Jan 17, 2009

Changes...again...

We have been revamping how things work again!
~~~ BIG SURPRISE I KNOW~~~

The first thing is our vocabulary program - KM has been using Wordly Wise 3000 second edition, since I brought her home from PS last year, as she "really liked the way it was set up." Last year they had let her keep the workbook copy that she had started with and since it was a fairly inexpensive system and she did seem to be learning from it we kept it going this year. However over the last few lessons, I noticed that she was having more and more problems with the testing part of it. She just did not seem to be understanding the definitions, when they were taken out of the content of the book or if she couldn't check the definitions. You see the workbook is set up with the words and definitions listed at the beginning of each lesson, then through out the week you do one part each day Monday through Thursday and then you test on Friday. So I sat down with her and had her show me exactly HOW she goes about doing the work. What I found was that she was never actually "reading" through the definitions of the words, she had been taught/instructed by her PS teacher in 4th grade on how to figure out the answers to the different sections using different types of context and scanning clues. Great for building "TESTING" skills, but not so great for "VOCABULARY" skills. I spoke with CJ about this for awhile this afternoon and we have decided to scrap the Wordly Wise for the time being. I am by no means knocking the product at all. I really do like the way it is setup and the different approaches, but my daughter has been trained to cheat her way through it and that just seems like busy work to me. By the way on the test she doesn't have the definitions available and that is why she can't use the system that they taught her in order to pass this test, so I wonder how well those testing skills do actually work?

So in lieu of the Wordly Wise for vocab skills we have decided to try a few different things. For one I had gotten her the My Word Coach for the Wii for Christmas - before the price shot through the roof, guess people found out how great it is!! - so we are going to incorporate that in, as well as some really cool free sites I have found online for vocab building including -
  1. Number2.com
  2. Free Rice
  3. Learning Vocabulary Fun
  4. Prepme.com
We have started Ancient History and I think the outline that we have planned is going to work really well. The hands-on project booklets, lapbook sets and ancient science are going to tie the information from the textbook together really well. I downloaded the audiobooks of the Story of the World from our library network site and I think that as we get into each section I will introduce it by using one of the stories from the set. I am stressing to her that they are stories though. I know that many, many, many people have said that SOTW is a secular program and I get why they think that since it covers all religions. At the same time, in my opinion, the way they present the stories just doesn't feel right as a "History" curriculum. However the stories themselves are great little tidbits of "this is the type of stories that they told at this time" or "these are the things that they believed at that time." I will be sure to post pics as we get more into our ancient science and kits that we will be using.

We are also adding in some more math practice review days as she is starting to get into some unfamiliar territory. Each time she comes across a new concept I am shocked at how much I thought she had learned at PS, but she really never even touched on the subject. She is using the Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra as that is where she tested into in the system and she really likes how the system is set up, but it also assumes that you have a really good understanding of a lot of the basics and while she does in some areas she is REALLY lacking in others. At the moment we have taken a step back and are spending some extra time with percentages. These can be tricky little buggers and she just doesn't seem to want to follow all the steps in the process. She starts out fine and gets so close to the answer, but somehow gets tripped up on one or two steps. The weird part is that each time it seems to be different spots as well. So we will be taking this next week to reinforce the concepts with some hands on things and real-life math problems to see if I can get her to understand that completing ALL the steps is the only way to get the right answer. As I have said a gazillion times before, I really do not like to bash the school system, but they teach the kids that any answer is better than no answer. You see on the MCAS test they get points as long as they put something for an answer. If they leave an answer blank they get 0, but if they at least take a guess, even if it is the complete wrong answer, they get 1 point. If they take a guess and get the answer that is "almost" the right answer they get 2 or 3 points. If they get the right answer they get 4 points. ---hmmmm

I adore math! I always have and the 1 and only reason for that is that math is not a subjective topic. The answer is either right or wrong, even if you can have more then one solution to a problem ~ i.e. name a prime number that is less than 11 - the answer could be 1, 3, 5, or 7 ~ the answer that you give is either right or wrong. There is no arguing about it. There is no teacher saying that THEY don't interpret it that way. It is a truly black and white subject. So it baffles me that things like this are going on in our school system and I am having to retrain my daughter's brain.

When I started typing I never intended for this post to turn into another rant about the PS system - HONESTLY I DIDN'T! Since it has been a year out of that system I really should be beyond that by now - shouldn't I? But the more I am thinking about it, the more amazed I am that I am still discovering things about the system that I somehow missed when she was there. I also think that the scary part of that is that I was a very involved parent ~ I was even a substitute teacher for a while at the school and volunteered all the time ~ so how much are the uninvolved parents missing. The parents who barely have time to read through the mass of papers that come home from school or to check their kids homework. I am not saying that they all choose to be that way or making a judgement on them, but it is a little bit frightening to me to think that their kids are just being shuffled along and taught strategies to get through the test instead of being educating in order to be a productive and prosperous member of society.

I do apologize for the twisted route that this post has taken...I guess you just never know where you will end up once you start out -or what kind of changes you have to make along the way - so maybe I didn't get so far off topic as I thought I had!
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