Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making the most of a busy day

Wow! Two posts in a week!  Is anyone still there?

How OUR busy science day mornings became less stressful and more productive.

My son serves at early morning Mass and we host science classes all afternoon....on the same day.  This has been going on for years and I have to admit, it's been a wee bit challenging (though not challenging enough to outweigh the benefits we receive from either of those!)

For years I tried to squeeze in reading lessons, math lessons, you know, all those things we want to do every single day.  Also add in work with the high school kids, since they are pretty much gone at co-op the following day. Problem is, it usually didn't work. Add in the fact that it would be nice if our kitchen were somewhat clean when families start arriving shortly after lunch, and it would be nice if dinner were prepped since my toddler is often glued to me while people are here (and I admit, I just like to visit with my friends too!)

Now our busy science day looks more like this:

Prayer time (unless we all make it to Mass with my son....we're working on getting there again).
Spanish Jeopardy
Reading Eggs for my 2 youngest readers
Math games for the elementary kids while I help the older kids
Frozen pizza's for lunch (little prep - little clean up!)
Quick rest time for the kids while I prep dinner.
People start arriving for science and art classes (neither of which I teach!)

So, yes, once a week our morning elementary classes consist of games.  But it's amazing how helpful it's been both in time for me and for learning for them.  It's also amazing the change it's made in our routine once a week.  

Spanish Jeopardy:
I started the 6th, 4th, 3rd, and K on Spanish second semester using Powerglide.  I love the program and it worked well years ago with my oldest kids and the neighbors who used to join us.  Once a week we play Spanish Jeopardy.   We have pieces of paper with Spanish words (and the English answer) placed face down under columns of 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 points.  The kids have divided themselves up in teams I have found them studying together to beat the other team!  It's a lot more fun to review vocabulary this way, and it also gives me an easy method of knowing when they are ready to move on or continue working with our current words a little longer.

Math Games:
I currently have the K and 3rd grader working on skip counting memory.  They each have a set of multiples to work with.  Last week the K worked on 5's and the 3rd grader worked on 3's.  So all the cards (5,10,15,...50 and 3,6,9,...30) are placed face down together and they need to collect their own set in order.

My 4th and 6th graders are also playing memory but they are matching fractions to percents.  They have the percent cards face down on one side and the fraction cards face down on the other side and draw two at a time hoping for a matched set.   This is a bit more challenging in that they have such fractions as 7/8 in the pile along with the standard 1/4, 2/3, etc.

Someone just gave us the game Equate and they pulled it out today.   That will be another option for all to play together.

Reading Eggs:
It's not free but it's worth the money (in my opinion).  I first started using this to keep my early readers reading something in the few weeks after our 8th was born.  The kids move through activities at various map levels.  The thing I like most about it is that they can't continue until they pass the activity.  Instead they have to repeat until they know the material (the knowledge level is assessed both through correct answers and time it takes to get the correct answers).    I also get progress reports.  The kids love the activities and they also earn points "eggs" which they can use to purchase game time.  My K would play this for hours at a time if I would only let him....

Interesting side note:  It was the reading games that made me question one of our children's vision.   She knew the material but could never pass a certain game in which she had to click on the correct word (written on a fish) as it moved from the right to the left of the screen.  Turns out her vision in her right eye was so bad she needed glasses just to see the big E on the chart!  (Her vision is improving...and don't even get me started on how unhappy we were to find this out when she was 7 after years of passing her vision test at the pediatrician with flying colors.  They have since changed their method for vision screenings and instead of covering one eye with the "spoon" they put an eye patch it. - no chance of peeking)

All this gives me some time to help my older kids with anything they need to finish up before co-op the next day. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beginning Again. Again.

After first quarter I always take some time to assess how things are going.  Are we moving at an appropriate pace?  Is there anyone getting lost in the shuffle?  Should anyone be doing more?  Etc.  It seems this year that we barely got through first quarter and life got a little complicated.  Quarter 2 took a long time.  In addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas, a child just not feeling well and needing extra mommy time and doctor visits, and then ending up hospitalized for over a week....well let's just say that we are happy to start second semester with a more normalized routine.  OK, as normal as we can get when you throw in toddler ear infections, taxes, etc.  You know.  Life :)

Anyway, I was still struggling with how to make it all work as we made our way through second quarter with kids in 10th, 9th, 6th, 4th, 3rd, K, a toddler, and college student coming and going.  I asked a good friend of mine who has 4 kids.  Because really, regardless of the number of kids we have we all struggle to schedule everything in.  Her first sentence was something like, "First I fit them into my schedule."  What?!  Why had I never thought of that before?  Every year I would make up their schedules and try to tri-locate.  It never worked.  For the last couple weeks I have been creating their individual schedules and one for me at the same time.  [I usually try something for more than a "few" weeks before telling people how great it works...but this is really something!]

The first week I saw my problem right away.  4 math lessons, 4 spelling lessons, 4 grammar lessons, 4 reading lessons, 3 writing lessons, religion class, vocab. Those were just the elementary kids (and yes, they do more than that.  That's just on their mom time list.)   THAT was Monday. I still had to work with my high schoolers to discuss the upcoming plan for the week and their expectations (they have lists too, but due to the nature of their work it works best to spend some time discussing things up front - and fortunately they are both doing the same work for their Greek Studies classes).

I realized I was trying to do everything and not doing anything well.  It takes a little more prep time, but I spent some time looking at their assignments quickly.  6th grader:  If I spend 45 minutes with him what can we accomplish.  M's math was a brand new concept and I expected it to be challenging.  A writing lesson was important to keep on track for the week.  But the grammar and spelling lessons could wait until the next day when his math was more of a review page.  Continue to the next child.

Put it all together and what does the day/week look like for me?  Remind myself that my high schoolers take more time on M and F.   Is this doable?  What else should I move?    I also highlight everything on MY list that requires prep.  I don't get everything done on the weekend (photocopies, etc.) but I can have one of the kids copy Spanish pages during a break if I have it written down.

My high school students (enrolled with STAA) are currently studying the Greek Lit (Iliad), Greek History (Heroditus:  Histories), Old Testament, and Essay Writing (which is usually related to Lit, History, or O.T.)  A lot of their work is discussion or written work.  In other words....I need to have at least an understanding of the material they are covering.  Instead of running to grab their books to see how many chapters I had to read of the Iliad before our discussion in the morning (not fun!), I added that to the bottom of my list as well.

I am praying for a more peaceful school routine, and I think we finally hit on something effective here.  Still need to work in some fun stuff for our 2 year old because that's just the kind of gal she is :)  Give me something NEW to do!

Praying for a peaceful rest of the school year for you too.

Next our chaotic/stressful T mornings have become opportunities for fun AND learning!