Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ARGHHH...School

The best-laid plans...and half of them have come to naught!

We started out this school year with confidence that everyone was set for the year. They were all enrolled in virtual schools; they had their laptops, their curriculum, their teachers. We'd all done this before. I knew I'd be hard-pressed to assist them all, but the older two could handle it, I was confident.

Six weeks later... and I have pulled Chicklet10 out of her virtual school, and B17 has dropped two classes and added two others! It's been a rocky beginning.

As a homeschooler, I am used to previewing curriculum before I choose it for my kids. Most parents in the public schools do not have that luxury, I realize, but it is one of the great gifts of homeschooling. Through our selection of assignments, we can make sure that our kids are spending the most time on activities most suited to their needs and abilities, with the right amount of challenge.

I just could not stand by and watch Chicklet, in 4th grade, have to scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs of low-interest, wordy, non-fiction text and then answer droves of questions requiring her to search back through all that material for a certain phrase. She was having to read more stuff about evaluating literature than actually reading any selections. I can see explaining first and third person to fourth graders, but third person limited? Third person omniscient? Third person objective? She had paragraphs and paragraphs of details about all the functions of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. (For fourth grade, I'm delighted if they can name the three branches; I'm thrilled if they know that they mean the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court!) She needed my help to search and find answers to questions like "What are the three categories of symbiosis?" (The answer was buried in a paragraph of text, not numbered or set off with bullet points, and the categories are multi-sentence explanations, not easily condensed into a word.) The last straw was a social studies assignment for her to read the Declaration of the Rights of Man (the French declaration of independence) and compare it to the American Declaration (neither written at a fourth grade level)--and highlight the similarities. Really??

Early on, she had been so hopeful that she would be able to work independently, but about the third week, she said, "Mom, I feel like I am not very smart." I began to spend more time helping her, so it wouldn't take so long and be so frustrating, and that's when I realized the problem was the curriculum. It's the first year they have offered this level, 4th grade, of Lincoln Interactive. It's a curriculum we had used and loved for second grade, and B7 is doing great currently in Little Lincoln, 2nd grade. I gave them my feedback...and pulled her out.

Since then, she has read Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, The Courage of Sarah Noble and Sam the Minuteman with excellent comprehension and enthusiasm. She's doing several pages a day in various workbooks for math and language arts, with lots of time left over for reading, which she loves and which is what I believe 4th graders should spend most of their time doing. That and memorizing math facts, and writing--and none of these were frequently assigned by the other curriculum!

For B17, it was also a matter of difficulty. He was so lost in Spanish 2.  Papa Rooster, who took two years of Spanish in high school and was a bright student, finally took a look and said it looked more like Spanish 3 or 4 to him. The guidance counselor readily agreed that the Spanish 2 course was very difficult, and she approved our thought that he switch to Latin 1. His brother is currently taking Latin 1 as an 8th grader, so I was able to preview the curriculum(!) and I could tell that B17 would learn more from a year of Latin than from Spanish 2. They are now both enjoying Latin class.

The only problem, in high school, is that even a simple choice like that can have ramifications for college acceptance. Unless B17 takes Latin 2 next year (not his plan), he will have two years of a language, but not the same language. How badly will that hurt him? My hope is--not much. It would be fine with TIU, where his sister is, and Taylor, for example, doesn't require but recommends two credits of foreign language, no mention of it being the same language. Still, some colleges want two years of the same language, and he doesn't know where he wants to apply yet.

The other tough decision was to pull him out of Algebra 2 where he was confused and getting more lost every week. It's covered on the ACT, and many colleges want to see 3 years of math through Algebra 2, so it was a hard choice. But the Algebra 1 class he had taken in 9th grade was a slower-paced class called Algebra Survey which may not have fully prepared him for Algebra 2. With input from the math teacher and guidance counselor, we decided to put him in Algebra 1 as a junior and plan to take Algebra 2 as a senior. Since then, I heard of a college math professor saying he wished everyone could take Algebra 1 twice, because that foundation is so important for any higher level math, so we are feeling good about that decision. B17 is, too.

He's also taking speech at a community college, once a week for three hours. So far, he's doing well, and the plan is to take a college class each of his remaining semesters.  He'll enter college with some credit, and it will build his confidence before he is faced with a full courseload.

Meanwhile, B13--who you may recall ended up at the local middle school for the second half of last year--is struggling once again with motivation. He really, really does not want to go back to the public school, but he may require the structure. He actually did have a good experience last year and thought the work was easier, but he hated how many hours he was trapped in school. "Every day is the same," he once complained, which made me laugh, because so many people would think that homeschooling would be more monotonous! Maybe now that we finally have B17 and C10 settled, I can shift my attention to B13 and help him stay on top of it. The middle school girls, however, will be delighted if he returns to public school!

Thank heavens B7 is chugging along steadily in second grade, doing Little Lincoln online. He is a good reader for his age, which helps. I am familiar with the curriculum, since we used it with C10 two years ago, and I am comfortable tweaking the lessons to make them less laborious. Really, he can just write "S" or "P" instead of "singular" or "plural," don't you think? Or maybe I can take fill in the word web as he brainstorms ideas for a paragraph? B7 is such a willing fellow, but he balks at too much handwriting in one day, and I think it ultimately interferes with learning, at his age. He enjoys the 5 minute instructional videos and games, and overall, I like the program a lot.

So, six weeks in, and I am still not sure that we are settled.  But after our rocky start, it looks like a smoother road ahead.

2 comments:

Papa Bear said...

Given the books that C10 is reading and enjoying, and that you want her to read good books, rather than some abstract text about books, Sonlight might be a good fit for her.

momco3 said...

Wow, Jeanne. But can I come join Chicklet in 4th grade at your house? It sounds awesome! I'll pray for wisdom and adjustment for you all. =)