Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Teaching Two Very Different Kids

Yesterday was our first day homeschooling Bunny and I'm so glad to say it went pretty smoothly! I had laid out the daily schedule and their weekly assignments ahead of time, with both kids doing Bible, science,  history and Chinese together, but math and language arts separately, all by lunchtime. I've always known the kids had very different personalities, but it was especially clear as they went through their day yesterday.

With Monkey, a non-sequential thinker, he never liked schedules or checklists. He liked to just go with what he felt like each day, often dragging his feet so that the work spread out all day with very little free time.  Bunny, though, is very orderly and likes to check things off her list and get them done so she can have lots of free time. Because I don't want to be at the mercy of them needing help randomly throughout the day while I'm working, we are trying a more structured schedule, starting at 8:30am. When it was just Monkey at home, some days he wouldn't even be up at 8:30, or even if he was, he putzed  around until 10-11 before starting on his work, and the work would be spread out all day. Bunny, however, at 8:32 was chastising Monkey about "making us late for Bible time".

So we got off to a good start-I worked with Bunny on math while Monkey worked on Language arts independently. Right away I could feel the difference. Bunny set up a spot on her clear desk for homeschooling. She wants to sit in a chair and have a shelf, in her room. Monkey has always resisted desk work and insists on being in the same floor, if not the same room as me. He rolls on the ground and lounges on the couch and if he's at a table, he gets up over and over, (Over the past year though, I've begun to insist that he does written work at a table, rather than on lounging on the ground, because he's so easily distracted, but he can stand, not sit if he's at a table, as long as he has a firm surface to write on).  Monkey picks up math concepts really fast, I barely have to teach him. My work with him is helping him to be careful and not sloppy with his arithmetic, keeping his work organized and not scribbled illegibly all over the page, and negotiating how many problems on the page to do. Bunny, on the other hand, took some explanation to get her to understand how to do the math (multiplying 2 digits by 1 digit), and she got frustrated because she didn't get it. After she understood, I asked her to do the practice problems but out of habit, I said she didn't have to do them all (Monkey hates needless repetition of the same type of problem). She proceeded to write out all the problems neatly and orderly on a separate piece of paper and decided to do ALL the problems! 9 problems took her maybe 3 lines of paper. This would've taken an entire sheet of paper for Monkey, and probably taken him 3 times as long (not from not understanding, but just from dawdling).

We then switched so Bunny did Language Arts while Monkey did math. There are 5 days of lessons, and Monkey usually would do just 1 day at a time, even though I've told him he can go ahead and do more, and have less work to do later in the week. Bunny finished 3 days worth in the time it took Monkey to go to the bathroom! She would've done more if I hadn't told her to save some for later this week. That NEVER happened with Monkey.

We moved on to science - Animal Classification. Because Bunny doesn't like to read non-fiction, I'm planning on reading aloud a lot. Monkey used to read almost all his social studies and science independently. So for now, I guess I'll just read aloud to both of them.  That's going to be a change for me to get used to...more time spent hands-on for  science and social studies.

That's all we did for the core academic subjects yesterday. Later she worked on her nature journal, which she decided on her own that she would like to do as her own personal project, and started last week. We had gone out and chosen a special book for her to write her observations in. This was one of the things she was looking forward to most about homeschooling so I hope it will be a great learning experience as she observes the changes of spring.

With the new schedule, they both had a lot of free time in the afternoon, while I worked. Bunny bicycled and played outside, played with the bunnies and worked on some of the Skrafty Minecraft Easter lesson from last week. Monkey built a couch cushion fort and played Big Brain Academy on the Wii. (Normally I restrict screen time until 4:30pm, but he convinced me this was 'educational'). Overall, it was a pretty good first day!

I think it will be interesting to teach two such widely different personalities. In some ways, Bunny will be easier and in some ways harder. She is the one who will get frustrated really easily if she can't understand something, and will take longer to understand math and science concepts, but she loves to write and does well with grammar, spelling, etc. Monkey is more difficult in getting him to do work, but he understands things faster, but getting him to write, and to write with correct grammar/spelling, is a LOT of work.  I think it's the whole right brained vs. left brained thing.  I think having the more structured schedule will be better for all of us, even though Monkey may fight it at first and maybe teaching the science and social studies more hands-on will also benefit them both too.

I really don't want to do 2 separate routines, so we're combining as much as we can, but I'm going to try to make allowances for their different learning styles and personalities, within the topics we're learning.

For Bunny, more:
  • worksheets
  • straight math problems
  • writing projects
  • historical fiction reading
  • art
  • sounding out spelling words and breaking words into parts
For Monkey, more:
  • non-fiction reading
  • living math
  • word problems
  • building projects
  • computer projects 
  • visualizing spelling words
Things I think will work for both of them are reading aloud, videos, map work, timelines, free writing, Latin/Greek roots, and Minecraft projects. 

There's so many other homeschoolers who have many, many more kids, and I wonder how they keep up with all their different ages, learning styles, and personalities!