Thursday, May 30, 2013

When Report Cards Really Don't Matter! Part 1

It is that time of the year when I take a few days to reflect on the kids' school work. I love doing this it is so motivational for me, especially when I browse through all of the photos that I have taken while they were in action. I know for some homeschoolers, and those who attend traditional schools that the school year is coming to an end. Not for us! We march on and continue to become life long learners. I tend to think of our schooling in a calendar year from June- June. In June we get inspired by the beauty of the season and I like to take full advantage of all of their energy, and as the seasons unfold we wind down, and this year I found out that March is a good time for a break, at least for me:)  The kids ask me every now and then what grade work they are doing in various subjects. It is often a difficult question for me to answer, because truthfully they are all over the place in subject areas. Sometimes to make things simple I will give them an answer according to the last grade they completed when they attended school. When I know that I am offering them a challenging work I may say after they completed the activity something like that was just eighth grade work, way to go. The bottom line is when I am able to observe them and properly guide them by offering the right materials at the right time they are successful! 

One way that I am able to stay on top of their academics is by this blog. Using the following pictures in regards to DJ's Zoology/Biology studies for our calendar year I will attempt to share why report cards really wouldn't work for us. 

March of 2012 DJ got the spring bug and became very interested in learning about frogs. I unnecessarily had a personal agenda with his interest and put together a work that can be found at Montessori Print Shop. It was a language work that was incorporating his interest. It was too easy for him and it was an activity that was completed in less than 5 minutes and DJ never returned to this work again. If I was to put a grade on this work DJ would of gotten an A for knowing how to do something he already knew how to do, and I would of gotten an E for meddling and for not offering materials that would enhance his learning.

I learned something that was very powerful and it was best that I learned it from DJ. What he wanted was to observe and get close with frogs. He wanted to go to the Nature Center and visit the pond. I put in much work juggling my schedule and observing DJ that luckily that E that I earned didn't hurt my spirits, which would of hindered DJ's self guided studies. 

Instead of printing and laminating more materials that interfered with the learning process, we went to the local pet shop and brought a frog that was six dollars that gave him the opportunity to learn observation skills.

This time he asked me if I had anything that he could record his observations on. This printable came from the same frog study packet from Montessori Print Shop, it was perfect and right on for his skill level at the time. 

I eventually gave him the printable packet and he chose what he wanted to complete. One of my weaknesses is wanting the kids to know what other kids know that attend traditional schools. Shame on me! Isn't that one of the reasons that I homeschool, so I can guide them at their own pace? Yes!  The first work that is pictured was offered to him, because I stayed up late one night looking at state standards and became worried that he wasn't doing enough language activities.  Looking at the photo reminds me of how neat his work is when he is able to follow his interest in a way that increases his knowledge. The above activity definitely incorporates language skills and a couple of other skills as well. I am so happy that in March I didn't give him a report card with an A under language skills, he may have interpreted it as why do I need to write I just got an A. 

From studying the frog he became interested in learning the parts of the fish
 DJ really does enjoy using the nomenclature cards, and it especially goes over well when he has a real fish to study.                  
                                                       Dissecting a goldfish!

Here it goes again my personal agenda, learning the parts of the animal cell.
What grade should I give this? The work was done neatly and without hesistation, but  DJ really doesn't know this stuff. This was done sometime last year, not sure when. Somebody said that in Michigan all fourth graders should meet the state standards and know the parts of the animal and plant cells. Well they don't know my DJ and I am not giving him an E for not knowing it either, he'll get it, when he is ready! After all he wants to be a Vet when he grows up:)
Besides DJ sets high expectations for himself. He is so into the Backyard Safari kits that you would think that he is turning his field work into a professor. He is honest and never rewards himself the badge until all of the requirements are fulfilled. 

I found another great work from Montessori Print Shop that was right on time! See I am learning too, which makes homeschooling so much fun then following a set plan. I learned to be more observant and stop comparing them. Yes, as a mother of three I sometimes compared them to each other. Not out loud to them, but to myself. I am so glad that I am finally over this! It has freed my mind, and given them the respect that they deserve.                      

 The work above that I introduced DJ to inspired him to make work of his own.                            

Oh! and he plays games that go along with his zoology studies even when "school" is over. 

He role plays often. I particularly like this photo of him actually reading a college level book about animal health.

In the Fall our school time was just perfect and once again DJ was able to dig deeper in his studies of animals while doing work with our Timeline of Life. 

By December he was a proud owner of a Ball Python and other reptiles. He continues to give them daily attention and makes sure their physicals are up to date. Can you understand how difficult it is for me to give a grade, especially since none of this is considered school to DJ anyway? DJ zoology/biology studies continue to get deeper, especially since we are now in the end of May pop over here to see his latest biology work.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In The Studio: Warning!! Dissecting Kits

We are having lots of fun preparing activities for children who come to the studio. The ages range from preschool through high school, so there are a wide range of activities that will be available. Since I read some awesome blogs and have three children of my own I never run out of inspiration. The tricky part for me is offering the activity at the right moment.

One of the activities that will be offered is a chance to do some dissecting. I know a few homeschooling mamas that are going to be happy that their child can just come by the Studio and fulfill some biology requirements. Or if they have children like me who absolutely love anything science then it is going to be fun times to have this activity available without the hassling of ordering and cleaning up the mess at home:)

You would of thought the postman delivered a million dollars when the kids opened the box.

   I ordered the dissecting kits and extra preserved specimens from Home Science Tools 

                                                                  A Cow's Eye

All three of them are looking on You Tube right now, preparing for their future dissection. According to them they have to do this so they can assist me if I need help at the Studio with another child.  Fun times!                                

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Little Update

We are finally in our final phase of opening up the project based learning studio! There have been a few bumps along the way, but it has been so worth it. Mostly our homeschool intentional activities have been just reading, writing, and maths all done in under two hours. But if I look at the big picture the experience of being a part of every step in starting a business can't compare to anything that they may had learned in a book. Real life.

It can't be all work and no play right?

                                            Look out! A serious roller skater is coming.

The weather has been awesome and outside time has called us to get out and enjoy it.

I apologize for lack of commenting on your blogs, and I must admit  I still have been reading them. Very soon life will be much calmer and I will have the time to leave a comment to let you know that I appreciate you sharing.

Right now I am getting back to journaling here and let me tell you it ain't easy:)  Here's a tip, try to never take a extended leave of absence from blogging, it feels weird just popping in.


Celebrating Nine

Here are some pictures showing how DJ celebrated turning 9 years old.


DJ asked Big Sis to make his cake, he says that Michelle makes the best cakes ever.

   We had his party at his happy place, the pet store.


 DJ was all smiles, and he thanked me over and over, and he is still thanking me over and over. DJ really enjoyed all of the animal presentations.


 He especially liked being in a room that is usually off limits, this was very special to him.

 DJ gave all of his party guest a safari hat, a butterfly net, and a book. I see animals in DJ's career path! Ha!!

Spanish For You~ A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Spanish for You Logo photo spanishforyoulog_zpsa3fadef7.jpg

 For the past six weeks or so we have had an opportunity to review Estaciones from Spanish for You!. Estaciones is a packaged theme (Seasons) based curriculum that helps you teach your children how to speak and write Spanish, it is geared towards grades 3-8.

We received a PDF download copy of the teacher's lesson plans, as well as audio downloads of a native speaker, and a soft cover textbook that is pictured above of activity sheets. Everything was laid out for me and all I had to do was follow the lesson plans that gives you step by step instructions of what needs to be done and also the answers to the worksheets.
Leccion 1: Los Verbos
One of the things that I appreciated the most was the self checking worksheets. I love it when I find a new to me curriculum that is already aligned with our homeschooling goals. In our homeschool we strive to be independent learners and being able to self check your work promotes this independence that we are striving for.

The native speaker spoke clearly and the children were able to understand and learn the accent of the language, in fact listening to the native speaker was their favorite part. Michelle who is in ninth grade and absolutely loves learning to speak different languages spent countless hours listening to the speaker and perfecting her skills. I firmly believe that in order to truly learn to speak another language you must fully immerse yourself in that culture, this program is so close to the real thing!

                                                            Leccion 4: La primavera
Ken(12) and DJ(9) weren't too fond of this program. They enjoyed playing Simon Says to learn to speak and follow Spanish commands. I was surprised when they took to the flashcards too. Some days they were O.K with doing the lessons, most days the work was done with bribery and since this was a review I had to resort to that evil.

We went with our own schedule and made it work according to the interests of the day!

I really liked the program and I think it would have been something to add into our school routine permanently if Ken and DJ were interested in learning to speak Spanish. Right now they are most interested in learning Latin and love to dabble in learning other languages without my interference. This program is teacher led and this just isn't how we learn here.

 I would recommend this program to those who have children who are interested in learning how to speak and write Spanish. It is a wonderful program to spend one on one time with your Spanish language loving child. This curriculum is full of hands on activities, and the games are a sure way to keep the interest level high. Another thing I would like to mention is that the theme is excellent in it's way to keep children and mine as well engaged in learning Spanish. Although they weren't too pleased with the lessons DJ and Ken did enjoy learning more about Seasons while learning to speak and write Spanish. The theme allowed for science to be incorporated as well.

The cost of the complete package of Estaciones for grades 3-8 is $64.95. You really can't find a better deal for a foreign language program that brings a native speaker right into your home, that is full of hands on activities that will help your child retain what they are learning.


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