On boys and writing…

Boys. ¬†Writing. ¬†Hmmm…

I will have to say that for all three of our boys, we have had a¬†love hate relationship with writing. ¬†They simply don’t enjoy it. ¬†It’s tedious. ¬†It seems hard. ¬†Ideas are slow to come. ¬† It’s a drag. ¬† For a while.

I don’t think that this is uncommon. ¬†I have spoken to several moms of boys and they have expressed similar sentiments. Their boys don’t enjoy writing. ¬† I recently learned that this is sometimes a developmental hurdle. ¬†Boys’ brains don’t myelinate at the same rate as girls’, often two years later (depending on the area), so tasks that girls master at a set age may take longer for boys! ¬†Boys take longer to develop the motor skills for fine-tuned tasks such as writing, and so when they seem to be bungling along with writing, it may be because it is literally difficult for them! ¬†Enough about that! ¬†Bottom line–boys often don’t like writing and it may be hard for them!

This is VERY TRUE in our household!  Our older boy, who is approaching twelve, is finally getting to where writing is not a tedious task that saps him of all of his energy!  It used to do that, and not too long ago!  Our ten-year old still struggles with the mechanics of writing.  And I believe that, like our firstborn, it will get easier, but we have to work with nature.

To help inspire our boys with a desire to write at all, I’ve had to be creative and find something they would be interested to write about! ¬†Letters to Grandpa, uncles and aunts, Grandma, friends–those provide interesting topics and usually help to get the creative juices flowing. Usually. ¬†ūüėē

But I’ve got one who just has a hard time thinking of anything to write about. ¬†He does love to chatter, but when I would ask him to write a letter, or a creative writing assignment, he would just freeze, or sit and apparently daydream, for LONG periods of time! ¬† Sometimes, after thirty minutes, only two words would be written down! ¬† This greatly frustrated me, and many times I would command, in exasperation, “Just write something!” ¬†Which, of course, didn’t really inspire much writing at all, just more pressure. ūüėē

One day, exactly a month ago, I happened to be talking with a lady from the umbrella school that we are registered under. Somehow the topic of reluctant writers and daydreaming boys came up.  She offered me an idea that sounded promising.  I have implemented it, and I already see a relaxing of the tension that prevents creative thought and paralyzes the writing process!  In other words, so far, so good!

Here’s the simple idea. ¬†She called it a game. ¬†We just call it the new creative writing time, and, now, that is turning into a positive time!

‚ÄĘEverybody gets a pencil and blank paper

‚ÄĘExplain rules: ¬†no erasing, no crossing out, no worrying about spelling, punctuation, or grammar

‚ÄĘTimer gets set for ten minutes

‚ÄĘAnnounce a topic that the children know very well, like Noah’s ark, or Grandma, or whatever they are very familiar with.

‚ÄĘSay, “Go!”

‚ÄĘThey must write whatever pops into their heads, no matter how ludicrous it seems! ¬†They may be thinking, “I wonder why Mom is making me write about ______.” Well, then that’s what they should write down. ¬†Just write, write, write the whole time, and when the timer goes off, stop!

‚ÄĘShare the writing, then toss it in the trash!

‚ÄĘAfter this process becomes very easy, then start taking the papers they wrote and begin the editing process, using them as a rough draft.

The first day, all the boys really got into this! ¬†It was low-pressure, and I was pleased to see more than two words in a certain someone’s ¬†paper. ¬† After we read them and I told them then to throw them into the trash, they looked at me in horror! ¬†No way! ¬†I’m telling you, writing around here is a challenging thing, and there was no way they were going to throw hard work into the trash! ¬†So, I let them file them. ¬†Fine with me.

We’ve done this a couple of times a week, and I’m already seeing improvement! ¬†I think my reluctant writer wants to have everything just right before he begins, and this is showing him that it’s ok to just brainstorm. ¬†I’ve also seem that he does better if I give him a little advance warning about the topic instead of springing it upon him. ¬† He is like me in that respect–needs to mull things over before the thoughts start to flow. ¬† Yesterday and today, I chose a boy and secretly told them to choose the topic for the day. ¬†They really liked that! ¬†And I got a glimpse into what was in their minds by what topic they chose to write about, so that was neat for me.

I hope that this will encourage some frustrated mom or some frustrated reluctant writer. ¬† If your child believes that he can’t write, this can really help him to see that he can!

And, just as a side note, if the cumbersome burden of getting the actual words on paper is holding your child back, he can dictate to you what he is thinking, and you can write the words down.  This will help him to learn to think clearly, and the words will still be his own.  He will learn by watching you, and he can gradually start to replace your writing with his own!

Give it a try and see what you think!

ūüĆĽ

Inter generational learning

One thing I love about homeschooling is the many opportunities to get outside the box of age-segregated classrooms, and get into the natural, non age-segregated LIFE!

Thirty ten year olds in one room just doesn’t leave a lot of room for individuality. ¬† Getting them out in the real world gets a bit messier, but provides some neat chances to learn!

For the past few weeks, whenever I read the boys their history story, we have at least one, sometimes two or three, sixty-something or eighty-something listeners. ¬†It’s great. ¬†The boys go knock on the door of Dr. B., and we set a time. ¬†Then, we all learn about the early colonies of our nation together! ¬†We get the perspective of years of living, adding to our few years of experience, and that is just a good thing. ¬† I think that it helps the boys to see that history is still a very living subject, that grandpas and grandmas still enjoy learning about! ¬†It makes it really fun!

Inter generational learning. Young and

and old learning together side-by-side. ¬† It’s the ideal situation. ¬† Young boys sometimes can get a little cocky in their knowledge, and working alongside their elders helps to get it all in perspective!

That is the PLANNED inter generational experience that we have just about every day!

Sometimes…we get bonuses!

Like today. ¬†A nature scavenger hunt turned into a science/geology lesson when a self-proclaimed nature lover and former nature teacher strolled into the RV park. ¬†She showed us what dormant poison oak looks like, which was a very handy tidbit to learn. ¬†She then went on to tell us about local rock types and names, wildflowers, bald eagles, pinecones, volcanoes, and many other nature topics. ¬†While we had stepped outside for some fresh air from “school”, ¬†I wasn’t going to be the one who called an end to this real-life nature lesson in order to get back in to “real” school. ¬† No way! ¬†We got to pick her brain about igneous rock varieties (which we don’t have in Tennessee at all), and learned about serpentine, a beautiful green-black rock that we have all over this river bank, which we had wondered about!

Today also…a bike clinic! ¬†Totally impromptu. Three boys brought their bikes, and two older gentlemen collaborated together to fix brakes, repair loose seats, and adjust tires. ¬† In fact, it seemed that more problems popped up every few minutes that the boys “just remembered” needed looked at. ¬†The older men were very patient and accommodating, and I think that the boys got some good hands-on experience in bicycle repair. ¬†By the end of an hour, we had three bikes in too top shape, three happy, riding boys, and two somewhat weary older men. ¬†But that’s where the place age and energy collide, and the end results are hopefully good for all involved. ¬†The old receive the appreciation of the young for their knowledge, and the young get their bikes fixed! ¬†ūüėČ

When you can, please tap into this invaluable resource of old and young working and learning together.

It’s win-win!

 

ūüĆĽ

Something different

Although the boys resisted initially, this was a good stretch for them in the long run…

When our curriculum suggested that the students write a play about the siblings who discovered Uranus, I initially planned to skip that assignment. ¬†Maybe it was because of shying away from any more drama than normal, or maybe it was just because I feared the burden would somehow end up in my lap! ¬†If it hadn’t been for some friends of ours who used this same curriculum last year, who had also done this assignment, that I’d probably have gone with my initial impression. We aren’t into plays and shows, and don’t even have a tv! ¬† And I’m not a fan of silly skits that only leave you with the silliness!

Yet, the story was worth telling, and I did want the boys to begin to take more ownership of their education. ¬†So, I decided to give it a try! ¬†When I broke the news to the crew, I can’t say they jumped for joy! ¬† They would have preferred to just do a spelling and grammar lesson and be done with it! ¬†I explained that they could work together to come up with a way to present the scenes, and their scripts had to coordinate with each other’s! ¬†That proved to cause the most frustration! ¬† Speedy zipped along writing out the first two scenes from his perspective. ¬†Good lines. ¬†Only problem was that the brothers hadn’t even figured out what to do! ¬†So, this took much patience being exercised as three different boys, with three very different speeds were forced to work together. ¬†ūüėŹ

It took quite awhile for all three to figure out this project! ¬†After two short scenes were written that first day, we had to drop it for awhile. ¬†It was a steep learning curve. ¬†But, by the next school day, all three had gotten more of the hang of coordinating their work, and the next three scenes didn’t take nearly so long to write. ¬†I thought about bailing them out and helping them write it all out while they dictated to me, but my curious side won out, and I let them see what they could come up with on their own!

I’ll have to to admit that they pulled it together very well, with only minimal input from me.

Then came the practicing! ¬† Which turned out to be another lesson in working together and following directions. ¬† I can’t say that this was the favorite part–it took quite a long time to get it into the boys’ heads that this wasn’t a stand-up comedy act! ¬†And they’ve never seen a stand-up comedy act–it seems to just come naturally! ¬†I really think that they all felt a little self-conscious, and hence–silliness! ¬†And I can’t say I can blame them for a few laughs-after all, 8 year-old BamBam volunteered for the position of Caroline, and a few chuckles ensued. ¬†It’s just hard to get three boys serious about anything!!!

The boys finally got their lines down.  Mean Old Mom made them!

Hand made invitations were designed and delivered to each occupant of this RV park, and every person promised to come!  The set time was to be announced, but definitely at dusk, and definitely around the campfire!

Finally, the appointed time arrived! ¬†Eager and curious faces gathered around the fire, and nervous boys took their spots. ¬†A general twitter of laughter occurred when precious little BamBam, dressed up as Caroline Hershell, made his appearance, complete with skirt, shawl, and head covering! ¬† ¬† I’m afraid Daddy about fell on the floor! But, after the initial scene, where they forgot to stop playing their music on and on, they did their parts really well!

With paper towel and wrapping paper tubes for telescopes, and other improvised props, the general theme of the story was told. ¬† Everyone loves children who are willing to try, and all in all, the play came off pretty well! ¬† For all the preparation and practice, it only lasted 5-10 minutes. ¬† Since I was narrating, I couldn’t video it, but Daddy caught a little bit of it. ¬†I wouldn’t dare post a picture of the boys, for fear of embarrassing them, but we did get a good shot of BamBam, aka Caroline, for Grandma. ¬†ūüėČ

We were so glad that everyone came to see what we’ve been learning and working on! ¬†I don’t think that our boys will forget (at least for a good long while) how and when Uranus was discovered!

Good job, Boys!

ūüėĄūüėÉūüėÄ

What’s cooking, Boys?

Mondays…so many of them tend to be similar–a challenge!

We needed a more active approach to math today, and a lesson in practical usefulness too.

Now, I recently said that I am not a recipe sharer too much, and, although it’s true that it’s because there are already a bazillion other recipe websites, I realized that it’s mostly true because I just don’t¬†use recipes all that often. ¬†I like recipes, but usually look at the ones I like, scan the basic ingredients, and sort of wing it. ¬†This can be good or disastrous. ¬†I’ve made some flops, but usually the food turns out alright. ¬†Just maybe not the same twice!

Well, I have one boy who is following after my pattern, without the background of experience in cooking to know which things to guestimate on, and which items you’d better get exact. ¬†Like baking powder, or yeast. ¬†That could be ugly if we eyeballed those items. ¬†He thinks that I just sort of make up recipes, and sometimes I guess I do, but most often, I take something that I’ve made so many times that I just don’t have to look at the card anymore, and make it from memory. ¬†I’ve kind of had to figure out the gluten-free thing as I went, but looked at it from a science perspective–you need such and such number of dry ingredients, such and such amount of binder, something oily, something wet, and so on. ¬†I don’t just throw in items willy nilly. ¬†But, to my son, I’m sure it seems like I do. ¬†ūüėČ

Now, I wanted the boys to have a chance in the kitchen. ¬†They really love that kind of thing. ¬†I thought it would be them helping me make lunch, but then thought, “Why not let them do it themselves?” ¬†I know why I don’t usually let them–I’m afraid to let three eager beavers loose in the kitchen. ¬†Could be scary!

I did it anyway, and the pictures will show that they all three had a really wonderful time, and took their tasks quite seriously.  I wrote out three different recipes, and turned them loose!  Below are the results!

Incidentally, the soup recipe I got from someone who liked a blog post of mine, and when I went to her blogpage, I found it. We did end up liking it really well.  http://aalifemoment.com/2015/01/18/creamy-tomato-soup/

We had to tweak it a bit since we didn’t have fresh tomatoes, but it was yummy anyway! ¬†Very easy, too!

So…Speedy made the soup, and I think he learned that chopping up vegetables small really would have made the soup cook faster–but that’s why we are doing this–so we can learn those kinds of things! ¬†You should have seen his “chopped” onions–quite large chunks, but the blender did its job and the soup ended up smooth!

Chatterbox made the muffins–gluten free and simple. ¬†He is very careful in his measurements–the exact opposite of Speedy. ¬†We tried a GF flour from Costso, and it made the whole process very simple. ¬†It really was just like baking with regular flour, because they had all the binders added to the flour.

Bam-Bam made the hummus.  Even though he makes a big show about hating garbanzos, he loved making this hummus!  He, also, measured exactly.  His hummus turned out great!

So…although the kitchen looked like a big food explosion, everyone had a great time, took hold of his task and did it up well. ¬†I just stayed out of the way, and tried to clean up here and there. ¬†We had a few carrot missiles that ended up in the wrong place, but if that’s all of the fall-out from the day, then I’d count it a success.

A delicious success.

Here’s what it looked like:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mom time

Today, I took a Mom day.  My husband gave it to me, and I have sure enjoyed it!

What do you think I did all day, while the guys took off to do some shopping and hanging out?  Sat around eating bon-bons?  Not quite, although I did indulge in some of the treats that my sweet (he knows I love sweets) husband brought me. image

But, that’s not all! ¬†My focus of the day was have time to think, spend time in quiet, ¬†(which rarely happens otherwise), and remember what the importance of what I am doing, as a teacher to our boys. ¬†I was talking to my best friend today, and we both admitted that without some time for a mom to get away, even mentally, things really spiral out of control quickly. ¬†Maybe not outwardly, but, as moms who are responsible for so many areas of our children’s growth, the demands can literally paralyze our thought processes, and we just can’t do our best. ¬†If can’t do our best, then we have not much to give to our children or our husbands, and everyone ends up feeling stressed and frustrated!

If this doesn’t make sense to you, just think that for a homeschooling family particularly, and for any family/parent, there are multiple levels of demand placed upon us from all directions. ¬†Three different math levels is enough to scramble a teacher’s mind, trying to stay ahead of who needs what kind of help in what area. ¬†Add language and grammar times three, writing–are they writing neatly, are they punctuating properly, are they speaking clearly, and on and on and on. ¬†Science and history are fun, but am I providing enough experiments so that they really understand it? ¬†Are they learning their Bible verses, and do they really understand those; ¬†can they apply them to their lives? ¬†Are they having their quiet time? ¬†What about lunch? ¬†And my husband’s lunch for tomorrow–is it packed? ¬†Are they riding their bikes too close to the road? ¬†Are they riding too fast? ¬†Did they brush their teeth? ¬†Did they brush them right? ¬†Did they drink enough water? ¬†Did they take out the trash? ¬†Oh, no! ¬†They all need haircuts again! ¬†And so do I! ¬†Can I read a story right now? ¬†Can I help someone fix their bike? ¬†He’s not sharing with me! ¬†And on and on and on…

And I wonder why I feel like I need just a little time of quiet mental time, every so often!  There are just so many things to think about!  If a mom does not purposely take some time, at least for me, I get very overwhelmed, and start to feel like I am trying to do it all.  Which no one can do.

I needed time to think, time to pray, and seek direction.

Who am I educating my boys for? ¬†For other people’s expectations? ¬†For the way that “most people” do it? ¬†I find that without some refocusing, I begin to cater my expectations to what other people think I should do, but what really may not be best for my own children. ¬†Then, I feel stress, the boys feel pushed, and school is not enjoyable for anyone. ¬†I need to push in some areas, but not because someone else says I should. ¬†Especially if they don’t even know our situation. ¬†A bystander may say I should do this or that, but unless they know my boys and their personalities, abilities, and maturity, then they are not the experts. ¬†Only God is the One who really knows what our family needs, and I am seeking His wise counsel. ¬†Because I don’t want to force a bunch of information into my children that they aren’t ready for–I want to kindle their fires so that they go after what they want to learn for life!

So, I am watching some DVDs on child development and education. ¬†I’d gotten these a couple months ago, but never took the time to sit down and watch them. ¬†Very eye-opening. ¬†I highly recommend them. ¬†Here’s a trailer.

As I watched, I was reminded of the parable, which I have included below. ¬†It’s a good reminder that there is more than one way to approach education, just as there are so many different children themselves.

Can you see yourself, or anyone you know, in this parable?

The Animal School (A parable)

An old story tells of the creation of a school for the animals. In this
school, everybody took the same four courses: flying, swimming,
climbing, and running. Among the students were a duck, a flying
squirrel, a fox, and an elephant. These friends were highly motivated, and
wanted to get good grades, so they all tried very hard.

The duck did fantastically well in swimming and flying, but he lagged behind his
classmates in climbing and running, so focused special attention on
those two subjects. However, his feet became so sore from trying to
run and his wings were so bedraggled from trying to climb that by the
end of the year he not only failed both those subjects, but made C’s in
swimming and flying, which had once been his two best subjects.

At the beginning of the school year, the squirrel was first in his class
in climbing and running and was second only to the duck at flying. But
as the months wore on, he missed so much school from catching pneumonia
in his swimming class that he failed everything.

To make matters even worse, because the squirrel constantly squirmed and chattered in
class, and had difficulty paying attention, he was diagnosed with a
learning disorder. The squirrel eventually was placed in remedial classes and had to be medicated in order to continue with his school work.

The fox was a natural in his running class and scored well in climbing and
swimming, but became so frustrated at his inability to get good Grades
in flying that he began assaulting his classmates. He even tried to
eat the duck. His behavior was so disruptive he was expelled from
school. He fell in with a rough crowd and eventually wound up in a center for animal delinquents.

The elephant, meanwhile, developed low self-esteem because he couldn’t do
well in any of the subjects. When he sank into clinical depression, his
therapist persuaded him to try a different school that focused on subjects such as lifting
and carrying. The elephant was disappointed, because careers in lifting and carrying were not as
prestigious as careers in flying, swimming, climbing, or running. Even though he always felt inferior, he managed to make a decent living and support his family

The prairie dogs, of course, stayed out of school and fought the tax levied for education because digging and burrowing was not included in the curriculum. They joined the ground hogs and gophers, schooling their children themselves with alternative education and apprenticing them to the badger.

(The original parable of the Animal School was written back in the 1940’s by George H. Reavis, an Assistant Superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools. Over the years, variations of Animal School have surfaced, however, the message stays the same. It‚Äôs content is in the public domain and free to copy, duplicate, and distribute.)