Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A teens day~ Working through our Studies

I thought about sharing how our days have been looking lately with our new schedule and new lessons so far this year. It has been going increasingly well and so  I thought I might share what is working,  in order to encourage and give others ideas on how they might be able to tweak and explore new ways of doing things for their teen/middle school aged learner.

We start our mornings at whatever time he wakes up. I don't set alarms or have a real rigid schedule because I think at this age my son (now 14) needs as much sleep as he can get. I have seen some growth spurts over this summer and now another coming again for this Fall. ( I can tell because when he eats a TON and is not sleeping well this usually indicates that his body is preparing for a growth spurt) Often everyone thinks that when children are eating a ton they are growing it is just the opposite. When they eat very little ( like a bird or much less than normal) and are very tired and sleep much more they are actually doing their growing at this time.

Anyway getting off track here~ we don't have an exact time with when we start school. I tried to follow a schedule thinking an external structure would help but it didn't seem to matter with my son. (I do realize this helps with other children, it just did not with mine).

Over breakfast we have our morning "chat" or "morning meeting"~ this is where we take out his checklist of things and just read over what is up for today~ it helps bring things together and answer any questions he may have on something.

I let him start off his day with whichever subject he wishes to start of with actually. I feel at this point at his age and development he needs to find his own way to how he learns best. We have talked at certain points about focus and attention and how starting off and doing the harder things for him first might be best.  At this point he really doesn't look at things as harder or not, he explains that some he would want to do first since they might be the most "boring" so he sometimes will choose to do those first. Regardless I think this kind of problem solving is helpful in more than just learning your studies.

Today he started off with his Literature reading. This is really the first year I am requiring him to read good, classic literature where before I would read it aloud to him now he is reading this on his own. He is right now reading The Swiss Family Robinson and through that he is doing dictation exercises from passages from the book and also learning grammar and word usage through the dictation exercises.  ( explanation of how I do dictation exercises can be found here

I collaborate Spelling Work into these Dictation exercises along with some work with word meaning ~ I found this to be much more effective since all his spelling/vocabulary programs we had tried he would get 100 on and it was just busywork and seemingly a waste of time.
I found he needed a more individualized program whereby he needed practice in writing words "he" needed to work on, not from a list that someone else made up for him to study. This just makes much more sense and he is enjoying his spelling much more.

I also work off of the Learning Language Arts through Literature Teachers Manual with him I use it as my "guide" to incorporate specific LA skills I may not have thought about for example today we worked on changing singular nouns to plural nouns and what the rule is for doing so when a word has an "fe" or "f" in it.

We worked a great deal this morning with a re-introducing semi-colons and commas. These were introduced again since our dictation passage had these both in the passage. Tomorrow I plan to work again with looking back at the ideas behind semi-colon and commas and plan to use these resources to help me~


I have learned a few tricks along the way with my teen. I used to ask him to read a number of pages, for example I would write down "read two chapters or one chapter of ...." I found that this was fine, but noticed it wasn't exactly challenging my twice exceptional kiddo :) I changed this and now I require a time period for reading instead I now write down for example "read 30 minutes from Swiss Family Robinson".( We are starting off at 30 minutes and I will be adding on time as we go along very slowly. So that eventually he is reading a solid 60 - 90 minutes. )
After he finished his reading he then decided to jump onto his Grammar Revolution. ( this is the new grammar program I am using) He absolutely loves it and continues to tell me as he is working through it.

[I should mention briefly before going further that "before" he begins his new lesson with GR, we go over again what he learned yesterday and how we do this, is he pulls out his OneNote Grammar Section and explains back to me what the lesson was about, what he learned and any questions he might have. Then he moves onto the new lesson.] 
At this point is working on part of speech per day~ he was on Adjectives today ( as he mentioned EASY) where yesterday he worked on Verbs ( this introduced not just "verbs" but also included "kinds of verbs" - linking and helping and the difference between them) He filled in his workbook page from the printed out E Book and then (to reinforce) then went back to his OneNote, dated the entry and explained what information he had learned about Verbs and gave examples.

This may seem quite redundant to some, but I have found with my son that when learning information he processes the new skill or information better when he can go back and jot down what he learned about it. ( I suppose many would call this written narration, either way this works for us) This kind of exercise helps to internalize the information.  He has been very successful so far in really now understanding the concepts in the parts of speech through this kind of instruction.

Another comment I would like to make is that this program doesn't cover just the basics. It is more comprehensive and I remember one of my readers "Cindy" asked if I was concerned about him getting overwhelmed. I think this is an excellent question and I would like to address that more formally here for a moment because grammar ( because it is so abstract ) can be quite overwhelming. I had seen this with my son in other programs we had tried and that had failed us.

This program seems to make much more logical sense to my son. He is as I said, "twice exceptional" and is very right brained in his learning so he tends to need to be able to see the "whole picture" ~ many grammar programs will only work on "parts" of a particular part of speech. (For example with verbs, many will show that verbs show action ~ my son would always question this since he would see other words in a sentence ie., like the linking or helping verbs to be a part of that "verb family". He would get very confused and frustrated. By seeing the "whole picture " when it comes to something like this really is very beneficial to him.
It doesn't mean we may have to go over it again and review certain things but for him this answers many "unanswered" questions.  (I hope this made sense)

With Grammar out of the way he then started his Math which is now working through Teaching Textbooks. This usually takes him about on average 20 minutes or so.

A short break to check his emails and finish straightening his room, check the news and then Mum calls him back for more studies :)

Typing practice and then possibly lunch~

Weekly/Daily Block Schedule Checklist ( on right you can see where I add notes for assignments that might change)
After lunch, since we work on a block schedule (shown here "Weekly Schedule/CM) today was History~ so he worked further in his Oak Meadow program learning about Ancient Persia. ( I use this program probably very different than most people I am sure) He reads a section of a lesson and then in his OneNote does his written narration on (again) what he learned.
I also supplement quite a bit on this ~ since OM lessons are short overviews of topics but that is quite fine we use them as a jumping off point and move forward from there with videos ( I have these listed according to lesson for him to use) and good living books among other projects and crafts to do if I find something really neat to do. OM usually has wonderful craft things to do for example we are going to be doing marbling I think very soon so he will love that.

In an effort to collaborate his learning a bit more for a more deeper meaning I also incorporate Art and/or Music Study into his History. The other day he researched Ancient Persian Art and had learned about the different kinds of art they had done and had taken graphic images and added them to his OneNote narrations. ( all the time learning even more skills at the same time, - ie., computer/technology at the same time)

I like the block schedule since it helps to condense things quite a bit. The only thing I am considering doing is possibly later on adding a science study to it like I do with the art/music because again, I can see this brings more deeper understanding on a topic.

I am so pleased to see how things have been going so far this year with him. ~ I look forward to sharing more as time goes on.. 


Cindy K. said...

Thanks for sharing how it's going with your teen! I always like seeing how other teens do things and to see what we can possibly strive towards.

We're at a point now where I am requiring more narrations on things they read especially since I am not there with them to know that they read it and actually internalized it. (I give them a choice of video narrations in OneNote or written in OneNote. Each son has chosen a different method for different reasons.) However, I am getting a lot of complaints from them about "do we have to narrate this, too?" LOL! I try to keep the narrations required down to 1 or 2 books/day so they aren't narrating EVERYTHING, but they aren't to the point yet where they accept that this is the best - and simplest - way to learn their material. They have never experienced being handed a boring textbook and told "Read Chapter 1, do all end-of-chapter questions using complete sentences, and be ready for a test on Friday." ROTFL!

We have had a rocky start with them narrating their silent reading for the first time. We have previously only narrated our read-alouds. They are also reading much more assigned reading this year compared to years past since my struggling reader is finally caught up to grade-level. (YAY!) So those are some big changes they are adjusting to right now. Surprisingly, I am NOT getting complaints about the reading itself, or that there is too much, just that they don't want to narrate it. So I think I have a pretty balanced reading schedule for them.

Do you have your son respond to his classic literature in some way - narrations or otherwise? You didn't mention whether he's narrating his "Swiss Family Robinson" reading. I do like that you are defining his reading by time instead of chapters. I don't do that with the reading because then the boys wouldn't stay at the same point in the book each week for our core curriculum, since they are doing the same level work. However, I do gauge the reading amount/day on what will not be overwhelming for the slower boy, though sometimes I do push him a little to see if he pushes back. ;)

I saved the file you wrote on dictation for future reference. We will do some of that during our handwriting time a little later this year.

Thanks for the explanation on how the grammar is working for your son. I think this might be a good grammar program for later this year or next year. So far, we have learned the 8 parts of speech, only the subject/object pronouns and the action/linking verbs, the subject, predicate, direct object, and will discuss the indirect object next week, the prepositional phrase and the independent clause. I want them to work with these parts for a bit before we consider trying your grammar program. Grammar Island and Practice Island (Michael Clay Thompson) don't use diagramming, but rather a "4-level analysis" which is quite beneficial and serves a similar purpose. But after doing this a while, I'd like to see if they like this method or diagramming better.

It's so good to see that your son doesn't push back on writing a quick narration in his OneNote for each subject to describe what he learned! I wish my boys would be more willing to do that! Maybe as they get used to the daily narrations they will come to accept this as a part of learning!

Learners at Home said...

Cindy~ you made me smile with the whole textbook thing~ LOL :)
I am glad you found it helpful.
I have not yet started him doing written narrations with that. Right now he is doing written narration for; history, science, and grammar. I do plan to have him to written narrations probably after this book for his next piece of literature. I didn't want to throw too much at him. I did have him do written narrations last year for his reading and he flew through it.. so I am not too concerned I wanted him to practice re-telling more factual information this time.
At first when he started the written narrations he was kind of not sure what I was looking for - an outline? or something like what IEW does? I explained NO not at all~ I actually modeled for him the first time for his science. He read the section on what he was doing ( first lesson in the brain program) and then I took his laptop and had him orally tell me back what it was about. He did and I typed away... and then showed him and he knew exactly what was needed :)
It was kind of as simple as that. Not too fancy I know but its I did it, lol.
At about the third lesson in grammar I felt compelled to explain the "whys" of the narration in the OneNote but as I think I mentioned he stopped me in my tracks of explaining and said " No Mum, I know this helps me to remember and really understand what I just learned". YES!
I will try and share more as I go.. I am not really used to sharing SO MUCH on what we do but as I blog more and get emails from others I am realizing it really does help others to give them ideas etc.. I too am like you and love reading what others might be doing especially when we are somewhat "like-minded".
Congrats to you and your son for your reading accomplishment! That is terrific and should be celebrated ~ way to go !

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