Friday, September 14, 2012

Test Week

We finished our unit in History and Science at the same time and I think my little student had a wake up call. He expected mom to be easier than his teachers and he found out differently.  Unlike his teachers, I know his potential and I know how smart he is so I expect excellent quality work.  I gave him a chance to retest if he didn't do well but warned him if he failed a second time then we would simply redo those units.  I don't have to move on and keep teaching a classroom, I can stay on rocks and minerals for six months if we need to get that material learned.

Later my husband and I sat down and talked about his test scores and what we noticed.  In school a student is often allowed to get away with rote memorization.  They don't have to learn the fact they have to memorize certain things about the fact.  If you change or manipulate the wording, it will inadvertently confuse them in some cases.  What I had designed was a review and then separate test that didn't allow for that style of learning.  He had to actually know and have learned the material to score well because while I had given him the information he needed to test, I hadn't spelled it out for him.  He was asked on review to know the steps of the rock cycle for example.  On the test he was asked to draw a photo of the rock cycle.  If one knows the steps in the cycle, drawing the chart (even using words instead of pictures) isn't difficult.  If you just memorized a photograph and expected to fill in the blanks it and then there is no photograph or blanks to be filled in it presents a different challenge.

I also feel more confident that now his protests of "I learned this already" or "I already know this" are just that.  Protests.  I know I went more in-depth with the material than a typical grade school classroom covers.  I did this to make sure we weren't just going over things he already knew.  As a result, the tests were extremely challenging, but only if he hadn't paid attention to the material we covered.  If he'd just filled in his worksheets and blew off his review then he was going to struggle.  He has bragged since we started home school last year that in school he never did a single review and he passed every test.  As most of us can recall, that sets up a bad study habit when you do get into Jr High and High School.   So he filled in the questions on his review but he didn't study the review sheets.  He was above reviewing.  Hopefully these two tests taught him something about using the materials you are given wisely in the future and thinking you don't have to do something important.

After going over both of his low test scores with him in class and giving him back his review sheets, I allowed him to retest today.  I'm happy to say he passed with flying colors and didn't take nearly as long to do them.  I think what had frustrated me the most was on the first tests he would simply skip a 10 point question like drawing the rock cycle.  I explained it would be much better to have given me a partial drawing than nothing at all because then he could have gotten at least some of the points for it.  

I'm glad tomorrow is Friday!  I feel like we have both earned our weekend this week - especially since he's testing in Math tomorrow.  (Refer to my post last year about cookies, though instead of those he and I will be making zucchini bread.  He wasn't thrilled about learning how to do this project but he did the garden with us this summer for his scouting badge and I thought this would be a great chance for him to get some life skills/home ec in by helping me prep the zucchini and baking the breads to freeze.  We will be using Grandma's recipe and I will have to do a follow up post to let you know it turns out!)

Oh and for the curious have a peek at our test, modify it, and feel free to use with your students: Test is Here

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rocks are Fun!

For science we have been studying rocks and minerals.  This is one of those areas where we have gone more in depth than he covered in 3rd grade.  He hasn't been exactly enthusiastic.  "It's just rocks, mom."

So we made a visit to the Planetarium last week.  He thought it was a cool way to get some Science credit for school and play with some demonstrations.  He never knew my secret ninja plan.  I even happily agreed to let him browse the gift shop and purchase a little bag of pretty, polished rocks.  All along I was searching for my secret weapon.  I found it.  Purchased it with his rocks.  Brought it home and put it away quietly for this week.

Yesterday, I pulled it out.

Yes, it is a simple little test kit with some mineral samples.  To a boy it is fun in a box.  For about 10.00 your son's eyes will light up for an hour.  He will run all of the tests on the rocks but the most fun is when you let him break it for the cleavage/fracture test.  We saved a couple of minerals in tact for test day but for the most part I just let him have fun as he filled in his chart.
A copy of the chart we used can be found here: Mineral Chart
We also used this guide

It also had me look up our local minerals and rocks.  I am hoping to take a Saturday trip and collect a few of our state's rocks/minerals to bring home and sample.  This should be a fun way to entertain the family for a day without breaking the bank.

Oh and if you are wondering the outcome of the story, did mom win? Yes, yes she did.  After breaking a few rocks, I asked him if science was fun.  His answer? "Yes!"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our First Month Back in School

Things have gone very well so far this school year.  I do really love teaching my son.  Every day is a new journey or adventure for us.

For reading we've started reading Anne of Green Gables.  He trusts my judgement in choosing our novel to read and discuss for class.  I encouraged him to help me select and when he didn't I went with an old classic.  I have also been working on developing a guide for how to use this novel in your home school classroom.  It has several questions, a writing journal question, ways to use an art journal, tie in's with history/geography classes, and vocabulary word lists.

Math we are still doing prep work for pre Alegbra and learning our % conversions, etc.

History we started from the beginning of America and have talked about the first people to come into the United States which has led us to a unit of studies on various Indian groups.  I loved these studies as a child and the most ironic thing has happened while we were studying the Indians.  I was also working on a family tree in my spare time at a popular genealogy website.  
Through my subscription I am able to link with other members who also have genetic links on my family tree.  I began studying something and discovered that one of my great grandmother's relatives had also done some research on her family line.  Her mother was full blooded Cherokee.
This sort of tied in the unit of studies we have been doing and really lit my fire for not only teaching, but learning about this.  We are also planning to tie this in with his scout troop and the Indian Lore badge.
I really want to share a few of my favorite websites with you for this:
Indian Sign Language

In science last year we studied a lot about biology and I wasn't really clear on what he knew about the other sciences.  So I took us back to the basics here as well hoping to build from the ground up in the educational process.   He groaned a little and informed he knew all about minerals and rocks, rock cycles, etc.  I told him to humor me.  By lesson three he discovered he may have learned something about them in school but he was not as all knowing as he had led mom to believe.  He was not aware of the minerals having a formula name, what the formula name meant, or the charts and table graphs.  The moral here?  An old dog can always learn new tricks or ways to do those tricks!
One of my favorite science resources

I'm also in the planning stages to teach a local class on baby sitting for my son and the older children in the local home school group.  We will cover early childhood development, basics of caring for a baby and small children, and so much more.  I'm excited about this project and look forward to getting everything planned out in the next week or two.  I just have to cross my fingers there are enough children that want to learn this type of thing.

Now that I've told you all about our first month of school, what are you studying with your children this year?  Is there anything you are excited to learn more about with them?