Monday, March 21, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of March 21, 2016: Long Division and Lots of Projects!

School has been going so well, y'all! I have figured out The Secret to getting the kids to complete their schoolwork without a giant power struggle.

I bribe them.

Will is the WORST about doing her schoolwork, because she only ever wants to do what she wants to do, and that is read. Of course, being such an avid reader means that she always needs something new to read, which means that she always, always, always wants to go to the library.

Our deal: Each morning, I highlight the required schoolwork and chores that must be done before I will take her to the library, and I tell her when they must be done in order to get to go on that day. For instance, today we're leaving the house at 11:40 for our volunteer shift, and I'm not making two trips into town, so if she wants to go to the library today (and she does!), then she needs to complete her math, cursive, Book of the Day, and dishwasher work by 11:40. If she does all this, then she goes to the library. If she doesn't, then tomorrow's train to town leaves at approximately 1:00 pm, and to get that train to make a stop at the library after playgroup, she'll have to have completed ALL of Monday's work AND Tuesday's highlighted work.

And let me tell you, if she didn't go to the library on Monday, she is BURNING to go on Tuesday!

Friends, this has worked for two solid weeks of school so far. Nothing has EVER worked to get Will to do her school for two weeks in a row before!

I have long suspected, however, that the children meet together often in private to decide which of them will play the role of the Good Kid and which the Bad Kid on any given day, so it will not surprise you to learn that in this same period of time in which Will has done her schoolwork excellently, Syd, who is normally my reliable worker, has been a total pain about getting her work done!

Here's what she's been doing instead:

It's my policy that I don't disturb a kid who's happily engaged, but she also doesn't get her screen time if she doesn't finish her school. This is usually incentive enough, considering that she's My Little Pony's biggest fangirl, but the lack of screens wasn't seeming to bother her at all, so yesterday, when Syd was starting to look seriously bummed at the big pile of schoolwork that she still had to complete, I pointed out the Barbie movie that she'd checked out of the library the day before and said, "When you finish all of your schoolwork, you can watch the entire movie."

The normal amount of screentime that one earns by finishing schoolwork is one hour, so an entire two-hour movie? And a BARBIE MOVIE?!? She was zoned out in front of it by early afternoon.

Hopefully, schoolwork will go smoothly this week, as well. Books of the Day include a couple of leftover books on the Salem witch trials, some living picture books of the Colonial and Revolutionary War times, and a couple of science trivia books--I introduced the children to Trivial Pursuit last week, and Will, in particular, finds trivia intoxicatingly fun. Our Sensory Material of the Week is our set of good old pattern blocks. I'd never get rid of them, as I'm sure we'll have further academic use of them one day, but it's been a while since we've worked with them--time for them to come out and play!

And here's what we're doing with the rest of our week!

MONDAY: Syd fussed and pouted all last week about long division. She can do it, but she doesn't like to, and anyway, I know that the algorithm isn't making a lot of empirical sense to her, so all this week, we're just going to back up and learn long division again, this time with manipulatives. You actually CAN physically do long division using Base Ten blocks and Cuisenaire rods--I learned most of it from this guy! Syd and I did many, many long division problems by hand this morning, and we'll do more tomorrow. Maybe she'll move back into Math Mammoth after that, or maybe I'll have her dividing by hand all week--we'll see!

Either way, it's a SUPER cool way to divide. I'll show you more about it some other time.

Last week, the kids completed all the grammar activities in their Wordly Wise chapters, so this week's task is to memorize the spelling of those words. The kids will practice them daily, as well as their Mandarin vocabulary and their cursive:

They'll also be working on their STEM Fair projects every day, and their Gracie and Spots documentary project. Lots of dailies this week!

We've got our regular volunteer gig at the food pantry today, and tonight's big plan is to eat pizza and Easter candy while watching the third film of The Hobbit series. Dream big, Friends!

TUESDAY: In Math Mammoth, Will is still zipping along with integers, although she has moved into the tricky bit of adding and subtracting negative numbers. We speak of it as "an absence of cupcakes," as in "You have three cupcakes. I am taking away an absence of two cupcakes. How many cupcakes do you have now?" 

I am SUPER excited about our art lesson for today. I have an entire series of first- through seventh-grade art lessons that I haven't yet used, but I like the way that they combine art history with guided viewing, discussion questions, and several suggestions for extension activities. That's just the way that I like a lesson to go! Starting with the first grade unit, I've just been looking through them to find any works that might be relevant to our other current studies, and so how awesome is it that there's an entire lesson on the Lincoln Memorial? I printed a couple of photos of the Lincoln Memorial, and so we'll be studying and discussing those, then completing an activity that replicates the way that the sculptor, Danial Chester French, worked to create this sculpture.

An afternoon at the park with our homeschooled friends will complete this wonderful day!

WEDNESDAY: Okay, I am now officially obsessed with Benjamin Franklin. I have extended the Philadelphia leg of our summer road trip so that I can spend more time fangirling over him, and instead of zipping through several chapters of Making Thirteen Colonies, our prequel text to the Revolutionary War, we'll just listen to the chapter of Benjamin Franklin on this day, the better to discuss him at length and ad nauseum.

The kids got distracted from their newspaper late last semester, but perhaps a little encouragement is all that's needed to finish up the last bits... in honor of Ben Franklin!

In other news, I need to add Geography as an additional subject in our school week, perhaps starting next week, so that we can focus just on the geography of New England, the thirteen colonies, and the Revolutionary War. Here's Syd coloring in the thirteen colonies as she listens to Making Thirteen Colonies--how cute is that?

I'm also in the market for a couple of coloring books on the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods, the better to entertain us as we listen to audiobooks. Anyone know any especially good ones?

We've finished the first chapter of our earth sciences unit, Composition of Earth--here's Will's investigation of the Ph levels of various liquids:

I want to make sure that they've memorized the main points of the chapter before we move on, so I've written a "study guide" for them to fill in, and then, yes, I WILL be giving them a test!

The NaNoWriMo Young Writer's workbook is still very much uninspiring and unpleasant for both kids, although I know of plenty of other kids who've loved this curriculum. They're working through it with so little enthusiasm that I despair of it being of any use in writing a story, for either of them, but when I asked each child, separately, what they'd rather be writing--poetry? A movie script? A journal?--they both just sort of shrugged, so we're sticking with this workbook for now.

Election 2016, now--we LOVE this text! The kids had a fabulous time last week searching YouTube for interviews and advertisements, etc. This week they learn about polls, and then I'm going to have them create their own poll that they'll then administer and record the results of on the following week.

A science experiment is our last activity for human reproduction. We'll be messing around with pads and tampons, discussing how they absorb menstrual fluid and measuring their absorbency. I asked the children what body system we should move onto next, so I can get started researching it. Will's request?

The spleen. I mean, I'm sure there are just loads of super-fun enrichment activities for exploring the spleen!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Saturday is back to business as usual, now that our university's Spring Break is over. It's a good day for me to work at home, while Matt shuttles the kids back and forth to ballet and Mandarin and back to ballet. We're actually going to the ballet this weekend, as well, and then on Sunday we'll eat lots of candy and maybe I'll finally get someone to help me in the garden!


Tina said...

I love all the photos you take of your kiddos! I videoed a short bit of Emma reading a picture book today. She read the entire thing with the funniest accent!

How long, if the girls work steadily, do you all spend on school work? Emma throws a fit, complaining that having to sit through 2-3 subjects (so 2-3 hours) a day is torture. Maybe if I start bribing her with audiobooks, video games, and instagram she will work better.

That is, after she gets back from another visit to Gramma in Iowa.

julie said...

Well, they NEVER work steadily, so it's hard to measure. I'd say that math takes no more than half an hour, Wordly Wise takes probably half an hour total over the course of the week (although Will usually chooses to do the entire thing in one sitting), cursive takes probably five-ten minutes, and studying Mandarin about the same.

Something that's more project-based will take a half-hour to an hour, probably. We probably spend an hour on science, including the pre-reading, my lesson, and the project. Same with art.

Ongoing projects are more variable, because some days there's very little to do for their STEM Fair projects, for instance, but over the weekend I expect that they'll devote hours to it.

So I'd say that I strive for no more than three hours of "work," whether it's seatwork or project-based, and if it's a day when we have another school activity during the day, like our volunteer gig or our homeschool's playgroup, then I strive for more like two hours. Considering that the kids spend much of their time doing really cool activities of their own choosing, and learning at home is much more efficient than learning at school, half a public school day seems reasonable for our homeschool.

And yes to the bribes! I thought that I was going to astound all of my friends with this revelation at our homeschool playgroup, but it turns out that everyone else has already figured it out! They were all, "Well, YEAH they can't go there or do that or have whatever until they're done. Duh!"

Tina said...

HA! Sometimes it's hard to find the bribe that works, I suppose. I wouldn't have thought that access to her audiobook (or regular books) would be considered a bride. However, now that I think about it, I am sick of being shushed in the car because she's reading. Maybe having her do a few minutes of school work as soon as we get in the car before she can read would do the trick!

Thanks for the timeline. I don't feel so evil then :0)