Saturday, May 5, 2012

Next Year's Curriculum

I just updated my Curriculum Choices page, with our probable lineup for next school year. It looks pretty busy, now that I write it all down. But not all of it is to be done at the same time, especially in science and history. Some of the choices there are only a couple months long. I plan to give the kids a few weeks off when we finish this year's work (probably not until the end of June, since we will be taking off a week for VBS first). Then we'll just move on to next year's stuff. We plan to take some time off in September too, for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary (they are planning for us all to go to Disneyworld together!).

I'm not sure about P.E. for next year. My middle child said earlier that she didn't want to do gymnastics anymore, but then the next time I asked her, she did still! My oldest wants to take ballet, and my middle one kind of does too. So we'll just see how schedules and money goes.

I also just heard about a brand new music co-op that is starting up this fall, almost right down the street from us! I am really excited about that! The other music co-op in the area that I really liked is about a 45 minute drive away, one way. This one is almost the same in content, but so much closer (about a 10-15 minute drive, actually). So I will have to decide whether we can do that or not. It would take up all Friday morning, every week. I know I would love to do that much music, but I'm not sure about the kids. We'll see.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Video Lessons for Early Elementary

I wrote earlier (here) that I was planning on not using BJU video classes next year, mainly because of disagreeing with some of their worldview. I wanted to add my impressions of the video format in general though. We all really loved having the videos at first. It was new, fun, and my daughter loved being able to do it all on her own (without me telling her what to do, in particular).

After a few months (or maybe less), she began to grow tired of it, though. We weren't doing all the 1st grade level classes (not science, and not history, except a few lessons here and there just for fun), but even so, it made for a long day for a 1st grader. As time went on, I found that I had to be present, sitting right next to her, more and more of the time to make sure she responded to the teacher's questions, paused the program if needed, and didn't just sit there waiting to hear the answer. The type of responses I'm talking about is pronouncing new phonemes, word lists, math fact drills, and things like that. I can understand just thinking of the answers to comprehension questions in her head, but for phonics, she really needed to say the words out loud to learn the vowel sounds, digraphs, etc. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there all the time to sit through the videos with her, since they took a good 3-4 hours a day, at a minimum, and I had 2 other smaller children to take care of. At times, I would come by to check on her, and find her sitting on the other side of the room playing with her toys while the video ran on! Maybe she still heard some of it, but I know it wasn't as much as I wanted her to hear. I discovered that when the work got difficult for her, she tended to tune out, and just quit trying. If she can't do something perfectly, she doesn't like to even try (such a perfectionist!). Her inability to consistently and correctly identify vowel sounds (long vs. short, for example) showed me that she really needed to focus on this more.

We've been working on it more, lately, and I've been sitting in on the phonics portions more, but this has just shown me that video lessons, without any enforced interaction, is not always the best option for younger students. For older students, I would say that their attitude needs to be adjusted, and they should be expected to pay better attention. But for younger students, they are still learning how to learn, and how to behave properly and be responsible for themselves, and the learning itself should be emphasized more than study skills at this critical time. Responsibility is a whole other topic, and is still very much a work in progress at this age.

My middle child has also been doing some video lessons. She likes them, and begs to do them sometimes - but then gets tired of them halfway through and wanders off. She's still a bit too young for such long lessons. So I split them up some, and teach some on my own. But overall, I'm thinking she will definitely do better, in the long run, with direct teaching too, and not the videos. I am realizing that, for her, the videos actually move too slow. She catches on really fast, and is able to move much faster than the videos teach.

Some young students will do very well with video lessons, I'm sure, but not all. I think online/software lessons, which require interaction to move forward, might be a better choice for children like my oldest daughter. But what is even better for her, I'm finding, is direct interaction with me. I could still use the videos and then reinforce or reteach what she needs more work on, but it's much more efficient and effective to just do the teaching myself in the first place. I've been teaching more and more of her classes myself, directly from the teacher's editions, instead of using the videos, and she is learning much better, and the lessons take less time. The video lessons have great amenities (skits, images, audio clips, skilled teachers, etc.), but they are not customized for your student. The video doesn't stop to wait for replies, or focus on just the area your child needs extra work. Just like a real classroom - the video is geared toward the average student (perhaps slightly above average, in the case of BJU videos, but still geared toward one particular level of student). Homeschooling, on the other hand, can let you tailor the teaching specifically to your child.

I hate to be so critical of the videos, since they were so wonderful for us at first. Watching those teachers has really helped me learn to teach better. Having video teachers really lessened the burden on me, too, at a time when I was getting burned out by the neediness of my younger children, the realization of what homeschooling was really going to be like, and by the resistance of my oldest to my (admittedly poor) teaching methods.

But now, my oldest can read sufficiently well to read many of her lessons on her own, which will go a long way toward satisfying her need for independence. My younger children are older now, can play quietly on their own for longer amounts of time, and require less of my continual presence. And I have learned a lot about teaching, child psychology, curriculum, and other things. I am excited about the curriculum we are planning to use for next year! More on that later....