Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lessons Learned from Trimester One

We have broken down our school year into three trimesters.  Each of trimester lasts three months and after each trimester we take a month off.  So, our first trimester consisted of September, October and November and then we took the month of December off – at least off of book work, we still did lots of “unschooling” activities.  Now that we have completed our first trimester, I am reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and making adjustments to our routine accordingly.


Lessons Learned from Trimester 1 of our Roadschooling Adventure.  RVing with the Rakis


Here are some of the things that worked:

1.)  Letting the boys choose their own individual order for completing their work.  My oldest prefers to work by language – completing all the French at once, all the Arabic on another day, etc. My middle son prefers to work by subject – completing all the Math on one day and all the Grammar on another.  By letting them have control, they were much more likely to manage themselves and they were much less needy during the day.


2.)  Listening videos.  I started an activity that I simply call “listening” where the boys listen to educational videos – on topics of their own choosing.  They listen to two 20 minute videos in each language (Arabic, French and English) a week and then summarize what they watched.  I started this mainly so that they would continue to be “immersed” into Arabic and French.  Lo and behold they LOVE this activity, especially in English!  They choose crazy different topics and are big fans of TED Ed videos and have built up tons of background knowledge that they can in turn use to make connections with their reading, content and other learning.


3.) Calendar and map skills.  We have a desk calendar and a world map posted in the hallway.  Officially the calendar is for the 3 year old and the map is for the big boys.  However, everyone has benefited from both of these being posted.  Sam works on calendar every day, going over the days of the week, counting to 31, counting by 10’s, working on patterns and recording the weather – all in English, French and Arabic.  Sometimes he does this with me, but often he works on it with one of his brothers. It has been a great review for the 2nd grader and a great chance for responsibility for the 5th grader.  The map was posted to help the older boys, but has made my 3 year old EXTREMELY interested in maps and especially where everyone he knows is “on the map.”  One of our projects for this trimester is to post pictures of family members and friends near where they live.     


4.)  Minecraft carrots.  Completing work in an appropriate amount of time was an extreme challenge for my 7 year old at the beginning of trimester 1.  As with most kids, he has a carrot and his is Minecraft.  So our deal is that I say how long something “should take” – often padded with 5 or 10 minutes and if he completes the work in that designated time, he gets to go play Minecraft for 10 minutes before returning to his school work.  This gives him a good brain break and has proven to be a highly effective motivation for material he isn’t interested in at the moment.


5.)  Visual checklists posted at the beginning of the week.  On Monday, the kids receive a list of EVERYTHING that they will do for the entire week.  Then, as we finish things, they cross items off of the list.  This helps them visualize exactly how much they have completed and how much they have left.  They also plan their weeks, often with the goal of having half or all of Friday free, based on these checklists.


Our Weekly To Do List for our Roadschool - homeschool - lessons.  The children receive lessons in English, French and Arabic.  RVing with the Rakis.


Here is some of what DIDN’T work:


1.)  Having Mom plan and monitor Arabic and French.  The only reason we had me in charge of this was that the Mister was working on his student teaching and he didn’t need another bit of work.  However, I am very glad to hand it over to him this trimester, as my Arabic and French are not quite up to snuff!


2.)  Working straight through the day.  We were working a “standard school day” and by the end of the day, the boys were exhausted!  The only time the Mister had to work with them was in the evenings and by that time they were too tired to really focus.  This trimester, we are trying something new.  We are working half of the day – from 8 until 12:30ish.  Then, the boys take a long break to run around, play games, watch movies, etc.  When the Mister gets done with whatever his workamping duties are, (We’re on a farm right now, so he’s been splitting logs and helping with the chickens.) we pick up again for another two hours.  The morning hours can be used for whatever language needs working on,but the afternoon/evening hours are exclusively for Arabic and French.  This gives the boys focused time with these languages when their dad is around to help them.


3.)  Too many book assignments.  Because we are trying to keep them “up to snuff” in three different languages, it is really easy just to assign them a ton of textbook pages.  However, we didn’t start homeschooling to exclusively work out of a workbook.  So, this trimester, our to do list specifically asks them to free write or journal in each of their languages, to play math games and to complete language puzzles.  It gives them a few more choices each week that are not textbooks.


4.)  I forgot to do mini lessons!  I didn’t really forget, we were doing mini lessons as needed, but always after they had difficulty with a problem or textbook page.  This trimester we are starting each day out on the whiteboards, working on a specific skill that I know they’ll need during that week’s work.  This will help build up skills ahead of time, making for less issues with textbook pages – I hope.


5.)  I got caught up in what we HAD to do and forgot I was in control.  As a school teacher, there is so little you’re in control of.  You have a curriculum, you have to cover it all – end of story.  This was my mentality during Trimester 1 and I was stressed about getting it all in.  Then it finally occurred to me over our break – I wrote the curriculum!  I pieced together what was necessary from each language and subject.  If there was too much, all I needed to do was take some out.  Obviously, I can’t remove everything, but the boys are both reading more than a grade level ahead in English and are at least a grade level ahead in Math in all of their languages.  They are learning grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and math in three languages.  They’re good.  Remove the stress and truck on!


So, with all of these insights, we move into Trimester 2 and are actually more excited about the non-curriculum opportunities that lie ahead of us this trimester, including an opportunity to learn to classify trees and plants, an opportunity to explore the world with our new digital microscope and the opportunity to start corresponding with our new pen pals!



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