those chalk drawings were soooo pretty. And I loved the mommy brag.

- Maria

Meesh said...

I think I sort of have the opposite problem. We unschool, but like Maria said there are things that don't seem to happen natrally. We do seatwork in that case too. Our seatwork happens pretty infrequently, but it does happen and when it does it is generally met with excitement.

As for spelling, I've always been of the opinion that there are those who can, those who can't and then a sort of middle group who know when words are wrong, but need help finding the answer. I think that last group is formed by avid readers. I fall into that group. I feel pretty certain that if I were not a reader, learning spelling independently would leave me a crappy speller who wouldn't recognize a mispelled word if it bit me. So while I think spelling as a subject is valid and important, I think reading is at least as important to spelling. One method that I found helpful with many of my students who rarely read for pleasure is called configuration. I'm on my phone so I can't google it for a link, but I will later. It is great for the visual learner.

naturalmom said...

I find with Brianna that there are some days when she's really on the ball and the seat work goes quickly and enjoyably. Then there are days like you had today! It's as if her brain simply isn't functioning properly. Math problems that she did in seconds yesterday will be met with looong periods of silence that devolve into fidgeting or doodling. I'm trying to just let go on those off days. (I'm totally for that in theory, but in practice I sometimes get frustrated with her spacey-ness.) If it's consistantly a problem I might try for a different time of day, or make sure she gets a balanced snack before we begin.

Like you, I have experienced that my kids' most meaningful learning has come from their own initiative. That doesn't mean we don't "do math". Math is a skill that can help them follow their passions more easily, so I think it's worth approaching systematically. (Especially since dd currently says she wants to be a scientist when she grows up!)

I'm glad you were able to see the positive side of your kids' "goofing off". The solar system thing really is very cool! Moments like that are what homeschooling is all about, IMO.