Sunday, July 13, 2014

Workbook Parenting

Five years ago when I started my career as an academic coach, all I had were workbooks.  I didn't know a thing about teaching kids, but my theory was that I would just give them a bunch of problems and let the problems do the teaching.  If it was too hard, I would give them easier problems, and if it was too easy, harder problems.

Later I started diagnosing "too hard" as missing skills, and then I would think about which workbook or exercise was appropriate to filling in the skill.  Straightforward if the missing skill is "addition facts" but more challenging if the missing skill is "paying attention".

This approach works surprisingly well.   Because of this approach, I own shelves of workbooks. At $7 to $30 each, it's been a good investment that has paid off.

My original vision with workbooks was test prep.  Therefore, I don't help with the instructions other than ask insightful questions ("Can you read the question to me for a third time?").  I figure a "gifted" kid should be able to figure things out for himself, and the only way to get this "gift" is practice.  This annoys my wife, who doesn't understand how I teach math without teaching.

This summer, in the test prep off season, we've been addressing gaps in academic material, specifically Reading Comprehension for a 9 year old and Math Word Problems for a 10 year old. Once again I'm looking for workbooks.

For reading comprehension, I'm using the half completed "Comprehension Plus Level E" workbook that my son brought home from school.  We're doing the other half.   Unfortunately, teachers can't make it through 100% of the material, and it's a parent's job to finish the job.  This topic happens to be part of every academic test I've ever seen.

For Math, I almost did Kumon.  We're missing number sense, English, and a whole bunch more. Instead, I bought 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade versions of Daily Word Problems off of the Evans Moore website (8$ a piece if you want to grade them yourself).  All of the parent reviews assure me that the problem can be done in "just a few minutes", which means dozens of these a day are doable.  We've only got 5 weeks of summer left.

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