Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal #20: Erratic, Messy Learning

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In My Life This Week… I had a setback with my health issues and I've been sleeping a lot.  Oh and the PMS fairy arrived. One of the days I'm going to catch that wench and shoot her ass.

In Our Homeschool This Week…

Documenting Learning ... It's All in the Details

I've been working on being more effective in documenting the kids' learning. I find documentation challenging, because
  1. I'm an erratic homeschooler. The title of the blog says it all. 
  2. For me, it's all about the process rather than the product. For example, I could note that my 8-year-old and I played a game that involved practicing multiplication facts through 6s. Fine, but that doesn't interest me nearly as much as how she did it. Was she enthusiastic and curious about exploring this new concept? How did she approach the problems? Did she work out her own computation methods? How?
During the day, I find myself grabbing the camera to take a lot of snapshots, so I'll remember what I want to put in my notes later. (If I simply jot down notes, I'll lose them faster than you can say "erratic mama.") I end up with a lot of random images like this:

 A messy pile of stuff Eliza and I did Tuesday

 The "Real Estate" Game -- introducing multiplication and area

Quick notes on how she approached novel math problems (e.g. 3 x 6 -- "Let's see ... 3 threes is 9 
... so ... 18!"      5 x 5 -- "2 fives would be 10 ... so 2 tens would be 20 ... (plus 5) ... 25!" 
For me, this is the most fascinating part of the process.

Note about an interesting conversation I overheard ... lots of learning there.

Well ... you get the idea. :-) 

I'm trying to get in the habit of noting these things, every day, using  Homeschool Day Book, which I like because it's very simple and unschool./eccentric/eclectic friendly. It's a tidy way of sorting myriad random acts of learning into academic subjects. Y'know, for when you need those proof of progress reports and transcripts.


Mathy Stuff:

As I mentioned, Eliza and I had fun with "The Real Estate Game" -- click here and scroll down to "Dice in Dice Land Plot Geometry Game."

In addition to devising ways of doing multiplication, which is a fairly new concept for her, Eliza worked out a way of adding a slew of two-digit numbers to figure out who won the game -- i.e. who had claimed the most squares. She's been taught very little math formally. This was a deliberate decision I made after watching what worked, and more importantly what didn't work, with my older kids who were reared more traditionally. Once again, I was delighted at her excitement at approaching a difficult problem, with little or no guidance, and her persistence in working it out!

Now if I could only find a way to rekindle that in my teens. It would probably take a miracle akin to raising Lazarus.

River is still trudging through Algebra I. Seamus hit a roadblock with Key to Fractions. Multiplying fractions is just not clicking with him. He could learn the algorithm, of course, but he needs to really get a concept or it's a  no-go. It's a "right brain" learner kind of thing, and I honor that. I drew all kind of diagrams; I talked him through it. No amount of teaching on my part seemed to be helping. One thing I've learned with him, is that it has to be just the right time to learn something new and he has to learn it his own way. When the time is right, he just gets it. It's a "right brain" learner kind of thing. So I decided to drop the curriculum for now and get him to explore math through patterns, playing strategy games, and such.


Eliza has done lots of French this week. She asked for a Bingo game to help learn the names of animals, and I found it online. See the Forest Animals Bingo and Forest Animals Cards here. I read the words aloud for her as we played, and I find little opportunities to speak French (you know, because I only speak a little French). :-)


River has been very absorbed in watching and reviewing movies this week, and she's talking about applying for an unpaid job as a reviewer for an online film magazine. I am way beyond thrilled at this spark of confidence and motivation, and I am trying to keep my distance for fear I might kill it. ;-) 

As a family, we watched Hugo -- what a wonderful movie! It's basically a celebration of imagination and the art of film.


Seamus and Eliza decided to start reading Story of the World with me, and I am way beyond thrilled. We read about the early nomads and the transition from a nomadic lifestyle to farming. We're planning to make "cave paintings" and I'm going to show the kids this video by John Green on Crash Course:

By the way, I LOVE what John says about "the test." Thank you! :-) I knew I liked that guy.

River and I watched a movie titled Hunger which deals with "The Troubles" in Ireland and Bobby Sands' hunger strike in 1981. I asked her to do some research on "The Troubles" and on Bobby Sands and we talked a little bit about the long, painful history between England an Northern Ireland.