Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Homeschool Rescue

It's that time of year! The holidays are over and everyone has settled back into their routine. Or have you? Many times things don't work out the way we expect. We have family emergencies, illness, our students have learning issues or you've suddenly found yourself relocating or you have greatly misjudged the amount of work needed for a particular subject or on a particular day. There are a variety of things that can contribute to difficulties during the school year. If you find yourself running on empty, with no end in sight and need to be rescued, this post is for you. Today we are going to stage a homeschool rescue. We are going to look at different areas of schooling and troubleshoot a little bit to see if we can help you have more efficient school days. Remember, this is a rescue for families who are finding themselves in an urgent situation. Everyone's family is different and every student has different needs so not all of this is going to apply to your students, particularly if your student is in high school and preparing for college. Another time we will talk about the Renovation, when you just need to look at everything you are doing to see if it still works for your family. On to the rescue!

The Rescue
Your rescue will look different for each student. This will enable you to personalize your rescue to continue to meet needs. 

First up - is this student medically stable? Are there any special learning needs or behavioral challenges that you need to keep in mind? Taking care of the physical body takes preference over academic needs - school work can be missed for dr. appointments, so don't sweat it.

Next, consider what the student really needs to do this year - what is the "minimum" acceptable to get through the school year? People choose a variety of different subjects for their students, I am going to address some of the most common subject areas. Since we’re attempting a rescue, we must  look at the curriculum from a different direction.

– Is this student 4th grade or above with legible penmanship? If so penmanship practice is no longer needed. Drop it. You can go back another time for some brush up if needed.  If the penmanship isn't legible, then take the student for an Occupational Therapy (OT) evaluation and follow those recommendations.

– Generally speaking, does this student spell accurately at or above grade level? If so, give the last test in the book. If the student does fine, then drop spelling as a subject. There will be plenty of opportunities to spell in other school work  & if you see a trouble spot developing, you can address the targeting spelling rule. If you decide to keep have the student continue to work on spelling, consider doing it orally, or having an older sibling assist with this subject. 

Math – This is easier to work on than it may seem. Cut the number of problems required problems in half. If you currently assign all of the problems, then assign odd or even numbered problems. If you already assign  odds or evens, then change that to ½ of the odds or evens. If your student misses a lot of problems, you have plenty left for tutoring and review the following day.  If no review is needed, then move along to the next section the following day. There is typically no need to complete all of the problems, there are usually more than enough provided. Trust me, there are very few people in the homeschool world (or public school, for that matter) who have their students complete all of the problems in a section. 

Grammar (parts of speech, diagramming, punctuation)  – Remember we are in rescue mode, right? So, think about this – does this student need to know this information at this point in time? Is this a review year that can be skipped? Is this something that can be picked up later on? If dropping grammar will save you a lot of anguish, then drop it – it isn’t a tragedy.  If you decide to keep it, then look at the curriculum to see if there is anything you can eliminate. Are there a lot of review questions that aren't needed? Are there a lot of repetitive questions, requiring the same skill set? Feel free to drop anything and everything that that has mastered or doesn’t need to be practiced repeatedly.  Remember, you are staging a rescue.

Science – I recommend you look at the material you have left to cover – show her the topics and ask her what she is most interested in, then cover those topics.  Again, consider oral work, especially if you have an auditory learner. Read a section/chapter, discuss the related questions and you’re done.  Perhaps every other section, have your student write out the answers instead of doing them orally, but mix it up some. Doing it the same way every time can be frustrating.  Find a few experiment kits or TOPS books related to the topics of  interest and let your student loose to do those. Make sure they are on level, not above.  Remember, this is a rescue, not the ideal world. If you want to, and you have time, go to the library, check out some books on the topics you are skipping and the topics of interest, leave them lying around the house & if they get read, great, if not, no big deal. 

History – Because we are talking elementary/middle school students, drop any complex programs and get a copy of Story of the World for the time period you would have been covering and use that instead. It is very easy to read and understand. If your student isn't an independent reader, or if you have an auditory learner or need to save some parent time, get the CD’s  You can do that anywhere, in the car or with a pair of earphones on the couch. You can even have any other kids listen in at the same time.  The history is delivered in a very understandable format. This is another area where you may be able to enlist some of your older students to help.Provide a time line for your students to fill in as they read and/or listen. Get related books out of the library if you have time.

Dictation/Copywork – What you do with these depends in part on what you have decided to do with some of the subjects that are discussed above, as well as the reason you assigning these activities. If this student is still doing handwriting/penmanship, then drop any kind of copy work.  If he/she is writing down answers to short answer or discussion questions (not multiple choice or fill in the blank) for science, history or language/grammar then consider dropping dictation. This student is practicing getting thoughts on paper already with those other subjects. If you are only doing questions orally, never have your student write the answers, then begin to do that and you will be able to drop dictation.

– Figure out where your starting point is. Can this student write a clear sentence? What about a complete paragraph w/a topic sentence, two or three supporting statements and a concluding sentence? Can he/she write two or three solid paragraphs on one topic? Once you figure out where the starting point is, turn to the appropriate section of whatever writing book you are using and start there. Ignore everything else. Again, look at the assignments and make sure they make sense to you – feel free to drop anything you see as repetitive.  If your student is at a point where he/she is learning how to write a good solid sentence, you could go through the section of the writing book on that, then use the Q & A on history and science to help him/her practice this skill and work towards mastery. If the current task is working on paragraphs, have him/her work on paragraphs that answer some short answer questions in those same subjects. If you choose to do it that way, then you can drop a big part of the writing curriculum because you are writing in other areas, and that is what writing is supposed to teach a student to do. You would simply start seeing the  writing book as a reference book, not as something to be completed in its entirety. Work on gaining enough time in your day (by implementing some of the other ideas) so that you can spend about 20-30 minutes on writing every day if you do it as a separate subject. Remember, this is rescue, not the ideal world. 

Literature/Reading - if your student does not at an appropriate level (you decide what that is) consider having him/her evaluated and follow recommendations to remediate this. If he/she does read near grade level or above, then make sure your student is always reading a real book. Talk to him/her about the book. Who are the characters? Which is the favorite? Why? Where is the book taking place? Describe the setting (Oh, in her bedroom. Does is say what her bedroom is like? Neat, a special bed for the family cat. etc.) What is the big idea (moral) behind the book? Did he/she like the way the book turned out? What kind of book is this? Is it science fiction? Poetry? Narrative? Biographical?

The Schedule - Depending on what circumstances have led you to the point where you are considering rescue, your schedule could be in a shambles. Strive for consistency. If sudden trips out of the house are part of your days, have each student keep their work in a backpack so they can be ready to go at a moments notice. Make it your goal to have a consistent wake up time, a school start time and a bedtime established, and use that as a framework. If possible, schedule regular breaks. By that, I mean try to give your students breaks before they are needed. . There are as many ways to schedule a day as there are students out there, so you must determine what is appropriate for your family. 

Above all, bathe your family in prayer. Whatever stresses are in your life can impact so many different areas, so make sure that you are looking to God for the peace in the middle of your storms. 

Are you considering staging a rescue for one or more of your children as you homeschool the remainder of this year? How is it going?

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