Saturday, May 31, 2008

Evaluations part 2--Rough years, goals, and Meta Cognition

Lest anyone get the impression that all of our years are rosy (gee, I don't get to use the word "lest" very often!), we've had rougher evaluation times, and that's ok too. I think it really drew my kids and I closer together to evaluate each year, though we've only done orally in the past. They saw that I was willing to listen and take their thoughts and concerns into consideration.

Sometimes the changes suggested were not doable (No, sorry, we can't just not do math!), but then we were able to work through things and find something at least more palatable. As you can see, my son doesn't love math...but he no longer hates it! He no longer thinks we're using a curriculum that doesn't want children to understand math(he said that at age 6 about Miquon, LOL!). He's not asking to change curriculums--all he wants is for us to read instructions together (which is what I asked if he wanted at the beginning of the year and he said no--and so I've let him go at that).

But that's where trial & error, success & failure come in. I let him try his idea--and he sees now that he struggled with it, and realizes the advantages of doing it with mom. I often let my kids decide something if I can--how to do something or the order--this is their education & my dictating everything seems to stifle them. But in return, they are learning that mom knows some things, and sometimes it might be wise to follow what mom says.

And I am learning that sometimes they have some pretty great ideas, and hey, maybe we could do that. I'm so close to becoming stodgy some days it isn't funny! (ok, maybe a little funny!) They're willing to change things up. So...I go with it if I can. Finding out something won't work doesn't scare me--I think we all need the freedom to fail. And our kids will learn a lot from how we handle a failure, so nothing is wasted.

One thing I'm keeping in mind for next year. This year I went over just one main goal for my son--to make writing easier for him. (That's "kid-speak" for "let's learn how to write paragraph and multiple-paragraph papers this year," but he wouldn't have been interested in that!) He was able to remember that goal and go back and evaluate our year's LA based on that, how cool! So next year I think I might actually write down the goals (or have him write them), and let him be more a part of that process too.

For him to tell me which spelling he thinks will be more effective, and that he thinks he needs something else to memorize his science lessons, shows he's taking ownership of his education. That's what I want! To release my kids more and more to ownership. If homeschooling is something I do *to* my kids, I think we'll be in trouble by high school. This is their journey, and I'm a guide...but it's more and more becoming their journey.It also helps them...and me...learn about their styles, and better serve them as their teacher, and they better serve themselves as learners.

I learned a new term this spring...meta cognition. Basically--thinking about how we think. It's a skill that we can help our children develop that will foster a good education, and helps us focus on how to make things work. So, years ago when my son wanted to just dump math & I said we couldn't do that, but encouraged him that I would walk with him in this journey of finding a way to do math that would work for him--I was really asking him to analyze how he thinks, to begin to identify those things about himself and how he learns. We continue to build on that foundation. It's a good thing!

Friday, May 30, 2008

End-of-year my kids!

On Thursday I had my kids do written evaluations of our school year. We've done discussions like this orally in years past, so they know I take their comments seriously. I asked them to write what they liked, what went well, what they didn't like or was hard, and what they would like to change for next year.

Their responses just tickled me pink! Especially because they put time and thought in them. Anna took 45 minutes! (Note, I did not have them edit for spelling, they might have caught some of these if I had, but oh well, they're cute!).

Anna wrote:

I think that handriting is my favorit subjet.

1- Becas it is sumtimes short.
2- it is Bible versis
3- it is cersiv

My 2end favorit is math.

1-it is sumtimes esy
2-it is fun
3-I can do it werever I want. (later she expounded orally, "in the livingroom, in my room, downstairs, in the screen porch, on the swings..." LOL, I guess she really has done math in a lot of places!)

My 3rd favorit is spellin (LOL, we're working on it!)

1-we get to do it as a famly
2-the magnit letters
3-the magnit wite bord.

And everything is the same (I asked what this meant--everything else she likes the same.)

I [great big huge heart] scool!

As we were talking, she said school is fun and I said "I think so too, you make it fun for me too." (she does, most of the time!) Then she said she'd been thinking about how hard I work to make it fun & that she wants to make a "teacher gift" to thank me. What a sweetie! She also had nothing to change.


Zac wrote:

Things that went well
Langwige Arts

Things that didn't go so well

Sience-I forget lessons sometimes

Handwriteing-Hard to understand.

Math-confousing lessons sometimes

[insert a detailed drawing of one of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles here]

Math-Maybe reed instrucshens together and talk about what it meens. (Now that's funny--at the beginning of the year I offered to do that & he wanted to read them on his own! But good for him, he's thinking about how he learns!).

Handwriteing-help me understand reeding cursive

Sience-Make it easier to memorize lessons

As we talked later, he filled in some details--for science he wishes we had a 3-d model of the brain that he could take apart & put back together & memorize all of the parts (we're studying the body right now). But then we discussed what we'll be studying next year & how in 7th grade I'll split he & Anna for science & he'd be doing his own reading & writing for that--he was very excited about that. He actually said, "I figured this was just preparation for us and you would be splitting us up soon." Sometimes kids' thought processes just amaze me!

We also talked about getting more "gadgets" for him to take apart & make--things with motors or rubber-band powered (he said he could play with something rubber-band powered all day, LOL!). I asked about language arts and he said that now he likes writing! (just yesterday he used the words, "I don't mind writing," now he actually said likes! warmed this momma's heart). We're getting somewhere! That was one of our main goals this year--just to make writing easier.

Then I asked which spelling he liked (He's done Apples since January & All About Spelling the last 2 weeks). He said he liked both but thinks the "board" method (AAS uses a big magnet white board) will be more effective. I can't believe he thought that through, I'm impressed.

Well, try some evaluations with your kids and see what they say! Don't worry if it's not all positive--I'll post on that next.

Merry :-)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kids Say...

The kids did some freewriting today on the topic, "What would you do if you found a magic wand?" (This was from the blog at They had so much fun with these!

Zac's is ALL boy! He wrote:

I found a magic wand. I made 8 of every Nerf gun there is. Then I made 8 bikes that turn into speeders. I went to my friend's house and we had a dart gun fight. The darts flew through the air! Then more friends came and we teamed up and did what boys do best: fight fight and fight fight fight with dart guns. Then we had races again and again. And it was the Best day ever!

Anna wrote:

Where am I? There is so much sand here. I must be in the desert. I walked for miles and miles; then I saw it. It looked like the city of Egypt. I went inside the walls and saw a magic wand. It said, "make a wish and it will come true," so I made a wish: "I want to go home." And then I was home. And then I said, "Take away my Daddy's Lyme Disease." And after that I lived happily ever after. The end.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Loving our kids

Several years back I did something that was more transformational in my parenting--and my relationship with my husband--than almost anything else I can think of. I decided (really it was a God-thing, I think) to pray through I Corinthians 13:4-7 for that year. And since someone reminded me of that today, I thought I'd blog about some of my meditations during the months I prayed through this. As I recall, I prayed until September, but I decided to break it down a little further here:

In January I prayed through "Love is patient." Three little huge task! "God, help me be patient when my kids are driving me nuts, when my husband is feeling sick and all I want is 5 minutes to myself." "God, am I patient? Show me where I am not patient, open my eyes that I can repent and submit that to you." Now, just so you know, if you pray for God to show you your weaknesses, He will! But He is the Father of all things Love, and if we need patience, he is the one to go to. "God, I'm out of patience--give me your patience so I can love my family."

February came, and I moved on: "Love is Kind." Are my words, my tone, my actions kind? Am I modelling the kind of kindness I hope my children will learn? God says that his kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Does my kindness lead my children to repentance, does it inspire them to want to obey? And kindness is not doormat--sometimes the kindest thing to do for a child is to establish and enforce boundaries--if it is done with kindness, compassion, love, a desire to not just have things easy, but to do what's best for our family and for that child. "God, help me to be kind. That tone I used today--oh Lord it was full of selfishness, of me--it was not kind. Help me to do better."

Selfishness...yeah...that leads me to March. "It does not envy. It does not boast." Eight words, we're moving up! "But surely, God, I'm not envious, am I?" But every time I compare my kids with other kids in my mind, in creeps either envy or boasting. We look on the surface and think others have it better--or conversely perhaps that we are better--and what fruit do these musings bring? Do we unconsciously model sometimes the very selfishness we are trying to train out of our children? Does love motivate such thinking?

April--"It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking." I guess God thought I needed another month on this theme! Rooting out pride is not easy, from our children, or from ourselves. But God never promised it would be easy. He did promise, He would be with us.

May--"It is not easily angered." I find I am not as easily angered if I keep on top of behavior issues--it's when I get lazy and ignore them and the frustration inside me builds that my anger can flare. I need to pull away, even for 5 minutes, to pray and read and get in the right frame of mind. "God, I know you are not easily angered--though sometimes I fear you will be! Help me to understand your grace and forgiveness towards me, and help me to show this to my children. Help me to train them."

June--"It keeps no record of wrongs." Hm, I remember times when I've said, "You always do this!" Yes, we parents keep records of wrongs!

July--"Love does not delight in evil, but always rejoices with the truth." What kind of a parent delights in evil? you might ask. Sheepishly raising hand. Sometimes I don't want to teach and train and discipline my children. Sometimes they make me downright angry and what I really want is revenge. A friend taught me to put "Mom" in the place of "man" in this verse:
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20 for [Mom's] anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20 (NIV)

August--"It always protects." Do my actions protect my child, or my own interests? Conversely, sometimes the best protection for our children is to let them experience the consequences of their own actions.

September--"Always trusts." One of the most powerful articles I've ever read spoke of parents who believed in their son, and spoke into his life what they believed he could become. They trusted that he wanted to be a man of integrity and character, and they told him, even when he failed, that they knew he could grow up to be that kind of young man. Do we throw failure into our kids faces, or do we build them up by believing in them? Take a chronic sin issue and tell your child, "I believe in you. I know this is a struggle now--and I'm going to walk with you through this time. I know you can grow up to be a man/woman who is honest. Let's pray, and you let me know how I can help you with this."

October--"Always hopes." Do I have hope for my children? Or do I sometimes give up? Sometimes when I'm tempted to give up, I've been neglecting myself--after all, that's what self-sacrificing, "good" moms do, right? No, good moms take care of and invest in their child's most important resources--one of which is the child's mom. Hopelessness is almost a sure sign I'm not getting enough sleep and rest, or I'm not eating right & drinking enough water, or exercising, or spending time with the Lord...

November--"Always perseveres." "Lord give me strength when I want to give up!"

"Love never fails." A fun word-study is to search the Psalms for all the times it mentions God's unfailing love. We will fail--but He never does. Draw on His unending reserves of unfailing love daily, hourly, minute by minute.

May God give you grace and love and wisdom with your children, your husband, and those in your life. Merry :-)