Monday, February 10, 2014

Assessment

This morning the kids' preschool teacher posted an article on Facebook that went along perfectly with what I meant to write about today. (You can find the entire Washington Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/06/a-really-scary-headline-about-kindergarteners/ ) Almost all the points brought up in the article were issues that led me to pulling Hannah out of school. I especially want to talk about the section on assessments today. The article listed developmentally appropriate assessment guidelines. They are:

"1. Encourage policies that protect children from undue pressure and stress and from judgments that will have a negative impact on their lives in the present and in the future.
2. Promote the use of assessments that are based on observations of children, their development and learning.
3. Work to ensure that classroom assessments are used for the purpose of improving instruction.
4. Support efforts to eliminate testing of young children that is not intended to improve classroom practice.
5. Eliminate labeling and ranking of children based on standardized tests."

In the 3 months Hannah was in school, I was shown 3 official assessments of her knowledge. The teacher tested her on things like how many numbers, lower case and capital letters she knew, and shape recognition.  The results of these tests varied wildly and every time the assessments showed that she knew less than I knew she did. I wasn't at all concerned though, because I know that kids get nervous in testing situations. Especially my Hannah. Before winter break, the teacher took a day off to get everyone's report cards ready. I was furious. I have zero interest in seeing a report card for my kindergartener.


Yesterday I wasn't feeling well, so I was in bed and Ben and I were talking about writing. I asked him if he wanted to learn to write his name and he got really excited, so we got out a pencil and paper. We sat on my bed and I showed him how to make the letters in his name. Another thing I love about homeschooling is that we have "school" anywhere and everywhere. Look at those flannel sheets. Isn't that a cozy way to learn to write?

If you click to zoom in, you can see his backwards capital B, capital E and he was just about to erase the lines he did for N.

Then he asked me to help him write STEELE


Clearly, his letters need work. We spent a lot of the time just working on holding the pencil properly. When Hannah was this age, she could write her name, but it was because she was always interested in writing and drawing. Also, the bones and muscles in boys hands tend to develop slower, so it's normal for them to learn to write later.

After watching Ben try to write, I decided that he needed to do more work to strengthen his fine motor skills. This was before I'd read the above article, but I was just doing what any good parent or good teacher would do. I assessed using observation and then used that assessment to improve the way I taught. (Principles 2 and 3 above.)

This afternoon while I was making lunch, I sat Hannah and Ben down with what I told them was a "sewing game." It is designed to help strengthen the small hand muscles that kids need to write and to improve their precision.


I took a piece of ribbon, tied a knot in one end and put tape on the other end and gave them colanders to practice weaving the ribbon in and out. Look at all the pinching and grabbing!



After they got bored, Ben went to the art cabinet and got out some glitter. I was happy to let him play with glitter because squeezing the glue bottle is really good for his little hands and shaking out the glitter right where he wants it to go also improves precision.


I love that I have the time to individually evaluate my children's needs and prepare appropriate experiences for them. People have asked Hannah what she does for homeschool and she can't tell them. She kind of thinks that she isn't doing any school. Little does she know...


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hannah and her Daddy

Last night was a dance for primary aged girls and their dads at the church.

 

 
They had a milk and cookie bar there and Devan said that the first thing Hannah did was get a cookie for each of her brothers, wrap them in a napkin and have Devan put them in his pocket. I love how she loves her brothers so much. Both boys were home sick with me. We were going to see a movie while Hannah and Dad were at the dance, but then Ben kept coughing until he threw up. He'd been talking about going to a movie theater all day, so I was scared to tell him that we weren't going to be able to go. I said, "You seem like you really don't feel well. Do you think that you're too sick to go to the movie tonight?" He coughed and said, "Yeah, I'm too sick for the movie. I'm also too sick for church tomorrow." And, as it turned out, church was canceled due to the snow.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Snow Day!

Today we got a light dusting of snow, so, naturally, public school was 2 hours late and preschool was canceled. I was supposed to work in Hannah's preschool class this morning, so it was an especially lovely surprise to be able to sleep in until 8 and stay in my pajamas all morning.

I told the kids to look outside and they were super excited to see the snow. Hannah said, "I guess Dad was wrong!" I asked her if Dad had said it wasn't going to snow today and she said, "No, but he said that it would only snow a little bit." We could still see the grass through the snow, but to this Washington girl, that's a lot of snow!

Since we weren't in a rush to get anyone off to school, we were able to have a leisurely pancake breakfast. Hannah made pancakes for us for lunch yesterday, so it was Ben's turn to get to cook. We measured out the ingredients (math and motor skills) and Ben and I took turns mixing. Then he and Hannah took turns pouring the pancake batter onto the griddle. We talked about how we know the pancakes are ready to flip when there are lots of bubbles on the side that's up (life skills). I asked the kids where the bubbles come from and Hannah said, "the steam." We talked about how things bake by the water in the dish evaporating, thus turning the liquid into a solid (science).

Hannah made a pancake shaped like a snowman in honor of the occasion (art).

 Then Ben made a snowman,

 While we were cooking, our friend Noah came over and tried his hand at pancake making.



 Ben with his mountain of pancakes. While he was pouring the syrup, Noah said, "Wow Ben! That's a lot for syrup!" And Ben said, "Yeah, thanks!" like he thought it was a compliment.


 Noah's pancake was the most awesome!


Homeschooling



We're homeschoolers now. After giving public school a chance for 3 months, we decided it just wasn't for us. There are lots of little reasons that added up to something big. Suffice it to say, I'm happier, Hannah is happier, and that makes the rest of the house happy because the last thing you want is two unhappy women. Since winter break, we've been detoxing from school. I'm trying to get my feet under me and decide what my homeschool philosophy is. In the meantime, we've done lots of exploring, lots of field trips, lots of reading.

 Ben's first day of primary

My reading for pleasure has seemed to fall through the cracks with all the changes, which makes me really sad.  I'm taking 18 credits this semester, which means I'm reading 100 pages a day of text books. But I really love it, because I'm studying education and child development and those things make me come alive. Don't we all learn best when we can study things we're really interested in?



It seems that once you say you're going to homeschool, everyone has opinions and everyone has questions. I love to answer questions, I don't love as much having my parenting questioned. I do, however, realize this is a natural byproduct of making an unusual choice. I thought about starting a new blog to chronicle our homeschool adventures, but instead decided to just use the one I already had. I'm going to try to keep a record of some of our educational experiences and some of the research behind why I do what I do.



To begin with, I want to share a quote from my very favorite parenting book, Brain Rules for Baby by neurobiologist John Medina. "First, I need to correct a misconception.  Many well-meaning moms and dads think their child’s brain is interested in learning. That is not accurate.  The brain is not interested in learning. The brain is interested in surviving. Every ability in our intellectual tool kit was engineered to escape extinction. Learning only exists to serve the requirements of this primal goal. It is a happy coincidence that our intellectual tools can do double duty in the classroom, conferring on us the ability to create spreadsheets and speak French. But that’s not the brain’s day job. That is an incidental byproduct of a much deeper force: the gnawing, clawing desire to live to the next day. We do not survive so that we can learn. We learn so that we can survive.

"This overarching goal predicts many things, and here’s the most important: If you want a well-educated child, you must create an environment of safety. When the brain’s safety needs are met, it will allow its neurons to moonlight in algebra classes. When safety needs are not met, algebra goes out the window."

This concept is going to come up over and over again as we approach homeschooling. Stressed brains do not learn well!

Medina then shares a story of a flight student who made a mistake while in the air. The instructor yelled at her, thinking it would help her to see the seriousness of the situation and focus more. Instead, she began to cry and, try as she might, she couldn't read the instruments. The instructor landed the plane and the lesson was over. Medina says, "What was wrong? From the brain's perspective, nothing was wrong. The student's mind focused on the source of the threat, just as it had been molded to do over the past few million years. The teacher's anger could not direct the student to the instrument to be learned because the instrument was not the immediate source of danger. The teacher was the source of danger."


I'm not saying that pubic school was a source of danger. I am saying that it was a stressful experience for both Hannah and I and, by extension, whole family. In our homeschool work, will will focus on building from where the children currently are, not where I believe they should be based on their age or grade level. I'll understand that all humans learn best when they are safe. A secure learning environment will be my focus rather than reading by age 6.



Wish us luck as we learn together in this new experience!



Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hannah is 5!

Hannah turned 5 this week!















 





 



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trick or Treating

This year, our preschool president invited all the families from our co-op over for a Halloween party. It was so much fun. I think 9 families were able to attend. We at pizza at her house and then went trick or treating around their neighborhood.

Before we left home...


Josh was Dumbo the elephant. At first I was worried the costume wouldn't work. It was too long and he kept tripping over it. He was a sad little elephant. 





Then Devan tucked his pants into his shoes so he wouldn't trip and he was a contented little dude. 


 Hannah was a pirate princess.


And Ben was a fireman.


Lots of our preschool friends.


 All ready to go...


All that practicing paid off.


They were trick or treating pros.


And when Hannah ditched Ben, he did great all by himself. He even went up to the scary houses alone. 




After we went trick or treating, we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa at their houses. It was a great Halloween!