Guided Project Work

January 31 – February 4

At the beginning of the week I mentioned that during my potty training time with Ivy I would have the two older kids working on guided project work. I was very excited about this concept and the kids were too. We’ve done project work in the past with trying to allow the kids to pick and work on something that they were interested in but have had little success with this style (no matter how promising it seems at Camp Creek!!!). Mainly, it seems, because my kids seem to still want me there to guide them and I, having too many littles, end up not being able to be there in the way they want. Or the littles constantly get into their stuff thereby defeating the purpose of taking their time to complete a project.

I thought our new method would be more constructive. I let them pick out library books they were interested in. Then, unknowingly to them, I read through their books and put together a few mini projects they could use with their books. I incorporated their specific learning styles and what they need work on currently.  That way it would still be interest-led (i.e. no reading books mom made them read) yet still accomplish goals I had for them (i.e. math, reading practice, science, history, copywork, etc.) while freeing up mommy for toddler-devoted training time.

Lily’s Projects (seven years old)

Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words: From Accessories to Zany

Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy

  • Reading 4 Fancy Nancy books (reading practice), writing new “fancy” words on heart templates with one word to describe their meaning (vocabulary, handwriting practice), paste those heart templates onto cardstock and decorate in a fancy way, paper punch each one and bind it into her very own fancy flashcard vocabulary set (project work, crafting).
  • Read Mission Addition and solve the question at the end of each chapter (math with emphais on adding and value place). I made my own worksheet for her. Maybe if I ever learn how to do that whole pdf thing then I’ll share!
  • Read Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying , tell mom an oral narration after each chapter, draw a picture narration, copy down a small portion of narration (that mom dictated) to go with picture narration, bind together in a folder (narration, reading practice with a chapter book, reading comprehension, copywork/penmanship, spelling, punctuation grammar practice).

Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying Book & CD Set (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))Mission: Addition

 

Gabe’s Projects (nine years old)

Mistakes that WorkedAccidents May Happen

  • Read Mistakes That Worked and Accidents May Happen, pick top three favorite inventions from each book (six total), draw a picture narration of invention, include a short narration on who invented it, when invented, and the accident or mistake that caused the invention, copy a famous quote by Mark Twain, bind and make into a folder for show and tell to mom and dad (science, history, copywork, narration/reading comprehension, researching skills, project work, oral speech skills).
  • Read Go Figure and Why Pi?, pick one project and one puzzle from each book, take the Go Figure math quiz, read specifically about pi from each book and do a notebooking page, copy a famous quote by Galileo, bind all work into a folder for show and tell to mom and dad (math with emphasis on story problems, math in the read world, how science and math merge, and introduction to pi and geometry; science; copywork; logic and problem solving skills, oral speech skills).

Go Figure!: A Totally Cool Book About Numbers (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award (Awards))Why Pi?

So, how did our week go?

Lily did very well. She really enjoyed all her projects and has been working diligently daily with little help from me other than asking how the occassional word is pronounced and having me help with the dictation for her copywork. I did discover that she needed coaching in narration, or more to the point summarization. She has never had a problem narrating for me and actually quite enjoys it. But this is her first chapter book that she’s methodically read through. So I noticed on her narration that she was having a hard time summarizing her thoughts as this is a much bigger story then she normally reads. So we talked about how a narration is just a summary of what happened so we needed to know what happened at the beginning of the chapter, in the middle of the chapter, and at the end of the chapter. We practiced on one of her Fancy Nancy books and then I think it clicked for her so her narration today was much improved!

Gabe started the week off strong. He loved working independently and that he was working through books that he already loved to read. But the novelty quickly wore off for him. Once he realized that he was actually going to be doing work and that some of his work was going to challenge him (i.e. that he wasn’t going to get it right the first time sort of thing) then he wanted to quit and give up. Even with the puzzles he first picked, not being able to do it in five minutes and perfect frustrated him and he sank to the lowest denomonator and did the puzzles that he’s already done before or were easy to figure out. (A homeschooling mother’s worst nightmare!) We talked a lot about perserverance and how rewarding it will feel to figure it out on his own. He seems dubious and is still coming to me for help instead of trying to do things on his own. I just keep redirecting him and reminding him why mommy is not helping this week. This may be one to talk over with the hubby.

Other unschooling fun ~

  • Continued reading Little House in the Big Woods at lunch time. The kids just love this story and it has come up several times during other discussions such as why we are not buying lettuce right now for lunch sandwiches and grocery store food versus growing your own and preserving.
  • Several independent crafting projects – mainly to make their own toys. We’ve got sock puppets galore and cereal boxes being made into cardboard houses.
  • A lunch discussion today involving living math. Lily wanted to know just why it was that I was always saying (mainly at lunch) that we are having water so that the milk stretches  till I get to the store next (we go through 7+ gallons a week!). So I explained to Lily and Gabe about milk and pricing, which they didn’t think was very much. Then I had them guestimate how much we spent on food in one week and then for one month. (Gabe’s answer about $300 a month or $70 a week, Lily’s answer about $20 a week or $60 for the month.) I told them the real answer (between $500 – $600) and we talked about just why daddy works and what that money is used for. Then we talked again about milk prices and the sale and normal price of milk. We worked on averages to come up with a round figure and then practiced multiplying that by 7 gallons and then that number times 4 weeks (about $80 per month on just milk!) It was a good eye opener for them both. Lily is just now starting to understand the value of money and Gabe has a better grasp due to his lack of winter chore money from gram and pop.

Linking up with…

@ Wierd, Unsocialized Homeschoolers today! 

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Potty Training Mommy

We started potty training Ivy today. A two-fold reason, the first being that she is 21 months and showing all the cues (telling us when she pees and poos her diapers, showing an interest in sitting on a potty when her big sis does, etc.) and the second being that our hard water is rendering our waterproof diaper covers useless. I found a wonderful soap to use on cloth diapers formulated specifically for our hard water except that it’s expensive, well the shipping and handling anyway, and it makes Ivy break out. So my choices, diapers that work and make her break out versus diapers that don’t work and leak through all her clothes but leave her bottom rash-free. I took the third road of chucking the diapers and potty training early. By early I mean earlier then I was planning which was when the weather warmed up and she can casually run around in her undies without me doing 50 million loads of laundry from beginning pee accidents in pants.

I’ve discovered that I am not good at the potty training thing. All of my children are late, late potty trainers with very stubborn wills and all have had a history of regression that takes at least a year or more to pull out of. So, this being my fifth round, I’ve decided to take a different tactic.

  • Pray, pray, and pray some more! Not for common sense or the how-to’s (I’ve read a million books on those), but on keeping my patience, using a gentle tone, not getting frustrated too early, not giving up too soon, and staying consistent.
  • Use this as a positive reinforcement for Delilah (3 – still potty training) and Luc (5 – finally just finished potty training!!!) by including them in the process and making it about all three of them.
  • Mommy training. I don’t expect Ivy to get it in the two weeks we will be concentrating on it, I more expect me to habit-train myself on taking her and being consistent with the work so that when the two weeks are up and my normal schedule resumes we don’t fall off the bandwagon.
  • Set reasonable expectations. For Ivy, stick to practicing sitting on the potty and making it positive and the transition to big girl panties. For Delilah, getting consistent potty use and practicing getting pants back on in a timely manner. For Luc, continuing with encouragement for jobs well done.
  • Maintain the schedule.

It is this first and last point that has made the biggest difference today. Giving it over to God constantly has made me keep an even keel (#321). And the gentle nudgings of the Holy Spirit have helped me encourage in places I wouldn’t otherwise, especially with the older two. It is easy for me to ignore little things with them because they should already know better (i.e. wiping themselves, washing hands, flushing, etc.) but I have treated them both as if they are training for the first time in order to keep it positive for Ivy and the praise is totally lifting them up, making them feel included, and keeping them on track (#322). Praying has also helped keep me from distraction (#323). As I am tempted to just do a quick kitchen cleanup the Holy Spirit reminds me that we have a schedule of chores and let’s just let that be enough. When I am tempted to hop on the computer because the baby needs to nurse the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear that I will just let time slip away and then that one-on-one interaction with Ivy will be broken.

Before in training I had taken book reccomendations on completely clearing my schedule and devoting all my attention to the trainee. That sounds great in theory (and may be with a first child) but is not practical with trainee number five! When I’ve tried this in the past then chaos ensued. The littles would make messes everywhere because they had unlimited freedom with no boundaries. And the older children would make messes everywhere with their well-meaning crafting and negligence of chores. I would end up frustrated and potty training would be derailed as I tried to pull some semblence of order back into our lives. 

I’ve also tried the maintain-current-schedule theory with little success as well. I would spend the whole day answering school questions or keeping toddlers out of trouble or getting laundry, dishes, meals done and the poor trainee would have an inconsistent trainer.

So, what to do?

In my brilliance (okay, not mine but the Lords!), I came up with two solutions. The first I’ve already touched on ~ keeping the other two toddlers/preschoolers involved in the training process right by my side. This has left my house reasonable clean all day (#324)! No messy playroom to pick up (#325). No toys strewed everywhere (#326). No food snuck and left sticky on tables and walls (#327). It has been wonderful and an eye opener on how our school days should go.

The second solution is guided project learning for the older ones. I needed a way to still school them without them needing me to be there. We’ve done project weeks before and the biggest challenge for me is the huge mess it creates as they “work”. The biggest challenge for them has been staying on track or not abandoning it as they are distracted by other play. I knew I could easily assign basic school work that they could independently work on but I also know their personalities and that would’ve turned into drudgery for them really fast which, in turn, would’ve led to daydreaming and getting distracted which would’ve led to me constantly nagging reminding them to get back to work and me not being focused on my trainee. I needed to keep them engaged for their 2-hour morning school block while allowing them to work independently. So I thought and planned ahead. I allowed them to check out library books that they wanted. Then I took those same books and turned them into a schoolish project that they could work on but would appeal to their individual interests and keep them going all week. It worked wonderfully (#328)! (I will post on that tomorrow!)

Both solutions allowed us to maintain our schedule better then we’ve been doing for weeks (#329). (Again, giving me great food for thought about how we “do” school.) And the best part, laundry got done (#330), dishes got done (#331), chores stayed on track (#332), I did very little yelling (#333), and my littlest ones had lots and lots and lots of mommy time (#334). And now as Ivy naps I have this incredible free time – an hour or so – before dinner needs to be made where my house is cleaned, chores are caught up, and the kids are happily playing in the playroom after all working together as a team to make sock puppets (#335-337). We have sticker charts that are being happily filled in (#338 – thank you pullups.com for your customization for each child!) and I have a moment to breathe (#339). It has been a very, very good day again reminding me that when I sacrifice my own needs to meet the needs of others, my needs end up getting met exactly how I need! And all the glory goes to Him who sustained me!

Edited Addition ~ Ivy went in the potty!!!!! At exactly 8:04 her 4 older siblings started dancing joyfully around the room and she looked perplexed at the pee, perplexed at their dancing and then got it and danced joyfully herself around the room. A thrilling moment in our mundane household! (#340)