Do your children study one topic at a time?
Do you spend forty minutes or so working on math problems, and then (perhaps after a ten minute break) do you then move on to something seemingly different?
Sometimes that’s how we work at our house. My wife has established a rather impressive routine of division and multiplication exercises. For the most part, the girls love it. (They obviously did not get my anti-arithmatic gene!) When they are done with their math they usually move onto their music practice. Then it’s independent reading time — or sometimes they read stories to each other.
For some reason, the girls won’t sit still for me the way they do with their mother. Actually, I know the exact reason– They view me as a playmate rather than a teacher. Early on, I decided that I would do whatever it takes to make learning fun. And it has been fun. I’ve had a blast with all of our lessons. The downside is, if I simply ask them to write a paragraph they whine and complain because they want a combination of education and entertainment.
I realize this might be an issue that needs to be addressed in the near future. But for now, I’m still happy to make our lessons fun and inspiring. After all, I mainly work with the kids on Fridays and the weekend (usually Saturday or Sunday, but not both days). During the rest of the week, I’m more of the teacher’s assistant than the official professor. So, when I work one on one with them I want the experience to be special.
To make it special, my lesson plans are an unusual combination of unit study and improvisation. I usually desiginate a time frame. For example, last Sunday I decided that I wanted to work with the girls for at least two hours. I also knew that I wanted them to work on several things:
To prepare for the lesson, I spent the previous night reading and taking notes on Confucious. He was the historical figure I wanted the kids to learn about to continue on with their “Great Thinkers from History” Series. So, I knew that many of hisfamous sayings wouldallow the girls and I to talk comparitively about Eastern and Western philosophy. (Nothing heavy duty mind you — just a discussion of moral values.)
From there, I knew I wanted the girls to work on Spelling and Grammar but I decided to let that come naturally. My older daughter is easily frustrated when it comes to reading and writing. My younger duaghter is an excellent reader but often gets bored with writing. So, instead of pre-selecting an activity, we had our discussion about Confucious and then I let the girls choose three of their favorite sayings from the Chinese philosopher.
Once they wrote the sentences, we turned it into a grammar lesson. I asked them about the different parts of the sentence. They enjoyed identifying the nouns and verbs, and I was able to remind them about the differences between adjectives and adverbs.
On a whim, I showed them a few words in Chinese. The girls were fascinated by the Chinese characters — and pretty soon we were looking up all sorts of Chinese characters thanks to this great translation website I discovered. Throughout the day — pausing every now and then – they spent hours writing beautiful Chinese characters along with the English word. If I asked my older duaghter to write out ten spelling words, she would let out a long tired sigh. But because she found something she was interested in, she happily learned a whole bunch of spelling words, all self-motivated.