Saturday, April 18, 2015

More on Homework Concentration

I think I'm approaching my finest moment ever as the Worlds Most Awesome Academic coach.   It's Saturday morning and my kids are focused on their math (2 pages), vocab (2 pages) followed by music practice, which I just added today.  I was considering adding reading, but I don't want anyone hurrying through reading.

I can remember back a year when all I got was crying and whining for an hour - and the assignment was just a single page of math.   Sometimes it took all day before a child would reluctantly do his math in order to have 15 minutes of computer usage before bed time.

In the year between crying and whining and Lean Mean Saturday Morning Homework machine I didn't do anything special or clever.  Here's what I did:
1.  I got the work together every Saturday morning and put it on the table where breakfast is eaten.  With pencils.  I think this is the key to success.  Every morning, no matter how depressed I was.
2.  I offered to sit with anyone and help as needed.  When I would nag or get mad, it wouldn't help much. After a few weeks of helping, my kids think I'm more trouble than I'm worth, but the little one will still take help because his vocab is way beyond his level.
3.  When they wake up, I am typing on my blog so that they would see the computer and say "Can I use the computer" and I would respond "Can you do your math?"  No math, no computer.
4.  I never let them use the computer during the week.  Lately if they do their math, vocab and music practice and reading and all their school homework - which is impossible - and they ask me to use the computer I think I would let them, even on a Monday night.  But it's impossible.   Friday night and Sunday are not impossible.  We get some work on Friday and Sunday too.
5.  When 1 page of math was too easy, I increased it to 2 pages.  I used to alternate vocab and math, now they have to do both.  When they could get through the whole thing in 30 minutes or so, I added music practice.

Here's why things are going so well.  The 6 year old ran out of material at his level and now does exclusively material that is way beyond him.  I'm not sure what to do about that.  Is this a good thing or a waste of time? But he still tries really really hard.

The 10 year old is doing Mathletes (way hard) and the SAT practice tests I got him (just right).   I sent a thank you note to the customer service address for Mathletes and the author's wife responded.   Apparently the author was invited to put together a gifted math curriculum for the Plano TX school district.  I wish Chicago would do the same thing.  In the mean time, the type of material in the curriculum is in this book.

The SAT problems are exactly the perfect way to practice math (assuming that you have Mathletes to learn math).  The SAT practice book has every theorem, formula, or conceptual explanation a child would need. The technical math content of the SAT is accessible to anyone who has had 5th grade math.  The problems are super convoluted and multistep and require lots of thinking.  Algebra is not anywhere to be found unless needed for a solution to a problem.  I think this is he way I would teach math.  I see a high degree of motivation that I didn't see before.  Yea!  This could solve my problem.  Not to mention we're doing hard core test prep at a level that makes insane look normal.

I may be up for the Competitive Parent Magazine Parent of the Year Award again.

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