Monday, March 30, 2015

Summer Planning

I look forward to each summer.  Unburdened by school curriculum, we're free to zoom through certain subjects and pick up key skills.   Last summer, we did advanced math, reading comprehension (advanced) and of course Vocabulary Workshop which is by definition advanced without using the word advanced again.

I like to see my kids struggle with material that they are totally unprepared for because it fosters skills like having to read the directions 5 times and check the back of the book to see whether or not I ripped out the answers.

I will have to put more thought into this summer's at home schooling program because I have a child who is exiting 4th grade, where the material emphasizes memorizing facts and applying examples, and entering 5th grade, where (I hope) there is more thinking and problem solving required.

For the last few years, the youngest child got all of the attention as we prepared for The Test.   In the process he picked up a formidable skill set.  I wish I did all of these activities with the older child, but he got about 6 weeks of test prep instead of 2 years.  Therefore, to address this gap, the 4th grader is going to get all of my attention while the 1st grader does his 6th grade geometry book.  On that note, Kumon has really let me down, and I'm once again anti-Kumon.   The workbook spoon feeds math and with a little help, a 6 year old can muddle through.  How embarrassing.  Ironically, the 3rd grade Kumon math workbook is suitably challenging for the 1st grader and he finds the 6th grade book easier.

I stumbled across math books for math competition.   (I googled "math books for math competition").  These books are all about problem solving, mainly at the high school level.  I wish this was the only math curriculum taught in elementary school.  As a matter of fact, there is a new curriculum emerging called Beast Academy, but it only goes up to 4th grade so far.  I only read the titles, and I already highly recommend it.  I'll be experimenting with it this summer for the younger guy.   For the older child, we are going to try AwesomeMath, which appears to be advanced problem solving for the upper grades.  These are expensive books.

In addition to problem solving skills (see the bottom of my math page), I'm looking for 2 skills in particular.   The young one has no clue that he can't do something.  He see's the older brother do it, so he assumes that he can.   If he doesn't understand a word or concept, he'll look for examples or ask questions.   Basically, he just does it however he can until he's finished.  The older one is perfectly capable, if he tries, which he doesn't do without lots of stalling, negotiating, and complaining.  He'll make a great lawyer some day.   I dread the day he learns the terms "continuance" and "abatement".  

The skill I want to teach in some way is the "I can do anything" skills.  I know he can, he knows he can, he just doesn't really try unless it involves Minecraft or disarming the security on my computer.

The other skill has to do with figuring things out for oneself.  Again, the younger one does this naturally because he doesn't know better.  The older child just spent 4 years in the Spoon Feeding Machine, which is how I describe the school curriculum in the U.S., no offense to his great teachers or school.   Topics in math and literature and history that I find fascinating bore him, not because they are boring, but because he expects them to be boring.  I need to undo this.

This summer, the 10 year old will spend 2 weeks away at the YMCA camp learning to be a leader, 1 week at Boy Scout camp learning to be a leader, 1 week at some sort of acting camp learning how to pretend to care, and in between he will get heavy doses of Awesome Math problem solving or he won't be allowed to use the computer.

Thanks to the American Hero Channel, we all have a budding interest in history.  The first episode we saw described how battle field flag codes were first introduced in the Civil War.  The next episode demonstrated how a slave played a key role in the winning of the Revolutionary war.  I did not know that.   Therefore this summer I'm going to introduce a history project.   I'm not sure what, maybe the history of tanks lined up from level 1 through level 20 just like Clash of Clans.  I'm dealing with boys, after all.


15 comments:

  1. I love math book recommendations. We're chomping through the ones you've already listed. Are you getting the Guide books for Math Beast series though or just the workbooks? Not sure the "text books" are really worthwhile.

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    1. We don't use text books. Math is about problem solving, not reading about problem solving. If there is a concept that is new, we spend a lot of time looking at it forwards and backwards and trying out different things. Math should be presented like a science lab.

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  2. Working on my little one's summer camp schedule right now. Would your younger boy be going to summer camp?

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    1. Only local day camps, like theater, nature camp, art camp. These are all things that work wonders for test prep, by the way. The older one would prefer to spend all summer at the YMCA camp in Wisconsin shooting bb guns, but we restrict him to 2 weeks.

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  3. I really could do with some help on GAT preparation. We are 3-4 months away on The test and I am noticing I need help with Comprehension Skills. The boy is fine with vocabulary now, which we had to really crack down on (thanks to your posts/blog), but have noticed he does at least 1 question (comprehension) incorrect from the six he has to answer. He is a rising 2nd grader and will take the GAT test this Fall.

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    1. Here's an unexpected response. He should be getting 3 out of 6 wrong if you're studying a GAT test. It's not about getting anything right, or how much he knows (except for the vocab), but thinking through really tough, unexpected problems in the face of possible frustration. I hope you're doing reading comprehension out of a 4th grade book with unfamiliar vocab. If he gets them all wrong, go out for ice cream to celebrate.

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    2. Which ones would you suggest we go with? We are done with Spectrum (the old ones) 3rd grade moving along on 4th and some of RAZ Kids.

      He is like your middle son, he thinks he can figure it all out while all along I feel "no, he's not getting it" and put some of it into the SM (silly mistakes) bucket or some of it on Comprehension skills.

      For Sadlier Green & Orange (Vocab), I think he is past 80-90% of the words for both.

      Math, I've given up. Just staying with IXL (3rd & 4th Grade). I did use your area questions and some tricky ones but am lost what else I can do. We rely on TM type sequence etc and others from the standard test books (the 'opera' as you call them) excel generated sheets and we upped the numbers to 4th grade level. By and large he gets them but for some SMs.

      Am I expecting too much or am I missing something? I feel he could still make sure he could get to no SMs (because I know he knows the response and just marked it incorrectly).

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    3. I need to respond to this with an Emergency Post.

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  4. In case you haven't discovered yet, Beast Academy is part of a larger curriculum that goes up to 12th grade, called the Art of Problem Solving (AoPs). http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/store

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    1. It turned out to be a dead end. Great name, but not what I was looking for in a math curriculum.

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  5. How did you wind up liking the AwesomeMath books?

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    1. Didn't work. I've resolved myself that all of the great new math curriculum books, including Eureka, are targeting the average at grade level. These are great for the classroom, but not for At Home schooling, which moves much more quickly and deeply.

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    2. Is there a way to use them still, just by going up a few grade levels or are they pretty much useless in that way? I'm not hurting for material at the moment, just curious. I have been slowly reading through all of your blog and trying to distill it into some "key for me" notes so I can find the info quickly when I need it :)

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    3. They're all usable for the purpose of At Home Schooling. There's nothing wrong with them, and we stay about 2years ahead in math at all times. But since we're wrapping up 8th grade math right now, with a really great curriculum, I was hoping to find something in the 1-4 range that would acknowledge all of the skills that were about to emerge in 5th grade (haven't written about these). Something special with math as a focus. I don't think it exists and I think there is a reason for it. I need to think more, because, as you know, I have my own solution which is working (as far as I can tell) broadly, but doesn't address the needs of that guy who is really, really good at math and is ready for prime number theory or another topic. I'll have to think about this more.

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