Saturday, June 18, 2011

Being Watchful

Last night I noticed that the kitchen garbage was empty. And I smiled to myself, because I knew my son had taken it out without being told. Duly noted, I hadn't mentioned it to my son, but he made sure to bring it up today. And it gave me such a great opportunity to affirm him. "I know you don't like me calling you a 'young man,' but it's a mark of becoming a man to see a need and take the initiative to take care of it without being told." He said, "thanks," in a way that let me know, maybe he didn't mind the "young man" status so much.

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1.

I think as mothers that we have to be watchful for opportunities like these. It's so easy to focus on the times kids don't do what they're told or that they have to be told...that we can miss the fact that they are young, growing persons who need to be affirmed, who need to see what it is to be a man or a woman, who need to be respected for their growth and not torn down for their failures. They need to know they can make us smile and make us proud.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marie Rippel appeared on The Balancing Act television show on June 14, 2011, speaking about pre-reading skills and the new All About Reading Level Pre-1 program.

Here's a replay of the segment:

"As we all know, learning to read doesn’t just magically happen once a child learns his ABC’s. In fact, more than a third of children struggle with learning to read," Marie Rippel said. "So you can imagine how excited I am about this opportunity to talk to parents across the country about the importance of reading, and how teaching their child five important pre-reading skills—which we call the Big Five Skills—can have a positive impact on their child’s reading success."

Congratulations Marie, loved getting to see this segment! My kids were among the 34% who struggle with learning to read, I believe this will help a lot of parents and their children. We would have loved all of the games and activities in Pre-1 (and even my 12 yo dd thinks Ziggy is adorable!).

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End of the Year Evaluations

"The writers of this book don't want kids to understand math!" my then seven year-old said to me. That proclaimation came up in a series of conversations about math that started with one of our year-end evaluations. My son told me that he hated math--which I knew already, but I started asking what made it hard, and then I began to realize that the program I had chosen used a discovery-oriented approach when he wanted to be shown how to do something (by the book--not by mom!) instead.

This became crystal-clear one day when I showed him a different book. He looked through it, and then came to me with his old book and made the statement that still makes me laugh today. I feel confident that the writers DID want kids to understand math--it was just the wrong approach for this child. As we talked, I did have to tell him, "No, sadly, we can't get rid of math as a subject--but we can work together to find a better curriculum and a style that makes more sense to you." The result was that his very negative reaction turned into a positive journey that we took together to find something that would work better. That's actually one of my favorite homeschooling memories, and it set me on a new path. Instead of feeling defensive and adversarial, I joined him on his team and together we found solutions.

We often think about evaluating our kids--but do you also have your kids evaluate themselves and their school year? I started doing this because of my son's math struggles early on, and I learn so much from my kids through this! When they were little, we would do this orally. We'd snuggle up on the couch with a snack and just start talking. What did they like about school? What was hard this year? What made it hard? What was their favorite subject? and so on. My kids have given me valuable information that has helped me improve my teaching style, learn more about their learning styles, helped me make simple changes that meant a lot to them, helped me in choosing curriculum, and improved our relationship with each other. They know that I really care about what's important to them and that I want to help them and walk alongside them. I have often told them, "This is YOUR education," because I really want them to take ownership of it.

One year my son wanted to learn about sharks, and the local children's museum just happened to be holding classes where they would disect a 2' shark! Amazing! But had I never asked my son what he wanted to learn, I might never have known about that fleeting interest (fleeting because of the smell I think...!)

Now that my kids are older, I have a written form that includes these questions:

What subjects are your favorites, and what do you like about them?

What subjects are not favorites, and why not?

What area did you improve in the most this year?

What area are you struggling with or would like to improve in?

If you could change something in how we do things, what would you change?

What would you most like me to understand about you?

What is one goal you hope to achieve next year?

How about you, do you have your kids fill out an end of the year evaluation? What questions do they answer?