Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Final Countdown

This week we had a semi-start to a full school schedule. The boys are attending a three day fire safety day camp. Several local fire companies work together to put on this excellent program every summer. I wrote more fully about the program last year in this blog post.

I feel like I am nearly ready for next week. I spent a few hours yesterday re-working my daily schedule for the boys. You might remember that our general practice has been unstructured learning time in the mornings, classroom structured work in the afternoons. I decided to add a few responsibilities to the boys' morning routines for this year. Our recently acquired Wii Fit is being worked into the plan. I will have JT use it Mondays and Wednesdays and EM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Wii Fit has an option to log exercises done throughout the day. When the weather is good and they can be active outside, they will be able to track it on their personal accounts. When the weather is bad, they will be using the personal training on the Wii Fit indoors.

I also set up a Mango Languages account for each of the boys, thanks to free access through our local library. I want them to do three lessons per week during morning hours. In addition, two morning per week I want each of them to spend more time working on either computer programming classes or computer skills learning. JT is signed up for another Coursera class in the Fall. This time it's a Python programming class. EM will be working to learn how to use a word processing program and Power Point.

I think they should be able to complete these goals in less than an hour most days; leaving plenty of time for free play. Even though these are responsibilities being added to their day, they are not like the desk work we do in the afternoons. As they get older, I will encourage them to choose something they would like to work on in these morning hours. Up until now, mornings have been spent entirely in free play. While I feel free play has a great deal of value to their personal development, I also want them to set their own goals in learning.

I need to share another small victory for this homeschooling mom with paranoia over whether she is doing a good enough job at teaching her boys. JT completed his first written assignment for the Coursera History of the Internet class. He also did his peer grading assignment, requiring him to read and grade the work of five of his classmates. I was worried that as an 11 year old in a college level class, his work would seem amateur to those who graded it. He received his scores yesterday. His essay received a score of 9 out of 10. He had a few nice comments from his peers. They told him he was very concise and obviously knew the material. They also told him to add more details in his future writing. Oddly enough, that was the SAME advice MOM gave before he submitted this work. :-) I found that the opportunity to read and evaluate the work of others has been an excellent educational moment for JT. I helped him to turn his thoughts on the writing of his peers into the comments they would be reading. We had interesting discussions on how he had to look past the language barriers (many of the students are English language learners) to see what they were attempting to express in their essays. He was very critical at times and it gave me a chance to point out the fact that he needed to read his own work with that same level of discernment when he is editing. I am definitely learning to love Coursera.

I guess I may not be 100% ready for our launch date on Monday. My Home Science Tools order will not arrive until Monday afternoon, my printer is spewing streaky documents more often than not, my classroom floor has ever-changing piles of books and materials strewn about, but mentally, I am ready to start.
I am confident that learning will happen next week.
I am confident that we are going to get back into our groove quickly.
I am confident that another fantastic school year is just around the corner.

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