Monday, September 26, 2011

Simple machines....I never want to see you again!

Simple machines....I know all I want to know about simple machines.

Man, trying to come up with ways to keep this kid interested is a bit tricky.
We have done all the research and he understands how they all work which is great.

How to present that information?  Well, we did a series of experiments and took pictures. Then, we my brilliant child used MS PhotoStory to create a presentation ALL ON HIS OWN!!  My kid did fabulous work narrating all of the experiments as we went along.  That MS PhotoStory is an amazing piece of free software.  Loving it.

Today we are finding pictures of all different kinds of simple machines and we are creating a poster board AND we spent some time looking at Rube Goldberg's website.  If you haven't checked out some of his stuff, it's super funny.  He has cartoon strips of machines to do ordinary tasks....that don't really need machines.

This boy then created his own little cartoon strip with a machine on how to turn your computer on.  He's a clever dude.

He and his dad are going to create a complex machine which involves two simple machines and I think we'll have covered all of the information in one way or another.

Tomorrow we might do one experiment from the textbook itself.

On to bats and immigration.  He sent a series of 5 questions to Gramma about her immigration to Canada and now that we have the responses, we're not sure which direction to take it to make it interesting......

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Friday was kick-off day for the homelearning program.  We went to a local camp where the kids got to do high ropes, archery, kayaking, beach play....fabulous stuff.

I have never met a nicer group of people...of parents...of teachers.  They were amazing. So empowering.

For the very first time my role as a parent in my child's educational journey was paramount!

I met some wonderful mothers and had some amazing conversations.  It was so completely different from the school yard.

I'm still in a bit over my head but I'm hoping once we get into the swing of things that we'll get a nice rhythm going....if only life wouldn't interrupt!   I'm not sure how we're going to juggle having kids in different schools (homelearners go twice/week for totally cool classes together with other kids) but I'm sure we'll manage somehow.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We're working on.........

Today the kid composed 5 questions to ask Gramma about her immigration.

He would like to:

  • do some Dutch cooking and share it with his teacher Jen which will involve choosing a recipe from my Dutch cook book (this is when I wish my Opoe was still alive and could share her expertise...)
  • visit the Holland Shop and pick up some salted licorice for his teacher to try
  • find a Dutch painter that he finds interesting and learn some facts about him/her
  • Try his hand at painting with acrylics on canvas
  • Find the Dutch flag and learn a bit more about Dutch culture
  • Write a report based on Gramma's information
We might put this all in a scrapbook of some sort.

We are going to be reading a book by Kenneth Oppel (Canadian writer - yeah!) called Silverwing to begin our study on bats.  I'm trying to find a place where we can go and do something hands on with bats....I put a hold on this book at the library and found some unit studies and ideas on Kenneth Oppel's website.  Hit it! 

We also started simple machines.  He used a graphic organizer found in Kidspiration to organize the definitions and uses of the 6 simple machines. I simply gave him his grade 5 text book to read through and pick out the important information.  He did an okay job - needs a bit of tweaking but not bad for his first round of independent information gathering.  

Next week he tweaks this outline and picks out some experiments to do with simlple machines.  He's going to record them in a log and also use the video camera or webcam to capture some of the results.

The JumpMath 5.1 is AWESOME.  Really liking how it builds on principles.

Still trying to figure out how to organize the I cover the same subjects in the same order every day or do I give him 2 choices in a block of time as to what to accomplish?

I just don't know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We met with the teacher today and it was so fabulous!

I'm excited about our learning plan. It's rather informal and we get to do such COOL stuff.  She said not to get stuck on the curriculum content but focus on the skills - yes!!!!!

The teacher was just amazing.  She gave me some excellent books to read.  Have you heard of Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto. about interesting reading.  Take a look if you ever get the chance. It will  honestly make you think twice about schooling and education.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

We are starting with Simple Machines, Immigration, Bats (not even part of the curriculum but how cool is it that I can find something that my kid is interested in and work it in???) and Math.

We're ditching the Math Makes Sense textbook because quite frankly, I hate it.  Math doesn't make sense when I use this textbook.  I'm quite familiar with it and worked with the series a few years ago and I just hate it.  I've heard that you either love it or hate it - there's no in between.  Instead, we're using Jump Math 5.1 which at first glance, I quite like.  What I love about this approach is that I can pick and choose the resources as long as we're meeting outcomes!  Ya baby!!  I think my grade 5er will enjoy this series much more than the other which has a large oral and group component that's not really suitable for home learners.

Immigration - we're going to work on our family tree and interview Gramma who is a Dutch immigrant.  From there my kid will get to pick how he wishes to present his information.  He'll get to do some Dutch cooking and perhaps explore some Dutch art which dabbles in various areas of the curriculum.  This also hits on various Cub badge we're really talking!!

Simple Machines - again, my kid is going to take the lead.  Use the camera and scan the house for simple machines or present 5 of them and explain how they work or  take your bike and describe all of the simple machines or create them out of mechano or some other sort of building materials.  He gets to choose what he's most interested in and we'll go from there to accomplish the ministry criteria.  

He's doing martial arts and participating in a coaching program at a local college.
He's taking piano lessons, theory and participating in a children's music program at church.
He's participating in Cubs which hits on SO MANY curriculum outcomes it's not even funny.

It's a whole new approach to education and's family oriented and we're going to rock it.
Do I honestly feel this way at the moment...not yet, but tomorrow I will.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Letter writing.

I have nothing to say about today.  Yup, nothing.

We did math....played with some computer games on the computer, one being Letter Generator.

Kid composed a letter to his Grandpa back in Ottawa.  It was like pulling teeth.  Basic simple sentences.  It's going to be a challenge to get thoughts on paper this year but we're going to keep at it and make it as fun as possible.  We put the letter in an envelope and mailed it straight away.  I always like to keep stamps in the house for that very reason.

I'm excited to meet the teacher on Tuesday - so many questions I have!!

And, tutoring starts again in 2 weeks. We're working with a great Orton-Gillingham tutor who has been a good match.  The calendar is pretty packed....I wish we could eliminate tutoring from the mix as it takes up so much time and $$$$ but I'm not sure what other options we have.  The standard spelling programs are in no way helpful for his boy of mine.  He can do the comprehension parts and the mixing and matching for definitions and sentences etc. but as for learning to spell the words or applying the spelling rules there is little to no retention.  

We'll see what the year brings.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is grammar all that important?

Today was a bit of a bust. We didn't accomplish a whole lot.   I look forward to meeting with our teacher on Tuesday to get started 100% with our learning plan for this year.  Keeping the day structured is going to be a bit challenging because of this 2 year old zipping about.

We explored Microsoft PhotoStory.  AMAZING software.  We need to get a microphone so that the kid can narrate his own presentations.  We used aquarium photos and put them to music and that was kinda fun but it would have been better had we been able to add the narration too.

Spent some time on grammar.  When I was in grades 4-6 I spent a lot of time studying grammar.  I knew it inside out and I wonder if that was an advantage when it came to writing and writing structure.  I was able to proofread my way through university ensuring good grades....I just wonder.  Grammar is boring but perhaps it's part of the foundation when it comes to good writing skills??  Just a thought.  You'd never know I was a grammar expert based on these blog posts, that's for sure!!  I remember proofreading my hallmates essay in university and it was HORRIBLE!!  I couldn't believe that he came out of highschool with that grasp of the English language.

I'm reading an excellent book called Right Brained Children in a Left-Brain World.  It is giving me great food for thought about my kid's "attention inconsistency" issues.  It debunks a lot of the common thoughts about ADD.  It exists, in reality, for a small percentage of people but has developed considerably due to our fast paced visually stimulating culture.  It's been a good read so far and I see my child in too many areas.  I need to address this issue with his teaching and learning.

I think he's right brained.
I think he has "attention inconsistencies".
I think he has a learning disability when it comes to spelling - most likely dysorthographia.  He has many of the same struggles as a child with dyslexia.

I use these definitions to describe my brilliant kid not to label him but to give me and his other educators a better grasp as so how to help him learn and how to teach him.  He thinks big.  He's got big, explosive, creative, fantastic ideas.  He grasps huge concepts and he actually loves learning when it comes to something that he finds interesting.

I'm starting to get this kid....a little bit.

End of rambling.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

10pm ramblings - goals and resources

It's 10pm and here I sit at the laptop trying to wrap my mind around my right-brained (potentially ADD) incredibly intelligent 10 year old.  I'm his mom.  I should be able to do this, right?  I know him best?  I'm a teacher?  Ya...all those things hardly make me qualified as I'm not an expert in any of those departments.

My thoughts tonight:

I have some goals for this child of mine.

1)  I'd like to give him a great schooling experience so that he's prepared to go to 'normal' high-school if he chooses
2)  I'd like to use technology as much as possible as he enjoys it
3)  I'd like him to master his times tables
4)  I'd like him to become a proficient typist

Having said all those things, however, I'd really like to try to "grow" an interest in written expression without much actual writing until he's ready to write.  Really, that's what I want.  I want for him to write.  WRITE.  Truly, I want him to be able to create...get thoughts on himself and generate ideas outside of his head.

If this was the only goal I had to accomplish for grade 5 we would be singing.....but there's tons of stuff he has to learn by the end of this year on top of that ultimate goal.

I know that I need to use the required curriculum as a spring board - he's not going to remember it but there are skills he needs to learn in the process.  But, some of the curriculum resources (and topics!!) are super boring.  I need to help him determine what is most interesting to use to develop the skills.

For example, if he needs to learn to do paragraph summaries, then what paragraphs can I use that are most interesting so that he'll WANT to read them and be motivated, at least somewhat, to summarize them?  Clear as mud...I know I'm rambling.  I'm so tired - running as fast as I can already and we don't even have all of the activities into the mix yet.

Anyways, that's the key.  He needs to feel like these educational decisions are his choice.....

Clever writing websites that we're hoping to use:

Wacky headline starter

Fortune Cookie Stories

Post card Creator

Book Report Sandwich Station

Creative Writing prompts

That's all I've got for now.

What I need is a really comprehensive integrated unit study that caters to a reluctant writer and still manages to cover all the curriculum content.  Possible?

Where do we go from here?

What to do....what to do....

We don't meet with our teacher for another week or two so I'm trying to come up with a game plan until then.  Tricky business when I don't have a whole picture as of yet.

We started the math text book...I have to go into the resource library to see if there are any manipulatives or something fun to go along with the units we are covering.  Math can be pretty boring and I'm not entirely certain how we're going to 'do' math other than to 'do' math.  There are some fun math websites so I'm going to do some research to determine if there are any extra games he can play that might enhance concepts such as number patterning etc.

We're trying out software this week - AMAZING stuff.  AMAZING.  All the stuff I desperately needed him to have last year is right at my fingertips now.  We have the 30 day trial of Inspiration and we downloaded the 30 day trial of Kidspiration.  I think he could benefit from both, for sure.

Yesterday the kid did a little research sheet on Terry Fox (by his choice) and learned to make the brainstorming links etc. with Inspiration.  He said he had seen this software at school and played on it in computer class but never got to use it in the classroom.  There's a disconnect, for sure.  Plus, the teachers didn't know anything about it.....Interestingly enough, the Pro-D day that is happening this month (if that sort of thing isn't kiboshed by the strike) is on the Inspiration software.  Go figure.

Today, he used the question/answer type sheet with Kidspiration.  Pretty great set up.  He can even hear the sentences that he types out which is a neat feature.  I picked a random story out of one of the Language Arts books and we did the question/answer thingie that goes with it.  Hoh-hum....BORING.  Not relative to my kid at all and he hated it - this is what he was doing last year.  A random story has no meaning to him...he's not interested and can't see any connection between the story and himself.  He's not motivated to read it nor is he motivated to think about it.

This kid needs big thinking....I'm not sure if I know how to capture his interest to get him WANTING to learn and answer questions about things.  I hate apathy. He needs to get to a point where he WANTS to write things down.  That will be the only way we improve his writing - he needs to WANT to learn about it.

So, today wasn't a total bust.  Tomorrow we are trying Photostory and we'll see how that goes.  We went to the Aquarium on Monday and he took a lot of pictures that he is going to document and manipulate.  I'm going to have to stay pretty up to date with my computer knowledge this year, for sure.

Now is the chance for us to get comfortable with the software and the kid likes computers so I'm trying to use that to our advantage.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And so it begins.

Well, we did it.
We registered for a Distributed Learning program.

This means we are now a semi-homeschooling family.  It means I am now the primary teacher for my grade 5 son.  It means that I am responsible for ensuring that he meets the curriculum criteria for grade 5.  Yikes!!

What have we gotten ourselves into?  I don't know entirely but it's going to be great.

It felt very strange to bring only 2 kids to school today instead of 3.  My oldest child has been attending this school since KG and it has been such a roller-coaster ride of an experience.  He has had some fabulous teachers and some that were simply not interested in furthering his education but teaching to the masses.

I get it.  I get teaching to the masses but at the same time, when my child is one of those masses, he needs to be taught in a way that he will learn and he was not getting that kind of attention.  He couldn't get that kind of attention.  The classes are too big and the teachers are too busy.

So, we take the bull by the horns and we are creating an entirely new educational experience for this brilliant kid of mine.  He's brilliant and I want him to feel brilliant.

I'm not sure that he missed going to school today.  I think he quite enjoyed the fact that he's starting out on a new adventure.  He played well with others at school but didn't really develop any close friendships last year. We went to the learning centre and picked up some text books and we're off and running.  In a few weeks we meet with our supervising teacher who will help us set up a learning plan and we'll take it from there.

What we did today.......I installed INSPIRATION software and my brilliant kid watched all of the tutorials and then gave it a whirl.  Let me tell you - EVERY kid should be using this stuff. AMAZING!  All I can say is amazing. It's something he really needed last year and when I asked about it I got no support and no encouragement...and at one point, no response at all.

EXCITING STUFF.  Tomorrow we're working with PhotoStory and we start our typing program so that becomes a bit easier.

And so it begins.