Thursday, January 1, 2015

About Face!

Christmas robot
Changes are coming. After four years in which the boys learned science using  three or four large unit studies designed by me each school year, I made the choice to leave that pattern behind. Since JT is now working to add up credits for his high school transcript, he is completing a full year course in biology. I decided to use a standard 6th grade textbook for EM.

This was a bad decision.

EM enjoys reading fiction but has little interest in non-fiction, especially if that non-fiction comes in the form of textbooks. I started off the year assigning a short section of reading each week, supplementing with BrainPOP videos and activities. When he would reach the end of a chapter I would go over the review questions with him. As the months went on, I realized he wasn't really retaining what he was reading. I also started to suspect he wasn't actually reading his assignments. I began to sit with him while he was reading each section and we would read some aloud and discuss what he had read. Finally, a few weeks before Christmas, he was doing a unit review and his answers were so off I knew this learning method was going to have to change.

DVDs for the win!
Around the same time, a Great Courses catalog came in the mail. We already own a few courses that we have used for supplemental work, but they have never watched a complete series. When I saw the modern electronics class, I was fairly certain it would be a perfect fit for EM. I showed him the syllabus and he was in favor of giving it a try. After the poor results of our textbook use, I've decided to switch EM to a unit study on electronics for the remainder of this school year. He will use the Great Courses material, build some of his own projects, and do some work with his dad. My husband has been dabbling in electronics repair for years and just received a new book for Christmas, How to Diagnose and Fix Everything Electronic that will fit right into my plan for EM. I had also bought a Robo Link deluxe kit for EM from Home Science Tools for Christmas. He built one of the robots yesterday. And I must say, it's a pretty cool set. The motor assemblies can be altered to different gear ratios depending on how much power you need for a particular model. I think this new plan for science will probably take more work on my part but should be much more rewarding for EM than what we have been doing so far this year.

The other DVD set in the picture is for JT's game design course. As part of this course, he is writing a 2500 minimum word paper on the topic of game design. He completed his first rough draft right before our holiday break. I started my initial proof reading but couldn't stay focused with all of the Christmas chaos. Tomorrow I will be sequestering myself so I can finish and make some comments to help him start on his revision process. Another goal for the class is to design a game from idea to completion by the end of the school year.  He took the card game he has been working on to a New Year's Eve party at our church and played it with two friends. The cards are still in their primitive forms but game play seems to be working pretty well. Now that he's completed some play testing, I'd like to see him looking at creating more professional looking game components. We may need to purchase new software to do that if we can't find something available either in Open Source or perhaps a program we already have. But I'm happy to say it looks like he's well on his way to meeting his goals for this course.

I spent some time this week looking ahead at the calendar and calculating the remaining lessons JT needs to cover in German, algebra, and biology to complete those subjects. It looks like he may need to work into the second week of May. This will run us a week later than our usual end time for our school year. Part of this is my fault for being indecisive about his science text at the start of the year. We also had to slow down a bit on algebra when JT came to a concept that needed more intense focus. But considering this was our first year working with a more structured schedule for his diploma program, I think we did a good job meeting deadlines. We're learning for our next year so we can make adjustments and plan a little better.

Am I the only homeschooler out there that completely changes gear mid-year on a fairly regular basis? If you have found yourself in the same situation, have you been happy with the about faces you have made in your plans? I think most of our reconfiguring proves beneficial. What about you?

No comments: